Is it possible to train up a child so that when they’re old they won’t depart from their training? Join AMBrewster to unpack this controversial and jam-packed verse and see how it applies to your parenting.
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Click "Read More" for today’s Episode Notes and Transcript.
I’m really looking forward to today’s study. It’s going to be a slightly longer episode, though, because we’re going to cover a controversial verse from Proverbs.
I also really enjoyed our last episode where Jessica Mair — a counselor and mother of five all under the age of 10 — helped us understand the necessity of training our children to work through interpersonal conflicts and avoid tattling. If you missed it, be sure to listen to Episode 93, “Tackling Tattling.”
Two shows ago we discussed Christian Parenting 101 and learned that our greatest responsibility is to teach our children to fear the Lord and keep His Word. Today, I pray that our discussion will further clarify our understanding of God’s Word, our goal in parenting, and how to accomplish that goal.
But before we jump in, I’d like to share with you our newest iTunes review from Christy.
She said, “Truth.Love.Parent. has been such a refreshing source of truth in my life! I’m not the avid reader that I would like to be, so this podcast has been a tremendous blessing to me! I appreciate how each and every podcast is so carefully crafted and professionally articulated to not only share vital biblical truth with Christian parents, but also to counsel them through the application of that truth in the most practical ways. In my opinion, every Christian parent should take the time to listen to this entire series at least once — if not more! Thank you!”
Well, Christy, I look forward to doing just that today. We want to open God’s Word, see His Truth, and learn to use it in our parenting. Thank you for your beautiful words!
If you haven’t yet reviewed us on iTunes, I’d encourage you to head over to TruthLoveParent.com. At the top of our podcast page and at the top of our reviews page we provide instructions for how to leave a review on iTunes.
Lastly, today is the final episode of Season 3. And some of you have asked what the seasons are. Well, we decided to break our show into seasons for a couple of reasons. First, our content isn’t truly episodic, we — like Christy — believe “every Christian parent should take the time to listen to this entire [podcast] at least once — if not more!” The seasons encourage that type of listening. Second, as we’ve grown and are becoming more streamlined in our planning, we’ve noticed that our content is flowing together nicely and that we can start focusing on certain ideas, principles, and commands that tie our stand-alone episodes and series together within a season. And last, we love the four natural seasons God’s created, and we decided to have four seasons of our own that separate the year into three month slices.
Now, let me tell you what this doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that you should expect a break between the end of one season and the beginning of another like you do with t.v. shows.
Some podcasts also do that, but — Lord willing — we hope to not take breaks. Now, this is a big commitment on our part. We desire to continue posting 104 episodes a year. As you can imagine, this takes a lot of commitment and work from TeamTLP in order to create and record and publish those episodes before we take our holidays and vacations. But we do this so your family can be built up and established twice a week all year, no matter what. So far, we’ve only failed to publish once. It was our 10th episode and we didn’t have internet for a week. So, you know, it may happen, but we’re going to work hard so that it won’t.
And just for an example, right now I’m actually on a week long camping trip with the boys from Victory Academy, and this following Tuesday I’ll be at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors conference in Jacksonville, FL. It’s so cool being two places at once.
But this is another really good reason for you to consider supporting TLP with your prayers and finances. This is faith-based ministry dedicated to serving families, and the more help we get the more families we can serve and the better job we can do at it.
But anyway, let’s move past this lengthy intro and talk about our controversial text of the day.
The verse I’m alluding to is Proverbs 22:6. Many of you know it, and many of you already know why it’s controversial. But for those of you who aren’t sure what I’m talking about, let me read the verse and explain the differing opinions.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
What I’d like to do now is present the two sides of the argument, explain why I believe what I believe, and teach you how to parent the way I believe God’s calling us to parent in this verse.
Okay, so one camp sees this verse as a solid promise. If you train your child to follow Christ, your child will not depart from that path. Obviously, your child will sin, but their overall trajectory will be toward Christ-likeness and maturity. Again, these people believe this is a hard and fast promise. This group argues that a literal understanding of the text proves it to be true, and that if God says something, it will always be true.
