Are We All Children of God?
Yesterday I was visiting a public place and heard someone near me make the remark, We are all children of God! I dont know the context of the comment, but I do know that something like this is frequently said.
It may be at a funeral where a liberal pastor is seeking to reassure a family about a sinful loved one who has died. He may say, We are all children of God and Joe (John, Jim, James) is in a better place! It may be the liberal New Ager or another modern religionist who asserts, We are all children of God! Lets be kind to one another! It may be a sentimental speaker who is ignorant of the Bible but assumes that everyone is going to heaven. Or it may be a devotee of a religion that makes room for a person who has some esoteric religious experience. Whatever is said, and whoever says it, and whatever the context, we need to ask, Is everyone a child of God?
Those of you who know Gods written Word know the answer to this fundamental question. First, we need to distinguish between two senses in which child of God may be used. The first sense has to do with Gods creation of all things in the beginning and His continuing interest in those under His physical care. This sense is found in Pauls address to the philosophers in Athens:
In Him [God] we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, For we also are His children. 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).
We know that all men were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and there is a sense in which all men today have been made in the likeness of God (James 3:9). This simply refers to the fact that God is creator and has made men physically. It doesnt mean that all men are spiritually Gods children. Everett F. Harrison has it right when he explains:
The word offspring refers to creation and is no basis for the notion that all men are children of God in a spiritual sense. Such an interpretation would make the cross of Christ unnecessary and would contradict the biblical teaching that faith in Christ is needed before one can enter the family of God (Acts: The Expanding Church [Chicago: Moody Press1975, p. 271].).
The second sense in which children of God is used pertains to our spiritual relationship with God, as Harrison says above. There are many passages that refer to this sense and it is the consistent teaching of Scripture.
Notice this clear passage: As many as received Him [Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God, even 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). We must believe in Christ Jesus in order to become children of God. It is plain from this that those who do not believe in Christ or those who refuse to believe in Him are not children of God! Paul adds to this when he says, You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26). Therefore, those who do not have faith in Christ are not sons of God.
Christ plainly addressed this matter in His discussion with Nicodemus, the ruler of the Jews (John 3). He told this sincere follower, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (v. 3). We must be born again. The only way to experience Gods kingdom is to be spiritually born or born again! He went on to say, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. . . . Do not be amazed that I said to you, You must be born again (vv. 5, 7). From this we see that one must be born again or born from aboveborn of water and the Holy Spirit. This is not optional, it is necessary if we would enter Gods family and His Kingdom.
Further, we must be born of God (John 1:12-13), born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5), as well as being born again or brought forth by the word of truth (James 1:18) and being born again through the living and enduring word of God (1 Peter 1:23). This is the only way to enter Gods kingdom and His family!
We can also see that to be born of God is the only way to enter Gods spiritual family as children. Those who have been born of God, saved from sin, forgiven by God, and reconciled to the Lord are those who are part of Gods household (Ephesians 2:19), the household of the faith (Galatians 6:10), or the household of God (1 Peter 4:17). Gods household would be His family. In other words, one must be born into Gods family in order to be a child in His family. It doesnt come automatically but it takes Gods activity and power to bring us into His spiritual family. It takes Gods powerful activity to cause us to be born againaccording to His [Gods] great mercy, [He] has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). Without Gods power and mercy, we cant be a child of Goda son or daughter of God (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:18).
We know that the number of people who are part of Gods family are fewvery few (see Matthew 7:13-14). We are not all part of Gods family, spiritually speaking. Since references to Gods physical offspring or creatures are few (cf. Acts 17), we must be careful about speaking of this. Many people will wrongly assume that we are referring to Gods spiritual children, and this is the very thing that we need to avoid. Thus, it is probably good to point out that all of us are creatures of God (part of Gods supernatural creation in the beginning) and all of us receive of His daily blessings (Acts 14:16-17). But on the other hand, it is better to emphasize that very, very few people on earth are part of His spiritual people or His spiritual family. Only those who have been born again through faith in the Lord Jesus (Galatians 3:26-27), expressed in repentance (Acts 3:19), and being baptized into Christ Jesus and into His death (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:11-13) are part of Gods family.
What about those who are not part of Gods family? What about the majority of the earths peopleover 7 billion people? Perhaps what the Bible teaches about this will be a shock to most of our readers. If only those who have been born of God are children of God, what about those who have not been born of God? They must not be children of God! If they are not Gods children, whose children are they?
God answers this in 1 John 3:10: By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious; anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. There are two classes of people on earththe children of God and the children of the devil! Before I was born again spiritually, I was only a fleshly or physical child of God, and (in reality) I was a child of the devil! Jesus spoke to very religious people and said, You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father (John 8:44a).
When we still have the guilt of sin on our record, we are not children of God but are children of Satan. This is not a good place to be, for when people are dead in trespasses and sins, they are children of wrath or under Gods righteous wrath (Ephesians 2:1, 3; cf. Romans 1:18). It is a dreadful thing to abide in sin and thereby abide in Gods just wrath!
You may ask, What about all of the Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims who dont even claim to be born of God? This must necessarily mean that they remain as children of the devil until they are born of God and become children of God. What about the vast numbers of Protestants and Catholics who have not been born of Godjust as the Bible describes it? They too cannot be children of God since they have not been born into Gods family.
We cant just think we are Gods children, nor would it be honest to claim to be Gods children if we havent really been spiritually born of God, born of water and the Spirit, just as God describes. This would be dishonest of us and hypocritical. No, we must be born of God, as Jesus declared, if we want to enter Gods wondrous kingdom (John 3:3, 5) and want to be part of Gods spiritual family. That is the only way.
If you have been claiming to be a child of God when you havent submitted to Gods instructions about the new birth, you need to change this claim and admit that you dont belong to the Lord. If you were mistaken about this important topic, and have discovered that your spiritual status is different from what you thought, you need to come to Christ now. Just as Nicodemus, you need to be willing to humble yourself and come to God through Christ Jesus, just as Nicodemus was required to do (John 3:1-18). If you do come to Christ, you will be able to say these beautiful words:
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called the children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is (1 John 3:1-2).
Wont you come to Christ through Jesus Christ and be born of God, born of the Spirit, today! You can then have the glorious privilege of being a child of God in heaven!