There are many metaphors in the Bible to describe Christians and the church. We are called the temple of God. A vineyard. Sheep. The Bride of Christ. The Body of Christ. And the Kingdom of God.
But my favorite and one of the most understandable and relatable is the church as a family. God created us for community. Relationships. And family. One writer expressed it this way, “A Christian without a church family is an orphan.”
This week in Sudbury, Ontario, I’ve been thinking about the family aspect of the church. Monday night I preached a lesson on “My Family–The Church.” Then as I engaged in my daily Bible reading this morning, this passage jumped out at me.
“I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth” (1 Tim. 3:14-15)
In the past 50 years, people have become increasingly “anti-church.” The church is often spoken of in pejorative terms. Sometimes even by those who belong to a church. People contemptuously speak of “organized religion” as something to avoid.
Yet, the Bible speaks of the church for which Christ died, as that which expresses the manifold wisdom of God. It is people who work, worship, minister, learn, grow, and fellowship. Together. Like a family.
The term “household” literally refers to a dwelling. But is used by metonymy, Dr. Thayer says, to “all the persons forming one family.” And so some English translations render the word “family.”
This verse reminds us of some important Biblical lessons.
(1) God never intended for His people to live in isolation from one another. We are called not just to believe, but to belong. We belong to God. To the church family. To each other. We need each other for strength, support, and to serve God and our fellow man.
(2) God’s Family is one. While there are individual family units, or as we call them local churches or congregations, all over the world, there is one family of God, as Paul indicated in Ephesians 3:15–“the whole family in heaven and on earth.”
This summer in working with churches in Ontario, Canada, I am reminded of the beauty of God’s family beyond the United States where I have primarily ministered. These wonderful brethren, are small in number by human standards, but strong in spirit. Spiritually focused. Joyfully serving. Enthusiastically worshiping. Unashamedly sharing their faith. And enjoying a family fellowship. Eating together. Working together. Caring for one another. And functioning like a real family should.
The other thing I have noticed is the support the brethren extend to each other. I wonder if we have so emphasized congregational autonomy to the point where local churches isolate themselves from one another and even look at each other as competitors. These brethren from different congregations know one another. Attend each other’s meetings. Participate in area-wide functions in each others’ homes. I sense a care, concern and compassion that extends to all of God’s family within the region.
(3) Family Members ought to behave themselves. We often remind our children that their behavior is a reflection, for good or bad, upon the family name. Those who wear the name “Christian” ought to conduct themselves in a certain way.
Our behavior in the family of God ought to reflect positively upon our Heavenly Father. We are to be “obedient children.” To “be holy.” To “walk in the light.” Not in the darkness of the world and its lustful carousing.
(4) God’s Family upholds the Truth. God’s Word is Truth. We know it. Believe it. And uphold it. The church is to be the foundation of Truth. The bulwark of Truth. The buttress of Truth. We’re not ashamed of God’s Word or His way. He is our Father, and we will boldly defend His name, His family and His Word.
God’s Family is special. Unique. And a beauty to behold when it functions as He intended.
I thank God for His family. All over the world.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman