“ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE”
1. Please turn to Proverbs 22.6. This morning I am not going to preach an evangelistic sermon, but a sermon that I pray will eventually be felt in the lives of your children and grandchildren, becoming part of God’s workings to bring your children and your grandchildren to Christ someday.
2. Have you arrived at our text for this morning? Good. Please stand and read that verse silently while I read it aloud: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
3. Some people are of the opinion that the way a child is going to turn out is determined by heredity, with parenting accounting for little in the way of the child’s success or failure in life.
4. Others are of the opinion that the way a child is going to turn out is determined by environment, with the parents being almost the sole determining factor in how a child turns out, or with the parents still having no real impact on how a child turns out because of the overwhelming effect of schools, of friends, and of the fall lineup of programs on TV.
5. My friends, there are various factors involved in how your child turns out. That a part of the equation is related to heredity cannot be denied. That the child’s own choices play a part is also to be acknowledged. Ultimately, of course, God’s workings in the child’s life dictate the little one’s destiny. But what part will you play as an instrument in God’s hands to raise your child to be the adult he or she will become?
6. Our text suggests that the way a child is raised is critical to how the child turns out. To ignore this verse is folly for a mother or a father. To disagree with it spells disaster for the child.
7. Before we tackle this verse, allow me to quickly read several other related verses to you:
Proverbs 13.24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”
Proverbs 19.18: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”
Proverbs 22.15: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
Proverbs 29.15: “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”
Proverbs 29.17: “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.”
8. I’ll not deal with each of these verses this morning, except to remark that the mother or the father who does not recognize that coercion is a necessary part of parenting is simply naive. You heard me; coercion.
9. But let me define coercion so that we will not be confused by terminology. The dictionary defines the word “coerce” in this way: “1. to compel by force, intimidation, or authority, esp. without regard for individual desire or volition.” In other words, making someone do something even if he doesn’t want to do it.
10. That coercion is part and parcel of good parenting can be seen in these verses I’ve just read to you, and in many others besides. That coercion is an integral part of the process of the parental training that is spoken of by this morning’s text is also obvious.
11. Now, before this morning’s sermon, let’s examine the two halves of our text:
1A. “Train up a child in the way he should go”
1B. In the Keil & Delitzsch Commentary On The Old Testament we find this:
“In the post-biblical Hebrew the word train denotes that which in the language of the Church is called catechizing. The Hebrew word is the usual title of the catechisms. It is the fundamental and first requisite of all educational instruction which the proverb formulates, a suitable motto for the lesson-books of pedagogues and catechists. From it refers to that training of youth, in conformity with his nature, which becomes a second nature, that which is imprinted, inbred, becomes accustomed.”
2B. John Gill, The Great Baptist Commentator, wrote on this verse,
“As Abraham trained up his children, and those born in his house, in the way of the Lord, in the paths of justice and judgment; which are the ways in which they should go, and which will be to their profit and advantage; see (Genesis 14:14; 18:19); and which is the duty of parents and masters in all ages, and under the present Gospel dispensation, even to bring such who are under their care in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, (Ephesians 6:4); by praying with them and for them, by bringing them under the means of grace, the ministry of the word, by instructing them in the principles of religion, teaching them their duty to God and man, and setting them good examples of a holy life and conversation; and this is to be done according to their capacity, and as they are able to understand and receive the instructions given them: “according to the mouth of his way,” as it may be literally rendered; as soon as he is able to speak or go, even from his infancy; or as children are fed by little bits, or a little at a time, as their mouths can receive it.”
3B. With those commentator’s remarks in our back pockets, let’s consider what Solomon literally wrote.
1C. The Hebrew word for “train” literally refers to making someone submissive, much in the same way a bridle is used with a horse.
2C. The Hebrew word for “child” literally refers to a boy of any age from infancy to adolescence.
3C. The Hebrew phrase for “way he should go” refers to “opening (the mouth) of his path.” I see this as referring to the beginning of each phase of life, the opening to each new path, the entrance to each new experience.
4B. Now, let’s surmise what this means. Contrary to modern thinking, in which parents are encouraged to allow a child to venture forth and discover for himself, to decide for himself, to make up his own mind about the course and direction of his life, Solomon’s inspired directive to parents is for them to take a child to the mouth of, to the opening of, each path he should travel, and make that child submissive to going in the direction he ought to go.
