06 Feb God’s purpose and vision for family
This week, we examine God’s purpose and vision for family. Taking what you learned this week, write a 300-350 word reflection on your own family experience. This reflection can focus on your marriage, your parents (biological, adopted or foster), siblings, etc. Be sure to connect your personal reflection to material studied this week. For example, you could discuss your marriage in light of what you learned about marriage as a covenant versus a contract. Or you could discuss how to be a more loving sibling in light of what you learned about the Trinity. For details on grading, please review the rubric for this assignment
Called to Challenge Culture
Why is it so important for Christians to challenge culture? What does this mean? By what standard do we evaluate the culture in which we live?
Grounded in a Biblical worldview, a Christian leader must evaluate all viewpoints and ideas through the lens of Scripture. As Christians, we must be willing and able to challenge non- Biblical presuppositions, assumptions, and truth claims of the culture in which he or she lives. Separating ourselves from the culture in which we live, and evaluating it, is a difficult task. Because of this difficult task, some Christians simply blend into the culture, their Christian faith becomes indistinct from the culture in which they live. Other Christians take an opposite approach and they completely separate themselves from the culture. At Regent, we do not believe that the Scriptures teach either of these positions—complete assimilation or complete disengagement. The harder road—the biblical road—is that Christians must join in God’s redemptive purposes for the culture in science, the arts, literature, history, politics, economics, commerce, education, law, and theology by gaining a deep understanding of these subjects and institutions…and representing Christ within them. Ephesians 1:22 indicates that all things—all areas of culture—have been placed under Jesus’ feet.
The Prophet Daniel provides a Biblical example of a godly man who first, understood and excelled in the culture in which he found himself. Second, stood firm against ungodliness. And finally, blessed it.
Daniel is given by God “learning and skill in all literature and wisdom” (Dan. 1:17) so that “in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of [him], he found him ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom”. While not compromising his principles and continuing to set his heart on understanding before God, Daniel becomes an influential leader in a foreign land by both challenging and serving in that culture.
Like Daniel, a Christian leader must also be willing to humbly, but boldly, give a defense of the faith, as instructed by 1 Peter 3:15, which reads: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… Christians must be able to offer a Biblical perspective “destroying arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” (2 Cor. 10:5). The Apostle Paul warns to let “no one take you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition…” (Col. 2:8). Challenging culture requires a keen awareness of the errors in “human tradition.”
Equipped with his or her knowledge of the Lord and the culture, and Christ-like character, the Christian leader can transform culture with both courage and grace. These efforts will not always be met with success so this courage to challenge culture extends to standing strong in the face of persecution, as indicated in Philippians 1:29, and not being ashamed of the gospel, as instructed in Romans 1:16. As Peter and the apostles continued to preach over the objections of the council and high priest in Acts 5:27, so too the modern Christian leader must have the courage to “obey God rather than men.” Like Paul in Acts 17, at the Areopagus, we should be able to offer a reasoned, informed, and inspired apologetic to a
fallen, deceived, and sinful world. And like Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon, the Christian leader must be willing to study and become knowledgeable of the culture in order to more effectively engage and respond to it.
Finally, in challenging culture, the Christian leader must be mindful of the temptations of the world, committed to removing idols which compete for worship that is rightfully God’s and quick to confess and repent of sin and be restored to a right relationship with Christ.
Challenge Culture Bible Verses
2 Timothy 3:16
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church…
Daniel 6: 1-10
It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, 2 with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. 3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5 Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
6 So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! 7 The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. 8 Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” 9 So King Darius put the decree in writing.
10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12 So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”
The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”
13 Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” 14 When
the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.
15 Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”
16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”
17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.
19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”
21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”
23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
24 At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
25 Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:
“May you prosper greatly!
26 “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
“For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. 27 He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”
28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
1 Peter 3:15-16
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
2 Corinthians 10:5
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Colossians 2:8
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
The Bible’s Teaching on Marriage and the Family
by andreas j. köstenberger
Incredible as it may seem, we can no longer assume that people in our culture un- derstand what the proper definition of “marriage” and “the family” is. Not only is this a sad commentary on the impact of same-sex
marriage activists on our society, it also shows how the culture’s memory of the biblical tradi- tion on which it is largely based is fading fast. What is marriage, biblically defined? And what is the biblical definition of a family? In this brief treatise on mar- riage and the family, we will take up these questions and proceed to discuss a number of related matters, such as singleness, divorce and remarriage, and ho- mosexuality, in an effort to develop a full-orbed un- derstanding of the biblical teaching on the subject. As I have sought to demonstrate at some length in my book God, Marriage, and the Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation, marriage and the family are in- stitutions under siege today, and only a return to the biblical foundation of these God-given institutions will reverse the decline of marriage and the family in our culture today.
