The Bible and the Family
“The Bible and the Family” is, in substance, an address given by Ronald Hogan, Business Counsellor, at the conference for brethren held at Guelph, Ontario, in June 1969. It is provocative and merits serious consideration by all whether they agree with every detail or otherwise.
Now, a great deal more might be said of this vital, central point of the Bible being relevant and authoritative to the Christian household. We have dwelt upon its teaching concerning children. Let us now consider the husband and wife relationship. In this regard I draw your attention to what I believe the Spirit of God has left on the inspired record as the typical Christian couple of the New Testament. There is really only one such example. When I say only one, I do not mean that there are no references to other Christian couples. We can think of Peter and his wife, the latter implied in the account of Simon’s wife’s mother being ill. We can think of them, but I do not consider Peter and his wife to form part of the specific teaching in Scripture on the subject of Christian couples. Ananias and Sapphira are certainly not adduced as an ideal Christian couple. They stand as an example of the very opposite. But the couple brought forward by the Holy Spirit for our careful inspection is, of course, Aquila and Priscilla. Six times over are they mentioned and, beloved brethren, they appear inseparable. Never is Aquila mentioned without Priscilla; never is Priscilla mentioned apart from Aquila. Six times over the double names appear. How are you dealing with your wife, may I ask? Are you allowing her to share in your innermost exercises, convictions, and plans? Are you bringing her into the counsels of the home? Are you treating her, nurturing her and cherishing her, as the Lord the Church? At your leisure, note which contexts place Aquila’s name first, and which Priscilla’s.
I submit that in Aquila and Priscilla we have not only this basic fact that they are an inseparable couple, but also that they are a separated couple. I do not mean separated from one another, I mean separated from the world. When they are introduced to us at the beginning of Acts 18, we find that they have left Claudius and Rome. Claudius had evicted them from Rome and said that they could not linger. In leaving the Roman Emperor, I see typically and symbolically their severance from the world. But not only were they separated from the world, they were separated from worldliness, because they were tentmakers and busying themselves in their trade as tentmakers. The tent, of course, is the emblem of a stranger and a pilgrim in this scene.
They were a separated couple. But not only that, they were a sociable couple. When Paul, who had met them in Corinth, wanted to go to Ephesus, they decided they would accompany him to minister unto him, to listen to him, to enjoy his friendship, his companionship. Do you in your particular home cultivate the friendship and the presence of the Lord’s servants and of the Lord’s people? Aquila and Priscilla did, to their eternal advantage. And so they accompanied him, according to the middle of Acts 18, all the way to Ephesus.
They were also a spiritual couple. Note, how at the end of that chapter, they found Apollos, a man eloquent in the Scriptures, but who knew only the baptism of John and was therefore not in the full enjoyment of the liberty and immensity of New Testament revelation, and took him into their home and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. Is not that the practical exercise of God’s Word, relevantly and authoritatively, in the very bosom of a Christian family? I think it is. And so it was that Apollo was mightily helped to become a man of God whose service to the Lord was exceedingly fruitful.
And then, they were a solicitous couple. Read in 1 Corinthians 16, as Paul closes his letter, how he sends along greetings and salutations from Aquila and Priscilla and from the church that was then in their house. Notice that, dear friends.
Moreover, when chronologically you come to Romans 16, you find that they were a self-sacrificing couple. Paul says that for his life they laid down their necks. They had hazarded their all for him. They knew the meaning of the text, “We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). Paul remarks on this when he says in that memorable text, and what a context it is, “Unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.” What a wave of effective witnessing was going out from just one couple, finally resulting in all the Assemblies of the nations being thankful to them for the way they were comporting themselves in the service of God!
And then finally, in 2 Timothy 4, in Paul’s last Epistle, in the last chapter of Paul’s last Epistle, in about the very last verse of the last chapter of Paul’s last Epistle, whom do we find? None other than Aquila and Priscilla who had stayed with him through thick and thin, from the beginning of his Achaian ministry right through until the very end of his course, because they were a steadfast couple. And I would suggest that they were, along with Paul, being preserved unto the Lord’s heavenly kingdom, as mentioned in that context.
