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Fighting For Your Family

Rebuilding The Foundations

Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer | May 5, 2013

Selected highlights from this sermon

What was God’s original design for the family? It’s found at the beginning of the Bible in the first two chapters of Genesis.

Both men and women were created in the image of God, yet God ordained distinct roles for each gender. Eve was commissioned as a help-mate, and though equal in value with Eve, Adam was granted spiritual responsibility and authority for their relationship. 

But after the Fall, conflict and strife was instituted into human interaction, and God’s grace was unveiled—a Messiah would come. Today, Jesus Christ offers grace to our troubled families. 

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Fighting for your family. Could there be any topic that is more relevant, a more directed human need than this? I don’t think so. We have no idea today what a family is. Is it simply a collection of people living under the same roof, kind of caring for each other? Traditionally, it used to be a mother and father and children, but that traditional family seldom exists. Oh, it still exists, but it isn’t the norm.

A member of the pastoral staff here said that he and his wife and several children were walking through Lincoln Park, which is just north of us, and there were two women who were sitting on a bench,.One nudged the other and said, “Look, a family!” [laughter] That’s how unique a family is today.

What am I expecting as a result of this series? Huge miracles. As a result of this series, I want husbands and wives to be reconciled, not merely physically and spiritually, but spiritually—even to the level of their souls, so that they become partners in the marriage relationship. I’m hoping that husbands are going to start praying with their wives. In fact later on in this series, there’s going to be an entire message entitled, “The Power of Praying Parents,” but I mean before that, maybe even at week one, husbands will begin to pray with their wives.

Why can’t we trust God to bring prodigals home as a result of prayer? Why can’t we trust God to take singles and to help them to understand how, as singles, they can authentically live as sons and daughters for a holy God, and bless God, and make a wonderful contribution to the body of Christ, so that they are content as singles? Why can’t we trust God like that?

Now if this is going to happen, I want you to have two prayer requests. And this is going to take prayer. Long ago I learned that it isn’t my messages that change people, it’s the Spirit of God working through the Word of God. And that’s why every message is also going to have an assignment. If you don’t do the assignments, and if you don’t pray, nothing will happen. It’ll be the same old, same old. Because even as the serpent destroyed Adam and Eve in the Garden, in the very same way, the serpent, the devil, continues huge, massive attacks against the family. And so if we’re not prayerful and [do not] seek the Lord, I hate to tell you, but listening to truth will not change you.

The first thing that I want you to do is to ask God for a miracle in your own heart. What has to be changed in your heart? Some of you maybe have come to this and there is bitterness in your life. There’s anger. There’s resentment. Some of you have shut down emotionally because of all of the pain. Can we expect God and believe God to bring some healing so that you can love again, so that you can continue to live in a meaningful way, despite the past? Can we trust God for that?

So the first miracle is one that I want you to have within your own heart. The second miracle is for someone else. Maybe it’s your spouse. Maybe it’s a child. Maybe it’s a relationship. You say, “Well, can’t we have more than that?” And obviously you can have a number of people for whom you are praying, but have at least two: one for yourself, one for somebody else. 

And I hope that when this series is over, we all testify that good marriages have become better and bad marriages have at least become good, or at least on the way. But it will take faith, prayer, and fasting.

The title of this first message is “Rebuilding the Foundations.” You know, if a building is crooked at the foundation, then it’s crooked. You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, my family looks like the Tower of Pisa.” In other words, somehow on the foundation, everything got wrong, and we’ll see where the foundation really got off track, but we’ll also see how God rebuilds. These messages are going to be laced with plenty of grace because the intention is not to beat anyone down, but to show need and then to show God’s amazing, undeserved mercy in the lives of families. And that’s where we’re going, and thank you for [going on] the journey.

Well, we’re going to plunge right in because we’ve got ground to cover today. And by the way, each message will have an assignment, and normally I put the assignment at the end of the message. But as I look at this message today, it doesn’t really fit there, so I’ll give it to you upfront. Take your pen and write down 1 Corinthians 13, the great love chapter. First Corinthians 13. Don’t look now. Don’t find it on your iPhone. It’ll be there after the service. And what I want you to do is to pray it as a prayer every single day for seven days; and if you’re married, at least once with your spouse. Pray it together. Don’t have an argument. Just simply say, “This is what love looks like,” and you read it, and you read it, and you meditate on it. Don’t read those thirteen verses fast. Think about their meaning. That’s your assignment.

