The Journal of Biblical Accuracy
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Born of God

The kind of the relationship we have with God is certainly one of the most important things that as Christians we should know. The reason is that there are various kinds of relationships1, and if we do not know what is the specific one that connects us with God, it is very possible to not utilise to the full extent all that God has made available to us. Given therefore the importance of this topic and the relative confusion that there is about it, it is necessary to see what the Bible says.

1. The kind of our relationship with God

The first that will be considered in this article is the kind of the relationship that is available to have with God, leaving for the next sections the examination of how and when this relationship becomes a reality. Starting therefore from John 1:12-13, we read:

John 1:12-13
"But as many as received him, to them he gave power to become CHILDREN OF GOD, to those who believe in his name: who WERE BORN, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but OF GOD."

As we previously said, there are various kinds of relationship that one may have. One of them, and doubtless one of the most important, is the relationship that connects us with those who born us. However, in addition to those whom we usually think when we hear for birth (i.e. our human parents), there is someone else from which one can also be born. Who is he? The answer is God. Really, as the above passage tells us, those who believe in the name that God has made available to believe, and which we will see later what it is, are CHILDREN OF GOD and ARE BORN OF GOD. In other words, there are two births that a man may have. The one is from his human parents and the other is from God.

The fact that there are two births is also confirmed by other passages, as John 3:1-8, where starting from verses 1-3, we read:

John 3:1-3
"There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: This man came to Jesus by night, and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him. Jesus answered and said to him, Verily, verily, I say to you, UNLESS A MAN IS BORN AGAIN, HE CANNOT SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD."

As we can see from this passage, to enter the kingdom of God it is necessary to be "born again". Regarding now the phrase "born again", it is a translation of the Greek phrase "gennethe anothen" that means "born from above2", where the word "above" is put for God who is in "above". In other words, "born from above" means "born of God", who is in above3. As it can be seen therefore, this passage, similarly to John 1:12-13, speaks for a second birth that a man may have, the birth from God, which, as Jesus explains, is a prerequisite for the entering into the kingdom of God.

The fact of the two births is made even plainer in verses 4-5 of the same chapter, where we read:

John 3:4-5
"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, "Verily, verily, I say to you, unless one is BORN OF WATER AND THE SPIRIT, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."

As it can be seen, this passage again tells us that there are two births that one should have to enter the kingdom of God. The one is the birth from the water, where the word "water" is put for the first birth - which as we will see later is also called birth from the flesh4. This is the birth that all people have i.e. the birth from our human parents. However, apart from this birth the above passage speaks also for a second birth, the birth from the Spirit. Regarding now the word "spirit5", though it has many usages, most of the time it is used either i) of God who is Spirit (John 4:24) or ii) of what God gives and which is also spirit. What is the usage of this word in any specific passage, is something that should be seen from the context of the respective passage. Regarding our case, it is obvious that this word is used with the first usage, as it speaks for the giver, the parent of the second birth i.e. God. To this also agree, the context of the passage (see verses 1-3) that is about the birth from above which as we saw is an expression that is used to denote the birth from God6.

The distinction between the two births, as well as what is taken from them, is made clearer in verses 6-8 of the same chapter of John, where we read:

John 3:6-8
"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 [Gr.: born from above]. The Spirit7 breathes where it desires, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is every one that is born of the Spirit." (NKJV - Interlinear Bible)

As in the first birth, the birth from our human parents, we got what they are i.e. flesh, so in the second birth, the birth from above, or from God we get what the parent of this birth is i.e. spirit. And as the five senses, the flesh that we inherited from the first birth, enables us to communicate with our human parents, so also the spirit that we inherited from the second birth enables us to communicate with our spiritual father, God.

To conclude therefore: God has made available to men to become His children, through a second birth that gives them what He Himself is i.e. spirit. How now a man is possible to become a child of God, is something that we will examine in the section that follows.

2. Our relationship with God: The "how"

 

2.1. John 1:12-13

To see how one becomes a child of God, we will go again to John 1:12-13, where we read:

John 1:12-13
"But as many as received him, to them he gave power to become CHILDREN OF GOD, TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN HIS NAME: whoWERE BORN, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but OF GOD."

