To the Parents of My Grandchildren

G. C. Willis.

The New Testament

Zacharias and Elisabeth
The Home at Nazareth
"Suffer the little children"
Only Begotten Children
1) The Widow of Nain
2) Jairus
3) The Son with an Evil Spirit
Zebedee's children
Mary, the Mother of John
whose Surname was Mark

A Series of Households
  1) Cornelius
  2) Lydia
  3) The Philippian Jailor
  4) Crispus
  5) Stephanas
  6) The House of Onesiphorus
  7) Caesar's Household
  8) The Household of Narcissus
  9) The Households of Aristobulus and Chloe
10) The Elect Lady and Her Children
11) Archippus
12) Timothy

Zacharias and Elisabeth

The first parents to consider in the New Testament are Zacharias and Elisabeth. The Divine record of them runs thus: "There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years." (Luke 1:5-7).

Zacharias and Elisabeth lived in the hill country of Juda; but the lot came for Zacharias to burn incense in the temple at Jerusalem, while all the people waited outside. While burning the incense, the angel Gabriel appeared to him, saying: "Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias .... to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:13-17).

Zacharias had evidently recognized it was an angel that spoke to him, for he was troubled and fear fell upon him. And yet, he did not believe what the angel told him. "Whereby shall I know this?" he asked the angel. But this is the heart of man: this is the heart of even such an honoured man as Zacharias, and one with such a remarkable record: "righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." And yet he was not willing to take Gabriel at his word! Are we any better? Are we always ready to take One greater than Gabriel at His word? Alas, most of us must say: "O Zacharias, how shall I condemn thee? Thy condemnation, it were but mine own." Only we are worse, because it is the word of the Lord God Himself, which we so often hesitate to take just as it stands, without a question.

And yet Zacharias did have faith. He could not have been "righteous before God" had he not had faith: for "that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, 'The just shall live by faith.'" (Gal. 3:11). Also, it is evident that Zacharias had been praying, asking the Lord for a son: for the angel said: "Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard." It must have been faith that caused Zacharias to pray; and it must have been a prayer of some faith for it was heard. I think Zacharias is very much like a lot of us who are really Christians. We do have some faith; and yet, when it comes to the daily things of this life: bringing up the children, the daily cares and needs, how often we are tempted to question our Lord!

I think perhaps the great lesson for us parents in this lovely story is just this: "Have faith in God." If it was such a grievous thing to question the word of an angel, that it left Zacharias dumb for so long, what must it be to our Lord's loving heart, that you and I are so slow to "take Him at His word"? Even we human beings love to be trusted, and an angel expects to be trusted. Shall we, then, doubt Him who is far above angels; doubt Him, when we know it is impossible for Him to lie? But mark the grace of God. Zacharias' unbelief costs him the use of his speech for many months: but he does not forfeit the little son for whom he had been praying, and that little son grew up to be such a man that of him his Lord (and ours) said: "Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist." (Matt. 11:11; Luke 7:28). And so, it seems to me, the story of John the Baptist and his parents is full of encouragement for us parents; even though it does carry with it a rebuke for most of us. May we humbly accept both, and be more ready to believe our Lord's words: "which shall be fulfilled in their season."

But I think there is another sweet lesson for us in this story. The 4th verse more literally reads: "He shall be to thee joy and gladness." (See New Translation). I am sure the Lord would have each of our children to be "joy and gladness" to us. He tells us in Psalm 127, "Children are the heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward." So I have not a doubt He would have each one "joy and gladness" to us. I know that very often it is not so: but is it not usually, perhaps always, we who are most to blame?

The Home at Nazareth

We can hardly help but be struck at the few families whose histories we trace in the New Testament. But the One that comes before our view now, stands alone. Never, before or since, has there been such a Child as the little One who was born in that stable in Bethlehem, because there was no room for Him in the inn.


O ever homeless Stranger,
Thus, dearest friend to me:
An outcast in the manger
That Thou might'st with us be.

How rightly rose the praises
Of heaven, that wondrous night,
When shepherds veiled their faces
In brightest angel-light:

Come now and view that manger:
The Lord of Glory see,
A houseless, homeless Stranger
In this poor world for thee.

'To God in the highest — glory —
And peace on earth,' to find
And learn that wondrous story —
'Good pleasure in mankind.'

Bless'd Babe who lowly liest
In manger-cradle there;
Descended from the Highest,
Our sorrows all to share.

We cling to Thee in weakness,
The manger, and the cross —
We gaze upon Thy meekness
Through suffering pain and loss

There see the Godhead glory
Shine through that human veil,
And willing hear the story
Of love that's come to heal.

My soul in secret follows
The footsteps of His love —
I trace the Man of Sorrows
His boundless grace to prove.

A child in growth and stature
Yet full of wisdom rare:
Sonship in conscious nature —
His words and ways declare.

Yet still, in meek submission,
His patient path He trod;
To wait His heav'nly mission,
Unknown to all but God.
(J. N. Darby.)

 

We fain would linger in that dear home at Nazareth: but the wisdom of God has, for the most part, drawn a veil over those childhood years. We do get that lovely glimpse of Him when He was twelve years old: and we hear Him say to His mother: "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?" (Luke 2:49). The literal meaning is, "Wist ye not that I must be in the things of My Father?" His Father's 'things' were the very atmosphere in which He lived. Yet, see Him, the Lord of Glory, return with His parents to that humble home; and there He "was subject to them."

