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  • Writer's pictureTravis Maxey

What was the Family's Role in the New Testament?

If you missed the previous post, What was the Family's Role in the Old Testament, I suggest you read that first. Both the Old and New Testaments are congruent in their understanding of the family's role. But let us harmonize them.

So what was the Family's Role in the New Testament? It is true that the New Testament is much more silent on the role of the family. However, an argument that silence means it is unimportant or null and void is erroneous. The silence of the New Testament is an argument for the continuation of the Family's role in the Old Testament. There are several passages that support this: 2 Timothy 1:4-5; 3:15; Ephesians 6:1-4; Colossians 3:20-21; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9. Since we are given no new pattern we are to continue in the old pattern given in the Old Testament.

The family's role is VERY important! We must understand it and get back to supporting it. So let's look closer at the family's role in the New Testament.

Affirmation of the Old

The Apostle Paul clearly affirmed the role of the family in the Old Testament. This is seen in his commendation of his beloved son in the faith, Timothy.

Longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy. For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. 2 Timothy 1:4-5
And that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15

Timothy's grandmother and mother clearly taught him about God as a child. Paul doesn't commend the Jewish teachers for the faith of Timothy, he commends the faith of his grandmother and mother Eunice. Where are Timothy's father and grandfather, I don't know. But the lack of a mention of them in this passage is a rebuke to them if they were around and negligent. We will address this later.

Timothy was raised from an early age in the faith of his mother, who seems to be well-known godly women for Paul calls them by their name. These women constantly pointed young Timothy to something very specific, the sacred writings that are able to give wisdom that leads to faith in Christ Jesus!

These two women clearly took Proverbs 22:6 to heart:

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Timothy is a striking example of this piece of wisdom, the wisdom of training a child! The faith of Timothy is attributed to the training that his mother and grandmother focused on. Training in godliness, righteousness, in the Word of God!

This is commended by Paul as an EXCELLENT thing in the New Testament and serves as an example and pattern for all families to follow.

Commandment Confirmed

There are two other places where the Apostle Paul confirms the pattern of the Old Testament in the New:

Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will lose heart. Colossians 3:20-21
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the disipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4

In Ephesians, Paul is quoting from the fifth commandment found in Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16. Yet, this commandment runs further and deeper in the pages of the Old Testament than we even know. This teaching is found in Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 6:7; 11:19; Psalm 78:4; Proverbs 22:6.

The pattern given in these passages clearly points to family discipleship in the believing home. Paul's writing confirms the continuance of not just the commandments but the pattern established in the Old Testament to carry out the commandment.

Thus, the instruction of the family unit in the Old Testament is confirmed through these commandments and the testimony of young Timothy. The continuation of family discipleship, of family worship.

I noted earlier that the lack of mentioning Timothy's father and grandfather was a rebuke to them if they were alive. Paul is commending the women for their role in leading young Timothy, but don't confuse the commendation for the desired pattern.

Paul is commanding the fathers to the role of leading their families in the Truth, His Word is Truth (John 17:17). This is why in both passages where Paul affirms the Old Testament commandment for children to obey their parents, fathers are mentioned directly after.

If we put the instruction together it is for the fathers to disciple their children in a way that builds them up, not tears them down!

This command is for fathers! Yet, in the case where fathers are absent or not saved, mothers must carry this burden in the power of the Holy Spirit.


The last point I would like to bring forward is that the qualification for elders in the church is family discipleship!

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, skillful in teaching, not overindulging in wine, not a bully, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money. 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?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into condemnation [e]incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into [f]disgrace and the snare of the devil. -1 Timothy 3:1-7, bold added
For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is beyond reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of indecent behavior or rebellion. For the overseer must be beyond reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not overindulging in wine, not a bully, not greedy for money, but hospitable, loving what is good, self-controlled, righteous, holy, disciplined, holding firmly the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it. -Titus 1:5-9, bold added

The characteristics of qualified elders are given to us as an example of maturity in the Christian. They are something that all Christians are to aspire to! I emboldened the Text which communicates the family unit of the elder. The elder must first make disciples of his family, his wife, and his children. For if he cannot do this, how can you expect him to do it with the church of Christ?

You cannot! Thus, Paul further affirms the Old Testament pattern for the family unit through the qualifications of leadership in the church.


The pattern of the family unit found in the Old Testament is affirmed by Paul in the New Testament. Parents are to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Pointing them to God through the Scriptures and emphasizing the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ!

This is a beautiful calling for parents and is important in the lives of our children. Let us seek to be faithful in our obedience to following this biblical pattern for the family unit in making disciples of our wives and our children.

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