Imagine living in a house with 20 other people. For those of us in the United States where the average household size is about three members, this may be somewhat foreign; however, such a large family can still be an object lesson for the people of God who may not have a real sense of how valuable and precious each member of the church of God is as a family. America’s most famous supersized family, the Duggars, from Arkansas, is one such example of a family with many members—19 children, all caring for each other, assisting each other in love. They are a well-ordered family engaging in Christian activities. All of the children are homeschooled with each of them involved in personal Bible study and all of them involved in music. God has blessed this home abundantly with each member using the talents given them to help the others, making the home a sanctuary. There are strict house rules and any young man desiring to court one of the young ladies is first required to ask permission from her father. Harmony and personal growth for each member in the family depends on order and boundaries, but most of all on a committed love for each one.
Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:2, 3. There are many dwelling places, many rooms in God’s house. Is one of those rooms reserved for you? Is Jesus preparing a place for you? The illustration of the Duggar Family is to show that in order for God’s family to grow into the fullness of Christ and to fulfill God’s purpose, there must be a change of attitude toward one another. Each member must become more concerned for his/her brothers and sisters. I make an appeal to every member of God’s family to consider and keep the new commandment about which Jesus spoke.
Before we discuss this new commandment, let us identify just who are the true members of God’s family. We “are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26), but what does this mean? Basically, it is trusting in God’s Word and His promises and willingly obeying or keeping that Word. The Scripture says that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17. Has the Word of God ever sounded in your ears? Has God ever spoken to you? I would have to say that He has spoken to me.
The Apostle Paul said that “the gospel, which ye have heard, … was preached to every creature which is under heaven.” Colossians 1:23. This brings to mind what is written in Psalm 19:1–3: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” These verses declare that the gospel has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. Have you heard the voice of God? He has spoken, and He is still speaking. Are you listening for and have you heard that “still small voice” (I Kings 19:12)?
The story is told of Abraham the patriarch, a man to whom righteousness was accounted because of his faith. The Word of God came to Abraham and the promise was made that he would have a son who would be his heir. Abraham, who was nearly 100 years old, continued to wait without the fulfillment of the promise. His wife Sarah was barren. She was past childbearing years, and her womb was dead. How could Abraham have a son when all circumstances proved that this was impossible? As Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Abraham knew this truth, and as a result, in spite of his circumstances, how did he respond? “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.” Romans 4:20, 21.
Are you staggering today at some promise God has made? Does it seem that you have to wait too long to see the result? There are many promises in the Bible, but there is one in particular that has been given to all of us. “And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.” I John 2:25. Do you believe this promise? Do you have faith that what He has promised He is also able to perform regardless of how long it takes for it to come true? “Faith claims God’s promises, and brings forth fruit in obedience. … Genuine faith has its foundation in the promises and provisions of the Scriptures.” The Desire of Ages, 126. Faith is one of the characteristics of those who are true members of God’s family.
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Galatians 3:27. To be baptized into Christ and thus be clothed with Him is an emblem of being buried with Him in death. Your old character, your old self, or old man is crucified with Christ, and you have, therefore, died to sin. Jesus told Nicodemus that, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3. Friend, you cannot be born again unless you die to sin first.
“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? … Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Romans 6:3, 6. Have you died to sin? Have you been crucified with Christ, or are you still clinging to some pet sin that still has control over you?
Baptism is more than just partaking of Christ’s death. We do not remain in the grave. After the death and burial of Jesus, He was resurrected, so not only are we baptized into His death, but we are also baptized into His life. This is described as being born again. In other words, not only have we died to sin but we have also come alive to righteousness or alive to God. There is only one baptism, death to sin, followed by a new life in Jesus Christ. This is what it means to put on Christ, to be partakers with His life. We become clothed with His righteousness which is His character. Just as it was with the Apostle Paul, we too must experience dying to sin. This is a daily process.
“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4. The Scriptures speak of two different forms of baptism. John the Baptist declared, “Repent ye, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 3:2. His ministry, the baptism of water unto repentance, being submerged into water, is a symbol of what actually takes place within the heart, being buried with Christ. Just as Christ was raised from the dead or the grave to life, the repentant sinner comes out of the water into newness of life. The Scriptures also speak about baptism as being an answer of a good conscience toward God (I Peter 3:21).
Water baptism occurs after the recognition of sin and repentance, but it is the baptism of the Holy Spirit that actually makes us part of God’s family. The sacred record declares that, at times, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Gentiles prior to being baptized by water, and often the disciples appealed to the people to repent and be baptized that they may receive the Holy Spirit. “God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying.” Galatians 4:6. In Romans 8:9, last part, we are told, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” If you do not have the Holy Spirit, you are none of His, and you are not a part of God’s family. This does not mean there is no hope, but I state this so you may recognize and question whether or not you are truly part of God’s family. Have you received His Holy Spirit?
We have identified the members of God’s family as those who have faith in Jesus, who take Him at His word and obey, and those who have been baptized into Christ, not only by water but, more importantly, by the Holy Spirit and have put on Christ.
What is the purpose for each person who is a member of God’s family? What is your purpose? First of all, we must recognize any gifts that our Father has given us. We must recognize what gift we have received once we received the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:7 tells us, “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” The Apostle Paul referred to how much grace God had given unto him which was displayed in the many talents and abilities he was able to perform in the name of Christ. Grace is given to everyone; no one is left out.
