•••by Russell Young
Many esteem themselves to be children of God. Being such allows a person right to all of the privileges that belong to a son, including the inheritance that God has provided for his children. Paul wrote: “You are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed (put on as sinking into a garment) yourself with Christ.” (Gal 3:26-27, NIV) This passage identifies that “marking” by the Spirit of the one who has made a confession of faith. Since they have been baptized through confession and through water, they have been clothed with Christ through his Spirit. The redeemed person must remain clothed with Christ, however. (Jn 15:4, 5, 7, 10)
John has identified a son in a different way. “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” (1 Jn 3:10, NIV) John has made a distinction between those who are children of God and those who are children of the devil. This distinction is presented as being based upon a person’s doing. According to John the person who is a child of God must do what is right. Many make the claim that they are a child of God because of a confession that they had once made. The distinction between ‘doing right’ and ‘confessing faith’ needs to be made clear.
The believer becomes a child of God through faith-persuasion that God exists and is able to reward those who diligently seek him-but his faith may not last. The Lord requires faith expressed through obedience to him (Heb 5:9) to the end (Mt 10:22), and stated that the Father would cut out those who do not bear fruit. (John 15:1) A son does the will of the Father and is obedient to Christ throughout his lifetime.
The Lord taught, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” (Jn 8:34-35, NIV) The son does not sin. He will honour the Father’s provision to gain victory over it through obedience to the Spirit. In another place Paul, who had recorded that sonship was achieved by faith, stated, “For if you live according to the sinful nature you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:13-14, NIV)
The sonship achieved through the marking of the Spirit must be proven through the believer’s walk if his or her state is to become permanent and if he or she is to be adopted as his child, a position for which they are waiting (Rom 8:23). Paul has recognized the distress that God’s children (and all of creation) feel in this world as they wait for their adoption to be realized.
A person’s walk in the Spirit identifies him or her as a child of God. They have learned to walk as Jesus did (1 Jn 2:6), and they have been conformed to his likeness (Rom 8:29). They have the characteristics of the parent, the Father. Paul has written, “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person-such a man is an idolater-has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Further, he has listed that neither fornicators, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, the covetous, etc. will inherit the kingdom. ” (1 Cor 6:9-10) Those who practice such are not sons but are slaves to sin because he has provided all that is necessary to avoid it; their place in the family will not be permanent. “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin.” (1 Jn 5:18, NIV)
In his revelation the Lord said, “He who overcomes will inherit all of this (the New Jerusalem), and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Rev 21:7, NIV) It is the one who prevails over sin or who gets the victory who will be a child of God.
Who are the children of God? They are the ones who have humbled themselves before God and have accepted the lordship of Christ in their lives. They have obeyed him and have overcome the world and the evil one, and have been conformed to the likeness of Christ. Their practice has been to live righteously and to defeat evil through the power of the Spirit. Their old self has had to be put to death so that Christ has become their life.
The believer is not to be cavalier about the honour of sonship offered him or her but must be prepared to work it out with fear and trembling. The plan of God is to have a royal priesthood, a holy kingdom, children who have become a fit sacrifice for his presence (Rom 15:16). Those who have given in to the sinful nature will not be adopted as his children and will be separated from him forever. (Mt 13:41)