A Christian Family

Dear BPCWA worshipper, Last week, we had our Sunday School promotion where the children of our families in BPCWA received certificates for their attendance and Bible memorisation or were promoted to the next class. This Sunday, as you read this, is the 2nd day of the Lunar New Year. For the Chinese, it is a time when familial bonds are remembered and celebrated. So, I thought that it would be apt in today’s pastoral to put both events together and ponder upon what a Christian family ought to be.

A familial God. We are of a covenantal faith because it is a Biblical faith. The covenantal theme runs throughout the Bible and we must not miss that, because our God is a covenantal LORD. The Bible is called the Old and New Testament. Testament means covenant in both Hebrew and Greek. We are familiar with the covenants that began right from the book of Genesis. We know that even when God instituted marriage in Genesis, it was a covenant (Mal 2:14). If we don’t understand how He works in His covenants, we will certainly miss much of the assurances of God’s love and faithfulness and even misunderstand His workings. We will also fail to recognise the familial care and interest that He has for the family. When Noah built the ark which would deliver all therein from the flood, God did not just tell Noah to go in. Animals went in 2 by 2, as children well know. But when God said to Noah “With thee will I establish my covenant”, He extended His mercy to Noah’s family too, when He told Noah “Thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee” (Ge 6:18). God was not lax concerning His promise, but when it was time to enter the ark, “the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation” (Ge 7:1). Notice what God uses to tell us that it was because of Noah (thou, a singular noun) that the family was to enter the ark. It was not just Noah and his wife. Another instance of God’s familial care is Lot. God’s familial care extended to his family. In God’s mercy, He did not leave Lot’s family members to decide whether to leave Sodom, but instead the angels “laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters” (Ge 19:16). Note once again that the first person “him” is used in this verse to refer only to Lot. God further elaborates why He did this – “the LORD being merciful unto him”. God evidently set the family under His care because of the believer in the family (in the above 2 examples being Noah and Lot). The New Testament affirms this too, when God says “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy” (1Co 7:14). The root meaning of sanctify is set apart. The Christian family must be “set aside unto God” because God “sets them aside for Himself” in His familial love.

A family that is holy. Why would God consider the spouse “sanctified” (though the spouse is an unbeliever) and the children “holy”? For this, we look at what God’s intention is for the believer in the family. The believer is intended to have a sanctifying influence upon the others in his family as God has a familial care in setting them apart.  Unbelievers in families where God has placed a believer enjoy the privileges of hearing more of His Truth and witnessing the reality of God through the believer. We speak often about being lights and witnesses. What better opportunity to be a light and witness than to our own family members who see our lives of faith (or do they see faithlessness instead)? What a great responsibility we bear, knowing that God has placed us in a particular family and it is not by chance. In our respective families – whether as husband, wife, father, or mother, God will give the grace sufficient to perform that duty to be that light for Him, in the “keeping of the commandments of God” (1Co 7:19). “But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk” (1Co 7:17). When God chose the nation of Israel to be His witnesses, it was to point others to the God whom they worshipped. When God chose you and I in our respective places, it is also to walk in His ways and be His witnesses.  Christian families must remember that then in the institution of marriage between 2 genuine believers. And the father’s duties continue to be as what God commanded Abraham. Abraham did “. . . command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment” (Ge 18:19). So, the father-husband must ensure that he leads spiritually, and the family must follow and live as God commands, to be a witness to those around them. Living as God prescribes is not just for the good of their children, but to glorify the God they serve, since “the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1Co 11:3). So your family isn’t really “yours”. A Christian family is God’s and must run according to His commandments, statutes, and judgements (De 6:1). God is not the indulgent “father” that will pander to what you want just simply because you call yourself Christian.  God has a special care for the Christian’s family, but as in the case of Lot, there is chastisement when you disobey and live as the world lives. God’s care is a spiritual interest, and all that He provides is to attain His purposes, not the family’s own aims.

Children of the covenant. Since God is ultimately the head of your family, then your children are God’s. There is a special blessing to being in a covenantal family. Children in Christian families have the privilege to be brought up in the ways of the Lord and to hear God’s Word from a young age. Christian parents have this clear responsibility – that their families will be taught with and characterised by God’s righteous ways, true laws, good precepts, and commandments. “14 And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws” (Ne 9:13-14) is every parent’s duty to their children. God claims them as His children and so wants them to be brought up to “fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments” (De 6:2). He holds parents accountable when they fail to do so, as He did in Eze 16:20-21 when He refers to the children of the Israelites as sons and daughters “whom thou hast borne unto me” and that it is no “small matter, That thou hast slain my children, and delivered them to cause them to pass through the fire for them.”

Great privilege. What privilege then is there to a Christian family over that of an unbelieving one? A Christian family has a special privilege of care extended by the familial LORD. But this is not the end in and of itself. God’s familial care is to turn everyone’s eyes upon the greater spiritual blessings that He offers in salvation through Christ – the blessings of worshipping God, knowing Him, and serving Him. A Christian family must have a life of unfeigned faith that bears testimony to all in the home of the true and living God (2Ti 1:5). A Christian family can go through its life guided by God’s teachings and leading through His Word, instead of being guided by their faulty moral compasses and the ways of the world. Such a home has the Word of God taught to the children from a young age at home and in church, showing them the way “unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2Ti 3:15). Believers in it have His Word as the “lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps 119:105).  What a privilege to have such a family, because even when “the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock” (Mt 7:25). Surely the greatest privilege of all in a Christian home isn’t the earthly care that God extends, but His covenantal love that He offers to His children as they live to do His purposes and will,

1Jo 3:1-3  Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

Yours in our Lord’s service,