The family is another of God’s Divine Institutions. It is a part of God’s absolute social law built into the fabric of a social human being who is created in the image of God. It has been in decline since the middle of the 20th century. Even conservatives are saying they need to separate social ideas from economic ideas in order to address other voting blocks, but the breakdown of marriage and family has wide economic consequences which are an integral part of economic realities. In Rome, in Paul’s day, family values had deteriorated, resulting in the increase of abuse of children and women. In what way does the Bible view children as arrows in the hand of a warrior? How is the reality of a Triune God related to absolute unity and distinction in marriage and family? See how a self-absorbed generation paves the road for destruction of a nation.

The Family: God's Training Team. Colossians 3:20-21; Ephesians 6:1-4

We reach another focal point in Colossians chapter three where the shift goes from the focus on the marriage, the role responsibility of the wife, the role responsibility of the husband, and now the role and responsibility of the children and the parent. This passage isn't just focusing on fathers but it is also focusing on parents. So in this context we learn that what Paul is doing in Colossians chapter three—and he expands on it a little bit in Ephesians 6—is focus on the roles and responsibilities of the children within the home and parents within the home. This is something that is extremely important because as we will see these verses in Colossians and in Ephesians—about the only place where the New Testament really focuses on family training—are crucial to developing the spiritual health of a culture (the church culture and the nation) and this is the area where Satan has been attacking this nation over the past 60-70 years, ever since the end of the Second World War. There was a tremendous deterioration that occurred between 1945 and 1970, and that actually laid a groundwork for what has happened since then. Most of what has happened of what has occurred in terms of the deterioration and the decline of the family since 1970 had its foundation in beliefs that shifted in the fifties and the sixties.

Colossians 3:20, 21 NASB "Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.[21] Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart."  This is expanded a little bit in Ephesians 6:1-4, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."

The way we will look at this is to break this down in terms of what the Bible teaches about the family. It is in some sense an expansion of what the Scripture teaches about the third divine institution, which is the institution of the family. A divine institution is an absolute social law, as it were, that God built into the fabric of the social nature of human beings. Human beings are designed to be social. We have the ability to love and to respond to being loved. That is part of being in the image and likeness of God. Adam was created initially alone but then God said that it is not good for man to be alone. So man is designed to be a social creature, to be involved with others and not to just live in complete isolation. This was before there was ever any sin, so man is designed to be a social entity and as part of that fact God built in these social laws. 

It is interesting that after the recent election one of the things that has come up is that the conservatives need to separate their social ideals from their economic ideals. One of the reasons, they say, conservatives lost in the election was because there are too many people who are liberal socially—they have liberalized ideas on sexuality, liberalized ideas on marriage, liberalized ideas on the role of men and women in society, and they don't want to buy into a conservative view on those issues—and so though much of the country may be conservative fiscally, because they are liberal socially the Republican Party conservatives just need to focus on these conservative economic issues.

The problem with that, as we will see, is that the Scripture not only does not separate social realities from economic realities but it emphasizes the fact that these are integrally connected so that when there is a breakdown in the social laws of the divine institutions it has radical negative economic consequences.

As just a simple illustration that can be extrapolated in many different ways, if we look at, for example, a married couple who has been married for approximately 10-15 years where the husband is working successfully and provides a good income from the family, and the wife because of the success of the husband is able to stay at home and focus on the children. Then all of a sudden because of social sin on the part of either the man or the woman there is a breakdown in the marriage and a divorce. There are economic consequences for that. If there is a battle between the husband and the wife over the assets both will lose and the lawyer will get more money and become more financially successful. In many cases the wife is left dependent on too many other people because she has been out of the work force for so long. She may not have had the appropriate training, education or whatever to be in the work force because perhaps she focused on being a mother and been successful at that. As a result of that she now can only earn a minimal amount of money, is dependent upon the ex-husband now for child support and in many cases the dead-beat Dads don't pay the child support. So now there is created an absolute storm of economic problems within this family. And of they become dependent upon the government for welfare, food stamps, things of that nature, it becomes a problem for everyone. There are economic consequences to the violation of the divine institution. They are not social suggestions; they are social absolutes built into the framework of God's creation.

