Good families do not just happen. Many young men and women enter a relationship and even marriage without ever giving that a thought. They have these romantic, fairytale expectations that they will simply, without any effort, fall in love, marry, have a few children, and live happily ever after. They think that no matter whom they marry or what they do in dating and in marriage, life will somehow work out for the better and they will settle into a routine of happiness and bliss. Many find out later that this is not so! Good families do not just happen. Solid marriages do not fall from the sky. Obedient children do not come in a surprise package. Happiness in the home is not a made-to-order treat from the pizza parlor down the street. Good families take conscientious work.
But they take more than that! In order for one to establish and maintain a good family, his efforts must flow out of a true and living faith in God! God’s blessing must rest on a family in order for it to be a “good” family in the true sense of the word. To experience that blessing requires the conscientious labor of faith. In other words, our families must be founded on what we believe concerning God and His Son, Jesus Christ. There must be a theological reason behind our labors—a reason that motivates us in establishing and maintaining good Christian homes.
There are very few books or magazines that establish the theological foundation for the family. Most writers begin with a reference to the fact that the family is the fundamental unit of all of society. Then, having proved from Scripture that the family is foundational, they hurriedly proceed to discuss what makes that family strong. Such an introduction, however, inevitably leads to the wrong end. We do not mean to say, of course, that there is no significance in the truth that the family is the basic unit of society. Nor do we mean that it is unnecessary to discuss what makes a family strong. What we do mean to propose is that all this amounts to very little if it is not rooted in our faith in God and in Jesus Christ! A person may follow all the prescribed rules and advice for what constitutes a good family, but what he will end up with is just a morally good family. A morally good family is not synonymous with a spiritually strong family. In many respects the two may look alike, but they are not the same. It is the spiritually good family that is pleasing to God, because there He finds the proper spiritual motivation: a genuine love for Him and His Word.
To discover the proper theological basis for the family raises the question: why has God established the family as the basic unit of society? Why did God institute marriage? Why did God command a husband and wife to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth? Why does God ordain particular places to the husband, wife, and children in the family and command them to walk faithfully in their individual callings? None of this is arbitrary. God never does anything in that manner. He always has a purpose behind all that He creates and ordains. Why the family? The answer to this is found in God Himself and in the covenant He establishes with believers and their seed! That is where it all begins for us.
The doctrine of the Trinity has in our modern day been viewed by many as a non-essential of the Christian religion. It is far too abstract. It has nothing to do with salvation. Why should one bother his head about it? There are, too, those who maintain the truth of the Trinity, yet find no practical significance in it for their lives. Therefore they relegate it to the shelf of doctrinal antiques to be taken out once in a great while to dust it off, admire it from a distance, and then to put it back on the shelf. The truth of the Triune God holds no special place in their hearts. If this is true of us, then we are in a sad state. What we believe concerning the Triune God, and the fervency with which we believe it, will indeed affect our marriages, our relationship with our children, and the way we conduct ourselves in the home.
The God whom we serve is a covenant God. That means that God within His very Being experiences a perfect life of fellowship and love. God does not need anyone else for friendship or fellowship. He does not need anyone else to converse with, to walk with, to share His secrets with. He does not need this because God is Triune. Within the one divine Essence there are three distinct Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three Persons are not three parts of the Godhead; they are one God. They are one in nature, in mind, and in will. All possess the infinite perfections of the divine Being. They are one in eternity, sovereignty, wisdom, holiness, and grace. Yet, within that Godhead there are three distinct Persons, each possessing His own personal characteristics. From eternity there is the Father who begets the Son. From eternity there is the Son who is begotten by the Father. From eternity there is the Holy Spirit that proceeds from the Father to the Son, and from the Son to the Father. There is no doubt that we do not comprehend all of this in its full beauty. Nevertheless, we can glean from all of this one most blessed truth. Within God’s very own Being there is an exclusive life of love and unity! These three Persons enter into one another’s life, and in perfect love they are bound together as the one true God of heaven and earth!
To try to put into human words the heavenly joy and bliss that God experiences in Himself as God is impossible! There is a relationship of friendship and fellowship within God that is not in the least sense touched with sin. In the light of perfection the Father and the Son dwell eternally in the most intimate of relationship of love: generation! In that relationship the Spirit also enters, breathed forth from Father to Son and Son to Father. As a result, there can be found no greater happiness, no greater peace, no greater safety, no greater contentment than what God has within Himself!
