I came to know Christ about five years ago, in 2011. One of the things that I found attractive about the Christian life was the community that every Christian was a part of. People really loved each other at church!
I had come out of a background where I had felt very isolated and broken, so this was a big deal! I honestly could not believe that there were people that loved me for me.
Since becoming saved the church has always been somewhat of a safe haven for me. I’ve considered the church to be my family if you will. That perspective coupled with what I read in Scripture has formed my theology of the church as I know it today.
So what is the church, exactly?
Many people believe that the church is simply the building or structure that Christians meet within to worship on Sundays.
While this is partly true, the church is indeed the name of the building with which Christians worship in, it is also the name given to the people of God. The new community of believers that have gone from stained to sanctified by His grace and love.
Throughout Scripture, the organism that is the church is referred to as the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, as well as the People of God.
The church is living and active. It is affected by things internal and external. It grows, it develops, and it can even become stagnate. The church is meant to be a dynamic organization of believers, not a static one.
With all of these terms for the church, the church as the family of God has had insufficient emphasis placed on it. The church is most commonly referred to as one of the items that I listed above.
I believe that the church as the family of God is supported entirely throughout the New Testament and will become of greater prominence as more post-moderns make their way into our churches.
Here is some Scriptural evidence that I’ve discovered for the church as the family of God:
- God is referred to as “Father”
- “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” -1 John 3:1a NIV (italics mine)
- Believers are referred to as “children”
- “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-” -John 1:12 NIV (italics mine)
- Believers refer to one another as “brothers and sisters”
- “So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another,” -Romans 7:4a NIV (italics mine)
- Scripture declares that believers are a part of God’s “household”
- “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household,” -Ephesians 2:19 NIV (italics mine)
- Scripture refers to Jesus as a believer’s “brother”
- “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” -Hebrews 2:11 NIV (italics mine)
Those are just five examples of the family of God in Scripture. There are countless more.
So what does this mean?
- The church should be a source of unconditional love. I have never questioned the love that my mother has for me. I know that now matter how badly I screw up, that will not affect my mother’s love for me. The same needs to be said of the family of God. As Christians, we must be known for our extravagant love for one another and those that have yet to join the family.
- The church must be accepting. My family has always accepted me because I am simply a part of the family. I didn’t apply to be in my family or pass a test. I was born into it. Just as we are born into our natural family, we are born into our spiritual family. We needn’t put burdensome requirements on those that wish to join the family. All that is required is faith.
- Brothers and sisters must get along. I’m not saying that everyone in the family has to like one another, but there has to be a degree of cohesion amongst brothers and sisters. The Apostle Paul put it best when he wrote, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another,” (Romans 13:8a, NIV). We don’t have to like everyone because sometimes that just isn’t reality, but we do have to make an effort to be one with other believers. We are a family and that’s what families do.
Pastor Rick Warren put it well when he said, “Many people think that Christianity is a belief system, but it is a belong system.”
Let’s do our best to belong to God’s family and include others in the process.
What do you think about the church as the family of God? What other images of the church do you particularly like? Let me know in the comments section!
–Tyler W. Hanna