The family is a beautiful creation of God. The family is the foundational institution of all human society. Out of the family organically arose the clan, the tribe, and finally the nations of the earth. When man fell into sin he corrupted himself and his race. He made it really impossible to live in harmony with his fellow man. This is revealed especially in his corruption of marriage and the family. The family, because of the fall, becomes the stage of strife and bitterness. Husbands rule in tyranny over their wives and abuse them to satisfy their own lust and pride. Wives rebel against their husbands for the same reasons. Children are abused and are themselves rebellious and unable to live in harmony in society. Because of this the world is filled with violence and wickedness.
God in His mercy in Christ Jesus restored the family in the Christian home in the sphere of the covenant. No Christian family is perfect or anywhere near to God’s ideal yet in this age. There is also a measure of sorrow and strife in the Christian family, in some more than in others. But God also has caused the Christian family to be a haven of blessing, a shelter in the world of confusion and sin and ungodliness. The truly Christian family is one of the most beautiful pictures that we have of heaven in all its glory and blessedness.
God is pleased to gather His people in the line of continued generations. In the covenant, God promises to be our God and the God of our children after us. This is the only hope for the Christian family. God obviously worked in covenant ways in all the history of the covenant in the Old Testament in the nation of Israel. One cannot read the Old Testament and ignore the wonder of God’s work with the patriarchs and their succeeding generations and finally in the nation of Israel.
The covenant is one in the Old and the New Testament. The covenant of the Old Testament is continued and realized in even richer development in the New Testament. In the history of the church in the New Testament the promise of God is to believers and their children, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. God works in covenantal ways in the established church, preserving and keeping in her the institution of the Christian family for the realization of His covenant purposes with His chosen people whom He has redeemed. This is true as well in the gathering of the church through the work of missions. In the book of Acts there are numerous beautiful examples of the salvation of whole families at once (Cornelius and his house, Lydia and her house, the Philippian jailor and his house).
The letters of the apostles have many admonitions for the children in the Christian families that make up the New Testament churches. Without strong Christian families there will not be a continuing church. Where there are no Christian families, the church will in most cases be gone in one generation.
The family begins with marriage between one man and one woman, voluntarily entered by a man and a woman, united together by the mysterious work of the Lord in the bond of the love of Christ. These two must from the beginning be committed to lifelong covenant faithfulness to each other, motivated by the fear of the Lord. Young people must carefully choose their partners for marriage with the truth of the covenant central in their mind and heart.
There obviously cannot be a Christian home without a truly Christian marriage. Husband and wife must live together in unity in the bond of the love of Christ and in the fear of God. The very essence of marriage is unity. Two become one flesh. This the Bible calls a great mystery reflecting the intimate union of Christ and His church. The task of marriage for husband and wife is to live together as one, in every sphere of life, in their personal life, in their family life, in the carrying out of their daily earthly occupation and as members together of the church of Jesus Christ. Sin constantly threatens the blessed unity of marriage, and the God-fearing couple must strive together to overcome sin by the grace and Spirit of God in their hearts. Sin must be put away by bringing it to the cross in confession and forgiveness. The unity of marriage must come to expression within the relationships that God has ordained for the institution of marriage. The husband must exercise headship over his wife. He must do that not as a tyrant, or for his own carnal lust and pride, but in order to protect and care for his wife, nourishing and cherishing her as Christ does His church. He must be ready to give himself for his wife as Christ did for His church. The husband must live with his wife, dwelling with her in covenant fellowship as a man of understanding, giving honor unto her, deeply sympathizing with her as the weaker vessel.
The wife must serve her husband in godly humility and love, not grudgingly but willingly, as the help meet for her husband. She must respect his God-given authority, serve and assist him in all things lawful in this life, encouraging and supporting him, even correcting him according to the Word of God when this is necessary.
