Brother Dee Keith
1 Peter 2:17
Colleges and universities have their fraternities and sororities. Many police agencies have a FOP, a fraternal order of police. Actors have guilds to which they belong. Medical and legal professionals have their associations, orders, fellowships, and brotherhoods. The rich and affluent have their societies and clubs. Even the Christian community organizes itself into associations and fellowships, such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The simple purpose to any of these is to bring together those of like backgrounds, professions, skills, and interests where they can enrich their knowledge, employ and enhance their skills, engage other professionals and exchange ideas with other likeminded men and women, and enjoy the friendship and fellowship of others.
Believers as a whole are known by several different names in Scripture. They are called an assembly, a congregation, the church, the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, Christians, and a few more names. Within the church itself, we esteem and acknowledge those who have trusted Christ as Savior and have followed Him in believer’s baptism as brothers or sister. It’s a compliment, a term of respect. Oftentimes, we speak of a group or large gathering of believers collectively as brethren. However, Peter used a term not often used anymore: brotherhood. Brotherhood is derived from the Greek, “adelphotes,” which is a compound word formed from the Greek “adelphos,” which means “brother,” and “philadelphos” that means “to love, be fond of”. Combing the two Greek words, they give us brotherhood, and the more accurate meaning or idea is “the community of brothers,” or, “a community based on identity of origin or life,” “brethren”. So, adelphetos is an ‘association, attitude, and action’ combined in one word.
The ‘Brotherhood’ is a very interesting and instructive word, and since its basic idea is that of a community or fraternity of likeminded believing men and women, let’s draw only three basic characteristics that are true of societal communities of brotherhoods and that have a considerably deeper more important spiritual lessons for us to learn.
The brotherhood implies a closed community. That sounds foreboding, doesn’t it? It should sound ominous, but it shouldn’t be if rightly understood. Let me try to illustrate. In the Old Testament there were, on occasions, Gentiles, non-Jews, who desired to become Judaist. Provisions were made within the law for such people. Without going into details, the interested one must become a practicing Jew in their essential beliefs, practice, and behavior. Otherwise, they were forbidden certain civil and social rights, excluded from ceremonial worship, denied entrance into the temple grounds, and the Jewish community at large was closed to them. This explanation is a purely simplistic one.
The Christian community is similar with differences and, again, the subject is too broad to completely address here. However, the Christian brotherhood doesn’t exclude any man or woman, boy or girl because of race, birth of nation, culture, or education, or political views. On the contrary, election, biblical election and the brotherhood, is inclusive. In the words of the Lord Jesus, He said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). The key is in the personal pronoun ‘whosoever.’ Whosoever includes every person that believes on Jesus Christ for the salvation of their soul. That He took their place on the cross. That He paid their sin debt that they could not pay. That He who knew no sin, became sin for us, “that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Co. 5:21). God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that “whosoever” would be included in His great plan of salvation and whosoever becomes a member of the brotherhood. Sin excludes, however, the grace of God includes. The offer of salvation is available to ‘whosoever will,’ but it is effectual only for those who receive it in repentance of sin and faith. The acceptance of these basic tenets of faith makes the whosoever a member of the brotherhood and a member of the family of God.
A brotherhood of the believer implies a chosen community. The brotherhood isn’t an elitist body of believers, but an elected body of believers. Our election is not by the brotherhood, however, but according to the foreknowledge of God and with a divine purpose. Paul wrote in his Ephesian letter, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Eph. 1:4). In the book of Romans, he said, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Ro. 8:29-30).
In the Christian community, the brotherhood implies a committed community. It goes without saying that we are to be committed to Christ. Christian commitment demonstrates itself when one continues in His word. Once the Lord spoke to a group of Jews who declared themselves to be His disciples. “If ye continue in my word,” He spoke to them, “then are ye my disciples indeed” (Jn. 8:31). Continuance is a characteristic of commitment. We are to continue in His love (Jn. 15:9), in the grace of God (Ac. 13:43), in the faith (Ac. 14:22), in prayer (Col. 4:2).
In closing, we would be remiss to fail to say that the brotherhood, the committed Christian community, demonstrates commitment to the church. It is, after all, the body of Christ. We now live in a day when commitment to the church is conditional, secondary to everything secular, when church attendance is seasonal more than scriptural. Hebrews 10:24-25 warns us that such an attitude is dangerous. Paul said, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”We can’t love the brotherhood, as Peter said, unless we are part of the brotherhood. The question is, are we?