Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Family of God

“To Timothy, my real son in the faith.”
Paul, in 1Timothy 1:2

Matthew 12
46. While he was speaking to the multitudes, his mother and brothers were standing outside demanding to speak to him.
47. And someone said to him, "Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside demanding to speak to you."
48. But he answered and said to the man who spoke to him,"Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?"
49. Then, extending his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers.
50. For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother."

God has a time appointed for us all to be confronted with a decision. That decision, which will have eternal consequences, will be determined by what you feel in your heart now concerning this simple question: Was it really the Son of God speaking in Jesus Christ, and was He serious about what he said? But let’s narrow the focus down to the verses above, from Matthew 12. Do you think that Jesus really meant what he said? I don’t mean, do you think he meant what he said in some philosophical, other-worldly way. I mean, in practical, daily, real-world terms, do you believe that Jesus was serious in saying that his family is made up only of those who hear the word of God and obey it?

If you answer, “no”, Jesus did not mean his words to be taken literally, then you must answer this question: What, really, did Jesus mean? When he defined his real family as obedient hearers of the word of God, and if he did not mean exactly what he said, then what did he mean?

The truth is, there is no hidden message in Jesus’ words. The Lord meant exactly what it sounds like he meant. And he not only said precisely what he intended to say; I am persuaded that he is still saying it -- and that he still means it the same way. I am persuaded that God, through Jesus Christ, still considers no one to be a member of His family except those who have heard from Him, and who have obeyed what they heard.

Confessing Christ

Many years ago, Jesus taught me that if we follow his example in just this one thing, if we are like him in nothing but this holy attitude concerning who our real family is, those who are of this world will hate us. There is something about Jesus’ innocent and pure way of looking at life and family that enrages those who are “in the flesh” rather than “in the Spirit”. Nevertheless, at some point in your walk with God, you will be compelled to face the hatred and summon the courage (the courage of Jesus) to confess God’s family. That is no strange thing. Isn’t the confession of belonging to God’s family just another way of confessing that we are “aliens and pilgrims on the earth”, as did our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Heb. 11:13)? Would an alien to earth have relatives living here?

What did Paul mean when he said we are citizens of a heavenly country (Heb. 11:16)? or that we are God’s ambassadors for Christ (2Cor. 5:20)? Make your decision! Was Paul really speaking for Christ? Did he really mean what he said? Or was Peter serious about describing the lives of saints on earth as a “sojourning” (1Pet. 1:17); that is, a temporary stay in a foreign land? Of course these men meant what they said! It was real to them! They did not belong on earth, and they said so. And for those men of God to make such a confession was to confess Christ, who came from his heavenly home into this wicked world to make it possible for us to belong in his world and to belong to his family. But if we who believe refuse to confess that basic truth before men, Jesus warned us that he will refuse to confess us before the Father:

Matthew 10
32. Everyone who confesses me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven.
But whoever denies me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven.

When Paul called believers “brothers” and “sisters”, he was confessing Christ and his family before men. Paul understood that all who believe have the same heavenly Father, and he lived his life as though the family of God really was his family. That was not evil for Paul to do. Neither does that mean that Paul was unkind or unmindful of the feelings and needs of any earthly relatives that he had. He said he grieved constantly for his unbelieving “kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:1-3). We never hear of any of Paul’s close natural relatives coming to Christ, but he must have maintained some sort of relationship with some of them, even if a small one. Paul’s sister’s son, you will recall, was visiting him in prison in Caesarea when the lad overheard some Jews making plans to murder Paul (Acts 23:12-16).


Paul exhorted the saints to do good to everyone, as opportunity presented itself, but then he added, “especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). In this, Paul was telling the saints that to do good to God’s children is more important than to do good to others. What made Paul’s exhortation a godly one is that doing good to “those of the household of faith” pleases God more than doing good to others. God “loved the world” and gave His Son for the sins of all; still, He holds His children dearer than He does worldly people, and everything in the Bible, rightly divided, teaches us that.

God, speaking through Moses on one occasion and the young prophet Zechariah on another, told His Old Testament people that among all nations, they were “the apple of my eye” (Dt. 32:10; Zech. 2:8). There will come a time, appointed for us of the Father, when we will be called upon to confess that Moses and Zechariah, as well as Christ Jesus and Paul, and others like them, were really speaking for God and that they really meant what they said. God’s family is special to Him, and while He may be willing, at this moment in time, to forgive and receive sinners, He will in the end destroy them forever if they do not repent, and He make sure the wicked never trouble His dear children again.

At some point in your pilgrimage, my brothers and sisters, you will be asked by God to confess His Son and His family before men. That family begins with God’s Son, your brother, Jesus, and it includes all who love God as Jesus does. But be prepared for the hatred and the slander that will follow your confession. The world abhors and scoffs at the very idea of anyone belonging to a real, distinguishable family of God in Christ; therefore, when any of God’s children testify to the reality of that sweet, holy family, and testify of their participation in it, they will feel both the contempt of ungodly men and the burning heat of the world’s cruel wrath.