Saturday, April 10, 2010

Paul: Household Management and Church Order

By Mr. Ben Zemmer

When giving instructions to Timothy as to how the church should function, he used the picture of a household. The common household of the day was very structured and had very defined roles and expectations. Paul took a common every day structure fundamental to the society of the day and used significant pieces of that structure as analogies for biblical truth. He was not blindly baptizing an entire social structure into Christianity, rather he was using the household structure as an effective teaching metaphor (Verner, p.106). In fact, under the lens of God’s sovereign rule over history, families exist and were created in part to demonstrate the close relationship of God to his people and His people to each other (Pythress, p.9).

All of the Scriptures and Paul’s writings in particular are rich with family terminology. The standing that believers have as adopted children of God the Father through Christ is a family picture (Galatians 4:1-7). Consistently throughout the Old Testament God referred to Israel in family terms. He spoke of his love to Israel as an adulterous bride (Hosea 4-9). In other times he spoke of Israel as His beloved son (Exodus 4:22). The Jesus Himself spoke of believers as his true family (Mark 3:35). In all the future promises for His people God scatters rich analogies of family relationship (Pythress, p.8). At the final crescendo of redemptive history Jesus Himself will dwell in fullness and glory with his people who stand before God as sons of the Father (Revelation 21:7).

Not only are the Scriptures rich with family terminology, their usage of family metaphors un-veil normative patterns for God’s people. Primary in Paul’s writings concerning the household of God is the imperative that just as one would care for an immediate family member – a father, a mother, a brother, or a sister – so should every believer care for spiritual family members in the body of Christ (Pythress, p.10). Or as Pythress stated it, “The church is like a family; therefore you must treat fellow church members like family members”(p.13). The scripture speaks in very strong terms for those who do not care for family members. Jesus even said it would be better for someone to have massive stone tied around his neck and cast into the sea than to not care for one of his children and cause them to stumble. It is in the family metaphor that believers better see their reconciliation with God in salvation which is the basis for how they should relate in love to fellow members of the household of faith (Pythress, p.14).

In sum, a primary way that the Scriptures and Paul in particular describe the people of God is in family terms. Not only are those terms descriptive, they are normative. It was Paul’s imperative to set in order the things that remain (Titus 1:5). And this order is in household terms. What a glorious truth that believers in Christ relate to God as Father in the closeness of family.

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