In that carpenter's home at Nazareth our Lord was 'brought up'. It is almost exactly the same word which the Spirit uses of us, with our children, in Ephesians 6:4 (Trepho and Ek-trepho). "Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." However, of this we may speak later. But let us who are parents gaze for a moment on that 'bringing-up.' Never had there been such a child: never was He disobedient; never cross; never sulky; never rude; never self-willed; never untruthful. How very different to us, when we were children! How very different to the children we seek by His grace to bring up now! He had four brothers: James and Joses, and Juda and Simon, besides "His sisters." (Mark 6:3). In this verse He is called "the carpenter", and doubtless as a boy and a young man, He worked at Joseph's trade in the carpenter shop. Perhaps at this time Joseph was dead, as here our Lord is spoken of as "the son of Mary," and no mention is made of Joseph.

We know that for some time after He entered His public ministry His brethren did not believe on Him; and it is more than probable that the envy of Joseph's brothers (in that lovely story in Genesis), so different to their brother Joseph, was but a picture of the envy of these unbelieving brothers in Nazareth. This would make life hard for the Child; but how sweet to see that the one next in age, and perhaps nearest to Him, "James, the Lord's brother" (Gal. 1:19), was quickly won to be His loyal and faithful follower. Nor was James the only one of those four who were won by Him; for in 1 Cor. 9:5, we see "the brethren of the Lord" linked with Cephas. And we may well believe, (as we might expect), that each one of that family at Nazareth became earnest, true and devoted followers of their, and our, Lord Jesus Christ.

When we turn to the Epistle of James, written almost surely by our Lord's brother, we read in the first verse: "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ." It is most refreshing to see James link the Lord Jesus Christ with God in this way, showing his absolute faith in the Deity of Christ: and it is lovely to see how whole-heartedly he confesses Him as Lord, and owns himself His "slave", for this is the meaning of the word translated "servant." A slave is one bought with a price, and James, the brother of our Lord, openly confesses this of himself in the first words of his letter.

Is it using our imagination too much to suppose that those years, when our Lord was being "brought up" in the same home as James His 'brother', were amongst the influences that won him for the One Who was His 'brother' yet his Lord? In the light of 1 Peter 3:1, we may suppose that this was the case. Peter is speaking of unbelieving husbands, and he says: "If any obey not the Word, they also may without the Word be won by the conversation of the wives." The word translated 'conversation' really means: 'manner of life; behaviour; conduct.' It is a favourite word with Peter. He uses it eight times in his two little Epistles, while we only find it five other times in the whole New Testament. So, the behaviour of the believing wife wins her unbelieving husband. James uses the same word in his Epistle. (James 3:13) I wonder if he was thinking of 'the manner of life', 'the behaviour', 'the conduct' of Him Whom he had watched so closely throughout childhood, boyhood, and manhood, as he wrote those words? His mother kept all these sayings in her heart, and I doubt not His sayings and His manner of life had entered deeply into the heart of James also.

"Suffer the little children"

I cannot pass by the mothers who brought their "little children" to our Lord, that He might put his hands on them and pray. We find the story told three times: Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17. Luke, the doctor, tells us that they were "new-born babes" (Brephos). Mark, who so often records minute details of our Lord's look, or tone, or act, tells us that "He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them." Here the Spirit of God uses a very strong word for bless, reserved for these little children alone, and used in no other place in the New Testament. It might be translated, He "fervently blessed them." And when the disciples rebuked these mothers, Mark tells us also, that the Lord was "much displeased." Again the Spirit uses a very strong word, that has the meaning of being "grieved, indignant, and angry." You remember how He said: "Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and hinder them not." (New Translation). We read in the New Testament six times of others being much displeased, or grieved, or indignant, or angry: the disciples themselves on more than one occasion, the Pharisees, the ruler of the synagogue. But only once do we ever find this word used of our Lord, and that was towards His own disciples, when they tried to hinder the mothers bringing their little ones to Him. There is a very grave lesson for us in this word; for, sad to say, there are many today, good men too, who walk in the disciples footsteps, and seek to hinder Christian parents bringing their little children to the Lord. These persons think they are doing God service, but I sadly fear their Lord is grieved, indignant, angry. "Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good."

Only Begotten Children

In the Gospel of Luke we find a special group of families which we may well ponder. They are those in which we find that touching word "Only-Begotten." We know the word well from the writings of the Apostle John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. It instantly brings to our mind that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son." (John 3:16); or "The only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14); or "the only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father." (John 1:18). In all John uses this beautiful word five times of our Lord Jesus, including once in his First Epistle. But Luke, earlier in the Scriptures, uses the very same word of three families: as though to teach us something of the pathos contained in it, before the Spirit would use it of "the only-begotten of the Father."

1) The Widow of Nain

Luke, you remember, was a doctor, and had that trained mind that took in the details of the sickness and sorrow to which, doubtless, (like most doctors today), he was no stranger. In Luke 7:11-15, we have the story of our Lord meeting a funeral coming out of the city of Nain. It was of a man, the only-begotten son of his mother, and she was a widow. And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said unto her, "Weep not!" And He came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And He said, "Young man, I say unto thee, Arise!" And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And He delivered him to his mother.

