Chapter 9: The Family and the Great Commission

Kenneth L Gentry

Narrated By: Joseph Spurgeon
Book: The Greatness of the Great Commission
Topics: , ,


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Chapter Text

“Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:2-3).

We begin again with the Association of Reformation Churches confessional revision for direction. In paragraph 6 the family is dealt with:

As a ministry of nurture, the mission of the family is to be the first church and state to the child, rearing him in terms of the grace and law of God the Father. Where the family is broken, the church must be father to the orphan and husband to the widow. Since the child has been committed by God to the parents for nurture, the education of the child is the mission not of the church, nor of the state, but of the family. Where this ministry is delegated to specialists, it must be done so freely, not of coercion.

As a ministry of dominion, the family has been given the cultural mandate as its mission. For the performance of this task, God has given the privilege of private ownership of property to the family. As a result of the sin of man, the work of the cultural mandate not only consists of the acquisition of scientific knowledge and the aesthetic beautification of the environment, but also entails the acquisition of the basic necessities of life.[1]

Erosion of the Covenantal Family

The humanistic assault on the family largely has been successful.[2] Too few Christian parents have implemented basic biblical principles for family living; fewer still recognize the principles applicable to the family that may be drawn from the Great Commission. In the midst of a pervasively humanistic culture, Christians have tended to live by the 1960s Greyhound Bus slogan: “Leave the driving to us.” Too many children of believers become “prodigals” (Luke 15:11-13) by leaving the Church to seek the temporary comforts and pleasures our secular society affords. They have no awareness that the foundation of the technological progress that allows such creaturely comforts has been the Christian faith. They do not realize such luxury has lasted only due to the inertia of our past Christian heritage.[3]

Yet the Christian should with all seriousness view marriage as a covenantal institution with covenantal obligations. For marriage “is the primary training ground for the next generation. It is the primary institution for welfare, care of the young, care of the aged, and education. It is the primary agency of economic inheritance. The family is therefore the primary institutional arrangement for fulfilling the terms of the dominion covenant (Gen. 1:26-28).”[4] In an important sense, as goes the family, so goes the faith; as goes the faith, so goes the culture.

Principles of the Covenantal Family

Although there are larger works on the family that should be consulted,[5] perhaps a listing of a few basics would prove helpful to those desirous to reclaim the family, bringing it under the sway of the Great Commission.

  1. Regular, content-oriented family devotions. Primarily, these devotional times should impart sound biblical understanding and exhort our children to holiness in all of life. In addition, family devotions will provide a time of covenantal exercise, in order to enhance spiritual unity[6] in the family.[7] As DeMar so well puts it: “It must be made clear to all children that God is the head of the household. The father is a priest who conducts family worship services daily. The family must become God-centered in every way, including family ritual.”[8]

Humanism is being imparted to our children as much by osmosis from our culture as by any other means. We and our children need the daily contact with the “living and active” Word of God to mold our thinking.[9] The Word of God imparts life and molds character (Psa. 19:7-14; 119:15-16). In the Great Commission Christ commands us to “teach all things” He taught us. We should begin this at a very early age with our children,[10] as covenantal baptism clearly obliges us.[11]

  1. Involved child rearing and discipline. Our children expressly should be taught how to live the Christian life by the diligent application of biblical principles of child rearing[12] and discipline.[13] This is “discipling” in the home, as per the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19). This discipline should also include consistent church attendance, to worship Him who has “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18).

The training of covenant children should not be left to others by parents too busy for their children. The regular “environmental”[14] influence of God’s Word and Christ’s gospel in daily family living is vital.[15] Children should be taught the legitimacy and practice of living under authority in society by witnessing it in the home through the headship of a loving, involved, and godly father.[16] Too often this duty has devolved almost wholly upon the mother, though she obviously has an important role, as well. Ultimately, biblical child discipline will work back to practical training in living under Christ’s authority (Matt. 28:18).

Children also should be taught how to set goals for the long term (Matt. 28:20), rather than being allowed to drift about with the winds.


  1. Teaching the value of labor. Apprenticeship of children in both family living and personal and corporate labor with a goal to self-sufficiency is important.

Ours is an intolerably irresponsible age. Christians must swim against the secular tide by instilling responsibility and diligence in their children.[17] The Christian is aware of the divinely ordained institution of labor from man’s primordial beginning (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15). The Commission is replete with verbal action. In addition to commands to disciple, baptize, and teach, one of its commands is go. This entails the notion of active labor.

The family involves the child’s first experience with “culture” (from which the word “nations” is derived, Matt. 28:19). This is an aspect of that which the Great Commission sets before us by requiring our “discipling” (discipline). This obligates the believer to Christian labor. The family life should prepare the child for a life of labor for Christ in all of life.

