I grew up in the 60s. I was 10 in 1960, so I would say my formative years were throughout the 60s. I vividly recall the phrase “child of God” being used during those years. In fact, according to the secular movement of those who were cool, everyone was a child of God.
Fast forward about 57 years. Things have not really changed that much when it comes to how being a child of God is seen in our society. When I talk with people, whether they are religious or not, many of them say that everyone is a child of God.
When you Google the phrase “child of God,” you encounter hundreds of hits. You have to wade through them, but in doing so you find that many people in our society today still believe that everyone is a child of God.
The reason for this is simple. People who believe in the existence of God often believe that if God is our Creator, no matter how He brought about that creation, then certainly everyone who is created by Him must be a child of God. One thing that may not surprise you is many religions teach that everyone is a child of God.
Why might these social and religious views regarding this phrase be of concern to us? When you talk with people regarding the issue of God and a need for salvation, many who believe they are already a child of God do not see a pressing need to pursue the subject because they already believe they are a child of God. Thus, in their mind, what loving God would not accept one of His children into His eternal dwelling?
I must admit such reasoning is understandable. In fact, I would say the Bible agrees that if you are a child of God, you do not need to fear being separated from God when you die. So I guess the question is: “Who does the Bible say is a child of God?” This isn’t a difficult question to answer, if you are willing to do a little reading through the Bible.
The first place we can look is in the Gospel of John in chapter 1, verse 12. There it says “as many as receive Him, to them He gives the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” When it speaks of receiving “Him” it is speaking of Jesus. That statement should cause us to ask, “If I am already a child of God, why would I need to receive the right to become a child of God?” That is a great question; in fact, that is the right question to ask.
Every single person is created in the image of God, but that doesn’t mean they are a child of God. Michelangelo carved the statue of David. It is an amazing image of the human male. But although its likeness to us is striking, it has no life; it is not a child of the human race. This is the way it is with people. We are created in God’s image, but without the light of His life in us, we are not His children.
That is why Jesus said we are to believe He is the One the Father sent to be our Savior. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one, not one single person, comes to the Father except through faith in Jesus. He also said unless we believe that He is the Promised One sent by the Father, we will die in our sins. (John 8:24) So to avoid perishing in our sins, we must believe that Jesus alone is the Savior.
This is what the Bible means when it says you must believe: Jesus alone suffered and paid for our sins on the cross, died in our place, and then rose from the dead three days later, victorious over sin and death for all who believe in Him. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) It means you acknowledge your sin and repent of it, turning away from sin, and you put your faith in Jesus as the only source of forgiveness for sin, and the only way to receive the gift of eternal life.
God tells us that He gives eternal life to those who believe in Jesus. He who has Jesus has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11-12)
Jesus was born to live among us so that we might see God’s great love for us, and because He desires that we choose to become one of His children through Christ. I hope the people who say they are a child of God say that because they want to be a child of God. If that is the case, then it is our mission and privilege to tell them that can only occur by obedience to the Son of God, Jesus the Christ. Galatians 3:26 reminds us that becoming a child of God occurs only through faith in Jesus Christ.
Jon McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.