Here’s hoping you get all of the praise that you deserve…
Today marks the fourth birthday of this blog, His Truth My Voice.org. In spite of its being birthed during one of the most challenging times for my family and me, it was and continues to be a labor of love on my part; one born out of a need to share with others some of the truths I have learned about God through my long-time study of His Word.
Unfortunately, due to a major move at the end of last summer (one which took me several months to recover from) and a recent knee replacement surgery, I have not been as productive as I would have liked to have been. However, now that I can sit at my desk for a while relatively pain-free, that will soon change, and we can resume our series of exercises on the spiritual discipline of Service.
While the discipline of Service may not seem like a particularly stimulating one, since the exercises remaining in its workout session will be dealing with such controversial issues as Women in Ministry and Homosexuality and Gender Confusion, I have no doubt that they will prove to be highly effective ones in the stretching and toning of our spiritual muscles.
At this point, I would like to thank all of you who, throughout my hiatus, have continued to visit this site and pray for its ministry—your support has been greatly appreciated. And, I would like to offer you a little trip down memory lane by sharing, once again, the first post I published on May 11, 2013, The Prophet is In, Just Bring Your Own Snacks.
…to let you know that I will be out of commission for a little while. I will be off to the hospital tomorrow to get a new knee. Please pray that my new knee and I become good friends–fast! As always, Judy
In our last exercise, Service: The Church as the Body of Christ, we were introduced to the concept that the Church, like the human body, is composed of three parts serving on three different levels, with each part being delegated a specific role to fulfill in its service for Christ. As…
- The corporate Body of Christ, the Church is to reach outward into the world; bringing the good news of Salvation to the lost in order to bring them into the Family of God;
- The corporate Soul of Christ, the Church is to reach inward to the members of the Family of God; loving and encouraging them while helping them grow toward spiritual maturity; and,
- The corporate Spirit of Christ, the Church is to reach upward into the unseen spiritual world; waging war against the powers of darkness who are doing everything in their power to promote the worship of their leader, Satan, and to keep the will and kingdom of God from being established on the earth.
Since we covered the basics of the Church as the Body of Christ last time, and since we will wait until we get to the next level of exercises on Spiritual Warfare to tackle the role of the Church as God’s Spiritual Army, this exercise will be given over to a discussion of the role of the Church as the Family of God. In order get it going, the first thing we need to do is establish just what a Family is, and how it is supposed to function.
What is Family?
It used to be that if asked to define the term Family, most people would respond in the same way—that a Family, the most basic of all societal groups, is made up of a Father, Mother, and their children; with such extended members as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins sometimes added into the mix. But, in today’s culture, with its escalating divorce rate and proliferation of lifestyle choices, the term has too often come to mean whatever an individual wants it to mean, or whatever his or her circumstances dictate. So today, in addition to what is known as the Nuclear Family just described, some of the other definitions in use are…
- Single-Parent Families…where a parent lives with dependent children, alone or in a larger household, without a spouse or partner;
- Blended Families…consisting of members from two (or more) previous families;
- Co-custody Families…where divorced parents share legal responsibility for their children; children who either live alternatively with both parents or permanently with one while having regular visitation with the other;
- Cross-Generational Families…where grandparents or aunts, uncles, etc, either raise the children or play major roles in their lives;
- Adoptive Families…where one or more of the children has been adopted;
- Foster Families…where one or more of the children is being cared for legally but temporarily by a family that is not their own;
- Bi-racial or multi-racial Families…where the parents come from different racial groups;
- Gay or Lesbian Families… where one or both of the parents’ is gay or lesbian;
- Immigrant Families… where the parents have immigrated to another country as adults; and,
- Migrant Families… who move regularly from place to place looking for employment.
To be sure, many of these are deviations from the ideal established by God at the time of Man’s Creation, documented for us in Genesis 1:27-28 in the following way…
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
This standard was later confirmed by Jesus when, as the Pharisees questioned Him as to the legitimacy of divorce, Jesus replied…
…from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate (Mark 10:6-9).
