A few days ago, I read a news story about the new pope and an address he made to a crowd outside the Vatican. In the story and in his address to that crowd, the phrase “children of God” appeared and it got me to thinking. Who are the children of God?
There are basically two views on that question. One view says that all human beings are children of God. The other view says only some humans are children of God. In the first view, every person on the Earth is a child of God because God is the creator and we are his creation. In the second view, only some people are God’s children because God has made a distinction between those who are his and those who are not. Both views are appealing in one way or another. In the West, we like to say that “all men are created equal”, while at the same time we also like to say that “everyone is special in his or her own way”. The first view appeals to our democratic values while the second appeals to our sense of self-worth. Which view is the correct one? Or could they both be correct in some manner? If there is answer to the question “Who are the children of God?”, I believe it is going to be found in the Word of God.
A simple search of the exact phrase “children of God” over at the Bible Gateway yields only New Testament references from the English Standard Version. Now, I must admit that such a search is hardly scholarly, but it is not without merit. In fact, it’s probably as good as any leaping off point to begin a detailed study of the concept. However, this will not be a detailed study. After all, there is a reason that this blog is called “Armchair Theologian”.
In the first chapter of the gospel of John, we see that the children of God are those who receive Jesus and “believe in his name”. In the eighth chapter of Romans, Paul speaks about those who are “in Christ Jesus”. He says that the Spirit “bears witness” with the spirits of those who are in Christ Jesus (himself included) that “we are the children of God”. Finally, the third chapter of 1 John says that it is “evident” who the children of God are because they no longer make it a practice to sin.
There is much more that can be said about who are the children of God. I’m thinking particularly about a conversation Jesus had with his fellow Jews about who was his father as opposed to who was their father. Then there’s the question of becoming a child of God. Whatever we may say about the technical aspects of how someone becomes a child of God, we must agree that the Word of God says that those who put their faith in Jesus receive the Spirit of God and are counted as God’s children. Since not all humans put their faith in Jesus, not all humans receive the Spirit of God and consequently are not counted as His children. I’m sure that’s not an appealing view to most Westerners these days (both inside and outside of the church) but I’m also pretty sure that this is the view contained in Scripture.