Introduction: This part of the website will be devoted to Biblical teaching on marriage and the family, including sermons and lectures on the subject, recommendations of books to read, and various aspects of marriage and family counseling. It should be acknowledged by all Christians that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of the family, and so our marriages and families will be blessed insofar as we are devoted to Him and to His word.
Testimony: For over 25 years of ministry, I have been devoted to strengthening Christian marriages and instructing believers in how to cultivate a godly Christian family. Fundamental to this is a commitment to sound doctrine, true worship, the faithful preaching of the Gospel, godly Christian discipleship, as well as a daily pattern of family worship. It is not difficult to see that false doctrine, a lazy and sinful lifestyle, and the influences of idolatry and false worship in the modern church inevitably lead to problems in marriage and the family. And so after many years of growing in my own marriage and building my own family by the grace of God, along with 25 years of counseling others, I am convinced more than ever that a commitment to Puritan and Reformed doctrine is the best way to build a blessed, godly, loving, peaceful, and happy marriage with godly children who love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ. To this end, I have lived as well as preached several series of sermons on building a godly Christian marriage and family: 1. Principles of a Godly Christian Marriage, 20 sermons from Mt.19. 2. Reforming Your Marriage and Family, 35 sermons from Eph.5-6. 3. The Fruits of the Spirit in the Life of the Family, 12 sermons from Gal.5; as well as many other smaller series of sermons. In time I hope to put these sermons in written form on the website for people to read. But truly, they are more profitable if they are heard.
Counseling: One of my greatest joys as a pastor along these lines is to provide Biblical counsel to married couples and their families, to reconcile broken marriages, to heal wounded families, to instruct and encourage Christian parents in godly and Biblical discipleship and schooling practices, to raise their kids for Christ by the nurture and admonition of the Lord, the practicing of daily family worship, overcoming patterns of sin, and encouraging believers in a life of faith and love to Christ. I counsel all sorts of Christians from all over the world from many different Evangelical and Reformed denominations, including pastors and Christian leaders. And while I always speak the truth, I try to do so in love. All my counseling is also strictly confidential. If you are ever in need of marriage or family counseling you are welcome to inquire. I have often been told that while I am hard to listen to in my preaching; I am much easier to speak with, in private counseling. Exo.18:19-21; Psalm 1; Prov.11:14, 12:15; Gal.6:1; 1 Thess.5:11-28; 2 Thess.2:16-17; 2 Tim.3:16-17.
*Martin Luther said, “It is the duty of pastors to strengthen and build up Christian families in faith and love, and not to tear them down by false doctrine or being a bad example.”
Warning: To be honest, there are very few books that I recommend Christians to read on the subject of marriage and the family. Most of them written by Evangelical and Reformed authors today are influenced by modern trends that are either unhelpful or misleading. The fact is, the best way to reform your marriage and family is by pursuing a life of godly reformation for your marriage and family. Some books may be a little helpful, but sermons are much better, and Biblical counseling is what most Christians need, but rarely inquire. I can think of over 20 well-known pastors and Christian leaders whose lives, marriages, and families have been broken by sin as a result of not seeking godly Biblical and Reformed counsel.
Biblical Principles: Here are some foundational truths to remember in cultivating a godly marriage and family that loves God, serves Christ, and lives blessed. This is a greatly abbreviated version of a sermon on Biblical Principles for Reforming the Family from Eph.5:15-6:4.
1. The Platform – Family relationships are ordained by God’s Word and authority. They are not derived from common custom, human tradition, philosophical speculation, or modern fashion. Relationships are based on the rule of God’s word because Scripture reveals the mind and will of God. Our relationships are to reflect the character of God. We are made in His image, commanded to obey His laws and ordinances, and therefore to have our lives and families ruled by Christ and His word. And so, if you do not follow Scripture and have your life and family governed by God’s word, you will suffer the consequences of sin and misery. Deut 6; Isa.8:20; Mt.19; Eph.5-6; Col.3.
