One of the most rewarding truths of the Christian life for me has been understanding the Church as family. It delights me to know that while the Bible certainly talks about Christians making up the body of Christ, far more frequently the language is familial – Christians are brothers and sisters, God is our Father, and Jesus is our elder brother. In Ephesians 1:4b-5, the Apostle Paul wrote, “In love [God] predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Emphasis added). Did you catch it? In love, he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ.
God does not just invite individuals to become Christians. He chooses, calls, and adopts them as his own children. The great privilege of the child of God is to call him, “Abba, Father”, as the Holy Spirit continues to free the Christian’s heart from its orphan-like ways (Galatians 4:4-6). Even more amazing is that Christians are adopted as sons and daughters, not because we are a certain age, nationality, or have a certain physical or intellectual make-up, but solely because of the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21). As a result, instead of enduring the wrath of God throughout eternity, the Christian will never be loved more or less than the day they were justified. What a wondrous, eternal love this is!
God looked among the orphans of the world and chose those whom he would call his own. He made the legal transaction of justification, and the transfer was made from one family to the next. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3). Paul refers to those who are not children of God as the “sons of disobedience… children of wrath.” This is the state of every soul prior to the justifying grace of God in one’s life. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7). No longer sons of disobedience. No longer children of wrath. Now, children of the King who have obtained an eternal inheritance (Ephesians 1:11).
The understanding that Christians are brothers and sisters comes from an understanding that adoption creates family, bound together in Christ Jesus. No one has a greater standing than others, but all are on equal footing, counted as “holy and blameless before [God]” (Ephesians 1:4). Therefore, the distinctions of brother and sister among Christians mustn’t be taken lightly. To call another Christian “brother” or “sister” is to affirm a mutual standing with them as a child of God. This important distinction is saying, “We have the same Father who loves us, who has rescued us, who has adopted us and calls us His own, and as a result, I can now call you my brother, my sister.” Brother and sister are not just words. They are hugely significant truths that say something about Christians standing with one another.
The Church of Jesus Christ is not a gathering of acquaintances, friends, or even fellow church members. Indeed, to be a Christian in relationship with others is far greater than even a blood relation. The Church is made up of brothers and sisters in Christ who have an unbreakable unity with all of God’s children in the past, present, and future. So the implications should be clear: Christians make up a family of faith that will naturally sacrifice for one another, encourage and help one another, speak well of each other and handle conflicts with a great desire to restore broken and damaged relationships. Christians hold tightly to one another, even in difficult times when the things of tomorrow are uncertain. Christians rejoice and weep together. Christians do not walk out on one another. Christians seek to fulfill Galatians 6:10: “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Christians have a great desire to be at the family gathering (corporate worship) each and every week. And yes, just like our biological families, sometimes our relationships with our siblings are difficult, but we still love and serve them with a greater sense of duty than we have toward others. This is the Christian way.
Brothers and sisters, aren’t you delighted to be in the adopted family of God?
(By: Nick Kennicott)