A Word to Fathers — Part Two
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A Word to Fathers — Part Two

From Series: Life Together

Ephesians 6:4  (ID: 3289)

In Ephesians 6, the Apostle Paul provides instruction on how children should be raised, but it’s not a short-term fix: Biblical parenting requires a pattern of discipline and instruction, carried out in the Lord and shaped by His loving discipline. Alistair Begg helps us understand Scripture’s imperatives to nurture tenderly, discipline biblically, and instruct purposefully. Parenting at its best will be shaped by the Gospel and motivated by the desire to see our children know, love, and follow Christ.


Sermon Transcript:

I invite you to turn with me to the Hundred and Nineteenth Psalm—to Psalm 119—and we’ll read two sections, the first beginning at verse 97. Psalm 119:97. And the psalmist writes,

Oh how I love your law!
 It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
 for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
 for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
 for I keep your precepts.
I hold back my feet from every evil way,
 in order to keep your word.
I do not turn aside from your rules,
 for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
 sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding;
 therefore I hate every false way.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
 and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
 to keep your righteous rules.
[I’m] severely afflicted;
 give me life, O Lord, according to your word!
Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord,
 and teach me your rules.
I hold my life in my hand continually,
 but I do not forget your law.
The wicked have laid a snare for me,
 but I do not stray from your precepts.
Your testimonies are my heritage forever,
 for they are the joy of my heart.
I incline my heart to perform your statutes
 forever, to the end.

We turn to our verse for today—the fourth verse of Ephesians chapter 6:

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

Father, we pray that what we do not know, you will teach us; that what we do not have, you will give us; that what we are not, you will make us. For your Son’s sake. Amen.

Well, last time we were looking together at the first half of Paul’s instruction, which is directed here to parents, and expressly to fathers—the particular role that a father is given within the framework of the home according to God’s plan. It doesn’t absolve moms of responsibility in this regard; it’s just pointed in this way.

And as we looked at this last time, we recognized that there is a danger of parents doing more harm than good by the way in which we go about responding to this instruction. And we thought about how, if we act in a way that is unjust or inconsistent or displays favoritism amongst our children, or if we’re guilty of constant nagging and faultfinding, we face the danger, then, of appearing with our children simply to establish rules without any love or to lay down, as it were, the law without an understanding of grace. And this, of course, is the concern in every generation.

In the seventeenth century, Matthew Henry directed his readers as follows: “Make sure that you are not impatient with your children, use no unreasonable severities, lay no rigid injunctions upon them.”[1] And so, we wanted to take carefully Paul’s exhortation to make sure that our endeavor to obey what the Bible says does not actually become something other than that. For example, given the laxity that is part of contemporary culture, it may be possible for some of us, reacting to that, to become all the more vociferous in the matter of parental discipline—and, in doing so, to fall foul of what the Bible is actually teaching.

Raising kids is a challenge that has to be faced in the light of the instruction of the Bible and in light of the encouragement of the gospel.

Now, there’s no question that this is hard. I’ve had a number of conversations with people in the week that has elapsed, and I think we’ve agreed together that, to borrow from T. S. Eliot, the raising of kids “is a difficult matter, / It isn’t just one of your [ordinary] games.”[2] And it is a challenge that has to be faced in the light of the instruction of the Bible and in light of the encouragement of the gospel.

We come now to move from the negative to the positive side of the verse. He’s moving, if you like, from saying, “Do not provoke them to be angry,” but rather, “Train them to be godly,” or “Don’t exasperate them, educate them,” or “Don’t beat them down, bring them up.”

It’s surely a daunting privilege, and it takes an immense commitment and a lot of love to bear and raise children. In fact, when we allow ourselves a moment of silence to ponder quite honestly our past performance, it is a salutary exercise, and it is, I think, quite honestly, daunting. Sobering. I find myself penning the words—I knew they were somewhere in the back of my mind; I wrote them down in my notes in another context—but, from the hymn, where the hymn writer says, “Alas, the duties left undone … the battles lost or scarcely won!”[3] There’s not a parent I know that, if they are prepared to be honest, is not able to acknowledge that there are duties that we have unfulfilled, and that there are battles into which we have entered that we probably should have left alone, and then there are others that we might have tackled and, quite frankly, we did, but we lost them pretty poorly.