  1. Teaching the value of money. Training the child in Christian stewardship regarding both time (which is, in an important sense, money[18]) and resources should be a factor in Christian nurturing.

In a wealthy society children grow up thinking money grows on trees.[19] They should learn early the relationship between labor and the accruing of wealth. This should be done by assigning them productive chores in order to earn an allowance.[20] Many of Jesus’ parables had to do with monetary matters,[21] and, thus, are directly involved in “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:20).

In addition, children also should be encouraged both to save a portion of their money and to tithe on their increase to the church. Saving money forces them to operate with a view to the long term (which is a factor in the Great Commission, “I am with you always, even to the end,” Matt. 28:20). The tithe demonstrates a bowing before the “all authority” of Christ (Matt. 28:18).

  1. Providing an inheritance. An inheritance promises a reward for faithfulness, encourages a future orientation, and provides a foundation from which to build for the next generation, thereby promoting progress by building on the fruits of the labors of others.[22]

Several of Christ’s teachings had to do with inheritance.[23] The Bible obligates the provision of an inheritance for our offspring.[24] As in the Great Commission, we are to have a long view of history, not consuming all of our wealth for the moment. But ungodly children should be disinherited, “for the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.”[25] Thus, we should be concerned to make plans that affect our children and children’s children (Psa. 78:1-8) – they will be here for a long time.


  1. Formal Christian education. Christian schooling should be encouraged and promoted vigorously by committed Christian parents, either through home schooling[26] or traditional classroom instruction.

The rampant secular humanism that permeates and dominates the government (public) school system is one of the very great strengths of humanism’s influence.[27] Christians need to see that the thirty-plus hours a week their children spend in formal education in at least twelve years of their early development are undergirded and directed by Christian truth, rather than secular humanism.[28] The Great Commission demands the “teaching of all things whatsoever” Christ teaches.


  1. Developing a home library and reading program. Reading solid Christian literature (when it can be found) is an essential aspect of the mind-expanding exercise.

Elton Trueblood once commented, “It is the vocation of the Christian in every generation to out-think all opposition.” Building a home library would make it easy for your own family to have access to good literature. It could also be made available for loaning out to others, thereby “teaching” others as Christ commanded us.

Of course, early in the child’s reading program there should be frequent exposure to Scripture. The Word of God is unlike any other literature in that it is “living and powerful” (Heb. 4:12). It can and should be read at an early age, in that it makes one “wise unto salvation” (2 Tim. 3:14-15), becomes a part of the very character of the reader (Psa. 119:11), and equips one for “every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).


  1. Neighborhood Bible studies on relevant issues. The family should not withdraw within, but “go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19). An excellent means by which to promote Christian culture among families in your neighborhood is by setting up an informal, neighborly, family-oriented, and interesting study on matters of concern to your community.[29] In these studies, the gospel message and solution to the problems faced in every day life would be proffered in the context of friendly fellowship.

These types of Bible studies are academically helpful in getting God’s truth before otherwise uninterested people. The average non-Christian gets his view of the world almost solely through the secular humanist influenced media. To have an interesting and challenging study on relevant issues from a thought-provoking, distinctively Christian perspective may well influence those in attendance toward commitment to Christ. Such studies are also “environmentally” advantageous, giving the neighbor an inside look into and experience with a truly Christian home. The Christian home should be a model of true covenant living in both appearance and conduct. The Christian has something distinctively different to offer the world.

[1] “Of the Christian Mission” in The Failure of the American Baptist Culture, vol. 1 of Christianity and Civilization (Tyler, TX: Geneva Divinity School, 1982), pp. 96-97.

[2] Phoebe Courtney, The American Family Under Attack! (Littleton, CO: Independent American, 1977; James Robison, Attack on the Family (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1980); Charles Murray, Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950-1980 (New York: Basic Books, 1984). Even the federal government has recognized this, although it is not the least aware of the real nature of the problems; see: White House Conference on Families: Listening to America’s Families: Action for the 80’s: The Report to the President, Congress and Families of the Nation (Washington, D.C.: White House Conference on Families, October 1980).

[3] For an insightful consideration of the effect of Scripture on economic and technoogical progress, see Gary North’s The Dominion Covenant: Genesis (1982), Moses and Pharaoh: Dominion Religion Versus Power Religion (1985), and The Sinai Strategy: Economics and the Ten Commandments (1986). See also: David Chilton, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1981). For the role of Christianity in Western Culture, see: Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1976) and Hebert W. Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: Christian Faith and its Confrontation with American Society (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983).

[4] North, Tools of Dominion, pp. 214-215.

[5] For example: Ray Sutton, Who Owns the Family’ (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1986); Jay E. Adams, Christian Living in the Home (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1972); Wayne Mack, Strengthening Your Marriage (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1977).

