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Using the Bible Biblically to Parent Biblically

Today’s guest blog comes from my good friend Mark Tubbs. Mark has taken upon himself much of the day-to-day work associated with Discerning Reader and for that I am deeply indebeted to him. Today he writes about marriage and parenting.

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Back in May, my wife and I attended an incredibly challenging and inspiring Paul David Tripp conference on marriage, entitled What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage (there is a excellent Crossway book of the same name). I learned so much about parenting.

Did I say parenting? Yes; I took away manifold parenting insights from this marriage conference. That’s not to say that I didn’t imbibe any marriage insights; I certainly did. I was chastened up and down regarding all the ways I superimpose my failings onto my wife. I was humbled to learn that the secret to our long and successful marriage is that we share a deep and abiding love for me (HT Jess MacCallum for that phrase).

It’s no secret that the Bible speaks to parenting, but it may be a surprise to you just how often it does so indirectly. At his conference, Tripp stated, “The Bible isn’t arranged by topic. If you go only to the “marriage” passages, you miss most of what the Bible says about marriage.” In his book, he elaborates in a section entitled “Using the Bible Biblically”:

Part of the problem is the way we use Scripture. We mistakenly treat the Bible as if it is arranged by topic – you know, the world’s best compendium of human problems and divine solutions. So when we’re thinking about marriage, we run to all the marriage passages. But the Bible isn’t an encyclopedia; it is a story, the great origin-to-destiny story of redemption. In fact, it is more than a story. It is a theologically annotated story. It is a story with God’s notes. This means that we cannot understand what the Bible has to say about marriage by looking at only the marriage passages, because there is a vast amount of biblical information about marriage not found in the marriage passages.

In fact, we could argue that to the degree that every portion of the Bible tells us things about God, about ourselves, about life in this present world, and about the nature of the human struggle and the divine solution, to that degree every passage in the Bible is a marriage passage. Every passage imparts to us insight that is vital for a proper understanding of the passages that directly address marriage, and every passage tells us what we should expect as we deal with the comprehensive relationship of marriage.

Ditto with parenting. Perhaps more so with parenting, since each addition of another person to your family multiples the number of social interactions occurring within the family grouping. Tensions, conflicts, and differences are therefore more prevalent than if it were just the two of you coasting blissfully (as if) through married life. If you are anything like my wife and I, you often feel that Sin Personified is having a heyday within your God-given family unit. Where’s the grace?

Grace in all its beauty is found where sin is displayed in all its ugliness, when – and only when – the gospel is being momentarily and actively applied to parenting and the Bible is being used biblically. To lift yet another example from Tripp: if my children wake in the wee hours, start to fight, and I respond by stomping down the hall toward their bedroom with the mantra “inconvenience, inconvenience, inconvenience” running through my head, I am reacting sinfully to their sin. Of course, it’s a fact of life that sinners tend to respond sinfully to being sinned against. “But,” as the Apostle John reminds us in his first epistle, “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1) That doesn’t only go for the one who is sinning, but for the one faced with addressing the sin. As C.J. Mahaney often says, there is never a moment in which I don’t need a Mediator. Later John goes on to say, “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (I John 2:5). As I am traversing the corridor in the wee hours, abiding in the grace of God means my heart is softening toward my children with every step and I am choosing to view the situation as an “opportunity, opportunity, opportunity” to extend the grace of God through kindness and correction. For ultimately even the corridors and bedrooms of my own house are not my own – they are part of the kingdom of God. And in that kingdom, grace flows in all directions at all times.

To the degree that you use the Bible biblically in your parenting, the grace of the gospel of Christ will be evident to your children, operating as a “trysting place,” in Martin Luther’s words, of personal encounter between your children and your God.

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Mark Tubbs moonlights as a book reviewer for DiscerningReader.com and is a worship leader, care group leader, and occasional preacher at White Rock Baptist Church, near Vancouver, British Columbia. Otherwise he can be found doing his day job as a Bible college registrar. He lives with his wife Cheri and three children - Kenny, Lydia and Leo - with one more on the way, and is currently pursuing an M.Div.