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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:God's Design for the Family
Text:Colossians 3:18-21 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.



Pastor Ted Gray
05/10/2015 – a.m.
God’s Design for the Family”
Colossians 3:18-21

On this Mother's Day we are deeply thankful to the Lord for godly mothers. Mothers have such a tremendous influence on children, and the blessing of having a Christian mother – and that includes grandmothers and great grandmothers – is a blessing that we cannot fully comprehend because it is so great.

Mother’s Day, as we know it in the United States, was started just in the last century. In 1914 Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. It was originally a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.

But toward the end of the last century, and throughout the first decade and a half of this century, there has been a marked change in attitudes toward both mothers and fathers. I first noticed it with the publication of a book in 1989, geared for young children, entitled Heather Has Two Mommies. The book was described as “the first lesbian-themed children’s book ever published.”

Since the publication of that little book back in 1989 there has been a ground swelling of support for the concept that having two mothers or two fathers in a marriage is perfectly normal. Polls that are conducted, even by conservative groups, show that in our nation there has been a marked change on the view of same-sex marriage; many believe that it is perfectly normal to have two mothers or two fathers.

And even where people have not accepted the idea that Mother’s Day should include recognizing that two mothers can be married or two fathers – two men or two women – courts have overruled the votes of the people. Next month the Supreme Court is expected to make a decision on whether to make same-sex marriage the law of the nation.

Unfortunately, the effort of our culture to redefine marriage fails to see that marriage is by God’s design. The family unit is not something that we can define on our own as a society. The family unit was designed by God Himself and God put His blessing on marriage. In order to be blessed in marriage, and in order to see what a blessing a godly mother is, you have to recognize God's design for marriage and families, and then live by that design which God has given.

Submission as is Fitting in the Lord

We read about God’s design for the family and for marriage in Colossians 3 where in verse 18 it says, Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  In our culture today that is an extremely controversial statement. We have had decades of women’s liberation. Submission in marriage, according to our culture, demeans women and makes men into tyrants.

But in a God-centered marriage, where husbands and wives recognize God’s design for marriage and the family unit, the submission is not demeaning and the husband is not a tyrant. The reason why is in the last phrase of verse 18, Wives, submit to your husbands, - as is fitting in the Lord. It is by God’s design that there is submission by the wife in a Christian marriage to her husband. It springs from the teaching of Genesis 2:18, that Eve was to be a helpmate for her husband.

God made Adam and Eve complementary to one another. Husband and wife are equal and yet have different roles and responsibilities which complement each other. The submission that verse 18 speaks about recognizes that God has given headship in the marriage to the husband and that to follow the lead of a godly husband is a great blessing.

And the same is true for Christian marriages today. Rather than being demeaning and causing husbands to be tyrants, a biblical understanding of marriage is a great blessing to wives and mothers. In the first century, when Paul wrote this letter, women were regarded as inferior to men. They were regarded as inferior even by the Greek culture which was one of the more noble cultures of that day. But in Christian marriages the wife, far from being inferior, is the vital helpmate to her husband and a great and precious blessing to him.

Loving as Christ Loves

In this passage the apostle addresses husbands as well as wives because the two are inseparably connected. In verse 19 he writes, Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.  

Husbands are to love their wives, as Christ loves the church, His bride. In a passage that is somewhat parallel to this passage, in Ephesians 5:24, Paul writes, Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. And the context of that verse portrays Christ as the groom who loves the true church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:25-27).

As husbands we are to follow that role model of Christ and His love, concern, protection, and provision for the church, His bride. Following that example means loving our wives and not being harsh with them. When things go wrong at work or when other problems come up in our lives, as men we might be tempted to go home and not guard our lips in talking to our wives. The bitterness that we might have toward others can, if we are not careful, become bitterness directed at the very one whom God has blessed us with, our wife.

Because of that Scripture teaches husbands in many places to follow that role model of Christ with love and gentleness to our wives. For example, 1 Peter 3:7 says, Husbands, … Be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Consideration, respect and prayer are crucial for us husbands in the love expressed to our wives.  Praying with our wives is a great blessing for wives and husbands. Prayer is crucial for every Christian marriage, not only for husbands and wives but also for children that God may bless a godly couple with.


When God presented Adam with Eve, he told them to be fruitful and multiply. Most often in marriage God blesses husband and wife with children. And when a wife is barren, as frequently happened in biblical times, with Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth and others, there was great sadness.  That same heartbreak is there today for wives and husbands who would love to have the blessing and the responsibility of parenthood and yet are not able to conceive children of their own. Children are, as Psalm 127 describes, a great blessing. Blessed is a man whose quiver is full of them (Psalm 127:5a).

But just as children are a great blessing to their parents, so too godly parents are a great blessing to their children. As children that may not always be evident. But as we get older, and hopefully wiser, we can look back and see the great blessing of having godly mothers and godly fathers. God gives us mothers and fathers who care for us and teach us the way that we should go. God gives us parents for our own good. And because of that, verse 20 says, Children, obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord.

Sometimes we read about children who obey their parents in everything, but unfortunately they do not have Christian parents. Sometimes we read about children who are caught shoplifting because their parents use their innocence as a way to steal. Or we read of other crimes that parents teach their children to commit. The environment in a Christian home with godly parents and the environment of a non-Christian home with ungodly parents is worlds apart.