This passage, apart from telling us that one can indeed become a child of God, it also states how this may happen. As it says, the way is believing "on his name", i.e. on the name that God has made available to believe and which is no other than the name of Jesus Christ. As Peter characteristically said in Acts 4:12 about this name:

Acts 4:12
"Neither is there salvation in any other, FOR THERE IS NO OTHER NAME UNDER HEAVEN GIVEN AMONG MEN, by which we must be saved."

The only name that God has made available to believe in it and be saved is the name of Jesus Christ. What exactly one should believe about Jesus Christ to be saved and therefore born again, is something that is given in Romans 10:9, where we read:

Romans 10:9
"That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved." (NKJV-KJV)

The only that is required to be saved and born again, thus entering the kingdom of God, is to believe that Jesus is Lord and God raised him from the dead.

2.2 I John 5:1

The fact that the only way to be born of God is through believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, is also confirmed by other passages about the same topic. One of them is I John 5:1, where 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."

Moreover I John 4:15 tells us:
"Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God."

As it can be seen from these passages, when one believes that Jesus is the Christ i.e. the Messiah, the chosen one of God, is born of God. Thus, this passage as the previous one, tells us that the only way to be born of God is called believing in Jesus CHRIST. And because almost everyone believes something about Jesus (wrong or right) , it should be made clear that what is important is not that ones believes, but WHAT he believes, for really only the believing to what the Bible sets as things that should be believed for salvation, can really give salvation. This is really a point of special importance, as the devil has guided great masses of people to believe some "good" things about Jesus (as for example that he was "a good man", "a great humanitarian" etc.), denying however such fundamental for salvation things as the resurrection or that he is the Messiah and the Son of God.

To conclude therefore: We are not all children of God as many believe because, as they say, "we all believe in the one God". To their surprise, the Bible does not speak for one God. Instead, it speaks for ONE TRUE God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ and another false god, the devil, the "god of this world", as II Corinthians 4:4 characteristically calls him. Moreover, the Bible defines ONE and not many ways that guide to the ONE TRUE God. This way is no other than Jesus Christ. As Jesus said in John 14:6:

John 14:6
"Jesus said to him, "I AM THE WAY, the truth, and the life: NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER, EXCEPT THROUGH ME."

Jesus is the ONLY way that guides to God. By believing what the Bible requires to believe about him, we are saved and born of God. All the other beliefs that are supposed to guide to "the one god" are false ways that though indeed guide to a god, they do not guide to the big "G" God, the Father of Jesus Christ but to the false god, the devil.

2.3 Galatians 3:22-4:7

Though from the above two passages it should already be clear that one is born of God by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, let's also examine one more passage that will reconfirm what we have seen by now. This passage is Galatians 3:22-4:7, where starting from verses 22-24 we read8:

Galatians 3:22-24
"But the scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up to the faith which would afterwards be revealed. Therefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith."

Many Christians believe that the law is still valid and continue to follow it, thinking that there, they will find the will of God for our administration. Obviously, the main cause of this confusion is the inability of discriminating among the various Biblical administrations9. As the above passage tells us, "the law WAS OUR SCHOOLMASTER to bring us unto Christ THAT WE MIGHT BE JUSTIFIED BY FAITH". Obviously therefore, the law is not still our schoolmaster. It WAS. The fact that now we are no longer under the law is made even clearer in Galatians 3:25, where we read:

Galatians 3:25
"But after faith [or believing] has come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster."

Who was our schoolmaster? The law. Are we still under a schoolmaster? NO. Why? Because "faith [or believing] is come" and we can, by believing in Jesus Christ, be saved, and at the same time born of God, thus becoming sons and daughters of God. Really, as verses 26-28 tell us:

Galatians 3:26-28
"FOR YOU ARE ALL SONS OF GOD BY FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

WHAT are we? The children of God. HOW? BY BELIEVING IN CHRIST JESUS. Now, there is neither Jew nor Gentile (this is meant by the word "Greek") there is neither male nor female, there is neither bond nor free. Instead we, all that believe in Jesus Christ, are all one, being all members of the same family, the family of God. In contrast therefore to the world, whose main characteristic is the discrimination, in Christianity the main characteristic is the unification, under the name of Jesus Christ. Reading further, verses 1-7 of the fourth chapter tell us:

Galatians 4:1-7
"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 tutors and stewards until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because YOU ARE SONS, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. THEREFORE YOU ARE NO LONGER A SLAVE, BUT A SON; AND IF A SON, THEN AN HEIR OF GOD THROUGH CHRIST."

