CHILDREN OF GOD (See Son of God and Sons of God, Children of God)
CHILDREN OF GOD
Biblical terms and their usage
The Biblical phrase “son of” has a wide range of meaning, indicated as follows: (1) involved in, and so characterized (a common usage, but of little significance here); (2) in relationship with, by descent or consent; (3) deriving an affinity or similar nature from; (4) enjoying the privileges and potentialities of, the genitive subject. The ambiguity is more general in the OT and the rich implications of the phrase are found in passages relating to the divine fatherhood. These occur almost exclusively in prophetic utterances; hence the collective phrase בְּנִ֖י (benî) (my son) is found and occasionally בָּנַי (bânây) (my children), e.g. Ezekiel 16:21. Often paralleled with בְּנִ֥י is בְּכֹר, H1147, “first-born” (e.g. Exod 4:22; Jer 31:9).
In the NT associated terms are ὑιοθεσία “adoption,” in the Pauline epistles; phrases like ἐκ θεου̂ γεννηθη̂ναι, “to be born of God,” which is characteristically Johannine (cf. 1 Pet 1:23). ̓Αποκύειν “to produce” (a word suggesting motherhood) appears once (James 1:18). Built into all aspects of the idea is the thought of permanency in the relationship.
In striking contrast with the beliefs of surrounding peoples, God’s fatherhood is never thought of in the OT in a biological sense, and this fact affects all Biblical teaching on the subject. (Refer to the pagan idea that appears in Jer 2:27.) The idea of sonship appears in a variety of ways.
Angels are regarded as children of God because they possess a spiritual nature akin to God’s by creation.
Judges and rulers.
Psalm 82:6 calls magistrates “gods,” “sons of the Most High.” Some scholars regard this as a special case under A, but this is against the context and our Lord’s use (John 10:34f.); and is supported by Exodus 21:6 LXX, cf. 22:28. The usage prob. arises from the idea of judges as divine representatives, but there may be some analogy with the status of the Davidic kings (v. infra C3).
This is the characteristic use of the idea in the OT.
Israel as a nation
The Davidic King.
As the Lord’s anointed, the king embodied the national covenant both in its immediate and future implications. In 2 Samuel 7:14 his divine sonship receives specially intimate emphasis (“his father...my son”). In Psalm 2:7 his designation as king and son is called a “begetting.” Similarly in Psalm 89:27 he is called “my first-born” where the blessings of sonship are the subject of large promises which significantly contribute to the OT messianic hope.
While the idea of man as created in God’s image would have amply entitled him to be called בֶנ־אֱלֹהִים, in fact the idea is never expounded. “Have we not all one father?” (Mal 2:10), may refer to Abraham, and continues by condemning intermarriage, restricting the idea to Jews. At the same time there are indications that non-Israelites could become the children of God, (1) by inclusion in Israel (e.g. Rahab and Ruth), (2) even apart from national connections (Isa 63:16), (3) even as Gentiles (Isa 45:9-13; cf. 19:24). In this way the OT laid the groundwork for the universalism of the Gospel.
The idea of motherhood.
The fatherhood of God, which in the OT hardly ever left the confines of metaphor, becomes, in the NT, a dominant element in the conception of God. He is “the Father” absolutely and universally: the archetype of all fatherhoods (Eph 3:15 RSV “family”=πατρία). There is not thereby implied a universal sonship, except in a strictly qualified sense.
Our Lord’s teaching.
Casual reading of the gospels may give a false impression of universalism here, until it is remembered that Christ was speaking to the covenant people. (In Luke 15 in the first instance the argument was to support His acceptance of Jewish prodigals [see vv. 1 and 2]; and often exclusively to His disciples [e.g. Matt 5:1]).
The outstanding privileges of sonship are said to be inheritance of God’s kingdom: access to God in prayer (7:11), confidence in His provision (6:25), the gift of His Spirit (Luke 11:13), eternal life (John 3:1-16), and likeness to God (Matt 5:45).
John’s epistles and Revelation.