What sympathy, what understanding, what grace, shine forth from our Saviour here. How well He knew that mother's heart, and shared her sorrow. And He did not claim the young man to follow Him, but gave him back to the widowed mother, to be her comfort and stay. And "Jesus Christ" is "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." He does not change. And we will find His sympathy and love and understanding just the same today, as it was long ago outside the gate of Nain.

2) Jairus

In Luke 8:41-56, we have the lovely story of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, whose only-begotten daughter, about twelve years of age, lay dying. Jairus besought the Lord to come to his house to heal her, but there was a delay on the way, and before He reached the home, a messenger came to say the little girl was dead. And they all wept and bewailed her; but He said, "Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth." But they laughed at Him, knowing she was dead. And He put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, "Maid, arise!" (Mark recalls the very words the Saviour used "Talitha Cumi!" Perhaps they mean literally: "Little Darling, I say unto thee, arise!") And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and He commanded to give her meat. And her parents were astonished: but He charged them that they should tell no man what was done.

Again we see the loving thoughtful sympathy of our Lord; and again let us remember He is the same today. Perhaps you have lost a little one. That "little darling" is not lost: He will give it back again: not in just the way He gave Jairus back his little darling, but in a better way. You remember when Job lost all his children, and all his goods: he got back double as many of the possessions, but only the same number of children, for the Lord was going to give him back the other children. They were not lost; but only gone on a little before their father. And what comfort to remember the Lord sees our children today as "little darlings". Perhaps others do not; but the Lord does. And He has purchased them with His own blood, and loves them so dearly that He would have each darling child in His Home, with Himself, for ever.

3) The Son with an Evil Spirit

In Luke 9:38, we read of a poor distracted father who had brought his son possessed with an unclean spirit to the disciples, but they could not cast it out. It was a most terrible case, and in his anguish the father cried: "Master, I beseech Thee, look upon my son: for he is my only-begotten!" It is not by accident the Spirit uses this touching word in these three lovely stories: rather is it to prepare our hearts, that we may more deeply enter into what it meant for God to give His only-begotten Son for you and for me. May we learn the lesson, in part at least, for never will we know it all. But these three cases should teach us something of what it cost the Father to redeem us poor lost sinners. The father in the story before us did not have much faith, but the Lord rebuked the unclean spirit, and it came out, and He delivered him again to his father. In each case He gave the child back to the parent: though indeed He might have claimed them:  but it is
"He who has fashioned a mother's heart
And furnished it all with love."

And He knows and understands and cares as none other can, even more than the nearest and the dearest. And let us ever remember that His sympathy today, in our sorrows with our children, is just as real and true as it was long ago.

In sickness or in health, in life or in death, the best thing we can do with our children is to commit them to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Zebedee's children

"Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And He saith unto them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed Him. And going on from thence, He saw two other brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Him." (Matt. 4:18-22). This is our introduction in the New Testament to Zebedee and his children. From Luke 5 we learn that Simon and Andrew were their partners in the fishing business, and from Mark 1 we learn that Zebedee not only had his two sons helping him, but "hired servants" also.

"They immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Him."
"I heard His call, Come, Follow!
That was all.
My gold grew dim, my soul went after Him,
I rose and followed, That was all.
Who would not follow, if they heard His call?"

We hear not a word of reproach from Zebedee: and when later his wife followed Him also, and ministered to Him of their substance (Matt. 27:55-56), we still hear of no protests. We know very little about him, though his name is mentioned some twelve times in the Gospels. We seem to know a little more about "the mother of Zebedee's children", than of Zebedee himself. Her heart was evidently won by the Master her sons had followed. She knew He was a King, and was one day coming into His kingdom. Perhaps she knew still more, for she worshipped Him. (Matt. 20:20-21). But she did not know or realize that He was a rejected King, and that she was living in the time of His rejection. She came with her sons seeking the highest place in the kingdom for them. She did not know that Christ Jesus made Himself of no reputation. But the Lord answered her: "Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They thought they were able, and He replies that they should indeed drink of His cup, and be baptized with His baptism, but He did not promise the high place they were seeking.

It would take a book, perhaps many books, to meditate on all the path of the children of Zebedee: but I want to think a little of the scene we have just been looking at. They were not the first ones to whom the Lord had need to say: "Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not." (Jer. 45:5). And we are sometimes tempted to seek great things for ourselves, or for our children. "Seek them not." This is the day of our Lord's rejection. This is the day when we may share His cup of suffering and sorrow. Seek not wealth or power for your children. "They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Tim. 6:9, 10). Far better, like James and John, to forsake all and follow Him.

Earthly blessing and an earthly portion were promised to the Jew: but our citizenship is in Heaven. We are not of this world, even as our Lord and Master was not of this world. The day of glory is coming. We are joint-heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together. But one who knew more of suffering with Him than almost any other, adds: "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." (Romans 8:17-18).
"I will give her My cross of suffering,
My cup of sorrow to share:
But with endless love, in My Home above,
All shall be righted there."

