“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household . . .” (Ephesians 2:19).
A variety of terms are used in the New Testament for God’s people — kingdom, church, body, city, and family are just a few. Each of these helps describe who we are and something of our relationship with God. No one of them is adequate for a complete description. I turn now to focus on just one: the “household.”
The word translated “household” means simply “house” and most often in the New Testament it refers to a literal dwelling. But it is also a synonym for “family” and it is in this sense that the local church is called the household of God..
The “Kingdom” of God is eternal. But the “family” of God, as a local body of people, like all families, is not. Families have a life cycle. You begin with a marriage. The family grows as children are brought into it (by birth or adoption). It also grows when those children marry, and even more when the children have children. But eventually, family lines die. Sometimes couples cannot have children, or the children do not get married, or the children do not have children. In time, that line dies. You no doubt know of families slowly, inexorably, coming to an end. It can be a sad thing, but it is a natural thing. It gets sadder when the remnants of the family line stubbornly refuse to plan for an orderly and dignified end.
The same is true for the local family of God. The local church serves as a branch on the great tree of God’s family and every branch, eventually, comes to an end. When a Church fails to bring in new family members or fails to raise new family members from within its own ranks, that family line ages and dies. It’s natural. Sometimes, something can be done: Christians can be roused from their lethargy to share the good news with their friends and neighbors, new people can be brought in, and there is a resurgence of life. But sometimes, the field (to pick up another metaphor Jesus used) where the church is situated is played out – infertile. No matter how much seed you sow, how much you fertilize, there will be no harvest. Sometimes, it’s too late. The remnants are simply incapable of saving the family line. The line is coming to an end and wisdom decrees the inevitable should be accepted and plans made for a dignified and noble end worthy of the people of God.
Until the end comes however, there is something important to remember, and important things to be done – the subjects of our next essay.