Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
November 9, 2003
Holy & Free, Part 9
Foundations for the Family
This morning I want us to return to our Holy & Free series that I have delayed for the last 6 weeks so that we could look at the purpose of the church. Remember that our purpose here is to Glorify God by Making Disciples of Jesus Christ through Communicating New Life in Christ, Cultivating New Life in Christ, Caring for New Life in Christ and Celebrating New life in Christ. In our Holy & Free series we have already covered a lot of topics including as drugs, drinking, dancing, dress, music, entertainment, leisure, dating, courtship, marriage, and having children. Before we get into our exposition of the book of Philippians sometime next month. I want to expand on the subjects of marriage and children. There is a lot of freedom in the specifics of how a marriage might function and in the specifics of how children are raised, but there are also some very clear Biblical principles for both that we need to clearly understand if the specifics are to fit within Biblical parameters.
This morning I want to lay the Biblical foundation for the family and in the following weeks examine the role of the parents, the role of the children and then key character traits that need to be instilled into the children.
As we begin, just a couple of cautions. First, be careful about your response to these messages. As we talk about God’s design for the family, the role of the wife, husband, parents and children, it will be easy to find areas for which you can criticize. If you end up becoming critical of each other you will only end up fighting and hurting each other. You need to listen closely first to what applies to you and work to change and match God’s design. Then you need to listen and understand role that each other family member plays, not for the purpose criticizing them, but so that you may understand their God given role and then respond with encouragement, help and effective prayer. We are to help each other walk with Christ.
Second, be aware that due to the prevalence of feminist thought in our culture, the subject of the role of the wife has become controversial even within the church. When I say feminist thought, I am not referring to just the radical views of the feminist extremists, such as those in NOW, whose touchstone issues are abortion for any reason and lesbianism. I am referring to the general view of women and their roles that have come to be accepted by most Americans. You will recognize these views when you start feeling uncomfortable by what I say.
Third, be every preacher knows that to speak on these issues risks a back-lash from even those professing to be Christians. Some of you will reject what I will say simply because I am not living your life. I am not a woman. I only have sons, and my children may not be as old yours. To some, that disqualifies me to speak on your role and how you are doing in your parenting. However, I know I am very qualified to speak on the subject because I have the Word of God. The issue is not how well I relate to you or what I think. The issue is what God says. My goal is to explain what God has revealed in His Word. You and I are both obligated to conform ourselves to His Word and follow its principles. I will let you know when I give you my opinion, for you are not obligated to conform to it, but you are responsible to obey God’s Word.
GOD’S DESIGN FOR THE FAMILY – IT’S FOUNDATION
The foundation for the family is found in God’s design for marriage. Turn to Genesis 2. Verse 18-25 records, 18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” (Someone called alongside to assist). 19 And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought [them] to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 And the man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 And the Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 And the man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” (Isha – female man). 24 For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
There are no children yet, but they are a family. The family unit begins with the union of the husband and wife. Children only increase the size of the family. That is important to take note of. You and your spouse are already a family before you have children, and you will still be a family after your children grow up and leave home. The foundation for the family is in the marriage relationship
In Ephesians 5:31,32 Paul quotes from verse 24, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. Paul then comments in verse 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Verse 32 is the explanation of the purpose of marriage. Marriage is not so much about the individuals involved, but about the glory of God. Your marriage is to be a picture of Christ and His relationship to the church. Your marriage is to bring glory to God.
That is why there is always hope for a marriage. God cares about your marriage than you do. There is no such thing as an irreconcilable marriage, just individuals that refuse to be reconcilable to God and their spouse. Any two people willing to follow God’s design for marriage can have a wonderful and joyful relationship, for that is always the side benefit of doing things God’s way and bringing glory to His name. The marriage will still take a lot of work, but God will use you in each others lives to mold you into what you are supposed to be. That fulfills our purpose in making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Because marriage has a divine objective in the glory of God, there is good news for even those whose spouse does not want to fulfill God’s design. They themselves can still strive to follow God’s design in their own life and bring glory to God and His blessing to their family. We understand from 1 Cor. 7:14 that even an unbeliever benefits in sanctification by having a believing spouse.
If you want God’s blessing in your family, you need to follow God’s design for it, and that starts in fulfilling your role in the marriage relationship. You cannot be a better parent than you are a husband or wife. If you are a single parent, then what I will be saying about these roles will simply have a greater manifestation in your relationship with the Lord Himself. The Lord will provide the single father with the help he needs. The Lord will provide the direction and emotional support that the single mother needs. You must seek in Him what you would have otherwise sought in your spouse. The same principle applies to those with unbelieving or contentious spouses.
