Biblical Family Model
Biblical Family Model How does the Bible define a good Christian family? 1 Timothy 5 8 WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN FAMILY? The traditional family is under assault these days. Watch a prime-time television program about the family and you’ll soon discover that fathers are presented as idiotic, mothers as overbearing, and children as wise beyond their years. That’s assuming you can find a program portraying a “traditional” family with a husband and a wife. To say “traditional” families are under attack, however, is to acknowledge that our definition of the family is more culturally informed than biblical informed. Our Western, modern model of the family, where a husband and wife live together and rear two or three children, is not the model we see in the Bible, where husbands were often married to multiple wives, had relationships with concubines, and produced a prodigious number of children. Defining family, therefore, especially a “biblical” or “Christian” family, is no easy task. Frankly, it’s probably easier to bag an octopus than to define a “biblical family.” What we can definitively say is this: God is the originator of the family and continues to hold the patent. The ideal, established at the beginning of humanity, is for one man and one woman to join in a spiritually and physically committed union for a lifetime, conceiving and rearing children (Genesis 1:27–28; 2:18, 21–25). Clearly, this model wasn’t followed consistently throughout the Scriptures and is not followed today, where single parents, married couples without children, grandparents rearing their grandchildren, and empty-nesters—just to mention a few—make up a considerable percentage of “Christian” families. We would be hard-pressed not to label these relationships “families,” even though they don’t meet the ideal set forth in Genesis. Furthermore, the Lord continues to bless these types of families. So where does this leave us in trying to define family from a Christian perspective? We can affirm at least this much: “A Christian family is a group of people who are related to each other through marriage, birth, or adoption and are committed, first and foremost, to the person and work of Jesus Christ, faithfully witnessing to the love, power, and forgiveness of God to a watching world in its unique time and place.” A MODEL BIBLICAL FAMILY? When a believer was saved, he was spiritually identified with Christ. He died with Christ; he rose from the dead with Christ. He is now seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). However, this position should not simply be a mental note or point of theology for a Christian; it should radically change his life. It should change the way a person thinks. Paul says to think on things above and not on the things of the earth (v. 2). This position in Christ should affect every thought. It should change the “clothing” we wear. Paul tells the church to take off the old clothing of sin and put on the new clothing of righteousness, which fits our heavenly position in Christ. Put on love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, bearing with one another, etc. (vv. 5–14). In Colossians 3:15–17, he describes the priorities of our heavenly position, the outer garments of every believer. The Christian must let the peace of Christ rule in his life. We should make every decision based on the reality of whether this decision will disrupt our peace with Christ and his body. We must let the Word of Christ dwell richly in us. It must be our desire to know the Word of God more daily and to allow it to overflow in our lives. We also must do everything in the name of the Lord. We must seek his glory in everything we do. These are the priorities of the heavenly citizen. However, the questions remain, “What about our relationships? How should my position in Christ affect my family life?” In this lesson, we will see the responsibilities of the family members in God’s original design. THE WIFE ’S RESPONSIBILITY TO HER HUSBAND “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Col. 3:18, NET). First, we see the wife’s role. Paul says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord.” The wife must submit to her husband because this is fitting or appropriate for her position in Christ. The word submission often carries a nasty connotation in our society, but it must be noted that submission does not mean “inferiority.” “Submit” is actually a military word. The word simply means, “to arrange under rank.”1 It means to “come up under.” A sergeant is not inferior to a captain. They are equal. However, to have order in the military, authority must exist in the relationship or chaos will ensue. In the same way, when God made the husband and wife relationship, he made it with order so that it would function properly. Submission does not imply that the wife is less than the husband, for Scripture clearly proclaims the equality of all in Christ. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” There is equality in Christ. However, our equality and unity in Christ does not remove our roles. What Galatians teaches does not change the fact that the slave was still supposed to submit to and obey his master (cf. Col. 3:22; Eph. 6:5). That was his role even though he was equal with the master in his standing before God. The Husband’s Responsibility To His Wife There are several characteristics of the husband’s love seen in this passage.3 1. The Husband’s Love Must Be Realistic. The husband should have no unrealistic fantasies about the woman he is marrying. Christ loved the church and died for her while we were still enemies of God (Rom. 5:8). Christ knew she was sinful and disobedient. Yet, he still gave his life for her while knowing her faults. His love was realistic. In a marriage, both mates should understand this reality. In fact, much of pre–marital counseling is destroying the false expectations set up through romantic comedies and Hollywood. The husband must love realistically; this woman has been infected by sin just as the man has. She must be reformed daily by God’s grace, and she must be loved through her faults. Scripture says, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Having a realistic love is important for both mates, because if you don’t have it you will become disillusioned. I have no doubt that the reason the highest number of divorces happen in the first year of marriage is because most love is unrealistic. 