Although there isn’t a literal reproductive parent-and-child relationship between the Father and Jesus or between the Father and the rest of humanity, Christians are children of God through adoption. John 1:12-13 states that

to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. [1]

This aspect of Biblical sonship is related to the idea that all people are God’s children (“We are his offspring”, Acts 17:28 ) but is distinct from it: all humanity are children of God through creation but adoption refers to the people who belong to Him through faith in Christ.

We’ve seen that when “son of God” is used of Jesus, it refers primarily to Him as God’s chosen king. However, sometimes the language Jesus uses of His relationship with the Father seems more than functional; it intimates a relationship as close as that between an earthly parent and their child should be. If Jesus does use this filial language for His relationship to God the Father, He also uses it for ours. However, Jesus distinguishes His relationship with the Father from ours: “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” [2]

Whether or not Jesus does use this familial language to indicate a relationship other than kingship, Christians are also royalty: we are “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9, echoing Exodus 19:6). To a degree, the two concepts are connected. Christians are adopted children of God but this doesn’t mean that Jesus is the “natural” child of God [3]. Christians are princes and princesses living under Christ’s rule as the royal Son. There are several verses that refer to God’s adoption of us: we’ve already seen John 1:12-13; some others are Romans 8:15-16; Galatians 4:5-7 and Ephesians 1:5.

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. [More literally, “of adoption”.] And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:15-17; words in square brackets are mine.)

Then, in Galatians:

But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:4-7)

Next, in Ephesians:

he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will (Ephesians 1:5)

Several verses in Hebrews 12 speak of God as our adoptive Father, although adoption isn’t explicitly mentioned.

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! (Hebrews 12:7-9)

One consequence of being a son is to be the heir, as the verses from Romans 8 and Galatians 4 state. The heir will possess the parents’ property and rule over it. Hebrews 1:2 states that “… in these last days [God] has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things.” Of course, God is immortal, so Christians aren’t heirs in the sense that we “take over” from God at His death [4]. Rather, to be God’s child and heir means we will share in the building and the life and the rule of His kingdom, forever and ever.

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Footnotes

[1] The Greek is “children” (tekna), not “sons”, but the idea is nonetheless there.
[2] John 20:17 – When Jesus said “the Father is greater than I” He wasn’t implying anything about His nature as deity; he was referring to His roles as the Word and as the second Adam. By His own choice, Jesus was subordinate to the Father. But lesser in role did – and does – not make Him any lesser deity than the Father.
[3] If Jesus were somehow the Father’s natural/ biological offspring, Jesus would be both inferior (in nature) to and lesser (in function) than the Father If Jesus was inferior in nature to the Father he couldn’t be co-eternal, despite Origen’s assertion that Jesus was “eternally begotten”; however, this might be an allusion to Psalm 2, a reference to Jesus’ Kingship.
[4] “Old Covenant” and “New Covenant” are better titles than “Old Testament” and “New Testament”: both parties to a covenant must be living for the covenant to take effect. A testament can’t until the one who made it is dead. (This idea came from, if memory serves, Allan Chapple, of Trinity Theological College).

copyright 2007 Troy Grisgonelle.

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