Established by God and confirmed by Jesus, the divine standard, then, calls for 1 Male + 1 Female + their Children to equal a Family. However, with the introduction of sin into the world following Adam and Eve’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden, deviations from this ordained norm not only became a possibility but also a reality. As we now know, had there been no sin, there would never have been any abuse, neglect, adultery, divorce, or death to make the aforementioned deviations possible—and, the Family would have functioned and flourished in the way that God had intended it to do.
How is the Family Supposed to Function?
When considering how God intended for the Family to operate, it is imperative that we keep the following things in mind…
- Being created in the image of God means that God intended for Men to be reflections in the flesh of His Masculine Principles, while Women were to be the reflections of His Feminine Principles;
- Additionally, it was God’s intention that Men and Women to come together in sexual union so that they could reproduce the life He had so graciously shared with them—something they would not be able to do on their own; and,
- As the masculine and feminine representations of God in the flesh, God meant for Men and Women to model before their children and the world the unity and selfless love shared by the members of Godhead themselves; becoming, in effect, living illustrations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for everyone to see.
As long as the members of any given family are living in right relationship with God and in obedience to His will, not only they but everyone around them will be able to witness God being lived out in the flesh—with…
- The Man/Husband in the Family demonstrating the love, leadership, strength, guidance, provision, and protection of God the Father;
- The Woman/Wife in the Family demonstrating the love, respect, wisdom, nurture, gentleness, grace, empathy, and sensitivity of God the Holy Spirit ; and,
- The Children in the Family demonstrating the love, respect, and obedience of God the Son.
However, God’s imaging purposes for these families were not to be limited to their being illustrations of the divine community known as the Trinity; it was also His intention for them to serve as earthly illustrations of the nature and workings of the much larger heavenly family known as the Church.
The Human Family as a Pattern for the Church
The fact that the earthly family was meant to be a living illustration of God’s heavenly family will become clearer to us once we have compared each according to their…
- Origins or creations;
- Missions or mandates; and,
- Means or methods of carrying out their missions.
From this illustration, we see that when God created the First Adam (1 Cor. 15: 22, 45) and his bride, He did so in such a way that it would serve as a prophetic picture of the Second Adam and His Bride, the Church. For Adam, referred to in the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Luke 3:38 as “the son (with a small “s”) of God,” was meant to foreshadow the eternal Son (with a capital “S”) of God, Jesus Christ, in that…
- He was without sin (at the time of his creation);
- He was lord over God’s creation; and,
- He was without his companion and helper.
Therefore, God set about providing him with a helper through a unique creation: first putting Adam into a deep sleep, God then opened his side and removing a rib or bone from it, He fashioned from it a female counterpart specially designed for Adam. This process, on a prophetic level, was to be a picture of what God was going to do through the Second Adam when, as Jesus was dying on the Cross, He fashioned His Bride, the Church, around the “bone” taken from the wounded side of Christ—that “bone” being the Disciples.
As for their Mission and Means for accomplishing them, they are virtually the same; for, both types of families were created for one purpose: to reproduce the life of God, both the physical and the spiritual, as a means of bringing the will and purpose, and the glory of God to the ends of the earth. Given the significance of this Mission to time and eternity, it should come as no surprise that the number one priority of God’s enemies would be the corruption and destruction of the Family, both the earthly and the heavenly ones—which is something we will learn more about in our next exercise.
Bill Gaither reminds us what it means to be part of “The Family of God”…
 Edwards, Julie Olsen. “The Many Kinds of Family Structures in Our Communities.” Based on the author’s work with Louise Derman-Sparks in Anti-bias Education for Children and Ourselves NAEYC 2009.
 This is not to say that men cannot be nurturing or that women cannot be leaders or providers, etc. These statements are merely meant to be generalizations of Godly ideals.
