THE CHURCH AND ITS RELATIONSHIPS

Article by Cody Westbrook
God purposed in eternity to create an entity in which all people would dwell together in unity (Eph. 2:14-18; 3:9-11). It was to be an institution in which race and gender were inconsequential (Gal. 3:28). Members were meant to work together (Phil. 1:27), suffer together (Phil. 1:28), grow together (Eph. 4:15), and glorify God together (Rom. 15:5-6). This great Divine institution is the church of our Lord Jesus Christ – purchased at Calvary (Acts 20:28) and ushered into existence on the first Pentecost following His ascension (Acts 2). The church is the body of those who have been called by the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14) to come out of the world and be God’s people (1 Pet. 2:9). This call is extended to everyone (2 Pet. 3:9) and that is one of the many characteristics that make the church so unique. The church is composed of individuals from all walks of life. Different skin colors, different languages, different cultures and backgrounds are all found within the body of Christ. All those who obey the gospel (Rom. 1:16; Eph. 4:4-6; etc.) are added by the Father (Acts 2:47) and dwell together in love as brothers and sisters in Christ – as members of the family of God (1 Pet. 3:8-9; 1 John 3:1; Eph. 1:5).
    Paul wrote about this relationship in one of the key passages of 1 Timothy, “But if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth,” (1 Tim. 3:15). Ephesians 5:1 says, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.” Being a child of God is a privilege that carries with it certain responsibilities. We are to imitate our Father and strive to be like Him in all things (cf. Matt. 5:48; 1 Pet. 1:16). This was also Paul’s concern for Timothy and his work as a gospel preacher in Ephesus. The church is the house of God and as such there is a certain pattern of behavior that is demanded. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul addresses God’s requirements of the church pertaining to doctrine (Ch. 1), worship (Ch. 2), leadership (Ch. 3) and priorities (Ch. 4). Chapter 5 gives attention to the church and its relationships. As has already been mentioned, the church is composed of many different people from many different walks of life – young, old, rich, poor, black, white, and much more. Notwithstanding our differences, we have all obeyed the same gospel and are members of the same body (Gal. 3:26-28). Therefore we are brothers and sisters in the family of God and as such we are obligated to treat one another with a certain level of respect and dignity.
    The chapter begins with general guidelines for all members of the church to follow. Young men have a responsibility to older men, older men have a responsibility to younger men, young women have a responsibility to older women, older women have a responsibility to younger women, and so on (1 Tim. 5:1). The next section deals with widows and their care. Paul instructs the church to “honor widows who are really widows” (1 Tim. 5:3) then proceeds to describe different categories of widows and their care. The third section of the book deals with elders, only this time reference is to those who hold the office of an elder (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1-7) as opposed to those who are elderly in general. God’s people are instructed to honor their elders and refuse to hear an improper accusation levied against them (1 Tim. 5:17-24). The final section of the context extends to 1 Timothy 6:1-2 and deals with the relationship between slave and master. Servants were to “count their own masters worthy of all honor” (1 Tim. 6:1). They were to be careful not to look down on a master who was also a brother in the Lord but rather to “serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved” (1 Tim. 6:2).
    The instruction in this context is only a small sampling of the Bible’s teaching concerning the church and its relationships. James 3:17-18 describes “the wisdom that is from above” and how a person who possesses that wisdom acts as a peacemaker amongst his brethren. Peter wrote, “Likewise you younger people submit yourself to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility…” (1 Pet. 5:5). We are to “be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Rom. 12:10). Galatians 5:13 exhorts, “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Time and again the New Testament emphasizes our need to love, serve, submit, pray for, think about, and care for one another. Though following through with God’s will on the matter is not always easy.
    Personality conflicts, misunderstandings, differences of opinion, and such will always be a reality in the church because the church is composed of people. It is not a new problem, however. Consider Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2) and the instruction pertaining to matters of opinion in Romans 14 as two examples. Though problems arise periodically, our love for the Lord and for one another pushes us to solve them. We are children of God and not of the world. Therefore, our desire should be to constantly grow in our love for one another and to strengthen the relationships that we possess with all of our brethren in Christ.