“And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground” (Genesis 4:1, 2, KJV).

Adam and Eve: familiar names of the first man and woman, husband and wife, father and mother—the first family. Who taught them how to be a family? The family is God’s idea and the foundation for all other divinely ordained human institutions. It was not His will for individuals to be isolated from others. Instead, He assigned essential, specific roles and responsibilities to the individuals within a family structure to meet each other’s numerous needs. The needs of today’s families are many—and can seem overwhelming.

Think about it

1. What do you consider to be some of the most significant needs of today’s families?

2. Which of these needs do you see becoming an increasing challenge among your own peer group?

3. What are some resources available that teach, train, encourage, advise, equip, and counsel families?

4. Which of the resources listed is your first choice, the one you believe to be most important?

Use your Bible

Genesis records many “firsts” related to the family. Consider these “firsts” found in Genesis 1—4.

The first two people were Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:7, 18–23).

Adam was formed from the dust of the ground by God, Who breathed into him the breath of life (2:7). Eve was made by God from one of Adam’s ribs. All subsequent people, beginning with Cain, have been conceived (4:1), but still bear the image of their Creator.

The first home was Paradise (Genesis 2:8–17).

Paradise was a perfect environment without sin. God put mankind there “to dress [tend] it and keep it” (2:15). Thus, man was made to work and to have dominion, or authority, over God’s creation (1:28). Work is not a consequence of sin; it is a matter of God-given stewardship.

The first marriage was performed by God (Genesis 2:18–25).

Marriage is God’s idea and thus the only legitimate option for a man and a woman who desire to share a home. Adam and Eve are the prototypical husband and wife, picturing oneness just as the Godhead itself is the perfect example of oneness. An individual cannot experience unity alone; unity requires plurality. God’s purpose in marriage is that the two, husband and wife, become one (2:24).

The first sin was disobedience (Genesis 3).

Sin is an intrusion into God’s creation. Through one person (Adam) sin and death entered the world and spread to all people. Thus all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (3:23). The first sin alienated mankind from God. But as by the disobedience of one man (Adam) many were made sinners, so also by the obedience of one Man (Christ) many are made righteous (5:19). Sin can fracture marriages and families, but it need not be fatal. Faith in Christ as Savior and Lord is the only remedy for sin and its deadly effects (6:23).

The first parents were Adam and Eve (Genesis 4:1).

Adam and Eve were the first father and mother. They recognized that God had purposefully given them their children as gifts (4:1, 25). Apparently they made knowing and worshiping God a priority in their home (vv. 3, 4). God has always expected parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

The first two children were Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1, 2).

Procreation is the God-ordained means whereby the human race reproduces and populates the earth. Like Cain and Abel, each human is the handiwork of God. Human life begins at the moment of conception, and every human bears the image of God (compare Genesis 1:26 with James 3:9).

The first sibling rivalry was between brothers (Genesis 4:3–7).

Cain and Abel were very different. Their differences were complicated by sin and resulted in the first sibling rivalry. Cain’s jealousy of Abel provoked Cain to anger. A competitive and jealous spirit weakens a person morally and spiritually, resulting in greater vulnerability to sin (Proverbs 25:28). Unchecked sibling rivalry can produce estrangement, with lingering harmful effects that last from one generation to the next. Discerning parents lovingly confront such tensions, mediating reconciliation between siblings to avert further conflict and to produce peace.

The first death was an act of murder (Genesis 4:8).

Because of Cain’s own unrighteous life, he murdered Abel
(1 John 3:12). Adam and Eve’s heartache over losing two sons must have been devastating. Sin of any sort is never inconsequential.

The first family was a man and a woman joined by God as husband and wife, and it grew to include one child, then another, and then others (Genesis 5).

Since the fall of mankind when Adam and Eve sinned, there never has been a perfect family. It is unrealistic to expect a problem-free marriage or family, since we all are sinners. But it is realistic to expect marriages and families where problems are acknowledged, confronted, and resolved Biblically to produce and grow better and stronger relationships.

5. According to Genesis 3 and 4, what were some of the problems that the first family faced?

Sin is an inherited problem. Cain and Abel inherited their parents’ looks, temperaments, and sin nature. This sin nature has been passed to every human since then.

6. Contrast Adam and Eve’s position and relationship with God before and after the Fall.

Even though mankind’s position and relationship with God changed dramatically after the Fall, God still blessed people according to His mandate. They were fruitful and multiplied (compare Genesis 1:28 with 4:1, 2; 5:1–4). The family, the first institution established by God, matters.

7. What do the following verses teach about the priority of the family and its basic relationships, responsibilities, and roles?

a. Proverbs 24:3, 4

b. Hebrews 3:3, 4

c. Psalm 127

d. Ephesians 5:22—6:4

Apply the truth

8. Discuss with your family how wisdom, understanding, and knowledge are evidenced in your home.

9. Identify with your spouse and/or children one strength and one weakness in your family. What steps can you take within the next week to strengthen the weakness?

10. Though sin has marred the image of God in mankind, that image is still present. How does realizing that people are made in God’s image affect the way you treat your spouse and other members of your family?

Pastor Dave and Carolyn Culver have been working closely with Christian families for the past three decades. During that time they realized that with all the confusing voices in our society, it is easy for families to lose their focus on what the Bible teaches about roles and relationships within marriage. Their book, Family Life, grew out of their desire to help families discover how God designed them to complement each other. It is designed for couples to work through the Bible study together. Although they do not claim to be experts, Mrs. Culver says, “Experience is a great teacher and we have learned much from our own weaknesses as well as from following God’s design during 32 years of marriage.”