We live in a world where people are quick to speak and slow to listen. A world where words are used carelessly, where things are often spoken without thought. A world where many words have lost their meaning almost entirely. And so I want to spend some time looking at just a few words, in the hope that we can recover some of the wonder of their meaning, and use them not flippantly but joyfully.
The phrase that I am going to be focussing on is found in John chapter 1- here is the passage, beginning at vs 9.
‘The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become Children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.’
Children of God. This phrase is often used by Christians to describe all people, but the bible only uses this phrase in relation to believers. For example in this passage it is those ‘who received him, who believed in his name’ that are given to the right to become Children of God. So child of God doesn’t simply mean someone created by God- it is a term reserved for those trusting in Jesus because it means abundantly more.
Let’s therefore look at a few other passages in order to see what it means to be a Child of God.
Loved as the Son
Later in the book of John, in chapter 17 during what is known as Jesus’ high priestly prayer, he prays to the Father for all those who will believe (including us) that we would be united in love so that (in the second half of 23) ‘the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me’. Being a child of God means that we are as loved as the Son. We are as loved as the perfect Son, the one who says in v24 that he has enjoyed perfect communion and love with the father from before the foundation of the world. We are as loved as the obedient one, who always did his Fathers will, to whom the father said ‘You are my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’. Do you ever feel like God doesn’t love you? Maybe it’s because of all the things you have done, or maybe your life is so hard sometimes that you wonder if a God who loves you could let it be this way. The glorious truth of is that regardless of how you feel, of what you have done, or of what is happening in your life, if you are trusting in Jesus then you are a Child of God as loved as the Son.
We can call him father
In Luke Chapter 11 we get another insight into what it means to be a Child of God. When one of the disciples asks Jesus how they should pray he responds saying “When you pray, say ‘Father, hallowed be your name’.
We don’t deserve to use this title. It is an intimate term, describing a close relationship, when we deserve only separation from God. Before God adopted us we were children of the devil, children of darkness. It is only because of the amazing mercy of God in sending Jesus to die for our sins and adopting us as his children that we, though sinners, can approach the infinitely holy God of the universe and call him Father. Ephesians 2:13 says ‘But now, in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ’. We can confidently come before his throne in prayer as our loving heavenly Father who longs to hear from his children. What a privilege. Being a child of God means we can call him Father.
Slavery to Sonship
The next passage we are going to look at is Galatians 3:24-4:7. This shows us at least two more truths about what it means to be a child of God.
Firstly, we have been rescued from slavery, to sonship. In 4:3 it says that we were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world, which is an obscure phrase, but from other parts of the new testament it can’t mean less than slaves to sin, to the lies and ways of the world and the devil. We have been brought out of slavery, our chains have been removed, and we now live as children of a wonderful father.
Part of the family of God
And secondly, we are part of the one huge family of believers spanning all generations. Vs29 says that if we belong to Christ, we are Abrahams offspring. We are children of the promise all the way back in Genesis 15:5 when God says that Abrahams offspring will be as numerous as the stars. We are offspring in this ancient family of Gods people. This means that we have brothers and sisters all over the world, and across all generations. So we have been rescued from slavery, to sonship, into a worldwide, all generation spanning family of Gods people.
Heir of an inheritance beyond compare
Finally, we are going to look at Romans 8:14-18, which adds another glorious truth about what being a child of God means. ‘For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us’. These verses recap on some of what we have covered so far, reminding us that we have been adopted as sons (the Greek word here refers to both sons and daughters), and that we can therefore call God Father, but they also add something else. Gods Children are ‘heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ’.
Now I could do another post on just this phrase but I am just going to say a few things about our inheritance as heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.
- First, this inheritance is so good that Paul in vs 18 says that our sufferings in this world (as horrible as they may be) aren’t even worth comparing with it.
- Secondly, no words will fully do it justice. As JC Ryle says “Who can tell the full nature of the inheritance of the saints in light? Who can describe the glory which is yet to be revealed and given to the children of God? Words fail us. Language falls short. Mind cannot conceive fully, and tongue cannot express perfectly–the things which are comprised in the glory yet to come upon the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty!”
- However, in negative terms our inheritance will mean No more sin, No devil, No curse, No temptation, No pain, No sorrow, No death.
- And positively it will mean we will be in redeemed transformed bodies, we will see God and live in perfect intimacy with him, we will have rest, we will be satisfied, we will live eternally, we will share in Christs glory and we will know perfect and endless love with the one who has redeemed us.
- Paul puts it like this in Ephesians 1 vs 3 – ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.’ Nothing will be held back from us, we will receive every spiritual blessing.
Being a child of God means being an heir of God and a fellow heir with Christ.
In summary then, being a child of God is the ultimate privilege of the Christian- it means we are as loved as the son, that we can call the All-powerful, infinitely holy God our father. It means we have been rescued from slavery, to sonship, and belong to the great family of Gods people. More than that, it means we are Heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ of an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, one that is beyond what words can convey. And so we say with joy the words of John the apostle in 1st John chapter 3 and vs 1- “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”