The High Calling of Covenantal Fatherhood

While the homeschooling mom’s role is pretty well defined within the trenches of educating the kids and running the household on a day in – day out basis, the father’s role of participation and leadership is often left to appear somewhat removed, subjective, delegatory, or just plain absent. For example. Carrie was recently telling me who the speakers would be for a beginner’s home schooling seminar sponsored by our church for the community. I noticed the speakers were all ladies. When I asked her who would speak about the husband’s role, she laughed, and said something to the effect that we all know the husband contributes nothing but funding to the project. Of course she was only pulling my chain. But imagine! How dare her be so openly close to stating the truth!

The fact is that us guys, in general, run the gamut of participation in the schooling responsibilities. Then, whatever our particular level of participation at home might be will usually ebb and flow with the demands of out of the home responsibilities. Now, I’m not looking for excuses to shirk my share of the work, but the fact is that there are certain aspects of the job that is best suited for Carrie while others are best suited for me. Even when some of the division of labor might be based on skills, talents, preferences, or time, there remains a certain level of responsibility that belongs covenantaly to the husband and to him alone.

Covenantal Headship

Paul instructs us that, "...the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." (1 Corinthians 11:3) Paul is not making an arbitrary assignment of role between God, Christ, man, and woman. Rather, he is putting forth the God designed order of creation. It is a decreed order of God from the very beginnings of creation that is based on His everlasting covenant with creation. Accordingly, we invite His covenantal blessings when we submit and adhere to His design. Conversely, we invite His covenantal curses when we fail to observe or when we rebel against His covenantal design. Because there are potential positive and negative consequences based on our willingness to submit, we do well to know that which God has ordained for us as husbands and fathers.

The overwhelming significance of God’s covenantal order of creation begins to unfold before us as we become ethically self-conscious that Paul equates (and I mean exactly equates) the standard by which Jesus rules in service to His Church with that of the husband’s duty to rule in service to his family. (Ephesians 5:25-33) To say it another way, I submit to you that Paul goes so far as to say that the exact same standard of rulership established by the Son of God, the Word become flesh, who was before the foundations of the earth, over His Church is the same standard of rulership for me, mere mortal man, who just arrived on the scene yesterday, for my family. Notice there are no contingencies relating to my fleshly weaknesses, no auxiliary escape clause, only exactness: "...let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself..." I trust you are beginning to grasp the magnitude of our difficulty.

More important than the difficulty before us, though, is to quickly affirm that as God so establishes the standard of rule for husbands over their households, He certainly ordains the means by which they are able to successfully fulfill their calling. Unfortunately, too many husbands choose to be ethically unconscious (i.e., one whose actions and decisions are inconsistent with professed beliefs) and default to grace: "I can’t live up to the standard. I’m only sinful man and the wife and kids know that better than anyone. I can’t rule my family; no one will listen to me." While it is true that God’s grace does cover our shortcomings and failings, it is not a valid appeal for apathy, laziness, indecisiveness, selfishness, or self-indulgence.

Christ first and foremost loves His church by willingly leaving His place of glory with the Father, taking upon Himself man’s nature (with all the essential properties and common infirmities of man), and dying the painful and shameful death on the cross. Such an ultimate sacrifice few of us will be called upon to do on behalf of our wife and family. This winter’s Hollywood blockbuster, Titanic, vividly displayed the contrasting nature of those who willingly gave their lives so that women and children would have a place on life boats against those men who selfishly sought any means to save their own lives. However, Jesus’ sacrifice is not the only way in which He displays His love for His Church.

The Westminster Confession of Faith Larger Catechism explains the name of Christ as our mediator in Question and Answer 42:

Q: Why was our Mediator called Christ?

A: Our Mediator was called Christ, because he was anointed with the Holy Ghost above measure; and so set apart, and fully furnished with all authority and ability, to execute the offices of prophet, priest, and king of his church, in the estate both of his humiliation and exaltation.

Christ demonstrates His love for His Church by His perfect execution of the office of prophet, priest, and king. If this is so for Christ, then it is certainly so for husbands who are ordained the head of woman. Though we will never attain the full measure of the Holy Spirit as Christ, we can still stand confident with the measure of grace He has given each one of us, that we have been ordained (set apart), and that we have the authority and ability to execute the office within our household. What we don’t have to worry about is attaining an estate of exaltation in our position. There is enough work before us to keep us plenty humble.

