Building Strong Families | John Wimber
Source: Equipping The Saints, Vol. 4, No. 3/Summer 1990
By John Wimber
Founder of the Vineyard Movement & AVC; Founding Pastor, VCF Anaheim, CA
for a full collection of printed, taped and video materials done by John over the years, contact
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In Scripture we discover and understand God’s purpose and plan for marriage
One of the foremost challenges to family life in Western society is the loss of Christian principles and values. Our culture no longer promotes a Christian way of life, and in many ways it deliberately attempts to undermine Christian values.
Turn on the TV, go to the movies, or pick up magazines to see how adultery, homosexuality, fornication, and divorce are all presented as okay. Money is proclaimed as the key to happiness. Get as much power as you can. Live for today. Live for yourself.
The pace of life also leads to family fragmentation. Jobs, school, and extracurricular activities leave little time for family life. Fathers and mothers limit family involvement due to the demands of their jobs.
Parents are discouraged about how to raise children. They are confused over what to do about discipline, friends, school, the media, clothes, drugs, and sex. Many of them give up, viewing their children’s teen years as a lost battle.
How do we overcome these challenges? Jesus taught that God wanted strong marriages that lasted a lifetime. In Matthew 19:39 the Pharisees asked him if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason. He responded: “Haven’t you read … that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matt. 19:46).
Marriage is something that God created. Men and women who walk away from it violate God’s will. Jesus rooted his answer in the word of God, referring back to the creation accounts in Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. In Scripture we too discover and understand God’s purpose and plan for marriage. What does the word of God teach us about building strong families?
There is no clearer passage of Scripture about family life than Ephesians 5:216:4. It begins, “Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.” Jesus’ life was characterized by servanthood. He emptied himself and took on the nature of a servant in order to “give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). A willingness to serve and submit to one another is the hallmark of successful Christian families (Phil. 2:24).
In Ephesians 5:226:4 Paul offers specific instruction for wives, husbands, parents, and children. In the remainder of this article we’ll look at his instructions.
Ephesians 5:2224 says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
Until the rise of the modern feminist movement in the 1960s, Christians did not consider this a controversial or difficult passage to understand. Paul taught that the wife is to be submitted to her husband and respect him because she is one with him (see Eph. 5:31), and because the church’s attitude toward Christ is a model for how she should submit to and respect her husband.
Before discussing what submission means, it is important to know what it doesn’t mean. First, it doesn’t mean the wife is of lesser value than her husband. Western culture tends to equate function with personal worth. But we need to look only as far as God himself to see that submission does not mean inferiority of worth. Jesus said, “The world must know that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (John 14:31).
Jesus was submitted to his Father in all things and yet he was fully God: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Jesus submitted to his Father for the sake of unity and because he loved him. In no way did his submission make him any less than fully God.
In 1 Corinthians 11:3 Paul draws a parallel between the family of the Trinity and the human family: “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of every woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” Just as Jesus remains fully God in a submitted relationship to the Father, so wives are not any less human as they submit in love to their husbands.
Second, the submission of a wife to her husband is not the same as submission of women as a class to men. Third, Scripture nowhere teaches that wives are to submit to unscriptural demands from their husbands. They are to reject unnatural and abusive sexual demands and other forms of verbal and physical mistreatment. In instances where husbands have fallen into drug and alcohol abuse, wives may for a while if not permanently- have to separate from them. Furthermore, wives have a responsibility to protect their children from abusive fathers.
Submission does mean a wife is a willing, loving, and respectful giver of her heart to her husband. Peter even says that, wherever possible, this should also be true for Christian wives of nonChristian husbands (1 Pet. 3:17). In fact, he teaches that Christian wives can win their nonChristian husbands to the Lord through loving, respectful, and submissive behavior.
Proverbs 31 is perhaps the best description of a wife found in the Bible. She is described as “a wife of noble character” who is a successful and aggressive businesswoman (Prov. 31: 10). She works hard, reaches out to the poor, supports her husband, speaks with wisdom and teaches, oversees her household, and is respected by her children. She is a full partner with her husband in advancing the kingdom of God.
Paul next turns his attention to the responsibility of husbands:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself…. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Eph. 5:2528, 33).
While husbands are exhorted to love their wives, there isn’t a single verse in Scripture that commands wives to love their husbands. (Titus 2:4 does say that older women should train younger women to love their husbands.) There’s a reason for this. When husbands truly love and honor their wives, wives usually respond by loving their husbands.
I believe that the primary reason for the disintegration of family life in Western culture today can be traced to the failure of husbands to love their wives with sacrificial love. But how do we do this? Paul says, “Look at the love that Christ has for the church.”
