June 20, 2021 Fatherhood


June 20, 2021


Scripture reading: Genesis 18:19; Deut 6:6-7; 11:18-19; Ephesians 6:4.


[I. Introduction] Today is Father’s Day. It is a day that we honor those who have chosen to fulfill the role of father, a great and very important role in the lives of every single person. Both mothers and fathers do not receive the gratitude that they deserve for the labor that they pour into the lives of their children. It is good and right that we give them thanks and honor for who they are and today we will do that for fathers everywhere.


Before we give them honor let us consider what their role is intended to be. This way those of us who are fathers or grandfathers (who may take the role of a father when their grandchildren’s own father is absent or falling short) can fulfill our calling. You young people need to heed this message, too, because many of you will be fathers one day. Even those who are not fathers, and may never be, can still be a father to someone who does not have one. This was Paul’s relationship to Timothy. Paul was like a father to him.


In Genesis 18, after God had called Abraham to Himself and promised him great blessings, He says, “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice,”


The word “chosen” here may also be translated “known” so that it could read, “I have known him…” Of course, both things are true. God knew Abraham and he knew that he would instruct, or command, his children. And, he chose Abraham to do that! This is a precious pattern for fathers of every generation from the time of Abraham, about 2000 BC, to the present – over four thousand years! Fathers are called to instruct their children!


[II.] Fathers must instruct their children in the ways of the Lord because this is God’s will and this is their charge. God has given fathers life, children, and headship so they would be diligent in teaching them. John Calvin well sums up this charge in simple terms circa 1550 AD:


When a father has children, his responsibility is not only to feed and clothe them, but his principle responsibility is to guide them so that their lives will be well regulated, and he will dedicate his full attention to that.[1]


This “well regulated” life has everything to do with children “keeping the way of the Lord.” In other words, fathers must teach their children God’s laws, God’s words, and God’s ways. It is not the mother’s main responsibility, although they may assist. It is not the church’s work, although it may help father’s fulfill their calling and may even supplement instruction. But only having one hour of instruction per week (for that is all Sunday School takes) is completely and unquestionably inadequate to impart God’s laws into children and to direct them in the ways of the Lord.


It is the father’s job and his most important task, above all others, to instruct his children in the ways of God. If he fails in this he has failed as a father. Even if his children turn out well-educated with good jobs, he has failed as a father if he has not instructed them in God’s laws and ways.


Look again at our Ephesian verse:


Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. [2]


It is to be noted that fathers are here addressed and this for two reasons:[3]


1.) because they are the heads of the families and the governing of the family is especially committed to them; and

2.) because they are prone to transfer this duty to their wives.


But the wife is not the head of the household. The husband is. The mother’s primary responsibility is not to instruct the children. It is the father’s primary responsibility. Of course, if the father refuses or neglects to instruct his children in the laws and ways of the Lord then it may be necessary for the mother to do it. During the era of the Judges in ancient Israel there was no man either willing or qualified to lead the nation so Deborah had to do it. But this was actually a judgment by God upon the nation’s lack of faithfulness (Isaiah 3:12). The Lord gave grace and blessed Deborah but he desired a godly man to judge Israel.


It is the same way with some families today. There hardly can be found a father who is either willing or qualified to instruct his own children so the mother has to do it. If the mother is doing most of the teaching to the children then this is a manifest judgment of God upon that family. Maybe God’s grace is in abundance and the mother’s teaching will produce fruit in her children. But God’s desire is that the father be the one to instruct his children. (Now, if the children are home-schooled it is appropriate for the mother to do most of the teaching on subjects such as math, English, and science, since the father is most often working eight or more hours per day to provide for the family. But, when it comes to training in righteousness, that training should be done by the father.)


What a sad and dreadful situation it is when neither father nor mother are training their children at home but leave everything to the godless, public school system and the church on Sunday morning one hour per week! If that is the case, we ought not to expect the children to have a moral foundation in their lives. They will be like 80% of the youth in evangelical churches who either depart from the faith intellectually while in college, or do so practically by living in fornication (out of wedlock) and other violations of God’s law. It is not enough to be an example to your children, as important as that is! The 80% who leave, by and large, had godly parents. They were not well instructed. They were not instructed! They were children of TV, movies, and public school. Should we be surprised if they are raised by Hollywood and the government that they depart from the faith? We should not.


