Family Living – Introduction
Text: Ephesians 5
There’s much emphasis in the media put on social issues. There’s always something we’re being told needs addressed. But it’s always presented as a social issue. However, what is society? It is simply the collection of families. In fact, Margaret Thatcher touched on this when she said, “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.”
And the problems that are identified as social issues, are often family issues. What we see all around us is the breakdown of family morality, authority, and the biblical order.
The erosion of the family unit is everywhere to be seen. It cannot be denied, except by those wilfully blind. And this breakdown has come into the church, there’s no question of that. The church has failed to equip parents and so parents have failed in their obligations, and so instead of the gospel being propagated from our homes, it is being hindered.
A few pointers before we begin:
1. There are no perfect families, only a perfect Christ. We must keep that in mind to prevent us from feeling a sense of despair. The basis of perfection from which God works is Christ, not us and our perfect family life. If it required perfection from us, we would have no hope.
2. We must have a teachable spirit. Some things will be said that may turn our world upside-down. Let us prayerfully consider it, not resist it outright.
3. I will try to be sensitive at all times. Some think this topic is only for married couples with children, but that’s not the case. I will attempt to deal with the wide spectrum of variations we find in the local church. Some weeks it may feel you’re the only one being addressed e.g. we might deal with being grandparents and you realise you’re the only one, or I might be dealing with children and you don’t have any of your own. Well, the knowledge of each subject is needed for all. We want to be able to pass on good counsel, or something that may not apply today, may apply down the line. There are important topics that are specific to certain sections of the church, and we must appreciate they cannot be ignored because they don’t apply to all. Dealing with things like divorce can be hurtful for those who have experienced it, but it’s necessary so that we all learn how we can avoid such hurt.
4. I will try to be appropriate. There may be some things that ought to be said, but the environment is not appropriate. Things perhaps that children don’t need to hear. In that case I may put additional things in the notes, but not mention them.
I say all that because I understand. I wasn’t brought up in anything near what some would describe as a perfect family. I was raised from eight years old by only my mother. My concept of family life has been one of continued learning and facing the challenge of having to accept that certain things need to change because I’ve been wrong. And I understand the pain of certain topics.
I. THE FAMILY HAS A PURPOSE
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him. What is the purpose for which the scriptures have been given? To teach us who God is and what He requires of us.
Q. 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A. The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.
It’s hard to think about what God requires of us without thinking of how that relates to our family. Loving our family, serving our family, evangelizing our family, etc. So dealing with family life is very much related to what we know God requires of us. We glorify him through our responsibilities to our family, and the scriptures teach us our duty.
II. THE FAMILY FROM DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES
Creation Ordinances (before man fell) – Marriage, Sabbath, Labour.
Things seen by example and command. And marriage began before the Fall in innocence and perfection. The one thing in the perfect world that God said was ‘not good’ is that man be alone. So God declares man in need of a female companion. So marriage is not something that man needed because he fell, and neither are children. Both were intended before the Fall. So it’s nothing to do with not being satisfied with God.
2. Fall – Gen 3:15-17
Note that the Fall impacts the family. More difficult labour in delivering. More difficult labour in providing. But it’s all to do with family living. Why must husbands be commanded to love their wives? The Fall. Why must wives be commanded to honour their husbands? The Fall. Why must children be disciplined and told to obey their parents? The Fall. etc, etc.
When we brought to faith in Christ, we are given a heart of flesh. A heart with desire to know and do God’s will. As such, this will change the home. A husband will endeavour to love His wife aright. A wife will endeavour to honour her husband aright. Both will seek to deal with their children aright, and those children will endeavour to respond to their parents aright.
The indwelling Spirit has given us a love for God’s Word, and thankfully God has just said, ‘endeavour to have a godly home’ but He has given us specific instruction, for which we should be thankful.
4. New Creation – Matt 22:29
The relationship changes. Marriage is not eternal. If it was, no one could ever remarry. So the relationship changes. However, providing we die in Christ, the relationship is still special by reason of our collective union in Christ, and because our union with Christ is more intense and unhindered by sin, so will our relationship with each other.
III. THE FAMILY IS NOT THE PRIORITY
“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Lk 14:26
We must never make an idol of the family or of any human relationship. If our relationship supersedes our love towards or obedience to Christ, then we are idolaters. (Deut 13:6-8) – we are taught that the most important relationship is that which we have with God. And we must be careful to keep this in mind.
There’s a growing emphasis on the family in some reformed circles which is largely positive, but with a subtle danger i.e. they seem to present Christ as the answer to a good marriage, rather than seeing marriage as a vehicle whereby we serve Christ.
So while there’s a danger in degrading the family unit (which is common today), there’s also a danger of overemphasizing the family unit without realizing that it will be dissolved in its present form. It is temporary. Remember, our marriage vows are until death. They don’t go beyond that.
And yet at the same time, the family relationship is important, because the Bible constantly uses family terms to describe our relationship to God and to His people. God speaks in terms of His marriage to Israel, and the Church is referred to as the Bride of Christ, and we speak of each other as brethren, Christ our elder brother, and God being our Father and we’re all the family of God. All of these terms are to instruct us and help us understand the intimacy of the relationship between us and God and between each other as the people of God. And as we have better relationships with our families, we’ll have a better relationship with the Lord.