Now, I say all of that not for us to be discouraged but for us to be realistic and to drive ourselves again and again to the gospel. To help me this week I created “NDI,” along the lines of BBC, KGB, FBI, CIA, and TFL; and so, I give you this morning: NDI. NDI. Three words: nourishment, discipline, and instruction.

Nourishment

First of all, then, nourishment. The phrase here, “bring them up”—the verb that is used there, which means “to rear” or “to raise”—also means “to nourish.” And the reason I’ve used nourishment is because that is actually the way in which the verb is translated, if you allow your eye to go up the text to verse 29, where he says, “No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.”[4] And in verse 29 there, he is applying it in a threefold way: to describe the care a person has for his own body, the devotion of the Lord Jesus for his church, and then in turn the treatment of a husband for his wife. It’s the same verb, and it’s the same emphasis, largely: “bring them up.”

There is something that is far more horticultural about this than we might at first perceive. The idea of raising plants—I dare not enter into this territory without showing my ignorance, but nevertheless, I know enough that you plant them, you water them, you care for them. I mean, this orchid here did not arrive like this just overnight. There’s tremendous process that goes behind this. But once it is here and in this condition, two things are vital: one, sunlight—thereby, it mustn’t be left in here all during the week in darkness—and two, it needs ice. And as the ice is applied, not drenched in water, and as sunlight is available, then we may at least enjoy it for another Sunday.

And the picture that is used here of nourishing our children is along those lines. I say that because we might be tempted to think of it in militaristic terms—especially fathers, especially if we have come from a certain background: “I’m the captain; I’m the sergeant,” and so on. And there’s no sense of that in this phrase. Or simply in mechanistic terms, as if somehow you just press a button, or you move a lever, and as a result, this all happens. No, it’s far more along the lines of, as I say, agriculture or horticulture, because to nourish means to rear them tenderly.

English people have a tremendous love for all kinds of things, but notably for their gardens and for their pets. If you’ve been around, you will know that this is the case. The front of an Englishman’s home will be something of a representative of what he really cares about and lets people see that he cares about it. And the way in which they mollycoddle their pets—which is not unique to them, I say, but nevertheless—I think it is that which caused Martyn Lloyd-Jones forty years ago, when expounding this passage of Scripture, to say to his congregation, “If [people] … gave as much thought to the rearing of their children as they do to the rearing of [their] animals and flowers, the situation would be very different.”[5] There’s a little bit of a sting in the tail for that, isn’t there? When you think about all the endeavor that is involved: “I must take care of this, and I must take care of that.”

It’s a reminder that bringing up our children is not a momentary task. It’s a lifetime tumble journey. It never ends, as far as I can tell. They may be a hundred years old, but they’re still your children. And the privilege remains. A long-term project. A long-term project filled with inevitable short-term disappointments. Again, I say to you, you have never parented children unless you have been disappointed, and not least of all disappointed with oneself. And what are we to do with these disappointments? Allow them to cripple us, to chain us? No. We view them in light of eternity. We view them in light of the promises of God. We view them in the conviction that, as Ecclesiastes 3 says, “He is the one who makes everything beautiful in his time.”[6] And part of the challenge for us in living the Christian life is that God’s time is not always our time, and the way in which he chooses to work is not according to our plan but according to his purpose.

I loved what one of the Puritan writers provides for us when he says, “Many children, I doubt not, shall rise up in the day of judgment and bless their parents for good training, [children] who never gave any [sign] of having profited by it during their parents’ lives.”[7] Well, surely that will be the case. Surely one of the great posthumous joys of heaven will be to rejoice in that and to say, “Oh, look, there she is! I told you she would be here. And there he is! There she is!” I find it helpful to think in that long-term perspective.

We have to make sure that we don’t make idols of our children, for God will not have us bow down before idols.

When it comes to parenting our children, we ought to be very, very careful about declaring that the mission has now been accomplished—especially when they’re young, and when they are so very clearly aware of the fact that they can trust what you say, and that they believe your word, and that they know you desire the best for them, and so on. And we might be tempted to think, “Well, golly, we’ve done it! It’s all set. Look at the way he’s going. Look at the way she’s thinking,” and so on. But we have to remember that our children are prone to sin. And therefore, we ought not to be naïve. We ought to be cautious—not overly cautious. We have to make sure that we don’t make idols of our children, for God will not have us bow down before idols, and he may take the idols from us to show us just how foolish it is to have made idols of them.