John’s use of the word τέκνα and the ideas of begetting and birth show his particular interest in the idea that there is a spiritual heredity, a continuity of life between God and His children of which earthly parenthood provides a limited analogy. The believer’s life is spiritual and eternal (1 John 2:25); it is instinctively antagonistic to sin (3:9) with a family affinity of love to other believers (5:1); indeed, its essence is love (4:7); and inevitably overcomes mere human opposition (5:4).
The more public aspect (suggested in the term υἱὸς, though John reserves this word for Jesus), is already found in the gospel (John 1:12) where sonship is given as a privilege. A similar thought appears in 1 John 3:1, where such a title is the bestowal of God’s love. The passage moves on to the eschatological hope of likeness to Christ in “seeing him as he is” (cf. 2 Cor 3:18). In Revelation 21:7 the hope is seen as an inheritance allotted to the child of God by faith victorious in the cosmic struggle between two fatherhoods, God’s and the devil’s (1 John 3:10; 5:18f., cf. John 8:44).
The atmosphere of the forum pervades Paul’s thought, and his thought begins with the believer as having the status and privileges of a son. Appropriately, the term υἱοθεσία, G5625, “adoption,” appears (a common practice of the time, among Gentiles at least). It is further conditioned by his dominating interest in the themes of salvation and grace.
In relation to the Jewish religion Paul sees sonship as something properly belonging to his people (Rom 9:4). He develops the OT covenantal idea of sonship as conferred by choice and promise (cf. 2 Cor 6:16-18). Hence Paul speaks not of a new birth (except perhaps Titus 3:5) but a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). Faith in Christ made a man “of age,” able to possess an inheritance and act freely. By contrast, those under the law were like minors being prepared for adulthood, but in practice no better off than slaves (Gal 3:17-4:6).
The subjective aspect of sonship is expressed in his references to the “Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry ‘Abba, Father’” (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6; cf. Eph 2:18; 3:12). The characteristic urge of the Christian is to approach God as his father in the most intimate sense (i.e. not the formal אָבִ֑י). Paul sets all this against a dark background of universal rebellion, alienation and spiritual blindness.
Paul’s conception reaches back into eternity in Ephesians 1:4f. where God is said to have predestined believers to be His children in Christ, and forward to the end of time when their true condition will be revealed in a glory and fulfillment to be shared by the entire natural order. Paul calls this in one breath the redemption of our bodies and our adoption as sons. Thus God’s children receive their inheritance jointly with Christ (Rom 8:17-23), and they are conformed to His image as a family likeness (Rom 8:29; cf. 1 John 3:2).
The moral character of the children of God is spoken of as responsive to His Spirit (Rom 8:14), imitating their Father (Eph 5:1) and distinguished from the world around by the OT ideals of holiness and blamelessness (2 Cor 6:18; Phil 2:15).
Other NT writings
The family aspect of sonship is prominent in Hebrews, and is used remarkably in Hebrews 2:10-17. The writer shows that it was appropriate for Christ to enter the human family and to suffer as man. He can call “those who are sanctified,” His brothers, having a common parentage (cf. Gal 4:1-6, and contrast, in the gospels, Christ’s deliberate avoidance of the phrase “Our Father” to include Himself with His disciples [e.g. John 20:17]). The idea of growth and progress is common through the epistle and in ch. 12 this is linked with suffering, which is seen as God’s discipline, distinguishing the true child from the bastard. The writer has already shown that such experience of sonship has had its prototype in Jesus Himself (Heb 2:18; 5:8).
The epistle speaks of God as universally “the Father” and “Father of lights,” but in one pregnant v. (1:17) he teaches that “the brethren” are born by the “word of truth” which, when accepted in practical life, has saving power (1:21-27); and that as such they are the “firstfruits,” the first promise of a new creation, dedicated to the Lord (Exod 22:29).
The Petrine teaching on the subject is almost exclusively confined to 1 Peter 1 and 2. Here Christians are spoken of as being “born anew”; a process associated with Christ’s resurrection in 1:3 and with the word of God in 1:23. Peter appears to pursue the metaphor in 1:14, where he stresses the duty of obedience, and even more in 2:2 where he exhorts his hearers to crave spiritual milk like newborn babes, so that they may grow, presumably, “in grace” (2 Pet 3:18). The privilege of sonship appears in 1 Peter 1:3f. where the believer’s hope is in receiving an incorruptible inheritance.
