Bring Them To The Word, Not The Water: Pastoral Instructions For Fathers In The First And Second Century Church -- By: J. Ryan Davidson

Journal: Journal of the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies
Volume: JIRBS 03:0 (NA 2016)
Article: Bring Them To The Word, Not The Water: Pastoral Instructions For Fathers In The First And Second Century Church
Author: J. Ryan Davidson


Bring Them To The Word, Not The Water:
Pastoral Instructions For Fathers In The
First And Second Century Church

J. Ryan Davidson*

* J. Ryan Davidson is a Ph.D. candidate at the Free University of Amsterdam, researching pastoral theology in the early church period. He is a graduate of Southern Seminary (Th.M.) in Louisville, KY. He currently pastors Grace Baptist Chapel, a Reformed Baptist Church in Hampton, VA. He is married to Christie and together they have four children.

A two-pronged command, and an interesting omission—this is the exhortative discourse of both the New Testament and the first few writings of the early church to fathers. The command involved the discipline and training of one’s children, and the omission was that there were no instructions to fathers on the baptism of their infant and/or pre-professing children. The call of the Bible and the witness of early church practice is that the Christian father is tasked to disciple and shepherd his children. Both canonical texts and the non-canonical writings of the first and second century give testimony to this belief and practice. The letters of the apostle Paul, the most prolific of the New Testament writers, touched on many aspects of faith and practice, and familial relationships were no exception. He wrote clear instructions to fathers within his letters, both to the church at Colossae and Ephesus. In many ways, the words of the apostle were consistent with the teaching that the people of God had been given many years earlier in Deuteronomy, and yet in some ways his words likely seemed countercultural. After his discussion in Ephesians regarding the sovereign work of God in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul addresses household relationships. He writes:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long

in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph. 6:1-4, ESV)

In addressing both children and parents, with a special emphasis on fathers, Paul returns to the Decalogue that had come through Moses (Exodus 20).

To the observer of the full biblical record, the instruction of Paul was not new instruction, for the Old Testament people of God were commanded to teach the elements of the Shema to their children diligently (Deut. 6:4-9). This teaching came within th...

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