The Child in the Christian Home
May 8th, 1983 @ 10:50 AM
THE CHILD IN THE CHRISTIAN HOME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-8-83 10:50 a.m.
And in keeping with Mother’s Day, the pastor is preparing to preach a sermon from God’s Word on The Child in the Christian Home. And we welcome the multitudes of you who are sharing the hour on radio and on television with us here in the First Baptist Church of Dallas. Our text is in the life of our Lord as a child, in Luke 2:39-40, and verses 51-52—Luke 2:39:
And when they—
the parents of our Lord—
had performed all things according to the law of the Lord,
they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
And the Child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom:
and the grace of God was upon Him.
Now the last two verses—
And He went down—
and our Lord Jesus went down with them—
and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them:
His mother keeping all of these things of the Child in her heart.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
In the sixty-eighth Psalm, in verse 6, it says, “God hath placed the solitary in families” [Psalm 68:6]. And in the passage that I have just read, we see the life of the Lord in the home. God incarnate in a family. He was born into a family [Matthew 1:20-25]. He grew up in a devout, humble family. And when the Scriptures say that Jesus was subject unto His parents [Luke 2:51], He was faithfully taught by His father and His mother, and the repercussion of that teaching He received in that beautiful home is found throughout the ministry that followed.
- Luke says, for example, in the next chapter, verse 21, that when the Lord was baptized, He was praying [Luke 3:21]. So in that home there in Nazareth, He was taught to pray, and as a child He grew up praying to God the Father.
- I turn the page again, and in the next chapter, in the fourth chapter of Luke, it says that when Jesus was baptized [Luke 3:21-22], and returned to Nazareth where He was brought up, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue [Luke 4:16]. Then He attended church all the days of His upbringing. He knew no other thing than on that holy day to attend the worship of God. He learned that in the home.
- Then I read that as He was present in the synagogue service, there was delivered unto Him the scroll of Isaiah, and He opened the scroll and found the place; the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah [Luke 4:17-19; Isaiah 61:1-2].
- Then I know that He was familiar with the Bible from the days of His childhood. In a previous chapter, in chapter 2 in Luke, it says that our Lord Jesus, twelve years of age, was in the temple in Jerusalem. And the doctors of the law, canon law, scriptural law, they were astonished at His wisdom and at His learning [Luke 2:42, 46-47]. A child, He knew the Bible in the home.
- And I turn the pages in Luke again and I read in chapter 9 that He took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, He gave thanks, He said grace, and He brake and gave to the disciples, and they to the multitude [Luke 9:16].
- When I turn to the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Luke, you will see, as we observe the Lord’s Supper this morning: “He took bread, and He blessed it, then He brake it.” He took the cup and He blessed it, He gave thanks, and then they shared it [Luke 22:19-20].
- Then when I turn to the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Luke, I read there a remarkable story. The two disciples on the way to Emmaus were joined by a stranger [Luke 24:13-15], and as they talked together, their hearts burned within them [Luke 24:32]. “Who is this unusual guest?” They invited Him for supper, and when they sat down to break bread together, He led the blessing, and the Scriptures say and the two disciples in Emmaus recognized Him by the way that He said the blessing [Luke 24:30-32, 35].
Isn’t that a remarkable thing? Representing the training He received all the days of His life: He prayed; He attended church; He knew the Bible; He said grace before they broke bread. This is the training of the child in the home. That’s where the youngster mostly is formed, mostly is shaped, in the home where he grows up with father, and mother, and child. The child is trained mostly in the home.
I read one of the craziest stories—it said that the baby sharks were trying to teach the baby crabs to walk forward, to swim forward and not backward, as little crabs do. So the baby sharks worked on the baby crabs all day long and finally got the little baby crabs to walk forward and to swim forward instead of backwards. But the next day, the baby sharks had it to do it all over again because the next day, there the baby crabs were, walking backward and swimming backward. And the baby sharks couldn’t understand until they went home with the baby crabs and found there that the father crab and the mama crab walked backward and swam backward, just like the baby crab was being taught to do.
What the child is, and what the child does, is largely learned in the home, and if the home does not teach that child the great, marvelous truths of God, of heaven, of the purpose and meaning of life, then he learns them from the gutter and from the street. He doesn’t learn them in the public school. By law we are interdicted from teaching the Word of God in the school. If he doesn’t learn it in the home, and with the exception of those that attend our Christian academy, he learns it in the gutter and in the street. The streets offer no diplomas and they confer no degrees, but they educate with terrible precision. If the child is not taught in the home, he doesn’t come to know the beauty and the glory of the full-orbed life given us in our Lord. It’s a wonderful thing; it’s a beautiful thing, to see the home that is dedicated to God in which the child grows up knowing no other thing than the love of the Lord.
