The foundation of the family follows the meta-narrative of the Bible – creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. Viewing the biblical basis for the family within this context permits the student to adequately arrive at a practical framework for what the family ought to look like in their current culture.
God ordained the communal aspect of man from the beginning of time. The first non-good of His creation was the loneliness of man. In view of this non-good, God created man a companion and instituted marriage. The companion, who was the woman Eve, was ordained as man’s helper. The primacy and headship of man above woman was apparent before the fall. God then commanded for the man and woman to be fruitful and multiply.
The fall commenced alterations to the people in the institution of marriage, but not the institution itself. The members within this covenant were now sinful and broken human beings. The task of marital unity would be difficult, but the headship of the man was not withdrawn, but rather reinforced. The man and woman were commanded to be fruitful and multiply, producing children, displaying the vital connection between marriage and procreation.
It was not long after the fall that God promised redemption; and throughout Old Testament history, God displayed His character as Jehovah, delivering his people. It was within these redemptive acts that the Lord urged fathers to teach their children concerning the things that the Lord had done. The responsibility of passing on God’s truth to the next generation fell upon the fathers of children. The family structure was vitally important to preservation of God’s redemptive history. At the pinnacle of redemption, the coming of Christ and His death and resurrection, the Old Testament scheme was not forsaken. The New Testament writers continued to urge Christian fathers to train up their children in the fear of the Lord. Further, the institution of man and woman in marriage took on a new display in the union of Christ and his church. The importance of marriage was contextualized as a testimony to the mighty work of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Redemption brought about a restoration to that original design of God back before the fall. By the power of Christ, men and women could unite as they were originally intended.
Moreover, the families of man were coupled with the family of God. Redemption brought about the universality of God’s people as they were adopted as His sons and daughters in the family of God, where the eschatological consummation of God’s ultimate end would produce a united church body and family in the heavenly and spiritual realm. The community of peoples as God intended will consummate in the heavenly family of God.
Today, with this historical perspective of the biblical family, the modern Christian can apply principles relevant to his dispensation. The earthly family is to be honored and adored as a picture of spiritual principles – i.e., the submission unto God, the Lordship and love of Christ, etc. The earthly family is to be coupled with respect to the heavenly family. One’s earthly father is also one’s spiritual brother, and thus priorities fall in reference to both positions. One is to utilize the earthly relationships to point to those spiritual truths, which unites men and women to better unite under the relationship of the spiritual family.