5B. In other words, you are not to allow your children to make up their own minds about the important directions and decisions of life. That puts you into the position of reacting to a child’s initiatives. Instead, you should seize the initiative to train them, direct them, raise them with wisdom and insight and discernment. But you must be wise, since no child can be stampeded. Do this, parents,
2A. “and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
1B. Is this a promise that your child will get converted if you raise him correctly? No. God does not swap conversion miracles for obedience, even when it’s one parent’s obedience for a child’s conversion. Salvation is by grace. It is not for sale or for trade for obedience. That being understood, what do we have here then?
2B. John Gill again:
“‘and when he is old, he will not depart from it.’ not easily, nor ordinarily; there are exceptions to this observation; but generally, where there is a good education, the impressions of it do not easily wear off, nor do men ordinarily forsake a good way they have been brought up in; and, however, when, being come to years of maturity and understanding, their hearts are seasoned with the grace of God, they are then enabled to put that in practice which before they had only in theory, and so continue in the paths of truth and holiness.”
3B. Let us not forget that a proverb is a proverb. By that I mean, the very nature of a proverb is that a proverb is a statement of generalities, of tendencies, of likelihoods. So, what we have in the book of Proverbs is an inspired volume of generalities, a God-breathed catalog of tendencies, a set of Biblical likelihoods.
4B. We do not have here an absolute promise that if you raise your son or daughter a certain way you are thereby guaranteed by God that he will surely turn out all right, that she will definitely end up a godly and virtuous woman. That’s not the way any of the Proverbs are designed to be understood.
5B. What we do have here is an inspired proverbial statement of tendency from the Word of God. People who train up their children in the way they should go raise children who are very likely to stay on that path for the rest of their lives. They are kids who are not likely to turn out bad as adults. But to take a statement from Proverbs and attempt to claim that as a promise for your child is to misunderstand the very nature of a proverb and to misuse the book of Proverbs.
1. Before Gary Isenberger comes to lead us in a hymn before this morning’s sermon, let me recap this verse and state some opinions.
2. When Solomon wrote “train up a child in the way he should go” he was referring to a process of parenting that is far more involved than just telling a child what you want him to do, stating your expectations.
3. As well, the parenting process requires taking the initiative with your child, not back peddling and reacting to your child’s aggressive curiosity. Folks, you are supposed to do know where the kid should end up, thereby enabling you to run ahead of him, planning for his eventual arrival at the various milestones of life.
4. The notion that you should just sit back and watch a kid grow up, making sure that he is properly fed and clothed, is a severely inadequate approach to raising kids. That would lead to you abandoning your role as a parent and allowing them to make important decisions themselves, which is clearly inadvisable.
5. Can you guarantee that your child will get converted? No. Your child is responsible for his own soul. But when all is said and done, do you really want to be a mom or a dad who did not do all you could have done, who did not do all that was humanly possible, in the raising of your child? I hope you don’t.
6. After we sing I will devote my sermon to exploring three vital concepts to raising a child, concepts which an astonishing number of parents not only do not sufficiently grasp, but concepts which many parents are not even aware of.
7. Please stand, now, as brother Isenberger comes.
1. Turn to First Corinthians 4.15: “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” This doesn’t apply to all of you here at Calvary Road Baptist Church, but it does apply to most of you. Perhaps others can teach you the Bible, but if you got saved under my ministry I am your father in the faith. I have begotten you through the gospel.
2. Now turn to Philemon 10: “I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds.” Paul, writing to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus, who he had begotten in the faith while in a Roman prison, referred to that young man as “my son.” If you got converted under my ministry here at Calvary Road Baptist Church, in a sense, you are my son or my daughter in the faith.
3. Now turn to First Thessalonians 2.11: “As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children.” I know more about raising children than you do. I’ve raised more children than you have. I’ve had more kids than you have. And this is because the pastoral ministry and the parenting responsibility of rearing a child are close parallels.
4. I know from first hand experience, for example, that loving a child is not sufficient to ensure that he is raised properly. I think it was the Beatles who forever altered western values with their song “All You Need Is Love.” With that song they subtly convinced a whole generation that loving a child was enough to raise a child. But that notion is tragically mistaken.
