Who is a Child of God?
A few weeks ago, I was communicating a message from our church, and in the context of that communication, I shared a side comment to anybody in the LGBTQ+ community. The LGBTQ+ community and members of the sexual revolution have, in so many ways, declared war on Christians and any viewpoint that is traditional that might disagree with their perspective on sexuality. I was making the point that though members of the sexual revolution may have declared war on Christians, Christians, certainly not the ones at First Baptist, have not declared war on them in the context of communicating a message of care and love and out of a desire to appeal to them to turn from their sins and trust in Jesus. I said something like the fact that they were beloved and precious children of God. That message led to some questions. I haven’t heard anybody that I think is particularly upset about it, but some of you have asked, is that what we want to say? Do we want to say that members of the LGBTQ+ community are children of God? And it leads to a larger question of who is a child of God? I want to talk about this on the podcast this week. First of all, the way that so many of us are familiar with the language of children of God is in a distinctly Christian context, where people who have turned from their sin and trusted in Jesus are now co-heirs with Christ, brothers of Christ and children of God. There is a rich biblical tradition behind this. We read about it in Romans 8:16. It says, “The Spirit Himself bears with our spirit, that we are children of God.” When you become a Christian, when you turn from your sin and trust in Jesus, the Spirit comes into your heart, he brings you into God’s family, and you are adopted as a son or a daughter of God. That is a glorious idea. It is a wonderful truth, and we celebrate it.
When we talk about children of God in that sense, we definitely are not talking about lost people. We’re definitely not talking about people who are defying the Word of God and living in open rebellion apart from God and apart from Christ. But that is not the only way the Bible or even the New Testament talks about the idea of being children of God. Romans 8 is, of course, written by the great Apostle Paul, and the apostle Paul when he is preaching the gospel in Acts 17, he’s preaching at the Areopagus, and he’s preaching to lost people. He says in Acts 17:29, “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.” He actually quotes a pagan poem where pagans were calling themselves children of God and using the authority of his apostolic preaching; he says that’s true. He says these pagans, these lost people are also children of God. Now, the apostle Paul is not contradicting himself. He’s not saying that Christians are the children of God in Romans 8:16, and in the same exact way, and Acts 17:29, lost people are children of God. No, he’s saying the same thing with two different meanings. In Acts 17, his point is that God the Father is the author of all life. He is the author of creation. Every human life is underneath his sovereign creation as the Lord of Heaven and Earth. It’s the same idea in Malachi 2:10. Malachi, the prophet asks a rhetorical question, and the assumed answer is yes. The question is, “Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us?” Malachi talks about the Fatherhood of God in the second chapter of his book the same way the apostle Paul talks about the Fatherhood of God in Acts 17, at the Areopagus. Every single person and every single Christian needs to understand that in the Bible, there are two ways that we can talk about the Fatherhood of God and ourselves as children of God.
Every Single Human Being is a Child of God
There is, first of all, a general creation sense in which every single human being is a child of God. This is important to talk about. It’s important to talk about this when preaching the gospel to lost people. Because when we talk about the universal fatherhood of God, that he’s the author of the creation of the human race, we mean to say that what gives your life meaning, what makes you precious, is that you are made by God, you’re made in His image, you are his property. It also points to this idea that you don’t get to do what you want because God made you. You can’t live any way you want. To talk about the Fatherhood of God is crucial, as we lay claim on the lives of lost people who would live any way they want to live. You don’t get to do that because God made you. You are His creation; He is your father in that creation sense.
But then there is a unique family kind of way that the Bible talks about being children of God. And that is when we stop being a lost person when we turn from our sin, whether that’s sexual sin or whatever else, all sin when we turn from it and trust in Jesus, and we are adopted into the family of God, and we become his unique children existing not just in a creation relationship with him, but in a family relationship with him where we can cry out to Him that He is our daddy, and that Jesus is our brother. That is the unique sense in which Christians are called children of God. So every person alive on planet Earth is a child of God, in a general sense. Only Christians are children of God in a uniquely saved sense. This is really important.
A Personal Word
It’s really important to me, personally. In fact, I’ll tell you a story about it. My mother got saved about five years before she died. When she got saved, we didn’t know she was five years away from that. But that’s the way it was. And up until the point where she turned from her sin and trusted in Jesus, I spent about 13 years of my Christian life trying to help her see that she needed to turn from her sin and trust in Jesus, that she was a lost person who needed the blood of Jesus, to save her from death and from hell. She wouldn’t believe me. She thought I was a holy roller. She thought I was clueless. She didn’t want to listen. But I had a pastor that she liked, that she trusted, that she thought was a nice man. And I thought, you know what, if I can get him to go talk to her and see that she needs Jesus, that could really make a difference. So I set up a time for the two of them to get together. And he came over, and I let him into the living room and set him down. And then I stepped out of the room, and I stayed over by the wall and listened. He asked her about her life. And she talked about growing up in a Christian home, and she talked about having parents who made her go to church and parents who made her read the Bible and memorize the Bible, and parents who made her play the piano and church or whatever all the different religious activities were that she did. After she got through talking about all this stuff that her parents made her do and how she grew up in church and all this. He said, with a real bright smile, said, Well, Paulette, you’re a child of God. She said, Yes, sir, I am. And then the meeting ended however it ended. I don’t remember because I lost consciousness and totally blacked out. But when I came to, and it was her and me, she was boasting that she was a child of God. Now, that is exactly the kind of danger we need to watch out for. We do not want to talk about somebody being a child of God in order to prop them up in their lostness. We should talk about lost people being children of God as we reach out to them as we share the love of God with them, as we teach them that God lays a claim on your life. You are not your own. But we need to be very careful that in that exclusive family relationship, we don’t give people assurance that they are a child of God, born again, covered in the blood of Jesus, adopted into the family of Jesus unless and until they have turned from their sin and trusted in Jesus Christ. So who is a child of God? Well, everybody is in the unique general creation sense, but only Christians are in the unique family sense that sent Jesus to the cross.