Heaven's Namesake
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

May I say to you that although the Lord has opened up numerous doors for me to minister the Word in relation to the Christian family, I do not consider myself an authority, as the world might consider a man to be an authority, on the subject of family relationships. I bring to you what the Word of God has to say as it may be illuminated by our own experience in what my wife and I consider to be the greatest career in the world–the rearing of a family for the Lord Jesus Christ.

I am going to say this, and I won't say it again: My voice breaks every now and then, and tears come to my eyes, when I think of or mention things that are vital to me. You need to be careful what you pray for. Years ago I prayed that God would give me a tender heart, and He did–sometimes I think too tender, because the tears flow easily, and when I try to hold them back, the voice breaks. I say that by way of explanation so that you won't think something unusual or strange is about to happen.

We are going to be talking to you about the Christian family, and each message will be related to the others. The information contained in this series will not be complete in any one message. It is important for you to hear or to read all the series, or you might be inclined to think that I am a bit lopsided in certain directions.

Paul's References to the Family

Open your Bibles with me to the book of Ephesians, chapter 3, the paragraph which begins with verse 14:

Ephesians 3

14For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
15Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
16That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
17That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
18May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
19And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
20Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
21Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

You recognize that these verses constitute one of the prayers of the Apostle Paul recorded in the Ephesian letter. We read the entire prayer because it would seem to us sacrilege to do less. This is such a marvelous portion of the Word. But for our discussion we are interested in only verse 15, so will you look at it again:

Ephesians 3

15Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.

This verse suggested the title for our thinking together: “Heaven's Namesake.”

This is not the first reference which the Apostle Paul makes in this Ephesian letter to the family, nor is it the last. The first one he makes in chapter 2, verse 19:

Ephesians 2

19Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

The Household of God

Will you notice the word “household,” as I remind you that in the original text it is the same word as that which is translated by our English word “family.” Although this is the first reference to the family in the Ephesian letter, the Apostle does not reach the climax of everything that he has to say in this letter about the family until he comes to verse 18 of chapter 5. He goes down deep and touches the entire subject in the paragraph which begins with verse 18 of chapter 5 and concludes with verse 4 of chapter 6. We call that to your attention primarily because that is the outline which we are going to follow in these discussions. We would like to place emphasis on the fact that the family is Heaven's namesake for the same reason that Paul used the family as an illustration thus.

The Believer's Chief Responsibility

If I were to ask you what is the chief responsibility of the believer in this hour, I wonder what kind of answer you would give. I suggest to you that the chief responsibility of the believer in this hour is what is found in the commission for Christians in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, in verse 8, when the Lord Jesus Christ said, “Ye shall be witnesses for Me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth.” This is the chief responsibility of the believer.

What is the manner in which you may witness? In what ways can you witness? You notice where I am placing the emphasis–on witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. I do not find a passage of Scripture which tells me I must win souls to Christ. Not one. The only one that comes near to it tells me that I am wise if I do so (Proverbs 11:30). The responsibility is in witnessing.

The reason I would like to remind you of that is that all too often Christians are discouraged because they can't count how many souls they have won for Christ over a given period of time. They are so involved in wanting to get the number down that they miss the point for which they are called–witnessing for the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Testimony of a Christian Family

Someone may say, “Have you forgotten what you were going to talk about?” No, I haven't. The reason I am bringing this to your attention is that I am convinced that one of the greatest methods of witnessing for the Lord Jesus Christ is through the Christian family. I believe with all my heart that a greater testimony can be borne to the effectiveness of the change that Jesus Christ can make in the lives of men through a family than in almost any other way, because such a testimony is a corporate testimony. That is the reason, I believe, why the Apostle Paul deals with the family in this particular letter as an illustration of what the family of God ought to be like. That is the reason we call attention again to verse 15 of Ephesians, chapter 3:

Ephesians 3

15Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

I am perfectly aware of all the theological diatribes and of all the words which have been written and said about whether the Apostle Paul was talking in this verse about the family as we know it, or whether he was talking about families of angels and families of spirits and families of heavenly beings, etc. I am not really interested to try to settle the argument one way or another. I would like to remind you of what Norman B. Harrison said: “The inner meaning of the phrase 'of whom all the familyhood is named' cannot well be expressed in translation. It is hidden in the relation of two words: 'pater' which means 'father,' and 'patria' which means 'family,' and it states that the family comes from God. This relationship is embodied in the further fact that the family bears His name.”

