|Volume 23 Number 10 October 2021
The word “house” in some verses of Scripture refers to “family” and, hence, equates to “the family of God” – “God’s family.” “But if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15 NKJV). The house of God or the family of God, in our time, pertains to the church of the Bible – “the churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16) or “the church of God” (1 Corinthians 1:2). Jesus Christ is the “High Priest over the house of God” (Hebrews 10:21); our Lord is the older Brother to Christian brothers and sisters, and to Him we turn for guidance. The apostle Peter also referred to “the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17).
Sometimes other figures represent the church or the house of God – God’s family. “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23). “And He is the head of the body, the church…” (Colossians 1:18). Several additional figurative expressions also equate to God’s family, though we will not consider them presently.
One becomes a member of God’s family through the process of adoption. All we who genuinely are Christians have become brothers and sisters to our older Brother and natural Son – Jesus Christ. God determined before creation to adopt as sons and daughters obedient souls (Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5).
Christians are those who have participated in their own adoption by obeying the Gospel (Romans 6:17), versus those who have not obeyed the Gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 1:17). The Gospel directive includes faith, repentance and baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). Through immersion, one acts out the Gospel charge by imitating the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection. (Romans 6:3-5)
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
Unfortunately, Christians falter from time to time and may even become wayward (i.e., unfaithful Christians). One might think that since the word “Christian” means “Christ-like” that the phrase “unfaithful Christians” is an oxymoron or a self-contradictory statement. Just as bad boys and girls or errant adult children are no less family members, erring Christians are no less a part of God’s family. Consider the numerous doctrinal errors within the Corinthian church, about which the divinely inspired apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians. Despite sinfulness among members of that congregation, Paul still addressed “the church of God which is at Corinth…” (1 Corinthians 1:2). Think about five of the seven churches of Asia that Jesus rebuked in Revelation 2-3. Notice that a sinning member is still a member of the church or of the family of God. “And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15).
We are not suggesting for a moment that simply because one is in God’s family that he or she has a free pass from the consequences of sin. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Unfaithful Christians neither have a sustained fellowship with God nor with the children of God. “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Christians enjoy fellowship with Almighty God and with every other child of God who has fellowship with God. Faltering Christians who are out of fellowship with God cannot rightfully anticipate fellowship with Christians who experience fellowship with God.
Earthly families occasionally disown rebellious and unruly family members, perhaps also disinheriting them. In the spiritual realm, even children of God – once faithful members of God’s family – can be disowned and disinherited. A Christian can sin so as to be lost if he or she dies in that condition or if our Lord’s Second Coming happens prior to repentance and prayer (Acts 8:22).
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:20-22)
Being a member of God’s family alone is not enough to be certain of spending eternity in Heaven with God. Bad boys and girls or the naughty in God’s family are nevertheless still members in God’s family, but they will be disowned and disinherited unless they repent. If not a member of God’s family, you need to obey the Gospel. If a wayward member of God’s family, repent and pray. If a faithful child of God, stay the course. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Some Will Depart from the Faith
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
Surely, one of the most troubling and heartbreaking scenarios within our fellowship is to see someone “depart from the faith.” Sadder still, at least to me personally, is when one departs from the faith and then attempts to defend “doctrines of devils” and begins “speaking lies” concerning God’s Truth (1 Timothy 4:1-2). What causes a person to abandon the Truth and to attempt to defend false doctrine and error? While there are most likely many “causes,” consider the following as possibilities.
Insult. One thing that causes some to “depart from the faith” is a bitter experience among brethren. Maybe a person feels he got a raw deal from an eldership or suffered an insult or an emotional injury from another member of a congregation. Sadly, such insults are anything but pleasant. Not every eldership conducts itself kindly, not every preacher is always as tactful as he should be, and not every member is as compassionate and courteous as he or she ought to be either. Even Christ, our example, suffered greatly at the hands of so-called friends (i.e., Judas, Peter, the Jews, et al.). Jesus reminded us that there will be heartaches and offences (Matthew 10:24-25; 16:24). Paul had to write an entire letter to a congregation that was not kind to one another (1 Corinthians). However, we must remember that while sometimes our experiences with other Christians are not always what we wish, we are not attached to the Truth or the church because of other members! We are attached to the Truth and added to the church because of our compassionate, kind, merciful and wonderful Savior (Acts 2:36-47). I do not want to give up eating completely because one food gives me heartburn, and neither do I want to give up what sustains me and feeds me spiritually because an unpleasant situation gives me spiritual heartburn.
Immaturity. Others depart because they have simply not matured in the faith. While we often think of new converts as immature, sometimes immaturity persists in a person who has been in the church for many years. Coming to church in and of itself will never mature one’s Christianity! That is not to disdain or minimize the need to assemble regularly, but we must understand Christian growth comes not because of hearing only but also doing (James 1:22). We must know the doctrine, but we must also put that doctrine into practice. For some, Christianity is simply putting on a front while in the building, but upon exiting they forget that they are to put into practice what they learned. Growth requires effort, examination and a craving to be like Jesus. Growth is not automatic nor is it easy (2 Peter 1:5-9)!
Self-Importance. Pride and arrogance have surely claimed the souls of many who have departed from the faith. People sometimes want to be perceived as wise and knowledgeable. So, the simple Gospel message, that never changes, becomes dull and boring to them. Thus, they attempt to find some new truth to attempt to display their scholarly abilities. Scholarship without the Truth is like a ship without a compass or a rudder! True scholarship is knowledge of the “old paths” (Jeremiah 6:16). I have known some fellow preachers who have succumbed to this temptation. In an attempt to be “wise,” they became as fools (Romans 1:22ff). We would do well to aspire for what Paul aspired. “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). As Christians, the message we proclaim and the lives we live are not about us but rather about Jesus Christ! Our goal is to daily reflect His marvelous light (Matthew 5:16). When we fall into the mental trap that the truth and the church are about us, we have lost our spiritual focus and are on a fast spiral downward.
While some will depart from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1ff; 2 Timothy 3:1-9; 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 18; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12, et al.), and as heartbreaking as that is, such does not have to be the case for us. When we suffer insult, let us respond with affection; instead of remaining immature, let us advance; instead of assuming self-importance, let us be abased. In the midst of some who had departed from the faith, Jude’s inspired words are of great encouragement.
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 20-25)