Help For Your Family, Part 1



The family is under assault.  In years gone by, a family was considered to be a mom, a dad, and children.  An extended family would include grandparents.  But the definition of family has become like an elastic band; stretched out to include several moms and dads, of various sexual persuasions.  No wonder children are so mixed up these days.

The Bible, God’s Word to man, has a lot of interesting things to say about the family and familial relations.  It’s never been easy to raise a family or to be a part of a family, even in New Testament times.  The Bible’s advice is as timely today as it was back then.

1.  Advice on being single, 1 Corinthians 7:7—9; 32—35

(a)  It’s a gift, (verses 7—9)

I wish everyone could get along without marrying, just as I do. But we are not all the same. God gives some the gift of a husband or wife, and others he gives the gift of being able to stay happily unmarried.  So I say to those who aren’t married and to widows—better to stay unmarried if you can, just as I am.  But if you can’t control yourselves, go ahead and marry. It is better to marry than to burn with lust.  (1 Corinthians 7:7—9  TLB)

Most of us would agree this is one gift we either hope we never get or are glad we didn’t!   Was Paul married or unmarried?  The answer is not really important because what he’s really referring to here is his ability to maintain sexual self control, which probably led to his being able to remain single.  Paul considered this gift—his celibacy—to be a gift from God.  This sexual control, not marriage in his case, was a spiritual gift.  In the context of his teaching, abstinence was good only in relationship to the gifts God had given, not in light of any current societal pressures or religious notions of status or purity.  In other words, marriage is the norm, singleness for service is a gift.  But all this must be seen in context of what was “good”:

Now about those questions you asked in your last letter: my answer is that if you do not marry, it is good.  But usually it is best to be married, each man having his own wife, and each woman having her own husband, because otherwise you might fall back into sin.  (1 Corinthians 7:1, 2  TLB)

His desire was for all men to have the same kind of self-control he had.  It wasn’t self-control for self-control’s sake.  It was self-control for the sake of being able to devote more time and resources to serving God.  But it’s a gift not everybody has.  Not everybody is able to have that sexual self-control for the purpose of serving God.  Indeed,  having a spouse is also a gift from God.  The Corinthians didn’t understand that.  They didn’t understand that their spouse, even if they weren’t saved, was God’s gift to them and they should be treated as a gift.

How can a person tell if he has the gift of singleness?  If they don’t “burn with lust,” according to Paul, then they have this gift.

(b)  Marriage and singleness contrasted, (verses 32—34)

The key to understanding Paul’s teaching on marriage and singleness in this chapter is really verse 35:

I am saying this to help you, not to try to keep you from marrying. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few other things as possible to distract your attention from him.

Paul’s advice to the Corinthians was common sense in the purest sense.  Of course a single person has the advantage over a married person in the sense that they can devote more of themselves to doing the work of the Lord.  But that doesn’t mean marriage is bad or that in terms of service to God married couples are second class citizens.  It’s just common sense; a married man’s attention is necessarily divided between the needs of his wife and family and the Lord’s work.  It would be wrong for that married man to ignore the needs of his family for any purpose, even service to God.  In fact, a good marriage testifies to the glory of God!

At the core of singleness or marriage is one’s devotion to God.  Throughout this chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul dealt with issues like the appropriateness of marriage, the purity or impurity of sex, or even if marriage was a bad thing!  As far as Paul was concerned, every issue in life, including that of sex and marriage, hinged on an individual’s calling to serve God to the best of their ability.  His hope for some in the Corinthian church was that they would see the special benefit of the single life in terms of devotion to God.  That life should be seen as a gift from God.

2.  Advice on being husband and wife, Ephesians 5:22—23

(a)  The duty of wives, verses 22—24

You wives must submit to your husbands’ leadership in the same way you submit to the Lord.  For a husband is in charge of his wife in the same way Christ is in charge of his body the Church. (He gave his very life to take care of it and be its Savior!)  So you wives must willingly obey your husbands in everything, just as the Church obeys Christ.

Christian wives living in submission to their husbands is a common teaching in the New Testament (see 1 Peter 3:1—6, for example), but Paul is in no way painting wives as second class citizens nor is he disparaging them in any way.  In fact, Paul is the great liberator of women in general and wives in particular by setting them free from responsibilities that do not suit them so that they may pursue their God-give duties.  Wives are in no way inferior to husbands except in position.  The fact is, wives may be superior to their husbands in all kinds of ways:  intellectual, spiritual, moral and hundreds of other ways, and let’s not forget that as members of the Body of Christ, women are on an equal footing with men.  However, in the practical matter of living an orderly existence with someone else at home, there has to an order of authority at home, and in this, the Bible is clear:  a wife is subject to the authority of her husband.  Notice though the wording:  wives are subject to their own husbands, NOT to another woman’s husband, or to men in general.  This submission is for the home, not for the workplace.

