[Editor's Note: The following excerpt is part one in a series taken from chapter 13 of the recently released god, marriage, and family: rebuilding the biblical foundation, second edition by Andreas Köstenberger with David W. Jones, © 2010 Crossway Books]
In the previous chapters we attempted to put God first in our thinking about marriage and the family and sought to rebuild the biblical foundation for marriage and the family. One final important step remains, however: applying what we have learned about God's plan for marriage and the family to the church. As we have seen, God's purpose is "to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ" (Ephesians 1:10), including the marriage and family relationship (Ephesians 5:21), so that, in accordance with Paul's prayer, "to him be glory in the church and in Jesus Christ throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen" (Ephesians 3:21).
How does God intend to relate marriage and family to the church? This is a question of theology (the doctrine of God) and ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church). A different but related question is this: How can churches today strengthen families? This question is one of method and application. In order to answer these two questions, it will be important to draw on the findings in previous chapters on the biblical theology of marriage and the family and to apply these findings to the biblical teaching on the nature of the church. It will also be important to address the practical questions regarding a biblical philosophy of church ministry and programs designed to strengthen marriages and families.
OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT TEACHING REGARDING MARRIAGE AND FAMILY
As we have seen, we find in the Old Testament a pattern that is best characterized as "patricentrism"; that is, a type of family in which the father serves as the hub of the life of the family and as its life-giving, directive center. While genuine authority is invested in the father, his role in the family is by no means exhausted by the exercise of his God-given authority but, among many other functions, includes also the protection of and provision for his family.1 At the same time, some of the functions of the father in the Old Testament—such as the giving of a dowry to his daughter, the role of parents in arranging their children's marriages, or the oversight of an extended household including not only blood relatives but also household slaves—have a cultural component that may possibly not be transferred directly to the Christian family today. The application of these passages calls for wisdom and discernment.
With regard to Jesus' teaching, we have seen that Jesus affirmed God the creator's original plan for marriage, quoting both Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24 (Matthew 19:4 and pars.). By this our Lord strongly and emphatically confirmed that God's original design for marriage (with the husband as the head and the wife as the submissive, supportive partner) continued to obtain for Christians rather than being replaced by a different plan (such as an egalitarian one). Another point of interest is that Jesus indicated that he came not to bring peace, but a sword, and faith in him (or lack thereof) would divide families (Matthew 10:34 and pars.). Hence allegiance to Christ and his kingdom must have priority over natural family ties. This, as will be seen, injects a crucial dose of realism into any approaches to church structure that work from the ideal intact family unit where the father is the head of the household. In many nuclear families, the father is either not a believer or absent altogether.