In Part 1, I tried to lay the gospel foundation for pastors as we think about our family lives. In this present article, I hope to encourage us to apply the gospel in the different roles we play in our families.
A Gospel-Exhibiting PastorEvery pastor who desires to glorify God in all that he does gives considerable thought to how he handles his personal life. The pastor’s qualifications include his ability to handle his familial responsibilities. In 1 Tim. 3:4, 5 Paul says that a pastor must “manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?).” The pastor’s ability to manage his house provides insight into whether he is able to take care of the church of God. Concerning the word translated as take care Lea Thomas writes, “The term demands an effective exercise of authority bolstered by a character of integrity and sensitive compassion. Its use in v. 5 with the verb “take care of” defines the quality of leadership as related more to showing mercy than to delivering ultimatums.” (1) If this is true, then how can we extend mercy without understanding the mercy that we have received from our Savior Jesus Christ? How can we understand integrity without looking to Christ who did the right thing no matter what the circumstances? (Matt. 4:1-11). Having a good family life is not just getting one aspect of our lives right. A gospel-exhibiting pastor recognizes that all that he does in his life has a ripple effect on his entire world. If he gets his family life out of step with the gospel, then he not only risks his family life, but his very soul.
We must recognize that as pastors we are exhibiting to our fellow believers in our local church characteristics of a godly husband, godly father, godly son, and a godly man.
A Gospel-Exhibiting HusbandAs a husband, the pastor should take Peter’s exhortation very seriously, 1 Pet. 3:7, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” The translation “considerate” is taken from the Greek word γνῶσιν which can be translated as “with understanding” or “with knowledge”. According to Grudem, a husband must live with his wife understanding “the wife’s desires, goals, and frustrations; knowledge of her strengths and weaknesses in the physical, emotional and spiritual realms.” (2) It also means that husbands use that knowledge about their wives “with all the consideration and thoughtfulness which God intends for her ‘as a weaker vessel’ in the ‘wifely relation.’” In addition to that, husbands must “assign honour” to their wives by giving “his submissive wife her just due and not take liberties with her rights.” (3) The fact is that Christian wives who fulfil their Christian duty of submitting to their respective husbands are heirs of God’s grace with them. Both the husband and the wife are recipients of God’s great salvific grace that will lead to their final sanctification. This is the gospel displayed in a husband-wife relationship.
A Gospel-Exhibiting FatherAs a father, the pastor must consider Eph. 6:4, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” While a lot of time can be spent on this verse, the main thrust is that men must understand their fatherly duty from a gospel-lens. “Effectively, the apostle is ruling out ‘excessively severe discipline, unreasonably harsh demands, abuse of authority, arbitrariness, unfairness, constant nagging and condemnation, subjecting a child to humiliation, and all forms of gross insensitivity to a child’s needs and sensibilities.” (4) But for what purpose? In order to discipline the children in the instruction of the Lord. Fathers must nourish them like Christ nourishes the church. This Christian duty of a father is necessary for the family to make and mature disciples of Jesus Christ. The first and most important disciples of Jesus Christ that a pastor makes are his children. Voddie Baucham captures this correctly when he says, “Discipleship and multi-generational faithfulness begins and ends at home. At best, the church is to play a supporting role as it “equips the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12) (5). As fathers, dear pastors, we must be transparently and authentically living out the gospel before our children so that they can observe our lives and find an example of Christlike living.
A Gospel-Exhibiting SonAs sons, Eph. 6:2 says, “Honour your father and mother” — which is the first commandment with a promise.” This verse is a direct quotation from the book of Exodus. If we are pastors who are submitting to Christ daily, then we will continue to show high regard for our parents, especially if they are worshippers of Yahweh. This does not mean that as adults we must obey everything that our parents tell us to do. However, this does mean that if we are truly gospel-centred, then we will exhibit our gospel-allegiance in our interactions with our parents. In a very practical sense, a pastor must honour his elderly parents by taking care of them in their old age and respecting them regardless of whether he agrees with them.
My concern for my fellow pastors is that you and I have an obligation towards our parents. While the application of these obligations might look different for different families, there is a definite obligation, nonetheless. It would be a bad gospel-witness among outsiders if we were to preach the gospel with clarity but refuse to fulfill our Christian obligation of honouring our parents.
As we seek to exhibit the gospel in all our familial relationships, we must be humble like Jesus Christ (Phil. 2). Humility should cause us to realize that serving our churches is a great privilege. We are servants of the highest God and servants of His church. We are also servants of our children, wives, parents, and anyone that we encounter. We must recognize that without God’s grace and mercy in our lives we are headed straight to eternal condemnation.
We must recognize that our spouses are also God’s gift to us. We are not in a simply transactional relationship with our spouses; we are in a gospel-filled relationship with them. Too often when relationships are based on pride, they end up becoming self-seeking and destructive. But when we understand the gospel, our relationships are designed to make us more like Jesus Christ while doing what is right before a holy God.
A gospel-exhibiting pastor recognizes that all that he does in his life has a ripple effect on his entire world.
We must recognize that the children that God gave us are a gift from Him. Before getting the church right, we must get our house right. Make and mature disciples in your home by studying the Bible with them, praying with them, extending fatherly love for them, and finally by training them.
We must recognize that our parents, especially godly parents, are given to us by God to make us more like Christ. Instead of thinking about them as inconveniences, we must enjoy their company and learn from their experiences. They are much farther in their sanctification journey. While this doesn’t mean that they are more Christlike automatically, there are things that we can understand and learn about a biblical life from our parents.
Finally, we must recognize that as pastors we are exhibiting to our fellow believers in our local church characteristics of a godly husband, godly father, godly son, and a godly man. In a world where the culture is dictating what a husband, father, dad, or man should look like, we must seize the opportunity and live our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). We must be gospel-saturated, gospel-exhibiting men in our lives. One song that comes to mind as we consider the pastor and his family life is as follows:
Brother, Let Me Be Your ServantLet Me Be As Christ To YouPray That I May Have The GraceTo Let You Be My Servant, Too
We Are Pilgrims On A JourneyWe Are Brothers On The RoadWe Are Here To Help Each OtherWalk The Mile And Bear The Load
I Will Hold The Christ Light For YouIn The Night-Time Of Your FearI Will Hold My Hand Out To YouSpeak The Peace You Long To Hear
I Will Weep When You Are WeepingWhen You Laugh I’ll Laugh With YouI Will Share Your Joy And SorrowTill We’ve Seen This Journey Through
When We Sing To God In HeavenWe Shall Find Such HarmonyBorn Of All We’ve Known TogetherOf Christ’s Love And Agony
May we have this attitude in all our relationships exhibiting Christlike character. May our families shine the gospel-light brightly through our relationships with the ones closest to us.
To read Part 1 of this series of articles (The Pastor And His Family Life – Part 1), click here.
1. Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, vol. 34, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 112.2. Wayne A. Grudem, The First Epistles of Peter, p. 143.3. Edmond D. Hiebert, 1 Peter, p. 206.4. Peter Thomas O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 446.5. Baucham Jr., Voddie. Family Driven Faith (Paperback Edition with Study Questions ): Doing What It Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk with God (p. 9). Crossway. Kindle Edition.