We want today to begin drawing this series of articles to a close with some thoughts on the family of God as it was intended by the Creator to function and what its intended role in the divine scheme is intended to be. To establish the background for this meditation on the family of God, consider the following reading …
Ephesians 4:11-16; “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
While the terminology of family is not used here, there is a definite allusion to the function of family in this reading. It is the business of family to teach, instruct, train and discipline children with the view of bringing them to responsible, productive adulthood. That is exactly what this passage is about.
Families were given by God for the purpose of rearing children to know and love God. This theme was repeated in the Old Testament over and over.
Deut. 4:9-10; “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children—how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’” (See also).
Deut. 11:18-21 “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.”
Notice the reason for this teaching. “…so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so…” “that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land…” The point of the teaching was that people might know how to live in this world in the way God always intended that men should live. What the parents were to pass on to their children was knowledge for living – living for not just themselves but for the family, and the larger extensions of the tribe and the nation. And for the glory of God.
Now think about what Paul wrote in the passage from Ephesians 4. He speaks about the acquisition of knowledge – the knowledge of the Son of God. The knowledge of God is the most important education one can acquire. There was a time when schools – including universities – taught about God, considering education incomplete without a knowledge of the divine. That day is long past. Today God has been “kicked off campus” and is not welcome in most of the schools in our nation.
But it never was the responsibility of schools (except as they are seen as extensions of the family) to educate each succeeding generation in the knowledge of God. Today, schools are not seen as adjuncts of the home, but as agencies of the government to advance the social agenda of the prevailing political party’s philosophy. So often today that philosophy is completely at odds with the principles held by those set forth in God’s word.
Where it should be, according to the apostle, the responsibility of the church, the spiritual family, to train and educate each succeeding generation, that is not being done. Many “conservative” churches today cannot be relied on to pass on this knowledge since they have so aligned themselves with right wing political parties and their platforms that they have forgotten where their hope really lies and what their responsibility really is. Sadly, these people are seemingly dependent on the government to meet all human needs and to teach each succeeding generation how to live in this present world – and that is not what government is for. Even if it could be relied on to so teach, it cannot do so because government is a human agency fraught with all the weaknesses of humanity.
Other churches are seemingly more interested in maintaining their sectarian stance so that the teaching of the knowledge of Christ is practically omitted from their programs in favor of their denominational dogmas and creeds. With these, it is as though they exist only for themselves and not for the world. But as we have noted previously, the spiritual descendants of Abraham exist to be a blessing to the world. And that blessing of the nations, contrary to what some may believe, is not just to save souls so they can go to heaven in the “sweet by and by.” God made us to live in the present and to do his will in the here and now as well as to live in hope for a glorious future. It is this teaching of how to live that is so sorely needed in our day.
Who will teach these eternal principles? That responsibility must ultimately fall back on the family. Every parent wants to see their children grow up to be successful, responsible adults. The meaning of success, however, varies from family to family, depending on their orientation toward God and the eternal. People who are oriented to the material and earthly will teach their children how to succeed in this world in a material way. This teaching will be slanted toward getting what the individual wants or what they think will make them happy. This approach to life is inevitably doomed to failure because it does not take the true nature of the human creature into consideration.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be happy. But the real question is not what will make us happy, but how to attain what is the best both for ourselves and for others around us. If our desire is for anything less than this we have a too-narrow view of what happiness is and how to attain it.Man was not made to be merely happy, but to do the will of our Creator.The issue turns on where can we find that will of God – what is the best for us so as to apply that to our lives and achieve that desired end. It should be understood that when we find and do that will of God we will have achieved the purpose for our being and therefore find the deepest satisfaction in life that is possible to achieve.
So, if life is not just about being happy, what is it about? What is God’s will for our lives? What is the role of the family – the family of God in achieving this objective?
The purpose of the family for the children is that they grow up into mature, well adjusted, responsible, productive adults. The function of the spiritual family is to bring every child of God to a state of mature manhood according to the knowledge of the Son of God. What is that ideal toward which the young and immature children are to be directed? It is nothing less than this: “…the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” He is the ideal, the model, the perfect image of the Father in whose image we were created and whose image we are intended to bear. It is his image we are intended to acquire. We are “…predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29).
The children of God were predestined – intended from the creation to be conformed to the image of the Son of God. Why? Because we are sons of God! Jesus is the firstborn among many brothers. We are intended to live like him, for him and with him. This life is merely the training for that eternal life he has prepared for us.
But what does that life consist of? It is not dreaming of “pie in the sky by and by” nor even of “mansions in the sky.” Neither are we simply in a “holding pattern” waiting until it is time for us to “fly away by and by.” Christians are called to live in this world and for this world as we live in the image of our Lord. That is a high and holy calling that often requires us to get down on our knees, not just to pray, but to suffer and to serve as he did when he was here. It is a life that will often take us in directions opposite to the way we think we should go. Sometimes it will mean being misunderstood and mistrusted. Sometimes it will mean being hated and reviled, even by people we might think should be the first to stand up and speak up on our behalf. How do I know these things will be for the children of God? Because they happened to our brother, Jesus. If we follow in his steps it will happen to us.
So, how do we prepare for this kind of life? Who is there that can help us to know what to expect and to have the resources to deal with these things when they come? That is what we want to think about in our next post.