What then are the roles of the husband and the wife? We will start with the wife.
THE ROLE OF THE WIFE
The scenario God used in Genesis 2 caused Adam to realize his lack of companionship and his need for someone who would be his compliment. God then made Eve from out of Adam’s rib. This is significant because it shows that she is not independent of him. Paul comments on this in 1 Cor. 11:8,9 saying, “For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.”
This statement is repulsive to feminist thought and is the reason that Christian women who have been affected by feminism tend to think of Paul as a male chauvinist and not worth listening too. The truth is that Paul elevated the position of women, but he also understood what God had said from the very beginning and made clear statements about the role God has given to women. Paul did not compromise on the truth and neither should we.
If you do not like the statement that God created woman for the man’s sake, then you have a two fold problem. First, you are in rebellion against what God has done, and Second, you have failed to understand the incredible importance of the role God has given to women. You have been deceived into the absurd lunacy of feminism that places premium value on that which is characteristically male rather than female. I could speak for hours on the incredible worth of women and your crucial importance in society, but that is not the subject of this sermon. Ladies, let me give you this simple advice. Do not trade in the high position God has given you as a woman for the mess of pottage of feminism that says your value is related to your being more like a man. Be feminine, not a feminist, and praise the Lord He made you a woman.
Eve had no problem with the role that God gave her, but that role became a curse when she and Adam fell into sin. Prior to their fall into sin, Adam and Eve were completely open with each other. The word, “naked,” in Gen. 2:25 means “without impediment” and it is a mental concept. It is a lot more than just not having clothes on. The very same word is used in Gen. 3:1 to describe the serpent as “crafty.” Adam and Eve were not selfish. They were not sinful. They willingly served one another in the roles God had given them, but when sin entered the picture, so did its curse.
In Genesis 3:14f God places a curse on the serpent, Eve and Adam. The aspect of the curse at the end of verse 16 relates to the roles in marriage. “Yet your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” While there is some controversy over the exact meaning of “desire” here, I believe the case is very strong for it to include the idea of wanting to control her husband, for it is being contrasted with his “ruling over her.” Rather than being a compliment to one another, they were now in competition, at least to some degree. The reality of this curse is seen daily when husband and wife clash in their relationship because of a struggle for control. Control over time. Control over money. Control over what will be done. What will you do? When will you do it? What will you spend your money on?
God’s design for marriage works against this curse of sin. Marriage divine style moves both husband and wife back into their proper roles within which they can again compliment one another rather than conflict with each other. In Ephesians 5, Paul gives further explanation of God’s design for the family.
Let me quickly set the context. Paul is explaining, challenging and commanding Christians to live according to the changes God made in us when He saved us. We are new creatures in Christ and ought to live as such and stop living like we did before we were saved. In this section of Ephesians, Paul has called us to be careful to walk according to God’s wisdom and not in the foolishness of this world. We are to make the most of our time and opportunities God gives to us during our short stay on earth. Life is too short to be caught up in the foolishness of self-centered living. Instead, we are to understand and follow the will of the Lord.
God’s will is not some mystical thing floating around out in the cosmos somewhere. He has revealed it to us in the Scriptures and has given us the Holy Spirit at salvation to prompt us in living accordingly. We are to be filled with the Spirit, that is, we are to be influenced and controlled by Him in a manner analogous to the influence and control alcohol has on those who get drunk. The Holy Spirit is to be the director of our lives, not we ourselves.
The evidence of being filled by the Spirit will be your praise and worship of the Lord and by your relationships with others, especially within the family. A man and a woman cannot create the kind of marriage and have the kind of family God designed for them unless they are filled with the Holy Spirit.
The key for all the relationships is found in Eph. 5:21, “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” Christians are to voluntarily submit to one another. Christians should be marked by humility and courtesy reflecting our relationship with Jesus Christ. There is no place for pride and arrogance in the life of a Christian.
All believers are to be in submission to one another, as Phil. 2:3 also commands, but this is especially true when it comes to the role that God has entrusted to the wife within the marriage. Eph. 5:22, “Wives, be subject/submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” The word “subject” or “submit” is not actually in the text but is supplied from verse 21 so that the sentence will make sense in English. That is why the word is in italics in most translations. A more literal translation of vs. 21,22 would be, “be being submissive to one another in fear of Christ, the wives to their own husbands as to the Lord.” The idea of the wife submitting herself to her husband flows out of command for mutual submission and her submission to the Lord. The Bible does not ask a woman to be subservient and obedient to their husbands out of fear. It calls on the woman to submit to her husband’s headship out of love for Christ that is then extended to the husband. The Christian woman needs to realize that her serving her husband as a godly wife is a major way in which she serves Christ, so it is a voluntary yielding of her will to him in the same way that she submits to Jesus Christ. The ability of a woman to do this is dependent on her relationship to God and being filled with the Spirit. This cannot be done without the Holy Spirit.