An Explanation From F.b. Meyer

If I could get across to all of our hearts that the family does come from God, I would have accomplished something. F.B. Meyer said something along this line that may help us to realize the purpose of the family as a Christian testimony and witness: “All the fatherhoods of the earth derive their meaning and their value from the great Fatherhood. [Listen closely now.] As the tabernacle with its sashes and cords and curtains was an embodiment of things in heaven, so the homes of men are intended to represent aspects and conceptions of that love which can be set forth by no one phrase of human affection, but combines itself in mother, father, brother, sister, lover, loved. The tenderest, noblest home life is at the best but a broken light, and yet it is a type, an emblem, an embodiment, of God's love to us–its prototype and its ideal.”

I would like to say to you that what Meyer suggests is amplified in the Scripture: There is no testimony equal to that of a family. I say this with all due respect to those who do not have families; they cannot have the testimony that a family has, in the same sense or in the same way.

Will you turn with me, please, to the book of Genesis, chapter 2, and notice a very familiar verse of Scripture related to the original creation of man–a story that is so familiar to us that we are prone to pass over some of the deeper aspects of it:

Genesis 2

18And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

The Concept of Being Alone

Will you center your attention on that word “alone” as I suggest to you that it bears the idea of a lone branch or the lone limb of a body. How attractive is a branch broken from a tree? What do you do with it? Usually, if it is in the way, you pick it up and throw it out of the way. How attractive is the lone limb of a body? What would you do if you should come into this room and see just an arm suspended somewhere? It is a rather gruesome thing to think about, isn't it? You would be inclined to look the other way and to wonder why it was here. I say to you that that is how God felt about Adam.

In the midst of all that creation which He declared to be good, Adam looked like the lone branch of a tree, or the lone limb of a body. After every act of creation, God looked upon it and said, “It is good,” but He did not use the phrase, “very good,” until after He had made an help meet for Adam. When He made an help meet for Adam, then He looked upon His creation and said, “It is very good.” So when I say to you that the family unit is needed for a perfect testimony of God in all of His love and understanding, I am not saying something that only men have said. I am saying something that is found in the Word of God.

The Psalmist's Picture

I would like to invite your attention to two phrases in Psalm 68. As God was describing Israel's entering into her own inheritance and the Psalmist was inspired to celebrate that entering in with the song which is designated as Psalm 68, so God was pleased to use the family as an illustration of His goodness. Look at verse 5, and notice what He says about Himself:

Psalm 68

5A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.

And the next verse:

Psalm 68

6God setteth the solitary in families; he bringeth out those which are bound with chains; but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.

Permit me to share with you the Amplified translation of verse 6: “God places the lonely in families, and gives the desolate a home in which to dwell.” I like that: God places the lonely in families. Please do not accept what I say as a criticism; some of these things cannot be avoided. But to me the loneliest person in the world is some dear elderly mother in a so-called rest home that folk forget to come to see. I am making allowances for the fact that there are sometimes situations where such a thing cannot be avoided, but I wonder whether we don't shut our old folk off too soon and leave them lonely. They need their families.

A Personal Example

After my mother went to be with the Lord, God was gracious enough to permit my father to come to live with us. I say gracious because I was saved out of an unsaved home; we knew nothing about the Lord. The Lord in His mercy reached down and saved me. I have never known why, except for His grace. For many years none of my family was saved, and yet when my mother was gone and my father decided to retire, he chose to come live with us. I was the black sheep of the family, because they said that when I “got religion” it ruined me. It did, as far as our manner of life was concerned. But he chose to come live with me and my family, and I say it was God's grace because I had the privilege of leading him to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. I might not have had the privilege if he had not come to live with us.

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We had a picture of the family made one Christmas as we had done many Christmases, to send to our friends. We didn't do it deliberately–we did it because it was the natural thing to do–but Pawpaw, as we all called him, was sitting right in the center of that group. My wife, whom he loved more than he loved me, I actually believe, was standing with her hand on his shoulder. We got five letters the week after those pictures were sent out commenting upon what a wonderful testimony it was. Where should an elderly man be but in the center of a family who loved him? One of those pictures resulted in a person's coming to hear me preach and coming to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We did not sent the picture out for any reason other than to share with our friends the changes that were being made in our family, but I wonder whether what this passage of Scripture has in mind might not be that very thing. God places the lonely in families, and He gives the desolate a home in which to dwell.

This may be a bit of a digression, but let me suggest it anyway; digression is always the privilege of a preacher, you know. If you know some elderly person, even though he or she may not be one of your own family, why don't you give him a family? Why don't you invite him in and let him be part of your family? Of course it will be work. Of course it will be a sacrifice. Of course it will be a trial. But, oh, the testimony that God can make it.

