The Bible Tells the Family History of God’s Adopted Family the Church
Understanding the Bible’s “Big Picture”: Family Theology In Brief Review
“Family Theology” is an exceptionally fruitful interpretational framework for understanding the entire Bible. It shows how the entire Bible leads up specifically and deliberately to the establishment of the New Covenant Christian Church as it actually existed in the First Millennium of the Undivided Early Church after the Bible was finished – as a Universal (Greek Katholikos, or Catholic) communion of different culturally-based Rites or “Sister Churches” (initially Jewish, Syrian, Egyptian, Roman and Greek) sharing a wonderful loving unity of faith in a mutually enriching diversity of faith expressions. This early Catholic Church’s very nature as a Catholic (Universal) Communion of Sister Churches was deliberately meant to incorporate all of the previously fallen-away branches of the various Old Testament covenant families (and even later fallen-away branches of the New Covenant family) back into God’s Family in a way that they could contribute to the mutually enriching unity in diversity of the one Universal or Catholic Christian Church, as different Rites or “Sister Churches” within the Catholic (Universal) Christian Communion .
The bottom line of Family Theology is that God (the One God in Three Persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is a Trinitarian Family which is Love, who created the human family in His “Image and Likeness” specifically so He could adopt us (through the indwelling Holy Spirit of adoption and through family-making legal covenants) and ultimately draw us into His own Heavenly Eternal Trinitarian Family Life of Love – and that the one overarching story told in the Bible is the story of God the Loving Covenant Father patiently raising His legally adopted human Covenant Family throughout the entirety of both Testaments in a series of covenants which each gradually train His human Family to a higher standard of love, leading up to the establishment of the New Covenant Church Family to which we belong as Christians, in which Jesus Christ “the New Adam” restores the supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit lost by the first Adam (the story is not over yet and the Church Family today still looks forward to the completion of the Covenant Father’s Heavenly plan for us when Christ returns to Earth). Family Theology makes reading the Scriptures again (even many objectionable or difficult to understand passages) like reading them for the first time, seeing their diverse contents as part of a coherent whole and understanding them more, in terms of the core Christian doctrines and all springing from the inner life of the Holy Trinity (see my books Love Unbounded and the full version of The Bible’s ‘Big Picture’).
There is a common misconception that the Old Testament is about “the Old Covenant” for the Jews, and the New Testament is about the New Covenant now suddenly for everybody. But there are actually 5 major Covenants in the Old Testament – Covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David – and 5 major groups of the Faithful People of God (each one related to the previous) who lived by these Covenants: the Sethites, the Semites, the Hebrews, the Israelites, and the Jews. There are about 2000 years of Covenant history dealt with (albeit briefly) in the Bible before Abraham, the grandfather of Jacob (renamed Israel) whose descendants through his fourth son Judah are known as the Jews. And the nature of these 5 Covenants is always universal – that is, all of the Covenants are for everybody! The first two Covenants are for the entire human race descended from Adam and Noah. The Covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David focus on the Israelites and then the Jews (who were mostly those Israelites of the Tribe of Judah who remained faithful to God) but only for the universal purpose of bringing the fallen-away “prodigal son” lines of the previous universal covenants back into the Covenant Family. The Covenants with Abraham and David both culminate in the promised blessing of the entire human race through the instrument of Israel, and the Mosaic Covenant before it is reorganized due to Israel’s sin is about Israel as God’s “first-born son” nation (Exodus 4:22) leading all the “other son” fallen-away nations back to God. Before Israel’s sin, Israel is supposed to be “the kingdom of priests and holy nation” who through their priestly service and holy example (to the whole world of nations which belong to God – cf Exodus 19:5-6) lead them back. After Israel’s sin, only the Levites who did not worship the Golden Calf are priests and their mission is to first train Israel in holiness. The Jews are the only Israelites who eventually mature enough in faith to become consistently zealous for God as a nation (after the Exile). The New Covenant of Jesus Christ is then initially made with the Jews who accept Jesus as their promised Messiah and who, empowered by Him and His Holy Spirit, finally fulfill the mission for which God called their father Abraham, their lawgiver Moses, and their greatest king David, in the first place – which was to bring all the fallen-away “Gentile” (non-Jewish) nations of humanity back into the ongoing Covenant Family as all humanity had once been in the Covenants with Adam and Noah, restoring all humanity (as many as will come) into one Universal (Greek Katholikos, or Catholic) New Covenant Family, which is why that New Covenant Family from almost the very beginning called itself the Catholic (Universal) Church. (The beloved early Christian martyrs Saint Polycarp and Saint Ignatius, who were the direct disciples of the Apostle John himself, first called the Christian Church John had left in their care the Catholic Church, and soon the term Catholic also came to identify the orthodox Christian community which preserved the faith of the Apostles (orthodoxy means “right teaching”). Early professed Christians were either known as (orthodox) Catholics or (unorthodox) heretics.)