What are we? What is our identity? Children, sons and daughters of God. Do we have therefore the right to call God our Father? Of course yes, as we are His children. That's why the title "father" is used of God so many times in the part of the Bible that refers to our administration10. For God is really our father, our "Abba father" as the text says, and as Christ called him in Mark 14:36. There, it was Christ that called Him "Abba Father". Today is the spirit of Christ in us by which we also call Him with the same title. As also the text says, todaywe are no longer slaves11 of God as many believe, but CHILDREN OF GOD, and thus heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Really as Romans 8:17 tells us:

Romans 8:17
"AND IF CHILDREN, THEN HEIRS - HEIRS OF GOD, AND JOINT-HEIRS WITH CHRIST; "

How was this obtained? By only believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and in his resurrection. Isn't really amazing?

3. We are the children of God NOW

In the above sections we considered our relationship with God and how it becomes a reality. Among the passages that speak for this reality is also I John 3:1-3. There we read:

I John 3:1-3
"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 ARE WE THE CHILDREN OF GOD, and it has not yet appeared what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure."

What are we? Children of God. When? The text does not say when we reach a certain level of good works and behaviour or after we ........die. What it says is that WE ARE THE CHILDREN OF GOD NOW, at the present time. It is a reality that happens NOW, and started from the day we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and in his resurrection. If we think and care for our children, really how much more God thinks and cares for his own children, among whom many of us also belong? As Matthew 7:11 and Psalms 40:5 characteristically tells us:

Matthew 7:11
"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?"

and Psalms 40:5
"Many, O LORD my God, are your wonderful works which you have done, and your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to you in order; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered."

God thinks and cares for us, his beloved children, multiple times more (his thoughts towards us are innumerable as Psalms 40:5 tells us) than we care for our children. As a good father (the best), He is always with us, protecting and caring for us. As He Himself confirms and encourages us:

Hebrews 13:5-6
"I will NEVER leave you, nor forsake you. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me."

and Matthew 10:30-31
"But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. DO NOT FEAR THEREFORE..."

We might have had reasons to fear when we did not have the Lord as our helper. However, this does not happen now. Today we are the children of God, the children of the creator of heaven and earth, of the one that made everything, seen and unseen. Really, what is impossible, when we have such a mighty Father? What is that from which we should fear? "tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?....NO, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." (Romans 8:35-37). For as Jesus says in John 14:12 and Paul confirms in Philippians 4:13

John 14:12
"HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME, THE WORKS THAT I DO HE WILL DO ALSO; AND GREATER WORKS THAN THESE HE WILL DO, because I go to my Father."

and Philippians 4:13
"I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME"

Such is the power that we have as children of God. It is not a power that comes from our first birth but from the second one, the birth from God. It is not a power that we have by "believing in ourselves", but a power that we have by believing in Christ and the abilities of the almighty God, who is now our father and who backs up our steps in life.

4. Children of God: by adoption or by birth?

The purpose of this section is to examine a phrase that is met in Galatians 4:4-6, and has been a difficult point for many. There we read:

Galatians 4:4-6
"But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father."

What for many is the difficult point in this passage is the phrase "adoption of sons"12. Based on this phrase, many support that we are not children of God by birth but by adoption. Nevertheless, a look at what we have seen by now is enough to show that an interpretation like this cannot be in accordance with the Bible, which very clearly, in many other passages tells us that we are BORN of God, clearly speaking for a birth. Moreover, since one can be either an adopted child or a child by birth, it is evident that these two situations being alternative, cannot happen for the same person simultaneously. In other words, we are children of God either by birth or by adoption, but certainly not by both. The question therefore is, why then the Bible though it says that we are born of God, it also says that we are adopted children of God? Is this not a contradiction? The answer is of course not. The Word of God as the Word of a perfect God is also perfect, having not even the smallest inaccuracy in what it says. Everything in it is accurate and true. Nevertheless, this may not happen FOR ITS TRANSLATIONS, which being the work of a man is probable to suffer from translation inaccuracies. Instead therefore of blindly following the various translations, it is better, when something does not seem to be in harmony to what the Bible says in other passages, to go back to the original languages and check what is said there13. Applying this principle to our case, we can see that the word translated as "adoption" in the above passage is the Greek word "uiothesia" that is composed of the words: "uios" that means son and a form of the verb "tithemi" that means "to set, put, place". "Uiothesia" therefore means the placing as sons. With this in mind, a more accurate translation of Galatians 4:5 would be: "To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the placing of sons." This passage therefore does not say how we were placed as sons, but that we were indeed placed as such. How this happened i.e. by adoption or by birth is something that should be seen from other passages. As we have already seen the answer that is given from the other passages is that we were placed as sons by a birth, the birth from above, which occurred when we confessed Jesus as Lord and believed that God raised him from the dead. The answer therefore to the question: "children of God: by adoption or by birth?" is clearly BY BIRTH.

