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Roles in Family

By Johannes P. Setiabudi and Nova Wibowo




Last month we studied God’s design for marriage. Well, after the ceremoni(es), honey moon(s), you may think … what next ? From that on, a family is being formed, a Godly one. It doesn’t matter if you (can) have any children or not, you are still forming a Godly family. You have to bear that view in mind along with your life after marriage. So, then, we ask the question … what is Godly family? What are the roles in a Godly family? This paper will discuss each role and why God designed it to be that way.


Marriage as has been discussed last month is a covenant between a man and a woman for a lifetime. But, the principle of covenant should not be taken as a padlock or a deadbolt where it means we stuck forever with no way out. Rather, it should be viewed as a link between two persons who interact with one another interactively.
"A covenant is not a padlock on the relationship. That would make marriage a prison. A covenant is rather an elastic link between two hearts. When they move apart, a tug reminds them they belong." 1

As we read through Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we can see that God has a design for human relationship. He does this by making roles or structures of authority. This shouldn’t be taken as that God approved anarchy or abusive mentality/attitude, it’s the other way around. He knows that human are depraved and fallen. He knows that we will abuse it, therefore He made it clear to us. So what God says about marriage?
"Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not harsh with them." Colossians 3:18-19
The passage talks about male headship in marriage. This is not about male chauvinism, as a matter of fact it rejects male chauvinism. Paul made it clear that men and women are equal in their essential identity, which is child of God. This passage also says clearly that the only man the woman should subject to is the husband, not every man.

In the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:3), the Paul starts with Jesus’ relationship the Father, which is always true. He brought this in order to stress that male headship in marriage is also important and true for all time. In the same way we see Jesus’ submit to the leadership of the Father, husband is the leader in the family. Notice that Jesus and the Father along with the Holy Spirit form The Trinity with equal in Deity. We should not take this off our mindset when we are thinking our relationship in marriage. Husband and wife are equal in their humanity. Of course, husband should be subject to Christ authority. 2

What is the conclusion of this argument? Husband should use this authority to love and to serve God, including loving and serving his wife and family (Ephesians 5:21-33). Notice that the word ‘love’ in Eph 5:25 is from ‘agapate’or ‘agape’. In vs. 28, 29 Paul gives an analogy that is perfect. Just as Christ loves the church not simply because as it were His body, but indeed the church is His body, husbands should love theirs wives. Husband and wife is one body just as God has united (vs. 31).
"For a man to love his wife is to love himself." 3 (Gen 2:23)
So what? What is this all about? Is it about a chain command? God to the husband, husband to wife, wife to kids, kids to the maid, maid to the pets, etc? No! Absolutely not! So then, what is headship?
"The husband is called to renounce headship as rule and to see his headship as nurturing sacrificial love. The wife is called to renounce her desire to overmaster her husband (or to desire his rule), and she is called to give him respect, submission and honor as though he were head over her … Each will do this, not as a mutual contract, but as a covenant grace-gift ‘out of reference for Christ’ … Headship is not hierarchy … Headship is not rule …Headship is not an authority role … [instead] Headship is being first in a relationship of equals … first in honor… little more responsible for the relationship … first in nurturing, loving and building the relationship … first in initiation …first in providing for the wife and children". 1
Sex, what is sex in a covenant relationship? Paul Stevens put it this way,
"Intercourse [or sex] is to the covenant what the Lord’s Supper is to salvation. It expresses and renews the heart covenant. If the symbol is not backed by a full covenant, it is merely a powerless, graceless act." 1
It is God’s design that sex has to be done in a marital context. If not, it can destroy your relationship with God, your significant other (not others) and it can damage you in a unique way that no other sin can. It is primarily because we violate God’s design for sex. God will not damn us to hell or will condemn us with severe punishments, etc. It’s merely the result of not reading the manual correctly. 9