Sinclair Ferguson, quite wonderfully tackling this subject, says, “The boasts of one Christmas family letter may become the griefs of later ones.”[8] In other words, we’re tempted to say, you know, “We want you to see this picture, and we want you to know what Billy’s doing, and Jenny’s doing, and Mary’s doing, and Fanny’s doing, everything else. They’re all doing wonderfully well—it’s terrific, it’s unbelievable, it’s spectacular—and that’s why we’ve stamped right across it, ‘Mission accomplished.’” Well, beware. Just beware.

Timothy had a godly granny. He had a godly mom. But when Paul writes to him in the context of the confusion of the world in which he now lives as a man in his thirties, or perhaps his early forties, entrusted with the responsibility of not only guarding his own soul but caring for the souls of others in pastoral ministry, you remember he says to him, “Timothy, this is what you need to do: you need to continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing those from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”[9] There’s a sense in which—and understandably and rightfully—Paul now, in his apostolic role, is supplementing the role that had been played by Timothy’s grandmother and mother, and saying, as he joins, if you like, in that eternal perspective, “Timothy, if you’re gonna run right through the tape, if you’re gonna continue to the end, then it is imperative that you continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed. For it is those who continue to the end who are saved.” That’s why the writer to the Hebrews says, “We’re not like those who slip back and are destroyed, but we are those who continue to the end and are saved.”[10] And the foundations involved in this are absolutely crucial. The time does not come again. There is only a moment of time; the soul is entrusted to us for a period of time. And therefore, we take seriously this notion of nourishment.

You watch a young mother with her children. They have all these wonderful mechanisms, and all about nourishment. And some of it goes in the right place, and some of it goes all over the face, and some of it goes everywhere, but nobody would be in any doubt: this is a nourishing experience.

Discipline

Now, to our second word, which is discipline. This nourishment involves both discipline and instruction. The word discipline here simply means “child training.” “Bring them up, then, in the training of a child.” It’s the same word that Paul uses in 2 Timothy 3, talking about the Word of God and its impact, which, he says, “is profitable for correction, and for reproof, and for training in righteousness.”[11] That’s the exact same verb that is used there for the discipline here. That’s why some English translations translate it “training.”

Now, I’ve wrestled with this all week—you know, what’s the difference between discipline and instruction? The best I can do with it is this: to think of the discipline in terms of conduct, if you like—action—and to think of the instruction in terms of conversation, verbal, and direction.

So discipline, then. The discipline that is to be exercised by the father in the life of his children is a discipline under which he himself is brought—namely, the father is brought under the discipline of Scripture. The father is being conformed to the image of Christ. And the children that are then entrusted to the father’s care are to be framed by those same disciplines.

Now, it would be strange if Paul had a whole list in mind that was separate from the things he’s already been addressing. Because remember, from Ephesians chapter 4, at the beginning of it, he’s been saying to his readers, “Now, it is important that you walk worthy in the manner of the calling to which you’ve been called.”[12] “You’re new now. You’re not what you once were. And therefore,” he says, “if you’re going to walk in this way, a number of things follow.”

Let me just point a couple out to you so you get the idea of it. Verse 19 of chapter 4, describing the godless who “have given themselves up to sensuality,” who are “greedy” in the “practice … of impurity”—and then he says, “But that is not the way you learned Christ! You’re not there. You’re being disciplined in another direction at all. You’ve been called to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”[13] Or down in verse 29: “Don’t let any corrupt talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is good for building up.”[14] See, it will not do for the father, then, to demand this of his children by way of discipline when his mouth is full of corrupt talk. That’s just hypocrisy. And children understand that. They understand inconsistency: “Well, why are you asking me to do this? I heard what you just said to Mom. I heard what you said when you were driving in the car.”

