Children of God

God is infinite and indescribable. He condescends to our level of understanding with nomenclature we recognize. This is especially true when He teaches about man’s relationship to Him. One key feature to understanding theology is the relationship between God as Father, and Christ as Son. This idea is extended further with God’s people being identified as children of God.

Universalists would argue for God being the Father of all humanity. They might even point to Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill, “for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ 29 Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man (Acts 17:28–29).” Is this the consistent, plain reading of the Scriptures?

In Luke 3:38, we can see how humanity is derived from Adam. Adam, of course, was God’s creation, and Luke calls Adam, “the son of God.” So, in one sense we see man (Adam), made in the image of God, identified in familial relationship to God as a son. Angels are also called, “sons of God (Job 38:7),” and so are the Nephilim (Gen 6:2), and again, rulers and judges are called, “gods” and “sons of the Most High” (Ps 82:6).

In a more salvific sense, we understand “children of God” to be a group of people brought into a special relationship with God through faith in His only begotten Son (Ps 2:7). The eternal generation of Jesus Christ (begotten not made) has incorporated other children of God. This group is set apart from the rest of humanity by virtue of its adoption into the family of God. Paul used the phrase “in Christ.” How does one become a child of God?

Adoption is not a choice of the orphan, and as children of devil (1 Jn 3:10), children of wrath (Eph 2:3), there was nothing desirable in us for God to choose us for salvation (2 Thess 2:13). By His free grace, before the foundation of the world, He chose us for adoption in His eternal Son, Jesus Christ (Rom 8:15, 23). Paul wrote, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will (Eph 1:5).”

If we were to receive the adoption as sons, there must be a redemption price paid (Gal 4:5). Orphans are bought for a price, and we were bought by the precious blood of Christ (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23; 1 Pet 1:19). Our elder Brother laid down His life to bring many sons to glory (Heb 2:10). So we have seen our adoption planned before Creation. It was made legal by Jesus Christ on the Cross. When are God’s children actually adopted?

There is an “already, but not yet,” aspect to adoption. Paul wrote to the Romans and noted, “you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Rom 8:15). God has given the gift of the Holy Spirit to elect ones at the time of the regeneration. We are said to be, “born of God,” and “born again,” and “born of the Spirit” (Jn 3:1–8). It is the Holy Spirit who testifies that we are the children of God (Rom 8:16). This has already happened to those converted to Christianity. The “not yet” portion of our adoption is the “waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Rom 8:23).” This, of course, refers to the resurrection from the dead (Jn 5:29; 1 Cor 15).

Now one might argue, “I thought the Israelites had the adoption as sons, should we not join with the Jews and their religion.” Paul affirmed the Israelite adoption as sons in Romans 9:4. In this sense of adoption, God chose ethnic Israel to be His people. Paul continues His argument regarding ethnic Israel (Rom 9–11), by identifying a remnant of faithful ones inside the nation (Rom 11:5). Stated another way, Paul demonstrates the necessity of faith in our adoption because not all of ethnic Israel was actually spiritual Israel (Rom 9:6). There are lots of children in the orphanage, but only some believe the announcement of their adoption. They are those who belong to Christ (1 Cor 3:23), not those who do not belong to Him (Jn 10:26).

To illustrate Israel was chosen out of all nations to be in a special relationship with Yahweh. All, but the remnant, opted to live as sons of disobedience (Eph 2:2). Therefore, their adoption had no effect on their hearts, nor on their ways of living. Israel played the harlot and went out as apostates from the covenant of marriage with Yahweh. This is another way the relationship is depicted. Unfaithful, ethnic Israel, broke the covenant and received the curses of the Law for disobedience (Dt 27:15–26). Without holiness no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14).

The remnant of ethnic Israel placed their trust in the Word of God, and they were justified by faith in Him and His promises (Rom 3:28; 5:1). These adopted ones were beneficiaries of the covenant of grace, and they are identified with the remnant of Gentiles from every tribe, tongue and nation (Rev 5:9). There is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles, but they are one new nation of people in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28; 1 Pet 2:9).

“And as many as received Him, He gave them the right to be called, ‘children of God’ (Jn 1:12),” was the way John described it. How does one receive Christ, and then receive the title, “child of God”? Before we were created, God set His love on us in Christ (Dt 10:15). Before the foundation of the world, He wrote our names in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 13:8; 17:8). Next, God sent His only begotten Son into the world that He might put away sin (Mt 1:21; Jn 3:16; Heb 1:3). Next, God the Father and God the Son sent God the Holy Spirit as a gift to His people (Jn 14:26; 15:26), poured out in their hearts (Acts 2:38; 10:45; Rom 5:5), and who received Him in their innermost being (Jn 1:13). The Spirit dwells in each believer (Rom 8:9, 11). And as many as received the, Holy Spirit, received the Spirit of adoption and these are the children of God (Rom 8:15, 23; 1 Jn 3:1).

It is the Spirit who caused us to be born again (1 Pet :3), and brought the Word of faith into each elect soul (Jas 1:21). Faith took root, and in time began to manifest as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22–23). The believer in Jesus was appointed by God to believe (Acts 13:48), and at the appointed time, God fell on each elect hearer (Acts 10:44) and opened each heart to respond in faith to the Word preached to her (Acts 16:14). The work of God in justification and sanctification comes by grace (Rom 3:24). Grace is recognized through the believer’s faith and through their new good works done in the name of the Lord Jesus (Eph 2:8–10; Col 3:17).