Ray Anderson writes,
"It is quite clear that the couple have come under the ‘command of God’ through the act of sexual intercourse, questionable though it may be under the circumstances. What is required is obedience to this command through the negotiation of the appropriate wedding contract. Failure to follow through in this way then places the man and woman in jeopardy due to disobedience … Theologically, marriage – not the wedding ceremony – constitutes the contextualization of sexuality as both an implicit and explicit will to coexistence".7
From this point we may assume that the "sex" we are talking about is not premarital sex. But a wedding or marriage should not be used to justified sex. If so it will create a separation between love and sex. Both have to complete each other, not as a substitute to each other. Generally, women need to be psychologically ready and stable to enjoy sex, where men don’t. Men can enjoy sex while he is angry, but it’s not case for women. "…men must have sex to reach fullness of love while women must have love to reach fullness of sex".1

Sex is also a tool, an avenue for us to move outside our boundaries, sex meant for ‘us’ not ‘me’. 1 Sex by all means also resulted in a deeper understanding of oneself, because marriage requires us to give one another as a unique person in a unity with our spouse.

"… be fruitful and increase in number" Gen 1:28 tells us that sex is the tool for married couple to create children. But, it is wrong to say that every act of sex/intercourse should be resulted in procreation or a child. So then, what is the purpose of sexual intercourse? Gary DeLashmutt in one of his teaching put it this way,
"The primary purpose of sexual intercourse is neither procreation nor self-gratification! It is the unique expression of sharing my being with my wife (husband) in the context of committed personal relationship of self-giving love—with both of us united with Christ in a love relationship" 6

According to Anderson, there are three aspects of the role of parenting.
bulletTo recognize and affirm the humanity of the child. A child or an infant is not a subhuman. It is already a complete human being, and parents need to provide a healthy environment where children can grow in love that is communicated in the form of actions and verbal. By doing this parents try to open their child’s eye unto God, since God is love, and whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.
bulletTo create and sustain the personal life of the child. A child personal life is depending on its physical life. Therefore parents are responsible to actively act in this area by providing its needs and providing protection. As the child grows, he will be able to make his own decision, but it’s still parent’s role to affirm and sustain his identity.
bulletTo contextualize and historicize the self as existing before and with God. It is also a parent duty to let a child know that he is a part of the history and he has to be responsible for it. A child will never always be innocent, it’s denying human depravity by doing so. However, parents need to do this in the context that is by grace. God as a perfect parent is the best example for this.

So, how should parents do those stuff?
"Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" Ephesians 6:4 .
Paul summarizes 3 aspects of parenting here, love, discipline, and teach. 4

Teach … teach through instructions. Each human being has a role in God’s plan, and it’s parent’s duty to help them discover it. From an early age, parents should help their children to develop good habits, such as work. Parents should teach and train their children so they will like to work. God is always at work, and a lazy Christian does no good for God. From work and labor, it will produce obedience and idleness will produce troubles.

Teach trough examples … children are good followers, and they follow their parents. Be an example, it serves a better teaching than any others. 4

Love … parents, spare your time with your children. It doesn’t mean that parents must stay at home all time etc, but instead, you can do your stuff with them. Most parents won’t hesitate to fulfill their children daily necessities, but how about time? We need to provide the environment where they can value their relationships with their parents enough that alienation from them is unnatural and undesirable. Provide quantity, quality and regular time with children. 5

Discipline … discipline is an addition to love, not as a substitution. Discipline has to be child oriented, since parents are doing these for them. Parents should discipline their children in order to help the children become the person God wants them to be, not what the parents want them to be. Discipline also has to be age appropriate. It will become silly and abusive if we ignore this fact. We don’t want to spank a teenager, or make a baby stays in the room without fresh air for a day. Punishment has to be age appropriate in order to deliver the message well. 5

Spirituality … just like the parents, the children are also spiritual being, design to enjoy relationship with God. As parents we need to nurture them in order to understand this. Family as the smallest structural unit has to be the first influence in a child development process. So, what can parents do? Parents should constantly discuss faith with their children in a relax manner. The form of discussion may differ as methods, but the main idea has to be the same. Sharing the love of Christ has to be done verbally by sharing the gospel. Praying with and for them is very important. Be careful not to make this just as a ritual in your home, but instead, enjoy this time together with the children.


