Children of God
Updated: Jun 5
Today I want to share another point with you that can change your entire outlook on who you are as a Christian. This point is that you are literally a child of God. We sing about it and say it often but do we really know what it means?
If you watch the news much you may hear comments like “we are all God’s children”, or “all of us are equal because we are all children of God”. Sounds good, doesn’t it? When you hear those comments do you readily say “yes”, or does something deep down inside you say “what??”
The Bible very clearly tells us that we are all created in the image of God. That is not however the same thing as saying we are all children of God. All people on earth are equal in the sense that they are made in the image of God. We are the closest things in all of God’s creation to what He is like. He is still far greater but we are closer than anything else on earth. We all have the same blood flowing through our veins regardless of race, color or creed. It should make no difference to us what race or background we are as we saw with our three-week study of Jonah. The United States founding fathers in the second paragraph of our U.S. Declaration of Independence wrote “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. Abraham Lincoln then reminded us again of this in one of, if not the most important speeches, ever given by a US President when in Gettysburg, PA, he declared “Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”. As a nation we have not always lived up to these founding principles as evidenced by many of the very significant issues we presently experience. Regardless of that, we continue to push forward as one of, if not the greatest nation that has ever existed up to this point in time.
Biblically we see the term “children of” referenced several times in the Bible. There are references to children of Israel or Jacob, children of Zion, children of the Living God, children of our Father in Heaven, children of the Most High, children of God, children of Abraham, children of promise, children of the light, and more. The Bible also offers some further references for people such as being of their “father the devil” or a “child of the devil”. This latter reference is not something you want said of yourself. If your father is the devil, you obviously are not a child of God.
We make much of the reality of “justification” for us as Christians as we rightly should. Paul devoted most of Romans, chapters 1 -5 to this point. In justification we are declared “just” or free from sin because Jesus Christ substituted Himself for us on the cross. This is a wonderful reality with substitution something we have covered in depth in these weekly notes in the past. A part of the reality of justification is that it focuses on law and God as judge. Being a child of God though brings in the picture of God as something more than a judge. To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God as our Father is even greater.
Let’s look at some Scripture about this point of being a child of God.
John 1:12-13 (NIV) – Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God. Children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Romans 8:14-17 (NIV) – For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father”. The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.
Galatians 4:4-7 (NIV) – But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are His sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father”. So, you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are His child, God has made you also an heir.
Ephesians 1:5 (NIV) – He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will.
1 John 3:1 (NIV) – See what great love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
All of these passages are monumental toward the point I hope to let God birth inside us today. The primary point I want us to see is what Paul longs for us to understand about our “adoption to sonship”.
Some in our present culture will take offense to the term “sonship” since it is not gender neutral. Removing the phrase “sonship” in these references by Paul though truly does disservice to what the Apostle was trying to tell us about our relationship and inheritance as children of God. During the period of history when Paul was writing, only a male child could inherit any property or estate. If an estate owner had no male children, they would adopt a son, often times one of an older age to ensure this son was able and prepared to take on his responsibilities as the heir of the estate upon the passing of the adoptive parent. If you watched the old “Ben Hur” movie with Charlton Heston you may remember him being adopted as an adult by a wealthy Roman. The term sonship in God’s Word is telling everyone, man or woman, boy or girl, that when you become one of God’s children you are given all the rights of the oldest son. You are an heir in the highest standing – period.
This term “adoption to sonship” also speaks to another very life changing point. If you know anyone that has adopted a child, then you know that no one forced them to do it. They all choose to adopt. I heard a pastor describe this process while he was teaching on Ephesians 1:5. He and his wife were not able to have kids of their own but they desperately wanted a child. They chose to go through the adoption process. As he described this process he outlined it in detail, all the way up to the point of being at the hospital where a child had just been born. He told of how he and his wife were asked one last time by the agent of the adoption firm, even at this point of looking at the child there through the glass window in the hospital nursery, whether they were sure they wanted to go through with the adoption. They both chose to proceed. God adopts because He chooses to. He had no duty to do so. He need not have done anything about our sins except punish us as we deserved. But He loved us, redeemed us, forgave us taking us as His sons and daughters. He gave Himself to us as our Father.
Theologian J. I. Packer who wrote the great Christian classic, “Knowing God”, speaks at length to this in a chapter titled “Sons of God”. It is a long chapter just because of how rich and important the concept is for the Christian. Dr. Packer is one that also is well known for his ability to take Christian concepts and break them down into useful phrases to help get a point across to encourage or uplift a person and share Godly insight. He states that to him, the most concise statement of what God has done for the Christian is the term “Adoption through Propitiation”. Dr. Packer states that there is nothing greater for the Christian than the fact they have been adopted into God’s family and this adoption only takes place through the process of propitiation or atonement. I will not go through the teaching on propitiation in detail as that was the topic of the very first of these weekly notes we began during COVID back at Easter 2020. In summary the theological term propitiation or atonement outlines the entire process of what God did by sending His Son as a sacrifice whose own blood covered our sins, cleansing us and sparing us from the wrath of God. Blood had to be shed for God’s Word says in Hebrews 9:22 that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”.