The Single Overarching Story Told in the Bible
The Gift, Loss and Eventual Restoration of the Indwelling Holy Spirit of Supernatural Adoption Through the Means of a Series of Lesser Legal, Covenant Adoptions Through Which God the Father of Love Raised His One Ongoing Covenant Family to Gradually Higher and Higher Stages of Maturity in Love
The single overarching story told in the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament together, is that of the gift, loss and eventual restoration of the indwelling Holy Spirit of supernatural adoption which had made Adam “the son of God” (Luke 3:38), supernaturally part of God’s Family – through the means of a lesser legal, Covenant adoption through which God the Father raised His one ongoing Covenant Family to gradually higher and higher stages of maturity in love through the five Old Testament Covenants, until the faithful family line was mature in love enough to no longer take adoption into God’s Family by Covenant for granted but would die rather than lose or deny their Covenant Father (as so many other lines of the family had), showing they had become ready to no longer take the greater gift of supernatural adoption into God’s Family for granted and lose it as Adam had, so that God the Father could restore it through sending His Eternal Son Incarnate (enfleshed), Jesus Christ, the New Adam who restored what Adam had lost: the indwelling Holy Spirit of supernatural adoption into God’s Family – first to the now more mature faithful family line (the Jews) and then, through the Jewish Christians’ Gospel ministry empowered by the restored Holy Spirit, to all the many previously broken away, runaway, prodigal, “Gentile” lines of the human Covenant Family descended from Adam and Noah in the Old Testament, who came into the New Covenant along with the Jews who accepted Jesus to form one Universal (Greek Katholikos, or Catholic) New Covenant Church Family of Jew and Gentile both restored to the supernatural adoption Adam had lost through Jesus Christ the New Adam.
This is why Jesus “the Good Shepherd” says in John 10:16 that
“I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. ”
Jesus the “one shepherd” has “other sheep” who are “not of this sheep pen” of the Jews he is preaching to who are becoming the first, Jewish, Christians – the Gentiles of the Noahic Covenant, descended from Adam and faithful Noah. Jesus knows “they too will listen to” His voice, so that Jewish Christians and Noahic Gentiles will together form “one flock,” one Church, under Jesus the “one shepherd.”
This is why the Bible further says in John 11:51-52 that
“Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one”.
All human beings are adopted children of God through the Covenants with Adam and Noah, but they were scattered through their unbelief and sin, except for the faithful line of the adopted Covenant Family, that line of faithful Sethites, Semites, Hebrews and Israelites known as the Jewish nation,1 and those Jews who accepted Jesus as Messiah (Christ in Greek) would be restored to the supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God which Adam “the son of God” (Luke 3:38) lost, and this Jewish nation renewed in Jesus “the New Adam” would minister the supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit to all the scattered children of God from the Adamic and Noahic Covenants – to all human beings who will come – and those ministering Jews and the Gentiles who accepted Jesus through their ministry would be brought together and made one in Jesus Christ. One human family renewed in Jesus, one Body of Christ, the Christian Church. This was the loving family reality of the Undivided Early Catholic (Universal) Christian Church, one worldwide Church made up of many different nations (civilizations, cultures) restored in Christ, the restored portions of those nations becoming the different Rites or “Sister Churches” which together made up the early Undivided Universal or Catholic Church of Jesus Christ . This universality or catholicity of the Undivided Early Church was so important to Early Christian identity that Early Christian writers constantly refer to the Church as the Catholic Church, which was the Catholic (Universal) Communion of different culturally-based Sister Churches united in orthodox Christian faith against many breakaway heretical or unorthodox Christian churches (most of which died out though a small few remain since ancient times).