“When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” Ephesians 4:8. Think about the gifts you have received from the Holy Spirit and whether you are using these gifts to benefit others and the church.
Let us look at some of the gifts given by the Spirit. The Apostle Paul said, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” Ephesians 4:11. “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” I Corinthians 12:28.
Do you believe that God still gives gifts to His children? Sadly, we do not see gifts within the church as perhaps we could. Some of the gifts we may avoid or shrink back from when we see them displayed by others, especially within the Christian world, because we understand that the enemy is able to counterfeit these gifts. But we should not allow any people, church, denomination, group, not even angels to discourage us from praying for and desiring the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts are important to the church and to recognize or possess any of these gifts is something about which to pray.
Perhaps you have had a talent since your youth. This is still a gift from God, given to you to be used in service for others. If you do not possess any of these gifts, we are told by the apostle to “covet earnestly the best gifts.” I Corinthians 12:31. Have a strong desire for the best gifts, not to hoard up for yourself but to use in service for others. In chapter 14:1 he says, “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts.” In Luke 12:32 Jesus said, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” of heaven, and Psalm 84:11 says, “No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.” We must believe these things and ask the Father for the gift of His Spirit.
What is the purpose of these gifts? In Ephesians 4:11–13 we read, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”
The purpose of the spiritual gifts is to equip the church for ministry and to build up the body until every member is filled with Christ and every member reaches Christian maturity. Sadly, we have not yet reached this standard. How much, then, should we be pleading to the Father to pour out His blessing upon us?
Verses 15 and 16 say, “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” Building up the body in love, building up the church, the family of God, in love; this is the purpose of these gifts. This is our purpose as members of God’s family. This is precisely what God intends for us. We were born into God’s family to love and to be loved, to come to Christian maturity.
Now that we have considered our purpose, how are we to carry it out by loving and building up one another?
The new commandment that God desires to be engraved on the hearts of each of His children was given by Jesus to His disciples. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” John 13:34. In God’s church today, is this commandment being heeded? Does each church member love one another as Jesus loved us? You may ask the question, and it is a good question and one worthy of reflection, “How did Jesus love us?” We understand that He still loves us today and we need to reflect upon how Jesus did love us. Below is listed just a few of the ways that Jesus has demonstrated His love for us.
- He voluntarily left the riches of heaven, becoming a poor man on earth, despised and rejected by the majority. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” II Corinthians 8:9. What are you willing to give up for the family of God?
- He suffered hunger and privation, resisting the temptations of the devil while fasting in the wilderness for forty days. In His strength we can now be conquerors over the perverted appetite so common today. “And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.” Luke 4:1, 2. Jesus refused to indulge Himself when the enemy came with the suggestion that if He be the Son of God, He should turn the stones into bread. He waited on God and put implicit trust in Him for His sustenance, being an example.
- He refused the offer of power and riches in exchange for worshiping the prince of this earth. When Satan showed Him the kingdoms of this world saying that all of these things could be His, He refused to bow to anyone but His Father (Matthew 4:8, 9).
- He refused to act presumptuously. When the enemy told Him to cast Himself down and the angels of God would be summoned to His help and that God would give His angels charge over Him, He refused to tempt God, because He loved us (Matthew 4:6).
- Jesus spent entire nights in prayer with His Father. His mission was to save the sheep that had gone astray and only by being connected with His Father could He fulfill His assignment. “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” Luke 6:12. Inspiration tells us that He did this quite often because He loves us. How much time do you spend on your knees in prayer for the family of God? We are to love one another as He loved us.
- He suffered a cruel death, taking upon His shoulders all the sins of the world and being separated from His Father so that all who believe on Him will not have to suffer the second death. “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Hebrews 2:9. That is how much He loved us. How much are you prepared to give?
I appeal to those who are family members, to those who claim themselves to be a part of God’s family. Jesus said, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12, 13. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” I John 3:16. Are you a member of God’s family? Are you willing to lay down your life for the brethren? Let us love one another as Jesus loved us and thus fulfill the new commandment.
If you consider the criteria to be part of the family of God and you realize that you are not in possession of the Holy Spirit, do not lose heart. The Good Shepherd is calling you into His fold. He has already paid the price, so just come. There is no real life apart from Christ. If you are breathing, living and moving, there is no life apart from Christ. Without Him you are dead in your trespasses and sins. However, our Lord stands with His arms wide open, ready to receive any and all who come to Him by faith. If you hear the Father calling to you today, inviting you to be a part of His family, to be born again, believe His promise, have faith in Jesus and be baptized in Him.
Jesus said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” John 6:37. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” John 10:27–29. Just come and you will find a home and be safe at last.
Appealing to the people of Judea, “Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38. Put your faith completely in Jesus, trust in His promises and be clothed with His righteousness.
Remember, this is the new commandment specifically given to God’s people. Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” John 15:13–15.
Respond to this invitation now while the offer is still open. Everyone has been given special talents that are needed to complement others in the family of God. Jesus said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” He is coming soon; be ready!
Demario Carter is a Bible worker for Steps to Life.