No, you see, the discipline demands first of all the discipline of the discipler. You can go through the whole text. Go to 5:3: “sexual immortality and all impurity.” Well, how are you doing, dads, with this matter? Are you becoming partners in the disobedient works of darkness—verse 7 and verse 8? You’re not taking part in “unfruitful works of darkness,” are you? There’s nothing there in your background that, if your children were to uncover it, they would realize that you yourself are not living under the discipline of God? In fact, one of the ways in which we can divert from facing the discipline of God ourselves is by becoming more and more increasingly vociferous in terms of the discipline of our children—so that, in the same ways we live vicariously through their successes or through their failures, so we sort of live vicariously by way of discipline by not applying it to ourselves but only to them.

In other words, what is it? Well, it’s just the applying of biblical principles to everyday life. The applying of biblical principles to everyday life. What are those biblical principles? Well, they abound! But when we do so, it means that we’re prepared to explain the truth to our children about how we struggle with the same areas that will cause them to struggle. Because they would think it strange otherwise!

It’s not easy for us to do this, and some of us are particularly and temperamentally opposed to it. We have to fight that. It’s a huge day when our children realize, “Oh, did you ever do that? Did you ever think that?” Rather than we create the impression that somehow or another we’re able to fly at an altitude that is different from the altitude in which they fly, whereby we fly above the turbulence in which they live their lives.

And that same discipline, which is the way in which God disciplines his children, is a discipline in the framework of boundaries. When the boundaries are broken, there are consequences for disobedience. It’s impossible to tackle this question without recognizing what the Bible has to say concerning the corporal punishment of our children—concerning what it has to say about how “the rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame [on] his mother.”[15]

When we wrestle with this, we have to realize that in this respect, it is the good of our children that is to be the motive of any exercise of punishment—not the relief of our animosity but the well-being of their souls. That the reason that this is going to be engaged upon is not because it is a happy experience for the father but because it is a necessary responsibility entrusted to the father in order that the child might become what God intends for her or for him to be. Therefore, it has to be expressed purposefully and sparingly and accurately.

Now, this may be wrong, but it would seem to me that, anatomically, there is one peculiar place that seems aptly positioned for the exercise of any kind of corporal punishment—namely, your posterior, also known as your bottom. No indication that God has provided that expressly for that purpose, but it does seem apt, doesn’t it?

You see, here’s the question: Do we believe that God, who created the universe—if we might say so reverently—knows what he’s on about? Or do we believe that the United Nation[s’] charter on human rights has actually figured it out and that God the Creator has had it wrong from the beginning? Do we have any reason to believe that the God who has revealed himself in the provision of his only Son is calling for activity in the lives of those that he has created that will undermine the very filial relationships that he has established in family life as he has ordained it? That is illogical; it does not make sense. And therefore, parents have to do something with this.

And it really calls the question again—namely: Do I believe the Bible? Do I actually believe that the Bible is true in this area? And when I do, then I have to realize that there is a huge, huge difference between abusive behavior that takes delight in harming or in hurting a child and what has been humorously referred to as the “pow-wow treatment”: that the parent pows and the child wows. That it doesn’t last very long; it doesn’t need to last very long.

In fact, I’ve been helped by one person’s observation, who says in relationship to this—and I will move on from it—in exercising any kind of corporal discipline, it, number one, has to be carefully considered. In other words, it is not to be entered upon in terms of reactive anger. At the same time, it should be extremely restrained. Our children ought not to be able to go to their bedroom and show the marks left on their bodies; there’s no need for that. And thirdly, that it should be demonstrably restorative. It is punitive, but it is at the same time restorative—restoring that which has now broken the boundaries, that has created discord within the framework of the family, and so on—so that, because this is what the Bible says concerning discipline, we must do this, but having done that, we want our children to understand that we do this because it is essential, because it is biblical, because it is practical, because it is spiritual, and we don’t actually want it to be continual.

It is a sad home—it is a sad home—where you find children living in a kind of cowed fearfulness, waiting for the next volcanic eruption from their dad, not knowing what will trigger it, not knowing how it will be, not knowing how long it will last. There is no basis for that in the in the entire Bible. Rather, we want our children being nurtured, nourished, disciplined in a loving home where laughter and joy that is grounded in the gospel and takes into account all of our faults and failings and stupidities—that somehow, in that framework, it is possible for us to function whereby the rule and exercise of discipline is the exception rather than the routine event. You know, “It’s eleven o’clock; time for discipline.” As opposed to, “We haven’t had to deal with anything like this for a long time. Why are we dealing with it today?” “Well, ’cause Dad’s very angry.” No. Because this has to be tackled.

