The book of Ecclesiastes ends with a straightforward directive,
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
This statement presupposes that God’s law-word is the rule for all areas of life and thought, and calls us to obedience to it as a duty. Anyone who takes this admonition seriously will naturally need and want to know, how do we go from being hearers of the Word to being doers of the Word?
Rushdoony in his second volume of Institutes of Biblical Law states,
[O]bedience to the law of God is the alpha and omega of faith. Christians were not called into being by Christ’s regenerating power in order to be impotent but to be world conquerors … It is because Christ is the omnipotent King that He gives His sovereign order that we are to occupy and possess all nations in His name, “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). We cannot properly teach the observance of what we ourselves have not obeyed.1
Acquiring the Language of Law
The early years of parenting involve lots of “hands on” interaction, with the mother mostly responsible for teaching her child many things, including the native tongue. In fact, most children have no difficulty in learning the different kinds of sentences in grammar—declarative (Mommy loves you.); interrogative (Does that feel good?); imperative (Don’t cry.); and exclamatory (What a good boy!)—because they have “experienced” language from day one. The acquisition of language is a natural development with practical application preceding theoretical understanding. Similarly, children self-consciously taught by their parents from a Biblical framework and perspective grow up guided by the Word of God long before they may be in a position to read it for themselves or fully understand it.
The law-word of God should be the staple by which the family gets its spiritual nourishment and bearings. Reasons for obedience and adherence to family rules must be placed within the context of God’s authority; otherwise, parental preference may all too easily overshadow God’s commandments. When a child’s challenge gets the response, “Because I said so,” without the preceding context that all people everywhere are under God’s authority and that all subsequent authority is delegated by God, the conclusion can easily be reached that “might makes right,” “stature makes right,” or “financial advantage makes right.”
Rushdoony stresses the importance of the law function of the family:
Historically and Biblically, the family is the central institution in law and in society. Although we do not think of the family normally as a lawmaking body, the family is nonetheless the basic lawmaking body in all history. Every point of power and authority is also a point of law, and, historically, family law has been the basic law of mankind. In any society or institution, there are basic rules of conduct, and these rules of conduct constitute its law structure. The family is man’s basic lawmaking body because of a variety of reasons, but certainly one of the first of these is the fact that it is the first place man, as a child, encounters law, rules of conduct, and his idea of law is shaped and defined to a great degree by the family. Life is seen through a law structure which the family gives to the child, and this law structure defines life for the child. But this is not all. The child’s attitude towards every other institution and its laws is largely shaped by the family. How the child approaches and reacts to church, school, state, and society depends greatly on his source of law, parental authority. He can face other lawmaking bodies rebelliously, or he can face them obediently. His attitude can be constructive, destructive, or indifferent, depending on his family background to a large degree. Every parent daily is a lawmaking person, a focal point of law enforcement, and the delinquency of parents in this respect is their delinquency before God, their Lord and sovereign.2
How to Use the Tools of the Trade
It is not enough, however, to teach the law devoid of practical application to every day life. Those who teach need to be well versed in how to use God’s Word in a proper and orthodox fashion, demonstrating that a course of action is in line with Biblical law or not. This presupposes that
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16–17, NASB
Let me illustrate. My husband is not a repairman, and has for most of our married life paid others to handle the repairs and upkeep around our home. However, lately he has ventured into various home improvement tasks. These projects often involve sorties to the hardware store. Long ago, he abandoned the practice of going to the home improvement superstores because he became all too easily overwhelmed with choices without anyone to help him sort through the maze of product selections. His store of choice has become a local hardware store that seems to have a place in its heart for guys like him, those whose spirits are willing, but whose flesh is very inexperienced. My husband says, “I need much more than the helpful rejoinder, ‘You can find the gopher repellents on aisle six.’ I need someone to explain to me how the various products on the shelf will deal with the annoying gopher that is tearing up our backyard. I’m happy when I find someone who will be honest and admit, ‘This one will amuse the gopher; this one will send him to another yard; and this one will be his last meal!’” With that information, my husband can decide which product he will purchase and he has a better understanding of the likelihood of success.
Our culture has no shortage of Bibles or those who know the location of various Scripture verses. However, there are a very limited number of people who are willing and able to expound the law-word of God in very practical terms, with experience and expertise to help the floundering “shoppers” in the aisles of life. Parents, especially, should not miss the opportunities to use the mundane, everyday circumstances of life as springboards to active application of God’s law-word in their children. Our most basic activity as believers—seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness—involves becoming “experts” in the law-word of God able to apply it in the smallest details of our lives, and serving as a guide for those we encounter.
