Opening the letter of 1 Thessalonians, you will be immediately struck with one of the greatest blessings we have in Christ – the wonderful family of God!
“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God” (1 Thessalonians 1:1-4).
“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2).
If you constantly tell your child that he is a lazy, no good, loser he may very well grow up to be that very person. Certainly, we need to correct our children for bad behavior, but that does not have to define who they are. They need to know that they can become mature, productive individuals. When the apostle Paul wrote to the troubled church at Corinth, he began his letter by reminding them who they are and of their potential in the Lord. Even though he would go on to strongly convict them of their spiritual immaturity and rebuke their sinful behaviors, this was an encouragement and a strong incentive for them to strive to do better. We, too, need to be reminded of who we are.
1 Peter 2:9-10 "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy."
Peter uses several descriptive phrases to remind us who we are and why we are here. The same expressions were applied to Israel in the Old Testament. The church of Christ which consists of both Jews and Gentiles is the true Israel of God (Romans 2:28-29; Galatians 3:26-29; 6:16).
This is what Paul taught the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 2:19-22). As Christians, we are “members of the household of God”. The term “household” means family (cf. 1 Timothy 3:4-5, 15; 5:8). These verses tell us two things: 1) Family matters, and 2) We are a family. Jesus was the first to teach this when He spoke of the greater family of God (Matthew 12:46-50). It is a greater family in at least three ways:
We are a family in the Lord.
It is a spiritual family (Galatians 3:26-29). God is our Father and we are His children. That makes us brothers and sisters in Christ. We are united by the same faith and the same baptism by which we were united to Christ. We have the same Savior and the same Lord, Jesus. We are all one in Christ (cf. Ephesians 4:1-6). What matters is “if you are Christ’s”.
One of the most wonderful aspects of the church is that it is a family (Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Timothy 3:15). God created Adam and Eve, and since then everyone else was born into the physical family. We have been born again into the spiritual family of God, the church (John 3:1-8; Galatians 3:26-29; 1 Peter 1:20-25).
God is our Father (Matthew 7:7-11; Ephesians 4:6). Jesus Christ is our elder brother, Lord and Savior (Titus 1:4; Hebrews 2:14-18). The Holy Spirit is our comforter and helper (John 14:26; 15:26). We have spiritual fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters in God’s family, too (Matthew 12:46-50; 1 Corinthians 4:14-17; Galatians 4:19; 1 Timothy 5:1-2; Philemon 10). All over the world there are those to whom we are bound by a common love for God and faith in Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 1:14; 2 Timothy 1:13).
Just after 9-11 the roads were crowded on Sunday morning and people were filing into church buildings but that didn’t last long. People don’t have time, they are too tired, too sick, there are too many hypocrites… I’ve heard all the excuses.
I suppose that assembling for worship could be made illegal tomorrow and many wouldn’t even know it until Christmas or perhaps next Easter when they decide to make an appearance at church. Others will find some way to get to church on Sunday morning but don’t seem to really care if they make the other services of the church.
If that’s you, I hope that you will seriously reconsider this whole matter of going to church.
There are those who believe that the church of Christ is just one of many other denominations and that it was founded by Alexander Campbell in the United States in the 19th century but this is not what the Bible teaches nor is it consistent with the historical record of the church of Christ.
Jesus promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18). The first congregation was founded in Jerusalem by the inspired preaching of the gospel of Christ through the apostles of Christ (Acts 2). As the gospel went forth many other churches of Christ were established throughout the world (Acts 1:8; Romans 16:16; Colossians 1:23).
Many churches call themselves a Bible Church. They claim to adhere to the Bible, but they are not the church you read about in the Bible.
Most of them are accepting of denominational churches, largely made up of persons received from denominational churches and hold to the same doctrines as denominational churches yet refer to themselves as nondenominational (not affiliated with any denomination) when in fact they are interdenominational (drawing from many different denominations). The church of the Bible was undenominational (opposed to denominationalism). Christ built only one church and He did not want it to be divided into many different kinds of churches built by men (Matthew 16:18; John 17:20-23; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4; 5:23).
I have many friends and family members whom I dearly love that belong to different kinds of denominational churches. Each of these churches profess to be Christian but such denominations did not come from Christ. The Bible does not mention any such denominations.
The Bible teaches us that Christ built only one church (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:5; 5:23) which consists of every Christian (Acts 2:47; 1 Corinthians 12:13). These Christians would congregate in various locations around the world. These congregations were not a part of different denominations but were all churches of Christ (Romans 16:16). There were not many different kinds of Christians. They were all just Christians and members of the church of Christ.
When I speak of “the church”, I’m usually talking about all of God’s people that have been saved through Jesus Christ. Sometimes, I use the phrase when referring to a local congregation or to an assembled group of God’s people. The New Testament speaks of “the church”, in each of these ways (e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:2; 10:32; 11:18; 14:19, 28, 35).
Robert Dodson is the Preaching Minister for the Northwest Church of Christ.
6059 Azle Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76135