5. Over the years our Church has had many parents who have loved their children, only to see their children turn out badly, only to see their children turn away from the Christian faith, only to see their children end up as lazy good for nothings, only to see their children give their lives over to drugs and fornication. I would think that for the sake of other parents those parents would stand up and testify that love is not enough to raise a child.
6. And for those of you who have raised one child, or perhaps two children, who turned out badly (And may I say that if your child does not live for Christ and serve God as an adult that child has turned out badly), keep this comment I once heard in mind. An attorney on the radio once said that “Insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results.” Is it time to change the way you are raising those kids?
7. Why is it that parents who have utterly failed with one child or with two children insist on raising younger children in the same fashion? Why is it that parents who were, themselves, raised improperly by their parents, or were not raised at all by their parents, exhibit such pride that they never seek a pastor’s counsel on what the Bible says about raising children?
8. As if they are going to figure out how to raise a child by themselves. Folks, I’ve found myself telling Christian men who’ve been saved for decades that it would be a good idea to hug their daughters. But do those daughters who now receive affection from their fathers ever seek counsel to raise their own kids? No.
9. Just remember that when Philip approached the Ethiopian eunuch he asked him, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” To which the eunuch answered him, “How can I, except some man should guide me?” Though you have a Bible you are mistaken if you think you don’t need pastoral instruction.
10. You may say, “Well, the eunuch wasn’t converted.” That is quite true. But if Christians did not also need someone to teach them the Word of God and to equip them to discharge their duties and obligations, why did the Lord Jesus give pastor-teachers, Ephesians 4.11-12?
11. Please, beloved. There is just too much at stake in the lives of your children, and in the lives of your children’s children, for you not to be open and receptive to what God would have me to teach you about raising your little ones.
12. In our text Solomon urged, “Train up a child in the way he should go.” Three words for your consideration that are keys to Solomon’s directive:
1A. First, CONTROL
1B. Implicit in the concept of training a child is this matter of control. It is not possible for a teacher to teach students she does not control. It is not possible for a horse trainer to train a horse he does not control. It is not possible for any mother or any father to have any hope of success with any child they do not control. You must control your child.
2B. First, you must control your child’s actions. Beloved, why in the world would God place into His Word so many passages referring to the rod and the need for spanking a child, except as a means to securing control over the child? Do you think a child is so reasonable that all you have to do is explain the logic of your wishes in order to obtain compliance? If you think that’s possible then you don’t read the same Bible that I read, and you have a far different conception of a child’s sinful nature and innate depravity than God does.
3B. The reason I defined the word “coercion” for you during my exposition was so your mind would have time to digest the concept. You are standing at the curb and you notice a car down the street, so you say to your child, “Come here.” You do not have time to explain. It is not a time for logic. It is a time for control. It is not a time for your child to exhibit judgment. It is a time for you to exhibit judgment. Your child’s very life depends on your control over him, both while you are present, and when you are absent.
4B. Those two teenage girls who were kidnapped in Lancaster several nights ago, are an obvious example of a complete lack of parental control. They were out on a lover’s lane past midnight with their boyfriends, when the rapist overwhelmed their boyfriends, kidnapped them, and then raped them before he was killed by police the next day. What kind of a mother lets her daughter out at night without knowing where she is? What kind of a mother lets a daughter that age out with a boyfriend? And what kind of a mother lets a daughter of that age out that late?
5B. Control, control, control, control. Are you afraid of being called a control freak? I am much more comfortable being called a control freak than I am of being the father of a rape victim, or a murder victim, or a drug abuser, or a car thief, or a fornicator. Mom? Dad? You must control your child’s actions.
6B. And you begin to exert control over your child’s actions, within the limits of that child’s maturity and physical ability to be controlled, from the time he is born. The idea of the mothers of newborns being controlled by their whiny babies so they can’t sleep at night, because the baby controls mom instead of the mom controlling the baby, is absolutely ridiculous. Control that child.
7B. But your child’s actions are not the only thing you should exert control over. You should also control your child’s attitude. Folks, your children are born without the capacity to control themselves in any way. They are physically uncoordinated, utterly foolish, and without self-discipline. The physical coordination needs some parental help. The foolishness needs profound parental intervention. And self-discipline in the child’s life will come about only after you control the child, both actions and attitude.