Mary, the Mother of John

Whose Surname was Mark

You remember on the night the angel brought Peter out of prison, in Acts 12, he went "to the house of Mary, the mother of John, whose surname was Mark." They were having a prayer meeting at Mary's house that night. It was a special prayer meeting for Peter; and the Lord heard and answered, even as they prayed. But I am afraid they had not a great deal of faith, (they were perhaps rather like some of us today), for when Peter came and knocked at the door, and Rhoda (the girl who answered the knock) told them that Peter stood at the gate, they would not believe her, and told her she was mad. When she insisted it was so, they said: "It is his angel," (or, his spirit).

Mark was a cousin of Barnabas. (Col. 4:10, New Translation). From Babylon, Peter writes of him as "my son." (1 Peter 5:13). With an earnest Christian Mother and Cousin, the saints meeting in his Mother's house; and being so closely linked with Peter, knowing him perhaps from childhood, Mark must have had strong influences from the time he was quite young to follow the Lord. Some have thought he was the "young man" with the cloth cast about his naked body who followed the Lord to the Garden. You remember when "the young men laid hold on him .... he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked." (Mark 14:51, 52). Only Mark tells us of this incident: but we have no certainty that it was he.

Mary had a house large enough for the saints to meet in and she evidently offered them the use of it. Barnabas had land and sold it, and laid down the money at the apostle's feet: so they evidently were a well-to-do and thoroughly good family.

When Barnabas and Saul took alms from Antioch to the relief of the brethren in Judea, they saw John Mark, and when they returned from Jerusalem they took him with them. It may not have been long after that the Holy Spirit sent forth Barnabas and Saul on their first missionary journey; and John Mark went with them "to their minister", or, to help them. (See Acts 13:5) It was not long before they got into dangerous and difficult country, "and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem." (Acts 13:13) The Word does not tell us that it was the dangers and hardships of the way, or homesickness for his Mother, or what motive, made him depart: but it surely was not following the Lord.

When next we hear of him, Paul and Barnabas had been up to the great meeting at Jerusalem, to decide whether or not the Gentiles were to be put under law. (Acts 15) Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, and after a time Paul said to Barnabas: "Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do." Barnabas wanted to take his young cousin along with them again, but Paul thought it not good to take him with them, who departed from them and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they parted from each other, and Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; while Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. It was a sad, sad quarrel; and we never read that Paul and Barnabas laboured together again.

How good that this is not the end of the story, though perhaps some twenty years roll by before we hear of John Mark again. Twenty years of labour lost, as far as the revealed records show: lost, apparently, through cowardice and unfaithfulness, with no record of repentance, but going on outwardly, perhaps, in the service of the Lord. These are matters that may well challenge our own hearts. He was a failing servant, and for that failure seems to have been set aside. Perhaps he was in Babylon with Peter for part of this time, (1 Peter 5:3), and who was better fitted than Peter to lead a failing servant back to the true path again? He could remind Mark of that terrible failure of his own, (doubtless he knew about it already), and Peter could point out that there was no need for him to be set aside as to his service: there is a way back. It was only a matter of days before Peter was restored: it was many years with Mark, but there is a way back. So in Col. 4:10, we find Mark in Rome, with Paul, the very one who had opposed him going with them to the work. This is as it should be. The meeting of Mark with Paul is not described, but the old blot is evidently removed and Paul writes: "Aristarchus my fellow-captive salutes you, and Mark, Barnabas's cousin, concerning whom ye have received orders, (if he come to you, receive him), and Jesus called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These are the only fellow-workers for the kingdom of God who have been a consolation to me." (New Translation). It would seem that Mark had not even been received: but now things have been set right, the old trouble is healed, the failure forgiven; and Mark is a comfort to Paul the prisoner.

But the days grow darker, and the courage of most fail, and nearly all forsake Paul: but Mark stands true and loyal to him. He has learned his lesson well: and in 2 Tim. 4:11, we read: "Luke alone is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thyself, for he is serviceable to me for ministry." Sweet it is to see Mark fully restored to his old place, "serviceable for ministry", where once he had been unserviceable. But those days are gone, and in his darkest hour, Paul asks for Mark. Paul is not now confined in his own hired house, but in a terrible Roman dungeon. Tradition tells us it was a lower dungeon, dark and damp, with no opening but a hole through which the prisoners were let down. There in that dungeon, we may suppose, Mark meets Luke, the Beloved Physician, who alone was with Paul: and together they share the rejection and danger of ministering to the aged Apostle, who is only waiting for the time of his departure.

And Mark and Luke have kept close company ever since: the failing (but restored) servant has given us the account of the Great Servant Who never failed; and the beloved physician has given us the account of the Great Physician, who lived among us, a Man among men.

But these meditations were supposed to be on the relation of parent to child, and I seem to have forgotten that entirely. What is the lesson for us in this aspect? I think it is this: "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Prov. 22:6). He may wander from the path for a time in self-will, and yield to the flesh: but when he is old, the Lord will bring him back to the early training, and he will walk in "the way he should go." I think, I hope, that is the lesson in this story. At least, that is the lesson I have taken from it, and I do not think my Lord will reproach me for having done so.

