The Biblical Family: Instrument of Godly Transformation

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Stephen McDowell | The Providence Foundation

(The following is taken from the booklet The Biblical Family: Instrument of Godly Transformation, which can be ordered from our bookstore.)

The family is God’s chief instrument of Biblical transformation. It is God’s primary tool for extending His kingdom — His government — in the earth. Children are arrows or weapons that God gives the family to prepare to shoot into the culture and the future (Psalm 127:4). If the family is faulty, the fulfillment of the mission wanes and the nation will decline.

There are numerous signs of decay in the American culture. The most disturbing is the breakdown of the family. In 1960, 72% of adults were married. Today it is about 50%. In 1960, 65% of those filing taxes were married and 35% were unmarried; today, 39% are married, and 61% unmarried. In 1980, 18% of children were born outside of marriage; today over 40% are born outside of marriage.[1] Today, only 32% of people think premarital sex is wrong; 69% thought so in 1969.

PP-family 750001Added to this is the progressively successful attempt by homosexual activists with the support of some government officials (mostly unelected liberal judges) to redefine marriage as no longer a union between a man and a woman, but between any two people who “love” each other.

Reversing the decay of the family is of primary importance because as the family goes, so goes the nation. If the family declines, the nation declines. The reasons to preserve the family are many. The family provides moral, social, and material stability to a nation. For example, intact family life is a great antidote for poverty. “In 2009, the poverty rate for children in married-couple families was 11.0 percent, the poverty rate in female-headed households was 44.3 percent.”[2] Kids raised in a traditional two-parent family are less likely to have behavioral problems, to drop out of school, to have a child outside of wedlock, to decline in their socioeconomic status, to be involved in drugs and gangs, and to commit crimes.[3]

But the most important reason to preserve the Biblical family is that the family is God’s instrument of advancing His purposes in the earth, and if it is faulty then its ability to fulfill its mission will diminish. The family is becoming less an instrument of God’s kingdom and more an instrument of man’s kingdom. Many Christian families, who are to prepare their children to advance God’s kingdom, have instead given the enemy their greatest weapon (their children) who has armed them and used them against us (the nation and liberty).

Mission of the Family

The family is a divine institution and the basic building block of society. From the beginning, God communicated the central importance of the family and its mission when He said:

“Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule [have dominion, KJV]… over all the earth.” … [M]ale and female He created them. And … God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule [have dominion] … over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:26-28).

Man, as male and female, was created to bear the image of God. Hence, the Godhead (Father, Son, and Spirit) is a picture of the family. God created man and woman to live in union together (Gen. 2:18, 22-24), reflecting in some sense the “family” of the Godhead. God has been a Father from eternity.

After God created man and woman (the family), He gave the family a mission. It included: one, to rule or have dominion over God’s creation and two, to be fruitful and multiply. The Bible teaches that God created the earth for mankind (Ps. 115:16; Gen. 1:28), and His original creation was very good (Gen. 1:31). Fulfilling the original creation commission (or cultural mandate) is no small task, nor is it only spiritual or personal in nature. To do so requires us to use all our resources to express His image and likeness on the earth. Fulfilling this mandate requires us to discover truth through sciences, apply truth through technology, interpret truth through humanities, implement truth through commerce and social action, transmit truth through education, and preserve truth through government and law.[4]

After creation and before the events of the temptation and disobedience of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, there was a rebellion against God among some of the angels (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6), which included Satan, the prince of demons (Is. 14:12-15). God cast Satan and the fallen angels (demons) to the earth. Since that time Satan and his cohorts have sought to undermine God’s purposes and His rule. In his pride and desire to be equal with God, which was his original sin, Satan has sought to set up his own kingdom on the earth and usurp the rule of God and God’s vice-regents (that is, mankind, who God called to rule with Him).

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Satan uses many tactics to try to destroy the work of God, including lying (John 8:44), deception (Rev. 12:9), murder (John 8:44; Ps. 106:37), temptation (Matt. 4; Gen. 3; Job 1:7-2:7), and accusation (Zech. 3:1). He seeks to cause people to turn away from God and destroy themselves (John 10:10). He hates God’s people and wants to destroy them, and hence attacks them in many ways (2 Cor. 4:4; Gal. 4:8).

He ultimately hates God and has been working to undermine God’s plan in creation. He seeks to destroy mankind, and he also seeks to keep man from accomplishing his mission of taking dominion and multiplying. Throughout history Satan has been working to seize control of God’s earth. God’s redeemed people, through His divine institution of the family, are called to be vice-regents ruling with Him and doing battle with the usurper Satan. To be effective in this battle, God told the family to be fruitful and multiply, which in part means to have children. Children trained in the ways of God are our greatest weapon in the battle against Satan.

After man fell, God initiated His plan for redemption and restoration of all things.[5] God’s plan to extend His kingdom and defeat Satan has and will primarily be accomplished through the family (the natural family and also the family of God). God created the family in the beginning as the basic institution to accomplish His purposes. When fallen man filled the earth with evil and violence, God sent a flood and started over with a family, Noah and his household (Gen. 7:1 ff).

