Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1 John 3:1-2
It is common for Christians to see themselves as children of God, and rightfully so. Whether we understand what it means to be a child of God, is a different matter altogether. There is much more to this special relationship with God than just a cosy title. If only we could fully grasp the hidden truth of who we are in Christ Jesus, the church will shake our fallen world. We have some head knowledge about these things, but we need it to explode as a revelation in our hearts.
Let’s start this journey at the beginning of our history.
God instructed Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil before Eve was taken out of his side. She existed spiritually, but had no body yet. He also warned Adam that if he disobeyed he would surely die. (See Genesis 2:16-17) It is interesting that they were allowed to eat from the tree of life, but never did. Anyway, Adam must have told Eve about God’s warning not to eat of this tree, because she told the serpent so when he tempted her.
We can speculate about exactly what happened there, and why they chose to obey the devil instead of God. Adam was present when Eve ate of that tree, she also gave some to him, and he ate of it. The Bible says that Eve was deceived but Adam disobeyed. They had different motives for committing the same sin, but both received the same penalty. They were cut off from God, the Source of life, and died spiritually, yet continued to live as souls in bodies. And this is where humanity’s dilemma began – we are all offspring of fallen ancestors. Kind gives birth to kind.
It is important to note that Adam disobeyed God, fully knowing what he was doing, with the understanding of what the consequences would be. Eve received her knowledge from Adam – not God; it was secondhand knowledge to her, but to Adam it was revelation. Secondhand knowledge is subject to change when exposed to a different opinion. Eve changed her mind when she saw the fruit of that tree, and it looked good to her.
We can draw some handy lessons from this incident:
- First of all, Eve had no business being near that tree, for coming too close to the forbidden will almost always provoke deception.
- Secondly, she considered the forbidden fruit, which brought her a step closer to the deception that she was about to step into.
- Thirdly, she saw that it was pleasant to the eyes, as sin always is.
- Lastly, when she connected the fruit with wisdom, as suggested by the serpent, the sin was fully conceived.
Up to that time our first parents only knew good as there was no evil present in their world. But somehow Eve must have felt the need for more because the devil knew exactly how to get her attention, because…
But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. James 1:14-15
The devil promised that they would “be like God, knowing good and evil,” yet they were made in the image of God who wanted to protect them from the knowledge of evil. Also, knowledge and wisdom are not the same, but Eve, looking for wisdom, found knowledge of evil instead. Wisdom is the ability to use knowledge for benefit.
The knowledge of evil was introduced when Adam and Eve stepped into the new reality of a life separated from God. With His presence withdrawn, the blessing that He put on them when He created them, was also gone.
We are left with the big question: why did Adam choose to disobey God, knowing that death would follow as a consequence? There can only be one answer, and that is his love for Eve. He could not face life without her again. The two of them became one flesh, and their joy as a couple in a perfect world knew no bounds. But Adam is also called the first Adam, as a type of Christ, who is the last Adam. Both of them are heads of a race of people of their own kind.
The first Adam had the distinction that he was “born again” from life to death, causing all his children to be born spiritually dead. (See Romans 3:10-18) The last Adam, Jesus, was raised from the dead to life, raising all who put their trust in Him, into newness of life. First Adam chose to die with his bride in sin; the last Adam chose to die in the place of His bride, the church.
Adam is called a son of God in the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3:38. This is interesting, because Adam wasn’t born of natural parents; he was born of God Himself. The same term is also used in connection with the angels, some of whom have fallen while others remain loyal to God. These beings, which include Lucifer, were also created by God, and called sons of God:
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. Job 1:6
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy? Job 38:4-7
Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. Genesis 6:1-2
The term “son of God” indicates those that were created directly by God, as opposed to those that were born naturally. This is a very important point that has great significance for Christians.
Jesus, God Himself, entered the world in a natural body in order to identify with man, but He expressed Himself as the Son of God to introduce God as Father to us.
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person… Hebrews 1:1-3
Jesus told Nicodemus in John chapter 3 that he “must be born again.” He was, just like us, born from sinful parents, and, therefore, spiritually dead as kind of their kind. We are sons of our parents.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. John 3:3-6
The born again believer is born of the Spirit of God, a direct creation of God, just as first Adam was, and is therefore a child of God. We are spirit-beings who live in natural bodies.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. Romans 8:16-17
…having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will… Ephesians 1:5
Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ” John 20:17
…and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him… Colossians 3:10
Jesus taught us to see God as our Father, and to address Him so in prayer. Every time we call Him Father, we affirm that we are born of Him, that we are His children, and that we have a future with Him. This gives us great confidence, because Jesus said:
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:11
This relationship with God is not based on inherited religion, pious culture or tradition, but a miraculous work by the Spirit of God in the heart of the believer.
Paul speaks about this new creation in his letters, and explains its character in clear detail:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17
This new creation, this person who died to himself and then raised into newness of life, has no connection with his natural ancestry. The old natural person with his sin, guilt, inherited weaknesses and the culture of death, died. There is no reason to look into that life again, to do penance, confess past sins, of wrongs done and being done to. Even the misdeeds of his forefathers have no bearing on him because he died, was buried with Christ in baptism and raised to a new life in a new family.
The business of the new creation being is never to look back, but always forward, to discover his new identity, the treasure that he inherited in Christ, and to take possession of it as he grows into spiritual adulthood. The one that keeps looking back will never grow, and will always be weak with the need to be forgiven and cleansed of the same sins over and over again.
We have a rich inheritance to discover and possess, and that should be our quest as children of the living God. We are not children of failures, but of Royalty. We have authority over our former master and are positioned over him and his minions.
Our work now is to make our discoveries and take hold of what Jesus accomplished at the cross when He reversed the curse that came on Adam after he disobeyed God.
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 1 Corinthians 2:9-12
Let us not fail in our mission, but go on this discovery to see who we have become and what God has freely given to us in Christ Jesus. We don’t need religious crutches to help us through life, or pet doctrines that soothe us in the weakness of the flesh. Instead, let us rise up in the spirit and take charge over the flesh where sin dwells.
Paul continues to shine the light on the new creation and his position before God:
For He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21
What an amazing statement: we have become the righteousness of God! The sin that weighed us down had been exchanged for the righteousness that Jesus had. We can now stand before God as He did, with no inferiority, no guilt and no shame. He became what we were so that we could become what He was! We have been justified; our penalty was paid, we were acquitted, and walked away free men and women, former sinners, but now children of the living God.
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God… Ephesians 2:19
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5