By Ed Welch
Who has God as their Father? Who has an inheritance that will last forever? Who have brothers and sisters yet they have different last names? Who can receive forgiveness of sins? Christians have all of these things. We have received and continue to receive forgiveness of sins. We have Christ as our Older Brother, we have different parents yet we are brothers and sisters, an inheritance that will last forever and the Creator as our Father. What more can we ask for? What more can a person ask for than adoption into such a family?
In human family relationships, the family will vary in as many different ways as there are families. One obvious fact is that in any family all the members will eventually die and the family will cease to exist except through the children of the children. How many people do you know whose parents are dead and whose brothers and sisters are all dead?
Fathers vary from family to family. They are all susceptible to death and sickness. In many families the fathers have left (some through divorce, some through neglect).
Discipline varies from father to father and between father and mother. Things the child has done against his father are many times remembered by that father even though the sin is over, the child disciplined and forgiven.
The human family, for all of its frailties, is the God-decreed institution for bringing children into the world and for man and woman to live togther. The world is dependent upon the family unit for its future and its stability, however, the human family functions for a short time (if at all) on this earth before it is terminated by disease, death or divorce.
“Household of Faith” (Gal. 6:10) and “Household of God” (Eph. 2:19; Heb. 3:6) are used in reference to God’s family. God’s family also is established by its components: Father (Rom. 15:6; 2 Cor. 1:3-4; 11:31; Eph: 1:3-5), Christ the firstborn son (John. 1:18; Rom. 8:29; Heb. 1:6) and adopted children (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5) of God who receive an inheritance (Eph. 1:11,14,18; 5:5; Col. 1:12).
What sort of family is this? How does it compare with the human family? What advantages are there in the family of God? In this family God is the only parent. Jesus the Christ is His only begotten Son and Christians are adopted children. In this family there is only one center of all authority (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; Eph. 1:15-23); there is no doubt as to who is in charge. God’s commandments apply to all equally (Acts 11:1-18; 17:23-31; Rom. 2:1-16; Eph: 2:11-16). God is eternal (Gen. 21:33; Deut. 33:27; Isa. 40:28) and there is no sickness in Him (1 Tim. 6:16; Jas. 1:13,17) and with one parent there is no divorce. There is no earthly family that has this sort of stability in its parents. God has shown no neglect, He has demonstrated His concern by fulfilling His plans (Eph. 1:1-14; Rom. 8:18-30). He not only forgives His erring children, but He remembers their sins no more (Jer. 31:34). Children talk about the status of their parents and how important they are. Who is more important than God
Christ is our Older Brother. He is God and was with man in human form for about 33 years (Lk. 3:23). He was tempted in all ways (Matt. 4:lff; Lk. 4:2; Heb. 4:15), yet He overcame and was sinless (Isa. 53:9; 2 Cor 5:21); thus being the perfect sacrifice (Heb. 10:1-12) and the perfect example (John 14:6,7). He has received all authority from His Father and does only the will of His Father (Mk, 14:36; Lk. 22:42; John 3:34; 15:10). Like all older children, He sympathizes with His brothers and sisters, mediating- interceding-reconciling them with the Father (Heb. 8:6; 7:25; Rom. 5:10-11). Children talk about the things their brothers or sisters have done. Who can claim a nobler Brother who has had more of a good effect on the world, who has shown such a good example to His brethren and has such great authority?
The other children are adopted. This shows the concern of God the Father to mankind. The children are not only adopted, but they receive an inheritance that is eternal and good. No other children receive forgiveness of their sins which weigh as millstones around their necks (Acts 2:38; 1 John 1:5-10). A person who has no living family has, in Christ, a complete, eternal family. The Father has told His children how they are to treat each other (Rom. 12:9-21; Gal. 6:10; Eph. 5:15-21), their natural family (Eph. 5:22-33; 6:1-4), the state (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17), and non-Christians (Rom. 12:9-21; Gal. 6:11). What other child can say he has such clear, complete, uplifting instructions from his father; that he has forgiveness of sins; that he has such a great inheritance and closeness to other children?
How Do I Get Into This Family?
First, hear the word of God explaining His will to you (Rom. 10:17).
Second, believe what must be done (Acts 16:11) and have faith that God will do His part (Heb. 11:6).