A Series of Households

1) Cornelius

We have looked at many households in the Bible, and now come to a remarkable series of households in the New Testament, all of which are Gentile, evidently recorded by the Holy Spirit for a special purpose. The first we meet is, as far as I know, that of Cornelius. He feared God with all his house. (Acts 10:2). He was right in seeing that his whole household followed him in his fear of God, and God takes special note of it. When Peter recounts his visit with Cornelius to the saints at Jerusalem, he says that the angel told Cornelius to send to Joppa for Peter, "who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved." (Acts 11:14). We shall meet with almost exactly these same words in pondering another "house", so that it would seem to suggest that these very words, which include the house, are the Holy Spirit's own special message to those who truly desire to be saved. We need not now be concerned with who composed Cornelius' household, but we must note the word is the same as of old: "Thou and thy house." (Gen. 7:1).

2) Lydia

The next household we meet is that of Lydia "a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira .... whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there." (Acts 16:14-15). The Lord opened the heart of Lydia and she opened her house. It is all individual. Her own personal salvation was unquestionable, and so she was baptised. But what about her household? Were the members of it saved? Were there children in it or not? On all this the Scripture is absolutely silent: and it is not silent for the purpose of giving us the opportunity to speculate about these matters. The Spirit of God has another purpose in view in the way He records these various households. So the important thing for us is to note what the Scripture says, and not add our own thoughts: and the Scripture records that Lydia's household was baptized, without any mention whatever of faith, real or otherwise, on their part. The narrative is complete. The Spirit has told us all He wished us to know, and we dare not add to it by reasoning or surmising. As the Scripture records it, Lydia's whole household was baptized on the ground of her faith.

It is very sad that these households which have been specially recorded for the instruction, comfort, and encouragement of us Gentile believers, have with very many been turned into a subject for vain speculation and dispute. How much better were we to come to the Scriptures to humbly seek to hear what they would teach us, instead of trying to force into them our own views and ideas. Let us, then, seek grace and humility to lay aside our own opinions, and to hear only what the Word says. It is no new thing in the Scriptures to see the household brought into a place of external blessings on the ground of the individual faith and responsibility of its head. We noted this at some length in the case of Rahab, and might have spoken of the same thing in connection with other households.

Previous to Noah, individual relationship and responsibility, as in Abel, Enoch, and others was the principle that God recognized, and on which He acted. But with Noah came a new development in God's dealings with man. Responsible government was introduced, and God commanded: "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." (Gen. 9:6). This was something new in God's order; and with the introduction of government, God also disclosed household relationship with its corresponding responsibility, attached to its head. "Come thou and all thy house into the ark, for thee have I seen righteous before Me in this generation." (Gen. 7:1). No mention is made of the righteousness or faith of the household, but the whole house entered the ark on the ground of that of its head: and so even Ham, who afterwards proved to be so evil, was brought into a place of external blessing on the ground of his father's righteousness and faith. "By faith Noah .... prepared an ark to the saving of his house .... and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." (Heb. 11:7).

Many other instances of this principle appear in the Old Testament. All the men of Abraham's house were circumcised on the ground of Abraham's faith (Gen. 17:27). We find Abraham's whole household again linked with him, in Gen. 18:19.
* * * Note that the Lord was ready to save all of Lot's household. The angels said to him: "Hast thou here any besides? son-in-law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place." Those sons-in-law were probably Sodomites, yet for Lot's sake, the Lord would have saved them, had they been willing to be saved. (Gen. 19).
* * * Potiphar's whole house was blessed for Joseph's sake. And Joseph was his slave. (Gen. 32:5).
* * * We find the same principle when Pharaoh wished to keep the little ones in Egypt. The grand reply is: "We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go .... there shall not an hoof be left behind." (Ex. 10:9, 26). This beautifully illustrates God's grand principle that the whole household, and all that he has, is included with the head of that household.
* * * We find the same thing in the Passover: "In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house." (Ex. 12:3).
* * * The Spirit of God takes care to point out to us in the New Testament, that when Israel crossed the Red Sea, all were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea. (1 Cor. 10:1, 2). The Scripture tells us there were six hundred thousand men, "beside children", (Ex. 12:37). Most of these men would be heads of households, and each brought his whole household with him out of Egypt. There were, doubtless, hundreds of thousands of infants and children, all of whom were baptized with their fathers "unto Moses." By this baptism externally they "all" left the dominion of Pharaoh, and "all" came under the authority of Moses, men and women, infants and children, alike.
* * * Aaron's bullock for the sin offering was "for himself, and for his house."
* * * At the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, the households of Dathan and Abiram were swallowed up with them, and these households included little ones. (Num. 16:27, 32-33; Deut. 11:6).
* * * The Hebrew servant would not go out free, "because he loveth thee and thine house." (Deut. 15:16).
* * * Thou and thy household were to eat the firstling males of the herd or of the flock. (Deut. 15:20).
* * * The same was true of the basket of firstfruits in Deut. 26:11.
* * * We have noted Rahab, a Gentile, in Joshua 2:12, 18; Joshua 6:23-25. Here we find that her whole household, including the widest possible circle, were saved on the ground of her faith alone.
* * * We find another Gentile in Judges 1:25, who brought blessing and safety to "all his family" by his one act of faith.
* * * Obededom the Gittite was another Gentile for whom God acted according to this same truth: "The Lord blessed Obed-edom, and all his household." (2 Sam. 6:11-12).
* * * Ittai the Gittite (another Gentile from Gath) well understood God's order in this matter: "David said to Ittai, 'Go and pass over.' And Ittai the Gittite passed over and all his men, and all the little ones that were with him." (2 Sam. 15:22). They passed over to share their king's rejection, along with their father.
* * * When Israel was in great fear in the days of Jehoshaphat, "all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children." (2 Chron. 20:13).
* * * In Nehemiah's day "they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced." (Neh. 12:43).
* * * We might continue, but I fear I have already wearied you; but I trust that this will make clear that from Noah's day onward, God's great principle was: "Thou and thy house."