Remember that God Himself at Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) had ensured that humanity descended from faithful Noah would spread throughout the Earth and thus develop into different cultural groups (because of different language and geographic location), different cultural groups which, once renewed in Messiah Jesus, would have different perspectives upon the infinite truth of God revealed in Jesus Christ, which would give them different insights into Divine Revelation which they would be able to pool together at the Early Ecumenical (worldwide) Councils of the Christian Church so as to together come up with the most accurate and precise understanding of the Christian fundamentals, against many heretical challenges to the saving Christian faith . The very differences of human cultures are mutually enriching and part of God’s plan for His Church, which is, as Saint Augustine said, “the world, redeemed.” The culturally-based Rites of the Church are “the nations of the world, redeemed.” Understanding the Church this way, the way the Undivided Early Church actually lived its life, is key to the eventual restoration of the loving First Millennium Christian unity in diversity lost by the currently divided Christian Churches in the Second Millennium, who are already united in vast common Christian faith but express it differently, as the First Millennium Sister Churches did but without being divided from each other. Most of our many differences are of the sort which did not cause divisions in the Undivided Early Church but which enriched all Christians.
The very few differences between Christians which are actual contradictions are also not near as insurmountable barriers to real Christian unity as they first appear, once Christians take the time to truly listen to each other in brotherly Christian love on the basis of our vast common faith until they truly understand each other. The simple fact is that (Eastern and Western) Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and (Western) Conservative/Evangelical (though not necessarily “Liberal”) Protestant Christians (and even “Messianic Jews”) are united already in vast common fundamental Christian faith, and any secondary doctrines we disagree on each side sees in the light of our vast common saving faith. This means that if YOU look at another church’s different secondary doctrines and think they compromise the common essential Christian fundamentals, YOU must be misunderstanding something. Thus, for the sake of Jesus’ prayer for our unity “so that the world may believe” (John 17:21), we all must learn to listen to each other as loving brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus even while our formal divisions remain, until with the Holy Spirit of Unity’s aid we eventually work out mutually-agreed-on resolutions to our current disputes (however long this takes).
We are obligated to seek this unity with each other because of Jesus’ prayer for it and because the world which needs to know Jesus today looks upon the Christians who maintain the orthodox and saving faith of the Undivided Early Church as a divided and squabbling bunch of Roman Catholics (whose continued truly Catholic/Universal union with minority portions of over 20 Eastern Churches is largely unknown), various Eastern Orthodox Churches who have only a strained union with each other (there are now even three separate denominations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church!), and 35,000 smaller Protestant church denominations who often fight with or criticize each other as well as Catholic and Orthodox Christians. All of this completely hides any sense of the Christian Church being the answer to the world’s problems because it unifies human beings in Jesus’ love! These divisions among Christians are a major scandal than impedes missionary work in non-Christian lands, as potential converts cannot understand why the Christian Church is divided if Jesus’ love is so great, and the actual new converts are trained to separate themselves from and criticize other Christians than the missionary’s group, maintaining the scandalous divisions. We cannot allow this situation to continue if we are to be true to our calling as the Body of Christ which ministers His Love on Earth. Thus, to help Christians learn to recapture the Undivided Early Church’s unity in diversity, I offer this current book which shows the Biblical roots since Adam and Noah of the Undivided Early Church’s nature and structure which we should be seeking to recapture (and I refer the reader to my 3-Volume book So That The World May Believe: A Call to Christian Unity – Teaching Christians How to Restore the Lost Unity in Diversity of the Undivided Early Church Through Lovingly Seeking to Truly Understand Each Other’s Differences While Celebrating Our Vast Common Saving Christian Faith “So That the World May Believe”). The “Family Theology” framework this current book teaches should help divided Christians to forgive each other for past failures in love by helping us to understand that the Christian history in which our divisions happened, which follows Biblical history, actually continues the Biblical process of God raising His ongoing Covenant Family since Adam gradually and patiently to greater maturity in love, and the setbacks we have had on the way to the Christian Church’s maturity in love thus are to be expected and we should not hold grudges against each other for them such that they hold us back from growing up in love for God and His entire Christian Church Family now . This is the subject of the next excerpted section.
