Welcome to our new topic of discussion for the next couple of weeks. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus and said these words, “The whole family in heaven and earth” (Ephesians 3:15).
These words ought to always stir some feelings in our minds. There is not a person on this earth who is not a member of some family. The poorest as well as the richest has his relative and kin, and can tell you something of his family.
We all know that family gatherings at certain times of the year, such as Christmas, are very common. Thousands of homes are crowded then, if at no other time of the year. Many of us living in town take a few days away from work and take a short trip to visit parents and relatives at home.
The young boys and girls take a holiday from school and other institutions to visit parents. Parents and children catch up with each other with many stories to tell. There is so much to talk about! So many questions to be asked! So many interesting things to be told! It is indeed a happy home in which ‘the whole family’ is gathered at Christmas.
Family gatherings are natural, and right, and good. I approve of them with all my heart. It does me good to see this maintained. They are one of the very pleasant things that have survived the fall of man.
Next to the grace of God, I see no principle that unites people so much in this sinful world as family sentiments. Community of blood related families is a most powerful tie. An American naval officer made a fine statement when his men insisted on helping the English sailors fighting the Taku forts in China, “I cannot help it, blood is thicker than water.”
I have often observed that people will stand up for their relatives, merely because they are their relatives, and refuse to hear a word against them, even when they have no sympathy with their tastes and ways. Anything that helps to keep up the family sentiment ought to be recommended. It is a wise thing, when it can be done, to gather ‘the whole family’ together at Christmas.
Family gathering, nevertheless, are often sorrowful things. It would be strange indeed, in such a world as this, if they were not. There are a few family circles that do not show gaps and vacant places as years pass by.
Changes and deaths make sad havoc as time goes on. Thoughts will rise up within us, as we grow older, about faces and voices no longer with us, which no Christmas merriment can entirely keep down. When the young members of the family have once begun to launch forth into the world, the old heads may long survive the scattering of the nest; but after a certain time, it seldom happens that you see the whole family together.
There is one great family to which I want all my readers to belong. It is a family despised by many, and not even known by some. But it is a family of far more importance than any family on earth.
To belong to it entitles a person to far greater privileges than to be the son or daughter of a king. It is a family of which Paul speaks to the Ephesians, when he tells them of the whole family in heaven and earth. It is the family of God.
I ask for the attention of every one of my readers while I try to describe this family, and recommend it to him. I want to tell you of the amazing benefits that membership of this family conveys. I want you to be found as a member of this family, when it is finally gathered together in the end, a gathering without separation, or sorrow, or tears. Hear me while, as a minister of Christ, and friend to your soul, I speak to you for a few minutes about ‘the whole family in heaven and earth.’ First of all, what is this family? Secondly, what is its present position? Thirdly, what are its future prospects?
I wish to unfold these three things before you, and I invite you to seriously consider them. Our family gatherings on earth must one day come to an end. Our last earthly Christmas must come. Happy indeed is the Christmas that finds us prepared to meet God!
What is the family that the Bible calls ‘the whole family in heaven and earth’? Of whom does it consist? The family before us consists wholly of real Christians, all who have the Holy Spirit living within them; all true believers in Christ; all the saints of every age, and church, and nation, and language.
It includes the blessed company of all faithful people. It is the same as the elect of God, the household of faith, the mystical body of Christ, the bride, the living temple, the sheep that never perish, the church of the firstborn, the holy universal church. All these expressions are other names for ‘the family of God’.
Membership in ‘the family of God’ does not depend on any earthly connection. It does not come by natural birth, but by new birth. Ministers, pastors, church leaders cannot impart it to their hearers. Parents cannot give to their children. You may be born in the most godly family in the land, and enjoy the sweetest fellowship of grace that any church can supply, and yet never belong to the family of God.
To belong to it you must be born again. No one but the Holy Spirit can make you a living member of this family. It is his special function and prerogative to bring into the true church all those who will be saved. Those who are born again are born, ‘not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:13). Do you want to know the reason why the Bible gives this name to all true Christians? Would you like to know why they are called ‘a family’? Listen and I will tell you in our next issue.
By Rev. Eric D. Maefonea