Dr. Packer states that just as adoption is of a higher order than justification, adoption is also a viewpoint that the entire Christian life has to be understood through. Sonship must be the controlling thought. You want your children to first think of you as a loving parent, not the one that disciplines them if they need it. Just as Jesus always thought of Himself as the Son of God, so He always thought of His followers or disciples as children of this same heavenly Father. Jesus also calls us His brothers and sisters on multiple occasions after His resurrection.
Adoption truly depicts our God for us as a God of love. The passage from 1 John 3:1 listed above highlights that not only did God forgive us through the act of Jesus on the cross but He further brought us to Himself as His own children. He could have just forgiven us and promised us eternity but instead He additionally made us His sons and daughters. We will not just live in heaven with God, we will live in our Fathers house (John 14).
Adoption also shows us our future glory as Christians. It brings us hope. For those of us that are children of God, the best is always yet to come. As His children, God has made us heirs of all that He owns. Our Father’s wealth is immeasurable and we are to inherit the entire estate. But even more, our hope is one of an eternal life in the presence of Jesus and a reconciled divine Father who loves us for Jesus’ sake no less than He loves Jesus Himself. And all of this happens along with the rest of God’s vast family. There we are with our Father, our Lord, and all of our brothers and sisters from the ages and dwelling throughout eternity, in one great big house with many rooms, in relationship with all.
Adoption also gives us the keys to understanding the ministry of the Holy Spirit. There is likely nothing more perplexing in the Christian world today than ones understanding or thoughts about the ministry of the Spirit. We could go into great depth here but let’s just stick with the basics that Paul presents in these passages above. The passages listed above from Romans 8 and Galatians 4 both highlight receiving God’s Spirit and that this Spirit actually brings about or brings to life our adoption to sonship. God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, is ever trying to help us understand our filial relationship with God in Christ. The Spirit is always working to lead us into an ever-deeper response to God in this relationship. The Spirit comes to us enabling us to cry out “Abba, Father”. The Spirit seeks to help us realize that God is actually our papa; our daddy; or whatever endearing fatherly description you use. He is no longer only the Holy God of the Old Testament; He is now the endearing and loving God outlined in the New through the examples Jesus highlights for us several places such as Luke 15. Once you begin to see God as your “daddy” other things begin to occur through the Spirit such as an improved prayer life and so, so much more.
Adoption also brings about a greater understanding of the meaning and motives of gospel holiness. Royal children have to undergo extra training and discipline which other children escape in order to prepare them for their high destiny. It is the same with the children of the King of Kings. Throughout your life, remember that He is training you and chiseling you into the image of Christ. This is where you begin to understand and appreciate what the writer of Hebrews tells us in chapter 12:6-7 and 12:11 about God’s discipline toward us. Justification, referenced above, highlights that we are free forever from the need to keep the law as a means of earning salvation. Adoption however highlights to us an obligation of obedience to God’s Word as the means of pleasing our newfound Father. Keeping the law is a part of the family business. It is how we are recognized (1 John 3:10). Not doing so does not nullify our adoption or justification but it definitely hinders the child’s fellowship with their Father, their daddy.
Finally, adoption brings about assurance or security. Perfect parents do not cast off their children. A Christian may act the prodigal, just as the younger son in Luke 15, but God will not cease to act the prodigal’s father. The younger son in Luke 15 returned. Why? Because he was a son! There is so much about the story in Luke 15 that has been taught errantly over the years. Natural children seem to easily feel love from the parents. An adoptive child though needs assurance that they belong to this new family. The perfect parent, whom God our Father is, does not withhold that assurance. Assurance is all through God’s Word if you look for it. One of the high points of this is the end of Romans chapter 8:38 – 39 (NIV):
38) For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39) neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You have heard Pastor Ron tell us several times that it is very important that you know who God says you are. We sang a song at “Worship Wednesday”, 6/2, led by Melissa called “Who You Say I Am ”(<--click to hear song). It is a beautiful song that Melissa thankfully sings almost every Worship Wednesday. A few of the words are as follows:
Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
I am chosen, not forsaken
I am who you say I am
You are for me, not against me
I am who you say I am
Much of this song is taken from Romans and John. It beautifully depicts what we are saying here today. Greg Kee came up to lead us in communion as they were ending this song and he reminded us that these points are something we should get up every morning and repeat. Dr. Packer whom I referenced above made a similar statement and he suggests that each Christian say to themselves daily. “I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Savior is my brother; every Christian is my brother too.” Seeing yourself as God sees you is not just a major point of living a happy life but it is also essential to living a God-honoring life.
As a side note, if you missed Worship Wednesday and communion you missed a great service. Greg Kee’s introduction to the Lord’s Supper was likely the simplest yet most descriptive I have ever heard (just hit play below to watch). What a blessing it was.
Next week we will look at a little discussed aspect of God’s character – His jealousy.