*John Calvin said, “The Lord does not shine upon us or our families, except when we take His word as our rule and guide.”
2. The Place – Family relationships are ordered by the rule of covenant households. Central to the godly discipline and reformation of the family is the Biblical doctrine of the covenant. The Bible, of course, consists of the Old and New Testament. And the basis of our redemption in Christ is the covenant of grace. This is foundational to the order and discipline of the Christian family. Throughout Scripture, God always identifies believing families as being bound together by way of covenant. The father is the head of the household and is commanded to rule in love in submission to Christ. The wife is to be a devoted and godly help meet who loves her husband and children and serves primarily in the home. And children are a blessing and heritage from the Lord. Deut.6; Ps.127-128; Mt.19; Eph.5-6.
*Henry Bullinger said, “There is an inseperable relationship with the administration of God’s covenant of grace established in Jesus Christ and the order and discipleship of the Christian family.”
3. The Problem – Family relationships are broken and distorted by sin and false doctrine. Sin is a corrupting and deadly influence upon the family. When Adam and Eve had sinned against God by eating the forbidden fruit, they were not only alienated from the presence of God, but they also were ashamed of and alienated from one another. From that time on personal and family relationships were entangled by sin. Husbands are therefore naturally sinful, proud and unloving toward their wives. Wives are naturally selfish and unsubmissive to their husbands. Children come forth from the womb disobedient and speaking lies. And parents are negligent in training their children in the Lord. To find peace and happiness in the family then, we must be dealing constantly with sin in a godly way by repentance, confession, forgiveness. and spiritual cleansing through Christ and His word.
*William Gouge said, “Sin not only defiles the soul, but brings strife and contentions to the household and to all our closest relations; and it is Christ alone by His saving love that can cleanse that sin away.”
4. The Peace – Family relationships are redeemed through the saving work of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the only Lord and Savior of the family. And therefore it is God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ that is alone able to redeem, bless, guide, instruct, and reform the family. Bad marriages and broken families come from the influences of sin, unbelief, and idolatry. But Jesus Christ is able to heal and to sanctify the family. He is the Lord of the church. He is the Savior of the body. He is the Head and King who is to rule over us by His word and Spirit. And it is His word that brings order, peace, godliness, sanctification, and every spiritual blessing. So when we talk about the Christian family, we must always talk about Christ’s Headship and His sovereignty as well as His redeeming grace and mercy. The only way to have a godly marriage and family is to commit your life entirely to Jesus Christ and His word, and through Him learn to overcome the patterns of sin and idolatry that work to destroy your marriage and family. Read Ephesians and Colossians over and over!
*DL Moody said, “Peace in the home comes only from Jesus Christ who is the Prince of peace, and it is He who reconciles us to God and to one another bringing peace.”
5. The Priority – Family Relationships are blessed by a saving knowledge of God. The way to reformation and peace in the family is through a godly and saving knowledge of God and His word. Many people today falsely think they are going to live happily in their marriages and families, without growing in the knowledge of God. That is sad. False doctrine and spiritual ignorance lead to broken relationships. Peace and joy and righteousness in marriages and family relationships comes from a mind informed and sanctified by the truth of God, a heart that is filled with the grace of God, and a life that is obedient to the will of God. Godly knowledge promotes sanctified family relationships. We must be sanctified by a saving knowledge of God’s word in order for our lives and families to be blessed with God’s grace and peace. The way to a blessed marriage and a godly family is to be devoted to true worship, the sanctity of the Lord’s Day, the faithful preaching of the Gospel, sound doctrine, family worship, and daily prayer and Bible reading. It shouldn’t be difficult to see that bad churches with weak preaching does not help build godly marriages or raise godly children. Luke 11:28; Jn.17:3; Eph.4:22-23; Phil.1:3-11; Col.1; 2 Tim.3:15-17.
*Isaac Watts said, “Godly families are formed and established in Christ by sound doctrine and the practical virtues of the old Puritan way.”
