I have already written about what a biblical family is here. But these six characteristics are what make a family biblical – what God has set forth as His definition of a family. I have provided the Scripture references that give proof and support for these claims. One thing I do want to make clear is that no Christian family is going to perfectly display these characteristics. A biblical family strives to maintain and better these aspects in their particular circumstances.
1. One man and one woman committed to one another for life through the covenant of marriage. (Genesis 2/Malachi 2:1-16)
Marriage is between one man and one woman. That is how God defined it when He created Eve for Adam. When He said, “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and the two become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). This is marriage as God defines it. A man and a woman unite and become one flesh. This cannot happen between the same sex. God created male and female differently for a purpose, so that they could literally and physically connect and so that, with their skills and characteristics unique to their gender, they could have and maintain a family. God created men in such a way that they are the husbands and fathers. And He created women in such a way that they are the wives and mothers. Marriage and family were created to be this way.
God also created marriage as a lifelong covenant. It is not to be broken by divorce, infidelity, or unfaithfulness of any kind. Malachi 2:16 says it best, “‘The man who hates and divorces his wife,’ says the LORD, the God of Israel, does violence to the one he should protect,’ says the LORD Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.” The only biblical cause for divorce given is when a spouse is sexually immoral but even then reconciliation should be sought after wholeheartedly. Yahweh was faithful to the covenant He made with the Israelites despite their unfaithfulness to Him time and time again. In the same way, the church is the bride of Christ and even though we continually prove ourselves unfaithful, He never fails; He remains faithful. Marriage is suppose to work the same way. Despite our unhappiness, our selfishness, or our legitimate hurt and betrayal, we should remain faithful to the covenant we made with our spouse. In the end, we should keep the covenant even when we are no longer happy, even when we no longer love our spouse, because we made a covenant before God and we love Him.
2. The husband is the head of the household. (Ephesians 5:23, Genesis 3:16b)
Ephesians 5 makes this very plain. “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” The husband is the head, the leader. He leads his family, he watches out for them, he protects them, provides for them, and he loves them. He is not a dictator or an abuser of power. He lovingly leads. He leads with wisdom, consideration, and with the best interest of his family at heart. He leads as Christ leads His church, the ones He loves.
3. The wife respects and submits to her husband. (Ephesians 5:22, 33; Genesis 3:16)
It is hard for the empowered women of today to accept her role as being the one who “respects and submits.” We live in a culture where women declare they are strong, independent, equal with men, and they don’t need a man’s help! As true as those things are (except for maybe the last one) we are still called to respect and submit to men. Ephesians 5:22 says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” We are told to do this because of verse 23, “for the husband is the head of the wife….” This is how God created marriage to work. This does not mean that women are inferior or incapable because we are not. God created us in His image as well and we are worth much in His eyes. However, God created each gender for a particular purpose; He made man to be the leader and woman to be the helper, the one who submits to the leader. This doesn’t sit well with us women and the reason for this is found in Genesis 3:16b, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” The desire it speaks of is the desire to be in control, to rule over our husbands. The command to “respect and submit” has been made hard, if not unnatural to do. Our natural bent is no longer to submit and obey, it has become to control and rule. God gave that role of ruler to men, however. Just as wives are to submit to their husbands, men are to submit to the Lord. Men also have to submit and obey but they do so to the Lord, not to their wives.
This is very difficult for women to accept for many reasons but I think one of the reasons is because men are sinful too. It is hard to submit to a sinful human being, to someone who is capable of letting us down, of leading us in the wrong direction. It’s easy for us wives to decide what we think is best and then hammer it into our husbands or simply beat them down until they have no choice but let us have control. This is ungodly and this is not what God has called us to do as wives. Husbands are not perfect; they will not love perfectly, nor will they lead perfectly. But God has called us to submit to them and in doing that we must trust in God’s design and in Him to lead our husbands as they lead us.
4. The husband loves his wife like Christ loves the church. (Ephesians 5:25-33)
The love Christ has for His church is a sacrificial love. Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her….” Christ gave himself up for His church. Why? Verses 26-27 explains that He did so in order to:
- Make her holy by cleansing her with water through the word
- and to present her to himself as a radiant church
- without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish
- but as holy and blameless
This is how Christ loves His church and husbands are to love their wives in the same way. Verse 28 goes on to say, “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” The love of Christ for His church and the love a husband has for his wife is one and the same. It is a sacrificial love, a selfless love, a giving love. Just as Christ leads His church to holiness, washing and cleansing her to make her a pure bride, a husband should lead his wife to holiness by washing her in the Word.
5. The husband and wife have a healthy and active sex life. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5)
Sex is a very important aspect of marriage. God created sex to be shared between a man and a woman united through the bonds of marriage. Sex isn’t just a “bonus” or an added pleasure. It is a vital component to having a good relationship with your spouse outside of the bedroom. This is true because sex isn’t just a shallow physical act. Within a marriage, sex provides not only physical pleasure, but an emotional and intimate bond that feeds our desire to be wanted, needed, and loved. Even for the man, his deepest desire is not a physical release but to know that he is wanted and loved. God meant for sex to be a physical, emotional, and spiritual act between a husband and wife that satisfies their desire to be loved. He did not mean for it to be a shallow physical act. He did not mean for it to be pornographic and perverted. He meant for it to be a deeply intimate act shared between a husband and wife that strengthens their marriage and their relationship with Him.
1 Corinthians 7:3-5 says, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do no deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” These verses should not be used to manipulate or guilt a spouse into having (more) sex but should rather encourage and convict married couples to evaluate their sex life and the perspective they hold of sex. The husband and wife of a biblical family do not withhold sex or neglect each other. They communicate and they make the effort to understand each other’s needs and make sure they are adequately meeting those needs. God created sex for a husband and wife to enjoy so go, enjoy it!
6. Children are valued as gifts from God. (Psalm 127:3-5, Mark 10:13-16)
In a biblical family, children are valued. They are not seen or treated as inconveniences, as accessories, or as “mini-mes” for parents to vicariously live through. They are seen and treated as gifts from God, as their own unique person, and as valuable treasures we have graciously been given to raise and love. Psalms 127:3-5 proclaims, “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.” The Bible says that those of us who have children are blessed. We are not burdened, we are blessed. It is easy to feel burdened because parenting is so very hard and at times, it sure does feel like a burden. But we are blessed that God has given us the challenge and the honor of raising a human He created.
In Mark 10 we find how Jesus responded to children that were brought to Him to be blessed. Verses 13-16 say, “People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” Jesus valued the children. He didn’t see them as unworthy to come to Him or for Him to gather them in His arms and bless them. Likewise, we should have the same attitude towards children. They are of value, they are gifts from God, and they are important to Jesus.