The book of James is a practical “how to manual,” teaching us the way to take dominion in Jesus’ name. He calls us to move from theoretical understanding into hands-on application when he says,
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
James gives us an unusual illustration, a mirror. Those who are hearers only, and not doers of the word of God, are like a man who looks into a mirror to see if he is pleased with himself. Having done this, and having satisfied himself that his hair is properly combed, his clothing in place, and his general appearance pleasing, he moves on. He is not mindful of “what manner of man he is.” However, the man who makes God’s law-word his mirror tries to conform himself to the image God requires of him. God’s law is “the perfect law of liberty” (v. 25), and it impels man to be “a doer of the word.” Such a man is blessed in his deed or doing.3
As we disciple our children or others with whom we come into contact, our utmost priority should be to communicate the gospel message that only through Christ’s atoning blood can the people of God, through the Holy Spirit, move from death to life, from being arrogant towards God and chronically disobedient to fearing God and keeping His commandments. Rushdoony explains,
Covenant man alone sees the revelation of God’s law-word as his means to problem solving. It is a revelation which simplifies his life because it gives it meaning and declares …
“Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest.
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. (Joshua 1:7–8).”4
Rushdoony reminds the covenant people that the law-word of God as given to Moses,
… declares not only that God’s law belongs to us as the key which opens up the world to us as our area of dominion, but that we are required to “do all the words of this law” because God so declares it. The law of God is man’s only true means to dominion and prosperity, but, whatever the results, it our duty to obey God.5
The Future Belongs to the Faithful
There is another aspect of family learning and that is its influence on future generations. For example, in our time, we see the continual growth of the Christian education movement. Parents who were raised in government schools or without a self-conscious Biblical worldview have come to a clearer understanding of God’s requirements to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. As a result, their children are receiving a systematic Christian education. As this trend continues, and each generation insists on an orthodox Christian education for their children, the landscape for Christian reconstruction gets brighter and brighter.
Likewise, there is resurgence in the pursuit of the Biblical trustee family,6 and we see Christians abandoning the humanistic model of superficial, emotional relationships as the basis for marriage. A new generation is pursuing relationships with Biblical standards and guidelines for the selection of a spouse. It is encouraging to note just how many young people, having been steeped in the Institutes of Biblical Law, are better equipped to find godly spouses committed to building godly families who are Kingdom oriented.
As present and future generations become more grounded in the Biblical teaching regarding Creation, there will be an impact on their understanding of birth control and other choices surrounding life and death, issues concerning scientific research, even gardening, agriculture, etc. Even in terms of politics, Christian children of the future who know and understand God’s laws more fully than their parents will require more of political candidates than that they are members of a particular party or give lip service to conservative-family values.
As we continue in faithfulness, future generations can become godlier than we are and further the Kingdom with a fullness we can only imagine. To prepare for this glorious future requires individual study and application as we remember that we live before the face of God. We need always to be conscious of that and wonder how to please Him with every breath we take. It often comes down to testimonies like Job’s (“Though he slay me yet will I serve him.”) and the three Hebrew children (“Our God is able to save us but if He doesn’t we will not bow down to your statue.”). This is the rubber meeting the road, moment by moment. It must be accomplished in us as individuals and then as Christian families growing together in faith.
Rushdoony states it well,
The regenerated consciousness submits itself to the word of God and tests all things in terms of the moral verdict of Scripture …
The Kingdom of God is man’s highest good. “By the term kingdom of God we mean the realized program of God for man.” … Man must become spontaneous in his reaction to God’s purpose, and self-determined in his obedience to God’s determination or plan for man …
This program of God, which is man’s highest good, includes not only the saving of individual souls but also the subjection of all things to Christ and His absolute and comprehensive ethical standard of perfection, while realizing that this perfection is only attained with His second coming. This requirement to realize God’s plan involves the redemption of men, the conquest of all institutions, and all spheres of life, the destruction of evil, and at all times to live in terms of a lively hope of Christ and His triumph …
Grace was given to man to re-establish him in obedience to God’s law, which is the ordained way whereby man’s highest good can be realized.7
It is within our reach to be the salt and light we are commanded to be, if we utilize the weapons of our warfare and give hands-on instruction to others we encounter. This is the mission Chalcedon has labored at since its inception, and one that is life-changing in its application, when we think God’s thoughts after Him.
