I was recently struck with the realization that I hadn't a clue what it meant to be a child of God, for deep down, that concept unnerved me and riddled my thoughts with unreachable expectations of godliness that could not possibly apply to me.
So below will be a barrage of New Testament texts that have reference to the sonship of God by adoption. I'll attempt to piece together the beginnings of a theology on the saints' adoption as God's children, which I determine to be greatly lacking understanding in the current Christian milieu. My fears are that the enemy continues to convince us that this is made void by sin and best forgotten. My hopes and most earnest prayer is that the beauty of this rema of God (word or thought for the moment - cf. Ephesians 6:17) will so penetrate the depths of our souls that we find empowerment in our sonship and truly begin to live.
So here goes. I'll comment after each passage.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matt 5:9)
These are Jesus' words from his sermon on the Mount, part of the beatitudes. I am immediately reminded of the words of Paul to the Corinthians: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." The new creation of believers in Christ are in the business of making peace and reconciling God to humanity. They are called sons of God.
...those who are considered worthy to attain to that age [of eternity] and to the resurrection from the dead... cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. (Luke 20:35-36)
Oddly enough, these are Christ's words to the Sadducees regarding a quandary they presented him about marriage and heaven. For my purposes I wanted to stress the fact that such sons of God are given new resurrected bodies and cannot die. They are also made equal with the angels in that day, inferring a glory hard to fathom in our current state and thought.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:9-13)
Faith in the person of Jesus Christ, the one true illuminating and exposing light and source of purpose and existence, is the only means to attain God's favor and the title of child of God, more than an adoption; a rebirth "of God" (cf John 3:3-6). There is no second-rate sonship here!
"You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish." He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. (John 11:49-52)
Caiaphas' words, the high priest during the time of Jesus' crucifixion, to his officials. Honestly, this passage perplexes me. How could he prophesy such a thing? What does this say to his culpability in pursuing such a thing if God gave him the wisdom of such a sacrifice? Anyways, I love John's commentary and foreshadowing of the ministry to the Gentiles, that God's children are "scattered abroad" and awaiting the proclamation of the gospel so that they can respond and be made new by God.
For if you live according to... the Spirit [and if] you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us... the redemption of our bodies. (Rom 8:13-18, 23)
I think this is crucial for the Church to understand. A wise man called Christianity a "serious and difficult religion." There are tasks for the Christian, mainly that we must live according to the Spirit given us, not quenching the Spirit (i.e. grieve) but die to the ways of the sinful nature. The contrary is to live as the world does, looking and behaving no differently than the world, in which case we truly have lost our saltiness and hid our light under a bowl.
The Spirit reveals truth (John 16:13) and the truth is that if we are God's we are His children. This is of great comfort to me. When I actually celebrate God's closeness with me, and honor Him, I have experienced my affections changing toward His ways and His thoughts. This of course makes the Christian stand out in a corrupt and evil world, and brings persecution and suffering. This is scary only to the Christian who does not yet comprehend the peace and joy that comes from owning one's sonship and heirship. Princes and Princesses indeed we are who treasure Christ!
So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ... And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal 3:24-27, 29)
The Abrahamic covenant is one that through his seed (ultimately Christ himself) Abraham would start the ball for a mighty nation for God, that would bless all the earth. Has this not already begun (see Schmidt's How Christianity Changed the World to discover Christ's profound impact on all of culture, often taken for granted today, e.g. we no longer have the common practice of killing newborns because they are not the preferred male)? Indeed it is the people of God that have been justified and clothed in Jesus, the perfect representation of humanity.
Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life (Phil 2:14-16)
Can you imagine a world where this group emerged who were free of complaint, but perfectly content and even joyous in the midst of hardship? Would they not shine so brightly, that the hungry and sick would want to join them and the self-righteous and affluent would despise them and persecute them, but to no avail?!
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure... No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God (1 John 2:28 - 3:3, 9-10)
I would believe that Satan would be very content in deceiving Christ's disciples into thinking that they were not yet considered God's children, that we have not yet been given a portion of our inheritance already, mainly Christ himself! I do not think it is too far fetched to say that the Enemy works very hard to put this into question for many believers, in attempts to discourage and paralyze the Saints. This has been my experience, and yet, I think the days are numbered that I feel defeated by sin and unworthy/unable to enjoy my God and be enjoyed by Him. You see, my hope is rising, and it is found solely in Christ, and I am pure and being purified still. Sin has lost its grip on me because God has called me His own.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments... We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:1-2, 18-21)
Some two thousand years after Christ came, our condition for understanding the gospel is somewhat different than that of the first established churches. There are many "Christians" who believe Jesus is the Christ (Savior), only they are not born of God. This passage can be taken out of context to say all who pray a prayer of belief are saved from hell. This is how I understood it growing up. I think passages like 2 Cor. 11:1-15 show that different versions of the gospel, highlighting slightly varied nuances, depicting a "Jesus" other than the true historical and holy Jesus are the Enemy's schemes to ruin God's work and lead many astray.
Imagine how if Paul, within the first 20 years of establishing the Church in Corinth, was bombarded with false presentations, how much more so will we, two millennia later, have such evil ploys infiltrating our understanding of the gospel. Indeed, I believe that is why the Reformation fractured the Faith into thousands of pieces. God, in His wisdom and grace, has revealed error, and compelled repentance in his saints and disassociation from those who treasure more the kingdom that they established through worldly means and that is reinforced with worldly benefits. But to the credit of Satan, he even used this splitting to distract and cause strife. You see we have admonitions from the epistles to avoid fakers, but Jesus' spoke of how wheat would grow intermingled with the weeds. What am I trying to say with this tangent of sorts? There was a time when the followers of Christ, those true children of God, lived out their authority and so shone in a dark and evil world that they could not help but change the world, because God was with them. We saw this when the early church unraveled the pagan-worship model of religion, and radically redirected the course of culture toward the things of God, with Emperor Constantine as a landmark. Then there was a time when God raised up another son to challenge the corrupted religious institution that was completely void of the essence of Christ's gospel; that landmark was Luther, and there are many who paved the way and supported him in this re-calibration of Christianity...
I believe there is a new time coming and indeed started, where the children of God will rise up to the challenge of being salt and light to the world once again. This is not to negate those throughout the between times who truly grasped the gospel. Those people exist. Indeed, God's grace to reveal truth throughout the age by the Spirit has not been lacking entirely. Is it not, however, becoming so dark that we are due time for the dawn to come once more?
Ecumenism has been a pursuit for decades. But its premise has been to compromise, to overlook heretical doctrine and find the lowest common denominator. There has been very little defining of what "gospels" and "Jesus"s are actually embraced. And that is why even after decades of attempts to reconcile faith traditions for the common good will continue to fail. They are not all children of God, and the love for one another does not come naturally like it does for the children of God, when they own their special place in God and live abundantly through that. I believe there will be children pulled from many different traditions, whom are inclined to the true gospel, for they are hand-picked by God.
What a beautiful day that will be when the children of God raise up in confidence of their status, empowered by their God whom they gird themselves with, and so shine with a most glorious brilliance! Lord, your Kingdom come, and quickly.