6. The Power – Family relationships are renewed and sanctified by the work of the Holy Spirit. God blesses our marriages and our children when we are walking in the Holy Spirit in obedience to Christ and His word.The sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit is necessary for peace and blessing of the family. The Holy Spirit is necessary to live godly in the home and in our family relationships. We struggle against sin and the flesh, and therefore we must rely upon the power of God to overcome the remnants and entanglements of sin: strife, bitterness, contention, hatred, sexual immorality, and other sins. The role of the Holy Spirit is to bring us to love, peace, patience, kindness, humility, obedience, submission, and conformity to Jesus Christ. We will always struggle with sin and disobedience and bitterness if we are not being cleansed from sin by Christ and walking in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit who renews our hearts also teaches us to submit to Christ’s rule and to live under the grace and power of Christian love in the family: Wives learn to submit to their husbands in all reverence as unto Christ. Husbands love and cherish their wives as Christ loves and cherishes the church. Parents bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord training them in the way of the Gospel. And children obey their parents in the Lord and show a love and reverence for them as the children of God. John 16:8; Gal.5:16-26; Eph.5:17-33; Col.3:12-25.
*Thomas Manton said, “If the Spirit of truth and grace is in our hearts and lives, the power of godliness and reformation will be seen in our homes and families.”
7. The Praise – Family relationships are perfected by the worship and ministry of the church. God blesses our marriages and families as we learn to live for His glory by a life of true worship as members of Christ’s church and body. Our relationships in the home are directly affected by our worship and fellowship in the church. The work of reformation in the family begins with the worship and ministry of the church. The most sanctifying influence upon our lives and families is the worship of God, praising and glorifying Him together, sanctifying the Lord’s Day, learning Christ from the Word of God, and receiving Christ’s blessing upon us in Communion. When we learn to devote our lives to God in worship, it is then that we are enabled to live beautifully together in the family. Many Christian couples and their children do not grow in their life together simply because they are not worshipping God in church together, or they going to a bad church that divides them up and sends the children off to be watched by others. That is not only sad, but it is unbiblical and destructive to the family. It is even a curse upon pastors when they often leave their wives and children to do “ministry.” True worship binds our hearts together in the home in the love of Christ. Ps.22:27-28, 29:1-2; Jn.4:23-24; Acts 2:38-47; Rev.4-5.
*Matthew Henry said, “Life is an act of worship. It affects the heart, and it affects the home. Therefore if we do not worship God in Spirit and in truth on the Lord’s Day, we will be sure to wrangle with spouse and children the other days.”
8. The Practice – Family relationships are blessed by our personal growth in godliness in Christ. The way to a happy home and family is to learn to be godly in your home and family. Godliness is important for the Christain life as well as the Christian home. That means we all need to overcome patterns of sin and idolatry in our lives and grow in grace and godliness. We need to imitate Christ and be transformed into His image by the Word of God. A great deal of the problems that arise in marriage and the family is a direct result of disobedience to the word of God, a lack of love for God, a pattern of sin that festers, or a root of bitterness the grows. A Christian who acts ungodly will not have a godly or peaceful home and family. This often comes from being distracted by the things of the world, such as money, work, sports, music, entertainment, and other things that hinder a godly marriage and family. Many Christians today have a misdirected ambition for their lives and their children. They pursuit money and success in the world and they are runned down by programs and activities for their children. Most Christians, as well as pastors and Christian leaders, should immediately cut a full third of their programs and activities out of their lives, just to be together in family worship to read the Bible together, pray together, and sing together. Rom.12:1-2; Eph.4; Col.3:12-17; 1 Tim.2:10, 6:11; 2 Peter 1:2-11.
*Matthew Henry said, “The practice of godliness has God’s promise of blessing in this life for our lives and families, as well as the next life in the family of heaven.”
