It is our purpose to write a series of articles on the Christian family for our contribution to this department for the year. Although much has been written on this subject lately we believe that this subject is of such great importance and that it has so many facets to it that it is one that is worthy of further consideration. The family is the most fundamental of all the institutions which God in His infinite wisdom has established among men. There is none of greater importance. It is basic to all the other institutions of the church, the state, and society. We as Reformed Christians especially know how tremendously significant the institution of the family is in the church and kingdom of God. We know and believe the great truth of scripture that teaches us that God from the beginning to the end of time is pleased to continue His gracious covenant from generation to generation with believers and their children. How precious to us is the promise of God to our father Abraham: “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Genesis 17:7). The institution of the family is also of great significance for the church of Jesus Christ. A strong church depends upon strong Christian homes. It will only continue if each succeeding generation by the grace of God fulfills its covenant obligation to raise up a godly seed. Many of us in the Reformed tradition can testify of several generations before us who by the grace of God were Christians. This is no reason for us to boast but only reason for the highest praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. What a great wonder of His grace and mercy it is that He should be pleased to raise up the generations of His people from a race as thoroughly corrupt and depraved from its very birth as ours is. Each generation of the covenant is a new manifestation of the wonderful grace and mercy of the God of our salvation.
From the time of the fall of man into sin under the instigation of the devil the institution of the family has been under attack. Each age experiences new and more subtle attacks on the family. We witness the increasing immorality of our age, the many broken homes, and the destitute and delinquent children that this evil world in which we live brings forth. We must not imagine that we are immune from these attacks on the family. Even in our own midst we see corrupt and apostate generations arise. There is an increasing number of cases of family trouble and even of divorces in our own churches. With much sorrow we witness an element of our own young people that are worldly and ungodly.
The Christian home must be built upon the foundation which the Lord Himself has laid down in His Word. More and more the world is seeking to overthrow these foundations. It is said that these foundations are irrelevant for our modern age. We are told that we must change the order of the relationship between husband and wife in marriage. Some are even so foolish and evil to suggest that authority in the home ought no longer to be exercised only by father and mother but it must be shared with children in the home. There is a rise of incidents where men and women no longer want to get married. They do not want the obligation and responsibility of establishing a home and raising children. More and more we witness living-together arrangements where men and women live in “sexual freedom” outside the holy bonds of marriage which God has ordained. Many modern day couples decide even before they marry not to have any children or to have very few children lest their own freedom be limited and lest they hamper themselves in the great pursuits of life for pleasure and wealth. Often fathers and mothers are so entirely wrapped up in the labors of earthly careers that precious little time and effort is spent with children. By all means we must find other institutions than the family, it is said, to care for and raise the children. These notions do not arise because families are so poor and destitute that both father and mother have to work to make ends meet and simply to feed their hungry children. No, these ideas arise in an age of extreme wealth and materialism unparalleled by any the world has ever known. Others are clamoring for so-called alternative life styles, with arrangements as abominable as two homosexuals living together and even raising children. There is a desperate need for us as Christians to maintain the foundations which the Lord has laid for the family, the foundations which are sure and unchangeable.
We believe that marriage and the family had their beginning in God’s creation order. In His great wisdom, for the glory of His own name and the welfare of man and society, and especially for the future of His own church and kingdom the Lord decreed the order of marriage and the home. The story of this is told us in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis. On many occasions we have had opportunity to study these portions of God’s Word in connection with giving instruction at the regular pre-marriage counseling classes held in the church here in Singapore. Each time-we study these and other sections of the Word of God on the subjects of marriage and the family we are again amazed by the beautiful order which God created. We are told inGenesis 1 that God created man in His own image and likeness. We are told that God created both male and female in His own image. In this respect man and woman are equal before God. The woman is not a lower form of being than the man according to God’s creation order. Both were created in such a way that they could know, love, and serve God their creator. This was the purpose which God gave both to man and to woman.