The households of Cornelius and Lydia follow on in this remarkable line of households that we find all through the Old Testament. Great efforts have been made to prove that these New Testament households had no children, or that all were of an age to believe, and had done so. To raise such questions when the Holy Spirit deliberately and intentionally is totally silent as to them, is merely to show that he who raises them has entirely missed the object of the Spirit of God. To the one well acquainted with the Old Testament, the term "household" should have become thoroughly familiar, and what it implied should have been well understood. It is almost what we might call "a technical term." The meaning the Spirit of God has in using it, is to be found in the use He has made of it in earlier Scriptures: and we have seen that it means exactly what it says: all in the house. This might, or might not, include infants, children, or servants; and God did not upbraid Rahab when she stretched the meaning to include parents and brothers and sisters and their families. I suppose it is: "according to your faith, so be it unto you". Some have pressed that we never find infants or children baptized in the Bible, so we may not include these in the households we are now considering: but we have already seen that some half million or more households, including untold numbers of infants and children, were baptized, as pointed out in First Corinthians. If we are to understand aright these Scriptures we are now looking at, we must accept these households in the way in which the Spirit uses this word, or its representative, as family, little ones, etc., in the earlier portions of the Word: and we must receive these Scriptures as they stand without adding to them.

3) The Philippian Jailor

But we must look further at the households that the Spirit is bringing before us. After Lydia, in the same chapter, verses 25 to 34, we find the household of the jailor at Philippi. Notice the jailor's question, and the answer: "What must I do to be saved? .... Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." Reader, this is for us also. Accept it, believe it, rejoice in it, and thank God for His grace that has given us such a promise for our households. Notice that it is almost the same word as to Cornelius by the angel: but notice also that it does not say: "Believe on Jesus and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." No doubt every one who truly believes on Jesus will be saved: but the promise "and thy house" is for one who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. This involves bowing to His Lordship, and seeking by His grace to keep His word, and put Him first in our lives.

The "house" being included in the head of it, Paul and Silas spoke unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And the account continues: "And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house." (Acts 16:33, 34). One would suppose from this that all in the jailor's house believed when Paul and Silas spoke the word of the Lord to them: but the Greek New Testament, in the words uttered by the Holy Spirit, does not say this. The Revised Version renders it: "He rejoiced greatly with all his house, having believed in God." The New Translation by Mr. Darby has "he laid the table for them, and rejoiced with all his house, having believed in God." The Greek word "having believed" is nominative, singular, masculine, and can refer only to the jailor. We have seen a very similar example of the rejoicing in the case of the wives and the children in Nehemiah's day: and some of these "children" were almost surely too little to understand the cause of the joy, yet they rejoiced in the joy of their parents. Again we see that the Scripture is totally silent as to who composed the household, and as to their spiritual condition. The faith, conversion and baptism of the jailor are unquestionable, but the verbs rejoiced and believing are both in the singular, and apply to the jailor: though the household rejoiced with him, or "as a household", or, "householdly", if we could use such a term. Do not think it is an accident that the Spirit of God is silent in these cases as to the faith of the households, or who composed them. This silence is intentional, to bring home to us Gentiles, that God's great principle of external blessing for the household on the ground of the faith of its head, also applies to us.

4) Crispus

The next household brought before us is that of Crispus. "Crispus, the chief ruler of the Synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house." (Acts 18:8). Here we have the faith of the whole household recorded, in contrast to the silence regarding those we have already looked at. But it is striking to observe that the Scripture says nothing about the baptism of the household of Crispus, though Paul tells us that he baptized Crispus, but says nothing of his household. (1 Cor. 1:14). Please notice carefully that the households not spoken of as believing, were baptized: while another which did believe, is not mentioned as being baptized. Why is this? For surely the Scripture is absolutely perfect in what it relates, and what it withholds. Nobody would question the baptism of the household of Crispus: they all believed, and so of course were all baptized, even though the Scripture does not tell us so. But it might be questioned whether a household, in the absence of faith, had a right to be baptized. We believe that this shows forth the excellence and perfection of the Holy Scriptures in a way that speculations and surmisings never can.

5) Stephanas

In 1 Cor. 1:14-16, we read of still another household: that of Stephanas. "I baptized also the household of Stephanas." Nothing more is told us of this household until we come to 1 Cor. 16:15, when we read: "Ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints." It might seem from this latter Scripture that those in the household of Stephanas were old enough to minister to, or serve the saints, and so had passed the age of infants or children: but the word used in Greek for the household of Stephanas in the first chapter is a wider word than that used of it in the 16th chapter. This would intimate that all the house of Stephanas was baptized, but only part, a narrower circle, perhaps excluding little children, addicted themselves to the service of the saints. So once again the Scripture is entirely silent as to who composed the household of Stephanas, and silent as to their spiritual condition: yet Paul himself baptized it. If we are wise we will learn from these silences, as well as from what is revealed to us.

