“Beloved, now we are children of God”
I love Galatians 3:23 to 4:7. In verses 23 and 24 Paul explains what was the role of the law: that it was a tutor for the time before the coming of the faith. It then moves on and tells us what happened when faith came:
“But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus”! Faith in Christ Jesus, to believe that He is the Son of God, the anointed One, the Messiah, makes us children of God, His sons and daughters! Gospel means good news and these are really GOOD NEWS! “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”, as Paul and Silas said to the prison-keeper in Philippi (Acts 16:31). “You are all sons of God, through faith in Christ Jesus”, adds the Word here! This reality makes my heart full of joy every time I read this passage. Then chapter 4 of Galatians continues:
“Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
Verses 6 and 7 call us, once again, sons of God, His children. God has sealed this by sending the spirit of His Son into our hearts that cries out, Abba1 (daddy), Father! I have read this passage many times and it always gives me much joy. There is something however in it that used to confuse me. And this is the word “adoption” in verse 5. As we know adopted kids are not connected by birth to their adopted parents. This is the very difference between an adopted kid and a non-adopted one. The non-adopted one is connected by birth, by blood with his father and mother, while the adopted one by the act of adoption. I believe we will all agree that though it is wonderful to be a child of God, it is one thing to be an adopted one, where God has not parenting you by birth and quite another to be a child of Him because you were born of Him. I want therefore with this article to go together with you to the Scriptures and see what the Word of God says on the matter of being children of God.
How does one become of child of God?
What does it take?
Is it by birth or it is by adoption?
I believe by the end of this article we will have clear answers on these questions from the only authorized source that can give them: the Word of God. We may have at times to look at the meaning of Greek words. Be patient when we do this because I believe it is worth the effort.
The word adoption
The phrase “adoption as sons” used above is a translation of one Greek word, the word “υιοθεσία” (uiothesia). This word is composed by the word “uios” that means son and the word “thesis” that means placing. “Uiothesia” therefore means the “placing as sons”. To understand better its meaning in Galatians 4, let’s have a look at the context. Galatians 3:23-4:4 speaks about children that were under a schoolmaster. Children that were to inherit but were no different than slaves. In other words,children that though children they had the place of slaves:
“Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children (Greek: “nepioi”, small children not able to speak, a little older than infants – not the same as “uioi”, the word translated as “sons” in Galatians), were in bondage (Greek: enslaved) under the elements of the world.”
Galatians 3:1-2 gives us an example of a heir that is under guardians and stewards till the time appointed by the father. As long as he is in this stage, as long as the appointed time by the father has not come, he, though son, has the place of a mere slave.“Even so we”, says Galatians 4:3: before the appointed time by the father, we had the place of slaves, we were enslaved under the elements of the world. Then verses 4-5 tell us what happened next:
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the uiothesia (the placing as sons).”
The word “but” that starts verse 4 puts in contrast what follows it with what precedes it. What was before? The appointed time of the father had not come; we had the place of slaves; we were enslaved to the elements of the world; we were under schoolmasters, guardians and stewards. The word “BUT” nevertheless introduces a change to this situation. What is this change? The fullness of the time, the appointed time by the Father, came! God sent forth His Son, to redeem those who were under the law, and from having the place of slaves we now got the place of sons. We can also see the same, using the words of Galatians 3:23-26.
“But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
There was a time “before faith came”. This was the time of the law, the time of the schoolmaster, the time of the guardians and the stewards of Galatians 4. The time that we had the place of slaves. But then faith came, the fullness of the time came. Christ came! The schoolmaster, the guardian and the steward, the law that was all these, went away. We are no longer under it and we no longer have the place of a slave. Instead we now have the place of a son.
In other words the word “uiothesia” that is used in Galatians 4 and is translated adoption of sons, it would be much better be translated “the place of sons”. This word is not used to tell us that God is our adopted father, as the translation may make it to seem, but that we, with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, with the coming of the faith, we changed our place and from having the place of slaves we got the place of sons. It does not speak about our relationship with God in terms of adopted versus begotten but in terms of having the place of sons versus having the place of slaves.
