God’s Word makes it clear that we are engaged in warfare against Satan. We need the armor of God to be able to “stand firm” against the “schemes of the devil” (Eph 6:10-18). Many Biblical writers describe the evil character of the one who seeks to destroy what God loves. Peter describes the devil as our adversary who “prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8 NIV). In Revelation, John refers to him as “the old serpent,” who “deceives the whole world” (Rev 12:9). John’s gospel is where we learn that the devil “was a murderer from the beginning and has nothing to do with the truth because there is no truth in him … he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Paul calls him the “god of this world who has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor 4:4). He is the “prince of the power of the air” who is “at work” around us. This evil one seeks to turn people from what God has designed for their ultimate blessing and good.
Satan knows that God created marriage as a beautiful, living picture of Christ and the Church. God designed both marriage and the family for our benefit. Satan knows the value of the family, how it is the fabric of a good solid society, the foundation of vibrant growing assemblies, and the future of God’s work on earth. If Satan can be successful in tearing down the structure and substance of the family unit, then he will be successful in damaging what is dear to God’s heart.
Satan’s Attack on the Institution of Marriage, the Foundation of the Family
When God finished creating the first couple, He called what He had made “very good.” This man and woman were united in a holy bond before God. For the benefit of future generations, God explained, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” God requires from the married couple a level of separation from others and a commitment to each other which will provide a stable foundation for the family unit.
Satan’s initial attack on the family occurred in Eden where the old serpent worked his evil deception on Eve and destroyed the harmony of the first marriage. In listening to Satan and disobeying God, Eve and Adam plunged themselves, and all subsequent families, into slavery in the “kingdom of darkness.” Satan’s attack on the family has continued until today. There are signs of it all around us. With the increasing rate of divorce, the acceptance of common-law relationships, the barrage of Hollywood immorality, and the legalization of same gender marriages, we can see how successful Satan has been in twisting and perverting God’s best for us and depriving us of the blessings that marriage brings to the family.
Satan’s Attack on the Internal Mechanics of the Family Unit
Good marriages are the foundation of solid families. If Satan can successfully destroy the marriage, this will have a devastating impact upon the rest of the family. According to a recent survey,1 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes. However, even when a father is present, if the parents are not married, it is still detrimental to the children. In an annual report,2 David Popenoe, a Rutgers sociology professor and report co-author speaks of the increase of cohabitation, “I don’t think it’s good news, especially for children … As society shifts from marriage to cohabitation — which is what’s happening — you have an increase in family instability. The United States has the weakest families in the Western world because we have the highest divorce rate and the highest rate of solo parenting.” God, in His wisdom, knew that children needed the stability of married parents.
The more closely we understand God’s design for the family, the better we will be able to recognize when Satan tries to change and undermine it. Through Paul and Peter, God gives us clear instructions regarding the spheres of responsibility and authority within the family (Eph 5:22-6:4; Col 3:18-21; 1 Tim 5:14; Tit 2:4-5; 1 Pet 3:1-7). Two truths, which appear repeatedly in these passages, are the headship of the husband and the submission of the wife. Scripture likens their relationship to that of Christ and the Church. John Piper, in his book, This Momentary Marriage, says, “Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christ-like servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home. Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.” In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison, he writes about the husband, “As the head, it is he who is responsible for his wife, for their marriage, and for their home. On him falls the care and protection of the family; he represents it to the outside world; he is its mainstay and comfort.” The responsibility of the husband is to provide leadership that is motivated and directed by the agape love of Christ. The husband is to love his wife “as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her,” and to “nourish and cherish” her as one would his own body. When the husband provides a leadership marked by this sacrificial love, the wife will respect her husband and the marriage will flourish. The husband, who is fulfilling his role as head, will seek to meet the needs of the family. The wife, secure in the love and devotion of her husband, will support and help him in every possible way.
