"Family Religion"

First Timothy 5.8


1. My message is adapted from a sermon first preached by Samuel Davies. Turn in your Bible to First Timothy 5.8. When you find that verse, please stand with me for the reading of God's Word: "But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."

2. My friend, an infidel is someone who is an unbeliever, someone who is lost, someone who is not a Christian. And Paul has clearly stated that if you do not provide for your own, especially for those of your own house, for your own children, you have denied the faith and you are worse than an infidel, you are worse than an unbeliever, you are worse than someone who is lost.

3. You men who have families, and you women who are heads of households, do you think you have discharged your duties and responsibilities toward your families because you feed them and clothe them and put a roof over their heads? That might be sufficient if your wife and kids are livestock, if they are barn yard animals. But your wife and kids (or your children, you single moms) are immortal beings, who are only passing through time on their way to eternity, and who have eternal souls. 

4. That being so, is it enough that you provide for their minds and bodies? Think about this, my friend: Is there not more reason for you to look after their immortal souls as for their physical and emotional well-being? Should you not be as concerned about their comfort in eternity as you are about their comfort in time?

5. Is not your obligation to "family religion" as much more important as a person's immortal soul is more important than his physical body, and as the concerns of eternity exceed the concerns of this world? If, then, they have denied the faith, they who do not provide for their children and family members the means to live in this life, and they are worse than infidels, what about you who neglect their souls, and who make no real and intelligent effort to see your kids prepared for eternity?

6. Surely, such a person must be worse than one who is worse than an infidel. And how extremely bad then must such a mom or dad be. That father who has abandoned the wife of his youth and who does not take care of his children is worse than an infidel. Amen? How much worse, then, do you who fail to address your family's spiritual needs more than deny the faith, however confidently you may now profess to be a Christian?

7. You see that, though our text does not immediately refer to what I label as "family religion," it does very readily apply to "family religion," and it is my intention to so apply it this morning. And I will explain what "family religion" is in due time.

8. Some families in our Church take very seriously the resolution of Joshua: "As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD," Joshua 24.15. With a wicked and gainsaying world around you, there are the sounds of prayer and rejoicing in your homes, not the sounds of MTV and rap music. I congratulate you.

9. But there are others who do not take seriously the need for family religion. It seems as though some of you operate on the assumption that your children are morally neutral, and that they should be allowed to choose their own way in life, ignoring the fact that they are sinful wanderers who are in desperate need of a strong hand and steady spiritual guidance.

10. The terrible fact of the matter is that some here today have been warned, exhorted, and persuaded to tend to the spiritual needs of your households, but you still live in the wilful and habitual neglect of your children. So, while it is possible for those who are untaught and new to the faith to find yourselves ignoring the duties of family religion, because you've not known better, for those who have been properly taught, for those who are experienced to ignore family religion, reveals to me such an indifference toward your family's spiritual needs that it's doubtful whether anything will move you on this matter. 

11. You see, when someone has deeply ingrained habits of sin against the light of truth, it's hard to effectively deal with them. All I can do is try to convince you, persuade you, exhort you, invite you, threaten you. But some of you are so used to resisting the preacher and preaching that you find it very easy to continue in your resistance when it comes to such matters as family religion and concern for your children's spiritual welfare.

12. I'll be honest with you , this morning. I'm discouraged about this matter and I doubt that I'll succeed with this message, since many of you dads and heads of household have such a personal history of obstinately fighting against the Holy Spirit's conviction. My heart this morning is so very heavy, since I am quite sure that, unless God miraculously intervenes, what I say to you in the next few minutes will not cause you to do right, and the additional light of truth you may receive will only leave you with less excuse, will certainly increase your guilt and, consequently, your punishment. This is always a risk when preaching to those who disregard the Gospel.

13. But perhaps there is one here today who has not yet been cursed with a horrid victory over your conscience, and you will immediately begin the practice of family religion as I describe it. I have no real expectation of success today, but I am still obliged to make the attempt.