9. The Pattern – Family relationships are defined by a mutual authority and submission. The reformation of the family always begins with the issue of authority and submission in the fear of God. God has ordained the institution of marriage and the order of the family. And so, we have all various roles to fulfill in the family if we have any hope of blessing from Christ in the family. Jesus Christ is the Lord and we are to submit to Him with all reverence and love. To this end, wives are commanded to submit to their husbands in all things, as unto the Lord. Husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Children are commanded to love and obey their parents in the Lord. And parents are commanded not to provoke their children, but to love them and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. This is how the love of God and the Gospel rules the home, with everyone submitting to one another in the fear of God and in obedience Christ and His word. Love for God in the home and family is proven by a life of godly submission and service to one another. We are to serve one another in love and in the fear of God. This is what it means to love Christ and to submit to His Lordship. And without godly authority and proper submission in the family, in the spirit of Christian love, there will be no peace, joy, or righteousness; but only strife, misery, or even anarchy. Eph.5:21-22; Col.3:18; Jam.4:1-12.
*John Calvin said, “A life of godly submission always leads to a life of great spiritual blessing.”
10. The Purpose – Family relationships are designed to bring honor and glory to God. The chief end of our life is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. And that should be our goal in our marriage and our family. We are not to live for ourselves, but for God and His glory through Jesus Christ. And the more we strive to do that, the greater blessing we will see in our marriage and family. It is the praise of the glory of His grace that we are redeemed by Christ, and called out of the world of sin and darkness to live in submission to Christ in our families. This is the goal and design of the Christian life. And this is the goal and design of Christian marriage and the Christian family. The more we elarn to live a life that is glorifying to God the greater joy, happiness, peace, and blessing we will experience in marriage and our family. So learn to seek foirst the kingdom of God and His righteosuness. Learn first to serve, love, and glorify God through Jesus Christ. Give Him your love who desires it most, and give Him your life who deserves it best. 1 Cor.10:31; Eph.1:1-14; Col.3:17; Rev.4-5.
*John Owen said, “You were bought with a price, the price of Christ’s precious blood; therefore love God and live to glorify Him in your life and family.”
Remember always that Jesus Christ has a sovereign claim over your life and family. He is the Lord and Savior of the family. And Christ’s saving love alone is able to redeem and sanctify the family. Without Christ’s saving love and the sanctifying influence of His word, there is no hope for the family. There is no peace and blessing to the family without the love of God and obedience to Christ’s word. Husbands, wives, and children are therefore called to submit to Christ’s word and doctrine; and learn to love God and love one another. Christian families and marriages are to be a reflection of God’s truth, God’s grace, God’s righteousness, and God redeeming love for His people in Jesus Christ.
What we are talking about here is basically a Theology of the Christian family, or how the love of God is to sanctify, bless, and reform the Christian family through Christ’s word.
Here is a short list of books for reading that may be helpful to you in building a godly marriage and family. As I said before though, after 25 years of experience preaching, teaching, and counseling the best way to grow in your marriage and family is by listening to strong Biblical sermons on the subject and through faithful Biblical counseling.
- On Personal Godliness: Foundations for a Godly Marriage and Family:
- Richard Greenham – Holy Helps for a Godly Life
- John Owen – Communion with God
- Matthew Henry – The Secret of Communion with God
- Henry Scudder – The Christian’s Daily Walk
- Thomas Watson – The Art of Divine Contentment
- Thomas Watson – The Godly Man’s Picture
- On the Theology and Practice of a Godly Marriage and the Family:
- William Gouge – Domestic Duties/ Building a Godly Home (3 Volumes)
- Matthew Henry – Family Religion
- J.R. Miller – The Family/ Homemaking
- The Godly Family: A Series of Essays
- Joel Beeke – Marriage and Family Collection (6 Books)
- Joel Beeke – How Can We Build a Godly Marriage (booklet)
- Joel Beeke – How Should Men Lead their Families (booklet)
- Brett Woody – The Principles of a Godly Marriage and Family (30 sermons)
- Brett Woody – The Directory for Family Worship (booklet)
- J.C. Ryle – Duties of Parents (booklet)
Brett Woody, Pastor-Teacher