1 Peter 3:1-6 also speaks to this idea. 3:1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any [of them] are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3 And let not your adornment be [merely] external– braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but [let it be] the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. 6 Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
Certainly this is easier if your husband is a Christian man who lives according to the principles of the Scriptures, but your submission is to take place even if your husband is disobedient to the Word. No one says this is easy. In fact, it is impossible unless you are filled with the Spirit. Yet, this passage says that the way to win your husband is through your “chaste and respectful behavior.” Your humble submission is what God will use to draw your husband to Himself.
Now let me quickly point out that this idea of submission does have limitations. First, your submission is primarily to God, then to your husband. You cannot submit to anything he may ask you to do that would violate God’s commandments. As Peter and John said before the Sanhedrin – “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Second, submission does not mean you are to allow your husband to abuse you. In 1 Cor. 7:10,11 Paul says, “…the wife should not leave her husband, but if she does leave, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband.” Separation is the Biblical alternative to an abusive marriage. That is the wake up call for the man to get his act together. I will add that physically abusive men need to spend some time in jail for two reasons. 1) Government needs to carry out its God given role as an avenger of evil. 2) The loving thing to do is make the person aware of the seriousness of their sin that they may repent and walk in holiness. A little jail time on earth to see the need for salvation is much better than eternity in hell.
Third, submission does not mean that you have to coddle an unbelieving husband so they will not leave you. 1 Cor. 7:15 states, “yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.” You are to live a godly life with all humility and with all righteousness. If your spouse cannot stand to see Jesus Christ living in you, then you are free to let them leave. Just be sure it is the righteousness of Christ in you that is driving them away and not some sinful character flaw in you.
Turning back to Ephesians 5 we find that verses 25-33 all deal with the husband’s role. That gives you an idea of who needs the most instruction. The very end of verse 33 has one more command to the ladies, “and let the wife see to it that she respect (or reverence – KJV) her husband.”
Few women really understand the importance of their influence on their husbands. The cliche, behind every great man is a good woman is a general truth. Remember that you were created to be his help meet, his companion that would enable him to function properly and accomplish something with his life. For all their bravado, men are generally fearful and insecure. He may never admit it, but he wants and needs someone to believe in him and encourage him to succeed. God has given that role primarily to you wives. You treat him with respect and he will try to take on the world. If you belittle him, you will either lose him or you will watch him shrivel up into a shadow of the man he is supposed to be.
Some women complain that there is little about their husband to respect. The scripture does not say he has to be perfect for you to respect him. Start in the areas you do respect him and then learn from there to treat him with respect. At the very minimum he was smart enough to marry you. How now then will God use you in his life?
THE ROLE OF THE HUSBAND
Back in verse 23 we find the reason for the wife’s submission, and it is directly related to the role of the husband. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself [being] the Savior of the body. The idea of the husband being the head is one of position of authority and responsibility, not one of superior to inferior. She is a fellow heir of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7). She is different, not inferior. In fact, the wife may have superior abilities and skills in many areas compared to her husband, but the issue here is not one of ability and skill but of order and purpose. That is why there is much freedom in marriage for each couple to decide how the tasks of daily life will be completed within the marriage.
Paul comments in 1 Cor. 11:3 that God the Father is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of every man, and man is the head of a woman. This is not arbitrary, but follows the order of creation, as Paul points out in 1 Tim. 2:13. It also follows the purpose of our creation as we have already pointed out in Genesis. The woman was created to be the compliment of the man, not the other way around.
Many men would like the passage to stop there and leave them to be the ruling despot of the family, but the passage does not stop there, and Scriptures make it clear that the man is not to be a despot. He also is to be in “mutual submission” (v. 21), and he does not have the right to make up his own commands. He is also responsible to carry out the commands of his head, Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 11:3). Paul goes on to describe in Ephesians 5:25 -33 how the husband is to carry out his God given role of leadership in the home. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 26 that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also [does] the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and [let] the wife [see to it] that she respect her husband.
