Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: Wisdom: God’s United Family of Faith

Friday, June 1, 2007

Wisdom: God’s United Family of Faith

46 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. 47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. 48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? 49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:46-50).

Family is important to most people. Our deepest and closest relationships are often with members of our families. Regardless of personal failings and offenses common to the intimate relationships within families, family members seldom divorce themselves from one another. We continue to love one another often through the grossest of failures. We know the minute details of the strengths and weaknesses of our parents, brothers and sisters and, sons and daughters. Yet, we love them anyway. They may have hurt us in ways we cannot speak of without shedding tears, yet we open our doors for them when they come to visit. Perhaps this really is what defines Christian love.

In most cases, no one gets to choose his or her family. When we are born, we are born with a Dad and Mom, Grandfathers and Grandmothers, Aunts and Uncles, cousins and, often, brothers and sisters. We have absolutely no choice or control over the gene pool into which we are born. A wise person does not spend time criticizing his/her gene pool before the world. Good, bad or ugly, these people are the people that come to our family reunions. In many cases, we have little or nothing in common with these people accept the gene pool and family heritage we share. We share history with these people and often that history is not pleasant to remember because history is the record of both successes and failures. Family successes are put upon the mantel for everyone to see and brag about. Family failures are hidden in the recesses of the closet with the unspoken expectation of never being publicly mentioned. The Black Sheep of our families seem to think it their responsibility to keep the closets full.

A local church is a family of faith we choose to be a part of and to which we agree to be spiritually accountable. What a wonderful blessing a local church of true believers can be to each other when we love one another the way God loves each of us. It can even be a greater blessing when we learn to love God the way He loves each of us.

Herein lays the great difference between a church with a sociological purpose and one with a doxological purpose. A church with a sociological purpose has its focus upon maintaining social relationships within the membership. This type of local church is little more than a social club. Although meeting social needs is important, a local church with a doxological purpose understands that the primary responsibility of each congregant is to maintain a right relationship with God. Only when the latter is a reality can the former be of any merit.

A truly Biblical local church is a growing organism of faith (truth lived) committed to and intent upon bringing glory to God by knowing doctrinal truth and living that truth in very tangible and evident ways. A truly Biblical local church is an organism of people intent upon complete separation from worldliness and apostasy while equally intent upon engaging the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ and the realities of eternity. This is what the Family of God “in Christ” does. This is what Christ addresses in Matthew 12:50 when He says, “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

The Family of God is not one born with genetic links of DNA. The Family of God is the composite of all “born again” people joined by the baptism with the Holy Spirit of God into the New Genesis “in Christ.” This Family of God are joined with a common faith (belief system) based solely on the Word of God that manifests itself by living those common beliefs and is accountable to one another for how we live those common beliefs.

The Family of God is divided into household units called local churches. Joining one’s self to a family (local church) is one thing. Being a family is another thing altogether. The emphasis of doing “the will” of the “Father which is in heaven” is on being family. Being a member of God’s family comes with some requirements. We are not talking about being saved here. We are talking about what a believer needs to do in order to manifest family-ness (unity of beliefs and practice). There are a number of elements necessary to the equation of the unity of beliefs and practice. First, there is the necessity of understanding Who Jesus is, what the purpose of His incarnation is all about, understanding what He accomplished through His death, burial and resurrection and, finally placing complete trust and dependence upon Him and what He has accomplished so as to be miraculously “born again” of the Spirit of God. This is the first “will of” the “Father which is in heaven.”

28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. 30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? 31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. 32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. 34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. 36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. 37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:28-40).

Secondly, members of the family of God are expected to be obedient to the commands of God. Commands come from the Father to His “born again” children. God’s children are expected to study God’s Word and “rightly divide” it so that they can know the will of God and do the will of God (II Timothy 2:15). True children understand the authority of the will of the Father and obedience manifests submission to that authority. Those who truly understand the Fatherhood of God willingly accept His chastisement (discipline) when they disobey God’s commands. That discipline can be direct from the Father or God’s discipline can come through His ordained authorities; the father/husband in a family unit, the Pastor/congregation of a local church, or from God’s ordain civil authorities in human government. Rebellion against any of these authorities is in fact rebellion against God the Father. Any form of rebellion is a contradiction against family-ness. An unwillingness to accept discipline and submit to discipline manifests illegitimacy.

4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. 5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live” (Hebrews 12:4-9)?

True believers understand that chastisement, correction (reproof) and rebuke are normal aspects of family life when they understand that a family is made up of fallen creatures with Sin Natures. A local church that understands this reality will understand that family members will fail occasionally and will require reproof, rebuke and discipline if the willingness to repent and change is not evident.

Thirdly, family members are expected to love one another. In fact, the unwillingness to love one another really manifests the lack of family-ness of that individual. They are family in name only. If someone refuses to love brothers and sisters in Christ, that individual may be self-deceived regarding the new birth into the Family of God.

18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. 22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: 23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (I Peter 1:18-23).

14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. 15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. 19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him” (I John 3:14-19).

The Family of God is a spiritual organism. Within a local church, every family member’s life is dynamically connected spiritually. In a spiritual family, everything an individual within that family does spiritually impacts the spiritual life of every other family member and the corporate family as a whole. This is known as the Achan Principle (Joshua 7:11; “Israel hath sinned” when it was Achan who actually committed the transgression) or the Body Principle.

12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20 But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: 25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (I Corinthians 12:12-26).

This statement is connected contextually to what Paul has already taught in I Corinthians chapter five regarding church discipline. It is the responsibility of the whole body to keep any member of the body in alignment with the will of God. Knowledge understands this responsibility. Wisdom fulfills this responsibility in love and truth. Christ speaks of this Body Principle in the extreme on Matthew chapter five.

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:27-30).

The word “offend” in Matthew 5:29 and 30 is from the Greek word skandalizo (skan-dal-id'-zo). It is the word from which comes the English word scandalize. We should not allow any individual body member to do something that will scandalize who and what we are as a whole. It would be better to amputate that particular member rather than allowing what that member does to condemn the whole body. In the text, God applies this extreme example to individuals. How much more weight should we give this application of truth as it regards the spiritual dynamic of a local church?

Being part of a Family of faith is a great privilege and gift of God. That gift comes with grave responsibilities. No individual member exists apart from the whole. There is a spiritual union “in Christ” that connects everything we do as individuals, good or bad, publicly or privately, to the whole and affects the testimony and God’s blessings or chastisement upon the whole. There are no Lone Rangers in the Body of Christ.

All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. . . As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness. . . No man is an island, entire of itself. . . any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” (John Donne; Anglican Priest, 1572-1631 AD)

Although we would not agree with all of Donne’s theology, we would agree that all souls are spiritually connected in humanity as the progeny of Adam. No one is separated from the sea of humanity and its ultimate destiny in God’s condemnation of the first creation except by being “born again” out of the first creation into the New Creation “in Christ.” Those individuals become part of a new family with a new destiny and with new responsibilities.

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. 3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Romans 12:1-5).

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