The Family of God
By Eddie Cloer
"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens, with the saints, and are of God's household" (Ephesians 2:19).
If you were handed a blank sheet of paper and asked to list the ten most satisfying blessings God has given the human race, what would you list? Which ten do you consider to be God's richest and most helpful benefits to mankind?
Most people, I believe, would put the family at the top of that list. Countless joys and supportive relationships have been experienced through the family from the beginning of its creation in the Garden of Eden to the most recent marriage ceremony. The majority of people would probably say that most of their happy memories cluster around the homes in which they grew up and/or the homes in which they currently live. Furthermore, I believe that all but a few people would say that they receive their greatest strength and assistance in living from their family members. Truly, the family was given to the human race by a loving heavenly Father who designed the home to give warm, sympathetic encouragement to our spirits.
In light of how meaningful the family is to us, we should not be surprised that it is used as a figure in the Scriptures to help us visualize the nature of the New Testament church. The use of the words "family" and "household" in the Scriptures compels us to see the church as the family of God. When we become Christians, we are born into God's spiritual family, the church (John 3:5; Ephesians 2:19). To say it another way, when we obey the gospel of Christ and enter the body of Christ, God adopts us as His children (Ephesians 1:5). Paul pointed to this adoption as the end result, the chief reason for Christ's coming into the world: "But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" (Galatians 4:4, 5).
All human beings possess certain standard needs that are met only by the physical family. What are these needs? First, each of us needs a sense of belonging, or "roots." The physical family provides a social stability. It gives us a niche in this world which belongs to us and to us alone.
Second, we need a sense of security, the assurance that we are a part of a community which will care for us should we ever become mentally, socially, or physically helpless. The physical family supplies this security for us. It gives us a shelter from life's storms. It provided for us when we were babies and were unable to care for ourselves. It provides for us when we become sick or broken in spirit, and it will provide for us when we become old and feeble, living in our second childhood. It is our refuge, our haven, our rock of support.
Third, we need a sense of identity. We have an inner urge to know who and what we are. To some extent, our physical families answer this yearning.
church of the New
Fourth, we need a sense of acceptance, the security of knowing that we can be ourselves, free from make-up and masks. The physical family loves us for what we are-not for what we are going to be or for what we have been. In our physical families we do not have to achieve to be accepted. If we are unable to be the best or do the best, we are still loved and still have a place among our relatives. We do not have to earn the love we receive; it is given without strings or demands.
Human beings also have spiritual needs which correspond somewhat to the emotional, social, and physical needs which are satisfied by the physical family. Some people recognize these spiritual needs in themselves, while others do not. Whether we recognize them or not, they are real and must be met for us to live in this world in true happiness. The human personality and spirit have a spiritual dimension. When these characteristics are ignored or neglected, even though we may enjoy a type of social and physical happiness, we cannot enjoy the spiritual happiness and fulfillment which God intended for us.
What if I sought to clean out a closet simply by removing the spider webs? Would I not find myself frequently removing other spider webs? A spider makes webs, and as long as the spider remained in my closet, he would continue to build webs there.
What if I found water running all over the bathroom floor? How successful would I be in removing the water if I simply mopped it up? The water would be coming from some source, and until that source could be found and eliminated, I would continually be mopping up water from the bathroom floor.
The spiritual needs that are common to every human being do not go away. They are not quenched by our pretending that they do not exist. For us to experience normal physical happiness and spiritual joy, these physical and spiritual needs must be met.
The spiritual needs we all possess are satisfied by another family unit, the family of God. In His spiritual family, God is the Father (1 John 3:1), Christians are brothers and sisters (1 John 5:1), and Jesus is the elder brother (Romans 8:17). Paul referred to this heavenly family as "the church." He told Timothy, "I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:14, 15; emphasis mine).
In the church of the New Testament, a Christian experiences a sense of spiritual belonging. He has a heavenly Father to pray to, walk with, and live for. He has an elder brother to pray through, learn from, and lean on. He lives as part of a community of believers who love each other as brothers and sisters and work together for God's glory-not as an organization but as a spiritual family.
In God's family, we have a sense of spiritual security. We know that our heavenly Father loves us and will provide for us. He even provides for our physical needs. As He taught His followers not to worry, Jesus urged us to remember that our Father knows our needs and will take care of us: "Do not be anxious then, saying 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?' For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things" (Matthew 6:31, 32). Likewise, our Father provides for our spiritual needs. Jude reminded us of this heavenly care in the doxology with which he closed his letter by referring to God as one "who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy" (Jude 24).
Our need for a sense of spiritual identity is also met in God's family, the church. Before conversion, we wandered without purpose or direction, but through being born into the family of God, we became God's own possession. Peter wrote of this change:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9, 10).
Paul even referred to God's family as God's inheritance (Ephesians 1:18). As members of God's family, Christians have an eternal inheritance-heaven; God has an inheritance too-Christians!
God's family likewise provides us with a sense of spiritual acceptance. As we come to God in obedient faith and live before Him in trust and sincere obedience, we are accepted as His children. He bestows His special love upon us and puts in our hearts His Spirit, which cries, "Abba! Father!" (Galatians 4:6). In Christ, we can say with Paul, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). This does not mean that repentance and growth are no longer expected; it means that He receives us where we are and tenderly guides us to become what we ought to be. Someone has said, "He loves us as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us as we are."