Fathers must instruct their children in the ways of the Lord because this is God’s will and this is their charge.


[III.] Fathers must be a good example to their children because this is God’s will and God’s direction.


12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. [4]


Paul writes to Timothy that he should remember to be an example to those in the community of faith where he was. The apostle recognized that seeing how things are done influences far more than being told how things are done. This is a true principle. Seeing how things are done influences more than being told how things are done.


If this is true generally, such as in a church environment, how much more is this true in more intimate settings, such as in families! Fathers are to be a good example to all: to their neighbors, to their co-workers, to their churches, but especially to their children! Because their children, more than any others, will be influenced by the lives of their fathers. This is true not only because of the headship of their father but also because of the regularity and frequency of observation. In other words, the children are exposed to the lives of their parents moreso than other people, at least until they get their driver licenses, when they begin spending more time with their friends and peers.


How are fathers to be an example?


[A.] in speech. They must choose their words carefully. Their speech should be predominantly positive - speaking well of others and short on criticism. It should be missing unwholesome words. Show me a father who complains a lot and I will show you children who complain a lot. Show me a father who mostly has good things to say about others and I will show you children who mostly have good things to say about others.


[B.] in conduct. They must choose their actions carefully. Children will follow your example more readily than they will your words. A father’s life must be regulated by divine law. Of course, this is impossible in our own strength! God’s law is a father’s outward guide but his inward guide, that which empowers him to live by God’s direction, is the Spirit. Let us live by the Spirit so that we will not fulfill the desires of our flesh (Gal. 5:16).


You younger people will not remember one of the greatest track athletes of all time – he won nine Olympic Gold medals and ten World Championship medals, Carl Lewis. He was the fastest man on earth for a good many years. At his father's funeral, American Carl Lewis placed his 100-meter gold medal from the Seoul 1984 Olympics in his father's hands. "Don't worry," he told his surprised mother. "I'll get another one." Carl’s father was an example of a godly man to his son and he loved his father.

A year later, in the 100-meter final at the 1988 games, Lewis was competing against Canadian world-record-holder Ben Johnson. I remember this event because I was watching it on television. Everyone was wondering who would win, the living legend, Carl Lewis, or the current world record holder. Halfway through the race Johnson was five feet in front. Lewis was convinced he could catch him. But at 80 meters, he was still five feet behind. It's over, Dad, Lewis thought while he was running. As Johnson crossed the finish, he stared back at Lewis and thrust his right arm in the air, index finger extended. Lewis was exasperated. He had noticed Johnson's bulging muscles and yellow-tinged eyes, both indications of steroid use. Lewis said in an interview, "I didn't have the medal, but I could still give to my father by acting with class and dignity," Lewis said later. He shook Johnson's hand and left the track. But then came the announcement that Johnson had tested positive for anabolic steroids. He was stripped of his medal. The gold went to Lewis, a replacement for the medal he had given his father.


Carl Lewis’s father raised Carl as a Christian and was an example of what he taught. Incidentally, Carl was a man of faith himself, saying in an interview,


Knowing I have the Lord with me, I feel that there is no greater strength that I could have going into a competition. To inherit the kingdom of God, it didn't matter that I had accomplished a feat that day only accomplished once before, and that by the legendary Jessie Owens. I had to do what everyone must do: avail myself of what Jesus Christ's death on the cross made possible; salvation for anyone who calls on the name of Jesus Christ.[5]


That is the power of a father’s example!


[C.] in love. This charge is especially relevant to fathers because men are more prone to be less expressive of their feelings and even to suppress them. Fathers must be intentional about showing signs of love and affection to their wives and to their children, such as hugging and kissing. They must dispense with the deceptive notion that hugging and kissing is not “manly.” That is a lie. No one was more manly than Jesus Christ (because He was the perfect man!) and the apostle John would lean upon Jesus’s chest (John 13:23). King David was manly, a warrior King mighty battle, yet he loved his friend Jonathan with a deep love.


Fathers must be an example to their children in love.


[D.] in faith. Fathers must trust in Christ and his word, the Bible, and their children must know that they do.


