Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…
In a world where people have lost a sense of belonging, and where individuality and one’s right to privacy is the primary rule of life, the kingdom of Jesus Christ and His Gospel should provide a striking contrast. While we in Christ’s church were once a people who were spiritually dead, in bondage to Satan, children of wrath by nature, and strangers to God and His covenants; while we lived our lives based upon selfish principles, looking after our own needs and the needs of our own families; now in Christ all this has changed! But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Eph 2:13). Because of Christ’s work, we are now therefore no longer strangers, but fellow citizens – members of God’s household! In other words, we are family!
Instead of living as God’s family, one of the ways in which the church of our day has resembled the world, is in the manner in which the Gospel of the kingdom is presented as to the individual. As we breathe in the atmosphere of worldly individualism, it should not surprise us to find our theology affected. We hear much in the evangelical church today about making Christ “Lord and personal Savior.” With the strong emphasis of these words in today’s evangelism, would it surprise you to discover that there is no such language in Scripture? While it is true that salvation is a work of God within the heart of the individual, it is no less true that the consistent pattern of Scripture is that a truly born-again Christian is necessarily joined to a church. It was the view of the reformers that there can be no salvation apart from the church. This is not to be understood to suggest that the work of church attendance is in any way salvific, but that the new nature, created by the Holy Spirit’s regenerative work on of the heart, necessarily manifests itself in the desire to be with God’s household – His family – His church. Your salvation is designed to be worked out in the context of a living, breathing, community – a household – with brothers and sisters who encourage one another, pray for one another, confess sins one to another, help each other, forgive each other – in a word, love one another with a love that is deeper than our sins against one another, so that it may not be subverted by them.
Sadly, to most professing Christians, the concept of church has eroded into a place where people go – instead of what it truly is – the gathering of the family of God. Our concept of fellowship has been reduced to eating a cookie and having a cup of coffee after church over some idle chit chat. Compare this to what Paul is saying in Ephesians. Namely that we a part of a people with whom we now belong – a family with whom we learn to get along – a home to live in which has a deep and strong foundation. This is what is implied in Paul’s use of the term “household.” We are not guests – here today and gone tomorrow. We are not strangers, treated with merely a common courtesy; but we are in every sense of the word, family – begotten by God and entitled to the privileges of brotherly harmony and paternal direction and protection.
The people of God are often likened to a family or household in Scripture. God’s people in the Old Testament are often referred to a His house (see Num 12:7, Hos 8:1). Hebrews 3:2-6 links the Old Testament community with the New Testament household of Christ, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end (Heb 3:6). 1 Timothy 3:15 directly links the term church with the house of God. In Ephesians 2, Paul emphasizes the unity of the Christian household, by enlarging the “household” metaphor, to describe that this house, which is God’s family, is built upon a sound foundation, having its roots in the teaching of the apostles and prophets, all resting upon the chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ. The soundness of the construction of this house, that is the unity of Christ’s people, is based upon Christ being our foundation, our spiritual center. He is our “household head” and our spiritual protector.
Whom do you count as your family? In Matthew 12: 46-50, when Jesus is told that his mother and brothers were waiting to speak with Him, His response was, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Mt 12:48-50). At the very least Jesus is teaching that blood ties are not as important as spiritual ties. Likewise, the church is to be such a household – one in which those who remain strangers are welcome; where timid members feel secure because they are treated with grace. Such is only possible as each member of the household would count others as more significant than themselves. Where there is pride, there will be contention; but where there is humility the family of God can dwell securely, loving God and loving others.
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