The New Family of God

We are happy to announce that our next course, ‘Themes in the Gospel of John’, will be available in a few weeks. A good way to prepare is to enroll in N.T. Wright Online’s ‘Worldviews, the Bible, and the Believer’, on sale now for only $49.99 (64% off!)

My wife and I met in a chemistry lab in college. I was reminded tonight at dinner that ‘the chemistry must have been right’. Indeed it has been. We just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary last week. That might make us seem ‘old’ to some. Maybe we are. We have heard the ‘good chemistry’ joke a few times over the decades.

Another thing I have heard over the decades was this statement: I feel closer to this group than to my own family. I heard that over and over again during more than 30 years in pastoral ministry. I still hear that from friends who identify more with the family of God than with their earthly families. Should we be surprised at that statement? I don’t think so, especially if you understand what Jesus has done in His New Creation project, illustrated in the Gospel of John. 

John and the New Family of God

This ‘new family of God’ is hinted at in the Gospel of John in various places. In his book John for EveryoneProfessor Wright notes an interesting implication of the way that incarnation, Jesus becoming a human like us, is described in John 1:

Perhaps the most exciting thing about this opening passage is that we are in it too: ‘To anyone who did accept him’ (verse 12) — that means anyone at all, then and now. We don’t have to be born into a particular family or part of the world. God wants people from everywhere to be born in a new way, born into the family which he began through Jesus and which has since spread through the world. Anyone can become a ‘child of God’ in this sense, a sense which goes beyond the fact that all humans are special in God’s sight. Something can happen to people in this life which causes them to become new people, people who (as verse 12 says) ‘believe in his name.

We also see God’s family in the story of Jesus’ calling of the Twelve, which is clearly reminiscent of God’s family, the twelve tribes of Israel. More subtle is Jesus’ statement while on the cross in John 19:26-27. Jesus says, regarding Mary, his mother, to ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’: Behold, your mother. Jesus also says to Mary: Woman, behold your son. The text goes on to indicate that John, presumably ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’, took Mary into his own home. Jesus initiates a new family bond.

As we cross paths with people in our lives, we should remember that it is often the family of God that gives us our identity, values, and practices, even more than our earthly families. 

As we cross paths with people in our lives, we should remember that it is often the family of God that gives us our identity, values, and practices, even more than our earthly families. Click To Tweet

Born of the Spirit

At my mother’s memorial service, a family member stood up to declare, ‘Remember, the most important thing we have is family’ (meaning our earthly families). I wanted to stand up and shout out, ‘You are a liar’! Fortunately, I didn’t. That would have had a negative impact on the decorum of the event (and I wasn’t in charge!).

Nonetheless, it was a lie. My true family is the family of God. This takes precedence over my earthly family, even though I love them very much. But the earthly family may not reflect the intent of God. Israel herself was intended to be the solution to the world’s sin problem but she was also the carrier of the problem, just like every other ethnic group. 

It is a beautiful element of life when an earthly family reflects the family of God. But it is rare. We celebrate it when it happens. But we should not forget that for most people, the family of God is ‘born of the spirit’ and not of the flesh. 

So, we celebrate the joyful relationships we have with those who are in the Messiah and are a part of the family of God. 

John’s Gospel is a powerful reminder that God has done a new thing in the Messiah, Jesus. He has brought about New Creation and new relationships that extend from this New Creation. We embrace that family and it must take precedence over the earthly family.

I take joy in the fact that my wife and I have had ‘good chemistry’ from our early days in college. But I take even more joy that my wife is part of the family of God. That leads to deeper fellowship that what an earthly bond can bring.

I take joy in the fact that my wife and I have had ‘good chemistry’ from our early days in college. But I take even more joy that my wife is part of the family of God. Click To Tweet
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David P. Seemuth

David Seemuth is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Center for Christian Study and coordinates seminars and classes. He and Prof. N.T. Wright collaborate in online course development. David has been an Adjunct Professor at Trinity International University for over 25 years and teaches in the area of Biblical Studies, specializing in the New Testament. He also served as an Associate Pastor at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, WI for 33 years.

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2018-09-07T07:53:18+00:00