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Family - A Biblical Institution
This document reflects commonly held beliefs based on scripture which have been endorsed by the church's Commission on Doctrinal Purity and the Executive Presbytery.
What does the Assemblies of God believe the Bible teaches about the institution of the family? Is there a biblical model?
The family is not merely an invention of society, but an institution founded by God himself. The family is Gods agency for populating the earth with people who would love God and be loved by Him. It is to be formed exclusively through a loving lifelong marriage covenant between a man and a woman (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:18,24). This is in clear contrast to the view of many outside the church that the family is nothing more than an archaic institution that we moderns may dispense with.
The Bible is filled with teaching on the family and stories that tell of the triumph and tragedy of families. Both the Old and New Testaments contain numerous reflections on the roles of father, mother and children. The clear message of Scripture is that individuals and families suffer when lives are not lived in accordance with God's standards. Numerous biblical tragedies are played out in the context of families (e.g.: sibling conflict: Cain and Abel; marital strife: Jacob and Rachel; adultery: David and Bathsheba). When people fail to fulfill their proper functions in the family, they and their families suffer.
What does God expect of the husband/father? The husband is first and foremost called by God to love his wife (Ephesians 5:25, 28-32). The self-giving love of Christ for the Church is the model that the husband ought to emulate. Secondly, the husband is called to honor his wife (1 Peter 3:7). Many family problems between spouses and parents and children would be resolved if these two principles alone were practiced. A husband must remember that his wife is a joint heir with him of the grace of God. She is an expression of God's favor and grace (Proverbs 18:22). Every Christian husband should view his wife from this perspective of Gods extended love towards him.
The husband is to provide leadership as he models the Christian faith (beliefs and way of living) before his family. He is to reflect in his life the character and virtues of the Christian faith. This happens when he lives a life of integrity, faithfulness, and obedience to God. The physical, material, emotional and spiritual needs of the family are to be met by the husband and father to the very best of his ability. He is to provide security and protection for his family. There is no biblical justification for not meeting these needs. It is his duty before God (1 Timothy 5:8).
Both husband and wife are to lovingly fulfill each others sexual needs (1 Corinthians 7:3-5). Each should seek to understand the sexual needs of their spouse. The God-given gift of intercourse in marriage is much more than a physical act. It brings a deep intimacy and oneness that unites a couple and enriches the marriage. This intimate union in the marriage has a positive and profound impact on the family and is to be shared only with ones lifelong marriage partner.
The wife is called by God to love, respect, and be faithful to her husband (Ephesians 5:22,23; Titus 2:4,5). As a wife and mother she is to be a role model of godliness and do her best to meet the familys needs (Titus 2:4,5; 1 Timothy 5:14; Proverbs 31:10-31). The Bible calls her inward character her beauty. She is to model purity and possess a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:1-7). She is to manage her home, speak with wisdom, and demonstrate prudence (Proverbs 12:4; 31:26,27). She is to assist her husband in nurturing their children. If the father is not a Christian she is to take the full responsibility to rear her children in the ways of the Lord.
Both parents are called by God not only to meet the material and physical needs of the family but also to instruct children in the things of God (Deuteronomy 11:18-21; Proverbs 22:6). This will necessitate that parents discipline their children. Appropriate discipline is not abuse, but an authentic expression of love and concern (Proverbs 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 29:15, 17; cf. Hebrews 12:5-11). Yet parents need to be sensitive, not reacting harshly in anger, avoiding expressions of discipline that would mar the spirit of the child (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21).
Within the family parents should model appropriate masculinity and femininity before their children. Research has shown that in order to develop properly children need both strong male and female role models. In situations where only one parent is living in the home, the church can help model proper male and female roles for children through the ministries of the church.
What about the children? Do they have any responsibilities toward their parents? The Scriptures indicate they do. They should obey and honor their parents (Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20; Exodus 20:12). Honor is not merely a verbal affirmation of the parent, but a lifelong pattern of living that does not bring distress, embarrassment, or reproach, but rather happiness, pride, and respect for the parent. Throughout the lives of their parents children are under divine obligation to be a loving support system for them (1 Timothy 5:8).
The Christian family ought to be one where all members care for each other. The emphasis of the biblical model for the family is one of reciprocity (mutual sharing, giving, and receiving). This occurs out of love, respect and concern for others from within the family.
The church is troubled by the lack of spiritual focus in the homes of many Christians. Family time once used for prayer and Bible reading has given way to excessive television viewing, career enhancement, entertainment, and other activities that threaten the home. This shift has had a traumatic impact on the collective values of todays Christian family. For families to think a few hours of weekly church attendance will provide the needed spiritual nourishment for members of the family, counter-balancing the worlds immoral influence, is a serious mistake.
Spiritual growth is fostered in the home through Christlike living and regularly scheduled times of family Bible reading and prayer. This family forum will provide each member opportunity to experience Christ at the center of life. The Assemblies of God encourages each Christian father to lead his family in the practice of daily family devotions. Should the father refuse to take this responsibility, or be absent from the home, the mother is to fill this role in nurturing her children in the ways of the Lord. The Bible says "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it" (Proverbs 22:6). This biblical directive was made first to parents, not to the Church.
The Church is also concerned about many families who as a result of death or divorce have only a single parent living in the home. The Church must recognize that single parents are faced with the difficult challenge of fulfilling both parental roles; providing income, and meeting the physical and emotional needs of the entire family. How does one parent handle finances, shop, fix meals, clean, do laundry, make home repairs, maintain a car, pay bills, transport kids, arrange medical care, rear children, and more? Certainly the role and loneliness of a single parent can be overwhelming.
As the Church we must reach out to all such families. This can be best accomplished through servant actions such as baby sitting, helping with finances, offering rides to church and community functions, prayer for and with them, watching out for them and opening our houses and hearts to them. There are hundreds of ways to show single parents Gods love. The Assemblies of God calls its members to awareness and servant action in meeting the needs of single-parent homes.
The above actions only support our position on marriage and the family. The first goal of all families must be to keep their marriages intact and work through marital difficulties. While we strive to maintain Gods ideal of lifelong committed marriages and two-parent homes, we recognize that many experience divorce. Those from broken homes are looking to the church for answers and support. As the body of Christ we must reach out with love and compassion. We must love and accept those who have been effected by it. We must do this allowing the pain we see to reinforce in us the truth that God hates divorce and calls those who are married to the high standard of lifelong monogamous marriage.
The above statement is based upon our common understanding of scriptural teaching. The official delineation of this position is found in the Assemblies of God position paper "Divorce and Remarriage" under the "Biblical Principles of Marriage" section approved by the General Council of the Assemblies of God, August 1973.
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise specified.