Now this picture is preserved on the page of Scripture for us to view, study and ponder every syllable, every word, every lineament, every feature, that we might allow the Word of God to become thus relevant and authoritative for our particular households. If something written 1500 years before, applicable to something that had happened 4000 years before, was still relevant and authoritative for settling questions in the days of our Lord’s ministry, I submit to you that what was written 2000 years ago, or 4000 years ago, being the living and operative Word of God, is just as relevant today! It is altogether as authoritative today!
And if we, as Christian parents “command our households and our children” then we may rest upon this blessed assurance from God, “It is no vain thing for you.” It can be no empty thing for us because God always makes good His promises. We can stand, as we sing together, “on the promises of God”; we can rely implicitly upon them, because it is no vain thing for us. And we have God’s own explanation for this. How succinct! How poignant! How relevant to our hearts just now! Mark it well, “Because it is your life!”
Now, is it your life? That is the whole question. The question is not whether the Word of God is relevant and authoritative to families today. The real question is, “What lodging place has the Word of God in our hearts today, in our families today, in our homes today?” That is the crux of the matter. It is relevant! It is authoritative! And I look at Aquila and Priscilla, and I marvel at how the Word of God operated upon them. First, they received it from the Apostle Paul; second, they ministered it to that eloquent preacher, Apollos. They drank it in and then they gave it out. And, third, they put it into practical application in founding an Assembly in their very home. Have you such an assembly? Now, you appreciate that I am not speaking about a New Testament church in this particular context, but I am asking if the characteristics and spiritual features of God’s Assembly are true of your household. Here is Aquila and Priscilla, with a church in their house, and I am sure that the Word of God had a tremendous place in the formation of that church.
But, fourth, as we have already intimated, think of the waves of blessing that went out because of this dedicated, devoted, single-eyed Christian couple going on in the way of the Lord, taking the Word of God at face value, standing upon it, ministering it, and making it central in their hearts, in their experience, in their motives and in their domestic activities. And God was able to use them to bless His servants; to instruct them more perfectly in His ways; to establish a local church in their very home, first in Ephesus and then, if I understand things aright, later when they had moved, also in Rome. There was a church in their house in Ephesus; there was a Church in their house in Rome. This Church seemed to go with them wherever they went. And so all the Churches of the Gentiles came to know about them and to hold them in affectionate esteem because of the character and consistency of their Christian life together.
But I commend to you, beloved brethren, not what I think or say, but what God’s Word proclaims. Take it, not putting asunder what God has joined together, under any pretext. Do not treat your children as though they are not entitled to share in God’s goodness and promises to your household. For if you do, you will be unlike Moses on that memorable occasion when Pharaoh told the adults to go but leave the little ones behind. Moses would not listen for a single moment to this “dividing asunder.” Take your little ones with you, as he insisted. Take them to meeting; place them beside you; make them appreciate that you want them there; that you are not “straight-arming” them away from you into a corner of the chapel or hall, or leaving them home to do other things. Act so as to impress upon them that they have part and lot in this matter, in the full spirit of our Lord’s injunction; “Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16). Shame on the disciples who rebuked those who “brought unto Him also infants, that He would touch them” (Luke 18:15).
In closing, it seems to me significant to note the distinction between our Lord’s words regarding “little ones” in His wondrous pronouncement, “The Son of Man is come to save that which was lost” (Matthew 18:11), and His corresponding words touching adult sinners, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). It is not contemplated that the children of Christian parents need to wander off into the paths of sin and rebellion in order to be reached finally with the gospel. It is rather indicated that, brought up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord, they readily will believe to the saving of their souls what they have “known from a child” (2 Timothy 3:16) — the Holy Scriptures.