What's the Biblical Role of the Father?
The role of the father in the typical American household has been usurped. Typically the father's influence, importance, and authority have been taken out of his hands. This has happened because of a multitude of factors, yet, we can do something about it.
So, what's the biblical role of the father? The biblical role of the father is headship, instruction, and discipline. Headship is the position or status of the father in the home, and it means that the father is the leader and chief (Ephesians 5:21-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1-7; and Titus 2:5). This is NOT authority given to the father to be abused, it is authority and respect given to use in service towards the family. The father's role is also one of instruction and discipline (Proverbs 1:8; 22:6; Ephesians 6:4).
With such a highly contested subject, and one of great importance it behooves us to take a deeper look into these things!
The idea of male headship in today's culture is and has been attacked. I'm not going to concern myself with what others in the world believe about this. Nor am I concerned even about what some professing Christians believe about this subject. My concern is, what does God have to say about this subject?
From the very beginning, the family system that God put into place was that of male headship. After God created man, God said,
"It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make hime a helper suitable for him." Genesis 2:18
The woman was made for man and to be man's helpmate. Now I must clarify lest I lose some at this point. This does not mean that woman is man's servant! For she is his helper and was taken from his side, not from his backside (Genesis 2:22-23). Meaning that man and woman is to walk alongside one another in their God-given roles.
This may become clearer as we look to the fall of man. In Genesis 3 we see the record of this fall. It tells us that Eve was deceived by the serpent with Adam standing behind Eve the whole time (Genesis 3:1-6). Adam at any point in time could have stepped forward and said something like, "get behind me satan" (Mark 8:33). But he doesn't.
Instead, he also eats the fruit of the tree which God forbid him to eat and sin came into the world. The question must be asked, "who does God hold responsible for the fall of man?" Eve ate it first, shouldn't she take the blame for the fall of man? Maybe...but she doesn't.
"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." Romans 5:12
"Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over thoses who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam." Romans 5:14
To answer the question correctly, Adam was blamed for the fall of man. Why? Because he is the head of the household and thereby assumes responsibility for all that transpires in his household. Adam failed to lead his wife correctly, and biblically, and now the world is paying for it.
The family unit is paying for it. What do I mean? Let's look at the curse of the family relationship:
To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." Genesis 3:16, bold added
The language here is not saying that the woman's desire will be for the person who is her husband. That she will have this blessing to desire what is hers. It is a curse because of her part in the fall of man. What this is communicating is that the woman will desire the position of headship in the home.
Headship in the home is what she is after. She will want to rule over her husband but instead, he will rule over her. This is not just seen in this Text but also in Paul's words in Ephesians 5:22-30 and observed in nature. The source calamity in a relationship is when men fail to lead and cherish the wife and women fail to honor and submit to the husband.
This is supposed to be a post about the role of the Father, so why are you talking about the headship of the male in marriage? Good question, I am glad you asked. I must talk first about marriage because godly offspring will only come forth from a biblical marriage (Malachai 2:13-15).
The headship of the husband over the wife is a picture of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32). Thus, if the children are to see this beautiful picture and learn of how the church is to submit to Christ as the head then fathers must exercise headship over the wife. But not ONLY the wife, but the children also.
I submit here that the measure of submission and respect the wife gives to the husband, will in turn be given by the children to the father. Thus, the wives play a very important role here (and in many other areas) in the training of the children. The children are to respect, honor, and obey their fathers as the father exercises headship over the home.
This is a big responsibility and one that is not to be abused. This is why Paul tells fathers twice, to not provoke the children or exasperate the children lest they lose heart (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21). Headship is NOT a license to abuse authority. It is a gift from God to be exercised tenderly, mercifully, and in all humility as God graciously treats us!
The role of the Father with the children is one of instruction. Instruction carries the weight of direction and order. If you bought a piece of unassembled furniture from the store it would most likely come with an instruction manual and specific tools to get the job done. (The tools they give are often terrible, it's better to use your own if you have them).
The point of the instruction manual is to give direction and order to the assembly of the furniture. There have been many times in my life when I have bypassed the given instructions, puffing up my chest and saying, 'this isn't difficult.' Discovering the hard way that there is an order to the assembly and if you go out of order then the furniture will not work properly.
If you haven't done this in your life, I applaud you for your wisdom. But I do suggest that you try it so you can at least understand my illustration!
The point is that the father is to be the instructor of the family unit. The one who brings direction and order. Not according to his own wisdom, that is folly. But according to THE BOOK of INSTRUCTION, the Bible. The biblical father brings order and direction to his family through the guidance given to him in the Scriptures.
This role of instruction is so important to God that it is one of the characteristics of an elder of the local church:
"He must be one who manages 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?)" 1 Timothy 3:4-5
Here's the point of this, an elder is a mature believer who has oversight over the local church. We are all to grow in maturity, thus, this is a model picture of what every man is to be in their household. One who brings instruction, order, and direction.
Instruction is to be spoken, modeled, and heard.
"Hear, my son, your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching; indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornament about your neck." Proverbs 1:8-9
The father as the head is to be instructing the children in their daily lives. Giving them the tools that they need to know God and to survive in this world. This is a big task but so often it is a task that lies incomplete at best and mostly neglected. I am here to say that it is not the school's job to do this, nor is it the church's job. It is the father's job to instruct their children.
You may say, 'well I'm too busy.' To you I say, get your priorities straight. Outside of God, your family is your first priority and outside of the blessing of your wife, your children are your greatest blessing. Treat them as such. As the head of the house, I urge you to lead your house in both direction and order.
Direction to faith in Christ and discipline to walk in His ways!
Many times when people hear the word 'discipline' they think of correction. In some cases they would be right, one sense of this word does mean correction. However, there is another sense of this word which I believe is encapsulated in the word "train." Not a 'choo, choo, train,' but creating the discipline of a soldier, hard-working farmer, or athlete. That sort of training.
Creating good habits. Habits that will set the family and children up for success in this life. Habits that will lead them to the knowledge of God and to the newness of life! This training of a child that is spoken of in Proverbs 22:6 is training that leads to a disciplined lifestyle.
This discipline is the father's role:
"Fathers, do not provokke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4
The father MUST be the one to teach the children about God. About who He is, what He has done, what He will do, and what He requires of us. This is the Great Commission, "Go...make disciples...teach them to observe all that I commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20).
It must start in the home first and work out from there. If you aren't faithful with making disciples of your household FIRST, what makes you think you will be faithful in making disciples in the world? You won't! It will all catch up with you in time.
Yes, this is a big task and an impossible task for a mere man to do. We have so many responsibilities and burdens. The truth is that fathers cannot do this, make disciples of their families their children. He can't do it ALONE. But he isn't alone,
"and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20
The One who can do it, promises to be with us in this task! In the task of making disciples, of discipline in our families and in the world. This is a powerful promise that shouldn't be overlooked. The One who has created all things and holds all things together, Jesus Christ, is with us in our roles as fathers.
If we would only humble ourselves and set ourselves to this great task that has been assigned to us we would see mighty things done by the Lord in our families, in our churches, and to the ends of the earth.