The Christian is a Son
The New Testament is full of "family language" The different terms that are employed include the following:
Sons – adoption – children – heirs – brothers -
This evening we’ll concentrate our attention upon just a couple of these – we’ll look at the word "sons" and the closely related word "children".
In the 20 th and 21 st centuries some of the truths relating to the warmth of intimacy that exists between God and his children have been undermined by a couple of related errors. If we are to extract the full benefit of the teaching of Scripture in this area then we must be on our guard against other ideas, however popular they may be, which do not square with the teaching of the Bible.
The universal fatherhood of God. By this we mean the idea that each and every man has God as his Father.
The universal brotherhood of mankind – the idea that all men are in some way brothers.
Do you see that if these two ideas are true then there really is no special encouragement for us to be described as sons or children of God as everyone is in the same boat.
However you may feel that these notions are so widely accepted in our day that they must be true and to call them into question is to demonstrate the worst kind of intolerance and to manifest a distinct lack of love.
What can we say to that? "To the law and to the testimony" – let’s see what the Bible has to say on the subject.
The Bible’s Response
There is at least one verse that seems to support that the ideas that I’m calling errors.
In Acts 17:28 Paul quotes with seeming approbation the words of a pagan poet
"‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’"
Surely this is the same as affirming that we’re all the children of God – but no it doesn’t. What Paul is concerned to emphasise is the fact that all men depend upon God whether or not they recognise him – rather than using language that will only lead to confusion in calling all men "children of God" Paul is rather teaching that all men have been created by one and the same God.
Why am I emphasising this? Isn’t it splitting hairs needlessly? No, I don’t think it is, because error is always dangerous and easily leads on to worse error. The danger of considering all men as equally and in the same sense as "children of God" leads easily on to towards the dangerous error of universalism – the idea that all men will ultimately be "saved". And as soon as such ideas gain acceptance the urgency of repentance, of turning away from sin and of seriously seeking reconciliation with God is greatly minimised. The lost are not helped but lulled into a false sense of security.
Now for some of the real teaching of the Bible:
Jesus apparently didn’t believe in the universal Fatherhood of God although he certainly instructed his disciples to believe that God was indeed their Father. Listen to how he spoke to the religious elite of his day, I’m talking about the Pharisees:
Jn.8:44 "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies."
Following his master Paul taught exactly the same thing:
Or again in discussing the question as to why not all the Jews were saved he wrote to the church in Rome:
An in writing to the Corinthians Paul speaks of sonship as a reward for some, for those who pursue holiness – sonship seems not be for all in the same way:
At the beginning of his gospel John could write of some of their becoming "children of God":
What does it mean to be a son of God?
Perhaps it will be helpful to look at different types of sonship in the Bible before we concentrate upon what is predicated of the Christian.
Adam – in the genealogy that Luke draws up for Christ he goes all the way back to Adam as owing his origin to God, in this way Adam is the son of God.
Created pure and holy Adam was a member both of the family of God and of the Kingdom of God. However by his open rebellion Adam threw away these immense privileges. The immediate result for him was that he was disinherited from the family and excluded from the Kingdom. Further down the line the result for mankind as a whole was equally catastrophic – no human being is naturally born as a son of God: no-
The Lord Jesus-
The Christian: We find that are several verses that speak of the Christian as being counted among the "children of God" or "sons of God". I put it that way because the verses speak in the plural form! Our western individualism is not always helpful!! Pushed to extremes we act as though everything revolves around N°1, ME. As though I become the child/the son of God. God saves his people and makes them his children.
Here are some more references in the NT.
Rom.8:19 "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."
In Eph.2:19 Paul speaks of the Christian being a member of the household of God.
Have you noticed with these verses how frequently the idea of being numbered amongst the children of God has consequences in everyday life for the believer?
The Christian is not to go on sinning but to live his life in a blameless manner that becomes the child of God. Positively he practises righteousness and equally positively he loves other family members because, like him, they too are children of God! Love towards other children of God is shown by our love to God and by our obedience to his commandments.
Now to close lets quickly consider some verses in Rom.8 where Paul again develops this theme of the Christian as a child of God.
Rom.8:14 "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." The Christian has the immense privilege of being led by the Spirit of God, guided by He who understands and knows all things.
Rom.8:15 "For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption." – no servile fear any longer but a real belonging now to the God who loves us.
Rom.8:17 "and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ" An heir enjoys all the privileges of inheritance – what is in view is continued treatment as such sons and all the inheritance that God purposes for his people: his favour here and now followed by our resurrection, eternal life, sharing the glory of Jesus the Son of God to whom we are joined.
Here Paul speaks of the believer’s privilege of suffering for Christ as a prelude to sharing his glory. Many other verses in the NT develop this same idea eg. On Jesus own lips in the Beatitudes he said: Mt 5:11-
Rom.8:21 "that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God." -
Rom.8:29 "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family." Our ultimate destiny is to be made like our wonderful Lord Jesus Christ.
Friends if we are Christians today let us be glad and rejoice for the Lord our God has been so remarkably good and generous and kind to us. Let us press on in our living to our please our Heavenly Father and not to disgrace or dishonour him by unworthy behaviour.
If you are not a Christian and you begin to realise that you are not a child of God but rather excluded from the family of God then thank God for showing you this! Remember what we’ve just noticed the family of God is to be a "large family" and as today is still a day of grace it is still possible to enter this family by putting your faith and trust in our Lord Jesus Christ and in calling upon his name in order to be saved.
To God be the glory!