2. The Husband’s Love Must Be Sacrificial. He is to love her as Christ loved the church and be willing to die for her. It should be heard that if anybody feels like the wife’s role is unfair, they should give more thought to the man’s. It is much easier to submit to someone than to give one’s life for that person. This love that the husband is supposed to embody is impossible without the grace of God. To love sacrificially means the husband must at times give up other things to serve and please his wife. He must sacrifice for her. He must sacrifice time, entertainment, friendships, sometimes even career, etc., in order to love his wife. 3. The Husband’s Love Must Be Purposeful. Christ’s love makes the church holy by cleansing her with the Word. Christ’s purpose is to make her the perfect bride. Similarly, the husband must love his wife through teaching her Scripture, getting her involved in a Bible-preaching church, encouraging her to get involved with small groups and ministries or areas where she can grow and serve. He must seek to cultivate not only her character but also her calling so she can fulfill God’s plans on her life. He must discern her gifts and talents and encourage her in the use of those for the glory of God. This love also means at times admonishing her to help her know Christ more. It is a purposeful love. Every man should consider if he is ready and willing to love a woman this way before getting married. Is he ready to be a spiritual leader? 4. The Husband’s Love Must Be Personal. He must love her as his own body. Every day the husband brushes his teeth, combs his hair, and clothes himself. Every day he maintains his body. Sadly, we often go days without maintaining our marriages. It is very easy to get so busy with life and ministry that we allow weeds to grow up in the garden of our homes. Love must be personal. We must love our wives like our own bodies, and daily we must take time to cultivate a happy home. Submission and authority in marriage are ugly words in our society. However, there should be no issue with submission when someone loves us like this. Scripture says it is the love of God that brings men to repentance (Rom. 2:4), and the man must allow this love to transform his wife. What should a man do when he has a wife who does not want to submit? Should he demand submission? Should he become bitter toward her? Absolutely not. Paul commands the husband to not “not be embittered” against her (v. 19). It literally reads, “Stop being bitter.”4 No, he should love. Let the love of God flow through your life and break the heart that has been calloused by sin. Scripture says love is patient (1 Cor. 13:4). Patiently love this person and trust God to work on her heart. What should the woman do when the man is not loving her and not seeking to lead spiritually? She should continue to submit to him, pray for him, and love him. She should gently encourage him in the role of leadership, and she should be careful not to nag him. Let your chaste, godly conduct, and prayers change his heart. First Peter 3:1–2 says, The Children’s Responsibility To Their Parents APPLICATION I have no doubt that these characteristics would mark many of our historically great nations before God’s judgment fell upon them. Youth oppress the people; the adults live in fear of the youth. Women rule in the home, the church, and in society, instead of men being the leaders, as was his plan with Adam. This is offensive to the world system, and it should be. The world is not the way that God designed it to be. The natural mind is antagonistic toward the things of God (Rom 8:7; 1 Cor. 2:14). Paul speaks to the children in the church and essentially tells them that the rebellion seen in the world should not mark them as Christians. Rebellion against authority does not fit our position in Christ. Now, note that this obedience has limits. Children should not obey anything that would violate God’s Word or their consciences (cf. Rom. 14:23). Like the apostles, when commanded by the Pharisees to no longer preach in the name of Christ, they declared, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29b). Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 3 The Parent’s Responsibility To Their Children APPLICATION In still addressing the child/parent relationship, Paul speaks to fathers and commands them to not provoke their children lest they become disheartened or “lose heart,” as translated in the NASB. The word “provoke” can also be translated “embitter”.This is not simply referring to a child getting angry, for this is inevitable. It has to do with a deep–rooted, settled anger that stays in these children and affects their persons for the rest of their lives. It also should be noted that the word “father” can also be translated “parents.” The same word is translated “parents” in Hebrews 11:23 when it says Moses’s “parents” hid him for three months because they saw he was not an ordinary child. This sin is committed not only by fathers, though they might be most inclined towards it, but also by mothers. It is possible for a parent to so embitter a child that they become heartless and discouraged. How do parents embitter their children? This can happen in many ways. Application Question: In what ways do parents embitter their children? 