Building up believers and the New Testament church

Built Together a Habitation of God

Belonging to the Household

It should be apparent at this point that in order to be fitted into the household of God, we must belong. How are we made a part? How do we belong? It is obvious in a natural household who belongs and who does not. Is the spiritual household different? If so, what are the differences? These questions are not simple, but they do have answers. If we want to be part of what God is doing, we must take these questions honestly before God. If we are lovers of truth, God will answer our questions so that we can move in faith before Him in all things.

We said in the beginning that we must be born into the family of God. This is a divine transaction that establishes our relationship as children of God and forms the basis for our relationship with other members of the household. By the Spirit we are born into one family; thus we call each other "brother" and "sister." If we have experienced this new birth, we are part of the family of God. This heavenly transaction between the individual and God makes us "fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God."

The question before us then is this: How is this family expressed here on earth? All of God's children in the whole world cannot gather in one place to function as one. Certainly this will be possible in eternity, but we are not there yet. How can we work out the truth of "one body" and "one family" now?

Here is a foundational truth that can help us if we see it clearly. The family of God (the church) is universal in scope but local in expression. There is only one body, and that one body is expressed in the locality in which we live. Each gathering is under the authority of Christ. Since God is one, every expression of His body will be in harmony with every other expression. God will not lead one church in one way and another in an opposite direction. The love of God is the same in every culture and in every period of time. The nature of God transcends all cultural barriers.

This does not mean that everybody will wear the same kind of clothes and live in the same kind of house. Natural outward things may be different from place to place. But we can be sure that wherever children of God are dwelling together in the household of God under the authority of Christ, the expression of God's life will be the same, for God is one. Remember, the household of God is spiritual.

If we clearly see the plan and order of God, then each member is responsible before God to move in faith and express this one body in the locality in which they live. The Holy Spirit will lead them into contact with other members in the same locality, and the love of God moving in their hearts will compel them to come together as an expression of the household of God. It is not that they are "required" to come together, but that love gives them the desire to do so for the glory of God. We do not have to do the will of God. We want to do the will of God because His desire has become our desire.

Perhaps a brief look at the negative side can help to accent this truth. Suppose two people married and then moved into separate houses, just visiting each other once in a while. What would we think? We would think something was very wrong with the love relationship. We would question whether they were really married. Is it any different in the spiritual? If two members say they are of Christ but they cannot dwell together as the household of God and give expression to His life, what kind of love relationship do they have? Is the local expression of the household of God real or not? If we love God and His love fills our hearts, how does this love work out between His children?

This brings us to another foundational truth. There are only two things that should separate the children of God: distance and time. We cannot dwell together with the early disciples, because they have gone on to be with the Lord. We cannot dwell together with believers in another country because of the distance. But if we say that we love God, we must dwell together with other believers in the locality in which we live. Jesus said that our love for Him would be expressed by keeping His commandments. His commandment was to love one another as He loved us and laid down His life for us. The primary place this love is expressed is among brothers and sisters in the household of God in our locality.

Let us give one note of caution. We must let the Holy Spirit define this locality. Some have tried to define locality by political boundaries or some other means, and it produced a legal and divisive spirit. Surely the Holy Spirit can give us wisdom in these matters. We cannot impose our definitions, for there may be many things to consider. Are we in touch with God? Is God's love the controlling factor? We can never have the spirit of being "the only ones." As we keep ourselves in the love of God, the Holy Spirit will be always reaching out to others, but never compromising with sin. Sin must divide, for God is holy and will not dwell with sin. May the Holy Spirit teach us more of these things, so that the glory of God may be expressed in our locality.

There is one more area to mention at this point, and that is commitment. The household cannot function together if the members are not fully committed. As we have already said, the foundation is our union with Christ by the Spirit. If we are not in Christ, we are not living stones and fit material. But after a believer is brought into Christ, he must move on in faith to be involved with a local expression of the church. His love commitment to Christ will lead him into wholehearted involvement with working out the life of God in the body of Christ.

As we give ourselves to God in a local expression of the body, there are some important points to consider before God. First, we must be convinced that the gathering is on the proper foundation. We should see for ourselves that Christ is the foundation, the life, and the head. These are the essential elements of any expression of the church. Secondly, to be properly involved in a local gathering, we must be convinced that God has placed us in this body. To benefit fully as God has designed, and for God to use us as a channel of His life to others, we cannot just visit once in a while. The household of God is for those who belong. We must know that God has made us a part, so that we can bear our responsibility as a member of His household.