Wednesday, April 29, 2009

All in the Family

Taking the Long Perspective

I. The Family Is the Platform for Society

A. Humanity has a common origin in Adam and Eve; consequently all social order begins in the Garden of Eden. “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.” (Genesis 3:20)

B. The standard for family and social life was vividly displayed in Abraham. “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” (Genesis 18:19)

C. Long life derives from faithfulness and respect within the family context. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” (Exodus 20:12)

D. What begins in families stretches out across humanity in its various categories and distributions; nations and civilizations replicate and reflect families. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:3-6)

II. Family Terms Apply Across the Cultural Spectrum

A. God terms government officials fathers and mothers. “And his servants came near, and spake unto [Naaman], and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” (2 Kings 5:13) “And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.” (Isaiah 49:23)

B. God approved the term for religious leaders with the example of Elisha who called his prophetic mentor, Elijah, his father. “And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.” (2 Kings 2:12-14)

III. Family Relationships Interpret Other Relationships

A. People first learn and teach relationships with superiors, inferiors, and equals in the family. Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians 5:21) Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. (1 Peter 2:17) Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; (Romans 12:10)

B. People in authority should use their power with the same loving attitude God first demonstrated to them. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

C. Authority must be used for the benefit of those in various subordinate positions; Paul was applying family rules to church discipline. “Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. (2 Corinthians 12:14)

D. Paul applied family terminology to those God used him to lead to grace. “I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.” (1 Corinthians 4:14-16)

Do Not Stop Them

Numbers 11:1-30; Mark 9:38-41 / Philippians 1:12-26

I. Those People Belong to the Wrong Denomination

A. John was more concerned about credentials than about the spread of the gospel. “And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.” (Mark 9:38)

1. John seems to have been dealing with the genuine article; the magical or medical use of the name is a different matter and would appear in Acts. “Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.” (Acts 19:13-14)

2. Casting out devils is a good thing, but is not in itself evidence of salvation. “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22-23)

B. John is known historically as the apostle of love but Jesus named John and his brother James “Boanerges.” “And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder:” (
Mark 3:17) “Firebrand” would be a contemporary equivalent designation.

C. The conflict of status and service is much older than this event in Mark; Moses faced it in the Exodus. “But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp. And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.” (Numbers 11:26-28)

D. People easily mingle their own interests with the glory of God; believers must rejoice as God’s word is being distributed even when “the wrong people” are doing it. “And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29)

II. The Church Is More than an Institution

A. Do not stop what is inherently right; John was showing more concern for his own status in the church than for the work of the gospel. “But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.” (Mark 9:39)

B. In contrast, when Paul was struggling with people who were preaching the gospel primarily to hurt himwhile Paul was in prison and unable to preachhe summarized the proper attitude. “What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” (Philippians 1:18)

C. Anyone who does not impede the gospel is a friend of the true church.
“For he that is not against us is on our part.” (Mark 9:40)

III. God Knows and Remembers His Friends

A. The work God assigns—even when it is very small—is more important than the status of the person doing it; all the friends of the gospel will be remembered in due time. “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.” (Mark 9:41)

B. God keeps His own accounts; Heaven’s records are far better than those of any human central office. “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)

C. The poor widow who gave only a small amount gave more to God than the rich who dipped into their abundance. “And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living. (Mark 12:41-44)

D. Practice seeing life from God’s perspective. “Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7)

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