God’s plan involved His making a covenant with Abraham to bless the nations of the earth through his family (Gen. 12 ff). Abram and his family obeyed God and left their pagan homeland to start a new nation. The covenant nation of Israel, through whom God gave to all mankind His Law-Word and the Messiah, was comprised of the descendants of Abraham, that is, his family. When Christ, who was part of both a heavenly and earthly family, came to earth, He gave birth to a new family, a spiritual family comprised of the redeemed, the family of God.

Paul views the redeemed (the church) as a family (1 Tim. 5:1-2). God is our heavenly Father (Eph. 3:14), and we are sons and daughters to Him (2 Cor. 6:18). We are also brothers and sisters with other believers in the family of God (Mt. 12:49-50; 1 John 3:14-18). But this does not replace the natural earthly family, but reinforces its importance. God’s promises are for us and our family (Acts 2:39; 16:31-33). God moves among entire families, for example, the households of Cornelius (Acts 10), Lydia (Acts 16:15), the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:31-34), Crispus (Acts 18:8), and Stephanas (1 Cor. 1:16).

God advanced His kingdom among the Gentiles under the New Covenant through families. The Gospel spread into Europe through families (e.g. Acts 16:14-15, 40). While Paul preached in synagogues, in the markets, and in the gates of cities, the church regularly gathered in homes, where entire households formed the nucleus of the emerging church. Christian families trained their posterity to know God and advance His purposes in the earth.

If the family is weakened, then the means to fulfill our Godly mission is weakened. We must resist every attempt to undermine the family, including direct attacks, such as homosexuals seeking to redefine the family, or increased immorality leading to unmarried people living together, but also the indirect actions of modern man that undermine the family, such as: no fault divorce, state education (which usurps parental influence), social security (one does not need the family to help in old age if the government assumes the role of provider and care), and the welfare state (government provides needs, replacing the role of the family).

Understanding the Mission as Context for Building Godly Families

Understanding God’s overarching mission for man gives the proper context for training our children and building Godly families. To summarize, with the Fall, man lost the ability to effectively carry out his Biblical mission. Mercifully, God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ, triumphed over sin and death, and restored to man the ability to effectively fulfill his original mission of being fruitful and ruling over the earth (1 Cor. 15:24-28; Eph. 1:15-23). From the moment Christ Jesus set foot in the earth, there has been no end to the increase of His kingdom (Luke 1:33). He is the King over the earth and all creation. “Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:14-15). “For the kingdom is the Lord’s: and he is the governor among the nations” (Psalm 22:28). The center of God’s purpose is not our salvation, but His kingdom.

He commissioned His church (the regenerate) to bring His kingdom (rule) to earth as it is in heaven. This is to be done not merely by individuals but through the divine institutions of family, church, and state. As the primary and first created institution, the family is the chief and most effective means for accomplishing this task. The family’s primary mission, then, is to extend the righteous rule of Jesus Christ over the whole earth.

With man’s fall Satan took control of the earth from man, who God had commissioned as His steward. Satan continues to try to control God’s earth, even after his defeat through Christ’s redemptive and restorative work. We are called to be Christ’s emissaries to take back that which the usurper stole. The family is the chief instrument that Christ has been using and will use to reclaim every square inch of His earth. This is the reason why the fight today in America and other nations over the definition of marriage and the family is so important.


Sections of the booklet include:

  • The Christian Idea of the Family
  • The Family’s Purpose and Responsibilities
  • The Commandments and the Family
  • The Family Is Responsible to Prepare Children as Instruments for Transformation
  • Biblical Education
  • Education Is Primarily the Responsibility of the Family, Who Can Delegate Aspects of It to Others
  • The Education of John Quincy Adams
  • The Philosophy, Methodology, and Content of Education Should Be Biblical
  • Biblical Education Advances God’s Kingdom with Good Fruit
  • Christian Education Will Pass the Baton to Future Generations
  • The Family Has the Right to Own and Govern Property
  • The Power of the Christian Family
  • Raising Kingdom Kids


[1] CDC: U.S. Fertility Rate Hits Record Low for 2nd Straight Year; 40.7% of Babies Born to Unmarried Women.

[2] Ron Haskins, co-director of the Center for Children and Families at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC.

[3] W. Bradford Wilcox, “Even for Rich Kids, Marriage Matters,” For benefits of marriage also see:

[4] See Stephen McDowell, “Fulfilling the Cultural Mandate,” in Building Godly Nations, Charlottesville: Providence Foundation, 2003, pp. 3-20.

[5] For more on God’s plan for man and his mission in the earth see Stephen McDowell, The Kingdom of God, Charlottesville: Providence Foundation, 2012.


Stephen McDowellStephen McDowell, the President of the Providence Foundation in Charlottesville and also President of the Foundation’s Biblical Worldview University. He has written numerous books and training courses on America’s Christian history and on the need to live by Biblical principles in order to prosper as a nation. He also serves as an Advisory Board Member of the Virginia Christian Alliance

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views the Virginia Christian Alliance

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