The Expository Files

The Role of a Father

Ephesians 6:4

There is no role in our modern society that suffers greater neglect as far as God is concerned than that of the father. Not only has God given men the incredible privilege of imitating Him as Father, He has placed upon the shoulders of fathers an incredible responsibility. As our society has chosen this day to celebrate fathers, it is appropriate to remind fathers of their God given responsibilities.

By God's standards, anyone who is a father should first be a husband (cf. 1 Cor. 7:1-5). Otherwise, souls are guilty of the sin of fornication (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21). Therefore, being a responsible father first necessitates being a good husband. One must love, honor, nourish and cherish his wife in every aspect of her life (cf. Eph. 5:25-30; Col. 3:19; 1 Pet. 3:7). Only then will one be prepared to be a good father.

As a father, no challenge rings clearer in my mind than that set forth by the apostle Paul, who says, "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4). In just a few words, the Spirit speaks of responsibility, accountability and possibility in light of those who have taken on the good work of being a father.

First, a father is not to provoke their children to wrath. What this means, in no uncertain terms, is that a father is not to purposefully do things that make their children scornful, angry, resentful, discouraged and bitter (cf. Col. 3:21). There is a difference between doing something that is right for them, yet does not meet with their approval (e.g., such as disciplining them or setting boundaries for their own good) and doing something that angers them for no good reason (e.g., meaningless rules because you are "in charge," etc). In many cases, there is a fine line between the two that a father must avoid to keep from provoking his children to wrath.

In many homes, children have been provoked to wrath because of the father's absence. In some cases, a mother has chosen a lifestyle that precludes a father, sometimes for selfish reasons. A mother will have to deal with these consequences. Yet, more often than not, it is due to the neglect, irresponsibility, and selfishness of a father that the home does not feel his presence. In many seemingly normal homes (i.e., both parents in the home in a fairly stable situation), children are provoked to anger because the father is simply too busy to be a father (e.g., climbing the corporate ladder, pursuing personal hobbies, etc.). In other situations, the father is too overbearing. In some cases, the father is abusive, both physically and emotionally. In many homes, the father is hypocritical, demanding things of his family that he does not demand of himself. All of these things can and will provoke a child to wrath and must be avoided.

The second primary aspect of a father's responsibility is to bring his children up in the training and admonition of the Lord. The need for this command to be realized in today's society could not be more keenly felt. Under Christ, the father is the spiritual head of the home (cf. Eph. 5:22-24; 1 Cor. 11:3). His presence (i.e., Christ's through the example and teaching of the father) should be felt in the home, in its rules, its worship, and through the father's gentle love, leadership and example. One of our biggest problems is that too many fathers are not spiritual men. This must change.

Furthermore, another problem is that too many fathers do not know what the "training and admonition of the Lord" is, let alone how to bring their children up in it. Children need to be taught from a young age about the Lord and must be taught to live by the Lord's commands (cf. the example of Timothy - 1 Tim. 3:15; Deut. 6:5-9).

Training and admonition mean more than simply discipline or punishment for wrongdoing. They imply that a father should spend time instructing and training his children to do right. He must bring them up, or feed and nurture them on it. They must be instructed how to do that which is good and avoid those things which are evil. They must be instructed regarding the straight and narrow path that leads to heaven. Then they must be reminded to stay on that path. Lord willing, they will carry this training with them into life. Its ultimate goal is to spur them to willingly submit their life to their Heavenly Father, as this is the way they should go (cf. Prov. 22:16). Therefore, an incredible challenge lies before a father.

Children are a blessing from the Lord (cf. Psa. 127:3-5). As with all blessings, there is accountability. Fathers must realize that the Spirit gave this charge regarding our children to us. He did not give it to the mother, though their role is absolutely necessary in its being carried out. He did not give it to the daycare. He did not give it to the babysitter. He did not give it to the nanny. He did not give it to the grandparents. Nor did He give it to the church, the school or the youth program. He gave it to fathers. Therefore, fathers will bear the accountability-the consequence for failing to carry it out or the reward for so doing. Let us never forget, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:31).

Not only does this verse speak of responsibility and accountability, it speaks of possibility. It speaks of the possibility of bringing up godly children despite the immorality and wickedness of the day. It speaks of creating a strong bond between a father and his children all the days of their life, in a day when the elderly are left to die in loneliness and despair. It speaks of the possibility of happy, well-adjusted children who love God and their families. It speaks of the possibility of spiritual men leading spiritual homes in a spiritual way that brings up spiritual children. But most of all, it speaks of the possibility of heaven, for fathers and for their children. This is ultimately what it is all about (cf. Eccl. 12:13).

By Jonathan L. Perz
From Expository Files 8.8; August 2001