Those who are titled, ‘children of God’ are distinguishable (1 Jn 3:1, 10). They bear witness of all that God has done in beginning the good work of salvation in them. They live in confident hope of His completing the good work He began. Jesus made purification for their sins (Heb 1:3), and they now purify themselves in loving response to the amazing demonstration of Christ’s sacrificial love for them (Rom 5:8; 1 Jn 3:3).

Obedient children of God are children of faith. They know it is impossible to please their Father without faith (Heb 11:6), and so they walk in faith (2 Cor 5:7), trusting the finished work of their Elder Brother. They know He has justified them by His blood (Rom 5:9), and so they live free from their old slavery to sin and a guilty conscience (Rom 6:6, 16-17; Heb 9:14). There is now no condemnation for those who are beneficiaries of the blood of Jesus (Rom 8:1). The debt of sin they owed was paid in full by their Brother (Col 2:14), and now the Father’s will for His children is for them to be conformed to the image of His only begotten Son (Rom 8:29).

The orphan must be made a royal child, not by blood, but by sanctification of the Spirit (Rom 15:16; 1 Thess 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2). In order for the children of God to be presented holy and blameless before their Father (Eph 1:4; 5:27; Col 1:22), they must undergo His will for their sanctification (1 Thess 4:3). This is a life-long process of gracious work by the indwelling Spirit to make the child of God holy (1 Pet 1:2).

Holiness training is done by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God (Jn 17:17). The objective is for the child of God to know the truth, love the truth, walk in the truth, and rejoice in the truth. This is the way of life with God. It is abundant and eternal life (Jn 10:10; 17:2–3). The wretched rebel and lawless criminal is marvelously transferred from the orphanage of sin to the house of God, where she is transformed by receiving a new heart (Ezek 36:26). The old heart of stone is replaced with one which is malleable, moldable, and spiritual (1 Cor 2:15).

The new heart produces new words that speak truth in love (Eph 4:15). It is a heart which has compassion on the widow and the orphan (Dt 10:18; Jas 1:27). It is a heart filled with light and love (Rom 5:5; 2 Cor 4:6). The former passions of the heart are mortified over time, and the love for the other children of God is a delight. The child of God serves His Father by serving her brethren (Jn 13:34–35). She learns to be content in whatever circumstance God’s providence would have for her (Phil 4:11). Her faith is seen by her good works done in love for her Father and new family.

The child of God thinks differently in the house of God than in the orphanage. God the Spirit has given us the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16), which is the mind of God. God’s thoughts are not our natural thoughts, so we must learn to think spiritually. God renews our minds as He transforms us (Rom 12:2). The Word of God reveals the mind of God, so the child learns how to think like his Father and Brother by meditating on the Bible (Ps 1:2).

The new way of the child of God is blessed. Everything works together for his good (Rom 8:28), and God’s Spirit never leaves nor forsakes the child in training (Heb 13:5). Grace marks the work, and the child is not perfected all at once (1 Pet 3:18). Grace comes with loving discipline to bring about training in righteousness (Heb 12:4–11). As the character of the holy child of God is being internally crafted (Ezek 36:27), the design for the child’s life begins to manifest externally. The fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22–23), coupled with the gifts of the Spirit (Rom 12; 1 Cor 12; Eph 4), are employed by the Spirit to bring about new life in other orphans (2 Cor 5:17). God is growing His family into spiritual maturity and numerically (Eph 4:13; Heb 5:14; 6:1). The Lord knows those orphans who are His (2 Tim 2:19), and He will make sure none of them are lost.

The child of God lives with a hope and future (Prv 24:14; Jer 29:11; 31:17). There is an ever-present prayer of gratitude for being adopted and for the grace she always finds sufficient for her (1 Thess 5:17–18; 2 Cor 12:9). This includes the day of her death, which is no longer a fear for her (Heb 2:15). The training course has been explained to her by the Spirit and from the Word, and she is ready for graduation day (Phil 1:23). God has determined that day, and so the child of God presses on toward the mark of the high calling she has received in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14). She fights the good fight and runs the race to win the prize (1 Tim 6:12; 2 Tim 4:7). She dies in hope, and will be raised with a glorified body and soul (1 Cor 15). The crown waiting for her signifies the position she will hold in glory, seated with Christ her King (Eph 2:6). She will reign with Him, forever (2 Tim 2:12; Rev 20:6).

We have considered the life of the adopted orphan, who has been chosen to have a place in the family of God. The life of grace is challenged by the troubles in the world, but there is the promise of the preservation of her inheritance and the preservation of her person. Jesus has gone to prepare a place in heaven for each child of God, and He will soon return to gather His people to take them home to the heavenly city of Zion. This is home for the child of God.

In conclusion, we must glory in God’s sovereign decision to adopt us, in Christ’s willingness to pay for the adoption, and the Spirit of adoption training us for our glorious eternal work of service to our loving Heavenly Father. May God spur us on to more love and good works, as we prepare for our appointed day of departure home to be with our Father and Brother and the rest of the family. What a reunion it will be! See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us?

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

March 22, 2021

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Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher