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Saturday, November 18, 2023

The Church As The Family of God--Things Found in It

The church in the New Testament is often referred to by men as the family of God.  It is the designation that touches the heart with the greatest force.  We long to be part of a family, to have people who care about us and care how we are doing and who will help us willingly and gladly should we need it, people who love us.  One of the saddest things one can experience in life, a gut-wrenching experience, is feeling alone, abandoned, and that you matter to no one.  It rips your heart out and then shreds it to pieces.

Many people truly are alone; no one cares enough even to pray for them and the saddest thing is many who are in this condition realize it.  It is not hidden from them and they thus bear the burden of that knowledge suffering the emotional pain that comes with it. 

The sickness of heart so many experience who feel abandoned and alone is far more painful than any physical ailment for it touches the soul.   When one is unloved and unwanted then what is left when that comes into a person’s life?  “By sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.” (Prov. 15:13 NKJV)  All human experience has borne out the truth of this spirit-inspired statement of scripture.

In Christ one always has family for the church of God is the family of God, people who love one another and care about one another, people who will pray for you as well as help you.  How thankful we ought to be to find someone who cares enough to pray for us.  Many people have no one who will do that for them.  Have you ever wanted someone to pray for you and there was no one to do it--no one who cared enough, no one close enough to you even to know your need?

While the phrase “the family of God” is not found in the New Testament the concept is.  We are the children of God, “Beloved, now we are children of God.” (1 John 3:2 NKJV)  Christians are born of God, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (1 John 5:1 NKJV)  We are begotten of God in that he has “according to his abundant mercy…begotten us again.” (1 Peter 1:3 NKJV)  The Christian has been born again into the family of God.  We call God Father for, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1 NKJV)  If we are his children he is our Father.

We are God’s household, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Eph. 2:19 NKJV)  Paul wrote to Timothy saying, “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God.” (1 Tim. 3:15 NKJV)  Thus the church is our spiritual family, the house of God, and if we live in it long enough and are faithful it becomes as close to us as physical family, even a closely knit physical family, and even dearer to us as the years go by and we grow older.  That is the way God meant it to be.  

We are brothers and sisters in Christ for in Jesus’ own words he says, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt. 12:50 NKJV)

What should one experience in the family of God?  Here are but a few of the things.

(1)  Love.  “In sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.” (1 Peter 1:22 NKJV)  “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35 NKJV)  “By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us.  And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16 NKJV)  “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NKJV)

I think the greatest desire of the human heart is for love, to be loved and cared about.  In the church if the brethren are what they ought to be they will love you and care about you.  You are their beloved family. 

(2)  Compassion.  “The members should have the same care for one another…if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Cor. 12:25-26 NKJV)  Sounds like what we expect in our own homes does it not?  Sounds like people care for one another does it not?  That should be the church when the membership lives as Christ has directed them and have the love of God in them.

(3)  Kindness.  “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted.” (Eph. 4:32 NKJV)  Every Christian is to have “brotherly kindness” (2 Peter 1:7 NKJV) in his life.  Kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22 NKJV).  Have you ever wondered how much kindness the homeless receive?  What value do you think they would place on a little kindness?  How much value do we place on kindness in our life--kindness both shown to us and that which we show or should show to others?  In the church one should always find kindness being shown one member to another for we are family.  We should show kindness to all, the Bible teaches that, but certainly we need kindness to one another in the family of God.

(4)  Longsuffering or patience.  Life in any family requires patience or longsuffering with one another.  You should find that in the church as well.  God’s people, his family, learn to put up with one another’s quirks of character--those things that can be annoying--because of the love we have for one another.  We are “bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:2-3 NKJV)  Is that not the way it is with a husband and wife?  We all know it is and that is the way it is in any successful family.  It is that way in God’s family if it is the family God would have it to be.