Prophetic Headship

The best understanding of the office of prophet is gained by a study of the biblical prophets. They were called by God to be His mouthpiece to the people. Their duty was to proclaim and apply God’s word to the circumstances and actions of the people and to pronounce God’s blessing or curse accordingly. The pronouncements were not a mystical foretelling of the future in the sense of a soothsayer. Rather, they were based on God’s covenantal promises of blessing for obedience and curse for disobedience. The prophet’s words were the judgements of God. Some have characterized the biblical prophets as that of a prosecuting attorney bringing, for example, a covenantal lawsuit against the children of Israel during their times of rebellion. Accordingly, the false prophet was put to death not so much for his wrong predictions, but because of his wrong judgements made in the name of God. (Deuteronomy 18:20)

I have yet to meet a modern day prophet who is willing to be held to the same standard as that of the biblical prophets. Today’s prophetic movement in evangelical circles has gone to great lengths to revise the meaning and duties of the prophetic office in order to accommodate their modern view of the office in today’s church. Such revisionism is dangerous and has so opened the gates for other changes in orthodox definitions that some leaders of the movement openly state, "Through this [the coming spiritual civil war within the Church] the very definition of Christianity will be changed, for the better." (Rick Joyner; The Morning Star Prophetic Bulletin; May, 1996; page 2)

Jesus was known by the multitudes as a great prophet who spoke God’s word with an authority they had not before experienced. Question and Answer 43 of the Larger Catechism expresses His fulfillment of the office of prophet:

Q: How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?

A: Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in his revealing to the church, in all ages, by his Spirit and word, in divers ways of administration, the whole will of God, in all things concerning their edification and salvation.

Husbands, likewise, execute the office of prophet within their family by teaching them the whole will of God in all things concerning their edification and salvation. We are duty bound to judge the affairs of our family and society with a righteous judgement and bring the word of God to bear on those affairs. The stakes are too high for us to be silent. Be assured, if you don’t address the issues according to God’s word, someone else will according to some other word.

Familial issues such as child training, discipline, education, health and hygiene, diet and nutrition, dating, modesty in dress and conduct, family alliances, church and community involvement, entertainment and recreation, and others need the attention and direction of a Godly husband who is instructing and leading his family in a particular direction based on biblical guidelines. If he doesn’t take the lead in these areas, his family will find leadership from other sources. Such is the case in too many instances. Too many times the wife, seeking leadership on a particular issue, takes off in a direction while the husband acquiesces to whatever counsel she has received from other people. A husband might get away with this with his wife for a while, but an indecisive father will soon find his children going in differing directions both physically and philosophically.

In addition to familial issues, there are societal issues that the husband must bring God’s word to bear upon for his family to know the Godly way to respond. Societal issues include the arts (music, movies art, etc.), body piercing/tattooing/mutilation, dating and marriage, pornography, abortion, economics (taxes, debt, income earners, investments, etc.), politics, public education, and others.

The importance of the leadership by the husband in these areas is due to the myriad of philosophies that do address these issues and are competing for the loyalty and devotion of you and your family. Competing philosophies will capture the loyalty of your family if you have not laid the foundation with them enabling them to know how to respond from an unwavering Biblical position. The bible states that God has made foolish the wisdom of the world. (1 Corinthians 1:20) But that doesn’t mean we are to sit back and allow the foolish ideologies of the world to go unchallenged. Rather, His Church, by bringing His word to bear on the wisdom of man, is one means by which God glorifies Himself to the whole world.

Priestly Headship

While the prophet serves as God’s representative to man, the priest is man’s representative before God. In other words, if the prophet is the prosecuting attorney, the priest is the defense attorney. Their duties included standing before God and interceding on behalf of the people, judging matters of dispute and alleged religious violations, performing religious rites and sacrifices on behalf of the people, the dispensing of God’s blessing, inquiring God’s will on behalf of the people, and teaching God’s law to the people.

The original priesthood for the children of Israel originated with Aaron and was to perpetuate through his lineage. Jesus, on the other hand, established a new lineage of priesthood, according to the order of Melchizedek, as affirmed in Hebrews 5. Question and Answer 44 of the Larger Catechism explains Jesus’ fulfillment and administration of the office of priest:

Q: How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?

A: Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his one offering himself a sacrifice without spot to God, to be a reconciliation for the sins of his people; and in making continual intercession for them.

The practical application of Jesus’ execution of His priestly office is expressed first by His death, burial, and resurrection in that He fulfilled the word of God regarding salvation and victory over sin and death. Second, because of His obedience, God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand where He continuously pleads a sure case for those Christ has redeemed by His own blood.

While there will never be a creature so qualified as Christ to stand forever in the place of sinners, scripture tells us that Christ has called His people to be a holy nation and a royal priesthood. (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6) We are more apt to think of our priesthood in terms of a concept known as "the priesthood of the believer." This concept rightly affirms ever member of God’s kingdom direct access to the throne of God without an earthly intermediator. What has been lacking is, while there is a great privilege associated with the priesthood of the believer, there are great responsibilities also associated with the privilege.

