The Church As A Family
by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters. His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east. And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. And it was so, when the days of their feasting was gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually. Job 1:1-5
God chose a family in the patriarchal age, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to use as an example of a typical Jewish family. They knew that some day God would provide a sacrifice, and they looked forward and trusted in that future sacrifice in the same way that we look back and trust in that past sacrifice. With that in mind, follow this logic.
The New Testament church is supposed to be a family. I often say at the beginning of a service at the First Baptist Church, "Welcome to our thrice weekly family reunion." Every Sunday morning and Sunday night we have another family reunion. That is a scriptural term because it is in keeping with the fact that the church is a family.
1. The book of Job is a perfect example of the Old Testament family.
2. The book of Job is a perfect example of the Old Testament church.
There was an Old Testament church. The word church means, a called-out assembly. In the seventh chapter of Acts, the Israelites were called out to assemble in the wilderness and were called the church in the wilderness. The New Testament church was not founded in the Old Testament, but there was an Old Testament assembly. That Old Testament assembly was the family. I am not referring to the little unit, of mom, dad, and the children. I am referring to an extended family that included grandparents, great-grandparents, as well as mom, dad and, children. The church unit of the Old Testament was the family.
When Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, there were three things involved in that birthright, including the right to the priesthood of the family. The worship or public gathering of the Old Testament was the family.
3. Notice what size these families were.
Job had ten children, which in those days was really not that large of a family, but I will use it as the average size of a family.
If each of Job's children had ten children, there would have been a total of one hundred.
If each of them had ten children, there would have been one thousand.
If each of them had ten children, there would have been ten thousand.
If each of them had ten children, there would have been one hundred thousand.
That is five generations. A Bible generation is usually considered to be thirty-five years. Five generations would have been 175. In 175 years there would have been 111,111 people in that extended family. In the Old Testament patriarchal days, a man who died at 175 was just a boy. The average man lived much longer than that. For this example we will assume that everybody died at 175 years of age. That means that each family consisted of over 100,000 people. I am referring to the extended family.
Each of these families formed the Old Testament unit of a church or a called-out assembly. They were the worship unit. They assembled for sacrifices and worship to God.
4. The oldest or firstborn son was in charge.
The other firstborn sons in all the individual family units assisted him. In each family the oldest son held the priestly rights in his own family.
5. Soul winning was within the family.
Cities were not popular in those days. Most people lived in the country. A family of 100,000 people covered a large amount of land. Many of the children were not going to believe. Soul winning was to be within the family. They had plenty of prospects. One family could have been larger than the city of Hammond, Indiana. They had no cars or buses, so they had to walk or go on a beast of burden to get to each other. They would explain to the family members who did not believe that one day God was going to send a sacrifice, and that sacrifice was going to pay the penalty for their sins. The lambs, bullocks, turtledoves, pigeons, doves and goats were offered according to God's sacrifice. God one day would provide Himself as a sacrifice.
God told them audibly that by faith Abel believed, and they passed this story down from generation to generation. Every person had to believe in the coming Messiah to be saved, just as we must believe in the Messiah Who has already come. Somebody had to tell them these things, but there were some who would not listen. Some people would not even come to the assembly, just as we have family members who will not come to church. Those people were human beings also. They had to reach them, so there was Old Testament soul winning. Somebody had to tell every person in those days about the Gospel.
I reject the heresy that there is one Gospel in the Old Testament and another in the New Testament. Anybody who goes to Heaven will get there by faith in Jesus Christ. God uses human instruments to get us saved. Most of those human instruments are through the local New Testament church. Likewise, most of the instruments that got them saved were through the Old Testament assembly.
When the Jews came to the promised land, God gave them certain places to live. God not only gave certain land for the tribes, but for their families. Each family was given a certain job in the tabernacle and lived in a certain place. They may have gone many miles before they found somebody who was not in their own extended family. (The Mennonites and Amish have done much the same thing. They settle by families.) It was a matter of geography, or of transportation. They could not get to somebody else's family to go soul winning because they lived too far away. They went to their own relatives and witnessed to them.
6. The entire life was built around the family.
This group of people or relatives assembled on a regular basis for worship, but their social life was also built around this extended family unit. Their business life was together. Their education was together.
7. The family was the city. They did not live in cities; the family was the unit of organization, especially spiritually.
1. Cities came.
Cities have been the destruction of civilization. When the cities came, it broke down the family life.
2. Families scattered.
They went to cities. We are a perfect example in America today. We have two daughters who live a thousand miles from us, and a son who lives five hundred miles away. Many families have grown children scattered across the country.
3. Many families lived near each other.
This caused the building of cities. With the coming of cities, people migrated together and many different families or portions of families lived together in the cities.
4. They started synagogues.
A synagogue was not a patriarchal term. It came about because of cities. Any time ten responsible Jewish men were together, they were allowed to start a synagogue. These were not the same family members. God still wanted His people together.
5. The synagogue became what the big family had been.
The synagogue was an alternative measure started by God to form a family of these people in cities, so that they would have what they had back home when they were together in families. The synagogue was started so God's people could have a family even though they did not have a family.
6. The church became to New Testament Christianity exactly what the family was to Old Testament Judaism.
It is an improvised family. God wants His people to have what the old patriarchal families had, so He started a New Testament group called the assembly, or ekklesia where His people could gather and form a family.
Did you ever wonder why no rural churches are mentioned in the Bible? Every church mentioned in the Bible was in the city. With the breakdown of the family and with the coming of cities, God wanted a family atmosphere for His people, so they could have the same thing they had when they lived in the rural areas and all the families lived near each other.
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Acts 2:42
That sounds like what Job's family did. Job's family got together to have a feast and to have a service for God.
And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people... Acts 2:45-47a
That sounds like family. The local church is exactly what God intended to take the place of the Old Testament family. God wants his people to get together and God wants his people to belong to a family. That is what the church is to be. We must build our lives around the church. That is what they did. Our children's activities ought to be centered around the church and not the world. The same is true for our teenagers.
The church was not primarily started as a place where we come to meet God. Nor was it primarily started as a place where we preach the Gospel and get people saved. We are supposed to do that outside of the church. The church was started so that God's people could get together and have a family to encourage each other to be stronger. The church is to be as close as the kinfolks were in the Old Testament because we are the improvised Old Testament family.
That is why we call each other brothers and sisters. We are in the same family unit, and that means we should be there every time the doors are open. We are to support it with our tithe: We are to have our fun through the church and educate our children through the church.
We are supposed to build our lives around the church.
God did not intend for the people in the Old Testament days to spend all of their time at the meeting. They had crops to harvest, and they had work to do at home, but they had regular meeting times.
The New Testament church is not the successor to the Temple. The Temple was not a place where God's people came to learn in fellowship.
The church is not the successor to the Tabernacle.
The church is the successor to the Old Testament family.
When they came together for their services they were so glad to see each other. They shook hands and fellowshipped with one another. That is what it was all about. The church is not a place where we come to worship God. We can worship God much better alone with Him. The church is a place to assemble as God's people so we will have a family. We must get born again before we can join the church just as we must get born before we can join a family.
What a wonderful institution the local church is! It is the New Testament family.
Although we are in a church family, it is also important that we train our own little family where we are. It was not the job of the leader of the entire extended family to do all the training. Every little local family unit was also supposed to do training. In our homes, we must teach the Bible to our children, sing Gospel songs with our children, and should praise God with our children. Then we come together as individual units into a big family meeting just like Job's family did in his day.
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