Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
The prayer of the apostle, which includes a reference to the whole family interest of the universe under the blessed Father, is one of the most fervent, comprehensive, and sublime to be found in all Scripture. Let us consider the force and beauty of the expression, "the family in heaven and in earth." The primary reference is to the Church of God, brat it likewise includes the angels, who merge with the saints into one family; for "all they are brethren." The Church is the family of God in many respects.
I. IT IS SO IN THE TIE THAT BINDS ALL THE MEMBERS TOGETHER. A family has its constitution in nature, not in similarity of opinion, or interest, or taste. We cannot choose who shall be our brothers or sisters. There are relationships in human life into which we can enter or not enter at will, such as political associations, literary fellowships, social bonds of various kinds. The family is not of this character. Now, the Church is a family unlike these merely voluntary associations, for it is founded by God himself, in which we have our place by his own adopting grace, and once we are there, our relations to everything internal and external are determined, not by ourselves, but by the laws of family life. We become "children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26). There may be members in this family who may not recognize us as fellow-members at all, but we are members notwithstanding, by ties which they have done nothing to create and which they cannot undo by their exclusiveness or their bigotry. Yet all the members are really bound to each other by the tie of a common life, for they live by faith in Christ Jesus, and of a common love; for faith worketh by love, and never works without it. Jesus says, "Love one another, as I have loved you." That is, we are to love with a love practical, humble, bountiful, patient, gentle, all-embracing, and lasting as Christ's own love.
II. THE CHURCH IS A FAMILY BY ITS UNITY. There is but one Father in the Divine family, who unites in himself the perfection of fatherly and motherly affection. There is but one Church on earth, "one body," as there is but one faith, one baptism, one hope. Wherever there is union with Christ, there is membership in his body the Church. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the bond of unity in the Church. It follows, therefore, that believers must be one in faith, love, and obedience.
III. THE CHURCH AS A FAMILY ADMITS OF GREAT DIVERSITIES. There are great diversities of affection, of temperament, of character, in the same family, contributing, indeed, to the fullness and happiness of its life. The completeness of the family depends, indeed, on the beautiful fusion of its masculine and feminine elements. Now, the Church similarly, though one, exists under great diversities of form and condition. There are, first, the two great divisions of the Church into the heavenly and the earthly membership. It is a mistake to say, as some do, that the Church consists only of living saints, as if the dead ceased to he in its unity. God does not set members in the body that they may die out of it again; he is the God, not of the dead, but of the living; and if such members are not in the body, they are without a Head, that is, without Jesus Christ, who is the only Head of the body. Can "the whole body" grow to the measure of the stature of a perfect man without including the growth of the entire Church of God? Then, again, there are the diversities of dispensations. Believers of every age, no matter under what dispensation they lived, are members of the Divine family. The way of salvation was always the same (Romans 4.). The one Lamb of God who took away the sin of man was "slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 8:8). The variety of dispensations marks the onward stages of the family life. Then, again, there are the diversities of opinion which have existed within the Church of God without destroying its unity; and endless diversities of character and temperament, all governed more or less by the subduing grace of God; and the diversities of lot, service, and event, illustrated in the career of the members of this family.
IV. THE CHURCH IS A FAMILY WITH A FINAL GATHERING AND A HOME FOR ALL ITS SEPARATED MEMBERS. There is a house of" many mansions," which our Savior has gone before to prepare (John 14:2) - "the holy places made without hands;" the grand metropolis of God's moral rule, "whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord," from every realm of earth, from every age of time. There angels will mingle with saints, and interchange experiences of the love of God. The fatherhood of God is thus seen to connect different orders of beings by a new and loving tie. Happy family, whose names are written in heaven! Happy family, whose ranks are unbroken, whose hearts are one! Gathered home at last, to be forever with the Lord, and forever with one another! - T.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,