1. Parents Embitter Their Children By Not Disciplining Them. This is one of the quickest ways to develop bitter children. A spoiled child is a child that is thankless and bitter. Because they get their way all the time, they are bitter whenever any authority does not give them their way or when life becomes difficult. Solomon said, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him” (Prov. 22:15). Parents embitter them by never driving the foolishness, the sin, out of their hearts through good discipline. Parents who do not discipline their children and instead gives them everything they want often become surprised when their children eventually rebel against them later in life. These spoiled kids want nothing to do with their parents. Sadly, this happens too much, even in the church. 2. Parents Embitter Their Children By Abusing Them Or Giving Improper Discipline. When children are abused, either verbally or physically, it sows seeds of anger or hatred in their hearts. The anger sown into the hearts of these children is hard to get out. Many times these children abuse others because of the anger in them. However, we see this not only as a result of abuse, but with improper discipline as well. When a parent does not wisely use his anger, it trains his child to unwisely use his anger as well. The parent becomes angry and curses at them, criticizes them, or even harshly disciplines them. Even if this punishment is just, the improper use of anger trains the child. The child learns, “When I am angry it is OK to curse; it is OK to hit somebody; it’s OK to go crazy.” He never learns how to properly control his anger, and therefore struggles with anger throughout his life. The parent who disciplines his child in an angry spirit teaches him how to deal with anger. The child grows up fighting everybody, or holding grudges against anybody who failed him, because that is how he was trained. Listen parents, telling your children to go to their rooms while you are angry can be a wise tactic. It gives you a chance to evaluate their sin, their motives, and your own heart. It allows you to teach them how to respond to their anger, and it also allows you to discipline them appropriately. 3. Parents Embitter Their Children By Neglecting Them. Many children grow up bitter because their parents aren’t around. Consequently, they lack love and affection and therefore grow bitter because of that. Some parents neglect their children for work. They work long hours to achieve a certain amount of success, and this keeps them away from home. Ultimately, this hurts children both emotionally and spiritually. Sadly, in our society many parents neglect their children by sending them away to extensive education programs. Many times these programs are meant to compensate for their lack of being around. It is not God’s will for teachers, coaches, or babysitters to raise children. That is why he gave them to their parents. Certainly, these people should play a role, but it is important for parents to be the primary influence on their children’s lives. Parents must be careful not to neglect their children. We saw an example of neglect in the story of Absalom and David. David neglected his children, and this created such anger in Absalom that he eventually usurped David’s authority in the kingdom and essentially tried to kill him. One of David’s sons had previously raped Absalom’s sister and David did nothing. Absalom killed this brother and David did nothing. Absalom ran away from the kingdom and David did nothing. When Absalom came back to the kingdom after murdering his brother, David wouldn’t even visit him. This created anger in Absalom’s heart, which he tried to satisfy by seeking to kill his absentee father. David didn’t discipline him and didn’t encourage him. David did nothing but neglect his son and it had drastic consequences. Many children have tremendous anger at a father or mother who neglected them. Parents, do not embitter your children. Prioritize them over your work, your church, your entertainment, and your social life. Let only God and your spouse come before them. <4. Parents Embitter Their Children By Never Encouraging Them And Showing Them Affection. We saw this in the story of Martin Luther whose father never encouraged him or showed him love. Listen to what commentator William Barclay said: It is one of the tragic facts of religious history that Martin Luther’s father was so stern to him that, all his life, Luther found it difﬁcult to pray: ‘Our Father.’ The word father in his mind represented nothing but severity. The duty of the parent is discipline, but it is also encouragement. Luther himself said: ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child. It is true. But beside the rod keep an apple to give him when he does well.’7 Healthy parents not only discipline their children but also reward them. Parents reward their children when they do well and discipline them when they do wrong. Children start to learn fairness by this balanced approach. 5. Parents Embitter Their Children By Showing Favoritism Toward Other Siblings. We got a good picture of this in the story of Jacob and Joseph. Jacob gave Joseph the robe of many colors, showing his favor of this son above the other eleven. This embittered the older siblings against the father and against Joseph. Later, they kidnapped and sold Joseph into slavery out of their anger. How often do siblings become embittered against one another because of unwise parenting practices? These children grow up disliking one another. “Mother always thought you were the prettiest.” “Dad always liked you because you were the smartest and most athletic.” This happens all the time. CONCLUSION God’s design for the family is that: 1. 2. 3. 4. Wives submit to their husbands. Husbands love their wives and not be harsh to them. Children obey their parents in everything. Parents not embitter their children. Let’s pray for our families.