Obey. For some children, that word is really making them nervous. How about you? There are only two direct commands regarding children in the bible (Eph 6:1 and Col 3:20) and both of them contain the word ‘obey’. We may have some questions in our head that say, "God, should I obey my parents? They are human beings, who are also sinful. I only want to obey You, no one else". Paul made it clear, we must obey our parents, no exceptions. If we study the context of the passages, they are in the context of ethical issues. So abusive attitude and such are not included. Obeying our parents is an imperative from God, so by obeying our parents we obey God. This is also valid even though your parents are not believers, or you can make your own decisions, or they make the wrong choice or decisions. Why? Because it’s the way it is written in the bible. However, this ends when children reach an age where they are culturally approved to be, for an example, when you get married, or your parents die, etc. Paul doesn’t specifically address the issue if the parents are not Christians, but he refrains us to make the obedience to be conditional. Greg Jao, one of the writers in IVCF writes,
"I could not control my parents’ unfavorable response to my desire to do ministry, and their response was not my responsibility. My responsibility was to choose how I would respond to them … with grace, obedience and humility". 8
Well, what does it mean to obey in bitterness? Eph 5:21 says that we should do everything below it as "out of reverence for Christ". This statement underlies everything we do. We are subject to Christ’s authority and children should do this in love to Christ as well to their parents. Jesus Himself is a good example for this. He waited 30 years before doing His first miracle, which He did in obeying Mary, His mother. God requires submission in order for Him to delegate authority to human.

What if my parents want me to do something different than what God wants? We should be careful about this, we should think it through, prayerfully and with the knowledge of the Word whether or not they are in contradiction. If we don’t like what our parents want, it does not mean that it’s not what God wants. Often times God wants us to do something we dislike at all. Our first priority is to obey Christ, and this loyalty is in the context of discipleship. Therefore, if there are some commands that are in contradiction with our discipleship issues, we may not obey them.
"It is impossible to create a hard-and-fast rule to determine when disobedience is required. However, because of our perceptions often are clouded by our own resentments, desires and passions, we need to engage in extensive prayerful reflection, thoughtful conversation with believers of various cultural backgrounds and ages, an in-depth and honest assessment of the issues and our desires, and a careful study of Scripture before choosing to disobey our parents" Jao says. 8
Honor. The fifth commandment and Eph 6 contains this word. In obeying or disobeying our parents, we must do it in honor to them. What does it mean to honor our parents? It’s showing respect to parents as they play their roles as parents, showing dignity and acknowledging their higher place, communicate and respond to their care and wisdom in the community. Giving honor does not require worthiness. As has been explained in the previous paragraphs, obedience has to be done in honor, not with bitterness. Sometimes honor means letting the parents know that they are wrong. It’s quite a unique situation, but it’s reality.

As well as parents have to spend their time, children need to do so too. Don’t just come to parents asking for money, but share your life with them. For the children who have been a grown up, you have to understand that it is quote hard for the parents to lose you. Share your life in Christ with them. Pray for their healthiness and their ability to keep striving for Christ’s glory. If your parents are not believers yet, pray that God will open up circumstances for you to share the gospel, for others as well. Pray that God will always provide environments where they can see the love of Christ. Forgive them for all the things they did for or to you, just as Christ has forgiven you. Do all this in love, as just God as the perfect parent has loved us, His children. Remember this that the fifth commandment is the first of human related commands, obey and honor your parents, in love.


Wives, be subject to your husband, obedience is the way to communicate love. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loves the church. Relationship between husbands and wives should be like Christ and the church. Parents, love, teach, discipline your children in righteousness. Children, obey and honor are the most important and the first commandment.

bulletRead Ephesians 5:21-6:4 and do and inductive of it.
bulletMemorize these verses: Colossians 3:18-21, a quiz will be given in the next meeting.

