Calvary Road Baptist Church

“FAMILY”

 

I hold in my hand a flower (hold up rose), freshly cut from one of the seventeen bushes given to our church fifteen years ago by a wonderful church couple. The bushes produce prodigious amounts of flowers that must be trimmed every Friday before the gardeners arrive to mow the lawn, thereby making cleanup very easy. I know you think you know what kind of flower this is. This flower has been called by the same name for thousands of years, a name agreed upon by virtually every human being who has ever lived, by courts of law and legislatures, as well as botanical scientists. Now, however, a group of people have come along claiming to represent botanical rights in opposition to anti-vegetarian haters. They insist that this, too, (hold up large red apple) should bear the same name as the flower, and they are so demanding, so insistent, so determined, so challenging to people who really just want to be left alone to water, fertilize, and prune their bushes, that they have been cowered into agreeing with the loud and boisterous screamers and yellers that yes, this is the same thing as the flower.

Do you want to know what is really sad? An English playwright by the name of William Shakespeare, born in 1564 and died in 1616, once wrote a wonderful play titled Romeo and Juliet, in which the following statement is uttered by Juliet: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” It is generally held that her statement argues that it does not matter that Romeo is from her rival’s house of Montague, that is, that he is named “Montague.” The reference is often used to imply that the names of things do not affect what they really are.[1] Reality, not labels, is the thing.

The flower I hold in this hand is a rose. You can insist that this other thing, this apple, is rightly a rose and that only those with deeply held prejudices and wicked agendas will deny the legitimacy of this item’s roseness. However, just because a few people with grievances begin to agitate and insist that one thing which has from time immemorial been a rose and another thing that from time immemorial has not been a rose is suddenly a rose because angry protesters, or even judges, insist that it is does not change the fact of it at all. “It’s a matter of respect, dignity, and civil rights.” No, it’s not. How do we come to such a state of affairs that people insist on the roseness of an apple? Such can only happen when a sufficiently large percentage of the population no longer understands that just because you insist that an apple is a rose the reality of the apple’s essential nature is such that it can never by wishful thinking or determined insistence, or even because of judicial rulings or legislative activity, become a rose. Just as “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” In like measure, an apple by any other name would continue to taste like an apple, because it is an apple.

Last week I brought a message from God’s Word dealing with the duties, obligations, and responsibilities of a father. However, it is sadly the case in our country and culture that the state of affairs that we cry over run deeper than merely men making babies without responsibly raising them as good fathers. More fundamental than our understanding of the duties, obligations, and responsibilities of fathers is our understanding of the concept in general of this institution known as family. This is important because, just as no amount of screaming and yelling and protesting and name calling and judicial rulings and executive actions can transform an actual apple into an actual rose (call them what you may), the same is true of a family.

A family is not what you say a family is. A family is not what I say a family is. A family is not a family because of love. Neither is a family what the tax code identifies as a family. The institution of the family has been in existence since God created Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden and then created Eve, Genesis 1.27 and Genesis 2.7-8, 21-22. Though the Hebrew word hxpvm is not used for the first time until Genesis 8.19, it is found more than 220 times in the Old Testament, most commonly translated family or families, though it is infrequently translated kinds or kindred. The concept of family was so well established among the Jewish people in the Old Testament that the Greek word for family in the New Testament, patria, is used only three times, where it is translated lineage, kindreds, and family.[2]

Taking our cue from the infallible Word of God, our only authoritative and objective rule of faith and practice for all things historical, all things moral, and all things spiritual, allow me to reduce the entirety of the Bible’s teachings on the subject of the family to four very basic points:

 

First, THE FAMILY DEFINED

 

Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary indicates that family is held to be,

1.      the collective body of persons who live in one house.

2.      a father, mother, and their children.

3.      the children of the same parents.

4.      one’s husband (or wife) and children.

5.      A group of people related by blood or marriage; relatives.[3]

 

More than 160 years earlier Noah Webster recognized the family in his 1828 dictionary as being,

1.      The collective body of persons who live in one house and under one head or manager; a household, including parents, children and servants, and as the case may be, lodgers or boarders.

