The Christian’s Household
We rightly maintain the need for us to get right with God individually and not be just taking on certain views or practices because that is what others are doing. Consider Matthew 3:5-12). On the other hand, we as Christians should not ignore our responsibilities to other Christians and our links with them, that is, the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25). However, there is something that we may overlook and that is our household responsibilities.
Household responsibilities are brought to our attention by Noah who prepared an ark for the saving of his house (Hebrews 11:7). This was, of course, salvation from the flood, not what we speak of as eternal salvation. One of Noah’s sons later on misbehaved badly, and his son Canaan was cursed by Noah (Genesis 9:18-27).
When we come to Abraham we find that God said as to him : “I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of Jehovah, to do righteousness and justice, in order that Jehovah may bring upon Abraham what he hath spoken of him.” (Genesis 18:19).
It is noticeable that two of the best kings of Israel had sons which were two of the worst kings. Consider Hezekiah (2 Kings 18) whose son was Manasseh (2 Kings 21) and Josiah (2 Kings 22:1/2) whose son was Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:36/37 and Jeremiah 22:18/19).
If we turn to the New Testament, we find that households are mentioned several times. We have the household of Lydia and the household of the Philippian Jailor (Acts 16). We have no details given as to those who were in these households mentioned or in other households mentioned in the New Testament such as those of Stephanas and Onesiphorus (1 Corinthians 1:16 and 2 Timothy 1:16; 4:19).
However, we are given instructions as to who can be an elder. Paul says to Titus that he must be husband of one wife having believing children not accused of excess or unruly (Titus 1:6).
It is important to see that as regards our households we should do our part as regards their upbringing, that is, we should bring them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), but we must leave room for God to work in their souls as Paul says in another connection that God gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6/7). People who think they can make their children godly souls results in disaster. This happened with Queen Victoria’s family. They wanted to be a model family, but according to historians at least some of their family became degenerate and it is thought that this brought on the early death of their father. There is a little book: “Father and Son” which shows that our influence alone cannot make Christians of our children. If children are growing up and only following the religious practices of their parents because they threaten them with being sent to Coventry, that is, have nothing to do with them, turn them out of the house, etc; one day it could result in disaster. Moslems and others may threaten their children if they become Christians in that way. Our children need to have their own relationship with the Lord and so be able to make a stand when they have to face the world and its allurements. A relative of mine having heard that a certain family had escaped from a sect which had onerous requirements went to visit them to see if she could help them. However, they were not interested, but were just occupied with doing all the things they were not allowed to do when they were in the sect.
In considering the Christian’s household I would mention that there may be unusual cases. We have the case of Timothy who appears to have come from a house where the Mother was a believing Jew, but the Father was a Greek. In the circumstances Paul circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:1-3).
Then we have the case of Lydia. She had a household, but whether she was a spinster or a widow we do not know. In the more usual case of a household with a husband and wife we have quite a lot of instruction. As to household order we have this spoken of in 1 Corinthians 11:3. It is not a question superiority and inferiority else Christ would be inferior to God, and a woman inferior to a man, but regulations which are ordained. We have them in an army, else there would be chaos. However, much more is said about the husband and wife relationship by Paul in Ephesians 5:22-33 and in Colossians 3:18/19. Then we have Peter speaking on the same subject (1 Peter 3:1-7). One would mention that Abraham was told to accept his wife’s request as to Ishmael (Genesis 21:8-13). Again, in Genesis 27:46 to 28:1-5 we have Isaac harkening to his wife and taking appropriate action. Note that in both these cases the wives did not act apart from their husbands, though we know that Rebecca had part in the deceitfulness of Jacob earlier in chapter 27.
Then we have the matter of children in a household. Paul writes on this subject in Ephesians in chapter 6:1-4 and Colossians 3:18-21. It is remarkable that Paul gives instruction to children in books that speak of the most glorious relationships that Christians are brought into. He was not speaking to children of heathen parents but children of the saints. Paul’s ministry was balanced in that he also has a word for their fathers in both books.
One thing that should mark the Christian’s house is hospitality (1 Peter 4:9). This is important in view of what Scripture tells us in 1 Timothy 5:10 as to widows. Apart from this we are told in Hebrews 13:1/2 that by it some have unawares entertained angels. Perhaps the writer of Hebrews had Lot in mind (Genesis 19). Then there was the house at Bethany which Christ and his disciples visited more than once. Maybe on the first visit Martha had not appreciated who Jesus really was (Luke 10:38-42). Then we know about Zacchaeus in Luke (Luke 19). It was a great privilege to have Jesus staying with him. However, we are enjoined by Christ to invite the poor, etc. when making a feast (Luke 14:12-14).
Then there is the matter of service. Paul tells the Corinthians that the house of Stephanas had devoted themselves to the saints for service (1 Corinthians 16:15). This gives great scope for it is not a specific service that is mentioned, though further down the chapter the service of Stephanus and others to Paul is spoken of. If we have young children the amount of service, we can render to the saints may be limited, but when they are grown up, we have more time to serve the saints. One would say that this may be enhanced if we have retired from secular employment.
Thinking of our houses they can when necessary be used as meeting places for the Lord’s people. We have an example of this in the assembly that was in the house of Prisca and Aquila (Romans 16:3-5). Then we have an assembly which was in the house of Philemon (verse 2). I may only have a small house, but a large house may be serviceable to the Lord’s people, if necessary. Martha’s house must have been quite a large house to accommodate Christ and his disciples as well as Martha, Mary and Lazarus. If one has houses or lands, they may be serviceable to the Lord’s people, though they may be a snare to us if they have an importance in our minds that they should not have. Consider what is said of the young man in Mark 10:17-31.
We have households spoken of, but also house, spoken of, meaning descendants (Ruth 4:11). Then there are houses in the sense of physical buildings. In Egypt God made a difference between the houses of the Israelites and those of the Egyptians. The Israelites had light in their dwellings (Exodus 10:23). Those in the houses of the Israelites were protected by the blood when the destroying came to kill the firstborn if the blood of the Passover lamb had been sprinkled on the door post and lintel (Exodus 12:21-23). We need to see that our houses are not as the houses of unbelievers, but that there is an atmosphere about them that savours of heaven. I expect that most of us would feel that we come short in these things. Similarly, those in Rahab’s house were protected when the Israelites destroyed Jericho (Joshua 6:17).
If we have children, it should be a concern to us to see that they are receiving good teaching. The book of Proverbs is a help in this matter as it says: “Hear, my son, the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the teaching of thy mother.” (Chapter 1:8) The question is what are we teaching our children? Are we teaching that which will help them when they go to school, college or university, also when they go into the business world? Maybe they can teach us some things. I was once somewhat taken aback when my young children put their hands over my eyes and told me to look the other way as there was in a shop window something that was not desirable to look at. Again, when a member of my family gave up something she naturally enjoyed and I was concerned about the money that had been spent, she said that she would be concerned as to my spiritual whereabouts if I wanted her to keep on with it. It is a good thing when persons give up things because they feel it would be wrong to carry on with them rather than they are just giving them up because they will not be allowed to have part in the breaking of bread if they continue with them. We should do our part as regards our children but recognise that it is essential that God also works in their souls. It is a good sign when our children are seeking the company of the Lord’s people and not those whose outlook is towards those that love the world.