by Matt Capps
the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’
In the first part of this series, we discussed the informal and formal parental responsibilities of parents to disciple their children. Now we’ll look at the roles grace and truth play and begin to dig into Ephesians 5.
Grace and Truth
Essential for discipleship and training is both truth and grace. When we are presented with:
• Truth: we are confronted with the law of God. Because of our nature we see that we have, do, and will fall short of God’s law. The law shows us who we are, the truth is that we are sinners in need of grace.
• Grace: we are confronted with our inability to fulfill that law, Christ’s perfect fulfillment of the law given to us, and our need of God’s grace to empower obedience.
We must start with the biblical description of humanity that we are ill-informed of the things of God on our own. In fact, in the book of Proverbs children are depicted as being ignorant and as going their own way without discipleship. Grace and truth are inseparable in family and discipleship relationships. We are to give grace in showing one another who we really are based on the truth of God’s word. We are to present the truth that it is only God’s grace that enables us to be what he has called us to be. As a test case consider Proverbs 22:6:
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Most often, this passage is treated almost like a mathematical pattern. If we do a + b then the result will be c. Right? If we train our child in the right path, then he/she will never depart from our training. In keeping with the nature of the Proverbs, this is not a conditional promise; it is a wise saying. In other words, these words describe, in a general sense, the way God has made the world to run. When we fail to understand the nature of these passages will look to them as guaranteed patterns. Essentially, we say to our children, based on what I have told you go and do the right thing. But what happens when our children do not do what is honoring to God? I think its important that we heed these words from J.I. Packer:
“Even with our best efforts to teach our children God’s mighty deeds and righteous commands, we have no guarantee that they will grow up to truly know the Lord. But if we fail to teach them what we have known and seen of God’s ways, we will be without excuse when God calls us to account for how we raise our children.”
Proverbs 22:6 is not a formula for perfect children, but a call to parents for diligence in instructing our children. So the goal in the discipleship of children, and of one another, is a balance of grace and truth. We need the warmth of love and grace alongside the firmness of justice and truth. This is only possible when one understands the gospel. It is by God’s grace that we have received the truth of the good news. It is also God’s grace that enables us to get back up when we don’t live in accordance with that truth. Moreover, it is by the grace of God that we are able to live according to the truth.
The point is this: unless you taste grace you will only give law. This helps us avoid only giving grace, which is much like the “self-esteem” movement that tells us everything is ok even when it’s not. It also keeps us from only giving truth, which becomes a religious task master that will crush our children without grace. These are important things: the formal and informal context of discipleship, and a discipleship that evenly handles truth and grace.
Discipleship is Visualized in the Home
If we were all standing in the lobby looking out the clear glass windows into the parking lot, I might ask you, “tell me what you see when you look outside?” You might begin by describing the grass and the trees and the vehicles. Now wouldn’t you find it odd or strange if I asked, “Well, did you see the window?” We don’t talk about the window. Instead, we see through the window. And yet, in the end, it is the window that is passed on and transferred to those we disciple. Especially children, they see through the window that we have given them. Most often, the person your child becomes (not unlike the person you have become) is primarily, the product of two things:
1. Life experience
2. Interpretation or interaction with that life experience
The battle for family is not primarily fought in the public square or even in the voting booth, but within the four walls of our homes. Allow me to push a little here. It’s time to stop blaming culture and America (neither of which are Christian), it’s time to inspect our own hearts and our own homes. We are misguided if we think it is more important to fight for Christian family values in the public square than to live and model the Christian vision of family in our own homes. So I want to look at Ephesians 5:22-6:4 as a test case for the Christian family as the context of discipleship.
As the Church submits to Christ, wives lovingly submit to your husbands
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (Eph. 5:22-24)
Let me acknowledge that the issue of male headship in the home is a sensitive topic. It is one of the unfortunate legacies of feminism that tends to view male ‘authority’ in adversarial terms (as dominating the wife). Feminism is a movement aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. Now, I think all of us would agree that women should have all the rights of men.
But where the movement has gone wrong is to demonize God’s order for the family. Now, historically I think we can show that the feminist movement arose as response to the abuse of the biblical doctrine of male headship – from inaccurate teaching and poor examples.
• Nowhere in the bible are we taught that women are unequal to males.
• And nowhere in the bible can any man find any justification for the abuse of women.
• Male headship does not mean male domination.
• Even though cultural sentiments are not aligned with biblical teaching on the roles of men and women, we must be obedient to God’s word as disciples of Christ.
Just because some men have mishandled male headship we as Christians should not reject God’s design for the family. We need to understand the role of wives in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel, we see the church submit to Christ, which is the foundation for a wife’s submission to her husband. The primary focus in this passage is on the Church’s submission to Christ as response to His sacrificial love. But in this pattern we see the model for wives in God’s design for marriage. What does a wife’s submission mean in the family relationship?
Many of you hear the word ‘submit’ and it brings forth ideas of ‘slavery’ or ‘control’, but this is not how ‘submission’ should be understood in marriage. This passage does not demand that you absolutely surrender your will to your husband. Also, this in no way implies levels of inferiority – but calls the wives to recognize and respect that God has placed the husband as the head of the relationship, as the authority figure. It might be important to know that the word translated submit literally means ‘to willingly order under’, so the biblical model for marriage is orderly – your submission to your husband functionally allows order.
- Submission does not mean that you cannot influence or help guide your husband.
- Submission does not mean that you give up independent thought.
- More importantly, submission does not mean putting your husband in the place of Christ.
Wives, submission is an inner quality of gentleness that affirms the leadership of the husband. This is a deliberate choice of the wife to “order under” the husband as the functional leader in the relationship. While both are created equal in the image of God, the wife must recognize that God has placed man in a position of authority in that he will be held accountable for the family. Following God’s pattern for marriage – for wives, submitting to husbands is part of your role as a disciple of Christ. It also allows for the husband to be obedient in his role as head of the house, which is tied to his identity as a disciple of Christ. Men can’t disciple women who will not follow. This is one of the reasons Paul addresses women first in this passage.
Women, the way you respond to your husband in the marriage relationship visualizes to your children how the church is to respond to Christ.
…We’ll conclude this in part 3…
 J.I. Packer, Grounded in the Gospel, 37.
 Peter J. Gentry, Raising Children, the Christian Way, JDFM 2.2 (2012), 96.
 Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Childs Heart, 10.
Matt Capps (D.Min., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; M.Div., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Senior Pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, North Carolina. Matt has written one book, Hebrews: A 12-Week Study and numerous articles. He and his wife Laura have three children, Solomon, Ruby, and Abby. Connect with Matt on Twitter, Facebook, or check out his personal blog.