Authority in the Home

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 11
In every relationship or position in which the believer may be set, the secret of happiness lies in the maintenance of the divine order. Whether in the family, the household or the church, failure to uphold God’s order will result in serious consequences. If there is the substitution of that which is of man for the sake of convenience and expediency, confusion and discord must be the inevitable result. How many examples of this we see in the Scriptures!
There is a divine order for the family. The value God Himself sets upon subjection to His order is seen in that familiar passage in which He commends Abraham, on the ground that “he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment” (Gen. 18:1919For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. (Genesis 18:19)). Scripture records others such as Caleb, Amram and Jochebed, and Eunice, the mother of Timothy, who were faithful in their family and household responsibilities and whose families showed the fruit of it. Also, in the epistles of Ephesians and Colossians what care is taken to urge upon every member of the Christian household the importance of fulfilling their several relative responsibilities! Children, servants, parents, masters, husbands and wives are directed as to the duties of their respective positions. On the other hand, what sad examples of parental misrule and of filial disobedience are preserved in the Scriptures for our admonition and warning! The happiness of the families of Eli, Samuel, David and many others was wrecked because these parents did not establish and uphold divine order in their homes. Not only was the happiness of the family destroyed, but the disorder also brought with it divine government. (Read, for example, 1 Samuel 3:11-14.)
Maintaining God’s Order
How then is God’s order in the family to be maintained? The answer to this question is found in both Ephesians and Colossians (Eph. 5:22-33; 6:1922Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. (Ephesians 5:22‑33)
19And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, (Ephesians 6:19)
; Col. 3:18-25; 4:118Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. 19Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. 20Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. 21Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. 22Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: 23And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. 25But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons. (Colossians 3:18‑25)
1Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. (Colossians 4:1)
). The husband is the head and as such has to act as God’s vice-regent to govern not according to his will, but according to the divine will. The authority put into his hands is from the Lord, and since it is his to wield for Him, it cannot be delegated to another. The wife is in subjection to her husband, even as the church is subject to Christ, the husband on his part having to love his wife even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. The responsibility of children is to obey their parents in the Lord. Their obedience is to be absolute, qualified only by the condition — in the Lord. Servants have likewise to obey their masters, parents and masters having on their side their respective obligations.
With these instructions before us, it is easy to perceive that if the wife governs instead of the husband or if the children are permitted to have their own way — to please themselves instead of living in subjection—it will result in disorder. If servants are allowed to govern the household, it will not produce blessing, harmony or happiness. The pathway of blessing is the pathway of obedience in the spheres we are called upon to fill.
Personal Responsibility
In reading what Scripture says on the subject, let each remember his personal responsibility first. Sometimes we hear a husband urging his wife to obey him, while a wife may complain that her husband does not show his love sufficiently. Or a child may complain that his father provokes him to anger, while parents, perhaps, wonder why their children do not obey them, at least not in the right spirit. In all of this, each must take to heart what Scripture is saying to him or her and seek, with the Lord’s help, to carry it out. Let each first read and obey the Scripture for himself and act on it before being occupied with someone else’s failure.
Furthermore, there is a difference between the subjection of a wife to her husband and the obedience of children to parents. For this reason, Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:14 (JND), “I will that the younger [women] marry, bear children, rule the house, give no occasion to the adversary in respect of reproach.” While the wife is to be subject to her husband, it is expected that she would rule the house, especially as her husband might well be absent a good part of the day in the normal course of earning a living. As his helpmeet, she should enter into his thoughts and feelings and rule according to the pattern he has established. More than this, it should be recognized by both that it is the Lord’s will that should have priority for them. When it is not a question of the Lord’s will, grace can easily be shown, and when love is paramount in the relationship, there will be no difficulty.
Love and Obedience
In the case of children, obedience must be insisted upon, and this is best taught at the earliest age. Implicit obedience to parents must be maintained, and this becomes harder and harder in the atmosphere of the world in which we live. Again, if love is paramount in the home, such obedience will not be burdensome, but rather will be the happy outflow of a normal relationship. An older brother, long since with the Lord, used to remark most aptly, “Never tell your wife to do anything, and never ask your child to do anything.” It was good advice, and with a Scriptural basis.
Submission and Failure
When Scripture addresses issues of obedience and authority, the one in a place of submission is always mentioned first. No doubt this is so because the one who should submit and obey must do so regardless of the manner in which the authority is exercised. Sometimes authority is used in a wrong way, but God never allows us to rebel against an authority which He has set up. We may have to obey God as the supreme authority rather than man, but even in such a case, we must be subject to the consequences just as Daniel’s friends submitted to Nebuchadnezzar’s fire for not bowing to his idol.
On the other hand, when there is disorder and confusion within a sphere of authority God has established, God looks to the responsible head for the reason. Generally it can be said that where there is anything painful and wrong in human relationships, it is usually the one in authority that has failed first. God looks first to the one whom He has placed in responsibility. This is solemn and brings before us the seriousness of acting in a sphere of authority before God.
Christianity at Home
When these principles of God’s order are followed by the various members of a family, that household becomes a testimony for God in a scene where all have departed from Him — a bright circle of light in the midst of surrounding darkness. It becomes an anticipation of millennial blessing when the Lord’s authority shall be acknowledged throughout the whole world.
A large part of our lives is spent in our homes, and the household, therefore, is the chief scene of our testimony. We may appear ever so godly in our assembly life or perhaps out in the world, but it is in the home that our Christianity (or lack of it!) is really displayed. It might be well to remember that one part of proper testimony should be the expression of Christ in our homes — Christ in all the various relationships of the household. “To me to live is Christ.” This is the testimony indeed, whether at home, in the church or in the world.
E. Dennett, adapted and added to
from God’s Order