If you are a believer in Jesus, you are probably familiar with Matthew 28:19, 20, commonly called “the Great Commission”:
Go therefore, and teach [disciple] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.
Sadly, while we have often exhorted one another to evangelize and disciple people outside of our immediate families, the Church has not done a great job of helping parents to view their own children as their first mission field. Leading our sons and daughters into the kingdom of heaven and keeping them there, teaching them how to continually deepen their relationship with Jesus, and imparting to them the ongoing vision of expanding Christ’s influence — this is a weighty calling for parents, not to be minimized or delegated elsewhere. We need to be fervent in fulfilling this God-given, God-blessed responsibility.
The family is a primary tool in God’s hands for carrying out His purposes in the earth. Because this is so, we have regularly seen Satan attack the family, through the legalization of abortion, the ease and acceptance of divorce, the gradual disapproval of our society toward large families, and government’s desire to parent through the education system. Satan’s latest onslaught is the push to redefine marriage to include any and all deviations from the biblical definition of one man and one woman who are joined together in covenant before the Lord.
God laid out His purpose for family on the first day of man’s existence. Genesis 1:26-28 states it clearly:
And God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness: and let them have dominion … over all the earth ….” So God created man in His own image … male and female He created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, and multiply; replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
After the worldwide flood, God repeated His original mandate to Noah and his family: “And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth'” (Genesis 9:1).
God’s plan for families has remained the same down through history: be fruitful; multiply; replenish, subdue, and have dominion in the earth.
In Hebrew, the word translated “replenish” in the KJV means to “fill, accomplish, confirm, consecrate, gather (selves, together), flow in fullness, and fence.” I am intrigued by the idea that families were meant to bring consecration to the earth, and to fence it (provide godly boundaries to what goes on there), along with accomplishing God’s purposes and gathering people together – perhaps unto the Lord.
“Dominion” means to “tread down, subjugate, prevail against, rule, reign, and take.” It sounds like what a conquering army would do, doesn’t it? Although everything was perfect at the time of creation, God already knew that man would rebel, thereby bringing upon the world great evil and dragging mankind into the universal spiritual conflict. Truly, we would have to prevail against our own sinful natures and against the devil. We would have to learn to rule and reign in the face of much opposition. God built into mankind the purpose of spiritual warfare, and He called it forth in the original family, Adam and Eve, before sin had yet entered their world.
The mandate for the family continued as a thread throughout Old Testament history. God called forth a people peculiarly His own through Abraham, and then defined that family more specifically through Isaac and his son Jacob, who became Israel. At each step of the way, hindrances arose to the purposes of family being fulfilled, for Abraham’s wife Sarah was barren, and so was Isaac’s wife Rebekah. Only through prayer and divine intervention were the obstacles removed, so that God’s chosen family could accomplish His redemptive plan. God promised blessing to all the people of the earth through Abraham, which was fulfilled through Abraham’s “seed” — Messiah Jesus (Galatians 3:8-16). The earth was eventually to be “consecrated” (one of the meanings in that word “replenish”) through Jesus, Abraham’s descendant. We will see the final consecration take place when Jesus returns to earth to restore all things.
Throughout Old Testament times, the people of Israel understood that their purpose was to be a living testimony to God’s reality and faithfulness. They knew that He had said to Abraham, “In your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 22:18). Furthermore, He had instructed them to welcome the stranger and give him a place in the land — the understanding being that the stranger would embrace the Israelites’ God and the way in which He was to be worshiped. They did not yet understand the details of how that would all unfold through the Messiah, but they did have the concept of their family being used by God to bring others to know Him.
I have been laying foundation to establish the importance of family, from the very beginning, in the heart of God. Next time, we’ll talk about how we can apply these truths in our time, so that we and our families can fulfill our God-given mandate.
Next: Part 2
Character Building for Families