The Need for Tranquillity

Let me share with you briefly the importance of a family as we pursue the suggestion that a family can be and should be a testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ. The importance of a family in the matter of testifying for Christ should be uppermost in all of our minds.

I think most of us are selfish, aren't we, whether we like to admit it or not? Most of us are interested in a discussion of the Christian family because we are selfish. Oh, I know that basically, down deep inside, we want what is best for our children or we want what is best for our home; but how often have I heard the comment, “These kids are driving me nuts. What do you do with them?” Or, “My wife! No one could live with her. How do you do it?” Or, “My husband! Only God gives me grace to bear him.” What is all of that? Selfishness. You see, what I am saying to you is this: Many of us are more interested in the tranquillity of our homes than we are in the testimony of our homes. We have the cart before the horse. I would like to suggest to you that if we would be more vitally concerned about the testimony of our homes, the tranquillity would be a natural dividend. I am suggesting that to you, in order that you might ask God to give each one of us a deep desire to have a family which will be a

If the family is Heaven's namesake, and if God did intend it to be a testimony for Him, there must be some indication in the Word as to what he meant by that. So I want you to think with me about the implications of a family which is a testimony. What kind of a family should this be? You are aware, I am sure, that there are many approaches that we might take to this subject, but I am going to suggest one that is very interesting to me. It is one that is provided through the original words which are translated by our English word “family.”

There are five such words in Hebrew and one in Greek at which we will look. We are not going to give you the Hebrew words, because I doubt that you would remember them unless you are familiar with the language, but the meanings are significant.

The Family as a Circle

The first word that I would like to bring to your attention is one which may be translated by the word “circle.” I don't know whether the song writer knew about this or not, but he certainly captured the meaning of the word when he wrote the rather sentimental song, “Will the Circle be Unbroken in the Sweet By and By?” I suppose most of our hearts have been touched by the thought that it would be sad if the circle were broken in Heaven, if not all of the family should get there. But to my mind something else is more tragic. It is the fact that folk do not realize that on this earth the family was intended to be a circle. It was intended to be a circle that begins with the father and goes all the way around and comes back.

Isn't it an interesting thing that God did not compare the family to a triangle, a trapezoid, or even a square? He compared it to a circle. You cannot speak of a triangle, a trapezoid, or a square without suggesting sharp corners, some having more prominence than others. God intended the family to be a circle.

The wonderful thing about a circle is that you can expand it. No matter how big you make a circle, it is still a circle. The wonderful thing about a family is that it never gets too big. I realize that sometimes folk decide that two children are enough, and if the third happens by what men call “chance,” the circle isn't a circle any more. It is a triangle or something else.

They miss the point. Of course, my wife and I were fortunate in that before we married we decided how many children we wanted to have. We wanted a large family, and we know (though this may be straining the Scripture a bit) that seven is the number of perfection, so we asked God for seven children. In His mercy and in His grace, He gave us seven. So it was never a problem when we knew another one was coming; it was an answer to prayer. It was never a problem when we knew another one was coming; it was something to which we could look forward with great expectancy. Someone may say, “How did you know that it would all stop after you got seven?” We didn't know, but it did; in the providence of God my wife became ill and surgery was necessary, and seven is the number. The circle is complete.

The Further Expansion of the Circle

I have discovered something about that circle. Even though seven is the number we prayed for, the circle is expanding. From the very beginning, we did not plan to have any “in-law” trouble in our family. We intended that the circle should expand so that whoever was added to it would be part of the family. My son married about two years ago. My wife and I had seen the little girl he married only one time, and we were not able to attend the wedding. When they came home, she did not know how to greet me, and she told my son that she was concerned about it. She was timid; she did not know what to expect.

We prayed that the Lord would expand the circle easily. You know, He uses such little things. For our first meeting, He gave us all an unexpected opportunity to eat lunch together, and I got there before the others did, though I am usually the last one. I was inside the restaurant when they drove up outside. I saw her stop and talk to my son, and I saw her talk to my wife, and I said, “Lord, help me to do the right thing. Help me to do the right thing.” When she opened the door and came in, almost without thinking I opened my arms like this, and she ran across the floor and fell into my arms and put her head on my shoulder and cried like a little girl, and I did too. The circle was not broken; it was just enlarged a little bit. There is room for others.

