See also Children of God
GOD, CHILDREN (SONS, DAUGHTERS) OF (בְנֵי and בְּנֹ֣ות אֱלֹהִים, sons and daughters of God; τέκνα θεου̂, and υἱοί θεου̂, sons of God).
The Fatherhood of God 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.