Instruction

Nourishment, discipline, and thirdly, instruction. Instruction. So I said to you that discipline, child training in the realm of conduct; here now in terms of, if you like, conversation. That’s why we read from Psalm 119: the whole emphasis of the Word—the Word of God being brought to bear upon the mind of a child in order to see transformation in the character of a child. Psalm 119, we read part, didn’t we? “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished.”[16] In other words, the law is there in order to constrain and to restrain, so that we don’t… That’s why they have that huge, big sign that says, “Cliff! Danger!” You know, something’s seriously wrong with somebody who says, “Woooo!”

“Well, why didn’t somebody put a sign there? Why didn’t somebody tell me that this was the result of this?” Well, that’s why you have the Bible. That’s why you have your mom and dad. That’s why, Dad, you have a responsibility, and so do I, to say, “Hey, danger! Danger ahead!” That’s why we read Deuteronomy 6 all the time: “These words,” he says to Israel, “are to be upon your hearts.”[17] Psalm 19: “The law of the Lord is perfect, it converts the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, it makes wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, they rejoice the heart.”[18]

We can’t make our children love the Bible, but we can encourage our children to learn the Bible.

Our children may say, “I don’t believe one word of that!” But that’s okay. That doesn’t alter anything: “I just want you to know that this Word will be a lamp to your feet; it will be a light to your path.[19] You can trust it.” “These words are to be upon your hearts.” Deuteronomy 11: “Lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul,”[20] so that the influence of the Word of God upon the minds of our children, so as to constrain something of their believing or understanding, may then yield the benefit in behaving. We can’t make our children love the Bible, but we can encourage our children to learn the Bible. We can’t make them love it, but we have influence and we can make them learn it. People say, “Well, I don’t want them to learn it until they love it.” They’ll never learn it!

Now, education at the moment militates against the whole idea of learning, of course. You’re supposed to feel it, or experience it, or imagine what it would be like if you were a solider in the 12th Calvary, you know, in two-thousand-and… You know, it’s fascinating stuff. But nobody learns anything. History’s bunk. So, if you get young couples who have imbibed that within the framework of secular thinking, and then they bring it to bear upon the Bible, why would they ever teach their children the Bible? They’re just waiting for them to experience it. Fathers? Fathers.

And this extends actually beyond the Bible. It means that, in terms of our instruction, there has to be instruction given in terms of what they read, in terms of what they view, in terms of what they hear. Again, not in a legalistic way. But it means that we have to recognize how easy it is to turn our children, as a result of the influence we have over them, into little funny little people, little automatons, who look as though they’ve got everything done—but on the inside, they may not be done at all. On the inside, they may just be waiting for the first chance they have to let you know how they really feel about all of this material. Let’s not be naïve. Our children are sinful. They’re silly. And the reason you’ve been given parents is because you are silly. ’Cause they used to be as silly as you are now. But their parents, who weren’t as silly as they are, helped them. And so the process goes.

Catechism is not the answer either. You say, “Well, I thought you wanted us to do the catechism.” I do. If I had my time over again with our children, we would have been far better at this than we have been. I don’t have my time over again. I can say something concerning my grandchildren, but it’s not my task. But it’s not just about the catechism. In this instruction, it means allowing our children to bring their questions and their concerns about every subject in the universe into a context whereby the framework of a worldview of God and his Word can be brought to bear upon the issues at large.

So: “Why wouldn’t you like me listening to the rapper?”—whoever it is. “Is there something wrong with rap music particularly?” Well, we’re going to have to have the discussion. What does the Bible actually say about gender? What does it say about friendship? What does it say about sex? What does it say about all of these things?

You see, to instruct our children in this way is not simply to give them proof texts for all of this: “Well, here’s a verse for that, here’s a verse for that, here’s a verse for that.” That’s okay. But unless our children… It’s possible for us to subdue the minds of our children without educating our children. To simply bring them under subjugation—a subjugation that they are never persuaded of in their own hearts. And so, consequently, it demands everything of us.