14. Nothing excites a preacher more than the prospect of success, though I am called to preach even during seasons of drought. I'm charged with declaring the whole counsel of God whether anyone listens or not. I shall, therefore, do my best today to bring you to Joshua's resolution. My goal is to lead you and your houses to serve the LORD. And if you choose to ignore my words, fine. You can then prepare yourself to stand before God someday, because you are despising not man, but God.

15. I'd not have you perform anything as a duty till you have sufficient means to convince you that it is a duty. So, after I briefly mention the various parts of what I call family religion, I shall prove it to be a duty, then I will show you how to perform it, describe for you adults your obligations and what authority you are invested with, and lastly, I shall answer the usual objections made against this important duty.

16. As to the parts of family religion, which you could also call family worship; they are preaching, prayer, praise, and instruction. Your family needs blessings from God. Therefore, prayers should be offered up for them. And when they receive blessings thanks should be given for those blessings. And there is no better way to thank God than to sing psalms and hymns of praise. As well, our families need instruction about the great themes of the Bible. Therefore, you should teach them. And it pleases God to save sinners by preaching, so faithful Church attendance is the most critical of these various activities.

17. But time passes, so let me get to the main points of my message. 


1B. Proven, First, From Logic

1C. First, you are obligated, as a family, to worship God because of Who He is. Is it not reasonable to pay respect to the most excellent of all beings, to show devotion to the One Who displays in Himself every perfection? After all, "He is exalted above all our blessing and praise," Nehemiah 9.5. That is, God deserves more blessing and praise than we can ever hope to give Him. So, it is logical to worship and serve God for no other reason than He deserves it. Since you are capable of worshipping Him as a family, therefore you should worship Him as a family. If you do not teach and train your children to give God such worship, then you are teaching and training them to be ungrateful, to not do what is proper and right, to not give that which is deserved and which is owed. And when you are old, what they have done to God they will do to you, as we are beginning to see in our convalescent hospitals in both the United States and Europe already. Don't think they will honor you after not having honored God.

2C. Second, you are obligated to worship God, as a family, because that's one of the main reasons God brought families into existence. God did create Adam and Eve to be sexually different, did He not? And are not men and women complimentary, needing to come together as a family to be fulfilled? So then, do you actually believe that God would bring into existence the makings of a family unit, comprised of beings with eternal souls, and not place upon them the duty to prepare for eternity? How are Christians to be expected to reach the lost with the Gospel if they can't reach their own children? And can you have any expectation of reaching your children if you neglect family religion? Can a godly seed be raised in so corrupt a soil? Therefore if you omit this duty your family violates a main reason for its existence and virtually guarantees that your children will not come to Christ. 

3C. Third, it is your duty to practice family religion because it is beneficial for your children, and to neglect something that is beneficial and vital for your family is wicked. How can you expect that your children will become worshippers of God if they have been educated in the neglect of family religion? Are the kids of non-Church attending parents likely to go to Church as adults? Can prayerless parents expect to have praying children? If you neglect to get them under preaching, can you expect they will somehow get saved? Their immortal souls are entrusted to your care. Can you faithfully discharge your trust while you neglect to maintain your religion in your family? Will you not be an accessory to their damnation if you neglect family religion? What a dreadful separation from your children you will experience on judgment day. Therefore, if you love your children, I urge you to begin and to continue the worship of God in your family and as a family from this day till the day you die.

4C. Fourth, it is your duty to practice family religion because it is your greatest privilege to worship and serve God. What a stupendous honor God has bestowed on us that we can come together and worship in Church and hear the Gospel preached, and then go home and convert our house into the temple of He Whom the heavens and the heaven of heavens cannot contain. To ask of, and receive from, and thank God. To lead your family to a devotion of Him while others live estranged from God their whole lives. And, since God condescends to allow you this privilege, will you wickedly deny it to your children? 