[6] Scripture is clear: the unity of the family ultimately depends on spiritual commitments. In fact, covenantal obligations override merely genetic relations. For example: Deut. 21:18-21; Matt. 10:34-39. See: Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., “Thou Shalt Not Destroy the Family,” Journey, Nov./Dec., 1986, pp. 19ft

[7] Psa. 1:2; 119:15-16, 23, 48, 78, 148.

[8] Gary DeMar, The Ruler of the Nations: Biblical Principles for Government (Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion Press), p. 192. He has in this work and another of his, God and Government: A Biblical and Historical Study (Atlanta: American Vision, 1987), some excellent insights into the importance of “family government.”

[9] Psa. 119:130; Isa. 55:11; 1 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 4:12.

[10] Psa. 71:17; Prov. 8:17; Eccl. 12:1; Matt. 19:13-14; 2 Tim. 3:14-15.

[11] See Chapter 6 above.

[12] Deut. 11:20-21; Josh. 24:15; Psalm 78:4-7; Prov. 4:1-4; 22:6; Eph. 6:4.

[13] Prov. 19:18; 22:15; 23:13; 23:14; 29:15; 29:17; 13:24.

[14] Regarding the ultimate personal environment in which we dwell, see: Psa.139:7-12; Jer. 23:24; Acts 17:28. For a brief discussion of our “divine environment,” see: Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., The Necessity of Christian Schooling (Mauldin, SC: GoodBirth,1985).

[15] Gen. 18:19; Psa. 1:1-6; Deut.: 6:5-25.

[16] 1 Cor. 11:1ff; Eph. 5:22-6:4; Col. 3:20. See the insightful discussion in Gary North, An Introduction to Christian Economics (Nutley, NJ: Craig, 1973), ch. 21.

[17] Prov. 12:24; 21:25; Rom. 12:11; 1 Tim. 5:8; 2 Thess. 3:10; Heb. 6:12.

[18] North, Dominion Covenant, ch. 11; North, Introduction to Christian Economics, pp. 62ff.

[19] Vaughn C. Nystrom, “A Ford is Not a Mango,” in The Freeman (January, 1978), pp. 3-8.

[20] Larry Burkett, Using Your Money Wisely: Guidelines from Scripture (Chicago: Moody, 1985), pp. 121ff.

[21] For example, Matt. 13:44-46; 18:23-35: 20:1-16: 25:14-30: Luke 7:41-43: Luke 12-16-21: 15:8-32: 16:1-9: 16:19-31: 19:12-27.

[22] See discussion in Rousas John Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1973), 1:180ff. In volume 2 the following chapters are helpful: Chapters 2, 31-40.

[23]  Matt. 5:5; 19:29; 25:34; 21:38 Luke 12:13.

[24] Prov. 13:22; 17:2; 19:4; Eccl. 7:11; 1 Cor. 12:13; 1 Tim. 5:8. See: Gary North, The Sinai Strategy: Economics and the Ten Commandments (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1986), ch. 5 “Familistic Capital.”

[25] Prov. 13:22. See also the implications in: Prov. 17:2; Deut. 21:18-21; Matt. 7:6.

[26] Mary Pride, The Big Book of Home Learning (Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1986).

[27] Robert Thoburn, The Children Trap: Biblical Principles for Education (Nashville:  Thomas Nelson, 1986); Phyllis Schlafly, ed., Child Abuse in the Classroom (Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1984); Mary Pride, The Child Abuse Industry (Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1986).

[28] For a brief introduction to the Christian philosophy of education based on the Word of God, see: Gentry, Christian Schooling and Gentry, “Reformed Theology and Christian Education” in Light for the World: Studies in the Reformed Thought (Alberta, Edmonton: Still Waters Revival, forthcoming). For a fuller treatment, see: Cornelius Van Til, Essays On Christian Education (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1971). R. J. Rushdoony, The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum (Vallecito, CA: Ross House, 1981). R. J. Rushdoony, Intellectual Schizophrenia: Culture, Crisis, and Education (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1961). For an excellent response to Christian excuses not to pursue Christian schooling, see: Lonn Oswalt, “Review of George Van Alstin’s The Christian and the Public Schools, in Gary North, ed., Christianity and Civilization (Tyler, TX: Geneva Divinity School, 1983) 2:338-343.

[29] For a fuller outline, see: Gary North, “Bread and Butter Neighborhood Evangelism” in The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, 7:2 (Winter, 1981) 114-140. For a helpful resource of topics, see: Biblical Principles Concerning Issues of Importance to Godly Christians (Plymouth, MA: Plymouth Rock Foundation, 1984). For a helpful introduction to Christian culture, see: Francis Nigel Lee, The Central Significance of Culture (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1976).