“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
With fatherhood comes great responsibility to God, who creates and gives life to children in their mothers’ wombs (cf. Psalm 139:13-16). Fathers are not to provoke their children to anger by being overly harsh and cruel, but they are to lead and teach their children to know the Lord and to hear and believe His Word. And fathers will be held accountable to God for the upbringing of their children.
Jesus commands that infants and children, too, be brought to Him and made His disciples through Baptism and the hearing of His Word because only through faith in Jesus and His blood shed upon the cross can anyone be saved. Though they may appear to be more innocent than adults, children too are sinners from conception and birth onward and are under the condemnation of God’s law (cf. Psalm 51:5; Galatians 3:10-11; Romans 5:12ff.).
And Jesus would have little children — even infants — brought to Him in Baptism. In Luke 18:15-17, we read: “They also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it’” (cf. John 3:3-6).
In regard to his admonition to the people to repent and be baptized, Peter said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 3:38-39).
Certainly, children are a part of all nations and included in Jesus’ command: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
And God specifically commands fathers to bring up their children “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). That includes bringing them to be baptized, but it also includes teaching them all that the Bible teaches and being an example to them in living in accord with God’s Word.
Yes, that means teaching them Bible stories at home, teaching them how to pray, talking to them about their sinfulness and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world, and teaching them how God would have them live. It means going to church and Bible study and also taking them to church and Bible study. It means saying no to those things which are sinful and harmful and encouraging one’s children to live their lives in obedience to God’s Word, trusting in Christ to forgive them wherever and whenever they come short. Cf. Deuteronomy 6:4ff.
Fathers are to lead by teaching and by example. And, sometimes, fathers must use discipline to correct their children and teach them the right way. The Bible says: “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6; cf. Proverbs 13:24).
Not to teach and correct causes these little ones to sin, or stumble, in regard to their faith in Christ Jesus. It leads them to turn away from Christ and to suffer the greatest harm ever – to be condemned and forsaken of the Lord in the final judgment. And, as God held Eli responsible for his failures to teach and correct his sons (1 Samuel 3:11-14), so God still holds fathers responsible today if they do not bring up their children “in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
Jesus said: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Matthew 18:6-7).
This warning of God’s judgment upon those who cause children who believe to sin and fall away from their faith in Christ Jesus ought to make fathers and mothers all the more diligent to bring up their children to know and trust in Jesus as their Savior.
Bringing up their children to know the Lord and to believe His Word truly is the most important thing fathers and mothers can do for them. And, for our failures, we are called to repent and to look to Christ Jesus and His cross for forgiveness and for the help and strength to amend our ways and live for Him, teaching and admonishing our children in the truth. Christ did die for all our sins and rise again. Through faith in Him, there is forgiveness and eternal salvation.
And His Holy Spirit, not only moves us to repent and trust in Christ; He moves and empowers us to bring up our children in the ways of the Lord. We look to Him for help and strength to bring up our children “in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
O merciful Father, I thank You for so loving me that You gave Your Son to die in my stead and redeem me from the condemnation and death I deserve on account of my sin. Give me the help and strength to bring up my children to know You and the salvation You have provided in the death and resurrection of Your Son, Christ Jesus, the Savior. In His name, I pray. Amen.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.