I one time saw a painting. Oh, that painting made an impression upon me! It was of a cottage, it was a humble home, and the family was gathered round the table for a meal; father, mother, and the children on either side of the table. And their heads were bowed in blessing, in grace, in thanking God. But the artist had drawn a marvelous, ethereal picture of the Lord Jesus standing above them, unknown to them, and His hands were extended in blessing over that humble family breaking bread together.
I thought, “Isn’t that just like Jesus? Isn’t that like our Lord?”
His presence in the home, the unseen Guest, is ever a hallowed and sanctifying benediction. And not only is this house of God to be called a house of prayer [Isaiah 56:7], but the home is also to be a temple of the Lord, it also is to be a house of prayer. And how blessed that home where the name of God is pronounced, and where intercession is made before the Lord.
I don’t think you’ll find in the Bible a more beautiful story than that of the Shunammite woman. She’s never named. She’s just referred to as a great woman who lived in Shunem [2 Kings 4:8]. That’s at the base of Mount Tabor up there near where Jesus grew up in Nazareth. Well, Elisha the prophet of God would come by, and they invited the prophet of the Lord to stay at their house [2 Kings 4:8].
And that woman said to her husband, “He is a man of God; let us build for him a chamber so that when he comes by he will stay at our house” [2 Kings 4:9-10].
So they built for Elisha, the prophet of God, a prophet’s chamber, and the Book says that she placed in it a table, and a chair, and a bed, and a lamp [2 Kings 4:10]. And Elisha stayed at the Shunammite home when he came by. In keeping with the goodness of God to the family, the Lord placed in her arms a precious baby boy [2 Kings 4:11-17]; but as the child grew up and became a teenager, the child sickened and died [2 Kings 4:18-20]. Oh! Can you imagine the sorrow of the hurt of breaking up of the home like that? The little child—the youngster died.
Well, what did she do? She took the little boy and placed him on the prophet’s bed [2 Kings 4:21], and made her way to Elisha [2 Kings 4:22-27]. And Elisha followed her back home and he knelt down, as I am sure he had done every day that he stayed there. He knelt down by the bed where that child lay, and prayed, and interceded, and pled with God. And the Lord heard from heaven and breathed life into the body of that lad, and Elisha picked him up in his arms and placed him in the arms of his mother [2 Kings 4:32-36]. That’s great! That’s marvelous, that’s wonderful, that’s God. That’s intercession, that’s prayer. That’s the blessedness of having a close relationship with our Father in the home.
And did you know, as I was preparing this message, I thought of the single-parent home. I have become increasingly conscious of it by these who come down the aisle here at church and bring a child with them, sometimes two or three, and there’s no father or there’s no mother. There’s just the mother and a child, or a father and a child, and I was conscious of that when I prepared this message.
So I read out of God’s Book: Paul came to Lystra: and a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain woman, who was a Jewess, and believed, she became a Christian. But his father was a Greek [Acts 16:1] and apparently he never turned, he was never converted, he remained a pagan idolater. Now I would think that because, when it says this young fellow, Timothy, was a disciple of the Lord Jesus, and the son of a woman, who was a Jewess, and she believed—she was a Christian—but “his father was a Greek,” and it doesn’t say that he believed. Now this young fellow was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra [Acts 16:2]. Now, I’m going to turn the pages and read out of the last letter of Paul addressed to Timothy in Ephesus, written just before Paul died. Now, you listen to it, “I have remembrance of thee in my prayers day and night” [2 Timothy 1:3]—Timothy, I call you by name every day and every night.
You know, not as a part of personal egotism, or grandeur, or aggrandizement, but I cannot express it in words—the deep, moving gratitude of my heart when I hear people pray for their pastor. It is beautiful. It is precious. And if we have any ableness or any power at all, it lies in those intercessory remembrances.
That’s what Paul says here: without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day [2 Timothy 1:3].
Praying for you, Timothy, and the church there in Ephesus.
Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears— [2 Timothy 1:4].
Isn’t that strange? Timothy must have been a young fellow who was very easily moved—
Being mindful of thy tears.
