Good behaviour of the children of any family circle is essential for its smooth function, and peace and harmony among the family members. Should we for any reason be invited to the home of nobility, good behaviour would be paramount during the course of our visit. In “the house of God” good behaviour is critical to our eternal well-being, for it is the home of the great and awesome God, the Father “of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph 3:15).

Paul identifies this house as “the ecclesia of living God” (no article in Greek text), and our presence in this house is not just for the purpose of a casual visit. To this home we have been called to become members of “the household of God”; it is in this house where good behaviour must be exercised. Sometimes members of the family may become disgruntled with the functions of the ecclesial home, or even with other members of God’s family, and imagine that they can leave home and go it alone; after all, they reason that “salvation is an individual matter”. Well, salvation is an individual matter, providing that we understand that it includes a collective responsibility (Gal 6:2).

Paul’s point in this passage is that in accepting that collective responsibility we really fulfil the whole purpose for which Christ died. What if the firstborn of God’s house decided that “salvation is an individual matter”; then we would all be lost, and he would not have fulfilled the purpose for which he was sent: “This is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing” (John 6:39).

Bound Together as One Family

 Our calling inextricably binds us together as a family, irrespective of our personal preferences based upon the characteristics inherited from our natural families. There cannot be a “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” to relieve personal discomfort.

This responsibility was met squarely by God’s own son, who understood perfectly his relationship to the family, and that his own salvation was predicated upon fulfilling his function in providing the means whereby the whole family might be saved. His responsibility was to live a life of absolute perfection, without which his death upon the cross would be powerless to save.

What an awesome responsibility he bore, understood and expressed in his prayer to his Father: “And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth… That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17:19–21).

Paul in expressing on our behalf the gratitude for such a life lived for us, put it like this: “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb 2:11).

Now what is it that constitutes a family member? Is it not in the natural realm a physical relationship, whereby there are produced inherent characteristics that reflect the likeness and the personalities of the parents as the child develops in the environment of the home?

As in the natural so in the spiritual, for our relationship to God is not physical but spiritual. Adam and Eve were moulded of the dust into his “image and likeness”. The truth is a “form (mould) of doctrine” (Rom 6:17) into which our lives are poured to make “the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph 4:24).

God Seen Living in Us

 This is why the Apostle Paul describes God’s house as “the ecclesia of living God” (1 Tim 3:15), for by their behaviour the family members illustrate that God is alive! Look at the context of the chapter; is it not about the bishops and the deacons, their wives and children? Here are the administrators and the workers in the ecclesia, who being the active members of the ecclesia demonstrate that God is alive in them. Their family pattern is after the model of that exercised by the Father in His heavenly family. So the apostle remarks:“great is the mystery (secret) of Godliness (God-manifestation)(1 Tim 3: 16).

Today there may not be “bishops” or “deacons” distinguished by the spirit gifts, but there are those who help in the administrative affairs of the ecclesia, and many others without whose practical assistance ecclesial life would stultify. It is these active members who impress the fact that God is working in our midst.

Today members are no longer identified by any specific gift, but all are involved by the power of faith, hope and love, the virtues of the Father expressing themselves through every brother and sister according to their God-given ability. Indeed every family member is needed to manifest the Father, for not only are all the virtues in Him, but He is the source of them all, whilst within our limitations, according to our individual disposition, we may reflect a particular virtue more than others. To manifest the Father is our individual privilege; to do it more effectively is our collective responsibility.

See how the Apostle expresses this truth in Ephesians 3:10, which we quote here from Weymouth’s translation: “… in order that the ecclesia might now be used to display to the powers and authorities in the heavenly realms the innumerable aspects of God’s wisdom”.

In the chapter from which the heading of our article is taken Paul states that “God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim 3:16), and for this to be done in one man, it was a necessity that he be “the only begotten of the Father”. Having come to reveal the Father unto us, as his firstborn Son, it was predetermined that we should be “conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29). As the “firstborn” he discharged his responsibilities perfectly and so fulfilled the intent of the title, for “firstborn” implies the duty of “bringing many sons unto glory” (Heb 2:10). Not only so, but all those sons, being conformed to his image, are themselves collectively styled the “ecclesia of firstborns” (Heb 12:23 lit Gk).

Being then “firstborns” conformed to him, have we not a collective responsibility? If his title implied that other sons would follow, is it not true that our title of “firstborns” implies the continuous addition of others? For him perfection of character was required to set the pattern as the only begotten firstborn, so that the Father would be plainly revealed for others to copy. Every son then whom the Father receives will be required to pattern himself upon the firstborn. Would it then not help in their assimilation into the ecclesia if they are surrounded by others who bear his family likeness as “firstborns”? None of us are his exact impress, but collectively we can in measure exhibit “the man of one” (Dan 10:5 lit Heb).

This then is the greatest reason why we should each “know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God”, that we may by our example assist to develop in others the family likeness of our Heavenly Father.