L

ast month we said, "The gospel is the message that God sent His Son, Jesus, to Earth as a man to atone for the sins of His people by dying for their sins." This month we are asking, "How does the Gospel apply to families?" In order to answer this question, we will first consider a few implications of the Gospel, and then we will consider how those ideas help us understand the impact the Gospel has on the family. 

The Gospel implies that there is a problem, sin. The problem of sin is a problem of epic proportions that can hardly be overstated. Sin separates us from God. We are in bondage to sin and death. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Sin has affected everyone and everything. Our hearts are deceitful beyond belief and cannot be understood. Our relationships have been ravaged by our sin. As sinners, we approach every aspect of life in the sins of pride and unbelief.

However, sin and the death that it brings are not necessarily the end of the story. Christ died to atone for the sins of his people. Jesus died in the place of his people in order that we might be forgiven and justified on account of the work of Christ through faith. By faith, we are united to Jesus in his death and if in his death then in his resurrection also. We have been fundamentally changed by grace and are continuing to grow in grace. Grace touches every aspect of our life. There is victory over sin. We are set free from the law of sin and death. Every thought, action, word, and relationship is impacted by the grace of Christ.

It should be no surprise to us that families are massively impacted by sin. The Bible clearly defines the order of the family. The husband is head of the wife just as Christ is head of the church. The Bible also clearly states that our pride and unbelief, our sin, wreaks havoc on the order of the home. Because of sin the wife’s desire is for her husband. She will seek to rule over him. Further, the husband will dominate the wife. He will oppress her in even her natural roles. Around the world, two extremes are found in marriages that have been patterned by sin rather than faith. Sometimes the wife rules the roost and virtually castrates her husband. Other times men oppressively subject women to virtual slavery. A third type of marriage defined by sin is also found. Frequently marriages are found that consist of two individuals living under the same roof but refusing to give up any individuality. 

The parent child relationship is also compromised by sin. When parents act out of pride and unbelief toward their children, discipline either does not happen or is no more than behavior modification. Some parents, in the name of letting their child be himself, simply don’t give any discipline and train their child in foolishness through their own passivity. Other parents, too prideful to risk the embarrassment that often comes with a lack of discipline, seek to change their kid’s behavior. The problem with both passive parenting and behavioristic parenting is not that it does not change behavior but that it cannot affect the heart. We have all known, or been, the kids who kiss their parents’ feet when they are around, and make a mockery of themselves and their parents when apart. The issue that underlies both issues is sin. Both parents and children are sinners. The mind and heart of a child is not a tabula rosa, but even if it was, parents would make short work of it. 

The Gospel dramatically affects the family at every level. When a husband is changed by grace he begins to figure out how to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He leads in love and gentleness. When a wife is changed by grace she begins to realize that submission to her husband in not an issue of taking a "lower" position, but an issue of acknowledging the God ordained and biologically supported roles for men and women. She submits to her husband as to the Lord with respect and dignity. A marriage between a man and a woman living with each other in grace and truth is a glorious tale of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When husband and wife, saved by grace through faith in Christ, become Dad and Mom, how they relate to their children is transformed. Parents made alive by the gospel are neither content with passively leading their children in foolishness nor satisfied with mere behavior modification. They are far too concerned with the glory of God and condition of their child’s heart to have such selfish and bottom line goals. 

A child saved by grace is a brother or sister in Christ to his parents. It took no more, or less, of the blood of Christ to cover the child’s sin than it did to cover the parents’ sin, and both parties know this. A child whose heart has been changed begins to recognize the loving and godly discipline of his parents for what it is, and he responds. 

While the gospel does have dramatic redemptive effects on the family, we must bear in mind that while justification is a onetime act of God’s grace, sanctification, the process of being renewed, dying to sin, and living to righteousness, is an ongoing, gracious work of the Holy Spirit that is not complete until glory. The Gospel defines family properly, but none of us have been made perfect yet. We will fail, but the gospel enables us to forgive when we do. Continue with one another in grace.

(Kevin Hale can be reached at kevin@christchurchconway.org)