Some Practical Examples
Another important aspect of becoming doers of the word is to share our knowledge and testimony with those around us. Just like the helpful store clerks who guide my husband to the correct aisle and offer the practical assistance to help him solve home improvement problems, Christians versed in knowing and applying God’s law to all aspects of life further the Kingdom of God by using the “hardware” we’ve been given to improve the spiritual condition of those we encounter.
We deal in community/communion with each other, sharing where and how we have learned and helping others in their walk. This means teaching what we know (and our knowledge should increase over time) and applying it to those around us. I have had the privilege of being used by God in the lives of friends. Here are a few examples of how I have applied the Word of God in their situations.
A casual acquaintance of mine once in conversation told me that she and her husband had decided not to have any children. She listed her very rational reasons (age, the condition of the world, and a lack of desire) and I listened. Rather than give a polite nod, indicating that I understood, I challenged her and stated without explanation or apology that children were a blessing from the Lord. I let her know that she would be missing one of the true joys and delights of life by failing to have children if she and her husband were able.
Years later, in conversation with another woman she had introduced me to, she explained that after hearing what I said and noting the conviction with which I said it, had caused her to examine her thinking and, thanks to me, she and her husband changed their minds and had two children. Quite honestly, the conversation had slipped my mind, but she remembered it vividly. What’s more, because of my lifestyle example and encouragement she actively homeschools those children.
Another personal example involves an evening I spent with a friend who had been married to an unbeliever for years, having been converted shortly after their wedding. She faithfully adhered to the Scriptural directive to remain married as long as her unbelieving spouse was willing, thereby sanctifying him and her children. There came a point when her husband became very mocking and antagonistic to the faith and left, followed by a divorce. Here was a woman who knew and had applied the Scriptures, but because of her ordeal was very negative about the subject of marriage in general. Her theoretical doctrine was in order, but she was extremely vocal about the fact that she was not a big fan of marriage and wanted no part of it.
Even though I fully understood the reasons behind her perspective, I could not allow her perspective to stand without being challenged. I reproved her (firmly but kindly), letting her know that when she bad-mouthed marriage, she was assaulting God’s basic institution of the family and that she was making it harder for her children to seriously contemplate entering into this most basic covenant. Furthermore, I reminded her that marriage was a picture of the relationship of Christ and His church and her attitude dishonored that.
Months later, she called to let me know how God had used my words to her. She told me that she considered what I had said and repented of her sin, for she realized that her perspective was indeed sinful. She embraced the forgiveness of Christ and within a week, through a series of church contacts, was introduced to the brother of a close friend, and this led to a godly, Christian marriage.8
The Conclusion of the Matter
There is no doubt that moving from being hearers of the Word to doers of the Word is not without its challenges. Rushdoony makes the observation that
The consequences of obeying God will commonly produce human conflicts, but they will also produce peace with God and peace in Him. To refuse conflicts with men in the name of peace is to choose conflict with God.9
True contentment comes only with active obedience to God’s law. Anything less is submission to evil. Jesus has a high regard for those who keep the commandments of God and teach others to do likewise:
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. Matt. 7:24–25
1. R. J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law,Vol. 2, Law and Society (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1982), 253.
2. R. J. Rushdoony, Law & Liberty (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1984), 78.
3. R. J. Rushdoony, Hebrew, James, Jude (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2001), 156.
4. R. J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law,Vol. 2, Law and Society (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1982), 409–410.
6. Andrea Schwartz, “The Biblical Trustee Family,” Faith for All of Life, Nov, 2007, http://www.chalcedon.edu/articles/article.php?ArticleID=2794
7. R. J. Rushdoony, Revolt Against Maturity (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1987), 242–224.
8. Obedience and repentance do not always lead to such an immediate happy result, but nonetheless bring God’s blessings on those who through faithful obedience seek His grace and mercy.
9. R. J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law,Vol. 2, Law and Society (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1982), 578.
- Andrea G. Schwartz
Andrea Schwartz is Chalcedon’s family and Christian education advocate, and the author of eight books including: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family, The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household, Empowered: Developing Strong Women for Kingdom Service, Woman of the House: A Mother’s Role in Building a Christian Culture, and The Homeschool Life: Discovering God’s Way to Family-Based Education. She’s also the co-host of the Out of the Question podcast, and Homeschooling Helps (weekly live Facebook event). She can be reached at [email protected].