Well, so much for intro. I am excited about getting into the Word of God. Anybody here excited in getting into the Word of God today? [applause] I sure hope you brought your Bible, and if you didn’t, could I tell you that in the pews there is a Bible and you can very easily find Genesis 1, that should not be a difficulty at all. And the first thing that we’re going to see in this passage, number one, upfront, is simply this: That both men and women are created in the image of God. Both men and women are created in the image of God.

Notice it says in Genesis 1, I begin with verse 26, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
In my Bible, whenever I underline something—it’s always with a red pencil actually, not an ink pencil [sic], but just a regular red pencil—I have all of the plural pronouns underlined. And God said, “Let us,” that is a plural for God, a hint already in the Old Testament of the Trinity. “Make man in our image, after our likeness.” You’ll notice it says, “Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea.” “Male and female he created them.” Verse 28, “God blessed them.” “God said to them, (plural—both man and woman), ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”

What does it mean to be created in the image of God? Yes, most assuredly personality to be sure. It involves that, but it’s much more than that. It’s really representative leadership, representative rule over the earth. 

You know in ancient times, if there was a king that was ruling or a pharaoh or a Caesar, his image would be in various parts of his empire where he personally couldn’t be. And the fact that his image was there was proof that he also rules this territory, though not physically present.

Now God, of course, is everywhere, but God was saying, “Adam and Eve, I want you to rule the world for me, and I want you to have dominion.” You’ll notice it says, “Let them (plural) have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the fowl of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth.” Rule it for me. That indicates also stewardship, accountability for how Adam and Eve are going to rule. But the first thing that we have to understand is that women and men are equal in value. Equal in value, equally created in God’s image—very important to what God intends to do.

Well, I am sure that all of you are saying “Amen” to that, but now I’m going to get into a landmine, and I’m going to just look at the Bible and we’re going to see, if you give me enough time and listen to the end, I think you are going to say, “This really makes sense. God’s Word does make sense.” And so be patient, and every once in a while I might have to hear from you—that you are still with me because we’re going into territory that is so counter-cultural, that when this is over, somebody is going to suggest that I be put into a museum somewhere [laughter], but this is God’s Word. Listen carefully. Set aside your stereotype because we’re headed on a trip. Thanks for coming along.

Secondly, it’s very clear in the Bible that though they are of equal value and are to rule together, it’s also very clear that they have different roles. Adam’s role is one of responsibility for his wife and for everyone else within his family. Now, this is found in [Genesis] chapter two. You must understand that Genesis 1 gives us the summary: God created Adam and Eve, and He created them, etc.; and Genesis 2 now, gives the sequence of how it happened. And notice that here in the text, it’s very clear that first of all, Adam is created first. Chapter 2, verse 7: “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

It’s been humorously said that sometimes women expect far too much of men considering their origin here. But it says the LORD God formed the man. He didn’t create the woman back here. No. Adam is created first. Adam is given the command in verse 15: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” God didn’t tell Eve that.

Now obviously Adam told Eve that, as we find in the next chapter, but God says, “This is to you, Adam, because you have ultimate responsibility for your wife,” all the way through this passage.

Then God creates the animals, and what does God do? He brings to Adam the birds of the heaven and animals of the field. And whatever the man called them—this is the last part of verse 19—And whatever the man called them, that was its name. That indicates his authority. In the Old Testament, you see, the ability to name something or someone shows your authority. So Adam here has authority over all of the beasts. He calls them and names them.

Then of course, as you know the rest of the story, Adam falls asleep. God chooses to create femininity out of masculinity. God takes a rib and He creates the woman. And you’ll notice that He looks to the man now and He says, “What are you going to call her? You also have authority here.” And it is Adam who says (in verse 23), “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

So God says, “Okay, that’s what you call her. That’s what she will be.” Adam has ultimate responsibility. Men and women are equal in value. The woman’s role is going to be incredibly important. She is going to be a suitable helpmeet for him, but in the order of authority, she is to work with him, and he has ultimate responsibility for her before God.

Now I can imagine somebody says, “Oh wow! How are you preaching this?” Well, first of all, it’s in God’s Word, thank you very much. But also, why is it that there is such a massive attack against this in our culture? Massive attack. 

