Who is the main/sole spiritual trainer of your children? You may say, “I send them to bible class every Sunday,” or, “I take them to Bible classes every Sunday,” or, “My wife (or husband) teaches them about the Bible,” or, “I am their sole spiritual trainer,” or “I am the main provider of spiritual training of our children, but their mother is also involved,” or, “I am the main provider of spiritual training of our children, but their mother is also involved, and we take them to Bible classes three times a week.” Or, you may say, “They have no spiritual training.” Who should be the main provider of spiritual training in your family? As with most important questions, the Bible has the answer, the correct answer. Let us see.
What Does the Bible Say About Spiritual Training?
Old Testament Teaching
God has always considered it important for His people to know His will. This was particularly true with His chosen people, Israel.
God told Moses at Mt. Sinai, “I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them” (Ex. 24:12). The priests were given the same charge (Lev. 10:11). In Deuteronomy 6:6-7, Moses told Israel:
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
Perhaps the most well-known Old Testament passage on providing a child’s spiritual is Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” On this passage, Garry K. Brantley writes:
Apparently, however, the phrase is an idiomatic way of referring to a child’s specific personality and peculiar traits. The “way,” therefore, does not refer to the “strait and narrow path” mapped out by God’s Word, but to the singular characteristics of each child. Parents are to inaugurate (from hanak, usually translated “train”) their children in the way paved by their unique dispositions. This is the behavioral and attitudinal course from which a child, as a general rule, will not deviate as indicated in the following phrase: “When he is old, he will not turn from it.”
New Testament Teaching
The Word of God must be taught. Jesus spent most of His ministry teaching. He told the apostles, in Matthew 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” According to both Thayer and Strong, teach means, “to teach, instruct.” The word also carries with it the idea of making disciples, but a disciple is defined as, “a learner, pupil, disciple” (Thayer, Strong).
Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:2):
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
So each Christian is responsible for passing along the truth to others. That is how the gospel was spread in the first century. That is how it will be spread in the twenty-first century.
Who Is Responsible for Teaching the Truth to Our Children?
We have seen that the gospel is spread by being taught by one Christian to another. But who is responsible for the teaching of our children?
Paul wrote to Titus in Titus 2:4-5 to teach the younger women. But these, obviously, are women of marriageable age. Who is responsible for teaching children?
Paul referred to Timothy as “my own son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2). Luke writes that Timotheus (Timothy) was “was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium (Acts 16:2).
Where did Timothy learn to live the kind of life that resulted in others holding him to such a degree of esteem? Paul gives us the answer. He writes in 2 Timothy 3:14-15:
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
He wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:5:
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
Timothy received his spiritual training from his mother and grandmother. It is likely that Timothy’s father, being a “Greek” (Acts 16:1), was likely not a believer in God, thus would not have been involved in Timothy’s spiritual training. Thus, that responsibility fell to his mother and grandmother who were Jews. But, what if both parents are Christians?
Paul writes in Ephesians 6:1-2:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise.”
The inspired writer continues in Ephesians 6:
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
So, according to Paul, the responsibility of providing the spiritual training of the children in the home falls on the father! That may come as a surprise to many fathers who busy themselves with work, recreation, taking care of the material home, etc. and leave the spiritual training to the mother. Sadly, many fathers are almost, or entirely, absent from the home and have little contact with their children.
According to the 21st Century Dads Foundation, “There are approximately 24 million kids growing up across America without their dads.” They continue, “Children from father-absent homes are more likely to; drop out of school, abuse drugs and alcohol, get involved with crime and become incarcerated, become teen parents, have psychological problems and commit suicide.” Later, they conclude that, contrary to the modern narrative that all a single mom needs is financial support, “The truth is, what kids need are responsible fathers who are present financially, physically, emotionally and spiritually” (Emp. mine, LJB). The statistics accord with what Paul, by inspiration, wrote long ago – children need their fathers in the home bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:1-4)!
1 Samuel 2:12-17 describes sins of Levi’s wicked sons. Later, God gave young Samuel a message to take to Eli. He says in 1 Samuel 3:13:
For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.
Eli’s house would be judged because he had not “restrained” his sons. He had not been the kind of spiritual father that his sons needed. They sinned, but he was held accountable as well as they! Sadly, God will judge many modern fathers who fail to “train up” their children, “in the way” they should go (Prov. 22:6). If more fathers provided the proper training for their sons, there would be far fewer youth involved in crime. More would be faithful children of the Lord and serving Him as a part of His church!
May we always be the spiritual fathers that God requires of us!