In today's ecclesiastical landscape, one finds much that much the same pattern has erupted! There are numerous denominations out there today who feel that, if you do not belong to their particular 'club' ( even 'congregation' ), and/or subscribe to a certain doctrine, you are no 'friend' of theirs. Unless you follow the same 'false messiah' as they do, and worship the same 'idols', you have most likely set your feet on the wide path that leads to destruction!
The question of who the People of God consists of is a question that has been on the minds of people for millenia; are the People of God only those who have acknowledged & accepted His Lordship in their lives? Is it only to those who love Him ( Romans 8:28 ) that He makes everything work for good? Is He Father to His entire Creation, or only to those who acknowledge Him as Father?
There are that that believe, as it has been taught in the orthodox Christian Church for a great many years, that the honor of being called the People, or Children of God, is only granted to those who have made a conscious decision to follow Him, and who live a life that honors Him. Passages such as that above seem to say that His 'saints' consist only of those who, confessing Him, live a life according to His revealed Word!
It is safe to say, biblically, even Scripturally speaking probably, that it is only those who keep His commandments who are His Children. I John 5:2 reads, 'By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments'. Earlier in this same letter ( I John 3:10 ), John wrote, 'In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.' There are numerous examples in both the Greek & Hebrew Scriptures which differentiate between 'the children of God and the children of the devil', but is this to say that these 'children of the devil' are not 'children of God', though errant and rebellious? Is He such a petty God that, like some earthly fathers, disowns His children when they refuse to obey Him?
I have long held ( several years, anyway ) that this notion, like certain doctrines the Church has held for many years, is primarily eschatological in its construct! There are many, and the number is growing, who have almost, if not totally, dismissed & discarded the notion that the 'Satan' ( devil, dragon, etc. ) of Biblical usage was representative of anything but that fleshly Jewish spirit that disdained and finally crucified their own Messiah. These were 'the children of the devil' that opposed and persecuted 'the children of God'!
Is this to say that there are no 'children of the devil' in this New Covenant or Kingdom Age? Are we to believe that there are no longer 'those who are outside' ( I Timothy 3:7 ( Revelation 22:15 )? Has everyone been granted entrance into the City of God? There are those who teach this without exception! These same ones are usually the ones who are called 'grace preachers'. They teach a Grace that is in opposition to Law, that since it was fulfilled by Christ in His Life & Death, the Law is no more, that now we just have Grace & Unconditional Love!
We know, however, or should anyway, that Grace is not in opposition to Law, that Law is in fact, an integral part of Grace! It was Grace that first revealed the Creator to His Creation and 'and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life'; it was Grace that first opened up the lines of communication & established relationship between Father & Son! As a good Father to His errant Children, our Heavenly Father instituted guidelines ( Law ) so that His Children might experience the blessing and not the cursings of that relationship!
As an example, from a human standpoint, a father will establish rules that the children of his household are to live by if they want to experience the blessedness of relationship. Children who do not follow these set rules will still be in relation to their father, but rather than experiencing the blessedness of that relationship, they will, more likely than not, feel the effects of his wrath, so long as they persist in willful disobedience!
Though they have his Unconditional Love, because they do not enjoy the blessedness of that Relationship, that Unconditional Love will usually be felt as stinging blows, whether metaphorically or really, which, if followed by repentance, serve to mend that broken relationship and bring the errant child back into Blessed Communion with his Father!
In conclusion then, we might ask ourselves again, 'who are the People of God?' Are they, as most of us have been taught, only those who live their lives in such a way that they experience the blessedness of Communion with their Heavenly Father? Is it 'kosher' to call those His children who obviously do not enjoy Relationship with Him & with His Body ( the Church} )? There are many in today's Church who would hold that idea in disdain, if for the fact alone that they would not wish to be called 'brother' by those unruly and disobedient children!
If we live our lives as if we are not related to them and do not associate with them because tthey do not follow the same set of rules ( Law ) that we do, how are they supposed to witness the blessedness of our Relationship? How will they know the blessedness of Communion with the Body if we do not share it with them?
May we who enjoy the Presence & Unconditional Love of our Heavenly Father continue to bless those who do not, as we share that Presence & Unconditional Love with others! As we share the blessings that we enjoy, may others see that joy, long for it themselves, and then so order their lives that they would seek to reconcile with their Creator, and Commune with the Body of His Son!
with Joy in His Presence,
Charles Haddon Shank