Husband and wife must acknowledge each other and treat each other with honor and respect, showing deep affection towards each other as joint heirs of the grace of life. They must seek to help each other in the greater purpose of a life of serving the Lord. Everything that threatens to divide the marriage must be guarded against. The greatest danger of division comes from the sinful nature of both husband and wife. Through constant acknowledgment of our weaknesses and sins, and constant forbearance, forgiveness, and reconciliation, marriage is strengthened over the years by the grace of God. In Christian marriage husband and wife have a tremendous influence on each other. They mold one another, affecting, in many ways, each other’s perspective, behavior, and even thinking. Growing in their knowledge of the Lord and His truth, maintainingthat truth in their marriage, serving the Lord together, supporting each other in the grace and comfort of the Lord, they grow also in love for one another.
According to God’s will He gives children to marriage. The natural bond of children to their parents is a unique and powerful bond. This bond is important for the nurture and instruction of children. On earth there are few that parents love more dearly than their own children. Parental love has a strong influence in the nurture of children in marriage.
The Christian home is the training ground of the children, to nurture and raise them in the fear of the Lord as the next generation of God’s people. Virtually everything that happens in our covenant home will have an influence in molding the character and personality and life-perspective of the children growing up in this home. This happens over the days and years of the life of the covenant family in an even greater way than we might ever imagine. There are genetic traits that our children inherit from us as parents, but there are also very important aspects of the development of their personalities and perspective of life that are the fruit of their upbringing in the home. We acknowledge that our children are conceived and born in sin. The Word of God teaches us that foolishness is born in the heart of the child, and the rod of correction shall drive it far from them. The sphere of the home must be the place where sin is lovingly driven out of the hearts of our children through good discipline and correction, and where the work of grace begins to develop, is nurtured, and grows more and more.
The behavior of husband and wife in relationship to one another will have a great effect on their children either for good or for evil. How father deals with mother in the home will have a great impact on the children and must be their example. Healthy emotional, psychological, and spiritual development of children is greatly helped by unity of love between father and mother. Divorce has devastating consequences for the lives of the children of broken homes. Divorce leaves a profound hurt and psychological and spiritual damage in the lives of the children of divorced parents. This should be seriously considered by anyone who is contemplating sinful divorce from his God-given partner. Often the divorce of parents begins a cycle of divorce for the children from generation to generation. Positively, the pattern of a faithful, devoted relationship between husband and wife will do much to prepare the children for a stable marriage later in their own life.
Children must in the home be taught to honor and respect their parents. Parents must maintain a certain dignity above their children, in order to maintain their office as parents over their children and live in such a way that they are worthy of the respect of their children. It is foolishness for parents to lower themselves to the level of their children such that they compromise their authority over them and lose the serious respect of their children. Parents must maintain an intimate, personal relationship of friendship with their children but it must be from the perspective of their God-given office over them. The covenant relationship between parents and children in the Christian family is dependent on the children honoring and respecting their parents. It will have very detrimental consequences in the lives of children if they are not from childhood firmly taught to respect their parents and strongly admonished for their disobedience and disrespect of their parents and warned about the judgment of God that comes with ongoing disobedience and rebellion.
In future articles we shall address the other relationships in marriage, such as the relationships that arise out of the beautiful distinction of male and female that God has created in the human race. This distinction runs very deep in one’s personality. Our children must be raised with a view to the calling girls have for future covenant homes and boys have to become courageous, strong leaders and good husbands in days to come.
The Christian home must necessarily be a private and sheltered place where husband and wife can live intimately with one another. Also, children need to grow up in a sheltered environment during the years they are growing up, to protect them from the evil influences of the world as much as this is possible. At the same time, the Christian family must be open for Christian hospitality with fellow members in the church and to be a Christian witness in the world.
The Christian family must be the school and spiritual gymnasium for the training of covenant young people. It must be the place where they are molded and even made beautiful for the service of the Lord. In the beautiful words of thePsalm 144, young men must grow up in sturdy strength and noble truth for the sake of the maintenance and defense and advancement of the kingdom of Christ. Our daughters must be raised in true spiritual beauty to be polished stones for the palace of King Jesus.