I believe one of the most meaningful and a wonderfully descriptive figures the Bible uses to describe the church is God’s family. God is our Heavenly Father, for James wrote, “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (Jam. 1:18). Thus, Paul declared, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph. 3:14-15). God promised, “Wherefore Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch no unclean thing; And I will receive you, And will be to you a Father, And ye shall be to me sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:17-18).
Because of this relationship with the Father, the Bible speaks in terms of the “brotherhood.” Peter says, “Love the brotherhood” (1 Pt. 2:17). Christians are called “brethren” (3 Jn. 10), and “sister” is used to describe Christian women (1 Tim. 5:1-2). This caring family relationship is described in 1 Timothy 5:1-2, “Rebuke not an elder, but exhort him as a father; the younger men as brethren: the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, in all purity.”
In this family relationship in the church, Jesus – the Son of God – is described as our “elder brother.” The Hebrew writer declares, “but Christ as a son, over his house; whose house are we, if we hold fast our boldness and the glorying of our hope firm unto the end” (Heb. 3:6). As our elder brother, Jesus makes intercession for us, “Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).
The family concept is a perfect parallel to the church. This is true, first of all, because it denotes a sense of belonging. This belonging affords comfort. Ten times in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 “comfort” is mentioned in our association with the Father. This belonging also provides strength – a growing and building up of the body (Eph. 4:11-16). The family concept is a perfect parallel to the church also because it signifies relationship. In the family of God we have a unique relationship with the Father and other Christians. We can approach God, as our Father, in prayer (Jn. 16:23). In this wonderful family relationship we receive an inheritance from the Father (Col. 1:12).
The family concept is a perfect parallel to the church also because it draws a line. Everyone is not in the family of God. Our Father designated certain requirements, and if these criteria are not met, one is not a member of the family. Merely running with the family does not make one a member of the family. We must be born into the family. We are born into the family through our obedience to the will of God (1 Pt. 1:23; see Rom. 10:17; Jn. 8:24; Lk. 13:3; Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 2:38). Remember, God has only one family (Eph. 4:4; 1:22-23)
As children of God, Christians should most assuredly bear the image of the Father. In doing so we will keep ourselves separate from the world (2 Cor. 6:17-18), and we will “walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). If we will live faithfully as children of God then we will be “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ…” (Rom. 8:17).
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