“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3).
In this text the aged apostle John writes with wonder at the fact that Christians are “children of God.” He says we don’t know all about what that means for us in the future, but there was enough he did know that he was very excited about it.
He wants Christians to think about what it means to be a child of God. He wants them to “see” (behold) the kind of love God has for human beings that He calls those who believe in the Son His children. Are we as joyous and enthusiastic as John. Do we “see” what it means to be children of God?
The Greek word used here, “tekna” (a little child),contains the idea of origin or descent, but also that of personal relation. To be a child of God means that we are “offspring” of God – we derive our being from Him – we are part of the Father’s family – we are His spiritual dependents.
There is another word “huioí”which, too, conveys the ideas of origin, and of personal relation, but the latter in the fuller form in which it appears in mature age. A related term, “huiothesia,” “son–placing” or adoption does not refer to taking a child that is not naturally one’s own and making that child legally one’s own. This word refers to a practice common among the Greek and Roman people of the first century of declaring a son of full age (at 30) and to be entitled to all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of membership in a family to which one already belongs. The word also can be translated as “sonship.” The word conveys the idea not of taking one into one’s family, but placing a son in a position of responsibility. It is a declaration that one is mature and ready to take on the duties of full adulthood.
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:14-15).
One cannot but compare the declaration of the heavenly Father at the baptism of Jesus…
“…and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17).
Incidentally, Jesus was 30 years of age when the Father made this statement. He was placed by the Father as His Son into the role He came to fulfill. He was beginning His personal ministry. He was assuming the role of the full-grown, mature Son of God.
How do we get to be a child of God? We are born into God’s family. We are sons of God by faith. “…for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (Galatians 3:26).
We enter the family of God by the new birth.
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;” (1 Pet. 1:22-23).
The child of God has certain responsibilities.
We must be like the Father.
“…that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, (Philippians 2:15).
What a privilege it is to have God as our Father! To be known as children of the Most High! To know He is near and will hear us when we call on Him in prayer. To be able to address Him as “Abba! Father!” because we have been declared by Him to be His children. To know He walks with us through the dark valleys, protecting and shielding us from Satan’s attacks.
What an inheritance the children of God are entitled to! Did you know the children of God are to inherit the world? God made a promise to the Son; “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession.” (Psalm 2:8). We cannot say this does not pertain to us. Don’t you know that we are to be “joint heirs” with Him?
“For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” (Romans 4:13).
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5).
We will receive God Himself. Romans 5:2b: “…we rejoice in hope of the glory of God…” We have the hope that we will personally behold and enjoy the glory of God. What a wonderful thing it will be to be in His immediate presence, to see for ourselves the wonder of His being. As children of God, our greatest desire should be to be with Him eternally and bask in the sunshine of His smile! And to thank Him personally for everything He has done to make us His own.
We will receive redeemed and glorified bodies.
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22-23).
That will take place at the last day when the whole creation will be set free to enjoy the “freedom and glory of the children of God.” (v. 21).
“O how we need to cultivate a great taste for him and his fellowship. If he is not precious to you, what a stranger you are to your inheritance! If you love his gifts, think on how wonderful the giver must be. And think what an insult it is to take a gift from someone’s hand and delight in it more than you delight in the giver. God himself is our portion. We were made for him. And all the good things that he has made for us are meant to reveal more of him and send our hearts singing to God.” (John Piper).