hat in the world does the gospel of Jesus Christ have to do with the family? You may be wondering that very thing. Isn’t the gospel only related to "religious stuff"? Isn’t the gospel only the means by which an unbeliever becomes a believer; the entry point into Christianity? This, I perceive, is the thought of many. And it is dead wrong.
The gospel is for the believer in Christ as well as the unbeliever. It speaks to every sphere of life and never becomes irrelevant or obsolete. We not only become Christians by believing the gospel, we are continually transformed into the image of Christ and brought up into maturity in him by obedient belief to the same gospel. The gospel destroys the old us; through it God brings the new. Through the power of Christ’s gospel we are liberated to lovingly obey God in joy and love our neighbor. The gospel enables us to have God-honoring relationships, including the realm of the family.
Marriage itself has a higher purpose, revealed in the gospel. Paul explains:
"’Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church" (Ephesians 5:31-32, ESV).
Paul is saying that marriage is really all about Christ and the church. It is a picture to the universe of the gospel. The husband represents Christ in this picture, and is therefore commanded to love his wife "as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (v25). Just as Jesus loved his people and died for their sins on the cross, so must a man demonstrate to his wife daily this self-denying, sacrificial love. This is only possible through the power of Christ in us by believing the gospel. Note the serious implications of this. When a man does not show this kind of love to his wife, he is ‘preaching’ to the universe a lie about God and false doctrine concerning the gospel. By not loving his wife sacrificially, the husband is distorting the purposed picture of marriage and is declaring to the watching universe that Christ does not sacrificially love his bride, the church. So we see that marriage is not just about US; God’s glory is involved.
Similarly, a wife (fully equal to her husband) has a role to play out in this grand picture. Wives are given the command to "submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord…Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands" (vs 22, 24). This is a highly controversial message in our day. It must be pointed out that this is not talking about slavery, abuse, or quieting a woman’s personality (Indeed, this kind of voluntary submission to an equal is gloriously exampled by our Lord Jesus. Though equal with the Father [Hebrews 1:3-4], Jesus voluntarily takes a submissive role [Philippians 2:6-8]). This is talking about obedience to the gospel for those who are more concerned about God’s glory expressed rightly through the picture of marriage than they care about their own ego. Just as men must surrender their rights and give themselves in sacrificial love and godly leadership to their wives, women also must deny themselves in beautiful submission to their husbands. Both of these roles can only be fulfilled through the power of the gospel of Christ. The gospel empowers us to glorify God in our relationships.
Are you personally more concerned about God’s glory in marriage than serving yourself? Do you trust that the Creator and Redeemer, who is all-wise, has good reasons for doing it this way…even if it doesn’t make sense to you? The Creator of marriage has every right to regulate marriage for his own glory. And when we obey him (by the grace and power given in Christ through the gospel) God will not only be glorified, but we will walk in peace and blessing.
I spoke to a woman who was in a very difficult marriage. Her husband was in jail and had put her through one nightmare after another for many years. She told me that she had considered leaving him several times; but then she said, "But when I think about how graciously God has treated me, in spite of my sins, I know I need to stay with him and show him that love." Wow. That is the power of the gospel in the family. This precious lady was loving the unlovable because of the gospel. Because God had mercy on her and forgave her sins in Christ, she had been liberated and empowered to forgive her husband and show him grace. When the world would cry "divorce." the gospel brings grace and power.
What about children? Paul continues, with commands for the children: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" (Ephesians 6:1).
All authority in our lives comes from God (See Romans 13:1-7). How we treat the authority in our lives is how we are treating God: Whether it is civilians to police officers or tax collectors, students to teachers, churches to their elders and pastors, wives to their husbands, or children to their parents. The gospel gives power for children to obey their parents.
But Paul is not finished. To the parents, he says, "Fathers" (for it is the role of the men to lead in the home) "do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Eph 6:4). Parents are commanded to raise their children in the things of the Lord, but in love and grace (not "provoking" them). The gospel gives power to the parents to show grace, yet discipline, in the bringing up of their children.
Correcting children should never be done apart from the gospel. It is important to share the gospel with our children during correction. Our goal is not to raise merely moral children, but children who delight in Jesus Christ and God’s glory; who love him and serve him and rejoice in the cross of Christ. Correct your children, but in the context of the message of hope: that Christ died for our sins that we may be forgiven and walk in love with God and one another.
Yes, the gospel is for the family. Believe this good news today of God’s love for sinners shown in crushing his Son on the cross in our place that we may be forgiven and clothed with Christ’s righteousness. Believe the gospel, and be transformed into the image of Christ; empowered to lovingly obey God with joy, and have godly relationships with others…even your family members.
May God be pleased to raise up families in Conway that are built on the gospel of Jesus Christ, giving glory to God.
(Cary Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)