One of Christendom's most popular phrases is "we are all the children of God." Christians habitually use this phrase in an effort to demonstrate God's love while at the same time hypocritically believing He delights in tormenting nearly all of His children without end. Popes have frequently used the phrase when addressing large crowds from around the world in an effort to promote unity and ecumenism, and church billboards bear the phrase along highways at every turn.
The claim that all people are God's children appears to promote God's loving nature and providence. It seems on its surface to be harmless and immune to speculation. Yet, as is the case with most of Christendom's most popular idioms, the notion that all people are God's children is unbiblical and misleading.
In the passage above, Paul plainly informs the Romans that only the children of the promise bear the right to be called "God's children." In Colossians 1:16, though, Paul points out that everyone is created by God, which seems to indicate that we are all, by nature, His children. In order to understand Paul, we must recognize what, exactly, is meant by the term "child of God."
The term "child" is just that - a term. It is a title which, like all titles, takes on a particular meaning in relation to the context in which it is used. This fact is true of all titles in all languages. A good example of this fact can be seen with the title "god." In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Satan is referred to as the "god of this eon." This seems shocking until we recognize that "god" is a title which derives its meaning from context. A "god," by definition, is a subjector - one who, by authority, subjects others beneath himself. It is fitting, then, that Satan be labeled a god, but not in the same sense as the Almighty God (with a capital "G").
Deciphering titles is extremely important as we attempt to uncover truth. By referring to Christ as "God," we may mean that He is in every way coequal with the Father, or that He is a subjector. If we mean the former, we make a grave error and ultimately deny the literal death of Christ; if we mean the latter, we recognize the truth. It is crucial to always narrowly define titles.
When we apply this rule to the term "children," it becomes clear that we must distinguish between the various meanings of the title "child" in the Scriptures. We are all God's children in the sense that we are all His creation and under His sovereign control, but we are not all His children in terms of our sonship.
We tend to define what it means to be a child in biological terms. I refer to myself as the child of my parents because I am their biological offspring. In relation to God, though, no one except Christ has ever been biologically fathered by God. To be God's child, then, is not defined in biological terms, but in spiritual terms. How is one, according to Scripture then, a child of God?
In John 1:12-13, we read, "Yet whoever obtained Him, to them He gives the right to become children of God, to those who are believing in His name, who were begotten, not of bloods, neither of the will of the flesh, neither of the will of a man, but of God." Likewise, 1 John 3:1 states, "Perceive what manner of love the Father has given us, that we may be called children of God! And we are! Therefore the world does not know us, for it did not know Him."
Writing to Israel, John, like Paul, makes it clear that believers bear the unique right to be called the children of God. He makes the distinction between believers and those of the world who "did not know" God. In John 8:42-44, we witness Jesus rebuking the Pharisees, saying, "If God were your Father, you would have loved Me" and, "You are of your father, the Adversary."
Were the Pharisees created by God and in His image? Yes. Did Jesus refer to them as the children of God? No. He did the complete opposite by calling them children of the Adversary!
As believers, we have been given the glorious privilege to be called the children of God! Through faith, we have been adopted as sons (Rom. 8:14-16, Gal. 3:26 & 4:5-6, Eph. 1:5). As God's adopted children, we are "especially saved" (1 Tim. 4:10) and graciously granted eonian life.
Yet, as the Creator of all, God will eventually show Himself to be the Father of all! Though unbelievers do not recognize God's fatherhood now, they one day will when He draws all men to Himself (John 12:32, 1 Cor. 15:28). They will be separated from their present father, the Adversary, and adopted by their loving Father Who, through His only begotten Son, has redeemed them. For now, believers alone bear the right to be called God's children, but in due time everyone will learn to cry "Abba, Father!"
© 2013 by Stephen Hill