Family Worship: A Biblical and Practical Foundation
By Pastor Kristopher Foster
To better understand the foundation of family worship, one must first understand that individual humans were made to be worshipers of God. In a culture saturated with misunderstandings about identity, we must go back to the foundation of culture—indeed, back to the beginning of creation itself—to understand our original identity as worshipers of God.
The Foundation for Worship: Genesis 1
In Genesis 1, we see that God is setting the stage for His interaction with mankind. In the first three days of all of history, God creates four basic containers: light, sky, sea, and land. In the three remaining days of creation, God fills those containers. He fills light with the sun, moon, and stars. He fills the sea with fish and sky with birds. He then fills the land with every kind of animal that would walk or crawl on the earth. The created order was given the basic command to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth.
As the centerpiece of His creation,“God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness,’” (Gen. 1:26). Many things could be said as to what it means for man to be created in God’s image, but what is clear from the immediate context is that man was to rule over creation as God would rule and that man should act as God would act over all other creation—land, sky, and sea. Mankind was then to multiply his rule over all the earth as those made in God’s image. As Genesis 1:27-28 puts it, “God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it.”
Family Worship: Genesis 2
In Genesis 2, the author takes a magnifying glass to the narrative of the creation of man. It is stated, once again, that man is to act as God would act, rule as God would rule, and do this throughout all of creation. However, Genesis 2 does more than just repeat what is already revealed about the nature of man—it reveals the nature of the first family. Everything in creation up until this point has been noted as “good.” It was not until the singleness of Adam was noted that God said something in creation was off. “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him,” (Gen 2:18).
The “not good” found in verse 18 should not be understood as God making a mistake but that the making of mankind was a process yet to be finished. Adam was in need of a helper in order to worship God by ruling as God would rule. Said differently, worshiping God functions more fully in a partnership of a man and a woman—a family, the man as the head and the woman as the helper. This leader-helper relationship was then to produce generational worshipers by being fruitful and multiplying.
The order of creation is clear in Genesis: God is the head of all mankind, and man is the head of the family with the wife as the helper. Together they are to have dominion, or be the head over all of creation. In their dominion, they are to reproduce the image of God and spread the worship of God over all the earth.
The Affect of Sin on Worship: Genesis 3
In Genesis 3, we see a challenge to this created order. The Serpent, as part of the creation man was to rule over, challenges the head of all creation (God) by deceiving mankind. The Serpent accomplished this by questioning and twisting God’s word (“Did God really say…” and “any tree…” Gen 3:1). The Serpent then questioned the motives of God, saying, “God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5).
Satan was successful in tricking the woman into sinning against God, turning the whole created order on its head. Creation (the Serpent) usurped authority and deceived the woman by twisting God’s word. The woman, rather than helping man to worship God, led him to sin against God. Man abdicated his authority by rejecting God’s word. He was led into sin by his wife rather than leading her in the worship of God. God’s creation was fundamentally changed.
Immediately, the results of sin were seen. Man’s relationship with God was now broken, which was seen in his need to hide from God (Gen. 3:8, 10). Because of the brokenness of the relationship, God must hand out punishment (Gen. 3:14-22), and mankind must leave His presence (Gen. 3:23). Man’s relationship with God was fundamentally changed.
The relationship between man and creation was broken. “Hostility” was what would define the interaction between man and animals (Gen. 3:15). The ground would no longer easily produce without “painful labor” and “the sweat of the brow.” The very ground that man was to rule over would now one day be the ground to which they would return to in death (Gen. 3:19). Mankind’s relationship with creation was fundamentally changed.
Mankind’s relationship with each other was also broken. This is seen when Adam and Eve blame each other for their sins (Gen. 3:12). Where the woman previously lived in joy serving alongside her husband, she would now desire to rule over him (Gen. 3:16). The woman’s relationship with her children would also be strained in that she would “bear children in pain” (Gen. 3:17). Rather than the worship of God being passed throughout the world and generations, now a curse would be passed on. This was quickly seen when a child of Adam and Eve, Cain, kills his brother Abel. Mankind’s relationship with each other was fundamentally changed.
Genesis 5:1-2 restates the pinnacle of God’s creation: “On the day that God created man, he made him in the likeness of God; he created them male and female. When they were created, he blessed them and called them mankind.” These verses contain the glorious truth that man was created to worship God as creatures made in His image. Genesis 5:3 reminds us that this image of God in man is broken: “Adam was 130 years old when he fathered a son in his likeness, according to his image,” no longer in the unbroken image of God. Adam, now broken, would pass that brokenness on throughout the generations.
Families, originally made to worship God, are now broken in Adam, broken in sin. In our contemporary setting, and all of history leading up to this point, we see the scene of Genesis 3 playing out in every home in some fashion. In many homes and in many ways, the husband fails to lead his family to worship God. As the husband abdicates his role, the wife’s need to rule over her husband increases. In homes where husbands have forgotten their role and wives have lost their place, this brokenness passes on to the next generation. Husbands blaming God for their failure to lead by pointing to “this woman you gave me… ” (Gen 3:12). Wives resenting their husbands. Children broken further by sin with each generation that passes.
The Way Back to Family Worship
Lest we too quickly fill in the blank of “we just need to try harder” to be what God originally intended our families to be, let me point to the deeper issue. Our families don’t simply need to act better. Our families need a new nature and a new Adam in Jesus. Where we find a curse being handed out to mankind in Genesis 3, we find Christ taking the curse from us as the Redeemer in Galatians 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written, Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” First and foremost, fathers, mothers, and children need the work of Jesus on the cross.
When parents have trusted in Christ as their new head, they can then begin to pass on more than a curse. They can pass on to their children the character and work of the curse breaker, Jesus. When we gather as families in our homes, we are using the power of the cross to proclaim that the curse has been broken. When we read the Word, sing the Word, and pray in light of the Word, we are doing battle against sin.
Think once again about Genesis 3, when mankind was deceived into sinning against God. Satan did three primary things to plunge mankind into generations of sin:
1) He questioned God’s Word.
2) He twisted God’s Word.
3) He questioned God’s motives.
When a family worships together in the home, they fight against the works of Satan by teaching their children to 1) trust God’s Word, 2) know God’s Word, and 3) to trust that God is working on their behalf.
I’m writing this blog for the sake of families at FBC that they might begin to see family worship for what it is: it is war. If we believe the Word of God to be accurate, then we know that we need to “be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour,” (1 Peter 5:8). Make no mistake, Satan is looking to devour our children. We need to be diligent in battle, using the Word of God as our weapon so that we might fight against the adversary’s works.