The Family Of God
By Lois J. Stucky (1928 – 2014)
We read in Ephesians 3:14-15 of the apostle Paul bowing his knees “unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,” and he offers holy petitions that this family might have God’s best, extending even to being “filled with all the fullness of God.” Who is this family “in heaven and earth” whom Paul has on his heart?
Bishop J. C. Ryle (1816 – 1900), in the book Practical Religion, writes helpfully about this family. He says this family consists “of all real Christians, of all who have the Spirit, of all true believers in Christ, of the saints of every age, and church, and nation, and tongue.” These are they whom Paul speaks of elsewhere as “the household of God” (Eph. 2:19), and “the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). They are no longer “strangers and foreigners.” How blessed are those who are in the family of God!
Bishop Ryle suggests several reasons why true Christians are called a family. First of all, they are all children of one Father, for they are children of God by faith in Jesus Christ, born into the family by the same Holy Spirit. They all worship and love the same Father, and trust Him for His loving provision for all their needs.
Secondly, they all worship and love the same “great Lord and elder brother, even Jesus Christ the Lord.” They bear the same family name: Christian. Jesus plainly tells us, “...whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother” (Matt. 12:50; Mark 3:35).
Thirdly, says Ryle, true Christians are called family because “there is so strong a family likeness among them.” Just as brothers and sisters in an earthly family often bear a resemblance to one another, so should true Christians. Ryle suggests some likenesses: they all hate sin and love God. They rest their hope of salvation on Christ. They endeavor to love not the world but to set their affections on things above. They all feed their souls on God’s precious Word, the Bible. They all gather to the same heavenly throne in prayer. All have had spiritual experiences, varying but essentially similar, such as repentance, faith, hope, love, humility, putting off the old man of sin and putting on the new man in Christ.
Such, briefly, is an explanation of the family of God on “earth.” And added to that, is an innumerable host already gathered “in heaven.” They have finished their earthly journey, and behind them are earthly troubles, dangers, crosses, pains and suffering, disappointments and fears. Now they are gathered with Christ above. Glory! Joy! Peace! And one day all the family now “in heaven and earth” will be gathered in one with a glorious future now largely hidden from us!
It is inexpressively wonderful to be part of the family of God! Can our hearts take it in? No matter of what race or culture or nationality we are, true Christians are one family. The one most recently called out of darkness into the glorious light of the Gospel, hardly a step away from hell itself, and the most mature and holy saints are in the one family of God. True Christians whose doctrines differ from one another in non-essentials are in the one family of God. Might we never forget that God loved the world (John 3:16), and sent His Son to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14). Do we not eagerly want to be a part of the answer to Christ’s prayer that His people might be one? (John 17:20-23).
O God, enlarge our hearts and increase our vision if we have need of it! Take us again to Psalm 133 where we read how beautiful it is to God when His children “dwell together in unity.”