Frequently in the Epistles of the New Testament we find believers referred to as ‘brethren’ (‘αδελφοι’ in Greek) – e.g. 1 Thessalonians 4:13. The Apostles, as leaders of the Early Church, would refer to their flocks as ‘children’ (‘τεκνια’ in Greek) at times – e.g. 1 John 2:1. The purpose of this post is not to discuss the use of titles such as ‘father’ in a church context, but to emphasize the family links between believers in Jesus.
The basis for this link may be found in John 1:12-13 (NKJV), ‘But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ Belief in Jesus the Messiah is the starting point for a return to the family of God.
Why do I use the word return? At Luke 3:38 Adam, the first human, is referred to as ‘the son of God’ (‘του θεου’ in Greek – granted the word ‘son’ is missing, but the context and genitive construction implies it). Mankind started out as children of God, but our sin and expulsion from the Garden separated us from Him; we no longer enjoyed the kind of communion a family experiences.
This separation is seen the the way that God is described in the Old Testament; to be sure, there are a few instances where He is referred to as Father, but mostly He is not. With the Messenger of the New Covenant, Jesus the Messiah, comes reconciliation and restoration. He teaches Man to once again call God ‘Father’ (see Matthew 6:1-17 and Matthew 23:9). God’s Spirit in us teaches us to cry out ‘Abba’, which is a Hebrew word meaning something like ‘Dad’, to God (Galatians 4:6).
So, where does that leave us? I am very blessed to be in a church where everyone knows and cares for each other; we really do feel like a family. But I’ve been in larger churches where it’s harder to get to know everyone. Homegroups and meals together after church have been a wonderful way for me to get to know other believers, if not all of those at that church.
They say that blood is thicker than water. Christ by His blood has restored mankind to the family of God; it is by His love and sacrifice that we are adopted. This is why we need to treasure other believers as family – because Christ died for you, just as He died for me. Our home is not on earth, but in Heaven (John 14:2-3; Philippians 3:20). By all means we should love and cherish our earthly family – anyone who does not is worse than an unbeliever (Exodus 20:12; 1 Timothy 5:8). But it is our heavenly family that will stand the test of time, that will last through the ages. We need to make a special effort to maintain the bond of love in the family of God; just as a real family goes through its trials, arguments, and highs, so we go through the challenges and pleasures of family life.
I’ll leave you with these words from our Lord, ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.’ (John 13:34-35, NKJV.)
St Bosco said:
Youre talking about the new testament,which is meant for the born again, not the unsaved. The unsaved are blinded to the things of the spirit. You must be born again if you want to understand the NT.Sorry
You’re referring to Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 2:14, ‘The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.’ I agree, only those who have been born again, who have been given the Holy Spirit can truly understand the things of God. I would consider myself a born again Christian, but I have a problem with saying whether other people are born again – ‘judge nothing before the appointed time’ (1 Corinthians 4:5). I would describe myself as a non-denominational Christian.
St Bosco said:
The born again can tell another born again. We can hear the voice of the Lord in the way they talk. “My sheep know my voice”. Good brother Nicholas, ask Jesus to show himself to you. Its the only way.
Carl D'Agostino said:
I have been following the debate re the claim that one particular denomination has the exclusivity of being the one and only correct religion/denomination. Unfortunately some of those claimants do not find merit in the sense of family( for which I agree) that you present in this post. The lack of efficacy in this exclusiveness claim is illustrated in that the followers of the Jesus movement led by Peter in Jerusalem claimed that the Messiah was the exclusive property of the Jews. Naturally Paul disagreed, bringing the Gospel to gentiles, pagans and even Greeks ! Certainly this reflects that no religion/denomination has an exclusive gnosticism re proper protocol to follow Jesus and no group can logically claim to be the anointed chosen in Christ.
Thank you for your words. You can see from Acts and Paul’s letters that factionalism (e.g. 1 Corinthians 3:3-4 and Galatians 2:11-21) was a problem for the Church from its earliest days. Thankfully it didn’t conquer them – the Apostles were able to work out their differences. Peter clearly respected Paul and Paul Peter (2 Peter 3:14-16). A wonderful modern example is the Church in China. I expect you’ve read The Heavenly Man, but if you haven’t, the author talks about how churches in China split over some points of doctrine – notably the Gifts of the Spirit. But in the end, they were able to come together once more through a spirit of love. They recognized that on essential points of doctrine they were in agreement and they saw the importance of unity in the defense and spread of the Gospel.