The first is individual human responsibility, responsibility to God first and foremost—responsibility to live as God has created us, called us and mandated us. Second is marriage. Marriage is to be between a man and a woman. It is not to be between a man and many women or one woman and many men, or between two of the same gender. They are to be a heterosexual union. A homosexual union will have many unintended consequences in the social and economic realm. Then the third divine institution is the family—all three of these were established before there was sin in the world—where it is the role of the parents to train the children. It is not the role of the parents to see, necessarily, that the children are well trained. It is not the parents' role to delegate everything to someone else. Delegation of some things is appropriate but we live in a culture when too much is delegated because Mom and Dad have too many other things to do in life, and so they allow all these distractions to come in and take them away from their primary role as a parent, which is to train their children to be successful independent adults. When they fail in that and the children do not become successful independent adults then they become dependent failures, and that has economic consequences upon the nation. When this is multiplied by tens of million people it becomes a huge drag on the entire culture, and we are witnessing a lot of that today. So these divine institutions are incredibly significant.

We recognize that we live in the midst of a culture that has become increasingly antagonistic to a biblical view of these divine institutions. But if there is going to be any future for this country then we have to get back to that, and that has to start with the only group of people who really pay attention to what the Word of God says, and that is Christians. The divine institutions are for everybody, not for believers alone; that distinction isn't made. If you are a human being and if you follow the divine institutions you will see a measure of success in your life, and of you violate them you will see a measure of failure.

We have talked about marriage in terms of the Christian institution of marriage and now we are looking at family. This command that we see in Ephesians chapter six is addressed to believers. The original foundation that is quoted here from Exodus is part of the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments addressed to everyone in the nation of Israel (Exodus 20:12). Therefore it was for everyone whether a believer or an unbeliever.

As we get into this we have to remember that everything has a context: the original context in which Paul wrote, the context of the quotation that connects us back to the Mosaic Law –there is an Old Testament context to those mandates as well. There is the context of Paul's readers, those to whom he addressed this in both Ephesus and Colosse. Then there is a connection to our context, which is where we live in the 21st century.

We look at a little bit of the original cultural context in Rome. Human culture as we normally understand it, which is a collection of all of the beliefs, ideas and values of a human society, is roughly equivalent to the term that Scripture uses called "worldliness." It is that system of values that is a part of the devil's world. We are either living on values that are biblical or on values that are part of the devil's world, we don't have any kind of neutral territory. There are successful unbelievers who are part of the devil's world who operate on establishment principles or the principles of the divine institutions that give them a measure of success. There are also Christians who are in the family of God who try to operate on principles of the devil's world and the culture of the world around them, and the result of that is always going to be personal tragedy and collapse, because ultimately they are building their life on something that is insufficient and never stable. 

Paul is addressing a group of believers in Ephesus and in Colosse who are products of the belief system of the Greco-Roman world. Before they became Christians they had perhaps been involved in the mystery religions that were very popular in this area of what we now call Turkey but at that time was part of the Roman province of Minor. Or maybe they were involved in one of the popular philosophical type of groups that dominated in that part of the world. But they were also part of the Roman Empire and the structure of Roman values, especially those that were related to the family. In the Roman republic which preceded the Roman Empire there were some very strong and good values expressed in their laws related to the family. But by the time of the period where we are now many of the initial values of the Roman republic had deteriorated, and one of the factors that had deteriorated was in the role of the family and how the parents viewed the children and the authority of the father.

In the first century in Paul's time Rome had a view of the authority of the father in the home that made the human father all-supreme. He had more power that we can possibly imagine. He had absolute power over the family and could sell them all as slaves if he desired. He could make them all work in the fields if he wished. He could punish them any way he saw fit. He could take over the role of the courts and could impose his own punishment upon his children, even to the point of inflicting the death penalty. The father truly ruled in the household and no one challenged his authority.

When a child was born in a Roman family it would one day be placed between the feet of the father. If the father picked up the child then he would stay in the home and be raised as part of the family; if the father walked away from the child then the child would be literally thrown away. The child would be gathered up in the evening and taken to a forum where at night the boys would be selected and taken away to be slaves, and the female babies would be taken away and raised to be prostitutes. We see this view of children in the ancient world exhibited in one of the letters in the Oxyrhnchus Papyri collection from the time of 1 BC. A man is writing to his wife: "Heartiest greetings. Know that we are still even now in Alexandria. Do not worry if when all others return I remain in Alexandria. I beg and beseech you to take care of the little child, and as soon as we receive wages I will send them to you. God luck to you. If you have another child and it is a boy, let it live. If it is a girl, expose it." They really didn't value young girls as much, they could grow up and make money that helped support the family." There is also another statement from approximately the same time by a well-known Roman philosopher: "We slaughter a fierce ox, we strangle a mad dog, we plunge a knife into a sick cow, and children who are born weakly and deformed we drown."

