How do I build a Christian family? Last week we attempted to answer that question by saying that, first of all, one must be sure of the foundation upon which he builds and the materials with which he builds. The foundation can only be the Word of God. The materials can only be the principles taught in that Word concerning marriage and the family.
Today we want to be a bit more specific and look into the husband/wife relationship as that relationship is the very center of any family or home.
We begin with this truth, that marriage must be in the Lord. In the beginning, when God created the man and the woman, and when He created the heaven and the earth, God instituted the family and He instituted marriage. When we read in Genesis 1 and 2 (which is literal history – the record of what God did when He created the world) then we find there of the will of God for man. That will of God would be marriage: that a man and a woman would be married and that that bond would be lifelong.
It is not evolution. Evolution says that, after all, marriage and the relationship of men and women is simply something that has evolved and gone through different patterns and periods and we are free to redefine that relationship according to what we think best suits our culture or our needs. That is not pious but wicked unbelief. The religion of evolution (evolution is not a science, but evolution is a religion) is anti-God, as it talks about the creation evolving, evolving to who knows where, and about the relationship of men and women today evolving and who knows to where or what.
That is not what the Bible says. That is not what the living God says in His Word. In His Word God, in the beginning, clearly defined marriage. He said that marriage would be one man and one woman united in faith in the living God. We read that He made them male and female, and that He gave to them in Genesis 1 the command to be fruitful and multiply. He further clarified that in Genesis 2:24 when He said that a man shall “leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
Now that union of one man and one woman must be a union in the living God. God never intended marriage to be anything other than the involvement of three: the man, the woman, and God. Adam and Eve were not made only for each other, but they were made for God. They were made to know God, to love God, and to serve God. And they were made to know, love, and serve God in their marriage. That was the will of God. And the idea is not simply that a little bit of religion will do us good in our marriages, and perhaps we should make sure that the kids get into Sunday School or something like that. But the Scriptures teach that it is the will of God that a man and a woman be united in the living God, revealed in Jesus Christ and in His Word. We read in I Corinthians 7:39, marry in the Lord. The husband/wife relationship with God is the most important factor in the success or failure of a Christian family.
The most important single factor in the success of the family is not, first of all, the compatibility of the man and the woman. The most important single factor in your marriage is not the figure of your wife. But the most important single factor in a marriage, and therefore in a family, is the relationship of the husband and wife to God.
Why is that so? Because, by nature, a man or a woman is a rebel against God. Romans 8:7 teaches that the natural mind is not subject to the will of God, neither, indeed, can be. Until one is made subject to God, he will fight like crazy against the directives which are given in the Bible. If you are not rightly related to God, your flesh is going to crawl because of the standards of God’s Word with respect to marriage and the family. All of those standards are going to cut across the grain of your flesh. The most important single factor is the relationship of the husband and wife unto God, a living relationship unto God.
Listen! If there is no spiritual oneness in your marriage then the deepest hunger that you have will not be met. The deepest capacity for love will not be there. The deepest capacity that a man or woman has to love is only to be found in God. And if there is not spiritual unity in God, the God of the Bible, in your marriage, and if you do not make that primary, the thing upon which you work day after day, then the deepest intimacy in your life can never be cemented.
Now, if I am speaking today to young people, and if I am speaking to those contemplating marriage, this is absolutely crucial! Marry in the Lord. Make your relationship to God as He is revealed in the holy Scriptures in Jesus Christ the fundamental aspect of your union. And do so now. The home is built on the unity of the husband and the wife, whether there are children present or not. And what a beautiful thing it is when, by God’s grace, they are united in God.
We might interject here a moment that this truth also brings out the horror of pre-marital sex. God has intended that sexual union be the gift that He gives to the husband and wife (to one man and one woman) in a lifelong bond of marriage. When that is taken out of that bond and is engaged in before marriage, the parties involved are eroding their very future family. The Bible and sex are very simple. The Bible teaches that that sexual union is given exclusively to marriage as a picture of the intimacy of the love of God that is given of the husband and the wife to each other.
The husband and wife must also know how to live with each other. God has created the man and the woman equal, as being creatures, equal in being depraved in their sins, and equal in the redemption of Jesus Christ. You see, it is not the Bible, and it is not God, but it is man that degrades a woman.
But the Bible also teaches that God has given to the man and to the woman their distinct places and responsibilities. The pro-feminist movement, as it is in our country, is not pro-woman but is anti-God, and anti-His-order for marriage. For, as God has created them equal as creatures, and as they are both assumed equal in depravity, and as they are both equal in the redemption of Jesus Christ, so also God has given to the man and to the woman in marriage their own individual responsibilities and calling. To argue against that is not to argue against some culture. It is not to argue against some mind-set that comes to us from the first century, from the apostle Paul perhaps. But it is to challenge and to go to war against God Himself.
We read in Genesis 1:26, “Let us make them (that is, the man and the woman) in our image.” And again, in Genesis 2:18, God said concerning Adam, “I will make an help meet for him” – that is, a help answering to him. So the woman was made to complement the man, or the man and the woman were made to complement each other. The woman was made to answer to man’s needs emotionally, intellectually, physically, spiritually. The husband is incomplete without his wife, and the wife was not made to exist on or for her own, but to exist with her husband. That is further made plain in Genesis 2:24, where we read that the man and the woman shall cleave to one another and shall be one flesh.