8B. Why do you think we have an entire generation of Americans who are ruled by their emotions? They were not trained by their hippy generation parents to control their emotions. That’s why they are controlled by their emotions. Two guys lose control of a van and hit and injure three people. The result? A mob becomes so angry that they beat the two men to death. But what if the vehicle had a mechanical failure that resulted in the accident, and it was no fault of the two men? It’s too late now, because a group of people were never controlled by their parents enough to learn self-control.
9B. If your child is sulking, or moping around, or depressed for some reason other than illness or a legitimate spiritual issue, then you should do something about it. Do not allow your child to develop a sulking and brooding personality. Refuse to tolerate what most people call depression. It only paralyzes a child into inaction and will result in a moping and moody adult who is a slave to his emotions.
10B. Control. Control. Control. Mom? Dad? You cannot raise a child you do not control. You cannot teach a child you cannot control. The very first thing you must set yourself to doing is gaining control over your child’s actions and attitudes. Your control won’t be total. And your control won’t be immediate. It will be tempered by the child’s physical and emotional maturity, and it will be resisted by your child’s sinfulness and tendency toward rebellion and stubbornness. But the earlier in that child’s life that issue is essentially resolved the better it is for you and the better it is for your child. And don’t be afraid to coerce your child with spankings in order to gain control over him.
2A. Next, OBEDIENCE
1B. While there are large numbers of parents, even Church going parents, who never grapple with the issue of controlling their children (as can be seen by their proud and foolish unwillingness to spank their children), there are an equally large number of parents who seem to be at a loss when it comes to understanding what obedience is.
2B. Ephesians 6.1 reads, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.” But what is obedience? My friends, obedience is not discussing your wishes with your child in the hopes that your child will agree with you and then decide to do what you have suggested. That is not obedience. That’s child tyranny over foolish parents.
3B. Obedience is the submission of one person’s will to another person’s will. Your child obeys you only when he submits to your will while disagreeing with you. If your child agrees with you he is not obeying you, he is agreeing with you. He only obeys you when there is a conflict between your will and his own and for a variety of reasons submits to your will.
4B. He may submit to your will because he is intimidated by you. That’s okay. He may submit to your will because he is afraid of getting his rear end spanked. That, too, is okay. Or he may be mature enough to submit to you because he has figured out that things just never work out in his favor unless he submits to you. That is wonderfully okay.
5B. If you have a child who is growing up without obedience, who does not submit to your will unless he can be persuaded to agree with you, then you are raising a rebellious and stubborn child. If you have to bribe your child to obey you, either by trading her obedience for what she wants, or by paying money to get your child to do something he ought to do anyway, you are actually encouraging your child to sin, and it’s obvious you never got over the hurdle of controlling your child, which now results in your child disobeying you.
6B. “But pastor, we prefer to reason with our child.” That sounds really good, but it’s demonic deception. You’ve been seduced by evil spirits into accepting rebellion and stubbornness, which is as witchcraft and iniquity and idolatry, First Samuel 15.23. You have opted for spiritual compromise in the face of your child’s wickedness. May God rebuke you for your refusal to deal with sin as sin.
7B. Beloved, what do you think will happen to your child who becomes an adult who has never been forced to obey? Will he be able to obey proper authorities? Unlikely. Will he be able to obey God? Only with difficulty. If you do not control your child’s activities and attitudes so that he renders to you real obedience, you do your child a great disservice, that could well nigh be a curse to him.
3A. Finally, TEACH
1B. Some parents naively think they can teach a child who is not under control. But the only lesson a child can learn who is not under the control of his mom or dad is the lesson of who is in charge. And so long as the child is not under control he is teaching his parents that he is in charge. Amazingly, some parents are so indoctrinated with humanistic thinking that they simply do not see the red flags and hear the alarms associated with any child who is out of control.
2B. Control, control, control, control. So that your child obeys, obeys, obeys, obeys. Which is to submit his own will to yours, when he disagrees. Once a child submits to your will while disagreeing with you, and only then, when he is under control, then you can begin the teaching process. No matter how wishful your thinking is, you are sadly mistaken if you think that you will succeed in really teaching your child so long as little precious or little Mr. Perfect is disobedient.
