Posted by: rcottrill | December 28, 2015

The Family of God

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Words: Gloria Gaither (b. Mar. 4, 1942)
Music: Bill Gaither (b. Mar. 28, 1936)

Links:

Wordwise Hymns (Gloria Gaither)
They Cyber Hymnal (Bill Gaither, Gloria Gaither)
Hymnary.org

Note: The Gaithers are gospel song writers, a husband and wife team. Bill and Gloria have produced many fine songs, enjoyed by the Christian community since the 60’s.

The refrain of the present song has frequently been used as a stand-alone chorus. For your interest, years ago the senior pastor, in a church where I served, often used it. Then one day he asked if I could write something on the same theme. I’m not claiming it’s anywhere near as good as what the Gaithers do, but you can see and hear the result on the Cyber Hymnal, here.

Each of us belongs to a family, a word coming from the Latin word familia, meaning a household. In older usage, that could include servants living on the estate. But as the dictionary defines it, a family is a social unit consisting of parents and children, whether they live under the same roof or not. There is also what is called a person’s extended family, including such relatives as grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and in-laws.

Sometimes, sadly, there can be family estrangement, in which members refuse to recognize the connection they have with the others. There can also be false claims to a familial relationship. For many years, a woman named Anna Anderson claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia, youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. But DNA testing has decisively proven that Anna’s claim was false.

Family relationships can be abused in another way. The police warn us against scam artists who contact an individual claiming they represent a relative who has died and left them an enormous sum of money. But, they claim, the supposed fortune is tied up with legal problems, and an appeal is made to the victim to send funds to gain its release. It’s all a fraud, used to bilk the unwary of their savings.

Extended families can be quite large, perhaps including hundreds of people, which means that planning a family reunion is a major undertaking, and may require renting facilities. In the Bible, the nation of Israel as a whole is described as a family, through their relationship with the patriarch Abraham. In a synagogue on the Sabbath, Paul addressed, “Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham” (Acts 13:26: cf. Amos 3:1). That’s a pretty big family. But there is one that’s much larger than that.

The family of God includes many millions of people. As the Apostle Paul writes to the Ephesian church, “I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:14-15). Some of God’s children are presently on earth; many others are in heaven. We won’t be able to have a family reunion with “the whole family” until we’re united in our heavenly home.

The Greek word translated “family” in that Ephesians verse is patria, meaning kindred related to one father, in that case referring to those who have a spiritual kinship with our heavenly Father. Becoming a part of that family does not come through physical birth or human parentage, but through a spiritual rebirth. “As many as received Him [Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn. 1:12-13).

The Lord Jesus told Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). Through personal faith in Christ for salvation, one is born of the Spirit of God, born again into the family of God, and “no one comes to the Father except through [Christ]” (Jn. 14:6).

Later, writing to Christians in Galatia, Paul says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, Abba, Father [roughly meaning dearest Father]!’” (Gal. 4:6). And John exults, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (I Jn. 3:1, NIV).

The song Gaither’s says:

1) You will notice we say brother and sister ‘round here.
It’s because we’re a fam’ly and these folks are so near.
One one has a heartache, we all shed the tears,
And rejoice in each vict’ry in this family so dear.

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.

Questions:
1) What are the great blessings that come from belonging to a family?

2) What are the special challenges we face as members of a family?


Links:

Wordwise Hymns (Gloria Gaither)
They Cyber Hymnal (Bill Gaither, Gloria Gaither)
Hymnary.org


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