As the fatherhood of God is the archetype of all fatherhoods, so the NT sees the sonship of Christ within the Trinity as the source and pattern of true sonship to God. Derivative sonships may be classified as follows.
Under this category are the angels (Heb 12:9; James 1:17) and all men (“offspring” in Acts 17:29; God is “Father of all,” Eph 4:6, cf. Luke 3:38). The relationship is sustained in Christ as the agent of creation (1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:15ff.). It involves, as well as divine origin, a potential affinity and privilege, but is vitiated by sin.
As Dr. Strong (Systematic Theology, Pt. V ch 1) says: “God is the Father of all men in that He originates and sustains them as personal beings like in nature to Himself. Even towards sinners God holds this natural relation of Father. It is His fatherly love, indeed, which provides the Atonement.”
Sonship by election.
Israel was God’s son in this way (Deut 32:6; Isa 63:16; Mal 1:6) and Christians are likewise sons as the New Israel (1 Pet 1:1, 2; Eph 3:6, 11). It is a form of sonship esp. connected with the covenant, and prob. Paul’s doctrine of adoption in Christ comes under this category. It involves, in particular, the actual privilege of bearing God’s saving revelation in Christ (Rom 9:5).
The sin of man has meant that this, the fullest experience of sonship (sometimes called “special” as against “natural” or “general” sonship) comes through repentance, forgiveness of sins, redemption and rebirth. It is the work of God’s Spirit and it results in a present and consummated sharing of the divine nature and moral likeness, of the privileges of “dominion” (e.g. Rom 5:17; 6:9, 14) and of spiritual communion with God (Gal 4:6-9). Some have considered that what is here called spiritual sonship is really only the covenant idea fig. expressed, but this is hardly adequate to explicate the radical change which the NT envisages in the nature of the believer and the close connections with the indwelling activity of the Holy Spirit. Certainly the full experience of sonship is always represented in Scripture as available to mankind only by faith in Christ Jesus the Lord. (See Adoption; Regeneration; Fatherhood of God.)
Haldane on Romans 8 in comm. Romans (1816); B. F. Westcott, The Epistle of John (1883); J. S. Candlish, “God, Children of,” HDB (1899); T. Whaling, “Adoption,” PTR XXI (1923), 223ff; R. A. Webb, Reformed Doctrine of Election (1947); Hendrikson, Comm. Gospel of John (1954); Kline, WTJ24 (1962), 187ff; Jeremias, Essential Message of the New Testament, ch. 1 (1964).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
Introduction: Meaning of Terms
I. OLD TESTAMENT TEACHING
1. Mythological Survivals
2. Created Sonship
3. Israel’s Collective Covenant Sonship
4. Individual and Personal Relation
5. Universalizing the Idea
II. NEW TESTAMENT TEACHING
1. Physical and Limited Sonship Disappears
2. As Religious Experience, or Psychological Fact
(1) Filial Consciousness of Jesus
(2) Communicated to Men
3. As Moral Condition, or Ethical Fact
4. As State of Being, or Ontological Fact
(1) Essence of Christ’s Sonship
(2) Men’s Sonship
5. As Relation to God, or Theological Fact
(1) Eternal Generation
(2) The Work of Grace
Introduction: Meaning of Terms:
Children (Sons and Daughters) of God (bene and benoth ’elohim, literally "sons and daughters of God"; tekna theou, and huioi theou): so the King James Version; but the Revised Version (British and American) translates the latter Greek phrase more accurately "sons of God." Tekna contains the idea of origin or descent, but also that of personal relation, and is often used metaphorically of "that intimate and reciprocal relationship formed between men by the bonds of love, friendship, trust, just as between parents and children" (Grimm-Thayer). Huioi, too, conveys the ideas of origin, and of personal relation, but the latter in the fuller form in which it appears in mature age. "The difference between huios and teknon appears to be that whereas teknon denotes the natural relationship of child to parent, huios implies in addition to this the recognized status and legal privileges reserved for sons" (Sanday and Headlam, on Ro 8:14). This difference obtains, however, only in a very general sense.