And it isn’t simply that what the Bible is saying here is that we need to instill in our children the sort of morality of a civil society. Well, of course, that’s part and parcel of it: you say, “Well, make sure you have a firm handshake, son. Okay, good. Make sure you look at people in the eye when you speak to them. Okay, good.” So now we’ve got all of that going. Are we finished? No. We haven’t really started. Because what Paul is referencing here is the total moral and spiritual well-being of our children.

A Distinctly Christian Duty

Our time is gone, but let me just finish it by pointing out the way in which this instruction is bracketed. Look at how verse 1 begins: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord.” Look at how it ends in verse 4: “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” In other words, what is being referenced here is a distinctly Christian duty. It is being conveyed in the context of the gospel. This is not simply moralism. Our greatest—listen carefully—our greatest desire and ambition for our children, more than anything else in the entire universe, should be that they will come to know and love and follow Christ as their Savior and their Lord. More than anything else in the entire universe.

Writing in an earlier generation, one commentator put it like this: “Parents should care more for the loyalty of their children to Christ than for anything besides, more for this than … their health, their intellectual vigor and brilliance, their material prosperity, their social [status], their exemption from great sorrows and great misfortunes.”[21] More than anything else!

Now, we try and put cotton wool all around our children to save them from great misfortune, not realizing that in the providence of God it is through that great misfortune that they will now come to cry out to God for the Savior they require. We cannot save our children. We cannot and we must not force them into making expressions that are not theirs by conviction. That is relatively easy to do.

Incidentally and in passing, that is one of the reasons that we baptize nobody under the age of thirteen here. For I’ve never met a child with any sensitive heart at all that if you said to them, you know, “Do you love Jesus enough to get baptized?”: “Oh, yeah, definitely, I do.” And you find them at eighteen years of age, hanging around somewhere down here, with no knowledge of anything that happened to them at all. Because it’s very possible to press them into that position. They love us, they trust us; they’ll do what we say, by and large. But that’s not conversion. I think you get this, don’t you?

That’s why, you see, putting our children in the context of credible Bible teaching—putting our children in the context of credible Bible teaching, from whatever source—is far more important than their swimming lessons and their tennis lessons! It’s far more important.

So take advantage of being in a good church. But I guarantee you that if I walk out from here—and they can trail me with a camera—and I’ll go from room to room and place to place, and I will tell you that in that room there are those who love your children with a passion and care for them about the matter of their nourishment, their discipline, and their instruction. And woe betide you if you do not use those opportunities for the well-being of your children—if you assume that the play night is just put on there so that we can attract just pagans from anywhere, rather than that we would say to our children, “Fun is fun, and Jesus loves fun, and this is important. This is why this matters.”

When you think about your life, and I think about my life this morning, I realize that, along with many, many others, my life cannot be explained apart from the influence of Bible class and Sunday school teachers who stuck with me, who put up with me. You may not believe this, because you see me now, but I used to be thrown out of our Bible class—not every week, but routinely—for causing trouble in the place: “Get out Begg! Go home!” And I’d have to keep around the neighborhood until it was time for the end of the class so I could go home, so my parents wouldn’t know that I was home early. And I’m sure that, like many a teacher in our organization, they’d say, “Nothing’s happening, you know. There’s no lasting benefit to this. He doesn’t listen to a word that you’re saying,” and so on. No. Many a child will finally acknowledge that some of the greatest influences have been in contexts that they never really imagined were significant. It really takes a church to help in doing this. It does.

I think about that particular Bible class—I may have told you before—but on the day that I went there, I was nine years old, for my first Endeavor. I’d already been to church in the morning, I was going to church in the evening—I didn’t have any option—and my father had decided it would be good for me to go in the afternoon as well. And so, after we finished lunch, he drove me to the Clarkston Halls in suburban Glasgow, and he parked at the bottom of the stairs that led up, and he said, “Go up the stairs and go in there.”

I said, “I don’t want to go.”

He said, “We’re not having a conversation about it. Go up the stairs.”

So I went up the stairs, and I waited to see if he drove away, ’cause I figured if he drove away I could go back down the stairs. But he waited, because he knew that I was waiting, so he never drove away. He never drove away. And so I was stuck, so I went in. So I went in. And I loved it. I actually did.