There was nothing further from my thoughts when I began than to touch on the vexed question of the baptism of our children; but in meditating on Scripture households, it seemed hardly upright to either pass over this remarkable series of households in the New Testaments, or to refrain from seeking to point out what appears to the writer to be the evident intention of the Holy Spirit in recording them in this particular manner for us. I know nothing of "Infant Baptism," or "New Birth by Baptism", in the Scriptures; but I do not believe any true Christian who believes the Scriptures can deny that the baptism of households is plainly taught in the Word of God. They may not like it. They may not believe in it. They may refuse to bow to it, as so many around us refuse to bow to clear truths in the Scriptures that they cannot deny. But I do not believe that any honest Christian can say that the baptism of households, entirely apart from any mention of their faith, is not plainly taught in the Word of God.O my loved ones, may God give us grace not only to hear His Word, but also to do it. (See Matt. 7:24.)

(Parts of the preceding are taken from "The Two Trees of Paradise;" and from "Christian Baptism": both by Walter Scott.)

6) The House of Onesiphorus

You will remember we have spoken of Jonathan, who was not willing to share David's rejection. Onesiphorus is a name that will live to all eternity, as one who not only was willing to share the rejection and reproach of Christ, but who very diligently sought out Paul, and found him, when he was the prisoner of Nero, chained in a Roman dungeon. From that dungeon he writes: "This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me." (2 Tim. 1:15). Ephesus was the capital of Asia Minor, and Paul had laboured there for three years. Read the latter part of the 20th of Acts, telling of that most touching parting between Paul and the elders of Ephesus. You remember they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him. But now Paul was a prisoner in a Roman dungeon, and they were ashamed of him, and also it was dangerous to be known as one of his friends: so all in Asia forsook him, and that included those elders at Ephesus. This does not mean they turned away from Christ, and later on the Apostle John writes a letter to the assembly at Ephesus, with much good to say of them: but they were a fallen assembly, though outwardly so fair, for they had left their first love. (Rev. 2:4). I think that fall began when they turned away from Paul. And it was not only those of Asia who forsook that scorned, rejected man at this time. At his first answer before Nero, no man stood with him, "but all forsook me", the Apostle writes. Only Luke was with him of all his beloved fellow-labourers. They were dark days indeed. There are a few other names of those who were not ashamed of the rejected servant: his beloved "Prisca and Aquila", who had so long been true to him, were still unchanged. Then there is Trophimus left sick at Miletum; and from the assembly in Rome there were Eubulus, Pudens and Linus and Claudia (the last, probably, a blue-eyed, fair-haired British maiden; only a little later we hear of a "Pudens and Claudia" in Rome as husband and wife.)

It was in these dark days that Onesiphorus came to Rome from Ephesus, "And", writes the Apostle, "he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well." (2 Tim. 1:16-18).

How refreshing it is to find one whose love and loyalty stood the test: one who was willing to share the rejection and danger of the old Apostle. As he shared Paul's rejection, he was also sharing the rejection and reproach of Christ, and like Moses of old, I doubt not, he esteemed it greater riches than this world could offer. There is something very touching in the little company bound so closely together by devotedness to Jesus — and another has said: "Devotedness to Jesus is the strongest bond between human hearts." How closely would they be bound to each other, when all else had forsaken them: the old Jewish prisoner, the Greek doctor, the British maiden and the visitor from Ephesus. We can almost see them, and we can enter a little into their thoughts and feelings: may the Lord help us to be true and loyal as they were, in face of such fearful danger!

But it was the household of Onesiphorus we intended to consider, and I have wandered far away from it. The Apostle writes: "The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus." (2 Tim. 1:16), and again: "Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus." The whole household is linked up with the loyalty of its head; the whole household is specially commended to the mercy of the Lord for Onesiphorus's loyal and loving heart. Like Ittai of old, the whole household shared the rejection with its head. This is as it should be. May it be so indeed in our households!

 * * * *

And the Lord is still rejected, and most today have turned away from Paul, and his teaching. Thousands upon thousands gladly accept salvation from the Lord Jesus Christ: but few there are today who are willing to go forth unto Him without the Camp, bearing His reproach. That is the test. Lord Jesus, give us so to have our eyes fixed on Thee, our hearts filled with Thy love, that like Onesiphorus and his household we may esteem Thy reproach at its true worth!
"Therefore sad and strange to them the splendours
Of the world must be,
"O forgotten and rejected Jesus,
We have looked on Thee!"

7) Caesar's Household

"All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household." (Phil. 4:22). I can hardly pass by this household, though I have nothing to say about it. It was perhaps the hardest household in all the world for a Christian, but Christians were there. Some of noble birth we know, some of lesser rank, but each name known by the Lord who had called them: and the day is coming soon when we will meet them. Some, we know, laid down their lives for their Lord and Master. Our lot may be cast in a difficult "household", let us remember the saints "of Caesar's household" if we are tempted to be discouraged. I might add the word for "household" is the narrower word, used also of the house of Stephanas in 1 Cor. 16:15.

Saints in Caesar's Household (Phil. 4:22)

Tho' vice, flagrant and unblushing,
Nero's palace boldly trod,
In that vile court's baleful precincts
There were some who walked with God.

Like the few souls, who, in Sardis
Kept unspotted from the world,
So these Saints in Caesar's household
Held their stainless flag unfurled.