Satan has done a masterful job at distorting these two divine mandates (headship and submission). So often we see men who authoritatively control families in a selfish, self-serving way. The other extreme, in which men cede the responsibility for guiding the family to the wife, is also widespread. Correspondingly, while some women are dominated by their husbands, others seek to be the controlling force in the home and do not respect them. These scenarios reveal how successful Satan has been in persuading people to abandon God’s ideal. Any time someone believes that living out the principles of godly headship and submission would somehow make their family life less than it should be, Satan has been successful at his pernicious work of deception. May God give husbands today the courage to provide the loving leadership God intended them to exercise, and wives the grace to respect and support their husbands.
The Scriptures provide clear guidelines for the children’s sphere in family life. God instructs them to accept the authority of their parents, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother” (Eph 6:1-2). Satan has tried to undermine the parental authority of the home by introducing messages of insubordination and by seeking to render the parents unable to assert their authority over the children. Once you are aware of this truth you can begin to see the many specific ways that Satan is doing this today in the media, literature, music, etc. Many television shows and children’s books portray the father figure as weak or foolish. One of the numerous songs which encourage children to resist parental authority, Billy Joel’s “My Life,” defiantly addresses parents: “I don’t want you to tell me it’s time to come home. I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life. Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone.” Thus Satan whispers to children that submission and obedience are not best for them. The music the children listen to, their entertainment, and the atmosphere of the home are important leadership responsibilities. If fathers are to bring up children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord,” they must fulfill their leadership responsibilities in the family and this is to be done lovingly, without provoking their children to anger (Eph 6:4).
Satan’s Attack on the Intention of God for the Christian Home
The home is where the Word of God is taught and preserved, and where sound doctrine is explained and lived out. This is the Scriptural pattern. A godly life of faith which characterized Timothy was first displayed in the home of his grandmother, then his mother, and then his own. From childhood he was “acquainted with the sacred writings” which were able to make him “wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15). Parents must give the Scriptures priority in the home because God’s Word is the necessary foundation. Satan has done a masterful job at keeping families so busy that they have little time to read the Bible, let alone study it and put it into practice in their lives. Spending time in God’s Word and waiting upon God is essential. If Satan can keep families too busy for the Scriptures, they will lose their joy, strength, and effectiveness in this world. Satan, using busyness as his tool, has robbed many families of the time God wants them to spend with each other. This results in a lack of both closeness and enjoyment in each other. Husbands and wives need time together to nurture their relationship. They need time with their children if they are going to fulfill the Scriptural mandate of training up a child in the way he should go (Prov 22:6). This training takes time and focus, both of which are lost when lives become frantically busy and stressed. The family needs time when the earplugs are out, Internet is closed down, and telephone ringers are off, and when the needs of family members are lovingly met. Time must be taken for reading and praying together and for eating and playing together. As families live out God’s plan for them, God will be glorified, families blessed, and assemblies enriched.
When parents spend time with God and allow their behavior to be guided by God’s Word, this will produce Christlikeness in them that will draw their children’s hearts to God. Any way in which Satan can keep parents’ lives from exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control—will detract from the character of the family and the members will suffer loss. When he can plant the seed of unforgiveness, family peace and joy are destroyed. If he can convince members to act in a hypocritical manner, integrity is lost. If he can persuade children or parents to stretch the truth or shade it, even the smallest bit, trust is destroyed and damage ensues. The family’s ultimate protection against Satan’s attacks is to know and live out God’s truth. As His truth and love are expressed through the functioning of the family, even neighbors and friends may be drawn to God.
In conclusion, God, Who created the family, has provided the divine design and instruction in His Word so that families can flourish. Our best defense is to know the pattern, so that we will be able to discern Satan’s subtle attacks, and to let the fruit of the Spirit characterize our lives. We need godly leadership, respect, and love, along with fervent prayer and dependence on God. He alone can preserve our families for His own honor. May God help families to follow His truth and cling closely to Him.
1 Men Against Domestic Violence.
2 An annual report, which analyzes census and other data, issued by the National Marriage Project at New Jersey’s Rutgers University.