2.      Those who descend from one common progenitor; a tribe or race; kindred; lineage. Thus the Israelites were a branch of the family of Abraham . . . The whole human race are the family of Adam, the human family.[4]

These secular sources reflect well the Hebrew concept of family, with Abraham having a nuclear family comprised of his wife Sarah, for a time Ishmael, and Isaac, and also an extended family later including Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and his family.[5] The Hebrew word for family is, as I said before, hxpvm and is used literally hundreds of times in the Old Testament.

The New Testament concept of the family is throughout identical to what is found in the Old Testament, with a family unit understood as being founded according to Genesis 2.24:

 

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

 

Thus, throughout the course of human history a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose, and an apple is an apple is an apple is an apple. A rose is not an apple. An apple is not a rose. A family unit is formed when a man marries a woman. An extended family includes those who are physical descendants of that husband and wife, including spouses who have married into the family of those physical descendants. That is family in the human realm. However, that does not exhaust the concept of family. It may be a shock to you to learn that one must also take into account the spiritual realm as well as the merely physical, considering that which is eternal as well as that which lasts only until death. This brings me to the family of God.

Ever wonder why God describes Himself in scripture as Father? Consider four aspects by which God shows Himself to be Father in the Bible: First, of course, He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Three times we read in the New Testament “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”[6] Next, there is the fatherhood of God to all men. This aspect of God’s fatherhood is derived from His creative activity, mentioned in Luke 3.38 and Acts 17.28. This is also a source of confusion to many, who erroneously think that because we can ultimately trace our origin to God, making Him our father in a sense, one’s eternal destiny is thereby secured because God is our Creator. This notion is false. No one benefits in eternity merely because God created him. Third, there is the fatherhood of God to the nation of Israel. Again, though God several times addressed that nation as a father or as His sons, this does not in the slightest suggest thereby that individual Israelites were regenerated sons of God merely because they were Jewish.[7] Important to us is the fourth aspect of God’s fatherhood. Amazing as it may be to some, all who receive Christ (or who believe on His name) become the offspring of God, heirs and joint heirs of Christ, actual sons of God, and members of the family of God.[8]

Thus, there are in reality two legitimate concepts of families, the physical kind that you are born into and is comprised of your blood kin, and the spiritual kind related to the new birth and whether or not you know Jesus Christ as your Savior.

 

Which Brings Us Next To THE FAMILY DESCRIBED

 

Consider the two concepts of what we refer to as family, the physical and then the spiritual.

First, the physical kind of family described. This kind of family is typically the only kind of family most nonchristians ever in their lives give thought to. Sad. As briefly described before, this kind of family was originally brought into existence by God when He created Adam and then when He created Eve to be Adam’s companion through life, his mate and his wife. Since God created the institution of family it only stands to reason that God, and only God, has the ultimate right to determine what constitutes a family. What constitutes a family? In its simplest form a family consists of a husband and a wife, which is to say a married man who is married to a married woman married to him. To be sure, both death and disruption can alter the composition of a family. However, the beginning of a family is the marriage of two people of opposite sexes. Two people who make a baby do not thereby make a family. That said, is it possible for people to come together to form something like a family, for mutual benefit and blessing, so long as it is understood that sex between two people who are not married after the Biblical pattern cannot be a feature of the arrangement. Sexual activity outside of marriage, no matter how much you love each other, is sinful.

Then, there is the spiritual kind of family described. Though most people give no thought to anything they cannot see or touch, the spiritual type of family is every bit as real as any family that lives together in a house and celebrates the Fourth of July and Christmas together. The spiritual counterparts to the billion physical families are only two in number. There is the spiritual entity known as the family of God, and there is the spiritual entity known as the family of the Devil. Every human being, whether he is married and participating in a physical family or not, is also and at the same time a member of either the family of God or the family of the Devil. The two phrases that reveal to us the existence of these two spiritual families were used by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; “your father which is in heaven”[9] and “your father the devil.” The Devil’s family is a spiritual family every one of us was born into, and is a family of unbelief, is a family of selfishness, is a family in which no one needs to be taught how to lie, and is a family that is so confused by spiritual deadness and sinfulness that it is not unusual for members of that family to call evil good and good evil. It is a family of spiritual kinship to the Devil himself. The other family, the family of God, is comprised only of individuals who one day came to recognize their sinfulness, to appreciate God’s love and mercy, and responded to the gospel by trusting Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. The family of God, different than the family of the Devil, does not celebrate laziness, does not advocate drinking and partying, and opposes sexual sins and marital infidelity. Further, those in the family of God will not wrongly show loyalty to those who are guilty of wrongdoing. Our allegiance is to God, not to our physical family members. Jesus Christ died on the cross for me; my mother did not.

