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The God-Ordained Design of the Family

The God-Ordained Design of the Family

In each section of Dive Deeper you’ll be guided through a number of verses and encouraged to use the d.i.v.e. format. The beauty of this format is that it goes beyond this study; it can be used anytime you desire to dive deeper into Scriptures.


  • define
  • investigate
  • visualize
  • embrace

Ephesians 6:1-9

The Family Unit

In Ephesians 5:22-33 Paul begins building for us the family unit. He clearly lays out the role of the husband and wife in relation to Christ and His bride, the Church. In the first few verses of Ephesians 6, he’ll continue to build for us the God-ordained design of the family.

Families are intended to be unified, kind, loving, godly, helpful, selfless, and a witness and reflect of God.

i. (investigate)

Before we study through Ephesians 6:1-4, Paul’s encouragement and instruction to children and parents, it’s important for us to zoom out of Ephesians and look back into the book of Deuteronomy at the Shema.

Shema is a Hebrew word which means “hear, listen, to heed.”

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is a part of the Shema. The Shema is the Jewish confession of faith made up of three parts: Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-21; and Numbers 15:37-31. This confession of faith is recited twice a day by the devout Jew. The Shema teaches us, as parents, about our role in the spiritual rearing of our children.

Reread Deuteronomy 6:4-9. How many times are the words “you,” “your,” “you’re,” or “you’ll” used?

That’s right; seventeen times in five verses, we find the word “you” or some form of it. Why is the repeated use of these pronoun forms significant? What does this mean for us as parents? It means God isn’t talking to and/or commanding our pastors, our children’s Sunday school teachers, or their youth leaders to be the primary ones teaching our children about Him. Now, don’t get me wrong, individuals do play a huge part in the spiritual lives of our children. But we, the parents, are the ones who are solely responsible to give our children a solid foundation and instill within them a love for Jesus. Look at what verse 5 says, “You should…” You should do it. I should do it. We should point our children to Jesus.

Let’s d.i.v.e. into Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and add to what you’ve already discovered. God begins by giving the parents instructions to love Him with all their hearts, minds, souls, and strength.

Children can have no greater inheritance than the godly legacy left them by their parents.

Read the first part of Deuteronomy 6:4. This passage starts out with a command, a verb, an action word: “Listen, Israel!” God, first and foremost, instructs His people – the elders, the adults, the parents – to listen to Him and obey. He says, “Listen up. Open up your ears, minds, and hearts to Me. I’ve got some things to tell you that are of utmost importance.”

Let’s continue reading to discover what God has to say.

Read the second part of Deuteronomy 6:4. What is it God wants us to hear? “The Eternal is our True God – He alone.” This can also be translated from the original language to read, “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone (the only one).” In other words,

“Hey guys, I am the only true and living God. There is no other besides Me. Those false gods, Baal and Asherah, won’t do anything for you. I, alone, am God. Period. The end. That’s all she wrote.”

Read Deuteronomy 6:5, the second command. “You should love Him, your True God, with all your heart and soul, with every ounce of your strength.” This is an intimate kind of love; the kind of love that has no boundaries and no limits. This command is ours first. As a parent, I’m to love God with every ounce of my being and strive to please Him in all that I do before I can lead my children to practice this in their own lives. All that is within me is to be completely filled up to overflowing with almighty God so it can spill forth from my life onto and into the lives of those closest to me.

Read Deuteronomy 6:6. Parents are to implant God’s Word. “Make the things I’m commanding you today part of who you are.” We’re to be obeying His commands first, setting the example for our children. God’s Words, His commands, precepts, statutes, and ordinances are to be engraved upon our hearts and a part of our very makeup. The only way for this to happen is for us to be actively and purposefully embracing, implanting, and enacting the Word.

We’re to have God’s Word ever before us, whether physically, with our Bibles always open, or intellectually and relationally, with His Word in the forefront of our minds because we’ve implanted it deeply. We’re to have God’s Word ever before us, whether physically, with our Bibles always open, or intellectually and relationally, with His Word in the forefront of our minds because we’ve implanted it deeply.

Deep within me I have hidden Your Word so that I will never sin against You. – Psalm 119:1

Read Deuteronomy 6:7, the third command, but this time from the New King James Version.

You shall teach them diligently to your children…

Diligent means persevering and careful in work; industrious; done with careful, steady effort; painstaking.

We should be hard at work, carefully teaching our children about the Lord. Every day, all day, everywhere we go and in everything we do, God should be our center. But how? How do we teach our children God’s Word, commands, precepts, and statutes? We’re given the answer right here in this verse: we’re to talk about God’s Word when we sit and when we walk. When we put our kids to bed at night and when they get up in the mornings, we’re to be busy about living out the commands of God.

Read Deuteronomy 6:7-9.