Our priestly duties toward our family include more than sacrificing our own personal agendas for the benefit of our family. Also included is leading our family into personal and corporate worship, teaching them how to pray, teaching them the meaning of salvation, instructing them in the meaning and application of God’s word, calling them into times of meditation and repentance, interceding with prayer on their behalf, and pronouncing judgements on issues within the family.

Kingly Headship

Few people complain when I speak of a husband’s priest-like calling in the home. Few have given much serious thought regarding a husband’s prophetic calling in the home. But when you start talking about a man fulfilling his kingly duty, then you can see people to begin to get stirred up. After all, we don’t want men to get the idea that they’re superior or that they have the right to lord it over, rule over, dictate and enslave the other family members. We don't want another Archie Bunker, you know!

Such thinking is not from a biblical view of kingship. Rather, it originate from an emotionalized, feminized, egalitarianistic perspective that attempts to protect people from ungodly abuses by neutralizing the originating cause, even if it is biblical. There are, for sure, many historic examples of bad kings. But there are also many good examples of kings. Kings who, during the feudal system, were loved and honored by the peasants because they served them, protected them, defended them, provided them with a sense of law and order, made improvements to the land, etc... Psalm 72:1-4 gives us a picture of the Godly king: "He will judge Your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice...He will bring justice to the poor of the people; he will save the children of the needy, and will break in pieces the oppressor."

Jesus, like the office of prophet and priest, is our leading example of a Godly king. Question and answer 45 of the Larger Catechism expresses it such:

Q: How doth Christ execute the office of a king?

A: Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace upon his elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel.

The writers identify 6 major traits of a Godly king as demonstrated by Christ:

  1. He gives us the means by which to be effectively governed. By establishing His Church, Jesus affirmed the Father’s creation order by an order of rule that required mutual submission, accountability, and responsibility.
  2. He extends us grace through encouragement and discipline. While there will always be consequences for our actions (blessings for obedience, curses for disobedience), there is always forgiveness for our failures, encouragement in our victories, and confidence that we will not be called on to do something beyond our abilities.
  3. He does not abandon us in our weakness. We have the confidence of His constant presence.
  4. He protects us from enemies. We’re not left to fight our battles alone, but He fights on our behalf.
  5. He orders all events for His glory and for our good. No matter how tragic or senseless an event or catastrophe may appear, we have the confidence that nothing happens in vain.
  6. He executes justice. As sure as He rewards the righteous, He punishes the wicked. He exemplified this when He ascended to heaven, sat at the right hand of God, and carried out the covenantal judgement, as proclaimed by God’s word and carried out by the hands of the Roman army in 70 A.D., against the idolatrous worship in the Jerusalem Temple. He continues to execute justice until that final day when everyone will stand before the throne of God.


Kingly headship of a husband follows the same characteristics and traits of our Lord’s kingly rule. Husbands are to establish a rule of order within the home. Order and discipline within the home are key ingredients to successful homeschooling. There should be a basic foundational schedule from which everyone works from and is held accountable to. There should be a visible chain of command. While we do not confer a lot of authority to siblings over younger siblings until they’re in the 9, 10, or 11 year old range, we do expect and train the younger siblings to honor, respect, and obey their older siblings. An important aspect of familial government is for the husband to unfailingly support the authority of the wife and for the parents to unfailingly support the authority of the older siblings. That doesn’t mean we must support or affirm an injustice performed by someone, but it does mean that we must be very sensitive as to how we, as husbands and parents, correct the mistakes made when there is a wrong judgement made or if authority is abused.

Therefore, husbands are to lead in exemplifying grace in the family. Grace and tolerance are not synonyms. Tolerance tends to allow for ungodly and non-edifying behavior. Grace, on the other hand, deals with such behavior in an uncompromising and firm manner yet freely extending unconditional forgiveness where there is true repentance. Grace does not try to eliminate consequences for bad behavior, but rather encourages the offender to recognize the consequences, patiently work through them, and learn from the consequences.

Moreover, our children are to know that we are with them even when they make mistakes. That doesn’t mean we approve of their misbehavior, but that we are available to lead them in doing the right thing, to support and encourage them in the process of reconciliation. Through this our children learn first that their earthly father will stand with them during their battles in life so that later they will know that their heavenly father will do the same and, second, that no matter how grim the circumstances they find themselves in, "... all things work together for the good of those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) Few children or even adults will discover this truth on their own. It is the Godly father’s responsibility to lead his family in this truth as the time is right.

