The Church As The Family Of God ? Things Found In It
The church in the New Testament is described under various appellations the best known perhaps being 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 that care about us and care how we are doing and who will help us willingly and gladly should we need it, people who do love us. One of the saddest things one can experience in life, a gut wrenching experience, is to feel alone, to feel abandoned, to feel you matter to no one. It rips your heart out and then shreds it to pieces.
Many people truly are alone; no one cares even enough to pray for them and the saddest thing is many realize this. It is not hidden from them and they thus bear the burden of that knowledge suffering the 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) God knew what he was talking about. All human experience has borne out the truth of this 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 literally 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, no one close enough to you to even 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.
Jesus is our elder brother, “For both he who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: ‘I will declare your name to my brethren; In the midst of the congregation I will sing praise to you.'” (Heb. 2:11-12 NKJV) 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)
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 in it 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.
What should one experience in the family of God? Here are but a few of those 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 Sprit 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 brethren, 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 obviously be greatly extended but brevity must rule. But, just based on the 5 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, and 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.
I could extend this article indefinitely talking about the wonderful Father and older brother we have but time and space will only allow a brief comment or two.
As I think about God as my Father four thoughts come to my mind foremost. (1) God loves me. “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. (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 leave me or not (some die, passing on, and have no choice but leave) it is going to happen, has happened already. 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 that can go with me through the gates of death. It means a lot to know he will be by my side.
Finally, I must close with the elder son of the Christian family, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How much does he love me, love you? To ask is to answer for there was, is, and ever will be