Serving Christians Seeking to Live a Holy Life

The Family of God

8/26/96
Leon L. Combs, Ph.D.

I. Membership

How and when does one become a member of the Family of God? John 1:12 states, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name."

Thus all people are not children of God as some say. When a person receives Jesus as his Lord and Savior then he becomes a child of God and thus part of God's family. The joy of an "earth-birth" should give us some insight into the greatness of a new birth into the Kingdom of God. Isn't it a great event when a child is born here? No wonder the angels rejoice when someone becomes a Christian! A new child has been born into the Kingdom of God! Pass the manna!

Jesus said "Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Nicodemus did not understand this at all (John 3:4). He wanted to know how a man can be born again when he is old. "He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?"

Nicodemus was probably being very sarcastic. Although he did not understand, his statement is a key for us in understanding the nature of our new birth process regarding the finality of it. Just as you cannot reenter your mother's womb and be physically born again, it is also impossible to lose your spiritual life and be spiritually born twice. The spiritual birth is an event that only occurs once for an individual. "Once saved always saved" is obvious from the analogy given us here in the Bible (also see John 5:24).

We should examine ourselves to be sure that we have been born again (2Cor 13:5). We don't have any doubt that we have been physically born do we? Similarly when we really are born spiritually, we should have no doubt about that either. Billy Graham has said (TV telecast of this era and later) that perhaps 70% of the members of Baptist churches are not really Christians. His statement was based upon a lack of evidence of a changed life as documented in polls taken comparing the activities of people who attend church regulary and those who do not attend church.. A Christian is a New Creature born again in the image of God with the Holy Spirit living within him to provide guidance in his daily walk in the world. If a person truly has experienced such a supernatural event then the world and other Christians should see a change in that person's life. Works do not produce salvation, but true salvation produces a person with a driving desire to produce works pleasing to God.

So if one has truly repented and accepted Jesus as the ruler of their life then one is a member of the Family of God and this membership cannot be lost. We will never be kicked out or stolen out, and we can never reject this membership (Rom 8:38-39).

II. Benefits

We could discuss this topic for weeks. We have eternal life beginning at the moment we are born again (John 5:24). Thus we will never die (John 11:25-26). This doesn't mean that we won't die physically, but that the earth death is really just a release so that we can totally experience the eternal life which began when we were born spiritually.

We also have a gift from God -- His spirit, the Holy Spirit to live in our lives for as long as we remain on earth. He will comfort us, teach us, guide us in this life, and give us gifts to function as members of God's family here. We could talk for a week about the gifts. For now here are a few scriptures to read: Eph 4:11, Rom 12:3-8, 1 Cor 12:8-10, 28-30, and 1Peter 4:9-10. The gifts include prophecy, ministering, teaching, exhorting, giving, showing mercy, hospitality, discernment, evangelism, pastoring, tongues, healing, miracles, etc. The purpose of these gifts is for the church (groups of believers) to better function here. They are not talents and they are not fruit. Each Christian has the Spirit of God living in him and has been given at least one gift which is to be used in the world and in the Family of God.

We have angels to help us (Heb 1:14). "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?" When we ask God for help in a particular situation He may send angels to help us. They are one of the benefits given us by God as members of the Family of God. (Note that there are no female angels in the Bible. Also we are not to pray to angels for they are also created beings. We pray to God the Father through The Lord Jesus Christ.)

We have a new philosophy of life to help us live here. We know that we will live with God forever. This new philosophy allows us to face life in a different way from the rest of the world (2Cor 4:7-10). We will still have pain, disappointment, death of friends and loved ones, sickness, rejection, etc. and in fact more so for now we are aliens living in a world ruled by one whose authority we have now rejected. As a traitor to Satan, we will be sought after by him in every way. However we need not have a life of crushing, despairing, forsakenness, and destruction as we are told in 2Cor 4:7-10. Some don't appropriate the power of God in their lives and they let situations devastate them. We can live with victory even in this world!