What Is the Family? The Bible defines “family” in a narrow sense as the union of one man and one woman in matrimony which is normally blessed with one or several natural or adopted children. In a broad sense, this family also includes any other persons related by blood (the extended fam- ily). In the book of Genesis, we read that God in the beginning created first a man (Adam) to exercise do- minion over his creation and subsequently a woman (Eve) as the man’s “suitable helper” (Genesis 2:18, 20). Then, the inspired writer remarks, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 ESV). This verse sets forth the biblical pattern as it was instituted by God at the beginning: one man is united to one woman in matrimony, and the two
form one new natural family. In this regard, “become one flesh” not only refers to the establishment of one new family but also to the husband and wife’s sexual union leading to the procreation of offspring. This, in turn, is in keeping with God’s original command to the first human couple to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion” over all of creation (Genesis 1:28).
These aspects of marriage—the complementarity of male and female, and the irreplaceable role of male- female relations in reproducing the human race—are part of the original order of creation, and are evident to all human beings from the enduring order of na- ture. These common elements of marriage are at the heart of our civil laws defining and regulating mar- riage. Therefore, people of all cultures and religions— including those who lack faith in God, Christ, or the Bible—are capable of participating in the institution of marriage. However, we who are Christians believe that the fullest understanding of God’s will for mar- riage can be derived from a careful examination of scriptural teachings. It is incumbent upon the church to educate both itself and the larger culture regard- ing the full breadth and depth of God’s intentions for marriage.
Marriage: Contract or Covenant? Today, marriage and the family are regularly viewed as social conventions that can be entered into and severed by the marital partners at will. As long as a given marriage relationship meets the needs of both individuals involved and is considered advantageous by both sides, the marriage is worth sustaining. If one or both partners decide that they will be better off by breaking up the marriage and entering into a new, better marital union, nothing can legitimately keep them from pursuing their self-interest, self- realization, and self-fulfillment. To be sure, there is talk about the cost of divorce and the toll exerted on the children caught up in the marital separation of their parents, but even such a toll is considered to be worth paying in order to safeguard the most cher- ished principles of our independent-minded, free-
The Current Cultural Crisis
dom-worshipping, individual rights-exalting culture. If one or both marriage partners want to get out of the marriage, nothing should hold them back, or else the culture’s supreme values—individual choice and libertarian freedom—are not given their due.
By contrast, the Bible makes clear that, at the root, marriage and the family are not human conventions based merely on a temporary consensus and time- honored tradition. Instead, Scripture teaches that family was God’s idea and that marriage is a divine, not merely human, institution. The implication of this truth is significant indeed, for this means that humans are not free to renegotiate or redefine mar- riage and the family in any way they choose but that they are called to preserve and respect what has been divinely instituted. This is in keeping with Jesus’ words, uttered when his contemporaries asked him about the permissibility of divorce: “What therefore God has joined together let not man separate” (Mat- thew 19:6). For this reason, marriage is far more than a human social contract; it is a divinely instituted cov- enant.
But what is a “covenant”? In essence, a covenant is a contract between two parties that is established be- fore God as a witness, a contract whose permanence is ultimately safeguarded by none other than God himself. In this sense, marriage is a covenant: it is en- tered into by the husband and the wife before God as a witness. Because it is ultimately God who has joined the marriage partners together, the husband and the wife vow to each other abiding loyalty and fidelity “till death do us part.” Rightly understood, therefore, a marriage entered into before God involves three persons: a husband, a wife, and God. For this reason, it is not self-interest, human advantage, or an unfet- tered commitment to personal freedom that governs the marriage relationship, but the husband and wife’s joint commitment to conduct their marriage based on God’s design and sovereign plan.
What Is Marriage? Marriage is a covenant, a sacred bond between a man and a woman instituted by and publicly entered into before God and normally consummated by sexual in- tercourse. God’s plan for the marriage covenant in- volves at least the following five vital principles:
(1) The permanence of marriage: Marriage is intend- ed to be permanent, since it was established by God (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9). Marriage represents a
serious commitment that should not be entered into lightly or unadvisedly. It involves a solemn promise or pledge, not merely to one’s marriage partner, but before God. Divorce is not permitted except in a very limited number of biblically prescribed circumstances (see Divorce below).
(2) The sacredness of marriage: Marriage is not mere- ly a human agreement between two consenting in- dividuals (a “civil union”); it is a relationship before and under God (Genesis 2:22). Hence, a “same-sex marriage” is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. Since Scripture universally condemns homosexual re- lationships (see further under Homosexuality below) God will never sanction a marital bond between two members of the same sex.