For those of you who have been waiting for our next exercise on Service, it has been delayed due to my family’s recent move. At the moment, our house is full to overflowing with furniture waiting to be arranged and boxes–including about 80 boxes of books–waiting to be gone through. The exercise on The Church as the Family of God is about half finished so I hope to have it ready for you soon. Thanks so much for your understanding and patience!
In our previous exercise, we began a new level of workout routines dealing with Service; and, during the course of that introductory routine, we learned how, through our service for Christ, the good works which He began are still being done in the world today. Then, as we searched for a definition of the word, especially as it relates to us as believers, we discovered some of the Terms of Service which must be adhered to, if any enduring work for Christ is to be accomplished. These are…
- Service must begin at the altar of worship, where we surrender our wills to God’s will;
- Service must be motivated by our love for Christ;
- Service must proceed from clean hands and pure hearts; and,
- Service, like that which Jesus performed—and, other than our post-salvation, personal MDLA, or Minimum Daily Lifestyle Adjustments—must be done in cooperation with other members of the Corporate Body of Christ, or the entity better known as The Church.
Too often, when we hear the word Church, the image that comes to mind is of a building. However, the real Church of Jesus Christ is not and was never intended to be an architectural structure or an organized institution, into which the Children of God could retreat in search of protection or insulation from the world.
Rather, it was designed by God to be the collective and universal spiritual manifestation of Christ on the earth; one in which Christ is no longer limited to serving through just one physical body, living in one time and in one place. Instead, with His Presence and Power multiplied many times over in the lives of Believers scattered across the globe, the works that He once did during His Incarnation are now being replicated worldwide by the members of His spiritual body, the Church.
In order to grasp this concept a little better, we must realize that, even though God loves each one of us individually, Christ died for each one of us individually, and we are each saved individually, at the moment we receive our Salvation, the Holy Spirit is busily and quite imperceptibly baptizing us into the Collective Spiritual Body of Christ; positioning us within that Body wherever He deems best, and assigning specific roles or functions to us that we are to carry out within the Body…
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…as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose ( 1 Cor. 12: 12-14, 18).
Before getting into what those roles may be, though, we first need to learn how God intended for the Body of Christ to operate.
In one of our earlier exercises, Sanctification: Regeneration Perfected, we learned that when God created Man, He fashioned him with an individual or Personal Body, Soul, and Spirit, so that…
- Through his Body, he could relate to and function in the physical world;
- Through his Soul, he could relate to others on both emotional and intellectual levels; and,
- Through his Spirit, he could relate to God and learn how he could use his will to bring God’s will to pass on the earth.
In much the same way, God’s design for the Body of Christ called for it to have a Corporate Body, Soul, and Spirit, so that…
- Through its Body, the Church could relate to and carry on the work of Christ in the world outside of the Church;
- Through its Soul, the Church could relate as a Family to those within the Church, ministering to them and their needs in love; and,
- Through its Spirit, the Church could serve heaven as an Army of Spiritual Warriors; one united in its mission to overthrow the Enemy of God, take the territory previously held by him, and bring the Kingdom and the Will of God to rule on the earth in his place.
In short, God’s intention for the Church of Jesus Christ is for it to…
- Function externally in the world as a unified Body, under the direction of its Head, Jesus Christ;
- Relate internally to its members as a Family, under the loving guidance of God the Father; and
- Serve eternally by advancing the Kingdom of God through Spiritual Warfare, under the command of its General, the Holy Spirit.
The Church as a Body
Since God’s purpose in creating mankind was to obtain a spiritual family of holy sons and daughters; and, since He was not willing…
…that any should perish but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9)…
…God purposed that His Church, in its function as a unified Body, would reach out to those in the world who had not yet to come to repentance—that is, those who have yet to be adopted as His children. In fact, forty days after His resurrection, as He was preparing to go back to His Father in heaven, Christ charged His disciples—those who would soon become the Church—with this very task in the Great Commission…
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matt. 28:19-20).