The other side of the fence argues that this (as well as other proverbs) are merely “proverbial.” Merriam-Webster defines “proverb” as “a brief popular saying that gives advice about how people should live or that expresses a belief that is generally thought to be true.” Based off this definition and their understanding of the Proverbs, many people explain that this verse is not a promise, but merely a proverb expressing something that is generally true. Meaning that you can train your child to love God, but there’s no guarantee she won’t fall from the faith, turn from God, or walk away from the church. Again, they would say this verse is a generally true statement designed to give us hope that if we do our jobs, our kids hopefully will turn out well. This group argues from experience that innumerable parents have trained their children in the things of God, but since so many walked away from it, it must not be true all of the time.
Alright, so what’s my opinion? Well, let me start by admitting that I’m pretty sure I disagree with most of the people I respect. For example, John MacArthur — a man I praise God for — holds to the belief that this verse is generally true because you can train a child in the way he should go, but there’s no guarantee that he won’t depart from it.
I disagree. Now, before I continue, recently I called out Joel Osteen for his heretical prosperity gospel. This is not me calling out John MacArthur! I love Dr. MacArthur, I listen to his stuff, I read his books, and I’d be honored to have him on the show one day. John is a wonderful man of God, and I’m very thankful for the impact God has had on my life through his ministry.
I just wanted to make sure we were clear on that.
But we do disagree on this, and that’s okay. And here’s why we disagree. I’m going to point out two ideas that support my belief about this verse.
To illustrate this principe I’d like us to read II Timothy 3:14-17. “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Paul is instructing Timothy to persevere in the Truth of God he received and believed as a child. Apparently his parents acquainted him with the sacred writings which were able to lead him to salvation through faith in Christ. Clearly we’re talking about the Old Testament. I believe this passage helps us understand the basics of training.
First, Timothy’s training started as a child. This Greek word refers to a very young child, even an infant. In fact, it generally refers to a new-born but can also refer to an unborn child. What’s the takeaway? It is never too early to start training your children.
Second, we see what he was trained in. He was acquainted with the sacred writings that held the message of the gospel. Paul then takes an additional step to unfold the beautiful doctrine of Inspiration in order to assure Timothy of the power of the Bible. Because it’s perfectly inspired by God, it’s useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. We’ll study those four amazing words at a later date, but please realize that this isn’t referring to a parenting manual written by Dr. Spock. This isn’t the four love languages. This isn’t any invention of man. The holy Scriptures are the only thing that’s able to make the man of God complete and equip Him for every good work. Even our youngest children must be acquainted with the fear of the Lord and the Truth of God’s Word. It is never too early to start training your children about the Bible. Teaching them to memorize Scripture. It’s never too early to get them involved in service and ministry.
But here’s the kicker: Many people are acquainted with the Bible and have had it used to teach, reprove, correct, and train them . . . and yet they still reject God. And this is why.
They were taught, but because of their lack of participation, they weren’t trained.
Look again at what Paul said to and about Timothy: Timothy was urged to continue in what he learned. This isn’t merely a passive listening or acquisition of knowledge. And this isn’t something Timothy’s parents could do for him. He had to consciously choose to continue in Truth. Also notice that it’s said Timothy “firmly believed” the Truth he received “through faith in Christ Jesus.” This point is so important, I must not rush over it . . . so I’m going to discuss is in great detail during our Merest Christianity series. But for now, realize that faith is a decisive choice to accept and act upon the Truth we receive. Only by Timothy’s participation can it be said that he will “continue in what he learned” and become a man of God who’s complete and equipped for every good work.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds an awful lot like “even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
And this is what we want for our kids. Listen, please get it out of your head that you are simply in your child’s life to communicate Truth that they are free to take or leave. It’s true that you can’t change their hearts, but if you’re actually training your children, you’re going to have expectations for their performance.
