There are very few of us that know nothing of ‘family’. And with ‘family’ comes the ‘family gathering’ such as takes place at Christmas. Thousands of homes are crowded then, if at no other time of the year. The young man in town snatches a few days away from business to visit his parents at home. Brothers and sisters meet for a few hours. Parents and children look one another in the face. There is so much to talk about and so many questions to be asked! It is indeed a happy home which sees the whole family gathered in it at Christmas. Yet family gatherings can often be sorrowful things too. It would be strange indeed, in a fallen world like this, if they were not. Few are the family circles which do not show gaps and vacant places as years pass away.
There is one great family to which I want all the readers of this paper 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. I am speaking of the family of God. May I have your attention while I describe this family and tell you of the wonderful benefits its membership conveys? Above all, I want you to be found within its circle when it is finally and forever gathered together––a gathering without separation, or sorrow.
The family before us consists of all true Christians. Membership in the family of God does not depend on any earthly connection. It does not come by natural birth, but by new birth. Preachers cannot impart it to their hearers and parents cannot give it to their children. To belong to it you must be born again. No one but the Holy Spirit can make you a living member of this family. Those who are born again are born “not of blood, nor of flesh’s will, nor of man’s will, but of God” (John 1: 13).
Would you like to know why they are called a family? True Christians are called a family because they all have one Father: “See what love the Father has given to us, that we should be called [the] children of God” (1 John 3: 1). They are all “sons and daughters” of the Lord Almighty (2 Cor. 6: 18), and have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby they cry “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8: 15).
True Christians are called a family because they all rejoice in one name. Just as a common family name is the uniting link to all the members of a clan, so does the name of Jesus tie all believers together in one vast family (see Matt. 18: 20; Acts 5: 41; 1 Cor. 1: 2; Col. 3: 17). To the world His Name may not mean much at all, but to believers, it is full of comfort and hope.
True Christians, above all, are called a family because there is so strong a family resemblance among them. They are all led by one Spirit, and are marked by the same general features of life, taste, and character. Just as there is a general bodily resemblance among the brothers and sisters of a family, so there is a general spiritual resemblance among the children of God. They all go to the same throne of grace in prayer, and find it as needful to speak to God as to breathe, and they all live by the same rule, the Word of God, and strive to conform their daily life to its precepts.
This family likeness among believers is one of the strongest indirect evidences of the truth of Christianity. Some Christians live in civilized countries, and some in the midst of heathen lands. Some are highly educated, and some are unable to read a single letter of the alphabet. Some are rich and some are poor. Some are old and some are young. And yet, despite all these differences, there is a marvellous oneness of heart and character among them for “all ... are brethren” (Matt. 23: 8). Their joys and their sorrows, their likes and their dislikes, and their hopes and their fears, are all most curiously alike. Let others think what they please, I see in all this the finger of God. His handiwork is always one and the same.
Now the family to which I am directing the attention of my readers is divided into two great parts. Part of the family is in heaven, and part is on earth. For the present the two parts are separated from one another, but their future union is certain.
Some of God’s family are safe with Christ (see Phil 1: 23). They are at rest in that place which the Lord Jesus expressly calls “paradise” (Luke 23: 43). They have finished their course and fought their battles. They have passed through the waves of this troublesome world and have reached the harbour. As little as we know about them, we know that they are happy. They are no longer troubled by sin and temptation. They have said goodbye forever to poverty and worry, and to pain and tears. They are with Christ Himself, who loved them and gave Himself for them.
Some of God’s family are still on the earth. They are scattered across this wicked world, a few in one place and a few in another. All are running a race, doing a work, fighting a warfare, carrying a cross, striving against sin, resisting the devil, crucifying the flesh, struggling against the world, and witnessing for Christ.
But despite this division, it is still one family. Both parts of the family are equally God’s children. But the children in heaven have learned all their lessons and have finished their appointed tasks and are at rest. The children on earth are still in school. They are daily learning wisdom, though slowly and with much trouble, and often needing to be reminded of their past lessons by chastisement and the rod. Their graduation day is yet to come. Again, both parts of the family are equally God’s soldiers. But the soldiers on earth are still engaged in the battle. Every day they need to put on the whole armour of God. The soldiers in heaven are all triumphant. No enemy can hurt them now. No fiery dart of the wicked one can reach them. Their fight is over.