So we see Paul is writing to a culture that has a very distorted view of the role of children, a utilitarian view towards children. Children only mattered insofar as what they could do to help the family. There was no concept of what we have in a Judeo-Christian framework where every child that is born is in the image of God and therefore has value. They have value in and of themselves and not as some utilitarian concept.

In our modern culture there has been a rapid increase of child abuse. This isn't simply because we have better recording mechanisms. That is often what we may hear from people. What we see in the Scripture—and what we saw in the study of Judges—is that the more pagan a culture becomes, the more it is influenced by the ideas of pagan values, the more abusive it becomes to women and to children. And historically it is only through the influence of Christianity that the value of women is elevated and the value of children is elevated. We have been seeing in our culture a rapid deterioration of the value of children. Since 1998 (fourteen years ago) the daily death rate in the US from child abuse and neglect has gone from approximately three a day to five a day in 2010. Eighty per cent of those who die are under the age of four. Abuse statistics from 2006 indicate that one in fifty-eight children suffer some form of abuse. It indicates that there is not a positive view towards children in our culture. As our culture has become more self-absorbed or narcissistic children are viewed as just something that gets in the way of Mom and Dad's success, personal pleasure and lifestyle.

The Bible teaches a completely different view of children. Children are not valued for their utility; they are valued because they are a gift from God. Psalm 127:3-5 is the benchmark passage for this: "Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward…" This is seen as a reward. Children are something positive. Why are children seen as something positive? A metaphor is used. "… Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate." A warrior is able to protect and defend himself by virtue of having a stocked armory. He has the weapons he needs to influence those who would take advantage of him, those who would steal from him, those who would take away from him his country and his family. What is it that gives him that power over the enemy? It is his weapons.

What is the basis for this analogy? If you are parents raising up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, then what you have the ability to do is to spend and multiply your influence against a godless culture through your children. So if you have one child you have one arrow in your quiver. If you have eight or ten you have multiplied your influence. This is the focal point. Children are the means by which believers, if they are following biblical mandates by training up a child, will extend their influence against the godless culture that is encroaching upon the family. This is a completely different way of looking at the family.

When we are influenced by paganism we have a terrible problem understanding the distinction between what philosophers call the one and the many. We have in Christianity an ultimate reality—a triune God wherein the essence of God is one being, a unity; one in His essence. But He also exists as three individuals. Because the ultimate reality in Christianity is absolute unity and equally absolute distinction this solves a problem that has plagued human philosophers all the way back to the pre-Socratics. The pre-Socratics began the debate as to whether or not ultimate reality was one or many. In human thought it is one or the other, they can't comprehend how it is both together.

A simple illustration: If you think that ultimate reality is the unity for one then how is that going to play out in the family? If ultimately reality is the one the ultimate reality ends up being the father, the one; he is the authority. It plays itself out in political theory: the ultimate reality isn't based on the individuals, the ultimate reality isn't on the parts, it is on the whole, the state. So the state becomes a god. Or in a religious system, Islam becomes the dominant factor and it cancels out the emphasis on the individual. Remember it is one or the other: you are emphasizing the whole or you are emphasizing the parts. But you can't value both at the same time because your view of reality can't comprehend that. That is, if you are thinking consistently. So when you live in a totalitarian environment where the state becomes the all-encompassing reality then what you will discover is a philosophical view within the culture that the only thing that matters is the one. If you live in a completely fragmented culture in society where everything depends on the individuals and everything gets broken down into its individual components and there is no unity, or the unity suffers tremendously because of the emphasis on the parts, then you have the other extreme.