When God made man male and female He did not create each separate and independent of one another. He did not create them both at the same time. He created man first and He created woman out of man. Thereby He established the order of marriage that man should be the head of his wife and that woman should be his companion and helpmeet. This wonderful order of God makes possible the great mystery of marriage. When God first created man He made him with a great need for a companion and helpmeet. God made Adam to feel this need very keenly when He brought all the animals to Adam and Adam realized that there was no helpmeet to be found for him. God made man a helpmeet out of his own rib. How beautiful the story of God’s creation of marriage. When God brought Eve to Adam, with great joy in his heart Adam exclaimed: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23). God made for Adam a helpmeet that, like himself, was created after His own image and that was also wonderfully different from him, such that she could live with him and in the blessed union of one flesh and fulfill his greatest need and afford him the deepest joy and satisfaction. God gave to Adam his most precious gift in giving him Eve. Furthermore, the Lord joined them together and gave them the command to love one another and live in life-long faithfulness with each other. This story is not some fairy tale devised by man. It is far more wonderful and blessed than anything that man in his sinful heart can imagine. The marriage which God created was the beginning of the home and family. The welfare of the home and family depends first of all on the order in which husband and wife lived with each other. This is not one that can be changed at whim and fancy of man so that it is equally proper for the woman to rule over the man or for the two, the man and the woman, to have equal authority. God made man to be the head over the woman, giving him authority over her and the obligation and calling lovingly to protect and keep her and lead and guide her. God made woman to be a help unto man to serve him so that together they might serve the Lord their creator.
God gave both to the man and the woman the mandate to have dominion over all the earth. Together they were to rule over God’s creation for the glory of the Lord. Yet in this Adam was to be the head and Eve was to be his helper. Neither could perform their calling without the other. This calling they would fulfill in their daily occupation. We believe that this mandate continues for man today. The Christian man and woman fulfill this command only by the grace and Spirit of God. They no longer labor only for this earth but they are joint heirs through Christ Jesus of the world that is to come.
At the time of creation God also gave to man and woman the mandate to bring forth children, to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. This is another amazing and wonderful aspect of God’s creation of the family. The man and the woman were called to fulfill this obligation together in obedience to God and in love for each other. Also this was a mandate. Today it is imagined that bringing forth children is merely a matter of personal preference. Some may even without any other than selfish reasons decide not to have any children. One of the most amazing facts of God’s creation of man is that He created them from the first not in hundreds and thousands as He did the animals. God first created one man and woman and united them together in marriage. He gave to them the most amazing and wonderful power under His providence to bring forth children after their own image and likeness. Especially to the woman He gave such an amazing and wonderful role that within her very own-body a new life, a new human being could be born. We must never cease to be amazed at the great wonders of God in all of these things. It has rightly been said that woman’s role in this is so absolutely fantastic that there is nothing which God has given to man that equals it.
In God’s creation order marriage and the home were to be the sphere in which children were to be born and raised. Herein also is manifested the great wisdom of God. Let no man say that any institution of man’s own invention can replace what God has ordained and created. It was not God’s purpose to continue to create independent and full-grown mature men and women after that He had created Adam and Eve. He was pleased to bring every other human being into this world as a helpless and dependent, weak and undeveloped little babe. The whole of the development of these little babes, physically, psychologically, and spiritually was to be the responsibility of their parents. The sphere in which the children were to grow was the sphere of the home. Every aspect of the home would have a tremendous influence upon the development of the child. How wonderfully suited the family is ideally for the purpose for which God created it. From a natural point of view the family would be the warm protective sphere in which children could grow and develop. In the family the children not only receive physical sustenance but also love, encouragement, and direction in life. In the sphere of the family, children would learn the knowledge and fear of the Lord. In the sphere of the family, children could see the example of father and mother and follow after it. All of this would have been true even had there been no fall of man into sin. The Lord caused that children should come forth from the very flesh and blood of their parents. With this arrangement there would be the strongest of physical ties between them to motivate parents in the necessary care and concern for the children.
In His wonderful providence the Lord ordained that father and mother should have their own unique role in the raising of the children. This role is related to the very nature of man and woman. The healthy physical and spiritual development of the child is dependent upon the unique influence of both mother and father. The Lord ordained that the father should exercise the role of authority and protection and provision and the mother of tender compassion and concern.
We have considered the family as it is ideally according to the purpose of God. We know of course that sin came into the world and had tremendous consequences for the family. It did not however abolish the order which God created. The biblical foundations of the family stand for all time, even though we as Christians in our families can only begin by the grace of God to live according to them.