Born of God – not adopted
The fact that the above passage of Galatians and the word “uiothesia” there does not mean that God is our adopted Father can also be attested by a multitude of other passages of the Bible that make clear that we are not God’s adopted but God’s begotten children. Starting from John 1:12 we read:
“But as many as received Him [the Lord Jesus Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name [the name of Jesus Christ]”
The word “children” here is the Greek word τέκνα (tekna) that means “that which is born (from τίκτω, to bear)2”. It is a word that “gives prominence to the fact of birth3”. In fact the next verse makes it crystal clear. Let’s read it together with the above verse:
“But as many as received Him [the Lord Jesus Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name [the name of Jesus Christ]: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
From whom those children of God of verse 12 were born? Verse 13 answers: they were born of God! Obviously therefore ifwe are born of God, it is birth and not adoption that connects us with Him. And the Word makes this clear and we will also see it in more passages.
Next passage to go and see that it is a birth and not an adoption that connects us with God, making Him a literal Father to us, is in John 3:3-8. There we find Jesus and Nicodemus (a Jewish teacher) speaking about a second BIRTH.
“Jesus answered and said to him [Nicodemus], "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again [but the Greek says “born from above” - see also NIV margin], he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. "Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again. [Greek: “born from above”]’ "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
As Jesus makes clear there are two births that are available. The first birth is the birth of the water or of the flesh. This is the physical birth and all the people who have ever lived on this earth have taken part of this birth. Apart however from this birth, there is one more, that, as Jesus made clear, is a prerequisite to enter into the kingdom of God. This is the “birth from above”. Many translators have translated this as “born again”. As this is indeed a second birth and therefore to say that we were born again is valid4, what the Greek says here is “born from above”, which is another expression to say “born of God who is in above”.
We saw previously in John that the Word speaks of those who believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ as born of God. Here the Lord speaks about “born from above”. Both are the same and point out the fact that there is a second BIRTH that is required to bring us into the kingdom of God. This is the birth from God or the birth from above or the birth from the Spirit, as it is also called in the above passage of John 3. See again that the Word of God does not speak about adoption. Jesus didn’t say that we have to be adopted by God but to be born of God. It is this very birth that makes us children of God and give us the right to call God our daddy (Abba) Father. We could of course also call him father if we had been adopted by him, but obviously we do not have adoption here but birth. But let’s carry on and go to the first epistle of John. There in I John 5:1 we read:
I John 5:1
“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.”
We saw previously in John’s gospel as well as in Galatians that somebody becomes a child of God, by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Here it is repeated again. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ i.e. the Anointed one, the Messiah, is born of God. It is that simple and it is that good! It is also news to the world. Gospel means good news and these ARE really good news! Religion has hidden the truth and the beauty of the gospel. For years I had heard a lot about religion. A lot about what I should do to be OK with God. But nobody had told me that by simply believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the anointed One, I would become a child of God and could call God, my daddy, my Father. Yes, it is so simple dear reader. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”, Paul and Silas said, as we read previously, to the prison-keeper in Philippi, when he asked them “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30-31). The same says the Word to God to you today too. If you haven’t met the Lord Jesus Christ, I want you to know that He wants to meet you and bring you to the Father. You don’t need to do some fancy religious staff to get there. You don’t have to follow the various traditions that you may have heard from little kid. What you need to do is here, in front of your eyes: Whoever BELIEVES that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed One, is born of God! And as Romans 10:9 say:
“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
It is that definite! It is that simple! It is that generous! As we read again in Romans 10:
“for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."
The Lord is rich, He is generous to all that call upon Him. And all that call on the name of the Lord will be saved!
And I John 4:15
“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”
Everything turns around Jesus and everything has to do with belief in Jesus and confession out of this belief. Belief in the Lord Jesus, belief that He is the anointed one, the Christ, belief that He is the Son of God, belief that God has raised Him from the dead, confession, as a result of the belief, that He is Lord. It is not works that get somebody into the family of God. It is belief, faith. And it is not adoption that makes him part of this family but birth, birth from God, who thus becomes Abba (daddy), Father.