2B. The Duty Of Family Religion Is Now Proven From Scripture

1C. First, this duty is proven from the examples of the saints of old. Listen to Genesis 17.18. God said to His angel, "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; for I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD." Isaac and Jacob followed Abraham's same practice, building altars, which were then necessary for worshipping God, wherever they pitched their tents. Job was so intent upon family devotion that he rose up early each morning to offer burnt-offerings, Job 1.5. Then there is Daniel, godly Daniel, who worshipped God as he always did, despite the royal edict prohibiting him. In the New Testament we repeatedly find our Lord Jesus in prayer with the apostles. Then there was Paul, Aquila and Priscilla, Cornelius, all diligent in pursuing family religion. 

2C. Keeping in mind the importance of the preaching of God's Word in New Testament Christianity, First Corinthians 1.21, let us be mindful of a number of other things in Scripture: First, husbands are to dwell with their wives according to knowledge, that their prayers be not hindered, First Peter 3.7. This certainly implies husbands and wives should pray together. Next, Psalm 34.11 clearly shows parents' duty toward their children: "Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD." Third, are we to presume that the Spirit-filled songs and hymns and spiritual songs of Ephesians 5.18, and following, are not to be on display in the homes of the spiritual? I close with Deuteronomy 6.5-7, describing normative parental duty toward children for the last 3600 years of God's dealings with His people: "And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."

3C. So you see, family religion is well established in Scripture. Church attendance, praying, praising God, and instruction in the home, is the duty of every father and every mother.


1B. Family religion, which is to say, family worship when the family is not in Church, should be performed every day. The sacrifices under the Law were offered daily, morning and evening. "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense (offered in the morning) and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice," Psalm 141.2. The Psalmist's devotion was so extraordinary that he resolved, "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray and cry aloud," Psalm 92.1-2.

2B. Reason demands that morning and evening are the proper seasons for some type of family worship. Would you send your family out into the world each day without committing them to God's care each morning? Can you take on the day without asking for God's blessings? And how can you sleep without committing yourselves and yours to God's protection and thanking Him for the mercies of the day?

3B. Now, I would not expect that the same attention can be given to both morning and evening times with the family before God, but I would suggest that the day begin and the evening end with some type of family religion, with a time of prayer, and with instruction and praise one of those times. In our house Sarah is assigned to pick the song we sing, Pam is assigned to note the specific blessing to thank God for, and I lead in instruction and prayer. Consider something like this at your house.


1B. Someone has to lead while others follow. It is the responsibility of the head of the home to rule and direct. Therefore, dad, and perhaps single mom, there is no more qualified person present to lead in family religion than the head of the house. If a kind and gentle approach gets the job done, that's fine. But if you must bring to bear parental authority to bring your family together for a worship time, then compulsive measures may be needed to make sure everyone is in attendance. 

2B. A person's conscience is subject to God only, and no man ought to compel another to do anything as a duty that is against his conscience. But that's not the case here. Your kids or spouse may offer many excuses for not joining in family worship, but they will hardly plead that it is against their conscience. They are unlikely to say that they think it's a sin against God. So, you may need to use your authority, and perhaps a well chosen word to touch their hearts. But in any case, family religion time, family devotions, family worship (whatever you want to call it) should be as mandatory for those living under your roof as attendance at Church is. And who would allow children to live in their homes who do not attend Church? 

3B. That you are authorized and obliged to take steps to get your family to Church and to gather them at home in this way as a family is evident from two things: First, God's commendation of Abraham for commanding his children. Second, from Joshua's resolution that not only he, but also his house, would serve the LORD. That resolution, by the way, he could not perform unless he had the authority to compel them, at least externally, to serve the LORD, Joshua 24.15.


It would be more honest if people would just admit that they don't want to do right, and that this is the real cause for neglecting family religion, rather than conjure up objections they have against it. But since folks will invent objections to excuse themselves, I must answer them.

