After the Heidelberg Catechism asks why Jesus is called the Christ, or “anointed” (Q. 31), the answer begins, “Because He is ordained of God the Father, and anointed with the Holy Ghost, to be our chief Prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption.”
Many people think that a prophet is someone who predicts the future. Some prophets predicted future events, such as the coming of Christ, but that was not their central role. The essential task of the prophet is to be God’s spokesman to people. The Spirit inspired the prophets and apostles to speak and write God’s Word. God’s Son is the ultimate, omniscient prophet. As a prophet to your family, you confess your own faith and speak forth the counsel of God given in the Bible. You do not add to the Bible; your task is to make its truths known to your children. This is your prophetic task as a father.
The question we must address is, How should you teach as God’s prophet in the home? Let me give six guidelines.
1. Teach with passion. We have all heard preachers proclaim God’s Word in a rather cold, mechanical voice. What a contrast to the prophet Jeremiah’s zeal: “His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” (Jer. 20:9). The prophet tried to hold his peace, but he could not keep God’s Word in. He had to speak it forth.
Likewise, Amos, a simple farmer, felt compelled to speak when God called him to do so. He said, “The lion hath roared…. The Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8). Many times my dad wept as he taught us the truths of God. That was passionate teaching. My father was bringing us the word of God not as dry, boring information, but as living, “powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). Likewise, we must teach our children with passion.
2. Teach as God’s authorized steward. Part of our earnestness in speaking to our children comes from knowing that God has appointed us to teach them. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Our children need to understand that God commands us to teach them. We can say to them, “Children, God gave me this task of teaching you. I must follow His commands.” Churches and Christian schools may supplement our efforts, but the primary responsibility of teaching covenant children belongs to parents, especially the father. You cannot delegate all the responsibility to other teachers and consider the job done.
3. Teach through family worship. Daily family worship ought to be the foundation of your fatherly exercising of your prophetical office toward your children. Be determined over a period of two decades of family worship to teach your children the whole counsel of God, as Paul said he did for the Ephesians (Acts 20:17–27). Your home is to be a little church, a little seminary, in which you are to serve as an instructing prophet, teaching your children God’s precious truth—addressing the mind, the conscience, the heart, and the will of each of your children. Teach your children Bible stories and Bible doctrines, and apply those stories and doctrines to their daily lives, with the Spirit’s blessing, for their proper spiritual, moral, and psychological development.
Major on the basics. Teach your children about each Bible book, showing them each book’s major theme and how each book leads us as needy sinners to Jesus Christ. Teach them to memorize the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles’ Creed to prepare them for further instruction. Teach them who God is and what He is like. Teach them the origin, comprehensiveness, and seriousness of sin. Teach them the necessity of the new birth and of personal repentance and faith in Christ alone for salvation. Teach them about the atoning blood of Christ and its efficacious power. Present the whole Christ to your children—tell them about His person and natures, His offices and states, and His beauty and allsufficiency. Teach them about the moral law and its civil, evangelical, and didactic uses. Teach them about God’s call to holiness and obedience, and how to live a lifestyle of thankfulness. Set before them the reality of death, the solemnity of judgment, the joy of heaven, the dreadfulness of hell, and the eternality of eternity.
As you teach, be plain in meaning and style. Be experiential and relevant in application. Be affectionate in manner, like the father in Proverbs. Reach down into the life of your children by using age-appropriate illustrations and concrete concepts. Simplify sermons you’ve heard for them. Tether biblical instruction to current events in your family, society, and nation as much as possible.1This point is mostly abridged from Bringing the Gospel to Covenant Children, by Joel R. Beeke (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010).
4. Teach by example. In addition to being our chief prophet, Jesus was the living Word (John 1:1, 14). He revealed God not only in His words but also in His life. So did Paul, who wrote to Timothy, his dear son in the Lord, “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me” (2 Tim. 3:10–11). We are always teaching our children, whether we know it or not, for they are always reading the book of our lives. Besides the Bible, your lives are the most important book your children will ever read. In the book of your life, they will see how important your views on God are, whether worship is a delight or a duty, whether sin is a horrible evil or mere naughtiness, and whether we really cherish our families or view them as a burden.
5. Teach by sharing your life. Paul openly spoke about his problems, afflictions, and weaknesses. He boasted in his weaknesses so that others could see the power of Christ in him and the sufficiency of God’s grace in all his trials (2 Cor. 12:9–10). He opened his life to others so that they would open their lives to him (2 Cor. 6:11–13). Happy are the children who can say to their friends, “My mom and dad are pretty neat; I can talk to them about anything.” That does not mean you act as their buddy—that would negate your authority over them as godly parents. But it does mean we should strive to become their confidants in a friendship that grows as they mature. Jesus called His disciples “friends” because He loved them enough to die for them and to share with them the whole counsel of God (John 15:13–15).
Moses said in Deuteronomy 6:4–7,
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: and thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
God gave us this great commandment. Jesus also gave the Great Commission to His disciples, commanding them to make disciples throughout the earth, beginning at home. Notice that the context for all of this teaching is life. Consider your prophetic work not just an event in your schedule but an aspect of sharing all of life with your dear ones.
6. Teach for holistic maturity. In addition to training their minds, train your children’s hearts and souls so they may grow and mature in serving God. Luke 2:52 tells us that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” Christ is our model of child development; He was born a baby but grew into an adult in all aspects of His manhood.
Train your children in social graces. A well-trained mind unaccompanied by basic manners or culture is a blunt sword. Our children should show respect to older people, kindness to their peers, and compassion to persons younger than they are. If you expect your children to behave well but have not taught them proper etiquette, you will set them up for failure in society. Furthermore, give them opportunities to enjoy fine art, great literature, and good music as gifts of God’s common grace. This too will mature them and enhance their lives.
Train your children physically. Teach your children that their bodies are gifts from God, so they must respect the rules of health and treat their bodies with honor. They need a certain amount of sleep, a healthy diet, and plenty of exercise. Teach your children the facts of life, discussing openly the goodness, spiritual significance, and God-given boundaries of their sexuality. Do not leave that education to their peers. Guide them in matters of personal appearance so that they dress modestly and attractively, but not to draw attention to themselves.
Likewise teach them a balanced view of sports. Recreational sports are a natural part of a child’s physical development; children enjoy developing agility and increased strength as they play them. Sports provide muchneeded exercise. Participation in sports also teaches them teamwork, leadership, and perseverance. But do not surrender to the sports mania that makes winning everything or allows sports to become a scheduling monster that eats up family time.
Brothers, our prophetic role in the home places great responsibilities upon us. How can we live up to such a calling? Instead of throwing in the towel because of our inadequacies, we should come before God in prayer and say, “I am a sinful human being, but Lord, help me confess my sin, my inconsistent walk, my ignorance of the Bible, and my failure to evangelize my children. Let me be grieved by these failures, turn to Thee for grace to realize my covenantal responsibilities, and take refuge in Thee, leaning on Thy covenant promises and looking to Jesus Thy Son as my model, my guide, and my strength.” In the long run, the faithful prophet-father will marvel at God’s grace covering his sins and making his efforts bear fruit far beyond the limits of mere human power and wisdom. God is not setting us up to fail as husbands and fathers. He gives us the marvelous grace of being His assistants in teaching our families.
How Should Men Lead Their Families?
Joel R. Beeke