So these ideas, while they seem to be to most people abstract, philosophical talk, etc., it is not that. Just because you haven't comprehended it doesn't mean that those people like the founding fathers of the United States and others throughout history haven't thought profoundly and deeply about these issues. The fundamental issue in philosophy is the issue of trying to explain how things can be one and many. It is called the problem of the one and the many, unity and diversity and other terms. It is one of the central problems of philosophy. But as a Christian, our view of ultimate reality is that not only is there value to each individual part—the value of the husband and the wife as individuals created in the image and likeness of God—but at the same time they combine a unit. They combine as a unity as one and one unity, and that is important. It is not one or the other. The same is true of the family. It is not just the parts, not just the whole; it is both. Because as Christians with our view of reality we can bring both the one and the many together, we can give equal value to each part without sacrificing the whole. But when you think as a pagan you are either emphasizing the whole or you are you are emphasizing the parts; you can't understand how the two go together. Because of the influence of Christianity this developed our view of the value of each individual over against the state, which was the dominant view in feudalism, and so it generated a view of politics that came out heavily influenced in British thought, heavily influenced by Puritan thought and their understanding of the Trinity, where you can value the society as a whole and the government as a whole without sacrificing the value of the individual. And you can value each individual and elevate the significance of each individual without sacrificing the whole. So this is a fundamental issue as part of our understanding of the divine institutions. 

So what we see in Psalm 127: 3-5 is something totally consistent with that. It is the family unit where the father has properly trained the children, where the children then become his influence within the culture of society—verse 5: "How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them …" He has produced a number of children and trained them well. They are thinking biblically. "…They will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate." The gate is the place of power. This is where the courts would meet, the village would meet; this is the city council, and so there is opposition and this is where things would be adjudicated. The idea here is they are able to stand against their enemies in the court of law because of the training that they have received in the family.

So the family here is protected and built on the basis of the children. And we are going to see something tragic in this country, because we have lost that view of the family, in the next twenty to thirty years. We have seen such a deterioration towards the divine institutions in this country since the end of World War II with the emphasis on every individual has the right to whatever it is they want in life. We have overemphasized the individual so that everybody gets to do their own thing. It is Judges again: everybody does what is right in their own eyes. As a result of that we have seen the divorce rate just skyrocket. We have seen the birth rate collapse. If it were not for the influx of Hispanics into the US population we would be on a negative trajectory in terms of population growth. As a result of that there isn't a generation coming up behind the baby boomers that can truly take care of their parents, that can provide for their parents. That is part of the family responsibility. Biblically speaking you see that a wise father lays up treasure, not just for himself but to pass on as an inheritance to his children. So there are the financial resources there for the children to take care of the parents. But when those financial resources are destroyed through the selfishness of parents in divorce, or they are wiped out because of their own profligate spending on their own desires, or they decide they are not going to have children and are not going to follow the biblical mandate of training the next generation, then what comes along is a collapse and the baby boomers are going to hit their senior years when they start strokes, when they start to have dementia, and they are not going to have anybody to take care of them. They are not even going to have somebody come visit them when they are put into some sort of institution, a nursing home or something of that nature.

So the baby boom generation that got all of this narcissism coming out of the sixties is going to reap the whirlwind. They are going to reap what they have sown in terms of their self-centeredness and it is going to be a tragic, lonely end for thousands upon thousands of Americans as they reach their senior years, with no one there to take care of them. This is a consequence of the self-centeredness and the failure to properly understand the biblical emphasis on the family. 

As Colossians 3:20 begins it says, "Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord." The word that is used here for "children" is the Greek word teknon [teknon]. It is not brephos [brefoj]which is a word for infants, it is a word for children and it can refer to adult children as well as to infant children. It therefore covers the entire range of human offspring. So the idea here is that children are to obey their parents as long as they are properly under their authority and under their roof. Sometimes today there are children who go off to college, develop a degree of independence, and get a job and then come home and are back under their parents' roof and the financial management of their parents because they can't get a job. This happens also with high school kids who graduate and can't get a job. To the degree that the parents are paying their bills to that degree they are under the parents' authority. If they are paying the bills then they have the authority.   