Sources used:
bulletStevens, Paul, Married For Good, IVP 1986
bulletDeLashmutt, Gary, A Biblical Framework for Marriage, Xenos Christian Fellowship 1998
bulletWood, Skevington A. , Expositor’s Bible Commentary vol. 11, Zondervan 1978
bulletChristenson, Larry, The Christian Family, Bethany House Publisher 1970
bulletDeLashmutt, Gary, A Biblical Framework for Parenting, Xenos Christian Fellowship 1998
bulletDeLashmutt, Gary, Christianity & Human Sexuality, Xenos Christian Fellowship 1998
bulletAnderson, Ray, On Being Family, Eerdmans 1985
bulletJao, Greg, Honor and Obey, "Following Jesus Without Dishonoring Your Parents", IVP 1998
bulletDeLashmutt, Gary, Christian Distinctive #2, Xenos Christian Fellowship 1998

Ephesians 5:21-6:4
Relationship with Paul:
bulletNot too close.
bulletThe people have heard of him (3:2).
bulletThe gospel may has been shared here (4:3)
bulletPaul put the foundation for the church in Ephesians on his second journey (Acts 18).
bulletPossibility if many converts.
bulletPaul tells the foundation of God’s vision and design for a healthy ekklesia and Christian living.
    bulletSalutation (1:1, 2)
    bulletDoctrine: The Implications of Christian Faith (1:3-3:21)
bulletPraise (1:3-14)
bulletPrayer of Intercession (1:15-23)
bulletLife From Death (2:1-10)
bulletJews and Gentiles Reconciled (2:11-22)
bulletGrace and Apostleship (3:1-13)
bulletKnowledge and Fullness (3:14-21)
    bulletPractice: The Application to Christian Life (4:1-6:20)
bulletThe Unity of the Church (4:1-16)
bulletThe Changed Life (4:17-24)
bulletChristian Behavior Patterns (4:25-5:2)
bulletLight in the Lord (5:3-20)
bulletChristian Relationship: Marriage (5:21-33)
bulletChristian Relationship: Parenthood (6:1-4)
bulletChristian Relationship: Employment (6:5-9)
bulletInto Battle (6:10-20)
    bulletConclusion (6:21-24)

Ephesians 5:21-33

Main Theses:
bulletVs. 21, submit to one another
bulletVs. 22, 33, wives, be subject to your husbands, respect
bulletVs. 25, 33, husbands, love your wives

Supporting arguments:
bulletVs. 23, God’s imperative, as Christ is the head of the church.
bulletThe relationship between husband and wife should be the same as Christ and the church, and since Christ is the head, husband is the head of wife.
bulletChrist id the savior, so husband must give protection to his wife as a result of love.
bulletVs. 28-31, for after marriage husband and wife become one in flesh and nobody would ever hate his own body/flesh.
bullet"head" – "kephale", superior in responsibility(s)
bullet"love" (vs. 25, 33) – "agapao", or agape
bulletvs. 26-27 talk about "ekklesia"

Ephesians 6:1-4

Main Theses:
bulletChildren should obey and honor their parents
bulletFather (parents) should not exasperate their children, instead they should bring them up in discipline, training, and instruction to the Lord.

Supporting arguments:
bulletThe context is about Christian Family (vs. 1)
bulletPaul is paying more attention to the inferior (child, woman, slaves)
bulletVs. 2, first commandment most likely implies the order of importance
bulletVs. 4, training, discipline, nurture – "paidea" and instruction in righteousness – "nouthesia" which means verbally, and this includes encouragement also.

Quiz, Roles in Family, June 27th 1999

Name: _________________________ Grade: ______

1. List the roles (in family) that are mentioned in Colossians 3: 18-21.
bullet____________________ and ____________________

2. Use ONE of 4 verses you memorized in respond to this statement, (ref. and quote)

    "I only need to obey several things I like from my parents".
3. How should husbands relate to their wives as Paul describes it in Ephesians 5? (1 or 2 sentences is enough, if you have the verse(s) reference, that would be great)