Think of the difference between teaching your kids to cook and training them to cook. And you can’t say I’m playing a game of semantics. You would easily say of your three year old that you taught him to cook . . . and no one else would expect him to do a good job. But if you told someone you’re training your child to cook, they’ll expect your kid can make something.
Now, I’ve already taken a lot of your time, and I appreciate your patience, but I want to get a little more practical. Let’s take just one of Deuteronomy’s big two: fearing the Lord and walking in His Truth.
To be honest, they’re synonymous, you can’t truly do one without doing the other. But here’s the difference between teaching and training:
A parent who teaches will tell their children they need to fear the Lord, they’ll likely even model it for their kids. They’ll also tell their children how they are to live and point them to God’s statutes and commandments as rules for living.
A parent who trains their kids will do all the same teaching, but will also provide opportunities for assessment. Just like a violin teacher who assigns practice regimens and opportunities to perform — like recitals — a training parent is going to not simply hand out information and pat themselves on the back for doing their job, they’re going to require output from the child. They’re going to push for investment. They’re going to take the child by the hand and walk with them through the application of the teaching they received.
When the Ambassador Parent’s child doesn’t obey, we’re not simply going to give them a consequence and remind them what the rule was, we’re going to take it back to the root of the issue. Here’s a good example: we’re watching our friend’s dog, and earlier today my children were asked to care for her. Instead of obeying like they should, it turned into an argument between the two of them of who was going to do what. There was crying, fighting, and until my wife stepped in, the dog wasn’t being cared for. A few minutes later my wife is in the room with me and the kids came in and asked to play with our new bunny. My wife says, “I’m not even certain we should keep the bunny. If caring for the dog was that much of a conflict, maybe we should give it away.” By the way, if you understood the broader context, my wife’s comments weren’t overblown or too dramatic. I actually agreed with her thought. However, hearing all of this, I turned to my kids and asked this question: “Why do you two hate your mother?”
As you can imagine, I received astonished looks. My daughter said, “We don’t hate Mommy.” But I reminded her that “if you love me, keep my commandments.” Mommy gave them a task, but they each loved themselves too much. Instead of quickly, sweetly, and completely doing what mom asked, they devolved into bickering, selfish, disobedient children. The real issue wasn’t only that they didn’t love Mommy, but in that moment they loved themselves more than God.
What my kids didn’t need was a class on how to take care of the dog. They didn’t need a reminder about obedience. What they needed was a glimpse into their selfish hearts. They needed to see what the fruit of their lives said about the roots of their lives. They needed to fear the Lord.
Here’s point of today’s show: Proverbs 22:6 is a promise. If you train your children in the fear of the Lord and the Truth of His Word, and if your children choose to participate in that training by learning what God teaches, believing it, and continuing in it, then yes . . . they will not depart from it.
This is a branch of another doctrine called the Perseverance of the Saints, or the Preservation of the Saints. Once saved, we cannot lose our salvation.
But we also can’t be born again and remain stagnant. Our justification is going to work in us — sanctifying us — which is a process that changes us into the image of Christ from glory to glory. Romans 8:30 says, “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” The stage between justification and glorification is sanctification where we move from our lost state to a growing in Christ-likeness state to — eventually — a perfected in Christ state. This is the necessary end of everyone who is a genuine child of God.
Please take advantage of our episode notes and transcript linked at TruthLoveParent.com. We covered a lot today.
Next week we’ll be starting season four and a new series that promises to introduce us to the most important facet of our humanity and relationship with God. Understanding this Truth will enable us to take our parenting to the next level.
If you haven’t yet perused TruthLoveParent.com I cannot encourage you enough. There is so much there of which to take advantage, and you really should consider joining The TLP Family and signing up for our first free parenting course as well.
I believe Proverbs 22:6 is a promise that if we truly accomplish our goal of genuinely training our children in the things of God then they will participate in that training, follow Christ, and love Him. And — in the end — you can rest in the promise of God that His power will preserve them in this life and the next.
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