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee,
this Christian commitment which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and in thy mother Eunice;
and I am persuaded is in thee also.
[2 Timothy 1:4-5]
Well, where’s his father? Here again, we have the almost certain affirmation that that Greek father never was converted, never followed the Lord, and is not named or referred to. So Timothy—this marvelous, wonderful young preacher, the darling, and the dear, and the love of Paul’s heart—this boy, Timothy grew up in a single-parent home, taught by his mother Eunice, by his grandmother Lois, and the faith in those godly women found repercussion and glory in the life of that boy. Isn’t that an encouragement? I know the sorrow and the hurt of a home broken up, and the child reared in a broken home, but God can be in it! And the Lord can bless that father or that mother who is both father and mother to the precious child. God sees to that, and I thank Him.
Not only the family home, but the child growing up in the home. “Children,” the apostle says to the church in Ephesus, and the letter is an encyclical: it’s a general letter to all of the churches. We call it Ephesians just because the document, the manuscript that was a part of the Textus Receptus, the one that was the basis for the translation of this King James Version, the Textus Receptus just happened to have Ephesians there, but the letter was written to all of the churches and one of the letters had “Laodicea” [Revelation 3:14-22]; to the church at Laodicea. So the letter is to us and to all of the churches, it’s a general letter. It’s a general epistle.
Children—he says—obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise.
One, two, three, four commandments [Exodus 20:2-11], and then the fifth commandment, and that’s the first one with which God has added a promise—
Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise [Exodus 20:12].
And the promise, that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long on the earth.
Honor thy father and thy mother.
This is a commandment [Exodus 20:12], one of the ten of our Lord [Exodus 20:3-10].
Increase Mather, born in 1639, one of those old English divines in New England, Increase Mather wrote a tract, he wrote a pamphlet, it was a sermon that he preached, and it was entitled: “The Duty of Parents To Teach Their Children the Christian Faith.” Now Increase Mather had a more famous son named Cotton Mather who was a marvelous preacher up there in New England. He was born in 1663. Now Cotton Mather wrote a pamphlet and he entitled it “The Duty of Children Who Have Been Taught the Christian Faith By Their Parents.” It’s a wonderful thing, the commandment of God for the children to be taught in the home. It is a more wonderful thing for the children to be responsible and responsive to father and mother who have taught them the Christian faith in the home.
I don’t know why, as much and as long as I have read and studied the Bible, I don’t know why I have never paid particular attention to this before, but there are some terrible words, severe, condemnatory, in God’s Word concerning the disobedient child that fails to honor the teaching of father and mother. Our Lord refers to it in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew. He says, “God commanded,” the Lord Jesus says, “God commanded, Honor thy father and mother: and, he that curseth father or mother, let him die the death” [Matthew 15:4]. Now He’s referring to what? And that “what” I’m going to read. Our Lord is referring to Exodus, chapter 21, verses 15 and 17, “He that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death” [Exodus 21:15]; verse 17, “He that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death” [Exodus 21:17].
Now I’m going to turn to Deuteronomy, chapter 21. Deuteronomy, chapter 21, and I shall begin reading at verse 18. Deuteronomy 21:18:
If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son,
which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother,
and that, when they have chastened him and corrected him, will not hearken unto them:
Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him,
and bring him unto the elders of his city, unto the gate of his place:
And they shall say unto the elders of the city,
This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die:
so shalt thou put away evil from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
I never noticed that particularly. Oh, what God has to say concerning the rebellious son and daughter who refuse to hearken unto, and to listen to, and to honor the father and the mother! Then I read Psalm 144, verses 11 and 12; this is a prayer of David, Psalm 144:11-12:
Rid me—he prays—and deliver me from the hand of perverse children,
whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood:
Deliver us, Lord, from perverse children, that our sons may be plants grown up in their youth;
that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace.
Lord, Lord, the tragedy of the child that refuses to listen to father and mother; God says it’s a perversion worthy of death. May the Lord be merciful to our children and grant us children that are sweet, and precious, and obedient, and who listen to the voice of their father and their mother. And I close speaking of that.
In the United States there has never been arrested a chronic, delinquent child of Chinese parents in the history of America. Seven percent of America’s juveniles will be in trouble this year with the law. Not one of them will be a Chinese. In the United States there has never been a Chinese conviction for rape, burglary, bank robbery, desertion. In the half-century of Chicago’s Chinatown there has been only one arrest for breaking and entering. Despite generations of Western influence, this race has somehow check-reined the impulsiveness of its young people. How? This man, president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of Chicago, says, “We keep a tight rein on the children until they are fully responsible.”