My daughter married this last August. After we had prayer together as they were leaving for their honeymoon, the young man she married said, “I appreciate being a part of your family.” I said, “I am glad you put it that way.” I did not have much more contact with him, but just this week I got a letter from him which began, “Dear Dad.” He said, “I hope this doesn't cause you to have a heart attack, but I couldn't bring myself to call you by your first name, and I didn't think 'My dear brother in the Lord' was hardly appropriate.”

A family should be a circle that is flexible enough to include everyone without the circle's being broken. Yes, I would be concerned about some of my family's not getting to Heaven, but I am more concerned about the circle's being broken here because I can guarantee this: If, as you wait upon the Lord, the circle is not broken here, it won't be broken there. More times than not, the reason the circle is broken there is because it gets broken here first.

The Family's Yoke

There is another word in the Scripture which is translated by the word “family,” and which is also translated by the word “yoke.” That interests me, because the family ought to be a place where the yoke is worn. You know the purpose of a yoke. It is not to make things uncomfortable; it is to make things easier. If each person in the family takes his place in the yoke, things work out so much better. You don't do that naturally, you know; you have to be taught to do it. Each person in the family needs to take his place in the yoke. Because your children have so much of you in them, they are going to want to get in the wrong side of the yoke. Because you don't want to take the trouble to see that they stay in their side of the yoke, you are going to have problems, and then you are going to get mad. The secret of success is staying in the right side of the yoke.

The word of which I am speaking implies also the idea of taming. The Scripture says that it is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth (Lamentations, chapter 3, verse 27). Most people, you know, think that this means that it is a good thing for a man to start at the bottom rung of the ladder in the professional world and gradually advance to the top. Let me say something: The time for youth to bear their yoke is before they get out into the professional world. You have made a mistake if you haven't taught your child to bear the yoke, if you have not tamed his spirit. Yes, I said, “If you have not tamed his spirit.” Did you notice what I did say? I did not say, “If you have not broken his spirit.” There is a big difference. I have contact all the time with young people whose spirits have been broken by unwise discipline, and it is a tragic thing. There is a difference between a tamed spirit and a broken spirit. The home is the place where the yoke should be borne; the home is the place

Teaching Children At Home

Right along with that, another word that is translated by the word “family” is often translated in its verb form by the word “learn” and by the word “teach.” Does that not imply what a family ought to be–a place where your children are going to be taught, a place where your children are going to learn? I don't know how many times parents have come to me and have said, “Do you realize what the curriculum is this year in the public school?” I will say, “Yes,” because we keep up with it. “Well, why don't we get a group together and go to the school and do something about it?” If you have ever tried that, you know that you are spinning your wheels and wasting your breath. I am not being critical; I am just stating a fact. “Well, what are we going to do?”, they say. I say, “I am going to teach my children at home.”

No, I don't mean that I am not going to let them go to school. Those of you who have the opportunity to have your children in Christian day schools are fortunate, but I am talking about those of us who have our children in public schools. I do thank God for every Christian teacher. We have a lot of them in our fellowship who are godly and conscientious in what they teach, but they don't have any control over the curriculum. I say, “We teach our children at home.” No matter what they are taught in school, if they are well taught at home, the family testimony will be effectively borne.

My son who is sixteen and a junior in high school, brought me a paper the other day and said, “Dad, what do you think of this?” There was an A at the top, so I said, “I think that is real good.” He said, “Read the notes all along through it.” So I read them. It was a theme in which he was supposed to write his views of evolution. He stated what had been taught, and then he added appropriate sentences throughout the theme as to the creation of the world and the creation of man. His teacher had written comments like “fine,” “that's good,” “that is well said.” At the conclusion of the paper she wrote, “I want to congratulate you for being brave enough to state what you believe. So few do.” I would not have known what he had written had he not called it to my attention. My point is this: If we had left the teaching of our children to the public schools, he would not have written it. The home is the place to learn.

Mending Fences In the Home

Still another word suggests an interesting thought. It suggest the idea of building. It suggests the idea of making repairs. It suggests the idea of mending fences. Do you know much about mending fences? Well, come a little farther west and you will know something about mending fences. The family should be the place where the building is done and the fences are mended.

May I suggest this to you as Christians? You should never reach the place where you think the fences don't need mending. One of the tragedies of the Christian family is that suddenly, like a bolt out of the blue, a tragedy occurs; and the Christian parents in all sincerity say, “I never dreamed, I never dreamed they were interested in this. I never had an idea they even thought that way.” Do you know why? You assumed because you started them in the right direction that nothing would happen. Fences get broken and you need to mend them.

