The covenant family is God’s gift to those who marry in the Lord. It exists where husband and wife are bound together in the love of Christ in the unity of faith. The covenant family is created by God through the work of regeneration in the hearts of the two so married. The covenant family begins with being serious about marrying a fellow believer with whom we are truly one in the truth of the Lord. We must avoid being overwhelmed by feelings with a pretty face or an attractive body when seeking a life partner. If we are guided mostly by sexual attraction we are in danger of joining ourselves with the wrong partner. Sober judgments must be made concerning whom we will spend the rest of our life with.
Raising and maintaining a covenant home is a calling and solemn obligation God gives to the married. This is one of the chief purposes of Christian marriage. The married are not to live only for themselves and their own worldly pleasure. They are to live serving one another and if God gives children, to raise these children in the fear of the Lord. The life of the covenant home has its source in living faith in the Lord and abiding union with Him. The covenant family serves the continuation of the church of Jesus Christ in the world and the cause of His kingdom. It therefore has a very high calling.
Raising and maintaining a covenant family in this ungodly world is a daunting task. It requires great application and the life-long devotion of the Christian husband and the Christian wife. As husbands and wives we must be partners in the work of the Lord. God in His Word has defined the role of each partner in the marriage. This order was designed by the wisdom of God to serve the welfare of marriage and the family. The husband and father is to be the head of the home. He has the responsibility to rule the home in love and maintain its godly order and discipline. The wife and mother is to be the help meet of her husband. She is to serve her husband and children in love. She is to be ‘the keeper of the home’, indicating that she has a role for which she must stay home for the great work of building her family in God’s given knowledge and wisdom.
The fact that the family of the Christian couple is called a ‘covenant home’ is very significant. Both in marriage and in the family the covenant of God Himself must be reflected. As the Holy and blessed Triune God, the three persons of the Trinity, Father Son and Holy Spirit live in perfect knowledge, communion and friendship with each other. The truth of God’s own covenant could itself be the subject of an interesting and lengthy article to consider the wonder and beauty of this as revealed in God’s Word. But our focus now will be on the covenant home.
Our high calling in marriage is to reflect the covenant life of God. This means that we understand that the very essence of marriage as created by God is that it was intended to be a personal and intimate relationship of communion and friendship between a man and his wife. This is the heartbeat of it what will be a truly covenantal home. Without this being present marriage has lost its heart. We are still living on this sin cursed earth with its many troubles and miseries and we still have of our corrupt nature with us. Because of our sins, the above description of our families will still fall short of its beautiful and happy ideal. Nevertheless, we must constantly strive for God’s ideal for His glory and the blessedness of our marriages.
In the covenant home, sin between husband and wife must be regularly confessed before the cross of Jesus Christ. There must be sincere humble godly sorrow for the many sins that mar the beauty of our marriages. There must be repentance from these sins and sincere forgiveness offered. This is hard. It takes a lot of grace. Festering sin if left unresolved will soon destroy the heart of marriage for a time until it is again restored by the grace of God. Wounds and offenses must be healed with the balm of Jesus’ blood and righteousness. This must be done with great haste and urgency. Doing this, the covenant of God will be enriched between us as husbands and wives.
Husband and wife must be committed to life-long relationship of faithfulness and love together until they are parted by death. In special situations where God has taken one of the spouses to heaven, there can by the power of God’s grace still be a continuing covenant family. Strife and division, especially that which ends in divorce, is treachery before God. When one of the members of a broken marriage remains faithful to the Lord, He will also give grace to continue the covenant home and give grace to endure the pain of rejection and the suffering of separation.
Marriage must be a true and spiritual covenant relationship between husband and wife before children are born into the marriage. Great spiritual effort and much prayer must go into having a covenant home prepared and strong before God gives children, if He so pleases. This home must prepare the healthy spiritual environment for the receiving and nurturing of God-given covenant children. This is even more important than making a pretty cozy bed before the infant arrives.
The spiritual reality of the bond of love, fellowship and friendship that exists between the husband and wife will by the grace of God create an environment of personal warmth and protection, and security which children so urgently need. Such an environment is vital for helping children to grow up to mature responsible and stable adults. When this is there, this will be profound and obvious to all those who enter the covenant home. The importance of this cannot be over-emphasised for the spiritual and psychological and social well-being of the children and the development of their personalities as children of God, and as citizens of the kingdom of Christ.
God and the Lord Jesus Christ must live by His Spirit and through His Word in the family for a home to be truly a covenant home. Without this reality, the home is not really a covenant home. Practically, this means that there must be structured family worship at regular times in the covenant home. This family worship must include the regular, daily, careful study of the Word of God. The Word of God must be applied to the lives of the members of the family in the regular course of the functioning of the family. The family must pray together and for one another. Both father and mother must be engaged in this family worship with their covenant children. The father must be the leader of this family worship. Leadership in this area is really more important than any other. Mother must teach her children the truth of God’s Word while they are sitting on her knees and embraced by her tender affection. An excellent part of regular family worship is the singing together of songs of praise and thanks to God. There is great joy in singing. Covenant children usually delight in it. The covenant home should be a place of great joy. This joy must not be the empty laughter of the world but the joy of the Lord and His salvation.