(3) The intimacy of marriage: Marriage is the most in- timate of all human relationships, uniting a man and a woman in a “one-flesh” union (Genesis 2:23–25). Marriage involves “leaving” one’s family of origin and “being united” to one’s spouse, which signifies the establishment of a new family unit distinct from the two originating families. While “one flesh” sug- gests sexual intercourse and normally procreation, at its very heart the concept entails the establishment of a new kinship relationship between two previously unrelated individuals (and families) by the most inti- mate of human bonds.
(4) The mutuality of marriage: Marriage is a relation- ship of free self-giving of one human being to another (Ephesians 5:25–30). The marriage partners are to be first and foremost concerned about the wellbeing of the other person and to be committed to each other in steadfast love and devotion. This involves the need for forgiveness and restoration of the relationship in the case of sin. Mutuality, however, does not mean sameness in role. Scripture is clear that wives are to submit to their husbands and to serve as their “suit- able helpers,” while husbands are to bear the ultimate responsibility for the marriage before God (Ephesians 5:22–24; Colossians 3:18; see also Genesis 2:18, 20).
(5) The exclusiveness of marriage: Marriage is not only permanent, sacred, intimate, and mutual; it is also ex- clusive (Genesis 2:22–25; 1 Corinthians 7:2–5). This means that no other human relationship must inter- fere with the marriage commitment between husband and wife. For this reason, Jesus treated sexual immo- rality of a married person, including even a husband’s lustful thoughts, with utmost seriousness (Matthew 5:28; 19:9). For the same reason, premarital sex is also
The Book of Proverbs calls adultery both foolish and dangerous (e.g. Proverbs 2:16–19; 5:3–22; 6:32–33; 7:5–23; 9:13–18). In the Old Testament, adultery is frequently used as an analogy to depict the spiritual unfaithfulness of God’s people Israel (Jeremiah 3:8–9; Ezekiel 16:32, 38; Hosea 1:1–3:5).
Homosexuality, fourth, marks another falling away from God’s creation purposes in that it violates the divine will for marriage to be between one man and one woman. As Genesis 2:24 stipulates, “A man [masculine] shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife [feminine], and the two shall be- come one flesh.” Heterosexuality is the only possible arrangement for marriage, as the Creator has com- manded and expects married couples to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Since homosexuality involves same-sex intercourse that cannot lead to procreation, it is unnatural and cannot logically entail the possibility of marriage.
A fifth shortcoming of God’s ideal for marriage is ste- rility, which falls short of the fertility desired by the Creator. Fertility is implicit in the biblical reference to the “one flesh” union. At times, lack of fertility is said in the Old Testament to be the result of per- sonal sin (Genesis 20:17–18; 2 Samuel 6:23), while on other occasions sterility is presented as a simple fact of (fallen) nature (Genesis 11:30; 25:21; 30:1; 1 Samuel 1:2). However, God is often shown to answer prayers for fertility offered by his people in faith (e.g. 1 Samuel 1:9–20).
Gender role confusion is a sixth and final result of hu- manity’s rebellion against the Creator. Where God’s design for man and woman to be distinct yet comple- mentary partners in procreation and stewardship of God’s earth is diluted, people will inexorably be con- fused about what it means to be masculine or femi- nine, and the lines between the two sexes made by God will increasingly be blurred.
Despite the above-mentioned ways in which God’s original design for marriage and the family was com- promised, however, the Bible in the Old Testament continues to extol the virtues of the excellent wife (Proverbs 31:10–31) and to celebrate the beauty of sex in marriage (Song of Solomon).
illegitimate, since it violates the exclusive claims of one’s future spouse. As the Song of Solomon makes clear, only in the secure context of an exclusive mari- tal bond can free and complete giving of oneself in marriage take place.
How Did Sin Affect Marriage and the Family?
Knowing the divine ideal for marriage, and aware that marriage and the family are divine institutions, we are now able to move from God’s creation of man and woman and his institution of marriage to the Fall of humanity and its negative consequences on the marriage relationship. As a study of biblical his- tory shows, humanity’s rebellion against the Creator’s purposes led to at least the following six negative consequences: (1) polygamy; (2) divorce; (3) adultery; (4) homosexuality; (5) sterility; and (6) gender role confusion.
The first shortcoming, polygamy—more specifically, polygyny, marrying multiple wives—violates God’s instituted pattern of marital monogamy. While it was certainly within God’s prerogative and power to make more than one wife for the man, God only made Eve. Yet within six generations after the fall of human- ity, barely after Adam had died, Lamech took two wives (Genesis 4:19). Later, prominent men in Is- rael’s history such as Abraham, Esau, Jacob, Gideon, Elkanah, David, Solomon, and others engaged in po- lygamy. However, not only did polygamous marriage fall short of God’s original design, it regularly resulted in disruptive favoritism, jealousy between competing wives, and decline into idolatry.
