Becoming the Whole Family of God

13 04 2020

Mt. Everest soars to 29,035 feet above sea level, the highest point on planet earth.

Ephesians 3:14-21 soars as the highest unveiling of the heavenly places in Christ.

I have described chapters 1-3 as a mountain range of elevated truths. And we come now to the pinnacle peak. How could any person, no matter how brilliant, pen a prayer of praise like this, especially when confined in a cell and chained up?

Paul could only write this way if God had revealed it to him.

I wonder if that is something God wants to do for you and me during these days of confinement.


The “inner man” of your church

Paul writes to the congregation in Ephesus as a group of people who possess a shared, corporate spirituality (called “the inner man“). He is prostrate in heart, if not also in posture, begging God to allow them to thrive in the Spirit.

Concern for the inner life of the local church reminds us of John’s letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. I would like you to consider Paul praying this for the local body of believers with whom you fellowship:

“For this reason, I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:14-16).

Let’s slow down and ponder this phrase: “our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (3:15).

The human family

Now, more than usual, we realize how interconnected we are as a human race. We are only a series of hand touches from every other human being. And Jesus Christ is the agent of our origins, for as Paul declares in a parallel prison letter, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth” (Col.1:16a).

I believe God is glorified through church and agency efforts which work together across ethnic and ideological lines. During this crisis, it is wonderful to see medical, educational, governmental, religious, and charitable agencies cooperating for the common good. The human family which God created is working together! Praise Him, and well done!

The family of the reconciled

The second and deeper sense of Jesus’ family consists of all those who have called on Him as Savior and Lord. This unleashes a heart-unity that is only possible through the reconciliation brought by Jesus’ saving work.

Too often our churches don’t reflect the “whole family” which Jesus loves. Instead we reflect a social class or ethnic group. But when we signed on with Jesus, we took on the obligation to love everyone just as He loves. 

We have now been schooled in the power of touch. Negatively, if we were to keep touching each other we would all soon be dangerously ill. But turn it around. What if we all started to “touch” each other for good? What if every Christian began touching others with the love of Jesus? And then another, and another?

How would our conversation change?

During these weeks of shelter in place, we are connecting with family and fellow believers through virtual means. I think the Holy Spirit is going to naturally move our conversations through a process that may go something like this:

1. Let’s check in. How are you and your family doing? Do you have your basic needs met?

A period of settling in, and even boredom, will (or has begun to) spread. Then we will ask:

2. What does God seem to want us to pay attention to during this time? What are we noticing about our daily life these days, and what meaning do we take from it?

This is where I am at present. Some friends are making observations about how they have managed their time, finances, family. Out of these musings, the Holy Spirit will create a yearning to move forward more than to return backward:

3. How does God want us to emerge from this time as a family and a congregation? In what ways should we not return to the way it used to be? What is the church to do and be in a world that is so reachable through various kinds of touch?

I am leaning in, eager to see what God is going to do.

We will pick up at this elevation next time.