Rev. Wilbur Bruinsma, pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Introduction

Satan is a ruthless enemy of the church of Jesus Christ. In Revelation 12 we learn that Satan is filled with great anger because of the victory over him that Christ achieved at the cross. In that anger he has turned against the bride of Christ to make war with “the remnant of her seed which keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (vv. 12, 17). In this war with the church Satan uses every means possible to obliterate her name from the earth. His intent is to be rid of her and the cause of Christ. We often hear of this arch-enemy of the church in the preaching. His name has become commonplace among us. But we do not always think of him as one who transforms himself into an angel of light in order to work among God’s people as if he is one of us (II Cor. 11:14). Do not be deceived! Satan is real and dwells among us! His angry attacks are leveled at the church as a whole as well as families and individuals in the church! He hates us with a vengeance!

Satan is proficient and cunning in his war with the church in this world. I have learned this in my own personal battle with Satan, and as a pastor who can now look back over three, going on four, generations born into the church. Satan probably smiles as I write this because he is more shrewd and powerful than I am even aware.

Three evils characterize Satan in his battle with the church and believers.

Number 1: Satan is deceptive. Satan’s attacks on the church are not merely frontal. When two armies clash with each other, the generals behind the scenes send their armies in a direct, frontal attack on one another. In the meantime, these generals send other soldiers in another direction in an attempt to outflank the opposing army and attack them unawares. The hope of these generals is that by deception they might be able to destroy the armies of their enemy by surprising them.

Satan works in the same way in his battle against the church of Jesus Christ. At times he sends into the church false teachers and preachers who love and make a lie (Rev. 22:15). These men level a frontal attack against which the church must defend herself. Satan desires to destroy the church by robbing her of faithfulness to God doctrinally. A battle ensues in the church. The church focuses all her attention and efforts on this battle. In the wake of the battle officebearers and members of church are left weary. God’s saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches have experienced this in their recent controversy. I am sure other churches have experienced something similar. How ruthless are the attacks of Satan on the church—and deceptive!

While Satan attacks the church from one direction, he is busy sending his armies of devils to attack the church from another direction. While God’s saints are focusing their attention on defending the church doctrinally, Satan attacks the church in the lives of her members. His focus is on destroying the families of the church. We must understand that where God choses to establish His church in this world He continues that church in the line of the generations of believers. It is true, of course, that God also with each new generation adds to the church new believers who have been called out of this world. These are always a refreshing addition to the church. But when they become a part of the church, they too cling to the promise that God saves in the generations of believers. To that promise God remains faithful too. Yet, God does not save automatically in the generations of believers without using any means. God accomplishes this promise in the way of godly homes and families that understand their place in the church and covenant. God establishes His church from one generation to the next by means of sanctified marriages where husbands and wives know their particular callings in the home and in the church. God uses the means of conscientious parents who take seriously the vows they speak at the time of baptism to raise their children to the best of their ability in the nurture and fear of God’s name. The family is therefore vital to the cause of Jesus Christ and the church.

Satan knows this! He is subtle and deceptive in his attacks on the church. While the church defends herself on one front, that is, doctrinally, Satan attempts to outflank the church from another position, that is, the family. He knows that he can accomplish the defeat of the church not only by doctrinal error but also by destroying the family unit. The strength of the church is inseparably connected to the strength of the home and family. So Satan sets himself to destroy the family in the generations of the church.

