Who is a child of God?

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

1 John 3:1-3

There are moments with the Lord when His Presence comes so near, when His love is felt tangibly in quiet moments with Him, that I weep with gratitude for getting to be so close to Him. One day it hit me like a ton of bricks: it is the greatest honor of my life to have the Spirit of God dwelling in me! What an incredible and undeserved honor!

God the Father lavishes His love on us. He doesn’t hold back. If we find we can’t feel His love, we: 1) rely on the truth that we know from scripture that His love never ends, and 2) find out what wound, hurt, or sin in us is separating us from experiencing His love. The problem is never on His end.

It is common to hear people say that all people are children of God. It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s not what scripture says is true. This passage, among others, makes clear that followers of Jesus alone have the unique privilege of being the children of God. Paul makes this point emphatically in his letter to the Romans:

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Romans 8:14-16

When the New Testament addresses “the children of God” it is talking about those who have given their life to Jesus, have received the Holy Spirit, and have been adopted into the family of God. It’s our second birth, when we are born of the Spirit (see John 3:3-8), that makes us children of God not our first birth.

In the 1 John 3 passage above, John makes a clear distinction between children of God and those of the world. Those in the world will have a hard time with children of God just as they had a hard time with Jesus. Likewise, our adoption into the family of God causes us to want to purify our lives because Jesus Himself is pure. Being a child of God means we long to be like Jesus!

New Family

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. 

1 Peter 1:3-4

We might see someone born into a royal family or an extremely wealthy family and catch ourselves wondering what it would be like to be born into such wealth and power. Yet, those of us who are in Christ have experienced exactly that reality even if we don’t realize it.

When we surrendered our life to Jesus and received the Holy Spirit in us as a deposit, a guarantee of the coming inheritance of the Kingdom of God, we were born again or born from above. We experienced a second birth. And in this birth, we were born into the Royal Family of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We are now sons and daughters of the King. We are princes and princesses in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus told Nicodemus:

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again (from above – literally in the Greek).” …

“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

John 3:3, 5-8

When we are physically born into this world, we start with our body. Our bodies are a part of the family that we are born into. Then, in time, our soul (mind, will, emotions) and spirit become a part of the family as we learn to communicate and build relationships with our family members.

When we are born again, when we are born from above–from the kingdom of heaven–we start in the reverse order of our physical birth. We begin with our spirit. Our spirit is united with the Holy Spirit. Then, in time, our soul (mind, will, emotions) becomes more and more saturated with the Kingdom. Then in the day of the resurrection we will get a resurrected body, a glorified body fit for the Kingdom of God.

We don’t have to wish we were born into a different family, one with less dysfunction or more money. This is the beauty of the gospel. No one is locked into the inheritance of their earthly family. When we accept Jesus as Savior and King, when we surrender to Him and receive the Holy Spirit, we get a new family and a new inheritance.

We are born into a living hope that never dies. Our inheritance from God is one that will never perish, spoil or fade. It is an eternal inheritance that will last forever and that we have access to now through obedience and faith.