It is interesting that the word "obey" here in the Greek is hupakouo [u(pokouw], not hupotasso [u(potassow]. hupotasso was the word that was used with wives—"Wives submit to your husbands." Here the word is that which is related to the word akouo [a)kouw] which means to hear. It is not a word that simply means to listen in terms of having your auditory nerves stimulated, it means to listen and obey. It is like a teacher in a class saying, "Listen to me." That doesn't just mean hear what I say, it means to hear and do what I say. The word has a prefix here, hupo, which gives the word the meaning of "listen under [the authority of]." It is a word that comes to be, "Listen to your parents and do what they say." This is the role of children. They are to listen and obey their parents "in the Lord." That is an important qualification, because what that means is that children are not required as anyone else who is under authority to obey a command from parents that violates a command from the Lord. The Lord is the higher authority. The Scripture assumes that there is an absolute right and an absolute wrong and the reason children are to obey their parents is because it is the right thing.

In the next verses, 2 & 3, we have a quote from the Old Testament. "HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER…" Which means to respect them. It is to fulfill their spoken wish and unspoken wish to the fullest of your ability. "… (which is the first commandment with a promise) …" What was the promise? It is stated in Ephesians, "SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH." That promise is part of the framework of the Mosaic Law. We have to understand that part of the Mosaic Law said that if you obey God, implement God's will as stated in the Mosaic Law, then Israel would stay in the land and God would bless them, they would have prosperity and God would provide everything for them to have a rich, abundant physical life. It is not talking about spiritual life, it is talking about your physical existence in your physical life. But if you are disobedient then God is going to bring judgment on the nation.

This is also evidenced in another command within the Old Testament. There is another aspect to the Mosaic Law related to the loss of life for children, and this is in Exodus 21:15 NASB "He who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death." In other words, this is not just back-talking but a child who strikes his father was to be executed; it was a capital offence. Why was God so serious? Because it shows that the child has not learned authority orientation. And if a child does not learn authority orientation then a whole host of children will not learn authority orientation and a generation will be raised up that no longer thinks as the previous generation—according to the Word of God—and this will bring a collapse and destruction to the culture. [16] "He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death. [17] He who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death." So there is a framework within the Mosaic Law that if you were a juvenile delinquent and disobedient to your parents to an extreme degree then they were to bring charges against you, and you were to be taken out into the public square and stoned. It was a death penalty. That is why the statement: "Honour your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise." The promise in the Law was that if you were a disobedient child and were disrespectful to your parents then that was a death penalty offence and you wouldn't live very long. But if you honoured your parents you would have a full life.

But this issue of obedience to parents is not something that children are born with. Remember they are born with a sin nature; their default position is self-focus, their default position is sin, their default position is disobedience. They are self-absorbed from the time they come out of the womb. So it is the job of the parents to train their children.

Proverbs 30:11 NASB "There is a kind of {man} who curses his father And does not bless his mother." This is the opposite of Exodus 20:12. [12] There is a kind who is pure in his own eyes …" Self-absorbed and justified in his own eyes."… Yet is not washed from his filthiness." No recognition of sin, so there is no cleansing from sin, and the sin nature reigns supreme within that generation. [13] "There is a kind [generation]—oh how lofty are his eyes! And his eyelids are raised {in arrogance.}" This is focusing on their arrogance; they think they have finally figured it all out; they thiknk they have found the ultimate solution. [14] "There is a kind [generation] of {man} whose teeth are {like} swords …" Verbal sins; their attacks with their mouths, their words. "… And his jaw teeth {like} knives, To devour the afflicted from the earth And the needy from among men." They are completely focused on their own needs and their own satisfaction. [15] "The leech has two daughters, 'Give,' 'Give.'" This speaks of an entire generation coming up that looks to the Federal Government as the source of its prosperity. It wants somebody else to give and to take care of them. "There are three things that will not be satisfied, Four that will not say, 'Enough': [16] Sheol [the grave, always taking more dead], and the barren womb, Earth that is never satisfied with water, And fire that never says, 'Enough.' The fire continues to absorb just as the earth absorbs water. [17] "The eye that mocks a father And scorns a mother, The ravens of the valley will pick it out, And the young eagles will eat it."

That is a picture of the destruction that comes to those who do not honour the values, the beliefs of their father's generation. Those who reject the truths of their parents that are built on Scripture will self-destruct. And this is exactly what we are seeing in this nation.

But it goes back to the parents. This is why there has been such an assault on the family and the culture. Satan is attacking the family and the culture of our country and around the world in order to build his kingdom in this world. And the only thing that can be a protection, parents, against the influence of the world and your family is the Word of God, and to rethink and focus your priorities upon the Word of God and how you teach and train your children.