Moving further, we can also see this truth, the truth of the new birth, in I Peter 1:23 where we read:
I Peter 1:23
“having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever”
Again Peter here speak about a new birth, the second birth, the birth from God that we saw John speaking about. It is a birth not from corruptible seed but incorruptible and the means of this birth is through the Word of God that lives and abides forever. Romans 10:17 - just a few verses after the passage that told us that one gets saved, not by works but by confessing with his mouth the Lord Jesus and believing with His heart that God raised him from the dead - tells us how faith comes:
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Faith comes by hearing. Not hearing religious sermons on human traditions. Not hearing whatever people say that God may say. But by hearing what the Word of God says. What God Himself says. There are millions of people today that think they know what God says or thinks, either because they picture Him thinking this or because a religious person told them that He thinks this or even because their church told them this. Well, the truth of the matter is that every teaching has to be tested against the Word of God, the Bible. I grew up in Greece which is a deeply religious country. But what the people or the official church said about God – which was usually translated to a huge list of dos and don’ts that had no relationship to life – made me want to avoid any connection to Him. As a kid I was praying to Him and I felt Him close. But as the kid became teenager and got no answers to his questions, God became something between irrelevant to life and – when bad things were happening – a terrifying figure that was after me to punish me. But somehow I believed in the Bible – though I never had read it and thought that it was a sacred book only for priests and nuns. I was also searching for the truth, the meaning of life, without success. Whatever I tried, even if it succeeded left me empty. One day at the age of 21 and frustrated by the continues failures of my attempts to find meaning, I asked God to forgive me for the various foolish things I had done and the fact that I never paid real attention to Him. I also asked Him, if He existed, to find me. Less than a week later a friend of mine, without knowing something, told me that he went to a Bible fellowship and asked me to join him next time, which I did. There I saw people holding Bibles in their hand and speaking about becoming children of God, about being saved by faith, without works, about a real and personal relationship with God, about a God that was my daddy. About a God of whom I could ask and receive, seek and find. They were exposing to me an ALIVE God rather then the dead god of the human ordinances and traditions. I thought this was too good! It was also revolutionary! But is it true, I thought, especially since it seems so opposite to what the official church was saying? I decided to test it like this: if something is in the Bible I will believe it. If it is not I will not. Thus I appointed the Bible as my criterion concerning God and His will and not what the various people may say. I also said to myself I will apply the Word of God practically. I will test it. So when I read in the Bible, Jesus saying:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. "Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? "Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”
When I read this do you know what I did? I started asking God! About everything. For every need I had I was asking Him for His help. And you know what? Miracles happened! God stretched His arm and reached me. Heaven opened and met me!Believing in God is not the end of a mental exercise. It is the beginning of an alive relationship with an ALIVE God. This is the God I’m speaking about. And He sent His Son Jesus Christ to bear our sins on the cross so that today whoever believes that He is the Christ, the Son of God, and God raised Him from the dead, he is saved and he becomes a child of the Almighty. Tired of God? I was tired too. But guess what? You haven’t met the real God. Because the real God is ALIVE, His Word is alive and whoever meets Him never becomes tired of Him. What you have met is the dead god of religion and yes this god cannot make anybody anything else than tired.
That’s how I became a believer. And that’s how I believe somebody becomes a believer. He has to have exposure to the true Word of God, to the good news of the gospel. Hearing is the first step. Then faith comes. Reader of this article: if you are not a believer of Jesus Christ you heard today the gospel, the good news of being saved by faith. The good news of becoming a child of God, the good news of being able to call God your daddy. The Word of God says:
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
Reach out to God and He will reach out to you. He loves you, He waits for you and He has a plan for you. His family has a sit for you too. The Father is waiting for you too. As I Timothy 2:4 says: “who [God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” And this includes you too!
Closing this part let’s go to I John 3:1-2 where we read:
I John 3:1-2
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God;”
Now we are children of God. How? By faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah. This is not something that is promised for the future. It is a present reality and it is available to you now! As Paul says in II Corinthians 6:2
II Corinthians 6:2
“For He [God] says: "In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
“Waiting for the placing as sons” – Romans 8:23
Returning to our original subject and having seen what I John tells us and that we are now – through faith in Jesus Christ – children of God, let’s go to Romans 8:23. There we read:
“Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption [uiothesia– placing as sons], the redemption of our body.”
