God reveals His purpose in nature through the family and in His word through language directly and indirectly related to the family.
The family was designed by God. Certain patterns are found throughout history and across the face of the earth which can be ignored or suppressed only for a time and at great cost. Male headship as father and husband is part of God's design.
The Bible speaks a great deal about the family. Moreover God expresses His relationship to His people in family related words, such as Father, the Son, adoption, and the final image of Christ and His church: the wedding supper of the Lamb. In fact, virtually every key term used in the Bible to describe God's plan of salvation is derived directly or indirectly from the family.
God develops His plan of salvation through covenants with family heads, who represent their households and their descendants.
God gave man and woman dominion over nature, however before making the woman He commanded the man, Adam, not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:16-18). Adam acted as the representative in this covenant with God. When he fell through sin, so too did all humanity descended from him.
God's covenant with Noah embraced Noah's wife, his sons and their wives and all of the animals on the ark, as well as his descendants: "Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him saying: 'And as for Me, behold I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you'" (Genesis 9:8-9).
Abraham also represented his entire household, including servants, in the covenant with God. After Abraham, Isaac and Jacob represented their families and God reaffirmed His covenant with them, as He promised: "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you" (Genesis 17:7).
God covenanted with the descendants of Jacob through the family heads of their tribes and clans, the elders of Israel. Again, they represented all of Israel and the generations to come in ratifying the covenant. God's covenant with David promised that his descendant, the Christ, would be on the throne of Israel forever.
Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all of these promises in God's covenant with His people. Through adoption in Christ and union in the spiritual marriage of Christ to His church, Christians are members of His household.
God holds the head of the household responsible for the conduct of his family.
The Bible speaks of the fall of Adam, despite the fact that Scripture only records a dialog between the serpent and the woman. However, Adam, who was with her, was held accountable by God for letting Eve be deceived.
God called Moses to go to Egypt and demand of Pharaoh that he let Israel, His firstborn son, go and serve Him. But Moses's own son had not been circumcised and so the LORD met Moses to kill him. Moses must have taught his Midianite wife Zipporah about the covenant, for she saw the danger to Moses and circumcised their son to avert God's wrath.
The high priest Eli was held accountable for the immoral behavior of his sons. It was not sufficient for him merely to warn them. As the LORD said, "For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them" (1 Samuel 3:13). Despite the example of Eli, Samuel too failed to raise his sons to walk in the way of the LORD, and so he was rejected as the judge of Israel in the call for a king (1 Samuel 8:1-5).
For those who are members of His household of faith, Jesus Christ is their representative and has assumed responsibility for their sins before God, paying the price with His own life.
Men whose children are disobedient or not in the faith are disqualified for the office of overseer (Titus 1:7). Fathers who do not bring up their children in the training and admonition of the Lord provoke them to wrath (Ephesians 6:4).
The spiritual exercise of headship involves teaching God's Word.
God's election of Abraham involved spiritual leadership in the family: "For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him" (Genesis 18:19). At key crises in his life Jacob recovered leadership in his family by emphasizing God's word and worship in the family (Genesis 31:4-16; 35:1-15).
The responsibility of men to teach their families continued after the elders received the Law: "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up" (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; 11:18-19).
Fathers were understood as responsible for teaching their children God's words in the time of David. The Psalmist Asaph wrote of "sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us" and promised: "We will not hide them from their children, telling the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments; and may not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not set its heart aright and whose spirit was not faithful to God" (Psalm 78:1-8).
The Biblical definition of a husband's love for his wife involves the use of God's word: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word" (Ephesians 5:25-26).
Spiritual leadership by a family head requires that he be together with his family in congregational worship and instruction.
The first setting for the church was the family, in which the father was the spiritual leader.
The regular congregational worship and instruction of God's people included entire families. Although Pharaoh thought that it would be sufficient for only the men to go into the wilderness to serve the LORD, Moses stated: "We will go with our young and our old; with our sons and our daughters... for we must hold a feast to the LORD" (Exodus 10:9). Indeed the LORD commanded that all of God's people attend His feasts (Deuteronomy 16:11,14). The word of God was to be read to all the congregation: "Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land which you cross to possess" (Deuteronomy 31:12-13).When some of His disciples sought to take children away from hearing the Lord's words, Jesus said "Let the little children come to Me and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:14). Children should not be removed from the congregation during the sermon.
Return to the Covenant Family Fellowship home page.
Contact the Covenant Family Fellowship and request a list of free publications and a sample of our newsletter, Covenant Family.