That idea of being one flesh means this: there must be a total commitment to intimacy in every aspect of their life, symbolized in the sexual union of one flesh. To be one flesh is not simply two bodies joined together. It is not simply two people sharing one house. It is not simply splitting the duties or going Dutch or whatever. That is not marriage. But to be one flesh refers to a total commitment to intimacy between the man and the woman in all areas of life, mind, heart, affection. And that comes to tangible expression in the sexual union.
Out of that one-flesh union comes the birth of children. The child represents what God has done – that He has made the man and the woman one. That is seen in the miracle of birth and the miracle of a child. That child represents the union God has made between a husband and a wife. If that marriage comes to divorce, then the question is asked, What do you do with the child? Can you unmake the child? You cannot do that! That child represents the union that God has made between a man and his wife.
But, as I was saying before, God has also given to the man and woman individual responsibilities. One of the most beautiful and clear passages in the Bible on this is Ephesians 5. If you are not familiar with that passage, I would suggest and recommend to you heartily that you study it, especially beginning at verse 21. And read all the way through to chapter 6:4, where you have some of the most wonderful and profound teaching of the Word of God with respect to marriage and with respect to the parent/child relationship. You will notice, when you read that passage, that the apostle Paul weaves two things into those verses: the creative order and the redemptive pattern. That passage of Scripture teaches that when God created the man and the woman, the husband and wife, there was a certain order that He made: the husband must be the head of his wife, and the wife must submit to her husband.
But the apostle Paul does not speak there only of the created order that God made. He speaks also of the redemptive pattern. That is, you will find in those verses that he continually speaks of Christ and the church, and that he says that that pattern of redemption must also be the pattern reflected in marriage. So we read in Ephesians 5:22: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord,” and Paul goes on to say, “even as the church is subject to Christ.” The duty or responsibility of the wife in the marriage is submission. God made man to be the head of the wife and the woman to follow. That was the created order. But also there was a redemptive pattern, that as Christ is the head of the church, and as the church willingly and lovingly submits to Christ, so ought a wife submit to her husband.
You have there, then, both the creative order and the redemptive pattern: as the church submits to Christ, so must the wife submit to her husband. God made Adam first. He took the woman out of the rib of man, out of that part which was very close to his heart, in fact, out of the portion of his body which protected his heart. There is the created order: man first, the woman taken out of the man. But also, as the church submits to Christ out of faith and love, so must the wife live under or in submission to her husband. That is her place: subjection, submission to her husband.
Then the apostle Paul in that passage turns to the husband and says, “Husband, love your wife.” And he brings the redemptive pattern. How are you to love your wife? As Christ loved the church. That is absolutely awesome. What is the measure to which a man must love his wife? He must love her so that he is reflecting the love of Christ to the church. The apostle goes on in those verses to teach us that that love of Christ to the church was exclusive: He gave Himself for His church. It was a particular love, centered only upon His church – not upon all, but only upon His church, those given Him of His Father. Further, the love of Jesus Christ was not only exclusive, that is, for the church alone, but it was also sacrificial. He gave Himself, even to the death of the cross. And it was a nurturing love. He nurtures and cares for that church. That is the love that a man must have for his wife.
I hope that you see the difference between the love which leads us to the altar on our marriage day, and that love as it deepens and enriches through marriage. How much did you know of love when you got married? How much were you prepared to say “No” to your own likes and to your own objects of joy and to live for your wife, even as Christ lives for the church, with that sacrificial and nurturing love? How much does Christ love the church? That has to be reflected in you.
That means this: to any child who asks me, as a pastor, what it means that the church submits to Christ, I ought to be able to say to that child, “Look at your Christian mother. As your mother submits to your father, that is what it means that the church submits to Christ.” Then, when that child comes and asks me, as a pastor, “Pastor, you have taught us in catechism that Christ loves His church. What does that mean?” I ought to be able to look at that child and say to him or her, “You look at your Dad. Do you see the way your Dad loves your Mother? That’s what it means that Christ loves His church.”
I ought to be able to say that to your children and to mine. It is that relationship, that husband/wife relationship, which is vital to the family. This is the relationship which is constantly giving off a powerful influence in every direction in the home. Even if the husband and wife were dumb, that is, unable to speak, their married life would be giving a most eloquent and powerful instruction to their children of the very fundamentals of the gospel.
Think about it. Conform your marriage relationship to the pattern that God has revealed in His Word. That is how you build a family.
Next week we will break off from our study of the Christian family to commemorate the holiday of Thanksgiving as it is celebrated in this country. But we will return to the subject a week after that and talk about the parent/child relationship. You’ll want to be with us for both of those messages.
Let us pray.
Our Father who art in heaven, we pray that Thou wilt apply Thy Word, as we have heard it today, to our hearts, and that our marriages may indeed reflect the union of Christ and His church. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.