Teach Your Children to Teach Their Children to Teach Their Children Well

Mar 16, 2023 | Articles, by Guest Writers, Marrow Ministries Free Content

Teach the Children

Graham Nash famously penned the lyric, “Teach your children well.”[1] In those troubled days of the 1960s, a generation after the horrors of WWII and a Great Depression that left their fathers shackled in silence, unable to speak about what they had survived, it made sense to sing about two very different generations desperately needing to talk and learn to listen to one another. But something deeper had gone wrong.

Deep down, most parents want to teach their children what they know, what they believe is right and wrong, how to live in this crazy world, and so on. More than anything, we Christians want to teach our children about our great God, the redemptive and saving work of the Son of God, and the life-changing operations of the Holy Spirit.

But many are so focused on the what (the content to be conveyed) that they rarely stop to consider the who or the how. But if we aren’t focused on these last two, we quickly find that even the “what” is no longer communicated. Two examples from history can serve as illustrations.

Forgotten Teachings

Marrow Ministries is named after the Marrow Controversy, from a book by a virtual unknown—Edward Fisher’s Marrow of Modern Divinity (1645, 49). Though originally obscure, the book became a deep source of contention 80 years later when Thomas Boston would reprint it and be accused of simultaneously teaching antinomianism and legalism. Right down to today, this theology is seen by those of us who agree with it to be extremely important. Nevertheless, “The Marrow Men and the Marrow Controversy quickly faded into the deep recesses of theological history except for some Presbyterians whose heritage lies in the [origins of the controversy].”[2] How could that happen?

A second example comes from the early church and is one I’m intimately familiar with because of my own writings on subjects not well understood today. The church fathers Theodoret and Chrysostom would call anyone who believes the following to be “mad fools” who “utter blasphemies and bring their own persons into jeopardy.” But what they did not understand as they wrote those words in the late fourth and early to middle fifth centuries was that every single church Father (that’s 100%, and we have nearly thirty examples)[3] until the mid-fourth century disagreed with them. The subject is the identification of the “sons of God” in Genesis 6, not as descendants of Shem, the interpretation that became dominant in the church thanks in large measure to the Rabbis making the other view “heresy,” but as heavenly or angelic entities that took our women which produced giant-nephilim—ancient heroes who subjugated and terrorized the ancient world. How could such a universal view, known literally to everyone, become the opposite, to the point of slander and pronouncing heresies in just over a handful of decades?[4]

Your Children’s Children

In perhaps the most important passage to a Jew in the entire Torah, the Shema begins by providing the content (the “what”) that we Christians are also to teach: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). But right after this, we are told that such a thing must “be on your heart” (6), that is, it must be internalized, part of who you are as a person.

We are teaching our children to teach their children to teach their children to love the Lord their God. Share on X

Immediately following this, we receive instructions on who this head and heart knowledge must be transferred to: “You shall teach them diligently to your children” (7-9). As this is followed by instructions on the how it would appear to be a close parallel to “Teach your children well.”

What is not often considered, however, is that just two chapters earlier, we are told, “Make them known to your children and your children’s children” (Deuteronomy 4:9). God does not merely care about our children, but our succeeding generations. Indeed, God loves to bless covenant families “to thousands of those who love me” (Exodus 20:6). The context contrasts this to a mere “third and fourth generation of those who hate me” (5). Hence, “The steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children” (Psalm 103:17). Suddenly, our “who” is reoriented. Our thoughts as parents must not only be on our own children and teaching them but on our children’s children.

Teach Your Children to Teach Their Children to Teach Their Children Well

I suggest, however, that if our focus is purely on content, even to grandchildren, we have lost sight of the point. Remember, it is not just conveying the Shema to our children, but ourselves having this written on our own hearts. If it is the case that we truly love God, then it is not just “teaching well” that we care about, nor merely that our immediate children learn about God. Our vision will be fixed generations down the line on our children’s children’s children’s children on an ongoing, prearranged transmission of the Faith. For we want them all to come to know the Lord Jesus.

But how can this happen? If you just teach your children, the focus is really on the what—the content. If you teach your children to teach their children, the who comes more sharply into focus. It isn’t just them, but those who come after them. But what if we taught them to teach their children to teach their children? Suddenly, the how comes into view. This isn’t just about content or even people as a means to an end. It is about God as the end. We are teaching our children to teach their children to teach their children to love the Lord their God. What. Who. How.

This is a long-term strategy rooted in personal faith for the salvation of our generational lines. Together, the what, who, and how convey totality. This is how generations learn not to forget what came before. This is how we get the generations to talk and listen to one another.

May God use long-term gospel strategies in our families to plant, water, and spring up well-nourished, healthy branches in the Vine of Christ for generations to come.

[1] Crosby, Still, and Nash. “Teach Your Children.” Déjà Vu. Atlantic (1969).

[2] Kenneth J. McMullen, “The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance – Whey the Marrow Controversy Still Matters. A Review of Sinclair Ferguson’s The Whole Christ,” Reformed Faith and Practice 1.2 (Sept 2016): 103-07.

[3] This includes every Jew prior to the destruction of the temple (we have nearly twenty examples of them). See Jacob J. T. “Jaap” Doedens. “The Sons of God in Genesis 6:1-4.” Ph.D. Dissertation Theologische Univer- siteit Kampen (2013). I have provided them in a convenient list in my new Giants: Sons of the Gods Revised and Expanded Tenth Anniversary Edition (Dacono, CO: Waters of Creation Publishing, 2023), Appendix 6: Genesis 6:1-4 in Early Jewish and Christian Tradition.

[4] See Doedens, “The Indecent Descent of the Sethites: The Provenance of the Sethites-Interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4,” Sárospataki Füzetek (2012): 47-57.

Find Content by Category

Tweet What You Like

Find Content by Month

Top Tags

related resources