1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (NKJV)
10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
When last I preached, we looked at this text in Thessalonians and the lessons that Paul teaches us about fatherhood. We learned that our calling as fathers is to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly in the face of our children, our church, and our community. We are to be men “above reproach” as Paul says elsewhere. This is the type of men fathers are to be, this is to be our character.
But Paul not only describes the character of fathers in Israel, he also outlines the duties of fathers. Paul tells us that he “exhorted, and comforted, and charged” every one of the Thessalonians “as a father does his own children.” So notice the triad of responsibilities that Paul ascribes to fathers.
First, fathers are to exhort their children. The word is parakaleo – literally, “to call alongside.” Hence, fathers are not only to model what it means to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly but are to call their children to join them in this type of life. The life lived in the fear of God, lived in obedience to Him, is the truly blessed life, and fathers are responsible to point this out to their children and encourage their children to recognize it and love it. Even as Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to learn the ways of Christ and honor Christ with their lives, so fathers are to exhort their children to follow Him.
Second, fathers are to comfort their children. The word is paramutheomai – meaning literally, “to cause them to be consoled.” Fathers, in other words, are not to be distant or hard to reach, they are not to be unkind or uncharitable to their children. Rather, fathers are to comfort them, to come alongside them, to stoop down and lift them up. Our comforting kindness to our children serves, after all, as a picture of the kindness of our Heavenly Father. Psalm 103 declares that even as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him. Thus even as Paul comforted the Thessalonians in the midst of hardship, fathers are to comfort their children throughout the course of their lives.
Finally, fathers are “to charge” their children. And many a father out there says, “Yes, I wish I could charge my children but they don’t have any money!” Well it’s not that kind of charge. The word is martureo – “to bear witness.” It is the word from which we get our word “martyr.” Our calling is to bear witness to our children, to point them to Christ. We are to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, pointing to Christ as the only hope for individuals, families, and societies. In a Christian home, the daily witness of a father (and mother) who loves and serves Jesus is the ordinary means that God uses to bring our children to faith. Even as Paul bore witness to Christ among the Thessalonians, calling them to trust in Him and believe in Him, so fathers are to bear witness to Jesus among their families.
So, fathers, how are you doing? Are you daily, with each of your children, encouraging them, comforting them, and bearing witness to them so that Christ might be formed in them? Or have you been lazy, assuming that your children will just “get it”? Have you been pro-active and purposeful or have you abdicated, relying on your wife to accomplish the task? Have you been distant, failing to engage your kids? Then the Word of the Lord comes to you today – repent and start being a real father.
The calling of fathers to encourage, comfort, and bear witness to their children, reminds us that we all of us, father and mothers, have failed in many ways to live up to our calling in the eyes of God. We have sinned, and are in need of the forgiving grace of God in Christ. And so let us confess the many ways in which we have fallen short. We will confess our sins privately and then corporately using the printed confession found in your bulletin. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.