The husband is commanded to love his wife three different times in this passage. Gentlemen, I will propose, that for the most part, if you fulfill your role, your wife will fulfill hers because it is easy to submit to and respect someone that truly loves you. What kind of love are you to demonstrate to her? Paul gives three parallel examples to help you understand.
1) Love her like Christ loved the church. 2) Cherish her like you cherish your own body. 3) Love her as you love yourself.
First, love her like Christ. Your love for your wife is to parallel the love of Jesus for His church. That is an impossible standard without a close relationship and walk with the Lord. You cannot do this in your own power. This love is not about warm fuzzy feelings for her. It is not based in how pretty or smart she is, or all the wonderful things she does for you. Those are fine qualities and you should tell her how much those mean to you. However, your greatest reason for loving her is that you are God’s channel of love to her. He has commanded you to do so. This love will involve self-sacrifice and the pursuit of holiness.
This love is not based in what she does for you, but in what you do for her. It is sacrificial. Jesus “gave Himself up for [the church]” – vs. 25. There is no greater love than laying down your life for a friend (John 15:13), and that is what Jesus did for the church. That is why the Scriptures continually point to Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross as the proof of God’s love for us. Paul states it in Rom. 5:8 – ““But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” This is a love that is centered in the best interest of the other person and not in yourself. It is self-less rather than selfish. Men, to love your wife the way Christ loved the church requires you to sacrifice yourself for her. There is a price to pay. You must be humble and learn to put her best interests over your own. That is what Jesus did for the Church and it is what you are to do for your wife (see Phil. 2:3,4f). Your headship is not about getting the family to please you, but you sacrificing of yourself to lead them into what God wants. And what God wants is holiness.
Jesus sacrificed Himself for the church so that He might sanctify her that she might be holy and blameless, without spot or wrinkle. That is accomplished through the challenge of living according to the Bible. Husband, what are you doing in terms of promoting holiness in your wife? Do you lead her to church or do you follow her? Do you lead her in personal Bible study by both your own example and in family devotions? Do you pray together other than to say grace before a meal? Does your own walk with the Lord give her a positive example to follow? Does your wife see Jesus Christ living in you? What you do here will make a big difference in her spiritual walk. You are her head. Do not entice her to compromise and sin, but promote and encourage her to personal holiness. Start with being the example for her.
You are also to love her as your own body (vs. 28) and love her as yourself (vs 33). That brings you back again to the idea of self-sacrifice. Do you cherish and nurture her? Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually too. Do you exhibit the same care towards here as you do toward your own body? Are you as attentive to her needs and desires as you are to your own?
The role of both husband and wife in marriage is to submit to the Lord and follow Him. Arising out of that is a mutual submission and love for one another so that they compliment each other and bring glory to the name of Jesus Christ. God grants freedom to the couple to determine the specifics of who does what with in the marriage. There may be culturally defined male and female roles, but who handles the finances, who cooks, who does the housework, who does the yard work, etc., etc., is up to the couple as they work within their giftedness and abilities as compliments to one another. No two couples have to do it alike. What God does call us to is holiness, and in marriage that means that each fulfills their God given role. The key role of wife within the marriage relationship is for her to submit to her husband’s headship and respect him. The key role of the husband is to love his wife and sacrificially lead her in holiness. Any Christian can fulfill these roles if they will first submit themselves to do the Lord’s will over their own.
Next week we will look at the role of the parents.
Sermon Study Sheets
Sermon Notes – November 9, 2003
Holy & Free, Part 9 – Marriage
God’s Original Design – Genesis 2
Husbands & Wives – Ephesians 5:31,32
The Role of the Wife:
The Role of the Husband
Headship – Ephesians 5:23
Love his Wife – Eph. 5:25-33
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times the words “submission” and “love” are used in the sermon. Talk with your parents about how they fulfill their roles within their marriage.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What do you think the role of the wife should be? The husband? How much as feminist thought affected you? When did your family begin? What are God’s purposes for marriage? What should your marriage do for Him? How can you receive God’s blessing on your marriage? Why did God create women? What is the absurd lunacy of “feminism”? How did Adam and Eve respond to each other before their fall into sin? After their fall into sin? How has the curse of sin affected marriage? What is the key for successful family relationships – Eph. 5:21? What are the wife’s primary roles in marriage? Define Biblical submission. What is not included in it? What is the potential impact of a wife have on a husband? To whom is the husband to submit? What does headship entail? What is the primary role of the husband in the marriage? In what three ways is the husband to love his wife? Assess yourself at fulfilling your role in marriage. Have your spouse evaluate you. Work out a plan to improve yourself.
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