Neither family is entirely consistent. There are many who are in the Devil’s family who, though they reject Christ, will perform acts of kindness and good will toward others. As well, there are many who are in the family of God who demonstrate tragically disappointing behavior that comprises our testimony and reflects badly on our Savior. That said, the two families are real, even if they cannot be seen or felt. And the destiny of those in the one family is not the same as the destiny of those in the other family.

 

Third, THE FAMILY DURATION

 

Though there are many people who reject the claims of Jesus Christ who insist that they are for the family, first, foremost, and forever, they are tragically mistaken:

This is because the physical family is a family of relatively short duration. Consider the newlyweds Bill and Eileen. How long will their relationship with each other last? Certainly not forever. Should Bill die and Eileen remarry, what happens to the family formed by the marriage of Bill and Eileen? It is certainly dissolved when Eileen marries again. However, the reality is that Bill and Eileen’s family dissolved as soon as Bill died. How can this be? Physical family units are not durable. They do not last, despite our sentiments and wishes. What about a mother and her child? How long does that relationship last? I know that you and I both wish our relationships with our beloved mothers would last forever, but there is no evidence of any kind, but only sentiment and strong emotions to argue the case. The reality is that death ends every physical relationship, and no purely physical relationship such as the family you were born into can possibly survive your own death. Only spiritual relationships survive physical death.

This is because that which is spiritual is unaffected by physical death. Say a guy is born into this world a sinner, dead in trespasses and sins.[10] That describes my entrance into this world, by the way, as well as your own. Say a child is born and his mother names him Joe, and Joe lives out his entire life and dies without considering and then trusting Jesus Christ as his Savior. He will be throughout eternity what he was when he died, dead in trespasses and sins. You see, once you enter the eternal state nothing changes, ever. On the other hand, what about a baby born into this world a sinner, whose name was Cynthia? As sinful as sinful can be, there came a day when Cynthia heard the gospel message. She heard the gospel again and again and again until she was persuaded to trust Christ. At that moment Cynthia was born again into the family of God, and she became a child of God whose sins are forgiven. And someday, when she passes from this life to the next by death, she will forever be what she in this life became, a child of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ. When Joe dies he will be left without physical family, because death ends all merely physical relationships, which are only temporary and were never designed by God to be permanent. However, when Cynthia dies she will always and forever have the relationships that were most important to her; her relationship with God, her relationship with Jesus Christ, and her relationships with her brothers and sisters in Christ, relationships not merely based on physical family but relationships based upon their faith in Christ.

 

Finally, THE FAMILY DESTINY

 

Reflect with me as I consider three hypotheticals about the family you are in:

Let me begin with a consideration of your human family. Shall we pretend that you are a member of the Jones family, or the Esposito family, or the Singh family? Perhaps you are the father, or the mother, or the son, or the daughter. What, pray tell, is the destiny of your family? Clearly, in answer to that question the Jones family has no destiny. Neither does the Esposito or the Singh family. Since physical families comprised of human beings exist in this world only, there is no possible way such a family unit can have a destiny. Why not? Several reasons come immediately to mind to all but the most naive person: First, since mom and dad rarely die at the same time, what happens if either mom or dad lives long enough to remarry? In this way, both moms and dads can end up being a part of at least two different families. Then there is the spiritual condition of family members. Does the family survive intact if mom is a Christian but dad is not when they die, with one going to heaven and the other going to Hell? So you see, the physical human family was designed by God for this world and does not survive this terrible thing called death. Your family can be a wonderful place of love and acceptance and growing up, but you must accept the fact that it is temporary. Some families last a couple of years, some families last many decades, but no family lasts forever,

