Children and Sons of God

The Design of the Family

Discovering who we are as Christians is fundamental and should have a transforming effect in our lives. In this article we will observe the twin truths of being born as children and placed as sons in the family of God.

Intended for the blessing of the human race, God introduced the family unit on the grounds of creation, providing an understanding of this dual identity. God, the celebrant of that first marriage, instructed them to “be fruitful and multiply,” sanctioning an environment where love could blossom between husband and wife, procreation could take place, and children in all their vulnerability could be nurtured, educated and given responsibility within a family. Unknown to humanity, God was drawing a picture of what He purposed for Himself.

The Delight, Dependence and Development of Children

Who could tire of gazing upon a newborn babe? Parents peep into the crib, beholding that precious child with its miraculously formed features. Mothers rise countless times to feed, change, cuddle and care for the child, and whilst that period of time is both exhausting and wonderful, we know it’s limited and never envisage that children remain babies forever. Parents delight in the development of their children – the first smile, garbled sounds to words, wobbly steps, and the babe from the crib is up and going! Rosters are prepared, chores are given, and the child that was so utterly dependent becomes a benefit to the household.

In Jewish households there is a Bar (son) or Bat (daughter) Mitzvah for each child arriving at the age of 12. This phrase meaning “son/daughter of the commandments” is a celebration declaring that the child now has all the rights and obligations of a Jewish adult. Interestingly, Luke 2:49 records our Lord at the Temple, age 12, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening and asking questions, and all that heard Him were astounded at His understanding and answers. When questioned by His concerned mother, He simply answered, “I must be about my Father’s business.”[1] Arriving at maturity and taking responsibility is God’s intention for us. Entering God’s family by birth, we confess that spiritually there were wobbly steps and garbled sounds. In the home under Christian parents, and/or in the assembly under the guidance of elders, we’re given spiritual instruction and increased responsibilities with a view to spiritual maturity.

The Dignity of Sonship

In Galatians 4, Paul pictures a child born into a family of great wealth and standing. The child is heir of all that the father has and in due time will receive the inheritance. While he remains a child, he’s under the control and direction of instructors and is no different in practice to the slaves of the same house! The vital lesson for the Galatians (and us) was that being under the Mosaic Law was to be as a minor, under restraint and unable to access the full privileges and responsibilities of sonship. But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem them that were under the law. Christ dealt with the consequences of the law, bearing the curse on our behalf.  Ignominiously, we were once children of the devil, of disobedience and wrath. Incredibly, through faith in Christ we are placed as sons, approaching God in dependence (“Abba”) and with dignity (“Father”). Praise the Lord, we are sons and no longer slaves!

In Romans 8, we discover again the truth of sonship, this time against the background of justification. In Christ, we are legally free from the penalty of sin and lawfully fit for the eternal presence of God. Having set forth the basis and blessings of our justification in chapters 4-5, Paul arrives at chapters 6-7 stating that, although judicially God sees the old man as crucified, we still live in this mortal fleshly body. Who will master my members? The flesh or the Spirit? The Holy Spirit has been mentioned just once in the epistle so far (5:5), but chapter 8 is bursting with references, teaching that allowing ourselves to be led by the Spirit is a sign that we appreciate and appropriate the truth of sonship. The universe groans under the burden of sin; and we too may groan (not moan) as we wait for our new body. God has chosen us as sons to be “holy and without blame before him in love” (Eph 1:4-5). The pathway of the Christian involves suffering, but the ministry of the Spirit lifts our eyes to grasp that as sons we are joint heirs with Christ in the inheritance. What is that inheritance? Simply, it is all that belongs to Christ. Galatians 3:16 teaches that when God made promises to Abraham’s “Seed” concerning the nation of Israel, land of Canaan, the nations and the world, they were, in fact, made to Christ! As joint heirs and adult sons, the Church has the extraordinary privilege to administer the kingdom with Christ and share completely all He possesses – 12 Apostles sitting on 12 thrones judging 12 tribes of Israel (Mat 19:28), saints in authority and administration over the entire world and angelic beings (1Co 6:1-2; Rev 2:26), and the unspeakable honour of sitting with Christ on His throne (Rev 3:21). As sons of God, we will be unveiled in that glorious day to the wondering eyes of all creation. Hebrews 2 solemnly reminds us that the cost of bringing many sons to glory was the incalculable sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus.

The Discipline of Sons

Left to themselves, children by nature and inexperience go the wrong way, and within a family there must be proper discipline for them to grow into responsible adults, and thereby become an asset to the family name and home. In Hebrews 12, God deals with us as sons, necessitating discipline in order that we yield the fruit of righteousness (v11). There is to be the reception of discipline (v5); His love is the reason it is given (v6); reverence should be the result (vv9-10). While the chastening hand of God seems grievous (v11), thank God for discipline; it’s the reality that we are sons and not spurious! As we comprehend these things, we understand that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2Co 4:17), and that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18).

And is it so! we shall be like Thy Son,
Is this the grace which He for us has won?
Father of glory! thought beyond all thought
In glory to His own blest likeness brought.
Yet it must be, Thy love had not its rest
Were Thy redeemed not with Thee fully blest;
That love that gives not as the world, but shares
All it possesses with its loved co-heirs.[2]

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV.

[2] John Nelson Darby (1800–1882)