Trusting in their Saviour's merits,
Leaning on their Saviour's might,
They were proof against temptation
Now they walk with Him in white!

Lord, Thy power can keep Thy children
In the most unlikely place.
There is no temptation sent them
Which is greater than Thy grace.
Kathleen Cooke

8) The Household of Narcissus

This is another household of which we know almost nothing, "Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus." Such is the brief reference in Romans 16:11. And there is not even the word for "household" in the Greek Testament, only "those of Narcissus." But the Lord has allowed a very interesting old inscription to come to light, that may tell us a little more. Narcissus, (we do not know for certain that it is the same man) was the freed-man and favourite of Claudius Caesar, but was put to death by Nero. The old inscription records the name of "Dikoeosyne", which means "Righteousness", the wife of T. Claudius Narcissus; a woman who is described as "most devout and simple in her life." This may well be the widow who was now head of the "household of Narcissus", who had learnt from the Gospel what was true righteousness. It is sweet to think of this devout and simple mother bringing up her household in Rome for the Lord, and rejoicing in His righteousness.

9) The Households of Aristobulus and Chloe

"The Household of Aristobulus" in Romans 16:10, and "The House of Chloe" in 1 Cor. 1:11, are similar in form of wording to that of the household of Narcissus. They are two more witnesses to the blessed fact that in those early days, the heads of the households brought their households with them to follow the Lord.

10) The Elect Lady and Her Children

"The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth. ... Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father. ... The children of thy elect sister greet thee." (2 John 1, 3, 4, 13).

Here we have two more families of children who are followers of the Lord; and one family, certainly, with their Mother, walking in the truth. It is to this family, this Mother with her children, that the Spirit of God, by the Apostle John, sends the solemn message not to receive any into her house if they do not bring the doctrine of Christ, nor even to bid them God Speed, "for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." This is "truth" for today in which you and I should walk, just as truly as in the days of the Apostle John. But today there are perhaps many more who do not bring the "doctrine of Christ", and we, even the ladies and children, need to give the more earnest heed to this solemn admonition.

11) Archippus

"Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow-labourer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in thy house: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Philemon 1-3). Philemon was evidently a wealthy man, with slaves under him. One of his slaves, Onesimus, ran away and went to Rome. Probably he stole from his master before he left. In Rome he met the Apostle Paul, and through him, Onesimus found the Lord, and became His slave.

Paul writes this exquisite little Epistle, commending Onesimus to his old master, as he sends him back again. This is God's order, and we may well believe that Philemon receives him now "for ever; not now as a slave, but above a slave, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord."

Apphia we suppose to be the wife of Philemon, the mistress of the household; and Archippus was, we may suppose, their grown-up son. His name means, "Captain of the Horse." Perhaps he was a young cavalry captain in the Roman army. We believe they lived at Colosse, (Col. 4:17), though of this we are not certain. But we do know that the assembly of believers in the town in which they lived gathered at their house.

A special service had been entrusted to Archippus, the son. What that service was we are not told; but the Apostle writes: "And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it." (Col 4:17). When the man travelled into the far country, in Matthew 25:14-30, he delivered his goods unto his own servants: "to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability." And I suppose there is not one of my readers to whom the Lord has not entrusted some special service; ... to each of us according to our several ability. We may not do as the servant with the one talent did, and hide our talent in the earth; but the Lord's word to Archippus comes to every one of us who belong to Him, and to each of our children, who are His: "Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it."

Well indeed it is if we parents or grandparents may be enabled to help to train these abilities, these talents, so that they may be "fulfilled", filled to the full, used in their best and highest way by each of our children. We have seen that these children are only a loan from the Lord to us, to train up for Himself. He has given to each abilities, talents, which they are responsible to use for Himself, and it is our happy privilege to seek to help them to fulfil this ministry. May God give us the faithfulness and the wisdom we so sorely need to truly do this wisely and well for Him, Whose they are and Whom they serve.

12) Timothy

We come now to one of the most charming of the New Testament families. We are introduced to Lois the Grandmother, and to Eunice the Mother, of young Timothy. The apostle bears witness to the unfeigned faith in both grandmother and mother (2 Tim. 1:5). And in 2 Tim. 3:15, we read, "From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."

What a heritage for any child! To know the Holy Scriptures. We may have little to leave our children in the way of earthly possessions, but if we have given them, from a child, the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, we have given them greater riches, greater treasures, than all else this world possesses. Lois the grandmother and Eunice the mother both had real faith, and we may be sure it was they who taught Timothy, while yet an infant, (for so the Greek word means) the Holy Scriptures, for his father was a Greek.

The result? You all know it. Read the First and Second Epistles to Timothy. I suppose there is nothing like them in all the literature in the whole world. By nature timid, ready to give way to tears, young and tender in age: this is the young man, one might perhaps almost say, boy, on whom the great Apostle leaned, more than on any other. Why? The Holy Scriptures hidden in his heart, and unfeigned faith.

This is an example that all may follow: may we the grandparents, and you the parents, seek with all our strength, and with wisdom from above, to do for our darlings what Lois and Eunice did for Timothy. Surely we may count on the only One Who can, to work that change within, that the Scriptures call being "born again"; and the unfeigned faith, and the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, will carry and guard each dear one through all the path before them.