The husband’s kingly duty requires him to protect his wife and children from danger and harm. Certainly, that includes immediate physical danger and harm. Just as certain does it mean protection from actions, attitudes, and acquaintances that can produce ideas and lifestyles that would gradually or many years later cause danger and harm. Therefore, the father must address issues of peer activities and acquaintances, dating, music, cultural fads, etc... even before these things become an issue within his family. To ignore or neglect these issues in advance of them becoming a problem is to invite the enemy into the city gates to have whatever hostages are available.

Last, kingly headship means a father that is known by his family as a righteous judge. He demonstrates his love for his family by proactively sorting through the details of a dispute or injustice, taking time to hear all the evidence, and ruling according to biblical standards. His family has confidence that they have a righteous advocate, one who judges with a righteous judgement, punishing wickedness and rewarding righteousness. As such, the whole family can agree with Paul that "... rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil." (Romans 13:3)

Conclusion

The homeschool movement has done more to bring the hearts of father’s back home in the first generation of homeschooling than any other work in the last 20 years. As we look forward with anticipation to the advent of the second generation (homeschooled parents homeschooling their children), there is much reason to be excited and encouraged. There is still much work to be done.

We will probably never know just how debilitating the evolutionary training we received from the public school system has been on the way we process information and make decisions and to what extent we have passed such thinking on to our children. But it is time for us to come to grips with the fact that all of us have suffered in some degree or another by such training. Likewise, most of us have defaulted, more or less, to the only method of teaching children that we know: the public school system method. That’s not to take away from our efforts and our desire to forge a new (actually, re-discover) method of education. Christian education, both homeschool and private Christian schools, have gained much ground in putting God into the center of the educational process. However, I believe the next generation of homeschoolers has two major steps to make toward restoring the education process back to its Christian base.

First, the next generation of homeschoolers must make a distinct break from the traditional methodology of education inherited by and handed down from the first generation. The coming generation of educators must go the next step in Christian education by making the systematic study and applications of God’s word (formally know as Systematic Theology) the very foundation of all academic discipline. Currently we have, for the greatest part, a sporadic sprinkling of scripture and bible stories laid along side the other disciplines. Such a shotgun approach to teaching God’s word, while certainly better than nothing, leaves one vulnerable to the very difficult questions facing our world and, therefore, leaves our young people susceptible to competing philosophies that present a more compelling solution. Systematic theology, while not concerned with proving the existence of God, begins with the existence of God as a presupposed foundation and builds layer upon layer the doctrines of God’s character, creation, the fall of man, inspiration of scripture, redemption, etc... in such a way that each layer of doctrine is tied to and dependent upon the other. Under this system, God and His word is the centerpiece of all education with the other academic disciplines then finding their validity and value only from God. Only then will our children be equipped to effectively take every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ.

Second, the husbands of the next generation will need to better position themselves to put their confessed priority of their family over all else into real terms of action. What our generation has done, emphasizing home based businesses and offices and resisting the temptation of climbing the corporate ladder at our children’s expense, has been a good staring point. While that work must continue, there is an emotional aspect of such thinking that remains still too ignored. We have all heard the stories of out-of-control preacher’s kids (PKs). Then you have the business professionals. He’s the one who works 60 to 80 hours a week, climbing the corporate ladder, and indulging his children in every thing money can buy in exchange for his personal attention. Both have one thing in common: they’re astonished that their children were not satisfied either with the dedication of the father’s conviction toward the work or by the indulgences of their every want and desire.

The fallacy that continues to plague the men of this generation is the belief that their children will somehow be inspired by the commitment and dedication of their father’s righteous cause, learn from it, and catch the fire of the conviction with no help or encouragement from anyone. It will just be there because they see what dad is doing. Ministers and businessmen are far from the only ones who fall prey to this fallacy. Professions that tend toward the service of people’s needs (e.g., police officers, doctors, lawyers) and activities that ten toward a certain cause (e.g., anti-pornography/abortion/etc., politics, revivalism) can be so emotionally compelling for the parents that they never see the complacency of their children until the child’s sudden rebellion gets their attention. Thirty years ago this generation sat in church listening to the preacher talk of getting to heaven and the such all the while wondering what that had to do with them. Thirty years later, this generation finally found the true meaning of religion and they’re singing and clapping and dancing in the church isles while their children sit in the back, arms folded, wondering what all this has to do with them.

These issues of education methodology and familial discipleship will have to be addressed for the next generation to make progress with their children. Both require a critical evaluation of the presuppositions acquired from the previous generations and the willingness to hold strong to those that pass the test of biblical scrutiny while jettisoning those that do not. Both will require the active participation of a Godly husband that is faithfully fulfilling his ordained calling as prophet, priest, and king within his family.


 

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Patrick L. Hurd
Weatherford, Texas
PHurdWford@AOL.com

EST. 01/01/01