The Teaching that a Husband/Father is Priest to his Family is Unbiblical and Promotes Abuse (Part 5)
The third chapter of Sam Waldron’s book, A Man as Priest in His Home, opens this way:
To better understand the concept of a man as a priest in his home, it will help to take a look at the classic scriptural portrait of such a man….We’re going to examine the life of Job, a unique figure in Scripture and a prime example of a man who was truly a priest in his home. The classic portrait of his priesthood is found in Job 1:1-5″
NASB Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. 2 Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. 3 His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east. 4 His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 When the days of feasting had completed their cycle, Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
The first thing we must realize is that Job was certainly acting as a priest to his family — verse five says he consecrated (literally, sanctified) his children and offered burnt offerings for them.
After pointing us to Exodus 19:7-15 where Moses similarly consecrates the Israelites in preparation for the Lord coming down on Mt. Sinai, Waldron applies that work of Moses to Job:
Job’s sons and daughters were preparing themselves for the holy worship of God. Job’s sending and sanctifying his children implies they were required to attend the worship Lob led. Even though some were adult children, Job brought all the holy pressure he could to bear on them as he assumed his right to lead them in the worship of God….Job was literally offering offerings for his children….So, in making burnt offerings for his children, Job was clearly acting as a priest.
Waldron then notes that once the Mosaic Covenant at Mt. Sinai was established, the priesthood “was restricted by law to the tribe of Levi and the sons of Aaron.” However, he continues, “Prior to that we have records of many legitimate priesthoods that were exercise by others.” Waldron points to Melchizedek, Jethro, Noah, Abraham, and Jacob and their exercise of priesthood.
Now, in making the application leap from Job to the Christian husband/father as priest in his home, Waldron proceeds in a section he entitles “The Continuation of Job’s Priesthood.” Here is his reasoning:
Job is the epitome of a man as a priest in his home. Yet, he lived in the Old Testament era of types and shadows. He offered physical sacrifices that have since been abrogated by the ultimate sacrifice of Christ. It may seem at first glance that his pattern should not apply to New Covenant Christians. However, there are several reasons that we should indeed imitate Job’s model, even though we live under grace rather than law. First, Job’s priesthood was not Levitical. He was not a Jew and did not live in the land of Palestine, so we cannot avoid his example by arguing that we are not of the tribe of Levi. Job himself was not a Levite.
Second, Job’s priesthood was not covenantal. He did not exercise his priesthood because he was one of the patriarchs of Israel with whom God had established a special covenant, as in the cases of Abraham and Jacob. He was a Gentile, as are most of us.
Third, Job’s priesthood was legal….We cannot avoid the force of Job’s example by claiming he was acting outside of God’s established will.
Fourth, Job’s priesthood was familial. The whole sphere of Job’s priesthood as it is presented in Job 1 has to do with his family and children and nothing else. He was a priest because he was a father. If we have families and if we are fathers, we too are priests. [Emphasis mine]
Adding fifth, sixth and seventh reasons to his argument, Waldron says 5) Job’s priesthood was “original.” That is, it stemmed from the Creation pattern of the family where Adam offered burnt offerings; 6) Job’s priesthood was “ceremonial.” While Christ’s cross ended the literal offerings of animals on altars, the man remains as head of his home, responsible then as priests to our children; 7) Job’s priesthood was “primeval.” That is, because this priesthood of the husband/father was established at Creation, Christ’s cross and the New Covenant church still work in cooperation and harmony with the husband/father as priest in his home. Waldron states “We must strive to exercise our spiritual priesthood in harmony with the church, and see the two roles as complementary rather than threatening.”
Waldron’s central thesis, that as Job was a priest to his family, so all husbands / fathers are priests to their families today even in the New Covenant, fails in its logic. Why? Because there is nothing in the New Testament that teaches this doctrine. Waldron’s argument is based almost completely on the Old Testament and in the case of Job, he makes this ancient character into a kind of archetypal, primeval pattern for men as priests today. Is this sound hermeneutics? Does this approach agree with proper exposition of Scripture. I cannot see that it does. Yes, there are lessons men can learn from Job’s example of godliness, but the chief lesson of the book of Job is not that men are to be priests in their homes! No, the lesson is that we can trust in the goodness and wisdom of God even in the darkest trials. In other words, Job teaches us about the gospel. Justification by faith. Seeing God when we cannot see Him. Those are the lessons of Job.
Waldron will go on in the remainder of his book to describe what specifics a man must do as a priest in his home. He says:
- A man is an intercessor in prayer (Chapter 4)
- A man is a director of religious worship (Chapter 5)
- A man is a mediator of divine blessing (Chapter 6)
- A man is an instructor in sacred scripture (Chapter 7)
- A man is a judge in holy things (Chapter 8)
While all of these chapters are problematic, the sixth chapter’s premise is the most troublesome. Waldron writes “In this chapter, we’ll consider that man’s special priestly role as a mediator of divine blessing to his family.” His subsequent argument is almost entirely from the Old Testament (he returns to Job once more) and the New Testament texts he references (Luke 24:50-51 and Hebrews 7:22; 8:6) all refer to Christ as our priest, whom Waldron claims the husband/father is to emulate as priest in his home.
I have no quarrel with Waldron’s assertion that Scripture shows us that a husband/father will bring either divine blessing or cursing upon his home, depending on his own character and conduct,” IF that outcome is based solely upon natural consequences of a husband/father’s sin or obedience. But is a wife or child in the family of a wicked man to conclude that when they suffer evil consequences due to the man’s sins (financial loss, illness, etc) that this is God’s curse coming upon them because of the man’s wickedness? Of course not. Is their blessing from God reliant upon the supposed “priest” of their home and family? No. Their blessing comes through Jesus Christ alone! But Waldron, I believe, exceeds mere natural consequences of the domestic priest’s sin or obedience and claims that blessing or cursing from God is in fact mediated to the family through the father/husband priest.
Like all Christians, a father/husband is a priest. Not because he is a father/husband, but because he is in Christ. All Christians are priests, including wives and children. A father and husband should indeed do many of the things that Waldron speaks of in this book, ministering as a Christian to his household. So should believing wives. But to establish a non-biblical priesthood which is founded on the mere fact that a man is a husband and/or father is to create an office that Holy Scripture does not authorize. No more good can come from the innovations of man that which Nadab and Abihu found out, and as the London Confession of Faith warns us against:
[God]…. may not be worshiped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or can other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.
Religious worship is to be given to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to him alone; not to angels, saints, or any other creatures; and since the fall, not without a mediator, nor in the mediation of any other but Christ alone.
Our original thesis stands. The teaching that a husband/father is priest to his family is unbiblical. And it most certainly will promote abuse in the church and in the home when sinful human beings use it to feed their mentality of entitlement to power and control. Scripture’s plain and clear teaching is that all Christians are priests under the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ. It teaches no other priesthood in the New Covenant.
Posts in this series
Part 5: Is this post.