A Personal Illustration

Permit another illustration, and may I say, forgive the illustrations related to my family. I know about my family, and I don't know about yours. I was director this summer for a Bible Memory Association camp in which my daughter was enrolled. Let me encourage you to enroll your whole family in the Bible Memory Association contest. It is one of the best ways, if not the best way, of memorizing God's Word for a family that I know anything about. My daughter was at the camp. She is a sweet, precious girl.

By the way, there will be such a difference in your children. Do you realize that? You make a mistake in trying to make them all the same. My children have all attended a certain university where there are any number of things that aren't too pleasant because they are legalistic. They believe in discipline, and they lean over backwards, I suppose. Anyway, our children have gone there, and different ones have responded differently, so I was very much interested to know how this daughter would respond. We prayed about the names we gave our children and, in the providence of God, their names suit their personalities. This one is hopeful and happy; nothing seems to disturb her.

Incidentally, we believe our family is the most important investment we have, so we do what my seem a foolish thing. We let our children call us on the telephone any time they want to call us. I don't mean that they call us for anything foolish, but we believe that if they want to visit with us, they ought to visit with us. You say, “How can you pay the bill?” The same way we pay any others. We have to look to the Lord for it, and there is not a greater investment. I hope the day will never come when you say to your child, “Don't call me, because we can't afford it.” Eat bread and grape jam; I ate plenty of it during the depression. You can live on it. And pay the telephone bill. Keep the door open. Anyway, they call us to visit. They get homesick to talk to us.

This daughter called, and I said, “Honey, how are you doing?” She said, “Fine.” I said, “Are you happy?” She said, “Well, yes, why? Shouldn't I be?” I said, “Well, you know certain things bugged one sister and certain things bugged the other sister. Don't they bug you?” “Well, no, I hadn't thought about it.” You see, what I am saying to you is this: No two children are alike, but even though you know that one has a personality like that, you can't afford to go to sleep at the switch.

This summer at the camp (I am back to my story) a dear lady came to me, as director, which was her right; and she said, “I would like to talk with you about something, and it is just burning inside of me like the fire which burned in Jeremiah.” I said, “Fine, what do you want to talk about?” She said, “It is about the whitefeet.” The whitefeet are the young people who do all the dirty work at the camp without any pay, and folk are usually pretty critical of them. She said, “There are two whitefeet girls who I believe need some disciplining.” I said, “Who are they?” She said, “I just hate to say, but one of them is a beautiful little blonde by the name of …,” and she named my daughter. I said, “Why, that is my daughter.” “Well, that is why I didn't want to say anything.” The other girl was from my church, incidentally. She told me what they did, and I did not dismiss it by saying, “That could not have happened.” I did doubt it, but I did not say it could not have happened. I said, “I thank you.”

Well, to relieve your minds, because I don't have time to finish the story, I talked to my daughter about it, I talked to the other girl about it, I talked to the counselors about it, and it turned out that the dear lady was talking about two other girls. Of course I was tremendously relieved that I didn't have any fences that I needed to mend at the moment. But the purpose of sharing this story with you is to tell you that I have had to mend some fences, and I hope I never get to the place where I will not recognize that fences may need to be mended. If you don't keep alert and keep the fences mended, you may have to rebuild a house sometime.

The Home as a Happy Place

There is another word that is translated “family,” and it is one I love. The picture back of the word is described in the lexicons as “the tripping gait of children.” This is the sort of thing that children do, you know, when they skip through the house–the sort of thing that, when you husbands come home from work tired and weary, makes you say, “Do you kids have to make that noise?” You know, the sort of thing that causes you to say, “Do they have to play in the house all the time? What have we got that yard for out there?” What you don't realize is that they have been out in the yard all day long, and they are inside because you are inside.

The “tripping gait of children” to me describes a family most perfectly, because a family ought to be a place where happiness is the keynote. A family, a home, ought to be a place where children would rather be than anywhere else. I want to say this as kindly as I know how: If your children would rather be somewhere else than at home, you may need to take stock of the situation. If your children are always at someone else's house instead of with their friends at your house, you may need to wet your finger and see which way the wind is blowing. It may be a sign that something needs to be done. A family God named for Himself, because through it He can give the greatest testimony of His love and understanding.

Closing

May I say to you, if you are here without the Lord Jesus Christ, that God loves you. Everything that a father and a mother ought to be to their children, God will be to you if you will receive His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as your Savior.

Prayer

We thank Thee, Father, for the privilege of sharing Thy Word. Grant that each need of each waiting heart will be met as we leave those needs with Thee. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.


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