And I remember, at the height of Endeavor, I would have at least six or seven of my friends from school. I’d go from house to house to house picking them up, about two o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, and taking them to that class. It was ’cause I went to that class that I went to Switzerland in the summer of ’67 with a large group of people. It’s because I went there that I met a girl called Christine Jones, who happened to have a sister called Susan Jones, who happened to be my wife for the last forty-three years. Why? ’Cause my father didn’t make a suggestion. He didn’t ask for permission: “Would you like to go to a Bible class?” No! Flat out, no!

I hear young parents asking their kids, “Now, would you like to have lunch?” What are we talking about, “Would you like to have…”? I mean, I understand, you want to be kind to them. They have to have lunch! What if they say no to that for seventeen days in a row? What are you going to do with the emaciated little creature? “No. I don’t want to eat lunch today either. No. No.”

“Would you like to go to Bible class? Would you like to go to youth group? Would you like to come to evening church?” “No! No! No! No! No!” How are you ever going to go unless the father has the guts? Unless—listen, if you don’t do this, it’s because you don’t believe it or because you don’t have the courage to enforce it. Face it. That’s the fact. Do you care? Of course you care! Care enough to let them know that the gospel transcends everything, touches everything—forgiveness and faith. The everyday events of life brought under his control. And it takes grace. It takes grace. It takes patience. It takes patience.

Oh. I mean, when you think about your children when they’re tiny, when you’re that thing where… I mean, I see the young ladies on the plane now; I could burst into tears thinking about them. But they have the bucket—they have that big pail that you have to sit your child in—and then they have one bag over here with diapers, and another bag over here, and something else, and it’s like, aw, oh… And don’t, whatever you do, say to them, “You know, look after them while they’re young, because it doesn’t last very long.” You know, you’re about to get a significant punch in the nose from that lady, I’ll tell you. Because from where she sits, this thing is going on forever. There’s no way out of this. “This creature’s only thirteen months old, I got two more—and a husband. There is no possibility of surviving this.”

It takes grace; it takes patience. In stock market terms, this is not day-trading. This is long-term investment. It’s amazing how a monstrous four-year-old who is constantly loved and disciplined can become a charming young adult by her late teens.

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

We thank you, Father, for the Bible, and we pray that as we consider its claims, that it will turn us to the subject of the Bible—namely, to Jesus—and that we as fathers will first come to trust in the Christ, whom we then want to convey lovingly to our children. Help us, Lord, we pray, for Christ’s sake. Amen.


[1] Matthew Henry, Ephesians, in An Exposition of the Old and New Testament. Paraphrased.

[2] T. S. Eliot, “The Naming of Cats,” in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939).

[3] Thomas B. Pollock, “We Have Not Known Thee as We Ought” (1889).

[4] Ephesians 5:29 (ESV).

[5] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in the Spirit in Marriage, Home and Work: An Exposition of Eph. 5:18 to 6:9 (Banner of Truth, 1974), 290, quoted in John R. W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians: God’s New Society (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1979), 248.

[6] Ecclesiastes 3:11 (paraphrased).

[7] J. C. Ryle,Train Up a Child in the Way He Should Go: A Sermon for Parents(London: Seeley, 1846), 57.

[8] Sinclair B. Ferguson,Let’s Study Ephesians(Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2005), 165.

[9] 2 Timothy 3:14–15 (paraphrased).

[10] Hebrews 10:39 (paraphrased).

[11] 2 Timothy 3:16 (paraphrased).

[12] Ephesians 4:1 (paraphrased).

[13] Ephesians 4:20, 24 (paraphrased).

[14] Ephesians 4:29 (paraphrased).

[15] Proverbs 29:15 (ESV).

[16] Psalm 119:92 (ESV).

[17] Deuteronomy 6:6 (paraphrased).

[18] Psalm 19:7–8 (paraphrased).

[19] See Psalm 119:105.

[20] Deuteronomy 11:18 (ESV).

[21] R. W. Dale, The Epistle to the Ephesians: Its Doctrine and Ethics, 9th ed. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1896), 395.

Copyright © 2020, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.