Furthermore, both parts of the family are equally safe and secure. As wonderful as this may sound, it is true. Christ cares as much for His family members on earth as His family members in heaven. You might as well think to pluck the stars out of heaven, as to pluck one saint, however feeble, out of Christ’s hand. The members on earth, through the weakness of their flesh and the smallness of their faith, may neither see, nor know, nor feel their own safety. But they are safe. The whole family is “kept guarded by [the] power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in [the] last time” (1 Pet. 1: 5). The family members still on the road to the Father’s house (see John 14: 2) are as secure as the members who are already home.
Now before I leave this part of my subject, I ask every reader of this article to thoroughly understand the present situation of God’s family, and to form an accurate estimate of it. Do not measure its numbers or its privileges by what you see with your eyes. You only see that part of the family which is struggling on earth. You must never forget that the greater part of the family is resting in heaven. You see the militant part, but not the triumphant. You see the part that is carrying the cross, but not the part that is safe in Paradise. The family of God is far more rich and glorious than you suppose. Believe me, it is no small thing to belong to the family of God.
Finally, what are the future prospects of God’s family? The future prospects of a family! What a vast amount of uncertainty these words open up when we look at any earthly family! “Boast not thyself of to–morrow, for thou knowest not what a day will bring forth” (Prov. 27: 1). Think of how many a fine boy, now the delight of his parents, will quit the family home and dissipate his property “living in debauchery” (Luke 15: 13)! Think how many a fair daughter, the joy of a mother’s heart, will in a few years insist on some disastrous relationship! Think how disease and pain will often lay low the loveliest of a family circle! Think of the endless disagreements and divisions that arise out of money matters! The future prospects of many a family which meets together every Christmas are a solemn and serious subject: hundreds are gathering together for the last time.
Thank God, there is one great family whose prospects are very different. The future prospects of the family of God are not uncertain. They are good, and only good, happy and only happy.
The members of God’s family will all be brought safely home one day. Here on earth they may be scattered, tried, tossed with storms of life, and bowed down with afflictions. But not one of them will perish (see John 10: 28). The weakest lamb will not be left to perish in the wilderness, and the feeblest child will not be missing when the roll call is given at the last day. In spite of the world, the flesh, and the Devil, the whole family will get home.
The members of God’s family will one day all have glorious bodies. When the Lord Jesus Christ comes the second time, the dead saints will be raised and the living will be changed. They will no longer have a vile mortal body, full of weaknesses and infirmities––they will have a body like that of their risen Lord (see Phil. 3: 21). They will serve God night and day without any weariness or distraction.
One day, the members of God’s family will all be gathered into one company. It does not matter where they have lived or where they have died. The poor aborigine may have his bones laid to rest in an Australian desert, and the rich squire may have been buried in an English churchyard. It makes no difference. All will be gathered together and meet in one happy assembly, never to part again. The earthly partings of God’s family are only for a few days; their meeting is for eternity.
One day the members of God’s family will all be united in mind and judgment. They are so divided now about many little things, but one day there will be no disagreement among them at all. Ephraim will no longer envy Judah, nor Judah trouble Ephraim (see Is. 11: 13). Partial knowledge and dim vision will be ended forever. Divisions and separations, misunderstandings and misinterpretations, will all be buried and forgotten.
Last, but not least, one day, the members of God’s family will be eternally provided for. When the affairs of this sinful world are finally wound up and settled, there will be an everlasting inheritance for all God’s children––an inheritance “incorruptible and undefiled and unfading” (1 Peter 1: 4), and “which eye has not seen, and ear not heard” (1 Cor. 2: 9). All will be able to join with the Psalmist and say “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Ps. 17: 15).
These prospects of God’s family are great realities. They are not vague shadowy talk of man’s invention. They are real true things, and will be seen as such before long. They deserve your serious consideration. Look around the families of earth with which you are acquainted, the richest, the greatest, the noblest, and the happiest. Where will you find one among them all which can show prospects to compare with those of which you have just heard? Earthly riches are passing and you cannot take them out of this world (1 Tim. 6: 7). Noble blood will not prevent some disgraceful deed from staining the family name. Whether for present possessions or future prospects, there is no family so well off as family of God. Whether you look at what they now have, or what they will have in heaven, there is no family like it.
In the meantime let us strive to live worthy of the family to which we belong. Let us labour to do nothing that may cause our Father’s house to be spoken against. Let us endeavour to make our Master’s name beautiful by our disposition, conduct, and conversation. Let us love as brethren, and abhor all quarrels (see Gen. 45: 24). Let us behave as if the honour of the family depended on our behaviour.