Author: Ron Graham
Our Place in God’s Family
—Christ in You, the Hope of Glory Part 1
There is a phrase in Colossians 1:27 that echoes in your soul whenever you read it. "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
Paul expresses the relationship between us and Christ in two ways: Χριστος εν meaning “Christ in...”, and εν Χριστος meaning “...in Christ”. This seems to be the best way that Paul can indicate the closeness of our spiritual relationship.
This relationship echoes Christ’s own expression of his relationship with the Father, "I am in the Father and the Father in me" (John 14:11).
This is not a normal way to express a relationship. A person would not usually say, "I am in my mother" or "My friend is in me" when speaking of a very close relationship with mother or friend.
Yet Paul speaks of "brethren in Christ" (Colossians 1:2) and uses the phrase "Christ in you..." (Colossians 1:27).
This manner of speech is simple yet profound. You cannot get much simpler and shorter a word than "in" yet Paul makes it express the most profound relationship that exists.
¶“26[The word of Christ] was a mystery, hidden down through the ages and generations. But it has now has been revealed to the holy people of God. 27It was God’s will to make this mystery known to his holy people among the nations. He revealed this mystery in all the riches of its glory —Christ in you the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27).
In this and the next lesson, we take that phrase as a key idea in the letter to Colossians. We will look mainly at the first two chapters, in the light of that phrase, along with certain key verses from Ephesians the twin epistle.
We are going to consider three glorious privileges that our association with Jesus Christ bestows upon us to give substance and assurance to our hope.
Christians are "adopted as sons of God through Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 1:5). We have nothing less than a familial (family) relationship and union with God, by our association with his Son.
This lovely thought is brought out in various ways in the letter to the Colossians.
1 We Be Brethren
Colossians 1:2 "...to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae".
The word "brethren" is a plural form of "brother", and especially refers to brothers in Christ. In this sense the word is not gender specific, but is used generically to include both brothers and sisters in Christ as one undivided brotherhood or family.
2 Our Familial Love
Colossians 1:4,8. Paul commends the Colossians for having gained a reputation for love to all the members of God's spiritual family. He says, "I heard of your love for all the saints... your love in the Spirit". A family without love is not much of a family. Among Christians there is a spiritual familial love.
3 Our Family Inheritance
Colossians 1:12 Paul speaks of "the inheritance of the saints in light". A privilege that family members enjoy is that they are heirs with a right to an inheritance.
Whilst this might not be true for everyone in every earthly family, it is true for everyone in the family of God. And what an inheritance! In our main text Paul speaks of "the riches of the glory" (Colossians 1:27), and that is what we share in forever.
4 Belonging to God's Family
Colossians 1:21 "You were formerly alienated... yet now he has reconciled you." A person without an earthly family, or a person who has been excommunicated from an earthly family, can feel very very alone in the world.
How much worse is the sin-caused alienation from the family of God. The death of Christ enables reconciliation with God and a welcome back into "the whole family in heaven and in earth" (Ephesians 3:14-21).
Note —EXCOMMUNICATE means to cut off from fellowship, to cast out, disinherit.
5 Chosen and Adopted
Colossians 3:12 In the third chapter, Paul describes Christians as "chosen of God, holy and beloved".
Most of us belong to an earthly family by birth. However some children are adopted. Adopted children are often told by their parents, "You are a special child because we chose you especially for our own."
Sometimes Christians are represented as those who, like the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), left God's family but later returned. Sometimes Christians are represented as those who are "born again" (John 3:3).
However Christians are also represented as "adopted sons" (Ephesians 1:5). This emphasises that we are chosen and accepted by God because of Christ.
Belonging to Two Families
Whilst our fellowship in God's family is true and glorious, this does not give us a reason to neglect the earthly family to which we may belong.
If we are members of two families — an earthly one as well as the heavenly one — then let us balance our duties to both families without letting one rob the other of its due.
In the letter to Colossians we find God requiring proper attention to earthly family needs (Colossians 3:18 to 4:1).
A Dysfunctional Family
All of us need to feel that we belong to a "great family" and that on our path we are not alone but in a great worldwide company of brothers and sisters bound together in love.
This sense of belonging is absolutely important. Its opposite is a feeling of alienation and loneliness. People today feel a deep need not just for identification and attachment to a group, but a deep fellowship with fellow beings.
Unfortunately, even in what claims to be God’s family, there can be a serious lack of this ideal togetherness, such that some are made to feel emptiness and even hostility. So they leave the "family" believing it not to be God’s family after all.
Sometimes the "family" concept is cited to justify intrusive and meddling behaviour, and the forcing of obligations on people that really have nothing to do with the spiritual family. There is a false expectation that the spiritual family must function like one’s earthly family.
When true fellowship is lacking, the problem really is that some members of the spiritual family are alienating people (and themselves) from God because of a false or failing love. And so fellowship breaks down.
The only solution, if those failing will seek it, is found in Jesus who shed his blood to reconcile people to God in his household (Ephesians 2:13,16-19). Let Jesus control God’s family. Don't interfere. Let the people grow in him.