The above phrases denote the relation in which men are conceived to stand to God, either as deriving their being from Him and depending upon Him, or as standing in that personal relation of intimate trust and love toward Him which constitutes the psychological fact of sonship. The exact significance of the expression depends upon the conception of God, and particularly of His Fatherhood, to which it corresponds. It therefore attains to its full significance only in the nodetitle, and its meaning in the nodetitle differs considerably, even though it marks stages of development up to the New Testament idea.
I. Old Testament Teaching.
The most primitive form of the idea appears in Ge 6:1-4, where the sons of God by marrying the fair daughters of men become the fathers of the giants.
1. Mythological Survivals:
These were a subordinate order of Divine beings or demi-gods, and the title here may mean no more, although it was probably a survival of an earlier idea of the actual descent of these gods from a higher God. The idea of a heavenly court where the sons of God come to present themselves before Yahweh is found in quite late literature (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Ps 29:1; 89:6). In all these cases the phrase implies a certain kinship with God and dependence upon Him on the part of the Divine society around Him. But there is no evidence to show whether the idea of descent of gods from God survived to any extent, nor is there any indication of a very close personal relationship. Satan is unsympathetic, if not hostile. In one obviously polytheistic reference, the term implies a similarity of appearance (Da 3:25). In a secondary sense the titles "gods," and "sons of the Most High" are given to magistrates, as exercising God’s authority (Ps 82:6).
2. Created Sonship:
The idea of creation has taken the place of that of procreation in the Old Testament, but without losing the sense of sonship. "Saith Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: Ask me .... concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands" (Isa 45:11). Israel acknowledges the absolute sovereignty of God as her Father and Maker (Isa 64:8). Israel’s Maker is also her Husband, and by inference the Father of her children (Isa 54:5). Since all Israel has one Father, and one God created her, the tribes owe brotherly conduct to one another (Mal 2:10). Yahweh upbraids His sons and daughters whom He as their Father bought, made and established. "He forsook God who made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. .... Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that gave thee birth" (De 32:6,15,18 ff). These passages reveal the transition from the idea of original creation to that of making and establishing Israel as a nation. All things might be described as children of God if creation alone brought it to pass, but Israel stands in a unique relation to God.
3. Israel’s Collective Covenant Sonship:
4. Individual and Personal Relation:
5. Universalizing the Idea:
In another direction the idea of God as the father of Israel tends to be modified by the inclusion of the Gentiles. The word "first-born" (in Ex 4:22 and Jer 31:9,20) may be only an emphatic form of expressing sonship, or it may already suggest the possibility of the adoption of the Gentiles. If that idea is not present in words, it is an easy and legitimate inference from several passages, that Gentiles would be admitted some day into this among the rest of Israel’s privileges (Isa 19:25; 65:1; Zec 14:16).
II. New Testament Teaching.
1. Physical and Limited Sonship Disappears:
As the doctrine of Divine fatherhood attains its full spiritual and moral significance in the New Testament, so does the experience and idea of sonship. All traces of physical descent have disappeared. Paul’s quotation from a heathen poet: "For we are also his offspring" (Ac 17:28), whatever its original significance, is introduced by the apostle for the purpose of enforcing the idea of the spiritual kinship of God and men. The phrase "nodetitle" applied to Christ by the Roman centurion (Mt 27:54; Mr 15:39) may or may not, in his mind, have involved the idea of physical descent, but its utterance was the effect of an impression of similarity to the gods, produced by the exhibition of power attending His death. The idea of creation is assumed in the New Testament, but generally it is not prominent in the idea of sonship. The virgin birth of Jesus, however, may be understood as implying either the creative activity of the nodetitle, or the communication of a preexistent Divine being to form a new human personality, but the latter idea also would involve creative activity in the physical realm (compare Lu 3:38: "Adam (son) of God"). The limitations of the Old Testament conception of sonship as national and collective disappear altogether in the New Testament; God is father of all men, and of every man. In potentiality at least every man and all men are sons of God. The essence of sonship consists in a personal experience and moral likeness which places man in the most intimate union and communion with God.
2. As Religious Experience, or Psychological Fact:
(1) Filial Conciousness of Jesus.
(2) Communicated to Men.
