At a recent family gathering, I was seated next to my younger brother David at the dinner table. Not surprisingly, this was the most normal and natural thing in the world. After all, being my only sibling we grew up sitting next to each other at just about every family meal from the time he was born until I left home. But my daughter Chloe, who was observing us relating to each other—seeing how relaxed and at home we looked together—helped me see our relationship in a fresh light. ‘Dad it was so cool to see you two together; older now, but like how I imagine you were when you were young … so comfortable with each other! It’s bizarre to think that that will be me with my siblings one day!’

There is something truly wonderful in the closeness we can share in family life … It’s an experience of comfort, safety, acceptance and belonging.

There can be something truly wonderful in the closeness we can share in family life. It’s something that is deep and profound; often left unspoken until an awkward speech at a wedding or birthday party, but nevertheless understood and naturally shared. It’s an experience of comfort, safety, acceptance and belonging.

Living Faith in a Living Christ

Sadly, if my relationship with my brother is too easy for me to take for granted, so too is my relationship with Jesus. Indeed, some of the most distracted and anxious times in my life have been when I have been consumed with thoughts of myself and my own ‘spiritual state,’ rather than fixing my eyes on Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). I am always thankful for mentors, writers, and preachers who break the circuit of unhealthy introspection, and point me back to Jesus. This happened recently in a sermon by P.T. Forsyth entitled, ‘The living Christ’:

Living faith is faith in a living Christ. It is only a living Christ that calls out a living faith, a faith with stay and power…Do not fret yourself examining your faith, trying its limbs, feeling its pulse, watching its colour, measuring its work. See rather that it is set on a living Christ. Care for that Christ and He will care for your faith. Realize a living Christ, and he will produce in you a living faith. Visit his holy sepulchre in Scripture, and as you pore and wait He will surprise you from behind with His immortal life.’[1]

A Permanent Place at God’s Table

Taking Forsyth’s advice, I prayerfully pored over Scripture, and once again heard God’s life-giving and faith-creating word:

It was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin. That is why he (Jesus Christ!) is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” (Hebrews 2:10-13, ESV)

The Lord Jesus Christ is my brother; our brother! He made us his brothers and sisters when he died on the cross as one of us, bearing the impossible burden of our sin and God’s wrath for us (e.g. Galatians 2:20; 2Corinthians 5:14, 21; Romans 6:1-4). This was the surprising and comforting truth that once again re-oriented me by redirecting my gaze to Jesus. Again and again (as Hebrews puts it) by the Holy Spirit through His word, and through His Spirit at work in all whose faith is in him, Jesus is saying:

I am your brother. You are bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh (Ephesians 5:29-32). What is mine—as the eternal Son, born a man who lived and died for the sins of mankind (Gal 4:4-7); and who rose bodily in the power of the Holy Spirit—all that I have achieved as God’s beloved Son now belongs to you. I share my eternal inheritance with you (Romans 8:15-17). You belong to me, and I belong to you; my Father is your Father!’ (e.g. Matthew 11:27-30; 12:49; John 17:22, 24, 26; Hebrews 2:17-18; Romans 8:15, 29, 39)

As Andrew Moody pointed out in a recent post, we are caught up into the bigger love story that lies at the heart of the universe; the love of God the Father for His Son through the Spirit to the glory of God.[2] And we really are now part of that story. We are partakers of the divine love and coheirs in His glory. We have a permanent place at His family table!

…God the Son has indeed become what we are. He is humanity perfected … the origin and goal of our species … the one who makes us what he is; who offers himself to us as our brother; the one who leads us to the Father declaring “Behold, I and the children God has given me,” (Heb 2:13, NIV).[3]

The True Brother

I give thanks for my brother David and the life we share together in our human family. But whatever our situation in life—with or without brothers or sisters—we know with confidence that if our faith is in Christ, we are part of God’s eternal family. We share the one heavenly Father in the one Spirit (Eph 4:4-6). Brothers and sisters drawn from every tribe language and nation, we are reconciled to God in one body through Christ’s flesh by his blood shed for us (Ephesians 2:11-22). This is the love with which God loves us; and that we share in together as his ransomed people (1Peter 1:18-2:3; 1John 4:7-11).

Whatever our situation in life, if our faith is in Christ, we are part of God’s eternal family. We share the one heavenly Father in the one Spirit.

Jesus is our Lord, our Saviour and our older brother. And, unlike the older brother in his parable (Luke 15:25-32), Jesus will never forsake us. He is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters! Jesus Christ is the author and perfecter of our faith. He gives us His Spirit who assures us of our son-ship when doubt threatens to destabilise us (Romans 8:14-17, 26-27). He is the one to whom we belong; our strong and safe place in the midst of danger, the pattern of our lives lived no longer bound by the tyranny of sin, but under the loving mastery of Christ (Colossians 1:13; Romans 6:5ff; Philippians 1:21f). And in the face of the insecurity we feel in the face of an uncertain future; He is our true hope and destiny (Colossians 3:1-4; Romans 8:28-30). In other words: no one is closer to you today, and no one will be closer to you tomorrow, during times of sorrow and of joy; at the hour of your death and into eternity, than the Lord Jesus Christ. And what God has joined together, none will put asunder.

‘Jesus Christ is our brother, what more do we want?’

John Calvin, writing in another age of spiritual uncertainty and insecurity, points us to Jesus’ brotherhood as a basis for hope and assurance:

 There is a second Adam, who comes to remedy all … our Lord Jesus Christ (Lk 3:23-38; Rom 5:12f; 1Cor 15:20f)…By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are bone of the bones of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we have in him … a new and second creation …[4]

And there is no doubt at all that we are joined to God by means of him, seeing he is our true brother…because we are bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh (Ephesians 5:29-30)  … For just as he is very God, so on the other hand He is akin to us, because he came down…in order that we might be glorified by means of him … And for that reason also he is called our brother.[5]

I see that Jesus Christ is my Head, and that I belong to him, and that not only I am his, but also he is mine, so that his life belongs to me … eternal salvation was bought for us so dearly by the blood of God’s only Son, in order that in the end we should be partakers of the effect and virtue that proceeds from it.[6]

This saying alone ought to break off distrust when we are in doubt and perplexity whether or not God will  accept us. For seeing we have this record that Jesus Christ is our brother, what more do we want? [7]

[1] P.T. Forsyth, ‘The Living Christ,’ in God the Holy Father, (SA: New Creation, 1987 (1899)), p.88.

[2] ‘The real story of the incarnation is not, in its deepest sense, Jesus coming to fix up our story. That great act of salvation and condescension was preceded by an eternal plan focused on the Son himself.’

The plan to save us was subordinate to the Father’s plan to make Jesus king. Jesus doesn’t fit into our story or our species. It’s much better than that. We are part of his story. His story is the real story. His incarnation is what humanity is really all about.’

[3] See the above.

[4] John Calvin, Sermons on the Epistle to the Ephesians, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975 (1562)), p.601.

[5] Ibid., p.195.

[6] Ibid., p.604.

[7] Ibid., p.195.