Well, one of the reasons is because people confuse “ability” with “roles.” You see, people are saying, “Well, you mean women are inferior? You know, why can’t there be women elders? I know some women who know the Bible better and they are better Bible teachers than elders.” And we say, “Yeah, we’re not arguing with that. We’re not arguing about a woman’s intelligence or abilities.”

Let me speak to you very plainly. I think I have so far, and it’s even going to get plainer as we go along. I think that Margaret Thatcher was probably the greatest prime minister that Britain ever had since the days of Winston Churchill. Now you can disagree with me politically [applause] and then later on forgive me for your views, but apparently there are some people here who agree with me.

Look at that Iron Lady, the way she ruled Britain. Can anyone question her leadership ability? But when she gets home, she has a responsibility to complement her husband in terms of what she is doing to encourage her husband. She has to be a helpmeet for him in the home because someday, when they stand before God, she will be accountable; but her husband is going to be the one who is going to be accountable for the way in which he led his wife spiritually and the way in which he brought up his children. The responsibility will be on his head and not hers. Responsibility for her—yes. We’ll see this in the text, but not ultimate responsibility like her husband is going to have. So that even in a relationship like that, she is to complement her husband, to support him emotionally, spiritually, physically in whichever way she can within the structure of the home and the bringing up of the children, and then the Bible makes it very clear that the same kind of principle applies also to the church.

So obviously women have abilities, and may I say this? In the early church, women oftentimes took a role that is even greater than in some of our evangelical churches, but always the Bible says—Paul says—that even when it comes to teaching, she should not usurp the authority of the man. There’s nothing wrong with being in subjection. After all, Margaret Thatcher herself was in subjection to the constitution of Great Britain. We are in subjection to the laws of our country and the laws of our land. We are all subject in some manner to one another, and this is the teaching of the Bible. The ultimate responsibility is to man and she is to be a suitable helpmeet for him.

Let me give you another reason why there’s so much confusion and resistance, and that is because of the misunderstanding of the meaning of the word submit. And that’s taught in the New Testament. 

You say, “submit.” And I can imagine some woman saying, “Oh, so you want me to be his doormat so he can wipe his feet on me, and I’m supposed to submit.” So let me speak to your heart first of all, and tell you that no, that’s not at all the teaching of the Bible. You see the very reason that God, when He created the woman, took her out of the side of the man and not out of his feet was so that people would understand she’s not to be under his feet to trample her. She is created out of his side so that she can walk with him through life, and in walking with him through life as his partner, walking together. 

The imagery is not, not that of a servant and a master. And the Bible is so beautifully nuanced at this point. Even though it uses the word “submit,” nowhere in the Bible does it say that a man can demand submission from his wife. “You’re a Christian woman. You have to submit to me.” Nowhere in the Bible does it say that. But it does have some very clear instructions to men. It’s a fulltime job actually. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.” “Dwell with them according to knowledge.” “Honor your wives that your prayers be not hindered.” That’s the responsibility of the man.

Normally, unless she has been deeply hurt by men and therefore has a lot of unreserved anger, most of the time, in that kind of a situation, she will submit. But as time goes on, I have to help you to understand that when I talk about submission, it’s not master-slave. In fact, the Bible talks about men also submitting to their wives. It’s a mutual kind of submission. It’s the kind of submission where they are one together.

I’ll tell you I don’t use the word “fool often, but I am today. You know, I’m in a good mood. Do you notice that today? [laughter] I’m on a roll. I’m just going to keep going and then pick up the pieces later. [laughter] Husband, you are a fool if you do not communicate with your wife about important decisions that need to be made. I’ll tell you something— Yeah, you can even clap if you want to. [applause]

God has often led me through the wisdom of Rebecca. While I have ultimate responsibility for her and the kids before God, she is a wise woman, and furthermore, not only is she a wise woman whom God has often used to give us guidance, but the Bible talks about a kind of submission about meeting people’s needs. I have to say this about Rebecca. In the years we have been married, she has spent a lot more time and energy meeting my needs than I have meeting hers, and I say that to my shame. 

But you know, there are couples today where they’re not meeting each other’s needs. They’re not caring. You know I have met wives who say, “My husband does not care. We live under the same roof but we are not together in anything.”