I remember trying to lead a young married woman to Christ in London, England, several years ago. She was a beautiful young mother with one child. After a few months of marriage, her husband had left her, and she was trying to rear her child by herself. Apparently, her home life was not much when she was a child either. In our conversation, I said to her, "Through Christ, you can be saved and have a beautiful home!" My remark did not encourage her at all. I wondered why, and then I realized that this young woman had no idea of what a beautiful home was. She had never seen the home as attractive and wonderful. Her experiences had created in her mind an image of the home which was anything but supportive, strengthening, and loving; it was hard for her to visualize the home as beautiful. However, anyone who has seen a home which meets the normal physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of its members knows how beautiful the home can be when properly structured and led by Christ.
Like this young woman, many people cannot visualize how the church meets our spiritual needs. They have not been around a true New Testament church. They have not seen the church as the spiritual family of God. Therefore, it is hard for them to envision what they are missing as they live apart from the church of Christ. It is the duty of Christians to keep reminding people in this condition of what the church is and how the true church as the family of God answers to the spiritual dimensions of our lives.
Only through God's family can we find the peace, security, purpose, and identity that our innermost beings long for. True happiness cannot be ours outside of this family, the church.
NEEDS BEAUTIFULLY MET
To visualize the church as God's family, let us reflect on Luke's sketch of the Jerusalem church. His depiction shows the beautiful characteristics of God's family in the daily lives of the early Christians:
And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
..... And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47).
Each Christian had a sense of belonging, for "all those who had believed were together and had all things in common" (Acts 2:44). Each member had identity, for no one was valued above another, and the whole congregation responded to the needs of any suffering member. Everyone enjoyed acceptance. And day by day people were added to the lords body and were received with joy by the congregation. Each member enjoyed a security which could only be provided by a community type of life. They sold their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need."
This congregation of Gods family engaged in regular worship with prayer, praise, teaching, fellowship, and the observing of the Lords Supper (Acts 2: 42). They adored their heavenly Father, recognized the gift of grace which came through their elder brother, Jesus Christ, and lived in gladness and sincerity of heart. They enjoyed the security of the community life of the church, the benevolent care for this life, and the assurance of eternal life through Jesus in the world to come.
While I was preaching for a week for a small congregation several years ago, I noticed a little trailer house that dad been moved next to the church building. I assumed it was a makeshift extra classroom which they had place there. I asked a member, "What is your little trailer house for?" That is for our widow, " the member explained with a smile. He further said, "A Christian man of this congregation died recently, leaving his wife all alone. She has had difficulty making ends meet and making he decisions she has had to make. So we moved this little trailer house in near the church building. Were letting her live in it so that she will have the security and the assistance she needs. She didnt want to live here without being of service in some way, so we let her do the janitorial work that is needed for the building." I thought as I listened to this explanation by the member, "This is the beautiful care and concern that should characterize Gods family.
Do you not want to be a member of Gods family? Do you realize that your life cannot be complete until you have entered Gods family, the church? Outside of His family, you will be missing the spiritual stability, security, acceptance, and identity that only membership in His family can give.
Every child shudders at the thought of being an orphan, and every adults heart cries out with pain when he sees an orphan. No one wants to be an orphan, and no one want s to see an orphan. We cannot altogether prevent the abandoning of children by the cruel circumstances of life or by human injustice; all we can do is reach out to orphans in live, sympathy, and assistance. No one, however, needs to be a spiritual orphan. Through the gospel, anyone can come into the family of God, be adopted as a child of his, and receive the love and sonship that all other children receive.
We enter Gods family by a spiritual birth. Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). We are led by the Spirit through the Word of God to believe in Christ (John 8:24), to repent of sin (Acts 17:30), to confess Jesus as Christ and Lord (Romans 10:10), and to be baptized into Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). Peter said, "For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God" (1 Peter 1:23).
God receives as His children those who are born of the water and the Spirit. He gives them His Spirit (Galatians 4:6), the blessings of His family (Ephesians 1:3), and an eternal inheritance (Ephesians 1: 11. The children of God, consequently, live with a sense of belonging, security, acceptance, and identity.
Are you a child of God?
1. List the joys that you have experienced through the home. 2. How does one enter the family of God? 3. When does God adopt us as His children? 4. List the standard needs that each person has, and describe how the family meets these needs. 5. Compare our spiritual needs with the standard human needs. 6. Describe the spiritual family of which a Christian is a part. 7.How does the family of God give us spiritual security? 8.How does the family of God give us a sense of spiritual belonging? 9.How does the family of God give us a spiritual identity? 10.How does the family of God give us a sense of spiritual acceptance? 11.Use the Jerusalem church as an illustration of how being in the church meets our spiritual needs. 12.Can one be complete until he has entered God's spiritual family? 13.Is one who is outside the family of God somewhat like an orphan? 14.List the blessings you have especially enjoyed in God's spiritual family.
For Preaching and Teaching Purposes: Sermon or Teaching Type: Motivated sequence; inductive; topical. Subject: The church. Theme: The church, the family of God. Title: The Family of God. Preaching or Teaching Portion: None. Proposition: (Persuasive) You ought to be a part of the family of God. Interrogative Question or Probing Question: None. Key Word: None. Major Points: I. Needs; II. Needs Met; III. Needs Beautifully Met. Sermonic or Teaching Objective: To persuade listeners to become a part of the family of God.