1B. Objection One. "I have no time, and my job will suffer if I attend Church every service and have family devotions."

1C. If you were made for this world only there would be some force in this objection. But how strange such an objection sounds coming from someone headed for eternity. What do you think your time is given to you for, but to prepare for eternity? And you have no time for the most important business of your life?

2C. Why don't you plead, as well, that you have no time for meals? Is food more necessary for your bodies than spiritual nourishment is for your soul? If you think so, what's happened to your sense of perspective and proportion?

3C. Besides, what do you do for a living? Is it legal or illegal? If what you do is illegal, then you need to stop immediately. And if it's legal, family religion won't hurt any job you should consider keeping. God doesn't contradict Himself, and since He wants family religion it's clear that He doesn't want you working a job that interferes with family religion. 

4C. Finally, can't you set aside enough of the time that you normally waste to have family religion? Surely your time is not so valuable that you don't receive greater personal benefit, and your family is benefited, by attendance at Church and family devotions on other days.

2B. Objection Two. "I have no ability to pray; I'm too ignorant."

1C. If you really understood your profound needs you would have no such objections. Ever hear of a beggar who was too shy to beg for food? Someone once said, "The beggar's sense of his necessities is an unfailing fountain of his eloquence."

2C. Besides, what have you been doing? How does neglecting prayer improve your knowledge of prayer? Want to learn to pray? Pray. And read what the Bible says about prayer, and then pray.

3B. Objection Three. "I'm embarrassed."

Is this a well grounded embarrassment? Is it really a shame to worship the God of heaven? Sinners have no shame about serving their bosses? A little practice will easily rid you of all your embarrassment.

4B. Objection Four. "I don't know how to start family religion."

1C. Now, we are getting down to it. The first thing you do to start family religion is attend each and every Church service. I say this because there is nothing more important for you or your family than to sit under strong Bible preaching. Nothing. Gospel preaching is the primary means of obtaining God's saving and keeping grace.

2C. Then, once you are doing that come and talk to me and I can tell you in five minutes what to do that will get you started and keep you going in family religion for the rest of your life. But if you do not attend Church Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday don't come and see me. I will not show you how to do what's second best until you are willing to do what's first best.

5B. Objection Five. "But my family will not join with me."

1C. How do you know? Have you tried? Are you not master of your own family? Exert the same authority in this area that you exert in other areas.

2C. And if you must go it alone, if your wife is stubborn against you, do it without her and pray that God brings her along to follow your lead in spiritual matters. If you are a single mom and your child is too old to force and won't submit to you in this matter, it's time for your child to leave the home.

6B. Objection Six. "I'll be ridiculed and laughed at."

1C. Are you then more afraid of a laugh or a jeer than the displeasure of God? Would you rather please men than God?

2C. Will you never do right until you can obtain the approval of the wicked? Then you will never do right.

3C. And think how you will bear the contempt of the whole universe on judgment day, not to mention your children, for your refusal to perform this duty in your home.

4C. Therefore, wherever you live, let God be worshipped with morning and evening prayers and praises.


1. I conclude with this final remark: Paul declared that those who fail to provide for their own are worse than infidels. Those who fail to feed and clothe and shelter their own are worse than the unsaved. And, surely, meeting spiritual needs is far more important than meeting material needs. 

2. We look with disgust on those parents who starve and neglect their kids, who let them run around in rags, and who fail to bathe and tend to them.

3. How then must God look upon moms and dads who neglect the spiritual needs of their children by letting them sleep in on Sunday mornings and missing Sunday School and Church, by working jobs that prevent getting them to Church?

4. To be sure, parents must tend to prayer and praise and instruction in the things of God at home. But what valid excuse can be used by anyone for not getting your children into the Church house to sit under Gospel preaching?

5. If you do not provide for your own children you deny the faith. If you do not provide for your children you are worse than an infidel. Get your kids to every service, and then come and see me and I will show you how to have family devotions.

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