(5)  Forgiveness.  “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.” (Eph. 4:32 NKJV)  “Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another.” (Col. 3:13 NKJV)  We all feel the need to be forgiven.  In the church, God’s family, one needs to find that forgiveness and I am speaking here of the forgiveness by our brethren specifically. 

Sin is a burden we carry and yes, certainly, we must first be concerned with the forgiveness of God but we also must feel our spiritual brothers and sisters in God’s family will forgive us and help us unload the burden and guilt of sin.  “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2 NKJV)  To know our family will have us back, forgive us, and love us despite our past sin is a wonderful thing.  An unforgiving Christian is an unsaved Christian.  “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14-15 NKJV)

(6)  Help and support.  If it is needed the family of God helps one another out with the matters of this life.  “Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17 NKJV)  “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Gal. 6:10 NKJV)  In 1 Tim. 5 Paul instructs Timothy as to how the church is to care for those who are “widows indeed” (1 Tim. 5:3 KJV) having no one to help them.  It would be a disgrace for a church to have hungry and needy brethren uncared for, a mark of a lack of love.

This list could be extended but brevity must rule.  Based on the 6 items I have listed, without extending them, I think we would all agree that any family sharing those traits is going to be a happy and successful family in meeting the inner human needs we all have.  Give me a family that loves me, has compassion for me when I need it, is kind to me, is patient with me, forgives me as needed, who will help me in my life, and I would say I have a wonderful family.  God’s family, when it is what it ought to be, is a wonderful family.

A few comments are appropriate here as regards the head of our spiritual family, God the Father.

(1) God loves me and you.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NKJV)  He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (1 Peter 3:9 NKJV)  He “desires all men to be saved.” (1 Tim. 2:4 NKJV)  “We love him because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19 NKJV)

(2) He will never give up on me or come to the point he no longer wants me as long as I will come home even if I was to wonder afar--the story of the prodigal son as found in Luke 15.  He will always have me if I will repent and come to him.

(3) He has prepared great things for me as a rich inheritance. (1 Peter 1:3-4)

(4) He has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5 NKJV)  What a wonderful Father!  That last promise means a lot to me for I know whether they want to or not family and friends will leave me for death is inevitable.  I have someone in God my Father who will be with me no matter what even if it comes down to being just the two of us alone.  He is the only one who can go with me through the gate of my own personal death.  It means a lot to know he will be by my side through life and death.

Finally, I must close with the elder son of the Christian family, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  How much does he love me; how much does he love you?  To ask is to answer for there was and ever will be the cross.  “He himself is the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 2:2 NKJV)

When I think of Jesus I cannot help but think of him in the garden praying, “And being in agony, he prayed more earnestly.  And his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44 NKJV)  He “offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death, and was heard because of his godly fear.” (Heb. 5:7 NKJV)  What more could one ask of an elder brother in giving himself to save his younger brother or sister?  Greater love has no man than this.

The family of God is the greatest family any man or woman can ever have.  Likely if it is not what it ought to be the reason is you or me, we are not the children we ought to be.  We know the Father is the best and the older son wonderful but how are we as children--rebellious or loving and faithful?  The church can always be made better, made better as you and I make our lives better and become more like our elder brother.  How Christ-like are we?

I end with this final thought.  We have often sorrowed in our lives as our earthly family has been struck down by death.  The family of God is not torn asunder by death.  It is a family that will always be ours unless we leave it.  When we die as a Christian we just go on where other family members have already gone and are reunited with them.  How wonderful that will be to be reunited with those we have loved in the past and who loved us and are now waiting on us.

But bear in mind the promise we have is only to those in God’s family.  Everyone today seems to think they are in God’s family regardless of doctrine or practice.  The Bible does not teach that every sincere person is going to be saved.  There is a way to be born into the family of God (John 3:5) so study your Bible and compare what you did to become a Christian, a child of God, with what they did in the first century.  Read Acts 2 as that is the day the family of God, the church, was established (a topic for another time).  Do as they did and you will be on safe grounds in the family of God.   

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