However, this obligation of wives is lifted to a great spiritual height.  Her submission to her husband is really a way of living in obedience to the Lord.

(b)  The duty of husbands, verses 25—29

And you husbands, show the same kind of love to your wives as Christ showed to the Church when he died for her…  (verse 25  TLB)

Paul admonition to the husband is summed up like this:  love your wives.  Husbands are not told to submit to their wives, but to love them.  Again, the words need to be noticed and respected.  Wives are to in subjection to their husband’s authority, but they are NOT to be treated as subjects.  Wives are not slaves.  If husbands loved their wives with the same kind of intensity and passion with which Christ loves the Church, what normal wife would resent her husband’s position?

For the husband, this is a high, high ideal to strive for!  To love his wife like Christ loves the Church rules out all rudeness, brutality, coercion, manipulation, lying, and cheating.  It makes no allowances for lack of consideration or jealousy or selfishness.

(c)  Mutual duties, verses 30—33

(That the husband and wife are one body is proved by the Scripture, which says, “A man must leave his father and mother when he marries so that he can be perfectly joined to his wife, and the two shall be one.”)  I know this is hard to understand, but it is an illustration of the way we are parts of the body of Christ.  So again I say, a man must love his wife as a part of himself; and the wife must see to it that she deeply respects her husband—obeying, praising, and honoring him. 

Paul likens the relationship of husband and wife to the relationship between Him and the Church, His Body.  The husband is to love his wife because in marriage, she becomes part of him.  It’s like the Church is Christ’s Body and we are members of that Body.  It’s unnatural for a man to hate parts of body—the idea is ridiculous—so it would be unnatural for a husband to hate his wife, since she is part of his body.  The same is true of Jesus. How could He hate any part of His Body?  In truth, He died for all members of His Body, not just for some.

Paul quotes from Genesis, and it’s a stunning connection he is making.  Eve was created to be a helper for Adam.  She was taken from his side.  God did not make Eve from the dust of the ground, as he did man and animal.  Adam was an incomplete creation until Eve was united to him.  Adam needed a helper and God gave him Eve; he gave him what he lacked.  She compensated for something he didn’t have.  How could a husband not love someone like that?  How could a husband not exalt a person who gives him what he lacks?  Since Eve was created from a part of Adam’s body, she was really a part of him.  How could he hate her?  That would be as ridiculous as hating any other part of his body!  So the analogy is clear.  Jesus loves the Church because it’s part of His body.  Adam loved Eve because she was literally created from part of his own body.  And when a man marries a woman, she becomes a part of his body as surely as Eve became a part of Adam and as surely as the Church is part of Christ.

A good marriage, with each partner living as they ought, is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the Church.  This is why it is so important for believing couples to work diligently on having the best marriage they can possibly have!

3.  Advice on being parents. Ephesians 6:1—4; Proverbs 23:15—24

(a)  Parents and children, Eph. 6:1—4

Honor your father and mother. This is the first of God’s Ten Commandments that ends with a promise.  And this is the promise: that if you honor your father and mother, yours will be a long life, full of blessing.  (verses 2, 3  TLB)

Again, the words are important.  After telling children to obey their parents, Paul tells the reader who the parents are:  father and mother.  Parents are not mother and mother or father and father.  Parents are, and will always be, mothers and fathers.  This flies in the face of current societal and cultural whims, but the Bible is our authority.

We assume Paul is speaking about a Christian family, headed by parents like the ones described in the previous chapter.  Obedience of children to their parents is not carte blanche.  Their obedience is based “in the Lord.”

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (verse 1, NKJV)

The word of “obey” here is not the same word used in 5:22 of the wife’s duty to submit to the husband.  The wife is to submit, the child is to obey.  For the wife, it is sort of voluntary; her submission is a recognition that God has an order that should be observed and her submission is simply part of that divine order.  But the child must obey as a servant must obey.  It’s not voluntary.

(b)  A father’s wise advice, Prov. 23:15—24

My son, how I will rejoice if you become a man of common sense. Yes, my heart will thrill to your thoughtful, wise words.  (verses 15, 16  TLB)

If a child wants to make his parents happy, then he needs to live right; he needs to walk in wisdom.  And, of course, the highest wisdom is Christ, and the wisest son is one who makes Jesus Christ the foundation of his life.

The father of a godly man has cause for joy—what pleasure a wise son is! So give your parents joy!   (verse 25  TLB)

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