Third, repent of your sins and set out to follow-Christ (Lk. 13:3,5; Acts 26:20).
Fourth, confess Jesus is the Christ, the only begotten Son of God (Rom. 10:10; 1 John 4:15).
Fifth, be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost and you will receive forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:38) and addition by God into the church (Acts 2:47).
Sixth, in order to assure your inheritance, continue in obedience to Christ (Matt. 7:21; Rev. 2:10).
Examples of some others who were added into the family of God: Acts 2:1-42; 8:26-40; 16:27-34; 9:3-20; 22:1-21; 26:9-20.
Life in the Family
Now that you are a Christian, let us look at life in the family. Through His word God has revealed His will to us that we will be pleasing to Him if we obey Him (Heb. 5:9). Part of His will is that we are to do good to all men, especially to the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). We are to bear each others burdens (Gal. 6:2), strengthen each other (Rom. 14:17-19) and not tear each other down (Gal. 5:15; Jas. 3:14; 4:11). These commands are given to us as individuals. This individual responsibility is not so suprising, for in our physical families, if a brother or sister needs help we help them directly, we do not set-up a committee or any organization to help them. By these commands being individual responsibilities, each member of the family should be attuned and responsive to the needs of his brothers and sisters (organizations have no understanding, love or concern).
Being close to each other has many effects: (1) People who see the closeness of this family relationship want to be a member of it. (2) Brethren who miss services are not alone in their problems. They have brethren, who will help and strengthen them. Brethren who are missing services have many different reasons: they are sick, they are watching someone who is sick, they , are visiting (hopefully another congregation), they are losing their faith. By being close to each other these problems can be faced and dealt with. If brethren are not close it is easy to wait (as a normal practice) until the missing brother finally makes it to services and ask the question, “I haven’t seen you at services for a while, why weren’t you here?” This is certainly a poor question, unless you are interested in taking their statement for historical purposes. The question should have been asked while they were missing the services, while they needed help, not after the crisis is past. Asking the question after the crisis is past only makes them bitter and wonder where their brothers’ genuine concern is. This is no way to treat brethren when they need help. (3) Brethren when they are together are more likely to act like Christians and are not so easily tempted. (4) Brethren see how each other live as Christians and therefore by example strengthen each other. (5) When brethren are close to each other they want to work together to do Gods’ will TOGETHER and to do the things that are necessary in supporting the work of the local congregation to the glory of their Father. (6) When brethren are close the attendance of the assembly goes up followed by an increase in new brethren.
A Family In Unity
True Christian fellowship must be based on one thing, the active desire to do the will of God (1 John 1:7). If we do not agree to do His will we are not acting like true children of God and divisions are caused among brothers and sisters and thus children of God are separated from each other and from their Father (Isa. 59:2). In effect not doing the will of the Father is saying, “not Thy will Father, but mine be done” (Jas. 4:11).
Understanding the kingdom/church in the family sense will help us to understand the way Christ prayed to His Father (John. 17:20-23; Mk. 14:36), why we should be emotionally close to Christ and our Father (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6) and to each other. Understanding the church as a family gives greater dimension to our life in Christ. This true closeness shown by our obedience to our Father’ older Brother and our concern for each other is true fellowship in unity, based on our older Brother’s example, “not my will but, Thine be done.”
The church looked upon in the family sense is a magnet to Christians and non-Christians. To the Christian it provides the only source that helps him to obey God, receive forgiveness of his detestable sins, live in this world without being enslaved to it and the encouragement-love-warmth that makes living more than just getting by. To the non-Christian, he sees a closeness not achieved in his own family. He will always have family, he has a chance to be with those whom he believes are pleasing to God-a chance for him to be pleasing to God, and a chance to be free from his yoke of sin.
The family of God is the only family/organization through which eternal life is offered (Eph. 1:3-14). There is no doubt as to the will of the Father. His sincerity is shown by offering His only begotten Son that man might have forgiveness of sins in the short term and eternal life in the long term. This is only offered in Christ (Acts 4:10-12). How can we neglect such a great family salvation and how can those who are not Christians keep their eyes and hearts away from such a desirable family-salvation?
Truth Magazine, XX:2, p. 10-12
January 8, 1976