The whole sum of what Christ purchased for us on the cross is the family of God. Think about the characteristic blessings of the gospel (see Ephesians 1):
- we are made holy and blameless (1:4)
- we are adopted (1:5)
- we are redeemed (1:7)
- we are forgiven (1:7)
- we are given knowledge of God’s will (1:9)
- we are guarenteed an inheritance (1:11)
- we get a relationship with the Holy Spirit (1:13)
- we get a relationship with Jesus Christ (1:22)
Although each of these blessings is great in themselves, the blessing of the gospel is all of the above! The beauty of the gospel is that God did not simply enact a cosmic transaction – his goods for ours – instead, he “lavished [his grace] upon us” (Eph. 1:8), bringing us into his family, and witholding none of the priveleges therein. We are, collectively, participators in the familia Dei. This is solely, completely, totally, 100% through Jesus Christ. Left to ourselves, we are “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3) and “enemies of God” (Rom. 5:10). Through Jesus we are “children of God” (Rom. 8:16; 1 Jn. 3:1) and “fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). Pretty dramatic change. The gospel is about bringing us into the family of God. This is why in John 17:21, Jesus prays, “that they [we] may all be one, just as you, Father are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us”.
Getting the sequence right
Perhaps the sweetest and most neglected sentiment of the family of God is that we are family before we ever start acting like it. Consider the order in which God did things, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God holds no behavioral/moral standards for those who would become family. There is no logical rationale for keeping someone out of God’s family until they clean up their act. There is no ground for you to keep yourself from the family of God because of your sin. It is in the family that you get washed.
An infinitely patient Dad
People give far too much credit to human fathers and far too little to our heavenly Father. No one would dream to tell an adopted child that unless he lives up to the family standards, he is not really a son. No, it is generally assumed that human fathers have a lot more patience than that. However, when it comes to the family of God, the siblings are quick to exclude a “sinner” because he still has a drinking problem. How much infinitely more patient, though, is God the Father than a human father? O that we would begin to experience the joy that the Father does when his sons and daughters come home! (consider Luke 15)
The family of God grows in three (or four) ways in Scripture: marriage, adoption, rebirth. To these we will look in subsequent posts.