by Marc Mullins, January 21, 2012
These days the definition of what a human family is can be harder to nail down than the actual day Christ will return for His bride. Of course dozens of people have false notions of what that date might be, also many claim to define family then go to lengths to avoid the historical, logical, or Biblical definition for family. Both of course, can only be truly defined by God. Thankfully, He has communicated to us in His inerrant and living word, so it can only do us well to pay attention to God’s word on the matter.
The world’s definition:
fam·i·ly[fam-uh-lee, fam-lee] noun,plural -lies, adjective noun
1. a. a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not: the traditional family. b. a social unit consisting of one or more adults together with the children they care for: a single-parent family. 2. the children of one person or one couple collectively: We want a large family. 3. the spouse and children of one person: We’re taking the family on vacation next week. 4. any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents,children, uncles, aunts, and cousins: to marry into a socially prominent family. 5. all those persons considered as descendants of a common progenitor. 1
As we can easily see, contemporary culture sees family consisting of two types of individuals: adults and children, in almost any combination. There are no requisite qualifications physically, emotionally, economically, psychologically and specifically spiritually. The family is merely defined as a utilitarian social construct that is part of the economic equation of modern society. The worldview presented in this definition is startling to the Christian and antithetical to the Gospel display, the Trinitarian hierarchy, and the ultimate purpose of family set forth by God since the first family was created. That purpose is to extend His glory to the ends of the earth as the water covers the sea.
God Created Man to Extend His Glory
God created mankind, specifically families, to extend his glory. After creating mankind in his own image, God then asserted creative order in Genesis to the first man and woman. That order is to have dominion over all creation, to subdue it by being fruitful and multiplying. (Gen 1:26-28)
Humanity is God’s means to subdue creation under his feet so that the earth will become the created Temple of God. In the perfect world, God willed for humans to join together in worship of himself by giving them the ability to relate to and commune with each other and to worship their Creator, as the unique creatures that bear his likeness which are his essence manifested in human flesh.2
If the purpose of creation was to create a temple in which God would dwell in relationship with his creatures flourishing and extending their dominion outside the original borders of the garden, then it is important to understand how this helps to define family. Family is the resulting relationship in which God’s image on display in the creation while remaining exiled from the first garden until Christ returns for his bride and safely delivers them to the new garden where an eternal communing relationship bonded by His blood will never be severed.3
The family is God’s means for dominion over his created temple. As man and woman were joined together to become one flesh, God’s means to cover the earth became reality. God created the first family, first he made Adam out of dust to work and tend the garden and secondly Eve, made from Adam’s own flesh and bone, given of himself to himself by God to be his helpmate. They were to join together, become one flesh, literally inseparable, and be fruitful and multiply to the praise of their father. They were to multiply humanity, made in the image of God, so that God’s image would subdue creation and blanket it with God on display, God’s glory.
That the Next Generation Might Know
God has uniquely created humans, as the only relational, moral, and creative beings that have the ability to worship, learn and think, all driven by the soul which has set in motion by God’s common grace among all humans and his Saving Grace among his elect. As God chose to use human families as the means to fill his temple, God also provided the how and why for humans to accomplish God’s will.
Human Families were to display God’s glorious gospel. Man was to find supreme pleasure in serving and worshiping God in Christ. Since our first Father and Mother brought us all into a pattern of sin and spiritual death, God in his mercy and grace gave mankind instruction to quicken the dead hearts of man. God commanded fathers to lead their families in the worship of God our Creator, wives to submit to their husbands as unto Christ and children under the instruction and authority of both parents. Man was to continuously tell the next generation of the wonders of the one true God and recount the stories of humanities failures and God’s redeeming grace. ( Psalm 78)
The Gospel is on display as man is to sacrificially give himself over to his bride as Christ died for the church (Eph 5:22-6:4) and as Adam gave of himself for the creation of his lifelong helpmate. The woman is to joyously submit to the leadership of the husband as the church does to Christ and as Eve was created to submit to Adam until the serpent thwarted God’s design for family order in creation. Through the submission and leadership to the instruction of God, they were to be fruitful and as Deuteronomy teaches us they were to desire God above all things and from sun up to sun down, they were to teach their children the ways of God, train them in the fear of God, worshiping him with all of their heart, soul and might.4
The Family Continuing God’s Redemptive Plan
Even today we still find the biblical family as the bedrock foundation for the extension of God’s glory around the globe in the midst of a relentless enemy. God has commissioned man, woman and every generation he blesses us with to cover the earth, making new disciples in each family who will continue the mission. In some countries the institution of family has been eternally altered from God’s design. Some places, the definition of family has nothing to do with being fruitful or multiplying. Even so God’s sovereign will cannot be stopped. God continues to bring man and woman together under his authority who will bring up coming generations, sharing the gracious Gospel and until the Bride of Christ The Savior is gathered, generation by generation, church by church, and nation by nation.
Until He Returns
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
(Revelation 19:6-8 ESV)
2 Many ideas were considered from Dr. James Hamilton’s article, “The Mystery of Marriage,” pages 253-71 in For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper, ed. Sam Storms and Justin Taylor. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010.
4 I owe a debt of gratitude for the insights provided by Dr. Hamilton in his article “That the Coming Generation Might Praise the Lord,” Journal of Family Ministry 1.1 (2010): 10-17.
Also published as: “That the Coming Generation Might Praise the Lord: Family Discipleship in the Old Testament,” pages 33–43 in Trained in the Fear of God: Family Ministry in Theological, Historical, and Practical Perspective, ed. Timothy Paul Jones and Randy Stinson. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011. The content of this entire book has been instrumental in my theology of family as I see it developed in the vast story line of God’s redemptive plan in scripture.