How Superiors are to Encourage Inferiors to Seek the Kingdom of God
We are taking only one question today because as we get into the meat of the fifth commandment we need to define terms primarily because things sound different to us than they may have to the writers of the Larger Catechism. That’s an us problem rather than a they problem. As I noted last week we live in a day-and-age where egalitarianism is the water in which we swim. Even for so-called complementarian churches we often speak of roles and responsibilities in a way that is almost always with a tone of apologizing for the way the Bible makes distinctions in regards to who is in charge and who is not. This often comes up when we talk about whether or not men alone are to be ordained and installed in the offices of minister, elder, and deacon or if we are to allow Galatians 3:28 be the controlling verse for all of Scripture when it comes to this subject.
Without getting into the problems for how that idea damages how we read the word in general it is important that we not allow the spirit of the moment tell us that how our fathers and brothers in the faith were either misogynists or totalitarian in how they spoke about these matters. The first of the second table laws is incredibly central to the order not only of the church, but of the family and the state as well. Trouble always comes when people do not stay in their lane. We usually notice this in regards to Uzzah, Nadab and Abihu, Caiaphas, and Jezebel and others who were judged by God when they seized jobs and took on roles that were divinely given to others.
There is a great need of humility if the bodies of the church, the state, and the family are to run in mutually blessed ways. Paul’s wisdom in using a living being to describe why that is in 1 Corinthians 12 shows us that much thought and care is to be taken into account as we discuss these truths, that a machine could never react to or sympathize with.
It is to this last point that will take up most of our time today. Let’s get into the Q/A:
Q. 125. Why are superiors stiled Father and Mother?
A. Superiors are stiled Father and Mother, both to teach them in all duties toward their inferiors, like natural parents, to express love and tenderness to them, according to their several relations; and to work inferiors to a greater willingness and cheerfulness in performing their duties to their superiors, as to their parents.
The divines repeat the threefold divisions of life and culture because it is in family, state, and the church that the principles of the fifth commandment play themselves out. Superiors must in the performing of their duties remember that they are men under authority. Kings, Ministers, and Fathers all must give an account to the Lord for how they served their nations, congregations, and homes (Heb. 13:17). They are each in their own way only to receive instruction on how to go about that from the word of God (Isaiah 33:22, James 4:12, Eph. 6:1-2, 2 Tim. 3:16, etc…). Yet, as we read in the answer that application must be done in gentleness, with care and concern, so that when it comes to citizens, members, and wives/children there is joy in seeing that the commands of the Superior are carried out. This is central to all obedience that God commands throughout the Bible. Adoration of the beauty of man is as much a part of thou shalt not kill as it is keeping people lawfully alive. It is a part of how we are reminded that as the Lord tells Micah, He desires mercy not sacrifice. The only way that is accomplished is by the Superior seeking first the glory of God, then the love of God, and finally that all those under their care are hoping for the same outcome both nor and forever more.
However, we know a few things that need said. We live in a world ate up with sin, that tries to break the restraints, and fights like the unbroken stallion against the trainer. On the later illustration anyone who has even been around a horse that is not interested in being ridden will tell you that you need to be at the same time firm in letting the horse know who is in charge, but also gentle in not causing the animal to fear you. There is a trust that needs built up and reaffirmed at times. The same is true when it comes to the reasons why this catechism question is so central to any hope of reconnecting responsibility with role, whether that person be a Superior or an Inferior (and as we noted last week, everyone is not always one or the other).
A negative example where this goes horribly wrong is in what we see out of the first days of the rule of Rehoboam in 1 Kings 12. There, as you know, the story goes that the son of Solomon can either show mercy, or double down in fear. The result is that of civil war in the kingdom. On the other side of the ledger, you have the example of Ahab, who was so afraid of his wife Jezebel that he let her usurp his kingship and cause great wickedness in the kingdom to the point where God brought incredible judgment down upon the land. If Ahab was a godly king and a godly husband and loved her with the love Christ loves the church then we would have seen him correct the wife of his youth because he cared not only for good order, but for her eternal soul.
In closing, often when we speak of the disciplinary aspects of leadership, especially in 2023, any sort of corrective action is seen as bad, as retrograde thinking. However, at the end of the day what is a more loving act when training up an inferior in the way they should go? When I was in the Marines and we were going through a night infiltration course in infantry training they used to shoot tracer rounds over our prone, crawling bodies as a reminder that not keeping our tushy down would result in very bad things. A Superior who refuses to properly teach those who are given to them by God as their inferiors the truth of reality is only consigning them to both temporal and eternal judgments. It is not a game being played.
A last word:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church