The second compromise of God’s ideal for marriage was divorce, which disrupted the permanence of mar- riage. While divorce became so common that it had to be regulated in the Mosaic code (Deuteronomy 24:1–4), the Bible makes clear that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). Divorce is also used repeatedly as an analogy for spiritual apostasy (Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 3:8).
A third shortcoming was adultery, the breaking of one’s marriage vows. The Decalogue stipulates ex- plicitly, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18). An egregious case of adultery was David’s sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). In cases such as these, the principle of marital fidelity to one’s marriage partner was compromised.
The Restoration of God’s Original Design for Marriage and the Family
in Christ The New Testament teaches that the restoration of God’s original design for marriage in Christ is part of God’s realignment of all things under Christ’s au- thority and lordship. In the book of Ephesians, we read that it is God’s purpose “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Ephesians 1:10, NIV). Thus marriage is not an end in itself but part of God’s end-time restoration of all things in the person of Jesus Christ. Part of this restoration is that all evil powers are brought under control and are submitted to the supreme authority of Christ (Ephesians 1:21–22). Later on in the same letter, Paul addresses the subject of marriage in gen- eral, and marital roles in particular, within the larger context of believers needing to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
What is the biblical pattern for marriage? This is best seen in a close study of the pre-eminent passage on marital roles in the New Testament, Ephesians 5:21– 33. In this passage, instructions are given to both hus- bands and wives in form of a “house table,” which features commands given first to the person under authority followed by instructions for the person in a position of authority. In keeping with this pattern, the passage addresses first wives, then husbands (Ephe- sians 5:22–33); first children, then parents (Ephesians 6:1–4); and first slaves, and then masters (Ephesians 6:5–9; similar “house tables” are also found in Colos- sians 3:18–4:1 and 1 Peter 2:11–3:7).
Wives, for their part, are called to submit to their own husbands, as to the Lord. As the church submits to Christ, so wives should to their husbands in every- thing (Ephesians 5:21–24). Husbands, in turn, are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. They are to provide for their wives both physically and spiritually and to cherish them as God’s special provision for them (Ephesians 5:25– 30). As Christian husbands and wives live out these marital roles, God’s original creation design for mar- riage will be fulfilled once again: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31, citing Genesis 2:24).
As mentioned, this pattern of headship and submis- sion is placed within the larger context of Christ’s
headship over all other powers, which Paul addressed at the beginning of his letter to the Ephesians (see Ephesians 1:10, 20–23). Paul returns to this subject at the end of his epistle where he urges all Christians— including husbands and wives, parents and children— to put on the “whole armor of God” so they can stand against the devil (Ephesians 6:10; for the various pieces in this spiritual “armor,” see Ephesians 6:14– 18). In this warfare, believers’ struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the evil supernatural (Ephesians 6:12). Armed with truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, and God’s word, they will be able to stand firm and resist the devil “in the evil day” (Ephesians 6:13). The reality of the power of Satan and his forces explains at least in part why there is so much conflict in many marriages and families today. It also helps account for the widespread nature of divorce and the massive assault on marriage as an institution in our contemporary culture.
Singleness We turn now to a discussion of singleness and the unmarried state. In Old Testament times, singleness was rare among individuals old enough to marry. Those unmarried were therefore limited to widows, eunuchs, those who could not marry due to diseases such as leprosy or severe economic difficulties, those who did not marry because of some type of divine call, those who had undergone a divorce, or unmarried young men and women. Thus marriage was the over- whelming norm in Old Testament times, in keeping with the foundational creation narrative in Genesis 1 and 2.
In the New Testament, a somewhat different picture emerges. Major figures such as John the Baptist, Je- sus, Paul, and Timothy were unmarried. Jesus spoke favorably about “eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:12), and Paul even called celibacy a “gift from God” (1 Corinthians 7:7). He further suggested that married people’s interests were divided while the unmarried could devote themselves wholly to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32–35). What is more, Jesus taught that in the eternal state, there will be no more marriage, but all will be “like angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:29–30).
Thus we see in the sweep of biblical history a trend from marriage as the norm (with singleness being limited to exceptional cases), to a place where the advantages and disadvantages of both marriage and
singleness are affirmed (in Jesus and Paul), to a mar- riage-less state in heaven where the only “marriage” will be that of Jesus, the heavenly bridegroom, to the church as his spiritual “bride.”