The Family of God

Read Acts 17:22-31


One of the best-known sentences in English literature is taken from Hamlet’s soliloquy in Shakespeare’s famous play. “To be, or not to be, that is the question.” The awareness of ‘being’ is the unique state of humanity that the French philosopher, Rene Descartes famously summarized in the statement, ‘I think therefore I am.’ This suggests that if one knows he/she is alive and is conscious of his/her existence there is “being” within the body. “Being” is our awareness of the inner person, or the soul. As Bible-believers we consider that the image of God. Now, Paul reminds us today that as born-again people, saved by God’s grace we are no longer the owners of our “being.” It is Him – that is God – that we have our being. That’s powerful news. If the saved believer has transferred the title to his/her being to God, then God has ultimate authority over our lives. God is the “Father,” the head of the family.

The Family DNA

You’ve seen the commercials on TV that urge you to order a kit, spit into a cup, and then await results of a DNA test so you can find out who your predecessors are. The Apostle Paul told us to do the same thing almost two thousand years ago. Your soul’s DNA has been changed by justification through Christ. Therefore, we who have been made new in the by the Spirit will all trace our spiritual ancestry back to Jesus Christ. “In Him we live and move and have our being.”

The ancestry DNA tests help by giving a sense of belonging. With knowledge of genetic heritage one can claim a tribe and maybe even learn its culture and traditions so that life has new meaning and purpose. It is good to know who we are and where we come from. It’s good to have added purpose and meaning in our lives. When Paul regards the other gods of Athens he is respectful, even commending them. Yet, with skillful rhetoric that rivaled the famous philosophers of Greece he points out that it is their monument to an unknown god that proves their sense of inadequacy. If the other gods could have met all their needs for meaning and purpose there would have been no need for a monument to the unknown or unknowable.

 Church as Family

Over the last ten years or so I have experienced a steady evolution in my understanding of the Church as “family.” Like, many people I found it easy to think of those who call themselves Christians as brothers and sisters – even seeing Jewish folks as cousins. In my thought, it was more of a concept than a literal state of being. With so many divisions amongst the believers it seemed like the only thing that united us was a common enemy. As I’ve served local churches I have always felt affection for people with whom I’ve shared so many sacred moments. They have become like so many extra mothers, fathers, and siblings. Nevertheless, it disturbed me that so many local churches consider themselves a family. I felt that, by doing so, they risked being too exclusive. Of course, that is often the case when the idea of family is limited to affinity. That is, when we call ourselves a family but what we really mean is “club.”

Seminars, books, and other church growth materials often say that we should speak of the church as a community, since that seems more inclusive. I confess that I have experimented with that language for a season. I eventually gave it up because it seemed to cause some subtle changes that felt wrong to me. The truth is, this is a family. It is a family in that we are children of God because of the grace of God. Like all families, we have our characters; we have our children, and elders. As with all families there are appointed roles. There are disagreements and tender moments of deep compassion. From time to time, emotional, spiritual, and physical illness takes away one of our family members. But, we long for them just as in any family in times of sorrow and grief.

Nevertheless, I’m still troubled by the exclusiveness that enters too easily into church families. But, I think I know what needs to change so that we do not fall into that trap. We need to make more babies! How did your own family grow? Babies were born, households were grafted together through marriage, children were adopted, etc. In the same way, the church family grows when new disciples are born of the Spirit. The DNA of Christ is written in to her/his being and, like us, they are children of God. The cure for exclusivity in church is discipleship.

Being and Seeking

Our mission is plain, “Being Disciples, Seeking Disciples, Changing the World.” Discipleship is made of grace and discipline. We became disciples of Christ because we accepted his grace and then agreed to follow his discipline. In all families, there are moments of discipline and grace. In all families, there are differing levels of authority and responsibility. This is true of God’s family too.

Sometimes conflict arises in the church family because of the tension between temporal family expectations and spiritual expectations. For example, consider 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 (1772): See how Paul plainly states that it isn’t about Apollos, or Cephas (Peter), or even himself. “I follow Christ” he says. With discipleship as the goal, one only must ask, “does my attitude honor Jesus?” “Do my wants and desires serve His purposes?”


Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote a beautiful hymn that seems to sum up what we have been talking about today. It’s called, “The Family of God.” The words say,

I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God, I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood! Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod, For I’m part of the family, The Family of God.

You will notice we say “brother and sister” ’round here, It’s because we’re a family and these are so near; When one has a heartache, we all share the tears, And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.

From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King, No longer an outcast, a new song I sing; From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong, I’m not worthy to be here, but praise God I belong!

I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God, I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood! Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod, For I’m part of the family, The Family of God.

            I suppose some folks are more into, “We are Family” by Sister Sledge. But, the sentiment is the same; Wherever we go, whatever we do, we are one with our Lord and one with each other. We are not a dynasty, but we are sons and daughters of the King. We are not special because of our blood, but we’re made so by His blood. While we are not always in agreement, we are of one accord, so that we are His servants and He is our Lord.