3. As Moral Condition, or Ethical Fact:
4. As State of Being, or Ontological Fact:
Sonship is properly and primarily a relation, but it may so dominate and transform the whole of a man’s life, thought and conduct as to become his essential being, the most comprehensive category under which all that he is may be summed up.
(1) Essence of Christ’s Sonship.
(2) Men’s Sonship.
5. As Relation to God, or Theological Fact:
In the relation of father and son, fatherhood is original and creative. That does not necessarily mean priority in time.
(1) Eternal Generation.
Origen’s doctrine of the eternal generation of Christ, by which is meant that God and Christ always stood in the relation of Father and Son to one another, is a just interpretation of the New Testament idea that the Son "was in the beginning with God" (pros ton Theon). But Jesus was conscious of His dependence upon the Father and that His sonship was derived from Him (Joh 5:19,36). Still more manifest is it that men derive their sonship from God. He made them for Himself, and whatever in human nature qualifies men to become sons of God is the free gift of God. But men in their sin and disobedience could not come to a knowledge of the Father, had He not "sent forth his Son .... that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Ga 4:4,5): "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God" (1Jo 3:1); "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son" (which see) who gave men "the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name" (Joh 3:16; 1:12). It is not the children of the flesh but the children of the promise who are children of God (Ro 9:4). The mere act of birth does not constitute men into children of God, but His covenant of free grace must be added. God being essentially Father made men and the universe, sent His Son and His Spirit, "for the revealing of the sons of God." But they can only know the Father, and realize their sonship when they respond to His manifestation of fatherly love, by faith in God and obedience to Him.
(2) The Work of Grace.
The question whether sonship is natural and universal or conditional upon grace working through faith, does not admit of a categorical answer. The alternatives are not strict antitheses. God does all things as Father. To endow man with rational and moral nature capable of his becoming a son was an act of love and grace, but its whole purpose can be communicated only in response to faith in Christ. But a natural sonship which is not actual is meaningless. A man’s moral condition and his attitude toward God are the most essential elements of his nature, for a man’s nature is just the sum total of his thoughts, acts and states. If these are hostile or indifferent to God, there is nothing left that can have the reality or bear the name of son. For if the word son be used of mere creaturehood and potentiality, that is to give it a meaning entirely different from New Testament usage. All men by nature are potential sons, because God has made them for sonship and does all things to win them into their heritage. Men may be sons of God in a very imperfect and elementary manner. The sharp transitions of Pauline and Johannine theology are rather abstract distinctions for thought than actual descriptions of spiritual processes. But Paul and John also contemplate a growth in sonship, "till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full- grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph 4:13).
For lit. and further discussion, see special articles on ADOPTION; GOD; JESUS CHRIST.
GOD, CHILDREN (SONS, DAUGHTERS) OF (בְנֵי and בְּנֹ֣ות אֱלֹהִים, sons and daughters of God; τέκνα θεου̂, and υἱοί θεου̂, sons of God).
The nodetitle and the sonship of man are valid definitive concepts in Biblical terminology. With reference to father and children, the earthly family bears a true resemblance to the heavenly family. In retrospect, the likeness is evident throughout the Bible, coming into sharp focus in Jesus. The Bible story begins with the natural sons of Adam; continues with the chosen sons of Abraham; and concludes with the spiritual children of redemption. All are God’s children in one way or another.
In a general sense, all created personal beings are children of God. They are products of His workmanship, and bear His image.
Angelic beings are depicted as children of God. On witnessing the glorious creation of the earth, “all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). Could it be that God addressed Himself to them when He said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen 1:26a)? Of course the beloved Son “was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him” (John 1:2f.; cf. Heb 1:2). But angels did not enjoy an equal sonship relation with Jesus, “For to what angel did God ever say, ‘Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee’” (Heb 1:5; cf. Ps 2:7)? However, Jesus compared the final state of man with angels. Then they would not marry, and “they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36).