Especially while the children are still in the home, both parents must help the children with their many daily problems and struggles and disappointments. They must in the course of life in the home give wise counsel and advice for all the great issues of life. They must give encouragement in time of sorrows and trouble. The father must be careful not to be cold and distant from his children. He has the calling to lead His family. He must do this in fatherly love and sincere and hearty concern for the welfare of his growing children. Father certainly must not behave like a cruel tyrant in his home. For then he will grievously abuse his wife and children and cause them deep psychological and spiritual harm. (The grievous effects of this kind of behavior will often last a lifetime for those who experienced this abuse).
One of the greatest challenges of parenting over the years is to maintain a personal relationship with them even into adulthood, especially during the difficult teenage years. Father especially and also of course the mother must themselves be an example of godliness, holiness, reverence and humility before God. Only then can he hope to instill this same attitude in the hearts of their children. Fathers must lead their children in their daily behavior and walk. All of this requires time and sacrifice both on the part of father as well as on the part of mother.
Father must not be so busy with his own earthly career that he has very little time for the care of his children and show interest in their lives as they are growing up. Children are only with us in our homes for a very short time in their lives. Woe unto the father who is seldom home long enough to take any genuine interest in the lives of his own children. Mother must be devoted in love to the care of her children, not be busy with an independent career in the world for her own glory and satisfaction. There are very few roles in life that require more self- denial and self-sacrifice that the role of the covenant mother in the home. The complexities and business of the modern home easily crowds out true covenant living. Godly parents must carefully order their own lives so this does not happen. Sadly, it does even in too many covenant homes.
To maintain a covenant home there must be firm, consistent and loving discipline of the children. This ought not to be hastily given in the fit of anger or out of despair with the sinful behaviour of the children. The reason for the ongoing need of this is reality of the sinful nature of our covenant children with which they all were born. Through discipline children must be taught the seriousness of sin in the sight of God and the importance of holiness and obedience in all of their lives. They need to be corrected and turned from sin. They need to be positively encouraged in the way of obedience and the righteousness. Every child, even in the same home is different. God made them each unique. Some are in need of more discipline than others. Some occasionally need corporal discipline like spanking. Parents who neglect this according to the book of Proverbs do not truly love their covenant children. The crying of children should not deter the need of serious discipline at times. Though discipline is grievous at the time it is given for both parents and children, it will yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness. This is God’s promised blessing in the book of Proverbs and in Hebrews 12.
We raise our covenant family in the midst of an ungodly world that is desperately wicked and full of temptations. The Word of God tells us that we are not to love the world nor the things of this world. We need to condemn this world and its ungodly philosophy and its ungodly life style, and its entertainment. This we must do for our children’s sake. This is urgent. The friendship of the world is according to the Word of God enmity against God and makes ongoing covenant fellowship with God impossible. Our homes and our children must be guarded from worldly influence. We must guard the books that are read, television that is watched and how computer and electronic devices are used by our children. Our families must be protected from the great evils of this world such as fornication, alcohol abuse and illicit drug use. They must also seek by the grace and Spirit of God seek to deliver our children from hearts sins such sinful pride, self-centeredness, and the covetousness and materialism of this world. Negligence in this task of raising our covenant family will greatly endanger our children for becoming worldly and joining the friendship of the world. Parents need to do all in their power to guide and protect their children in the choice of friendships and the company they go around with outside of the home.
In conclusion, let me make one more important point. God’s covenant with His people is known in Zion, in the New Testament, through our active membership in the true church of Jesus Christ. There God’s people come together to worship the covenant God of their salvation. There He dwells with them and they with Him. In His Fatherly house, He shows us His greatness and glory, His mercy and lovingkindness. We enjoy and appreciate the reality of God’s covenant with us through the preaching of the blessed gospel in Zion. God protects and keeps us as our might Lord and God from our enemies within the walls of Zion. The great blessedness of the communion of the saints is experienced in the church of Jesus Christ. Often this is the place were good and strong bonds of Christian friendship are formed. According to Psalm 128 the Lord blesses His covenant children ‘out of Zion.’ We maintain our covenant families by bringing them with us to Zion. Leaving and forsaking the true church of God in Zion will have very serious consequences for us and for them. Our children must be instructed in catechism classes in Zion to raise them to maturity in knowing and understanding the great doctrines of His Word. The goal is to prepare them to confess their faith in the midst of God’s peoples as citizens of Zion.
Let us strive with all our God-given powers to maintain this ideal for our covenant homes.
Written by: Rev. Arie Den Hartog | Issue 47