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Family: the Key Image of the Bible

by Joel Comiskey

Spring 2012

I believe that “family” is the principal image of the church in Scripture. Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:15, “If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”

The family of God and household of God are two sides of the same coin and both extend from the house church. The household of God goes beyond the idea of nuclear family and refers to the larger kinship group (oikos) that met in the early house churches. Christ’s family extends beyond blood relationships and reaches all those who call on Jesus as Lord and Savior.

When Christ’s mother and brothers wanted the first place in line to see Jesus, he replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:48-50). While blood ties are important, a right relationship with the Father and his family is even more essential.

Robert Banks writes, “The metaphor of the family was a vital one to Paul. . . .For given the family character of the Christian community, the homes of its members provided the most conducive atmosphere in which they could give expression to the bond they had in common” (Paul’s Idea of Community, p. 49).

Use of the homes of Christians for the gathering of the community reflects the family character of the early church. The atmosphere and attitudes in the community speak to fundamental family values, like trust, respect, love, patience, tolerance, and generosity. The home atmosphere provided the necessary interaction for truly being the church.