And another editor up there of the China Times in Chicago says, “Our children just naturally respect and obey their parents. A boy or girl would not bring shame on his family name.”
Not one of New York’s ten thousand Chinese-American school children has ever been brought to court, not once, not one of them, not even for speeding. Where did that come from? Their background is Confucian, their background is pagan, their background is idolatrous; but the Chinese child has always been taught to reverence and to honor father and mother, and there’s never been an instance where one has been arrested. Doesn’t that make you think? Doesn’t that make you remember what God said, and what God intended in the home?
General Douglas MacArthur, whom I admired so much, General MacArthur was a cadet in West Point where he received his basic military training, and he was undergoing a great trial in his life, he says, this is from him. And while he was making the decision that colored all the years of his life, a decision between right and wrong, he received a letter from his mother, and in the letter his mother enclosed a poem. And General MacArthur said this is the poem:
Like mother, like son,
Is saying so true.
The world will judge largely
A mother by you.
Be sure it will say
When its verdict you’ve won,
“She reaps as she sowed.
This man is her son.”
[“Like Mother, Like Son,” Margaret Johnston Grafflin]
And General MacArthur said, “When I read that, I made the decision for God and for good.”
When I say this, it will be so familiar to you, but it is so everlastingly true. In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, in the roll call of the heroes of faith, after it names Abel, and Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the fathers, then it names Moses—Ramoses, that’s the name Pharaoh’s daughter gave the little son that she adopted—Ramoses. Ramoses, dedicated to the sun god, Ra; Ra, Ramoses [Exodus 2:10]. Then the Book of Hebrews says in chapter 11: When Ramoses came of age, forty years old, he refused to be the son of Pharaoh’s daughter [Hebrews 11:24]:
Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God . . .
despising the treasures of Egypt; that he might inherit the riches of heaven:
for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward . . .
Enduring, as seeing Him who is invisible.
Where did he learn about God? Where did he learn about the people of God? Pharaoh’s daughter said in a strange, miraculous providence to the mother of the child, “Take this child and nurse the child and rear it for me, and I will pay thee thy wages” [Exodus 2:7-10].
And when Jochebed, the wife of Amram and the mother of the lad, brought him up, she taught him the faith of the fathers: Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Joseph. And every day that he lived as a prince, an heir to the throne, Ramoses saw the oppression of his people [Exodus 2:11-12]. And the day came when he made the great decision spoken of in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews: “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God” [Hebrews 11:25], than to be exalted to the throne of the greatest empire of the ancient world—the influence and the teaching of his godly mother [Exodus 2:7-10].
That’s the Lord’s ableness expressed in our lives. And if we have any hope for a glorious tomorrow, any at all, it lies in the faithful teaching of our children, and in the responsive heart of that child, listening, hearkening, obeying the voice of a Christian father and a Christian mother.
And that’s our appeal to you this Mother’s Day. What a wonderful day, what a glorious day, what an incomparable moment to give heart and life to our Lord God in heaven. What a marvelous open door God hath set before us, to join our lives and our families with the people of God. Do it now.
Now choir, would you stand together with me as I pray? Our Lord in heaven, I thank Thee for my Christian father, a humble, godly, good man. I thank Thee for the devotion of my sweet mother. God grant that the words she read and the prayers she prayed may find beautiful repercussion all the days of my life. And I thank Thee, Lord, for the families in this church, multitudinous, and for the children they are rearing in the love and nurture of Christ Jesus [Ephesians 6:4]. And our Savior, as we give invitation now to children and to fathers and mothers and to families to join heart and home and hand with us, may God give us a beautiful and precious reward. Send us souls, Lord, to pray with us, to sing with us, to read God’s Word with us, to stand by us, to exalt Thy name in the heart of this great city.
And in a moment when we make our appeal in song, somebody you, give your heart to the Lord; come. A family you, put your life with us in the church; come. Or if God has spoken to your soul to answer with your life, come. In the balcony round there is time and to spare, down one of these stairways, in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, this is God’s day for us and we are coming” [Romans 10:9-10]. And thank Thee, Lord, for the beautiful response You will give us, in Thy saving and keeping name, amen. While we sing our appeal, in the balcony, on this lower floor, come, stand by us and welcome, while we sing.