And by the way, the division of responsibility in the Bible between husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, is not entirely clear, and that’s for a purpose because every family is different. You know, for example, does she always do the cooking? Well, I thought I’d just throw this out here at no extra cost, but you know when Abraham and Sarah had visitors—and by the way, Sarah called Abraham “lord”—I’m still waiting for— I’m an old man, and I’ve not heard it yet. [laughter] Sarah called Abraham “lord,” and you know what? When the visitors came, Abraham was out there helping her prepare the meal, they prepared the meal together. I thought I’d let that float out there. Rather than thinking about this is yours, that is yours, of course there has to be a division of labor, but why not do everything that you possibly can together?

Now there’s something else I have to say about this submission since it is such a controversial word. It is a discerning submission. Discerning. A wife does not say, “Even if my husband asks me to do something immoral or illegal, I have to do it.” Why? Because the Christian wife realizes she has an obligation to Jesus, which is even greater than the obligation to her husband. And so there are wives today around the world who are Christians whose husbands are totally opposed to their faith. The wife shouldn’t give up her relationship with Jesus, but she has to learn under the good hand of God and by grace how to still exercise her life functions of support and being a helpmeet, even though she retains her faith. And that’s one of the struggles that happens all around the world, and we must recognize that it’s a discerning type of submission to God. 

The point to be made is simply this: There is today a huge attack on the relationships that I’ve just been telling you about. 

Then there’s another attack. This attack against femininity and masculinity is so huge today that there have been people who have said, “Oh, you know there is fundamentally no difference between a man and a woman. You know if we gave little girls trucks they’d just play like boys. And if we gave boys dolls they’d be feeding them and they’d be caring for them.”

Rebecca and I were at a meeting in Nashville a couple of months ago, and Dennis Prager was speaking about this and he named a professor who believed that. And in order to test it, he decided he would give these little girls some trucks just to prove that if they had trucks they were going to act just like boys. So he came back a while later and one of the little girls said, “Shh, we’ve put blankets on the trucks and they are sleeping.” [laughter and applause] I don’t know about you, but there were three boys in our family. When we were given trucks we didn’t tuck them in for their afternoon nap. And if someone had given us a doll we would have probably ripped its head off to see what was inside. [laughter] 

And this massive attack where you have women trying to be like men and men being feminized—that is destroying our families in America today. [applause] Let me say that there is nothing as beautiful as masculinity, men being allowed to be men, and women being allowed to be women without one thinking that they have to be like the other. [more applause]

And for those who would say we should redefine the family where two men can be married, where a brother can marry his brother, because after all, he is in love and incest rules do not apply since there is no procreation, I say with a broken, weeping heart, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” They really don’t know what it is that they are doing. [applause]

Now, sin messes this up really badly. As a matter of fact, when we read the next chapter, Genesis 3, you know the whole story. Okay? Adam and Eve sin. All right, now what happens? They are walking in the Garden in the cool of the day. Does God say, “Eve, did you eat the fruit of the tree by the way?” Uh-uh. Sorry about that guys, but look here. It’s in verse 9. I’m not making it up. “But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” You have responsibility for your wife. And later on says, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,” you are being judged.

Now I just told you that you should listen to the voice of your wife. You should always be in communication, always making decisions together, but if she gives you some bad advice and tells you to sin against God, you have a responsibility to say no. Adam has the responsibility. And what happens is the LORD God asks Adam, “Have you eaten of the tree?” And what does he say? “Oh God, I am guilty. I know I had responsibility for my wife. I am guilty.” No, not a chance. It all began here, folks. Instead he said, “The woman whom YOU gave me, this weak-willed woman, she took of the tree, and what’s a guy supposed to do? [laughter] She was eating.” He blamed his wife even though there wasn’t a chance in the world he had married the wrong one. Okay? [laughter] 

God comes to the woman and says, “Why did you eat?” She said, “Oh, the serpent beguiled me and I ate.” It’s there in the text. So the man blamed the woman, the woman blamed the serpent, and the serpent didn’t have a leg to stand on. [more laughter]

What happens next? Conflict is built right into marriage. It’s right here. It says in the last part of verse 16, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing.” He’s speaking to Eve. “Your desires shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Many commentators believe that because of the ambiguity of the word “for (it should really be “against”) the passage should read, “Your desire will be against your husband and he’ll rule over you.” When he says black, you’ll say white. When he says blue, you’ll say green. You will resent his leadership and you will chafe under it, but he will rule over you. 