What benefits! I heard Adrian Rogers say once that even if there were no life after death, he would still choose to be a Christian because of the difference it makes in living here, now. But we also have life eternal!

III. Obligations

I have responded to my child's reason for wanting to do something I did not want him to do "All the other kids are doing it" with "Well, their last name is not Combs." This type of reply means that our family has some guidelines for behavior that don't depend upon the behavior of the rest of the world. The same is true of God. He expects a different behavior from His children. Note that behavior does not allow one to become a child of God. But being a child of God, we have certain guidelines of behavior that are expected of us by God. God will discipline His children when their behavior is not in accord with those guidelines (Heb 12:6-8). The discipline is not so pleasant (Heb 12:11), but afterwards the love in the family is even stronger than before as we better understand the love of God and our responsibility in His Family.

Remember those gifts we mentioned? They are meant to be used within the Church and in the world (Rom 12:4-8). We will have to answer to God for not using the gift(s).

We are to reckon ourselves dead to sin (Rom 6:11). This means to totally know that we don't ever have to respond to temptation again! The total reckoning of this in our lives is part of the process we call sanctification and is to be a goal for all of God's children. We are commanded to grow toward maturity.

The story of David's affair with Bathsheba is an excellent example of the obligation of being in the Family of God. David didn't do anything more than what all the other kings in the world were doing. In fact he didn't do nearly as badly as they did on their scale of acceptability. But he was a member of the Family of God and he could not do what the other kings did, so although he repented and was forgiven by God, he was disciplined for the rest of his life because of the affair. This story demonstrates excellent principles of membership in the Family which we should remember as we walk through the world.

IV Organization

In every church God has given spiritual leaders to serve the entire congregation to help them all grow toward maturity. Part of being a child of God is to be active in such a church. We come together to worship God, to hear the scriptures taught, and to become a more mature child of God (Eph 4:11-16). Toward this growth God has provided leadership:

Apostles -- There are no more apostles since part of the requirement is that the disciple must have walked with Jesus, but many interpret this leadership role in this dispensation (time frame) to be missionaries.

Prophets -- These edify people with the word of God in a way that must conform with the teachings of the Bible, and the declarations of the prophet are usually portions of the Bible which are appropriate to a particular situation.

Evangelists -- These exercise the gift to tell non-Christians about Christ.

Teachers -- These have the gift of explaining scripture to others.

Overseers -- Note that there are different levels of maturity and dedication for all offices and different responsibilities. The overseer (1Tim 3:1) is also translated bishop or pastor or presiding elder. He is the man God has placed in spiritual leadership of a congregation and is responsible to God for their spiritual growth.

Deacons --- The deacons (1Tim 3:8-13) are under the overseer in spiritual authority in a congregation and should also continue to mature. They should be servant models for others in the congregation and should not be thought of as those who "run the church." They help the pastor in the spiritual affairs of the church. The church body is self-governing (autonomous). Only Jesus Christ is the head of the church. Jesus is served by the pastor, the deacons, and all the other members of the Family. All members are priests for we all have access to the Father through our High Priest, Jesus Christ. Thus the term "leaders in the church" does not have the same meaning as it does in a worldly organization.

All of the above "leaders" serve Christ and serve each member to help all grow to maturity.

V. Purpose

As members of the Family of God we form the Church with the threefold mission:

  1. Mission toward God -- glorify God. The other two are joined under this one.
  2. Mission to the world -- the great commission.
  3. Mission to self -- the building up of the body toward a likeness of Christ.

All Christians have obligations to continue to grow and function better as an assembly of God's children and to help nurture others. Wherever we go we must always remember whose child we are and behave so that Jesus will be proud of us. But we also must remember that God loves us perfectly and when we fail he will forgive and forget. Also we should all keep alert to help other family members and when they fail, forgive and forget.

E-Mail

Web Author: Dr. Leon L. Combs
Copyright 2000 by Dr. Leon L. Combs - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED