Family is extremely important in the Bible, both in a physical sense and in a spiritual sense. The foundation of family was introduced in the very beginning, as we see in Genesis 1:28.
God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’
God’s plan for creation was for men and women to marry and have children. A man and a woman would form a “one-flesh” union through marriage (Genesis 2:24), and they with their children become a family, the essential building block of human society.
We also see early on that family members were to look after and care for one another. When God asks Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain’s response is the flippant “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The implication is that, yes, Cain was expected to be Abel’s keeper and vice versa. Not only was Cain’s murder of his brother an offense against humanity in general, but it was especially egregious because it was the first recorded case of fratricide (murder of one’s sibling).
Family is foundational in the new agreement in God’s country where Jesus is King.
- Jesus speaks on the sanctity of marriage and against frivolous divorce in Matthew 19.The New Covenant makes many of the same commands and prohibitions as we find in the old one.
- The Apostle Paul talks about what Christian homes should look like when he gives the twin commands of “children, obey your parents” and “parents, don’t provoke your children” in Ephesians 6:1-4 and Colossians 3:20-21.
- We see similar New Testament concepts regarding the importance of family in the process of salvation in the book of Acts when on two separate occasions during Paul’s second missionary journey, entire households were baptized at the conversion of one individual (Acts 16:11-15, 16:31-33).
- The New Testament sign of the covenant (baptism) was applied to entire households just as the Old Testament sign of the covenant (circumcision) was applied to whole families.
- Clearly, God’s desire isn’t just to save isolated individuals, but entire households. When God saves an individual, His desire (from a moral/revealed-will perspective) is for the family to be saved.
- In 1 Corinthians 7, the unbelieving spouse is sanctified through the believing spouse, meaning, among other things, that the unbelieving spouse is able to be saved through the witness of the believing spouse.
We are born physically, we’re born into a physical family, but when we are “born again,” we are born into a spiritual family. To use Pauline language, we are adopted into God’s family (Romans 8:15). When we are adopted into God’s spiritual family, the Church, God becomes our Father and Jesus our Brother.
This spiritual family is not bound by ethnicity, gender or social standing. As Paul says, “You are all sons of God through faith in the Messiah Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into the Messiah have clothed yourselves with the Messiah. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in the Messiah Jesus. If you belong to the Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).
The physical family is the most important building block to human society, and as such, it should be nurtured and protected. But more important than that is the new creation that God is making in the Messiah, which is comprised of a spiritual family, the Church, made up of all people who call upon the Master Jesus the Messiah as Savior.
This is a family of God drawn “from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9), and the defining characteristic of this spiritual family is love for one another:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. | John 13:34-35