Family Theology Explains Both Biblical History and Christian History as the One Story of God’s One Ongoing Covenant Family Being Patiently Raised to Maturity in Love
Family Theology not only explains the entire Covenant Family history in the Bible from Adam to the New Covenant Christian Church of Jesus Christ the New Adam, it also explains New Covenant Family (Christian) history since the Christian Church was established and the Biblical Revelation ended, including the failures of Christians – most notably our failure to keep the family unity in love – as a continuation of God the Father very patiently raising His one ongoing Covenant Family from Adam to the Church today towards living by ever higher standards of love which will culminate ultimately in the Eternal Covenant Family of the Kingdom of Heaven fulfilled in “the New Heavens and the New Earth” after Christ’s return . As the Christian Church we are not yet the final expression of God’s Covenant People, which is a Heavenly reality yet to be fulfilled (and we sure do not yet look like the final expression of God’s People as long as we are divided and not always even loving each other very well, never mind the world). We Christians are indeed a “pilgrim” people on this Earth, still not living all that God has for us though we seek to. But we can take heart from the lessons of the Bible, revealed through Family Theology, that it is because we as the New Covenant Christian Church are the continuation of God’s ongoing Covenant Family since Adam that we continue to strive to live by the ever higher standard of love that God has called us to live by and often struggle and sometimes fail, as the one ongoing Covenant Family of God always has . Old Covenant Israel never ceased to be God’s Chosen People despite their many failures including divisions (between the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah), periods of moral laxity, and even idol worship. Likewise the “New Covenant Israel” of the Christian Church has never ceased to be God’s Chosen New Covenant People despite their many failures including divisions (many more than Old Covenant Israel) and periods of moral laxity (not near as extreme as Old Covenant Israel, and never degenerating into idol worship). Old Covenant Israel went back and forth between worshiping God and worshiping idols during its history, and the New Covenant Church which continues the Covenant Family has continued to have a back and forth cycle in its history, between dedicated fervor for God and moral laxity and abuses which sometimes led to divisions (still a huge improvement over degenerating into idol worship, showing that the new stage of the ongoing Covenant Family inaugurated by Jesus is indeed generally more mature in love despite still having “growing up” to do). Anyone who parents or teaches children know that this back and forth cycle is normal for any child growing up into maturity. Some days they surprise you with their great maturity, then they surprise you with their great immaturity. We should be encouraged by the fact that we are children to God, and we are children raised by a wise and loving and patient Father, such that the one Covenant Family has always made progress in love, however slowly, and however many setbacks it has – although it took many centuries, Israel did in fact gradually mature from as a nation regularly going back and forth from worshiping God to worshiping idols, to as a nation being zealous for God and willing to die rather than deny Him (the backwards steps in the cycle became not near so far backwards). So we know that however long it takes, we as the latest expression of that one ongoing “Olive Tree” Covenant Family can gradually become more and more mature in love as well – including healing our current Christian divisions with love .
Throughout Biblical history there has been an only gradual maturation in the Covenant Family’s theological understanding of God and His ways (coming both from newer Revelations in the newer Covenants and from further living, loving reflection upon them afterwards), and there has been an only gradual maturation in the Covenant Family’s ability to live by the ever-higher moral standard of love God set for His Family in each major Covenant. The process of maturation included setbacks, alternating failures and successes (the failures including idolatry or heresy, sin or moral laxity, and divisions in God’s People such as the divided Kingdoms of Israel and Judah). When we appropriately look at Christian history as the continuation of the Biblical history of the one ongoing Covenant Family being patiently raised by God since the time of Adam to its full maturity in love through many setbacks on the way, our past failures in love and divisions due to them will not surprise us, and we will not be so inclined to hold grudges which keep us from maturing together in love as God’s Covenant Family, as we are called by Jesus’ prayer to do.
© 2007, 2009 Peter William John Baptiste SFO
Go To the Next Section God: The Trinitarian Family of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
1The Jews are physically descended from Judah, son of Israel (originally named Jacob), father of the Israelites, Israel is descended from Eber, father of the Hebrews (including “Abraham the Hebrew” – see Genesis 14:13), Eber is descended from Shem, father of the Semites, and Shem (son of Noah, the last faithful Sethite before the Flood), is descended from Seth, the faithful son of Adam, father of the Sethites (also called “the sons of God” – Genesis 6:2,4 – as they were once-faithful descendants of Adam “the son of God” – Luke 3:38). For more details see chapter 5 of the full version of The Bible’s ‘Big Picture’.