However, even a Christian child, after hearing about their need to obey their parents in every-thing, might feel that surge of rebellion in the heart and resentment toward the authority of a godly mother or godly father. But often later in life there is great appreciation for the blessing that God gives through the nurture of children and godly families.

That is one reason why it is good to have a day like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, to remember in a special way the blessing of our parents and to express our appreciation to the Lord for godly parents and to our parents who did their best to raise us.  

An expression of gratitude is appropriate even for parents who failed to be the parents that they desired to be. And that includes all parents. As I look back on my life as a parent I recall many specific instances where I could have, and certainly should have, done a much better job of parenting than what I did. And if that’s the case with your parents, rather than dwelling on whatever failures they may have had as parents, focus on the blessing that you had by growing up in that family.

The Heidelberg Catechism brings out the need to respect and obey parents, even though the only perfect parent is God the Father. In Lord Day 39, as it answers the question on God’s will for us in the fifth commandment, to honor our father and our mother, the catechism teaches:

That I honor, love, and be loyal to
my father and mother
and all those in authority over me;
that I obey and submit to them, as is proper,
when they correct and punish me;
and also that I be patient with their failings—
for through them God chooses to rule us.

Although God generally works through families, bringing generation after generation to saving faith in Him, there are Christians who grew up in families that were totally ungodly and never had the blessing of a godly mother and a godly father. But even there it is by God’s providence that they were in that situation. And it is by God’s providence and saving grace that they came out of that situation.

A colleague of mine in a former church had come from a very ungodly family, but by God's grace he was saved and so he began to pray for his father and his mother and his siblings. And over the course of the years many of them also came to saving faith. As a minister he had the great privilege of baptizing his own father when his father was in his mid-seventies. His father finally came to the joy of salvation through the prayers and the witness of the son who had been born into an ungodly family.

Always pray for your parents, if they are still alive, whether they are saved or unsaved, for we recognize that it is not by chance that we were born into the family in which we were born but by God’s providence and will.


As the apostle writes to the Colossians he describes the Christian household and the duties that each has within that household. Not only are children to obey their parents, but in verse 21 he writes, Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Husbands – and wives – are to encourage their children as our heavenly Father encourages us, His adopted children in Christ.  In 1 Thessalonians 2 Paul describes how as apostles of Christ (they) could have been a burden to (the Thessalonians). But he writes we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her children.  And then a few verses later he writes, You know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:6b-7, 11-12).

In those verses we see a challenge for both mothers and fathers to encourage our children and to treat them as the Lord has treated us: with encouragement and grace as well as correction and guidance.

* * *

On this Mother’s Day we are deeply thankful to the Lord for godly mothers. Mothers have such a tremendous influence on children, and the blessing of having a Christian mother – and that includes grandmothers and great grandmothers – is a blessing that we cannot fully comprehend because it is so great.

But in our society we are painfully reminded that godly mothers and godly fathers in a Christ-centered family are not held in high regard. Next month the Supreme Court will rule on whether to redefine marriage as being between two mothers and two fathers, between  two women or two men.  Many people believe the outcome has already been decided, and that it will not be in favor of biblical marriage between one man and one woman as God has ordained marriage.

We should not be surprised by the efforts to redefine marriage and to advance homosexuality. Historically that has been the mark which designates a culture that is disintegrating. The building block of any culture is the family unit. Godly mothers and godly fathers, joined together in a biblical marriage, are the basis for a society that is blessed by God.

When a society says Heather should have two mothers, as the children’s book in 1989 declared, and when the courts of the land overturn the will of the people concerning marriage, it is a sign that the society is disintegrating and will, unless it changes, be destroyed. Greek and Roman societies were marked by prolific homosexual acceptance as those societies disintegrated and were taken over. But the same was true already for Sodom and Gomorrah. Widespread acceptance of homosexuality indicates that God’s judgment is closing in on a nation.

Romans 1 is the classic chapter on teaching that God will give over a society to their own sinfulness when they reject him. And Romans 1, from verse 18 through the end of the chapter, gives us a striking description of our culture today.

So as you thank the Lord for a godly mother today, thank Him also for the way He has structured the family having one wife, a woman, and one husband, a man. And pray for our nation that our society would yet see the error of their way before God, being true to His word, must bring judgment upon us because of our insistence on changing the basic building block of all society, which is the Christian family with a godly mother and a godly father. Amen.


- bulletin outline -


Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. - Colossians 3:18-20
“God’s Design for the Family”
Colossians 3:18-21
I. The effort of our culture to redefine marriage fails to see that marriage is by God’s design, and is blessed by Him. God has a specific design for marriage and for
    1) Wives are to submit to their husbands (18) as the church does to Christ (Ephesians 5:24)
    2) Husbands are to love their wives (19), as Christ loves the church, His bride (Eph. 5:25)

    3) Children are to obey their parents (20) recognizing that God uses them for our good
    4) Husbands – and wives – are to encourage their children (21) as our heavenly Father encourages us, His adopted children in Christ
Mother’s Day
05/10/2015 – a.m.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 05/1, Rev. Ted Gray

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