LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The Bible is replete with family imagery as evidenced in the many wonderful verses cited for the Baptist Faith and Message Article 18. We are indeed “brothers and sisters” in Christ, adopted as children by our heavenly Father. The importance of the marriage relationship unfolds symbolically in the Old Testament with God as husband and Israel as wife, and in the New Testament with Jesus as the bridegroom and the church as the radiant bride. Clearly, marriage and family are distinctly theological.
A healthy home has deep spiritual dimensions, and thus the Bible instructs us concerning the family. We as believers must look first to Jesus Christ, our bridegroom, to engage and understand the divine design for marriage. God’s perspective always places greater emphasis on character and motivation than merely on outward conduct. Thus, as Jesus described himself as gentle and humble in heart, always acting in a manner pleasing to the Father, the family provides the altar of transformation where we learn to love and to live like Jesus.
God reveals himself as a relational being, and we are created in his image for lasting, intimate relationships — first with God himself, and then with others. Our love and understanding of God find expression in our love for people, with family relationships being the deepest and most precious.
God’s ideal for the home — an intimate relationship that brings deep soul satisfaction to both husband and wife — models grace and faith for the children and proclaims to a lost and lonely world the type of love that God has for his people. This intimacy extends from a spiritual foundation through a relational sphere and culminates in the physical expression within the bounds of marriage.
Christian homes draw people to Christ, both the children that God may bring into the family and those outside the church who witness a love that is committed, sacrificial and selfless, dependent moment by moment upon Jesus as Lord.
The Scriptures give unique imperatives — directed to the husband, the wife and the children — that detail the incarnation of submission. The godly husband will nourish and cherish his wife, loving her “as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.” The spiritual husband is a submissive servant of Christ, humble, gentle, faithfully putting his wife’s welfare and needs above his own. The godly wife will respect and honor her own husband, submitting to him “as unto the Lord.” Her character and conduct can draw even an unbelieving husband to faith.
For each the Lord Jesus is the motivation and object of an obedient life. Each recreates the very picture of Christ’s love for his people as he willingly gave up his life for his beloved. Both husband and wife, absolute equals before the Lord, fix their eyes first upon him and then upon each other. Obedience for the Christian is neither optional, selective, nor conditional upon the spouse’s response or behavior.
Should God bless such a household with children, they will witness daily submission and godly love as they are charged to obey their parents “in the Lord.” Jesus, the perfect bridegroom and the central focus of each command, radiates his love to the family and through each member to the world.
The family of God operates in direct opposition to our culture and our natural tendency to self-centeredness, self-absorption and self-gratification, and requires the supernatural enablement of the Holy Spirit. The theology of family is characterized by each member outdoing the other in service, in sacrifice, in submission to the Lord, reflecting gratitude for God’s faithful, intimate love toward us.
Cutrer is the C. Edwin Gheens Associate Professor of Christian Ministry and the director of the Gheens Center for Christian Family Ministry at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
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Full text of Article 18: The Family
God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption.
Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.
The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.
Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord. Parents are to demonstrate to their children God’s pattern for marriage. Parents are to teach their children spiritual and moral values and to lead them, through consistent lifestyle example and loving discipline, to make choices based on biblical truth. Children are to honor and obey their parents.
Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15-25; 3:1-20; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Joshua 24:15; 1 Samuel 1:26-28; Psalms 51:5; 78:1-8; 127; 128; 139:13-16; Proverbs 1:8; 5:15-20; 6:20-22; 12:4; 13:24; 14:1; 17:6; 18:22; 22:6,15; 23:13-14; 24:3; 29:15,17; 31:10-31; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; 9:9; Malachi 2:14-16; Matthew 5:31-32; 18:2-5; 19:3-9; Mark 10:6-12; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 7:1-16; Ephesians 5:21-33; 6:1-4; Colossians 3:18-21; 1 Timothy 5:8,14; 2 Timothy 1:3-5; Titus 2:3-5; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Peter 3:1-7.
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