The debatable passage in Genesis 6:1-4 relates that “the sons of God” married “the daughters of men,” from which union came giants, “the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.” These, contrary to some opinions, were not angels, but natural men who were sons of God by creation. They bore in human form the image of God on one hand, and on the other hand were able to reproduce themselves. In this early age, “When men began to multiply on the face of the ground,” the fact that men of divine image could not only reproduce male offspring but also daughters who were fair and beautiful was a startling revelation. Moreover, that there was sex attraction, resulting in marriage, whereby the chain of reproduction was established, was exciting enough to report in semi-mythological terms. Another pertinent factor in this brief report was God’s announcement to reduce man’s span of life on earth from the former longevity to 120 years. This brief passage may serve well as an appropriate epitaph of the forefathers, “the men of renown” (v. 4) of a bygone age.
In another ancient record, angelic beings are called children 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; 2:1). Similar ideas are expressed in the Psalms: “Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings (sons of gods), ascribe to the Lord glory and strength” (Ps 29:1); and, “Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord?” (89:6).
The whole human race.
All people on earth are children of God by creation. In the process of creation, “God said, ’Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over...” all other creatures on earth. “And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it’” (Gen 1:26-28). Thus God endowed man with two qualities resembling His—to reproduce His likeness and to rule. Just as natural children resemble their parents, men and women resemble God, for He made them in His likeness. Like God, man is rational, emotional, volitional, and spiritual, endowed with freedom of choice. Like a lost child, man is restless for his heavenly Father. Everyone’s genealogy may be traced back to God, just as Luke traced Jesus’ human lineage through long generations via “Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:38). Another writer says, “He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature” (Heb 1:3). Jesus was God in human form; therefore, man resembles God, his Father. Nebuchadnezzar identified the person in the fiery furnace with the three Hebrews as a supernatural being. “The appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods” (Dan 3:25b), but in human form. Conversely then, man resembles God, his Maker and Father, in an amazing way. Even the pagan poet, Aratus of Greece, wrote, “For we are indeed his offspring” (Acts 17:28). Likewise, every person on earth can validly claim that he is a child of God by virtue of creation. People of every race, age, and sex are by nature children of God.
Since man is a free moral agent, he may be an obedient child of God or a rebellious one (Ezek 20:21). In the days of Noah, disobedience was so prevalent that God punished man with the Flood (cf. Eph 2:2). Man continued to sin and lose his way, so God chose some of His children to help reclaim the others.
Jesus and Israel.
Jesus fulfilled God’s purpose in His chosen children, while confirming God’s plan in the race. He said to the Syrophoenician woman, “Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (Mark 7:27). In this strong metaphor, in which Jews were God’s children and Gentiles were dogs, Jesus was emphasizing the fact that in personal human service He “was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 15:24). Concerning Zacchaeus, He said, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:9f.). The lost eventually included the Gentiles, for the Father’s love included all, “not wishing that any should perish” (2 Pet 3:9). His inclusive love was also portrayed in Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7). And, the chosen race (Deut 14:2) came to full fruition in the chosen Son (Luke 9:35).
As the Christian era dawned, a new concept of the children of God was preached. John the Baptist thundered out the explosive truth to the Jews: “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Matt 3:9). Henceforth, divine sonship would be reckoned on a new basis.
The unique sonship of Christ.
Through Jesus Christ all the children of Adam as well as those of Abraham are eligible to be eternal children of God. “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God....and if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal 3:26, 29). “It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise” (Rom 9:8). The criterion for becoming spiritual children of God is faith not flesh. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6), and, “all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Rom 8:14). Jesus told some Jews they were not Abraham’s children, neither was God their Father, warning them, “You are of your father the devil” (John 8:44). Through Christ sonship is offered to all who believe. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12).
Characteristics of God’s converted children.
Spiritual children resemble God in lives of obedience to Him. If you love your enemies, do good, be merciful, and lend to the selfish, “your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High” (Luke 6:35f.). “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1). Christians are to “walk as children of light” (Eph 5:8), for they are “all sons of light” (1 Thess 5:5). Jesus cherished and taught the Fatherhood of God and the sonship of man. He said, “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven” (Matt 23:9). He taught His disciples to address God in prayer with “Our Father who art in heaven” (6:9). And, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (5:9).
E. Russell, Chapel Talks (1935), 119-121, 125-129; Oxford Annotated Bible (1962), 1296-1298; 1306; 1342; 1367; 1453; 1482-1486. F. F. Bruce, Second Thoughts on the Dead Sea Scrolls (1956), 22.