And sometimes men rule badly. I mean we’re even going to deal with issues of abuse later on in this series. But it’s built right into the relationship. No wonder General Westmoreland, it is rumored, lecturing to the troops at West Point said to them, “Gentlemen, don’t even think about getting married until you’ve mastered the art of warfare.” [laughter] 

The fight is going to be built right into it. Marriage is going to be difficult, and the question is do you want an escape hatch to get out of all the difficulties? You get two egotistical, self-centered people both thinking the other person’s obligation is to make them happy, and it’s not working. Or do you want to build character and all the rest? We’ll talk about that later, but conflict is built right into the midst of the marriage. That’s why a man said, “I was married by a judge. Now I wish I had asked for a jury.”

So conflict is going to be built right into the marriage relationship. God is going to expel them from the Garden. Do you know why God expeled them from the Garden at the end of the chapter? There’s no going back to Paradise. See, I can imagine Adam and Eve saying to themselves, “Well, you know, why don’t we just go back so that things will be like they once were?” The answer is, “I’m sorry.” God says, “You can’t go back. In fact, if you ate of the Tree of Life, you’d live forever as a sinner. I’m doing you a service by introducing death to get you out of the misery of sin.” So just know that death is actually a blessing to those who know the Lord to get out of this sinful life and all of its implications. You can’t go back, can you? 

If I may give you one more story. A friend of mine says he loves to run his wedding videos backwards so he can see himself backing out of the church a free man. [laughter] But you can’t redo it, can you? 

We’ve all had experiences we wish, for all the world, we could redo. But like a friend of mine says, “There are many things that you can’t put back into the bottle.”

But into the midst of this, God is going to introduce something. He is going to give a Redeemer. That’s what it says in verse 15. I don’t have time to go into the verse, but God is going to give us a Redeemer. And furthermore, Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves to hide their shame, and they might have hid them from one another, but they couldn’t hide them from God. And what does God graciously do? You’ll notice it says in Genesis 3:21, “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”

Do you know what God is saying right out of the chute here? God is saying, “There’s no cheap answer to sin.” God says, “Blood has to be shed. You will be covered. Your sin will be covered. It will be taken away. But I just want you to know the fig leaves won’t do it. What you’ve come up with isn’t the answer. I’m the one who has to do it. I’m the one who has to clothe you. I will kill animals to give you skin, and someday there will be a Redeemer by the name of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who will take away the sin of the world [applause] and because of Him, grace and mercy and forgiveness are going to be poured into families.”

Of course you know what happened to Adam and Eve? They had a number of children. Their oldest son was Cain. Cain, in a real hissy fit, kills his brother, Abel, because Abel was accepted by God, and Cain couldn’t stand the jealousy, and kills him. And you thought yours was the first dysfunctional family. Is that right? Oh my, it happened right here. But from now on in the Bible, wherever there is sin, there’s going to be grace.

When I talk about the man’s role, for example, in marriage and the family, I am going to point out to you that there are passages in the Bible where it says, “So-and-So did evil in the sight of the Lord all his days.” And then it says that he had a son, and it’ll name the son, “who walked in all the ways of the Lord, and served the Lord all of his life.” You read that and you say, “Wow. How did that happen?” Grace. God gives you grace today. 

You came from a family of abuse, a family of alcoholism, a family of divorce, and have been deeply, deeply wounded. You have an advantage over good families, a kind of advantage, not that I envy your situation, but you know that you need grace. You know that you have to cry up to God. There are tons of Christians today, brought up in wonderful families, and they think, “Yeah, grace is kind of nice.” Why? It’s because everything is going so well. But if it’s not going so well, you are a candidate for God’s matchless grace. And furthermore though, grace does not enter closed doors. You have to open your heart to grace.

Can you trust God in a new way during this series of messages? God can siphon off the years of bitterness stuffed in your soul, and just begin to pour into your life grace, grace, God’s grace that is greater than our sin. 

And if you will, would you join me as we pray?

Our Father, we ask in the name of Jesus, that you might grant to all of us listening ears to respond to whatever it is that we’ve learned today. We pray, Father, that immediately, couples would begin to pray either individually or together for their children, for their families, and for their relationship. We pray that you might help us to lay down the sins that create barriers. And for those who have never trusted Christ as Savior, may they believe on Him even now. How blessed it is when our transgressions are forgiven and our sin is covered. We thank you in His name, Amen.

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