The Family of Christ
“You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” (Acts 3:25-26)
I imagine that when the Jews in Jerusalem heard Peter’s speech, they felt emboldened in their faith as the chosen people of God. After all, Israelites were God’s “sons” of the prophets and the covenant with Abraham. In Romans, Paul writes, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever.” (Romans 9:4-5) However, after offering the gospel to the Jews, it was time for the Gentiles to be invited into the family of God, even as Jesus engaged with non-Jews. (See John 1:11-13.) At the council in Jerusalem after Cornelius’ household came to faith, “Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”’ And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:46-48)
The definition of “sons of the prophets and the covenant” was radically changed when the Gentiles received the gospel by the power of God, the Holy Spirit, through the ministry of the Word of the apostles. The Jews believed, and continue to believe today that they are special, sanctified, and saved by being born into a Jewish family. The idea of “belonging” is very strong among the Jewish people, and is something to be emulated, although not in its exclusivity. But now, all who have been regenerated by God’s Spirit “belong to Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:23; Galatians 5:24) We also belong to each other; we are the family of God—the most important family in this world—more important than “families” of organizations, military troops, political teams, missionary teams, volunteer efforts, or any other social construct. The family of God is primary in the life of a Christian who understands that Jesus calls us to corporate faith, not just personal faith. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-16)
When we gather today with our most important family to worship today at church, let’s remember that they are our brothers and sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters in Christ. We need them, and they need us, to enjoy our calling to live out the gospel fully. Let’s plan to visit with our Christian family, get to know family members better, and especially take joy in worshipping together as we rest in Christ on the Sabbath, fellowshipping with meaningful gospel-centered sacraments, teaching, singing, and conversing.