It is easy to be confused when we read the above passage as it appears that Romans tells us that we are still waiting for the placing as sons while Galatians told us that Jesus Christ came so that we receive the placing as sons and John told us that we are NOW the children of God. The key to avoid confusion in the above passage is the very word “uiothesia”. If somebody understands this word as adoption, as the English translations translate this word, then we are utterly confused. Adoption is as definite in time as birth. There is one specific time that we are born first time (it is the date and time shown in your birth certificate), there is a definite date and time that we are born second time (it is the time that you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead) and there is also a definite date and time that somebody gets adopted (it is the date and time his adopted parents sign the related papers). So if we are to translate the “uiothesia” as adoption, then this definite date and time, has – according to Romans 8 - not even come! We are then not even adopted by God because we are still waiting for this. But this misunderstanding is artificial and created by translating the word uiothesia, as adoption. The right translation is “placing as sons” and to understand its meaning here we have to look at the context, starting from verse 18:
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption [placing as sons], the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”
Paul referring to creation tells us that it is subjected to futility. It is under the bondage of corruption. It groans and labors with birth pangs. These are great pains! And not only the creation but also we that have the FIRSTFRUITS of the spirit! Also we, groan within ourselves, waiting for something better, the redemption of the body, the time that the Lord will come back and will change these mortal, frail bodies to immortal, incorruptible bodies like His body. We groan and wait for the time that we will see face to face. For as Paul says:
I Corinthians 13:12
“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”
There is a “now” and a “then”. Now we see in a mirror but THEN face to face! Now we know in part but THEN we shall know as we are known! Now the creation groans and we groan within too but THEN it will be delivered from this bondage of corruption! Now we have the FIRST fruits of the spirit which in turn means that there will be a time, a THEN, that we will have the fullness! We are sons of God now, born of God, children of the Almighty, brothers of Jesus Christ as He himself calls us in Hebrews 2:11-12, but this is not the full placing. The full placing as sons, is when we see face to face, when we will know as we are known. So yes we are placed as sons and daughters of God now, but also yes there is still more to come on this! And yes we have the firstfruits of the spirit now but also yes it is only the FIRST fruits and therefore there is more to come. When? When the Lord comes back. When the creation is delivered, when we see face to face! When the betrothal with Christ (II Corinthians 11:2) becomes marriage (Revelation 19).
We will close this article with Romans 8:14-17
“Therefore, brethren, we are debtors––not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of uiothesia [placing as sons] whereby we cry out, "Abba, Father." The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” (NKJV-KJV)
By faith we become children of God and we receive the holy spirit. By walking by this spirit, by being led by the spirit, we are children of God in manifestation. And this spirit is not a spirit of bondage but a spirit of sonship, a spirit of uiothesia, a seal by which God sealed us (Ephesians 1:13) and by which we cry out Abba (Daddy) Father! We still have to endure suffering as the whole creation does. Becoming a child of God does not mean immunization from suffering, as some would have us to believe. The Word leaves no doubt about it: not only the creation groans tells us but also we. It is however the beginning and there is more to it coming, when we will meet our Daddy, face to face. When we go to the place that the Lord is preparing for us:
“In My Father’s house are many mansions…. I go to prepare a place for you. "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
1. As Vine’s dictionary says: “Abba is an Aramaic word… It is the word framed by the lips of infants, and betokens unreasoning trust; [on the other hand] “father” expresses an intelligent apprehension of the relationship” (Vine’s dictionary, p.11). Another source says: “as the Rabbis say: “a small child "learns to say ’abbā’ (daddy) and ’immā’ (mummy)." Abba means daddy. Daddy is the word that we usually use when we speak to our earthly fathers. Both daddy and father mean the same think but Abba is a more intimate word. It is the word that a kid uses when he calls his father. And God doesnot restrict His kids to the word “father”, but He tells us that He is for us Abba, papa, daddy. This by itself shows how personal, intimate and real is the relationship that He desires with His kids.
2. E.W. Bullinger, A critical Lexicon and concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, p. 148
3. Vine’s Expository dictionary, p. 189
4. In fact the Word uses the term “born again” as we will see later in I Peter.