Now, we can say to ourselves, “boring, abstract, does not do much for me!” Or we can say, “that is the joy, peace, safety, and contentment I would like to experience and share in! That is my chief desire in life! What a blessing it would be if I could somehow share in that covenant life of the ever-blessed God! That would be for me the highest possible good!” It is this latter reaction that belongs to the child of God in whom God has worked by His grace. And His greatest delight is in this fact: he knows he does share in that fellowship and love with God!
How all of this applies to our establishing and maintaining a good marriage and family we will consider soon. But let us not rush here. There is more to know of this truth of the covenant of God. God from eternity willed in His great wisdom to share that fellowship and love He has within Himself with the creature outside Himself. For this reason, from eternity He elected a certain people in Christ with whom He chose to establish His covenant of friendship. These elect people God has called out of this world of sin and darkness since the beginning of time and has made them partakers of His eternal love and friendship. Throughout the ages God’s people, in all of their struggles and sorrows, hear the promise of God that He will lead them to His heavenly dwelling place so that they might one day perfectly share in His life of love. In that connection, the elect also hear the promise that until that day they need not fear, because nothing will separate them from the love of their God which is Christ Jesus! He who has begun a good work will be faithful to complete it!
Neither ought we to underestimate just how close and personal a relationship God has entered with His people. Within God there is the intimate relationship of Father and Son. It is that same relationship that God establishes with us.has always been a mainstay for the afflicted child of God: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ….”
There is only one natural-born Son of God, and that is Christ. But God has entered the same relationship with His people through adoption in the blood of Christ. This means that the same intimate love that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit experience within their own Being, God now shares with us! He does that by adopting us and by sending His Spirit to dwell in us! We are the children of the living God! He is a Father who dwells with us and loves us so much, we can face the worst of sicknesses, the worst of persecution, the worst this present valley of tears can send us, with the greatest of joy and peace!
There is one other way that the Bible describes this intimate love God shares with His people in Christ: “as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee” (). This intimate relationship between God and His church, this covenant relationship, is also described in this manner in a most beautiful way in . God’s love for His people in Christ is so intimate, so close, that it can be best described as the inseparable bond between a husband and wife.
This is the covenant that God has established with His people. We are given to taste and to see in this life already the wonderful life of joy that God has within Himself. So much do we experience that joy that we long for the day when sin will not mar our relationship with Him. We look forward to that day of which Jesus prays in, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” Because we look forward to that day, it is the one great desire of the child of God to dwell in the house of the Lord and to behold His beauty!
It is faith in this covenant God and in His covenant established with us that is the very foundation of a good family. It is this that distinguishes a merely outwardly moral family from that family deeply committed spiritually in its aims and goals. We conclude this because God’s covenant is the reason God instituted marriage. God’s covenant is the very purpose of God behind commanding a man and his wife to be fruitful and multiply. God establishes the home and its various relationships based on His covenant with us. How is this true? God has ordained marriage, and He has determined that through this bond children might be born, because by these means we are given an earthly taste of our fellowship with Him.
Every godly husband and wife who dwell together according to God’s Word can testify of how intimate their love for one another is. They can understand the bond that it creates, the fellowship that they share, their utter dependence on each other. They experience love and friendship in a way that is hard to put into words. By means of this institution, therefore, God gives the godly husband and wife a taste of the joy that we share right now with our divine Bridegroom and which we will share some day perfectly in His presence! The same is true with the bond between parent and child. How intimately close is the love and friendship between parents and children! Our children are our flesh and bone! Nothing can describe the pride and the pleasure that godly parents find in their believing children. Well, God has ordered this relationship that we might be given in it a wonderful taste of the closeness we have with Him as our heavenly Father.
If we are those therefore who cling to our covenant God in true faith, that will have everything to do with these relationships in life. We will enter marriage seeking to experience there the blessed fellowship we have with our God and our Savior. When we bring forth children, we will seek in our relationship with them the blessed friendship we have with our Father and our God. In other words, our faith in the covenant God will dictate whom we seek as a spouse, how we live with that spouse, our desire for children, how we as parents deal with our children, and how we answer countless other questions that arise in connection with our families.
How zealous are we in our faith? How enthusiastic are we to live in communion with the covenant God? Is it our chief desire to dwell in the courts of the Lord forever to behold His beauty and to inquire in His temple? That will determine how spiritual our homes are. Do you want a good family? Exercise your faith in the Triune God!