As for how Jesus intended the soon-to-be Body of Christ to fulfill this charge, it was to be accomplished by its members…
- As they lived before the world according to the kingdom principles He had taught them in the Sermon on the Mount; and,
- Through acts of service empowered by the giftings of the Holy Spirit, which would soon be bestowed upon them.
The Body and Kingdom Living
After choosing His disciples, one of the first things Jesus did was to gather them together and give them an introductory lesson in Kingdom Living. This lesson, called the Sermon on the Mount (found in Matthew 5-7), must have been tremendously unsettling for them because in it, Jesus was establishing as their new standard for living, a set of principles which completely contradicted everything they had been taught was true. That’s because, in the culture of that day—much like in our present day—they had grown up believing that being healthy, wealthy, religious, and without any apparent problems were all indicators that one had been blessed by God. But here, in what has come to be known as The Beatitudes, Jesus was declaring that for the Children of God, the very opposite of this was true; that the ones who would be blessed by God are…
…the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
…those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
…the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
…those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
…the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
…the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
…the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
…those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
…you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account (Matt. 5:3-11).
And, it would be these seemingly weak, insignificant, and oftentimes marginalized members of society, as they learned to live out the Kingdom Principles Jesus highlighted in His Sermon—principles such as…
- Kingdom Living requires more of us than surface level righteousness; it requires true righteousness which begins in our hearts and then proceeds outward;
- Kingdom Living requires that we love our enemies, blessing instead of cursing them;
- Kingdom Living requires that we treat others the way we would want them to treat us;
- Kingdom Living requires that we replace outward demonstrations of piety, designed to impress others, with giving, praying, and fasting done in secret; and,
- Kingdom Living requires that we cease judging others and that we forgive them instead, just as God has forgiven us…
…who would become the salt of the earth and the light of God in a darkened world, and so spiritually emboldened that they would later be spoken of by the Thessalonians in Acts 17:6 in this way…
These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.
The Body and Spiritual Gifts
Surely, living according to God’s Kingdom Principles—that is, living lives radically different from the cultural norm—would prove to be a great way for believers to pique the interest and attract the attention of those living outside of the Body of Christ; however, just getting their attention would not be sufficient to get them saved, and moved from the outside to the inside of the Body of Believers. To make a transfer like that happen, from the world’s kingdom to the Kingdom of God, the involvement of the Holy Spirit would be required; which is why, just before His ascension Jesus ordered His disciples…
…not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’
[For] you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and [after that] you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
It would take the power of the Holy Spirit, working through individual believers, to produce Acts of Service like the ones Jesus performed, and in the way that God had ordained–which was, with the members of Christ’s Body working together, using the Spiritual Gifts assigned to them at the time of their Salvation.
Spiritual Gifts, unlike the natural talents we are born with or the skills which we develop on our own throughout life, are the special spiritual abilities or enablements given to believers for the purpose of growing and building up of the Church, the Body of Christ. The Apostle Paul explains them far better than I could, here in these passages from three of his letters…
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed…there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone (1 Cor.12: 1, 4-6).
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills (1 Cor. 12:7-11).
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness (Romans 12:4-8).
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Although we will go into more detail about these Gifts of the Spirit in a future exercise, to summarize what we have learned so far about Service and the Church, we now know that…
- as the members of Christ’s Body model the character and behavior of Christ before the world—the character developed in them as the Fruit of the Spirit, and the behavior epitomized in the Kingdom Living Principles taught in the Sermon on the Mount; and…
- as, the members of Christ’s Body reach out to the world through their Acts of Service—service which has been initiated, coordinated, and empowered by the Holy Spirit…
…the world will be reached with the Gospel, the family and kingdom of God will be expanded, and the function of the Church as the Corporate Body of Christ will have been realized.
Unspoken reminds us that if we are to do the works of Christ, we will need the Holy Spirit to “Start a Fire” in our souls…
Original image of the Sermon on the Mount courtesy of http://www.freebibleimages.org.