God’s covenant is one of the clearest pictures of Sola Scriptura, the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word for His people. It is in the context of His covenant that He gives His law as the final authority for their life and worship. Being God’s people, the receivers of covenantal blessings, meant being obedient to His law (Exodus 24:7). This also carries over to the New Covenant. God’s Word calls (Romans 10:14-17), sanctifies (John 17:17), and governs the Church (2 Timothy 4:1-8). Every resource we need to keep a covenant with God comes from the application of Scripture. His Covenant, which shows us Sola Scriptura, is also the picture of parenting in the Bible.
Parenting is a joy. Proverbs 23:24 says, “The father of a righteous son will rejoice greatly, and one who fathers a wise son will delight in him.” This rejoicing is sweetened when it is the fruit of the father’s long and loving labor to pass on wisdom to his son. It is the reward of a son who treasured his parents’ instruction like jewels around his neck (Proverbs 1:9-10). The father that Proverbs 23:24 speaks of shares the joy of the Apostle John: “I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in truth” (3 John 4).
Parenting is a joy… and incredibly hard. Seeing parenting in the picture of God’s Covenant, with Sola Scriptura in the middle, helps sustain our joy and strengthen our resolve when parenting gets tough. Just as the Israelites could trust God’s Word to deliver what they needed to keep their covenant obligations, parents can trust God’s Word to supply them with what is necessary for the difficult joy of parenting.
God’s Word equips parents to give their children all they need. “There is one sure and infallible guide to truth,” G. Campbell Morgan said, “and therefore one, and only one, corrective for error, and that is the Word of God.”[i]
Paul tells Timothy, who is like a son to him, “Continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, and you know that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God, and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
Parents who desire for their children to be wise for salvation, and equipped for every good work, nourish their family with the scriptures. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). To know the truth and to teach the truth to our children, we must have the conviction of Sola Scriptura. Sharing this conviction will not make cookie-cutter parents. There’s no way that parenting has a one-size-fits-all approach. My wife and I both have godly parents who were nothing alike in their parenting styles. You will find similarities in every Christian home, but not sameness. The conviction to submit to the Scripture’s authority and to its sufficiency means that we take our principles and pictures for raising children from the Bible.
A Picture with a Principle
Biblical parenting principles have pictures. People are gifted imitators, so we learn better when we have examples. There is no greater model for parents than God Himself. He is the Father par excellence and shows us that parenting is a covenant type of commitment.
Relationships are often compared to contracts. A covenant is different. A covenant is a solemn oath with blessings for keeping promises and curses for breaking promises. The Lexham Bible Dictionary makes helpful distinctions between covenants and contracts. “In application, contracts are limited by the terms of the exchange of property (“this is yours, that is mine”), while covenants involve an exchange of life (“I am yours, you are mine”).”[ii] Parenting involves this exchange of life. We don’t contract our services for our children, but we give them our life and our love. God’s covenant defines how He relates to us and gives shape to how parents raise their kids. The context of a covenant is where the blessings and promises of parenting shine brightest.
A Promise of Perseverance
Commitment sustains love. Couples have the honeymoon stage at the start of their marriage. This is when they are so “in love” that nothing can disrupt their affection for each other. As a romantic at heart, I treasure candlelight dinners, handwritten love notes, and snuggles while watching Rom-Coms. There is something beautiful in the romance, but it is not sustainable. When the honeymoon stage eventually fades, love needs to be forged by something stronger than romance. Love perseveres because of commitment.
Unlike us, God’s love never falters, yet the Bible often connects God’s love for us to His covenant promises. God’s covenant is His love-saturated commitment to give Himself completely to His people. A contract is voided when one party doesn’t keep their end, but God’s covenant ensures His “steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 100:5).
This covenant type of commitment keeps us going when parenting gets hard. I realized this when we had our first son. When he was all smiles, giggles, and cuddles, I didn’t need extra motivation to love him. But I would not have endured the poopy diapers, sleepless nights, and terrible back pain if I wasn’t his dad. The commitment kept me in the game.
A Promise of Security
God’s covenant is a promise of security. The story of the Bible is filled with God’s people making big mistakes, and yet He remains faithful. His people are secure in His love. “Because God wanted to show his unchangeable purpose even more clearly to the heirs of the promise, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:17-18). As Christians find assurance because God made a promise, so also children find peace when parents affirm their commitment. They are secure because they are loved.
A Promise of Discipline
God’s covenant also comes with a promise of discipline because He will not let sin rule over His beloved. Hebrews 12 makes it clear that God disciplines those whom He loves as a good father disciplines His son. This produces the fruit of righteousness. “No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). Discipline isn’t delightful. Discipline is painful, slow, and heartbreaking, but crucial for godliness.
Parenting requires the hard work of discipline, motivated—in the context of a covenant—by love. This is an area parents need to be watchful. We can discipline out of pride, correcting our child so they don’t embarrass the family. We can discipline out of anger when we lose our temper. Godly discipline, however, is driven by love with the aim of producing the fruit of righteousness. Discipline is not simply about consequences for bad behavior, but it is committing to help our children grow in godliness.
A Promise of Presence
When God establishes His covenant, He promises His presence. “I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. And they will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, so that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God” (Exodus 29:45-26).
Presence is central to everything God calls us to be, and everything our children need from us. We keep our promise to God and our children by making presence a priority. Keep it simple. Eat together, play together, laugh together, cry together, watch movies together, and even endure boredom together. Invest in your child by doing what they love. You’ll notice how often we get a chance for meaningful conversations and experiences simply because we commit to being present.
The Legacy We Leave
I have a Bible I plan to give to my sons one day. I’ve been writing notes in the margin of this Bible and only one note is written in ink. Beside Proverbs 23:24, (“The father of a righteous son will rejoice greatly, and one who fathers a wise son will delight in him”), I wrote: “Learn wisdom in Christ, pass it on to [my sons’ names].” This is written in ink so that I can never erase it.
One day I hope my sons take that Bible, open it to Proverbs 23:24, and see their names beside this verse. I hope they will see my longing for them to know Christ. I hope they see how deeply I treasure seeing them walking in wisdom. I hope they will read it and forgive me for all the ways I have fallen short and let them down. I hope they see it and know the joyful privilege I have of being their dad.
Taking our cues from scripture won’t make parenting easy, but it makes it meaningful. May God grant us the grace to raise our children well—for their good, for our joy, and for His glory.
[i] Elliot Ritzema, ed., 300 Quotations for Preachers (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012). G. Campbell Morgan, The Spirit of God (New York; Chicago; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1900), 18.
[ii] Scott Hahn, “Covenant,” in The Lexham Bible Dictionary, ed. John D. Barry et al. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).