3B. “But pastor, spanking does him no good.” Says who? Says you? God says it does him good, so who are you to disagree with God? And so what if you see no immediate benefit from your efforts to gain control over your child, your attempts at coercion, your spanking of him or her? My friends, my mom spanked me almost every day of my life until I was about 13 years old, and then it took. So, don’t give up on God’s method of gaining control and coercing obedience.
4B. When control is established and obedience is achieved then teaching is possible, and not before. Consider. When did you begin to learn about the benefits of using the potty, before or after your mom acquired control over your potty? When did you learn the benefits of using a fork and a spoon, before or after your mom acquired control over your tendency to throw your food around as a little child? So you see, in every area of life the control is first established to gain obedience, and then teaching takes place.
5B. This is a very important principle for people to learn. Understanding follows obedience, it can never precede obedience. Whether it be potty training, learning to eat with utensils, or any other area of life, understanding follows obedience. It never precedes obedience. And if you insist on trying to reason with and teach a child who is not obedient, over who you have no consistent control, you are simply putting facts into the head of a barbarian, you are not teaching in the Biblical sense.
1. My friends, there is something wrong with your child if your child does not obey you, does not obey the Sunday School teacher, does not obey the responsible adult who is present.
2. There is something wrong with your child if you are not complimented on the behavior of your child. We have families whose kids are constantly praised by strangers, at the grocery store and out in public, for their demeanor, for their immediate obedience, and for the obvious control their parents have over them.
3. But some of you have children who have never been complimented by others, children who constantly interrupt when you are speaking to another adult, children who pout and throw tantrums when you do not obey them or comply with their wishes.
4. If your child is that way you just don’t get it. You don’t understand the deal. You are supposed to acquire control over your children, both their actions and their attitudes, or coerce them by Scripturally mandated means until you obtain that control.
5. When you are in control you will then have your child’s obedience. Obedience is displayed when your child submits to your will without agreement, complies in the face of certain retaliation from you if he doesn’t obey, yields to your will so he will not have to pay the price for his rebellion.
6. If you don’t have obedience you cannot teach your child. But once you begin to make strides at gaining control, once you are beginning to receive obedience, then you can to a greater and greater degree begin to teach your child.
7. These three concepts, control, obedience, teaching, must be understood in their proper relationship to each other, must be seen as to a degree sequential in the different areas of your child’s life, if you are to enjoy success as a mother or as a father.
8. And the reason for all of this effort, this mighty struggle with a resistant child? “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
9. This morning I have provided for you only the most superficial and cursory look at the basics of training your child. But these basics must be grasped and some mastery must be attained or there will be no success in rearing your children.
10. And if you don’t believe me, just go home and think about who in our Church controls their children, who in our Church receives obedience from their children, and who in our Church receives compliments from others for their obvious success in teaching their children?
11. Before we close, let me remind you of the parallel between you raising your children and God dealing with the sinner. What must you have before you have anything else? Control.
12. As well, the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit is His work at convincing sinners that God must be in control, that sinners are wickedly out of control, and that sinners will pay a high price for their rebellion. Obedience comes about when the sinner comes to Christ. Teaching then really begins for the first time.
13. If you are not under God’s control, which is to say, if you do not obey God, and that means obeying me (Hebrews 13.7, 17), then you can’t be taught anything. You can’t be taught to live for Christ or taught to grow as a Christian.
14. If I can’t raise you as a spiritual parent raising a spiritual child I have begotten, as your spiritual father in the faith, what do you think will happen to your attempts to raise your children? In a very real way, your children’s welfare is dependent upon your willingness as a spiritual child of God to be controlled, to render obedience, so that you can be taught.
15. May God bless you as you do His will. It really does take so much more than love, the Beatles notwithstanding.
Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), 398.
C.F. Keil & F. Delitzsch, COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT, (Rio, WI: Ages Software, Inc., 2000)
John Gill CD, (Paris, AK: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2000)
Brown-Driver-Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), p. 335.
Ibid., p. 655.
Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Power Bible CD v. 3.7, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002)
John Gill CD, (Paris, AK: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2000)