Vol.XIII No.X Pg.5
December 1976

- -Figures Describing Gods People

Robert F. Turner

(continued, previous page)

The people of God are those who hear, believe, and obey the call of the gospel of Christ (2 Thes. 2:14, Acts 2:37-41). Generally speaking, we are either in darkness (in sin, unacceptable unto God), or we are in the light (in truth, acceptable). Those who are acceptable unto God are described or designated by a multitude of figures, each emphasizing some particular characteristic of the saints. Gods people are LIKE workers in His vineyard, LIKE soldiers in His army, LIKE sheep in His flock. These are not different relationships — they are applied to the same people. When one becomes a branch upon Christ, the vine, he also becomes a lively stone, built upon Christ, the foundation. He enters one acceptable relationship, variously described by these figures.

Each figure has its own language or terminology. One is built upon the foundation, when Gods people are LIKENED unto a building; but he is born, when Gods people are LIKENED unto a family. It would be a mixing of figures to say one was born into a vine, or enlisted in a flock, or built into a family. If born of God is a mystical, better-felt-than-told process, then so is that of becoming a worker in the Lords vineyard, or a runner in the Christian race.

In each of these figures Christ is put in the prominent position. He is King in the kingdom, Shepherd of the flock, elder brother in the family, and head of the body. His position is not simply an honorary one, but its importance is established by its function. As head of the body He directs its activities; as King, He rules all who will be subject to Him, who therefore make up His kingdom. He is the vine that gives life to each branch, and without whom there can be no fruit. He protects the sheep, and directs and pays the laborers. Christ is the foundation upon which each building block depends.

It is also important to note that in every figure the unit is an individual. If a man abide not he is cast forth as a branch. Members of the body are saints, not congregations. The family of God is a brotherhood not a churchhood. His kingdom is made up of citizens, not of communities (as Campbell thought). This is a vital point. It establishes the direct relationship of saints to Christ. Our primary obligation is to be faithful to Christ, not to the church. The true church is not the object of our faith, but the result of faithfulness to Christ. It is the duty of each saint to maintain that faithfulness, and a faithful church will be the result of such fidelity.

Most figures have a central theme, and are given to teach a single point. When Gods people are likened unto a kingdom, RULE is the theme — God rules, through Christ, in the hearts of His people. But we may be told, The kingdom is like — a treasure — in value; or leaven — the way it is spread; or mustard seed — which from a small start produce big things. We should never make more of the figure than is obvious in its context.

Finally, no figure teaches a permanent relation. Our position in each is subject to our remaining faithful.