BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST
The Greek word “adelphoi,” the word in the New Testament scriptures translated “brethren” simply means siblings: brothers and sisters of a common parent. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Ephesian church, says,
I kneel before the Father from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. (Ephesians 3:15)
In every recorded prayer of Jesus he uses the expression “Father.” His close friend and disciple John writes:
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1)
The term ‘brethren’ becomes a term of endearment for fellow worshippers. It actually seems to be this term (Brethren in Christ), rather than today’s common term “Christian” that the early disciples of Jesus used. In the First Century Church the term “Christian” seemed to be used by those outside the community of the faithful, (e.g. Acts 26:28), whereas the term ‘brethren’ defined a mixed group of people joined to Jesus and each other through their baptism into his name.
Finally, brethren, farewell. Mend your ways, heed my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11, RSV)
Service Together in Love
Jesus spent a great amount of time in his ministry helping his disciples to work together and love each other (John 13:34-35). The Apostle Peter explains how the brotherhood should operate together in the same way individual bricks combine together to form a single building – and this building is to house the Lord God Himself!
As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,’ and, ‘A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the message--which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:4-10)
Ultimately, this is our goal: to be joined together as brethren (brothers and sisters) in Christ. To work together, not only tolerate one another, to but love one another. Anyone who has grown up with siblings can remember some squabbling, and as a family of God’s children it is, unfortunately, no different. Nevertheless it is essential for us to grow together in love for each other and service to our Father. We must desire to be a community which both reflects the holiness of the life God wants us to lead together before Him and which Jesus Christ taught and exemplified in his life.
For example, sharing his last evening meal with the twelve Apostles, Jesus does four important things:
- He washes their feet, exhorting them to serve one another
- He encourages them to remember his words and believe them
- He commands them to love each other
- He prays for them and us
This prayer, recorded in the 17th chapter of John’s gospel, is moving and personal for each of us.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
The Family of God
The prayer reveals the amazing thing about this concept of family: that God and His son are not only willing to recognize us, but welcome us.
In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. (Hebrews 2:10-11)
Always, the foundation of this family is the shared our beliefs and life guidance are based upon the Bible – not determined by committees, conventions, or social or political trends. This too is a Biblical principle:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
Clearly, then, it is not enough to say, “Lord, Lord, I’m a Christian!” We must believe the Gospel of the one God who created the world and be baptized into the Lord Jesus as the physical outworking of that belief. Paul in his first letter to the early Christians in Turkey writes:
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)
Any difference of race, education or gender has no significance in baptism into Christ Jesus. We are all equal. We stand with Abraham to inherit the promise of everlasting life on Earth, detailed in God’s Word the Bible, if we believe these promises and, believing, lead a life that attempts to honor God and His son.
Hope and Peace
Nor do we merely hold beliefs that look backwards into the past of things that have been. We believe Jesus Christ, the Son of God, will return to the Earth to establish God’s Kingdom and fulfill these promises made throughout history to the faithful.
So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:6-11)
It is this belief that allows us to feel a modicum of peace in what is otherwise an extremely distressed, and distressing, world.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.” (John 14:27-29)
The Community of the Faithful
Spiritual growth requires caring and sharing with a community of those who aspire to serve God, and His son, our Lord. Four hundred years before the birth of Jesus those who believed in God’s promises met together and the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, affirms their communion.
As a community of brethren we invite you to meet with us and rejoice with us. We would love to hear from you! Please contact us.
Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession.” (Malachi 3:16-17)
Or, find your nearest Christadelphian (Brethren in Christ) church at http://www.christadelphia.org/ecclesia.htm
This fellowship is egalitarian and bonded in love, for the purpose of giving glory to the Lord Jesus.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)