[E.] in purity. Fathers must be faithful to their wives and must keep their lives pure. Their children should see this. If they do, they will be more likely to be faithful and pure in their own marriages.


So, fathers must instruct their children in God’s laws and they must be an example to them.


[IV.] Thirdly, fathers must discipline their children because this is God’s will and God’s charge.


7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?[6]


This passage is about God’s discipline of us but the author references a father’s discipline of his children. Why do we have the disrespect and contempt for rules and order so prevalent in the West today? It is because fathers are not disciplining their children.


God disciplines us and fathers must discipline their children.


[V.] Lastly, but importantly, fathers must pray for their children.


Teaching is a means. Being an example is a means. Discipline is a means. Yet, means are unavailing unless the Lord blesses them. Prayer is the pathway to the Lord blessing our means and covering our lack of exercising them. Oh, how fathers need to pray! They need to pray because the duty of fatherhood is so great and so beyond our ability to succeed at it!


Let me repeat what I said because it is so important. Prayer is the pathway to the Lord blessing our means and covering our lack of exercising them.


The example of Job is precious in this regard.


There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3 He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. 4 His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all.[7]


Job would rise up early in the morning and make an offering to God on behalf of all his children. We no longer make sacrifices of animals in this age, but fathers can and should sacrifice their time each morning to intercede for their children.


[VI. Application] Can we admit that what we have seen today is a tall order? These duties are God’s will – they are all found in Holy Writ – but, if we are honest, they are hard to do. Why are they hard to do? Because fathers are fallen and they are lazy! They may not be lazy at their jobs. But, I tell you, physical labor and even mental labor, are both easier than spiritual labor. And this is because we are fallen.


So, how do we do it?


First, we must repent to the Lord, to our wives, and to our children if we have neglected these duties – the duties of instructing our children, being a good example to them, disciplining them in love, and praying for them. O! Repentance is the blessed way of bringing change! (To repent is simply turn away from a course of action with resolve to live differently. Do not get repentance confused with “penance,” which is more of a tradition.) Repentance is the way of having your life refreshed! It is! The Bible uses that word, refreshed, to describe what happens when we repent (Acts 3:19-20).


Second, we do not rely upon our efforts to accomplish the solemn duties of fatherhood. We are weak and lazy. We rely upon the Spirit of the Living God. If we are not a committed Christian (there really is no other kind[8]) then we can remedy that this very day by believing the gospel and surrendering to Christ as Lord and Savior. Your sins will be forgiven and the Lord will impart to you new life! When a person becomes a Christian the Spirit of the Lord Jesus comes to dwell within them and will impart power to live the life!


Thos who are Christians already need to rely upon this power and this life in order to be the father that we have been called to be.


Third, We must not forget about this calling. When a person reads a book or hears a sermon, they may at first think, “Oh! I am not living the way I ought to live. I need to make amends.” But then, the very next day they have forgotten what they read or heard and are back in they old habits. We must be intentional and we must not put off what need to be done; otherwise we will never change. I like the Nike slogan. It has been around for years but it is still there and it is good. “Just Do It.” Just Do It!

Do not put it off, just do it!


[VI. Conclusion] We have seen what it means to be a father. It is more than just procreating, and then feeding and clothing your children. There are divine responsibilities given to fathers. Once we see these clearly, there is the temptation to judge others for not fulfilling their roles, especially our own fathers. Here is where we must be careful.


God has spoken. The Fifth commandment says, “Honor your father and your mother.” It does not say, “Honor your father and mother after they have done everything just right.” It doesn’t say, “Honor your father and mother when they reflect the life of Christ.” It simply says, “Honor your father and your mother.”


Just as fathers have a calling from God for their children, so children – even adult children – have a calling from God for their fathers: they are to honor them. With all their failings and shortcomings, we honor them.


Let us do that now.


[1] Free Grace Broadcaster, #228, p 8; Pensacola, FL 32505.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 6:4). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] Free Grace Broadcaster, #228, p 4; Pensacola, FL 32505

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 4:12). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5] https://www.christiantoday.com.au/news/carl-lewis-olympic-champions-series-no-8.html

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 12:7–9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Job 1:1–5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[8] See the sermon, The Whole Gospel at: http://nsbcwinfield.com/page/april_15_2018_the_whole_gospel