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The Family of God

November 2, 2015

One of the unstoried battles of church history has been for the proper understanding of the local church. Since the days of the reformation, believers have been working for a church that is a genuine reflection of the New Testament churches. The Bible uses several graphic images to describe the relationship of the members of a local church to one another. Peter and Paul describe the church as a temple and its members as living stones within the edifice. The analogy that is probably most familiar to Christians is of the church as a body and the individuals as the parts of the body. The church is also a family. It’s members are brothers and sisters together, adoptees into the household of God. The image of the family permeates the epsitles and soaks through into many of the commands given for interpersonal relationships among church members. Familial love within the church is taught, encouraged, commanded and modeled. Paul is an exquisite example of brotherly love.

Paul was passionate about the local bodies of believers. He loved them deeply. He spent himself for their spiritual benefit. He rejoiced in their spiritual successes and sorrowed in their troubles. 1 Thessalonians 2 is just one example of Paul’s compassion for the church and is filled with family allusions. Paul was tender as a nursing mother, diligent as a compassionate father, sorrowing as an orphaned child and earnest as an affectionate sibling. These analogies reflect the reality that those in the body of Christ are joined together into an eternal family relationship. This must be the Christian’s view of his fellow members in the local church body. The church must never imagine itself to be just a gathering of people in the same building. The church’s union is based on far more than a common doctrinal statement. Christians are joined together as one body in Christ. The unity of the church is founded on the believers union with Jesus. The church is a family with a greater permanence than any earthly family. Just as a family churches have challenges, struggles and disagreements, but we are the family of God.

This is more than mere symbolism to help believers think positive thoughts about the church. This is eternal reality that undergirds the relationship of one member with another. Love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Do more than think kindly about one another. Learn to imitate Paul and obey the Word of God with each other. As Romans 12 says, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice.” When others are blessed, rejoice with them. Develop genuine delight in one another’s happiness. “Weep with them that weep.” Do not only share one another’s joys, share one another’s sorrows. When others are facing troubles and sorrows, weep with them. Grieve with them in their loss, feeling it as if it were your own.

Paul modeled both these principles in 1 Thessalonians. In chapter 1 he rejoiced in the Thessalonians, showing genuine joy in their spiritual success. In chapter 2 he grieved with the Thessalonians, feeling deep anguish in their troubles. Though separated from them in body, Paul’s heart was with them. He was deeply affected by what affected them. He did this because he practiced Romans 12:10, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” Because Paul loved God supremely and entirely he loved others selflessly. Paul’s unselfish love valued the believers more than he valued himself. Genuine love will count others as more important and more valuable than self. Because of this valuation, genuine love will be tender, diligent, kind, pure and generous. Those who are members of your church with you are your family. Value them as beloved brothers and sisters. Honor them as greater than yourself and cultivate a heart that rejoices and weeps in their blessings and sorrows.

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