 

Anastasios Kioulachoglou

 

 



Footnotes

1. For example, the relationship we have with our parents is different than the relationship we have with our friends or bosses.

2. See the translation of the NIV (margin), as well as the translation of "The Interlinear Bible", Sovereign Grace Publishers, Second Edition, 1986.

3. Another example of a word that is used in a similar way is the word "heaven", in the phrase "kingdom of heaven". Indeed, as one can easily confirm this phrase is used interchangeably with the phrase "kingdom of God". Though both phrases mean exactly the same thing, they differ however in the way they say it. Really, what the latter says literally, the former says figuratively, by putting heaven, God's inhabitation, for God who is in heaven.

4. This is obvious from verse 6 of the same chapter of John, where the "birth from the water and the Spirit" is called "birth from the flesh and the Spirit". Evidently, birth from the water and birth from the flesh are different expressions that are both used to describe the same event: the first birth, the birth from our human parents.

5. By the way, it should be noted that the word "spirit" is never capitalized in ancient Greek and therefore any such capitalization, though it may facilitate the discrimination between the various usages of this word, should not necessarily be considered as right or God-inspired. In this journal, the capital S in the word spirit denotes the usage of this word with the meaning of God who is Spirit while the lower s is used for any other usage.

6. In other words: "born of the Spirit" = "born from above" = "born of God" who is Spirit and "in above".

7. The KJV translates the first part of verse 8 as follows: "the wind blows where it wishes". However, this translation is inaccurate for the word that is translated as "wind" is not the word "anemos" that occurs 31 times and is always translated as "wind" but the word "pneuma" that occurs 385 times and only here has been translated as "wind". In contrast, it is translated as: "spirit" 286 times, spiritual 1, ghost 2, life 1, and when it occurs with "agion" as: "holy spirit" 4 times and holy ghost 89 times. As it is obvious therefore, the KJV translation of the first part of John 3:8 is inaccurate, for if God wanted to tell us "wind" He would have used the word "anemos" that He always uses it with this meaning, and not the word "pneuma", which almost everywhere else is employed with the meaning of "spirit". Instead therefore of "the wind blows....", the right translation is "the Spirit breathes....." where the word "spirit" is used with usage (i) i.e. meaning God who is Spirit. To this also agree the context of the passage. Really, though God has indeed "desire", "will", this is impossible for the wind. Also though no-one can tell where God comes from and where He goes this certainly does not happen for the wind.

8. Regarding the book of Galatians, it would probably be helpful to say that it is mainly a reproving book by which God, through Paul, reproves the Galatians for the fact that they sought to gain through works of the law what they already had by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. The whole book is really a wonderful teaching by which is made clear the end of the age of the law and its substitution by the age of grace.

9. For more on the subject of the different Biblical administrations and the passing from the administration of the law to the administration of grace, the reader is referred to Biblical Insights, Year 1, Issue 8, August 1996.

10.From Acts to Jude God is called Father 73 times.

11.This does not mean that we cannot serve God and thus also be "slaves of God". In fact, a look in the epistles saw that Paul called himself "a bondservant of God" (Titus 1:1) and Christ (Romans 1:1, Galatians 1:10, Philippians 1:1), and the same is true for Peter (II Peter 1:1), James (James 1:1), Jude (Jude 1:1) and Timothy (Philippians 1:1). Evidently therefore, one can still be a servant of God, serving however as a son serves his father. This did not happen before Christ's sacrifice, when people were still kept under the law. Then one could only be a servant of God and not a son. It's really very different to be just a servant in someone's business than to be a servant of YOUR FATHER'S BUSINESS.

12.Other passages where the word adoption is used are: Romans 8:15 and Ephesians 1:15.

13.An excellent tool that I have found very helpful and has increased my knowledge a lot is: "The Companion Bible", Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI 49501.