Unless it is a spiritual family. Consider with me the family of the Devil. Whether you were born into the Jones family, the Esposito family, the Singh family, or any other human family, you were also born into a spiritual family identified by the Savior when He pointed out to unsaved men that they were of their father the Devil. Evidence for this is found throughout the Word of God, beginning with Adam and Eve’s firstborn son Cain’s murder of his brother Abel.[11] How could Cain, who had likely never observed physical death of any kind, murder his brother? He was sinful. But he did not become sinful; he was born that way. He was born into the family of the Devil. He inherited his sinfulness just like everyone descended from Adam has inherited sinfulness, according to Romans 5.12:

 

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”

 

And, of course, “the wages of sin is death,” Romans 6.23. This speaks not of physical death only, but also of eternal spiritual death, separation from God through the timeless ages of eternity. This family does have a destiny following death, and that destiny is eternal damnation, because your spiritual condition when you die determines your eternal destiny, with everyone who is a member of the Devil’s family going to Hell.

Thankfully, there is the family of God. This physical life we have been given by God, with the physical families we are born into and have opportunity to bring into existence when we grow up and marry, are provided for a purpose; so each of us as individuals might use this span of physical life to prepare for eternity. Thus, when a person has the opportunity to hear about God, and about His Son Jesus Christ, and the good news that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for our sins and rose from the dead that we might be saved from our sins, he needs to take advantage of that opportunity. You can look up into the nighttime sky and find abundant evidence that God is and that He has created everything that is. Therefore, it is only reasonable that such a powerful and wise Creator would seek to communicate to His creatures through His Word, the Bible, and place into the Bible the wonderful message of eternal salvation through faith in Christ. When a sinner hears and obeys the gospel by trusting in Jesus Christ he is at that time born again into the family of God and suited for an eternity with Christ in the presence of God. I am so glad I am a member of the family of God.

 

Ever wonder why Christians are so concerned and unyielding about the definition of marriage, about such things as same sex marriage, divorce, and the preservation of what most people call the traditional family? There are several reasons we are so concerned and unyielding about such things: First, it is because we understand that sin, any sin, all sin, is rebellion against God and is soul damning. Confusion about such things as marriage and the family results in the normalizing of sins so that people not only commit sins, but they come to believe that sins are not sins at all but are merely personal lifestyle choices. Such confusion makes it so very difficult to conduct a civil conversation about sin, salvation, the Savior, and the need for forgiveness. Second, when so many people think the only concept of family is the family you share a house or apartment with they also mistakenly tend to think of family as being forever. The problem, of course, is that human families are not forever, not even the best of them. But spiritual families, either the family of the Devil or the family of God, are forever.

You can understand the heartache and concern, then, when someone in Jones family comes to know Christ as her Savior and recognizes that her mom and dad, her brothers and sisters, all of whom she loves so very much, will be separated from her forever by death. Thankfully, however, whenever a member of her human family comes to Christ, they as members of the family of God will never be separated, not even by death. No wonder Christians invite family members to church. It is not to bug them or to impose their will on their brothers and sisters. Not at all. It’s because they love them and want them to spend eternity with them in heaven as a blood bought child of God whose sins are all forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ.

It is becoming really bad here in the United States. Our Supreme Court has just ruled that there is in the Constitution a right never before seen by any legal scholar in the more than 200 years of our nation’s history, the right for a man to marry a man and the right for a woman to marry a woman. Many people are okay with that ruling, thinking that such a ruling has no effect on them or any decisions they make. I am not one of those people. I am concerned about the effect such a ruling will have on people’s perception of family, since the ruling has undoubtedly altered the legal definition of marriage. I fear this will make it all the harder for me to reach those who are members of my extended physical family with the gospel, by which they become with me members of the family of God.



[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare 6/25/15

[2] Luke 2.4; Acts 3.25; Ephesians 3.15

[3] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 661.

[4] Noah Webster, Noah Webster’s First Edition Of An American Dictionary Of The English Language, (Anaheim, CA: Foundation For American Christian Education, 1967)

[5] Hebrews 11.9

[6] 2 Corinthians 11.31; Ephesians 1.3; 1 Peter 1.3

[7] Exodus 4.22; Deuteronomy 32.6; Isaiah 63.16; 64.8

[8] John 1.12-13; Romans 8.17, 29; Hebrews 2.10

[9] Matthew 5.16, 45, 48; 6.1; 7.11; 18.14; 23.9; Mark 11.25

[10] Ephesians 2.1

[11] Genesis 4.8


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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org