The passages we’re studying in Ephesians and Deuteronomy right now are addressed specifically to parents. But, all Scripture is “useful [for] teaching, rebuke, correction, instruction, and training” (2 Timothy 3:16) so those of you who many not have children in your home can still glean from this lesson. Is there a teen you can pour your life into? Someone younger in the faith you can walk with and teach God’s Word? “Children” in our lives can come in a number of different ways. Let’s be on the lookout for those opportunities to be godly “parents” to those God sends our way.

Scripture is everywhere in our home. Some verses are beautifully framed, some are cute little things I’ve printed from the computer, and others are index cards taped to bathroom mirrors. Whether it be a Scripture card on the back of the front door that we can read as we leave reminding us to “let our light shine before men,” a card on the inside of the entertainment center urging us to “turn away our eyes from worthless things,” or a card on the bathroom mirror telling us the “King is enthralled with our beauty,” God’s Word has a place everywhere in our home and in every aspect of our lives.

The Shema. The Jewish confession of faith. A declaration of faith in one God. A pronouncement to love God with all your heart, soul, and strength, A command to hear, heed, and obey the truths contained within the Word of God.

The Shema

For the parent… LISTEN to God, LOVE God, FOLLOW God, TEACH God’s Word to your children.

For the child… learn to LISTEN to God, learn to LOVE God, learn to FOLLOW God, learn to TEACH God’s Word.

My children will one day stand before the Lord, as will I, and answer directly to Him regarding how they’ve lived their lives, under His leading or according to their own selfish desires. It’s my responsibility and privilege as their parent to bring them up in a home that has God as its foundation. I’m to teach them the ways of God, love them with the love of the Lord, and discipline them according to God’s Word. Ultimately, I cannot make them follow the Lord, but it’s my responsibility to do all I can to aid them in traveling down the straight and narrow.

Let’s zoom back in on our passage in Ephesians.

d.i.v.e. Deeper… Bringing them up in the discipline of God

Reread Ephesians 6:4

Note: In Ephesians 6:1-3, Paul addresses both parents, using the Greek word goneus meaning “a parent: parent (vs 1, parent); patēr meaning a “father” (literally or figuratively, near or more remote): father, parent (vs 2, father); and mētēr a “mother” (literally or figuratively, immediate or remote): mother (vs. 2, mother).”

In Ephesians 6:4, his message seems to be aimed only to fathers, but if we dive below the surface into the original meaning of father here, we’ll discover that Paul uses, again, the Greek word patēr, meaning “a ‘father’ (literally or figuratively, near or more remote): father, parent.”

I’m bringing this to our attention because it’s clear that Paul is speaking not only to the father, but the mother as well. Let’s keep this in mind as we move forward into the next verses.

Here we’re introduced to patria potestas, Latin for “power of a father.” Under Roman family law, a father had, literally, life-and-death power over his children. When a child was born, he or she was placed at the father’s feet. If the father picked up the child, that child was allowed to stay in the home. If the father walked away from the newborn, he or she was discarded. Healthy children who’d been discarded were taken each night to the town forum, where they’d be chosen and raised by slaves or prostitutes.

Paul, being a Roman citizen, understood patria potestas. I’m sure he’d seen it practiced over and over again growing up. He knew firsthand the great influence and power a father had over his children’s physical lives. When Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers, encouraging them not to provoke their children to anger, but to bring them up in the discipline and teaching of the Lord, he had the children’s physical, emotional, and spiritual lives in mind.

d. (define)

Using a concordance, or dictionary, define provoke as found in the New King James Version. Based on this definition, what does it mean to provoke a child to anger?

What are some ways children can be provoked to anger?

Children can be pushed to anger for a number of reasons: overbearing parents, favoritism shown among siblings, being pushed to overachieve, never hearing a compliment or word of encouragement, and so forth. Paul tells us we aren’t to provoke our children to anger but are to bring them up in the discipline and teaching of our Lord. God’s discipline and teaching are structured and purposed; therefore, the discipline we give to our children should be administered in the same way.

The key to right and profitable discipline is administering it as the Lord would and according to His Word. We’re to discipline and instruct our children with the guidance and in the power of the Holy Spirit. All discipline should be done to bring about heart change that will ultimately lead to behavior change.

e. (embrace)

Paul ends his instruction on “submitting to one another in the fear of God” that was begun in Ephesians 5:21 with this truth: There is no partiality or favoritism in the Body of Christ, because we all have a common Master, God. The husband and wife, parent and child, employee and employer are all to be mutually submissive because they are equally loved.

As a believer, how can you begin to change the often misunderstood idea of submission and equality, reflecting its biblical foundation in your marriage, home, workplace, and church?

Excerpted by permission from Dive Deeper by Jenifer Jernigan, copyright Thomas Nelson.

Your Turn

Does Paul’s description of the God-ordained design of the family and his words to children and parents encourage you? How can we avoid provoking our children to anger and discipline lovingly? Come join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear from you about Ephesians 6 and loving others the way God loves!