What is the household of faith?

Galatians 6:10 says, "So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith." What is the "household of faith"?

In short, Paul is talking about the body of believers, the church, the saved, the redeemed; Paul is referring to Christians. The body is the household and the believers are those of faith. Paul only uses this specific phrase once, and it is here in Galatians. He uses a similar phrase in Ephesians 2:19: "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God." The term "household" draws on the familial language often applied to believers (e.g., John 1:12; 1 John 3:1–3; Acts 15:23; Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 1:26–31; Galatians 4:6–7, 28; 5:13; Ephesians 4:4–6; Philippians 4:21; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:4–7; Hebrews 2:10–18). The concept of a household also alludes to the way believers function together as a communal body. "For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another" (Romans 12:4–5).

When Paul writes to "do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith" he is reiterating what Jesus taught. Jesus said the second greatest commandment was to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39). Jesus also said, "But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you" (Luke 6:27). To "do good to everyone" would be to follow these commands. Jesus also instructed, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you" (John 15:12). He told His disciples, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34–35). Doing good "especially to those who are of the household of faith" is part of how we love other believers. The love Christians have for one another demonstrates to the world that we know and follow Jesus. It gives credence to the truth we proclaim and beckons others to come to faith in Jesus and join His family, too.

In Ephesians 4 Paul writes, "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift" (Ephesians 4:1–7, emphasis added). Notice Paul's emphasis on love toward one another and unity. Paul emphasizes that we are united under the One True God through His Son, Jesus Christ, in the bond of peace through His Spirit. In Paul's era, households often consisted of much more than a single family unit. A household, no matter how large, is unified when the various members are bonded through love, common understanding, and common purpose. Our relationship with God is no different.

Paul goes on to say, "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love" (Ephesians 4:11–16). Paul is using imagery related to the body here, but we can see how household imagery would work as well. When the members of a household act on behalf of one another and function together in unity, they are strong. Notice that Paul refers to unity, and the "whole body" being joined together, always with an emphasis on Jesus Christ who is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23). Jesus is the unifying focus of the household of faith and its leader.

Doing good to those who are part of the household of faith would include following the "one another" commands in Scripture. For example, we speak the truth (Ephesians 4:15, 25), do honest work and share with those in need (Ephesians 4:28; 1 John 3:17–18), build one another up (Ephesians 4:29; Jude 1:20), act kindly (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12), forgive (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13), warn and restore brothers and sisters in Christ who are caught in sin (Galatians 6:1; James 5:16; Jude 1:23), gather together and encourage (Hebrews 10:25), stir one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24), and more. We are members of the same household—family—and we act in one another's best interest to the glory of God.

Colossians 3:12–17 has helpful instructions for the household of faith: "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

When our focus is the Lord and we submit to His leadership, we act in love toward other believers. We live in this world as a faithful and unified household, building one another up and sharing the truth about Jesus to the lost and broken. The household of faith is ultimately built and sustained by God. He is faithful to mature its members, invite more people in, and make it effective in the world (Romans 8:28–30; 1 Corinthians 3:5–8; 2 Peter 3:9).

Related Truth:

Why is having a church family so valuable?

What does it mean that the church is the body of Christ?

What is meant by the command to love one another?

What does it mean to bear one another's burdens?

What was God's purpose in establishing the church?

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