As we have already seen, Jesus was submitted to his heavenly Father in all things. For husbands to be the leaders of their families they must first be submitted to Jesus Christ in all things. Submitted men actively cultivate the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Scripture study and meditation, and fasting in their lives. They are full of faith, hope, and courage, eager to obey God’s word. They are gracious and willingly submit to spiritual leaders.
There are other qualities about Jesus’ love for the church that reveal how husbands should love their wives.
• Christ died for the church to save it. A husband should be willing to die to his personal needs and desires for the good of his wife.
• Christ makes the church holy. A husband should be willing to do whatever he has to for his wife to be a strong woman of God. A man who approaches marriage on the basis of what it can do for himself does not understand the true nature of being a Christian husband.
• Christ loves the church as himself. A husband should think of his wife as a part of himself, not merely as someone he happens to be living with and who has a separate life. In practice this means husbands should cultivate an intimate relationship with their wives (Col. 3:19; 1 Pet. 3:7).
• Christ gives the church direction and guidance. A Christian husband should be a leader. He should be willing to take on responsibility for his wife and their life together, which includes their children. This means setting direction and making decisions.
Husbands and wives who love each other as Christ loves the church have a sure foundation for parenthood. Loving marriages produce “good child soil,” an environment of love, security, and acceptance in which their children grow. Parents’ love for their children is enhanced or diminished by how they love each other. Children want to know that their parents love them. Plus they gain security, confidence, and their understanding of God’s love from mom and dad.
Of course, good parenting goes beyond modeling God’s love in our marriages. It also involves specific skills. In Ephesians 6:4 Paul writes, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Fathers’ abuse of their children is an ageold problem. Paul warned fathers against exasperating-or embittering-their children, “or they [the children] will become discouraged” (Col. 3:21). When I pray for people with serious spiritual, emotional, or physical problems I frequently uncover childhood abuse from their parents.
In recent years the media have acquainted us with obvious forms of abuse, especially beating and sexual molestation. But I suspect a more widespread problem is the breaking of children’s spirits from constant criticism, rebuke, nagging, and cruel discipline. By exercising strict control over their children as they get older, parents communicate mistrust for and a lack of confidence in them.
The prescription for abusive authority isn’t doing away with authority. It’s loving discipline. After warning fathers against exasperating their children, Paul instructed them to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). The Greek words translated here “training” and “instruction” mean education by discipline and admonition.
The first term, training, implies much more than merely imparting knowledge; it’s a tough term that incorporates discipline. Of course, the training is in Christian living, with the goal in mind that when children are adults they are equipped to live fully for God. The picture Paul paints of a loving father is similar to that of a caring shepherd. Like a pastor with those in his care, a father’s goal too should be to train younger Christians so that they can love God fully. Shepherds cannot do this unless they exercise loving authority.
Fathers’ failure to exercise loving authority makes it difficult for children to receive discipline from their heavenly Father. The writer of Hebrews says discipline from God is a sign that he loves us: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son” (Heb. 12:66, quoted from Prov. 3:11,12).
The Greek word translated “discipline” in this passage is the same word Paul used in Ephesians 6:4, where he instructed fathers to train their children. If we have received loving discipline from our fathers, it is much easier to receive it from our heavenly Father; if out of reaction to childhood abuse we run from God’s discipline we will miss out on “a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11).
A striking example of a poor harvest can be seen in the lives of Eli, Samuel, and David in the Old Testament. Eli failed to discipline his sons, and his whole house reaped judgment (1 Sam. 3:1213). Then Eli mentored Samuel, and Samuel also failed to discipline his sons (1 Sam. X:3). Finally, Samuel was King David’s spiritual father, and David likewise failed miserably with his children (1 Kings 1:6; 2 Sam. 13:21).
Of course, children have a responsibility to obey their parents. Ephesians 6:13 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother-which is the first commandment with a promise-that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Western culture encourages children to disrespect their parents and reject their instruction. Almost all forms of discipline or restriction are considered cruel and “limiting to a child’s potential.” In Sweden parents can be arrested for spanking their children!
But Scripture is clear: children are to respect, honor, and receive from their parents the discipline and instruction of the Lord. The purpose is that the children might grow up to be strong citizens of the kingdom of God, be blessed, and live long lives.
The keys to strengthening family life are found in Scripture. If we were to put into action these simple principles, we could overcome many of the challenges that Christian families face today. And we would pass along a heritage to our children that would prepare them for the unique challenges of the twentyfirst century.
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