Number 2: Satan is relentless and persistent. If the church is not always on her guard, Satan is quick to infiltrate, divide, and devour the church and her members. Peter describes the devil as a roaring lion who is ready to pounce upon his prey to tear her in pieces. His relentless attacks on the church come by way of the wicked world and its appeal to the sinful flesh in God’s people. The temptations he casts in our path are myriad. These temptations are common to every generation, but Satan uses modern devices, trends, and ideology to lure God’s people from the proper understanding of the home and family. In other words, the devil is adept at using the unbelieving world to accomplish the demise of many a family in the church. He does not let up! In every area of life the unbelieving world is present and is teaching us its ungodly ways and lifestyle. When our eyes and ears tune in to the world in its music, movies, and magazines, we are being taught the immorality and lust of this world. When we read its literature, Satan by means of his ally, the wicked world, turns us from the teaching of Scripture to follow after a worldly way of life in the home. When we lend our thoughts and desires to follow after the world, Satan will fill our sinful flesh with all kinds of notions that may seem right, but which lead us away from God. Satan is persistent in his attacks on the church and family by using the unbelieving world to turn us from God and His Word.

Number 3: Satan is patient. I know it may seem as if he is in a hurry since his time is short. But we may not be deceived: he slowly and patiently works to turn the church away from her Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. He works slowly over the course of generations. In the course of several generations a once faithful church can become proud then complacent in the truth. Her members who in their generations were zealous of the gospel, now begin to depend for their salvation on the church and her ordinances rather than humbly looking to the cross for forgiveness. The result is, life in the home and family wanes. Husbands and wives lose their spiritual focus. Parents view their children as a burden rather than a blessing. Everything looks superficially clean on the outside but there is very little in the way of real family life on the inside. A lamenting observer might ask himself or herself the question: “When did this happen?” Or, “How did this happen?” Well, it did not happen overnight. It slowly developed this way in the course of a few generations. The church finally reaches the stage where her Lord admonishes her with these words: “I will come unto thee quickly and remove my candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Rev. 2:5). Satan is patient in destroying the church slowly in her generations.

Now, much more can be written about the attacks of Satan on the church of any age. But in reality that is not the subject of this article or the ones that follow. I write of the attacks of Satan on the church merely as an introduction to the subject I wish to address in the next several articles: reclaiming the family. My subject is not merely on the family, although this is elementary to the topic. My subject, however, is reclaiming the family. Implied is that over the course of several generations the traditional, biblical, dynamic family unit that was so much a part of the life of the church is changing. It is not disappearing (though in some cases it is), but it has taken on a different face—a face that does not bode well for the church.

Having made this bold statement, I need to qualify it. This is not meant to accuse families of the church as if they are not genuinely working at establishing a godly home. Neither does this mean that they are deliberately ignoring God’s Word to walk in their own ways. Of some this is true, but it is not true of all. I speak of reclaiming the family because Satan has been persistent and patient in the generations of the church using the subtle ways of the world to change our understanding of such things as the roles of husband and wife in marriage, the communal life that must be carried on in the home, the instruction and proper discipline of children, to name only a few. Much of this has taken place over time. For that reason, this change may not be glaringly apparent. But it is there. It is good, therefore, that we consider what the Scripture says about the family.

It also must be said that this change has not necessarily affected every family in the church today. The church today has young, vibrant families who faithfully follow after the Word of God without giving in to the pressures of the worldly wisdom of our present society. Such families will also be able to read these articles and be reconfirmed in their efforts in the home.

That being said, it is my intention to address what I believe are essential guidelines to establishing a godly home. These guidelines will include requirements for sanctified dating, marriage, the roles of husband and wife, and biblical parenting. It is not my intention to write extensively on each of these subjects. Others have produced excellent articles and books based on Scripture addressing these various issues. It is my intent to study the developments that have taken place in our society over the past generations that have had an impact on the thinking of our world on these subjects. I would then like to warn against the impact that these are having on our thought processes in the church as well. After all, the church does not live in a bubble. We are in the world, though not of it. The world therefore has an impact on the church, even though we are called to be spiritually separate from the evil influences of the world. It is so easy for the members of the church to follow in the footsteps of the world, even if it means we may be a few miles behind the world and its ways.

Though it is true that we need to be warned of the influence of unbelief on the Christian family, we also need to understand the wisdom God’s Word sheds on establishing and maintaining a pious marriage and a genuine life in the family. Warnings are always needed, but so is positive instruction in Scripture. May our future articles present both.