The Biblical Foundation of the Family

The biblical foundation of the family can be traced back to Genesis 1:26, where God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…”– (Genesis 1:26, NIV). This idea is expanded upon in Genesis 1:27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”—(Genesis 1:27, NIV). What is interesting about Genesis 1:26 is that God refers to himself as “us” rather than “me.” The use of the word “us” indicates the threefold nature of God as expressed in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, since God referred to Himself as having three distinct personalities, and since He also stated that man was created in His image, a logical extension is that the family, as being ordained and designed by God, will reflect the threefold nature of God.[1]

Because each person of the Godhead is equal to the other persons, but has a distinct role and relationship to the other two persons of the Trinity, individuals in a family, while equal in worth and as a reflection of the image of God, have distinct roles and responsibilities to God and to each other.[2] God, as the Father, is the ultimate authority, the One who plans, designs, and purposes things according to His pleasure. Jesus, the Son, while being equal to God, submits His will to that of the Father and places Himself under the leadership of the Father. The Holy Spirit, while still possessing the divine essence of God, submits to both the Father and the Son and works to bring glory to each of them. Each person of the Trinity has a separate role, yet each Person works in unity with the others to accomplish the will of God, the Father.[3]  By looking at the roles, responsibilities and relationships that are inherent in the Godhead, husbands, wives, and children can comprehend to a greater extent their unique place within the function of the family.

In the account of the creation of the first man, Adam, “Then the Lord God formed a man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being”—(Genesis 2:7, NIV), Adam was created before the woman, Eve. Because man was created first, he was intended by God to have authority over the woman.[4]  In Ephesians 5:23, the apostle Paul makes it clear that the marriage relationship is a reflection of Christ and the Church, and that just as Christ is the head of the Church and has authority over it, so are husbands the head of their wives and have been given authority over their wives. Husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25, 28; Colossians 3:19). Husbands are to love their wives in a sacrificial, selfless manner that benefits the wife and helps produce in her godliness and holiness. They also are to serve, nurture, and protect their wives, and to exercise their authority over their wives in love.[5] Wives are to submit to their husbands, respecting them, showing them deference, and honoring them, as an act of submitting to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22). Wives are to recognize the authority and headship of their husbands and should submit to their husbands out of a willing and joyful attitude that is rooted in obedience to and love for God.[6]

Because woman was taken out of the flesh of man, a husband and wife are one flesh: “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh”—(Genesis 2:21-24, NIV).  Because a husband and wife are one flesh, they should operate in unity and harmony, not acting as two separate and autonomous individuals.[7] The husband, in loving his wife, should operate from the understanding that he has been given God appointed authority over his wife, just as God, the Father, has authority over Jesus, the Son, and he will be accountable to God for how he leads his wife. The wife, too, must yield to her husband’s authority out of reverence for God, just as Jesus submitted to the authority of God the Father.

One of the most important purposes of marriage is to produce godly children through which the Christian faith will be transmitted to future generations (Malachi 2:15).[8] Fathers, as the head of the family, are instructed to teach their children the ways of God (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Based on the instructions to fathers found in Deuteronomy 6, fathers have a sobering responsibility to ensure that their sons and future generations love the Lord and follow His ways. Fathers are instructed by Paul in Ephesians 6:4 to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord. Although God gives fathers ultimate authority over their children in all areas of their lives, wives are to work in unity with their husbands to teach their children the things of God. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” –(Proverbs 22:6, NKJV). Parents must remember that children are a gift from God (Psalm 127:3). The ESV version of the Bible uses the word “heritage,” which implies a legacy and influence that remains long after the parents have departed from this world. Fathers and mothers should impart truth, wisdom, and the knowledge of God to their children. By teaching their children to obey and submit to them, parents are training their children how to submit to and obey God. As stewards of their children, parents will have to give an account to God for how they train and teach their children.

Children are instructed to obey and honor their parents, submitting to the authority of their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossians 3:20), just as the Holy Spirit submits to the authority of God the Father and Jesus the Son. Children are promised by God that if they honor their parents, they will have a long and good life (Exodus 20:12). In Proverbs 2:1-5, children are instructed to listen to wisdom and understanding of their parents, and they are encouraged to seek after wisdom with all of their heart and to apply it to their lives.[9]

In summary, God determined the order and organization of the family, and this divine order is supported consistently throughout Scripture. God ordains the husband to be in authority over the wife, and that both the father and mother are to have authority over their children. Just as each person of the Trinity has a distinct role and relationship to the other persons, so does each member of the family have different roles and responsibilities in their relationships to each other and to God. The order of authority in a family begins with God, then is extended to men, then to women, and then to children. When a family operates under the divine order set in place by God, the heart and nature of God are reflected, thus glorifying God.


Ham, Ken, and Steve Ham. 2011. Godly Generations. March 31. Accessed April 13, 2015.

Knight, George III. 2005. Husbands and Wives as Analogues of Christ and the Church Ephesians 5:21 and Colossians 3:18-19. April 13. Accessed April 07, 2015.

Mitchell, Mike. “Proverbs 2 as a Metamodel for Child Discipleship” (video). Lecture, Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA, 2012.

Stinson, Randy, and Timothy P. Jones. 2011. Trained in the Fear of God: Family Ministry in Theological, Historical, and Practical Perspective. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.


[1] Randy Stinson and Timothy P. Jones, Trained in the Fear of God: Family Ministry in Theological, Historical, and Practical Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2011).

[2] ibid.

[3] Stinson, Randy, and Timothy P. Jones. Trained in the Fear of God: Family Ministry in Theological, Historical, and Practical Perspective. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2011.

[4] George Knight III, “Husbands and Wives as Analogues of Christ and the Church Ephesians 5:21 and Colossians 3:18-19,”, April 13, 2005, accessed April 07, 2015,

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid

[7] George Knight III, “Husbands and Wives as Analogues of Christ and the Church Ephesians 5:21 and Colossians 3:18-19,”, April 13, 2005, accessed April 07, 2015,

[8] Ken Ham and Steve Ham, “Godly Generations,” Answers in Genesis, March 31, 2011, accessed April 13, 2015,

[9] Mike Mitchell, “Proverbs 2 as a Metamodel for Child Discipleship” (video of lecture, Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA, 2012).

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