The Family of Faith

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 10
2 Timothy 1:3-6
The faith of the three generations of Timothy’s house is an example of how the home may be the privileged place of blessing. God regards the “houses” of His people and looks upon those in a home as attached to the head of that house. This sphere of privilege is clearly seen from the Scriptures since the days of Noah, if not even before. It is a sphere of blessing into which God brings His child and in which He surrounds him with wife and children, in order that the light which He has lit up in the head of that house may shine out brightly and carry, by His grace, the knowledge of God into the hearts of those in the house around him.
All this does not alter the nature of those thus privileged with the outward blessing of God. The nature is just the same ruined, undone thing as in the rest of mankind around. But He instructs the parents to “bring them up” for Him (as Jochebed brought up Moses for Pharaoh’s daughter) “in the Lord’s nurture and admonition.” I think there is much involved in “the Lord’s nurture and admonition.” He exercises it over and over with us, and we are to observe a similar course with our children. His tender patience and persevering love never casts off its object until the end is gained. His faithfulness never flatters but deals with us so that we may disallow practically all that savors of our evil nature and the world around us. The training of children involves the disallowance of the flesh and of all that is of the old Adam nature, on the one side, and brings the children into complete conformity to the Son of God on the other. As we grow conversant with the Lord’s ways towards us, we learn the sort of dealing we are to pass on to our children, under Him. We must seek to show them the tendencies of their own wills and what the consequences are. We must disallow them in our children, as the Lord does in us, seeking to draw their minds and hearts to the Lord Jesus, and thus, with patient grace and persevering love, discipline and admonish them for their good.
The Seeds of Faith
The family circle is the normal place for the conversion of children. My observation, too, is that children brought up in Christian homes seldom remember when they were converted, though it is true that these children or their parents may be able to look back to some moment when the faith and life which had been already in their soul took definite shape and burst forth into activity and energy. It is often like the bursting forth of the flower, when the sun and the gentle showers of the rain cause it to open its petals for the first time.
How lovely was the unquestioning faith of Hannah! Her son, the fruit of her prayer, was brought up to Shiloh, along with the offerings of faith which she and her husband presented. This was done at an early age, as early as his weaning time. Even before living faith could work in the soul of her child, she said to Eli, “Oh, my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here to pray to Jehovah. For this I boy prayed; and Jehovah has granted me my petition which I asked of him. And also I have lent him to Jehovah: all the days that he lives, he is lent to Jehovah” (1 Sam. 1:26-28 JND).
The contrast, too, in the case of Eli’s house is solemn and instructive; it also illustrates the linking of the saint and his house in the sight of God. “In that day [said the Lord to Samuel] I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not” (1 Sam. 3:12-13).
Timothy’s Training
Returning to the case of young Timothy, we see that he is an example of the conversion of the child of a saint. In the normal state of things, children of Christian parents are converted at an early age. Timothy was brought up “from infancy” in the knowledge of the holy Scriptures, which were able to make him wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus, and he was trained by a pious, believing mother and grandmother, who had unfeigned faith. The aged Apostle speaks of them in a most touching manner. The blessed knowledge of the Word of God was thus imbibed at an early age into Timothy’s young and impressible heart. It paved the way for that moment when the life it brought to his soul burst forth into the liberty of grace and knowledge of Christ through the Apostle Paul when at Lystra, who names him his “own son in the faith.”
This is a true example of the conversion of the child of believing parents. He has the priceless boon of being in the circle where the name of Jesus is a household word and the great circumstance and business of the lives of his parents. His parents (at least his mother) feel that they have received him back from the Lord to be brought up under the yoke of Christ from the earliest moments of his existence. They feel, too, that the One who has directed them to do this will honor them for the quickening of soul which he needs. They do it in faith that he will live indeed. They bring him up in the faith of Christ, never for a moment casting a doubt across his young and impressible heart before they know that he is the Lord’s. They teach him the way that God forgives and saves through the precious blood of Jesus Christ; they explain how the grace of God is received; they show the little one the awful results of unbelief and of the rejection of Christ. They explain how real faith is known from the false and hollow profession around; they teach him that obedience to the Lord and the desire to please Him under whose yoke he is brought up are the true way in which the life of God displays itself in man. And thus by these teachings, the conscience is awakened, and when failures in these things are seen, the necessity and meaning of the confession of sins and the unburdening of the soul to Christ are pressed and encouraged. The desire, too, to make known to the Lord the needs of the heart for self or others are directed to their proper outflow — prayer. All these things lead the child onward to a confidence in God, and he grows up to Christ, as he does by the food of infancy by which his natural powers have been gradually developed.
While all this training goes on, a truehearted parent will wait on God in secret, on behalf of the child, for that sovereign quickening power which belongs to Him alone.
The Authority of the Lord
Remember, too, that it is in the “nurture [discipline] and admonition of the Lord.” This implies reverence for and owning the authority of the One who is over the child. It does not imply a relationship as a son with the “Father” or as a “member of Christ’s body.” This relationship is even more important because, while none can truly please Him but those who are in relationship with Him, still those that are responsible to Him as “Lord” are near Him and in the place of favor and blessing.
To treat children in any other way is, in my mind, to injure their souls and hinder the work of God’s grace as far as we can do it. If a child finds his parent habitually treating him as outside the pale even of external relationship with God (compare Deut. 14:22For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth. (Deuteronomy 14:2) with Eph. 2:33Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (Ephesians 2:3); also 1 Cor. 7:14) and hears him praying for him as one outside, he grows up in the thought that this is so. He is led to look at conversion as something to come to him someday, or perhaps not. Instead of fixing the eye on Christ and wholly away from himself, he turns it inwards, and thus is injured and hindered in his soul. Thrown back in darkness, which occupation with self must do, such a soul may remain for a long time, while, if dealt with otherwise, he might, through grace, have been enjoying the favor of God which is better than life.
Come Thou and All Thy House
God’s provision is that all be, as with Noah of old, in the same place of blessing. “Come thou and all thy house into the ark” tells this blessed way of God’s goodness and mercy. “Thee have I seen righteous before Me” tells of the head of the house being blessed in soul, and even his son, who afterwards dishonored his father, entered with him into the place of safety.
Surely a wise parent will not regard his child as a child of God before he sees the signs of a quickened conscience and the fear of the Lord in him, but he seeks to lead his heart to Christ in practice, conversation and ways, and thus dependence on God, thankfulness of heart for His mercies, and obedience to His will are impressed upon his heart, and the faith of a parent will be answered of God in giving living faith to his child. I believe we ought to count on God for our children — every one of them — and where there is true faith in a parent as to this, He who gave it will answer it in making them His own.
F. G. in Words of Truth, 7:36,