How do we become God's beloved?
"Beloved, now we are children of God"
I love Galatians 3:23 through 4: 7. In verses 23 and 24 Paul explains what the role of the law was: it was a taskmaster for the time before the faith. It then goes on and tells us what happened when faith came:
Galatians 3: 25-26
“But after faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian; for you are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus. "
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus”! Believing in Jesus Christ, believing that He is the Son of God, the Anointed One, the Messiah, makes us God's children, His sons and daughters! The gospel means good news, and it is GOOD NEWS indeed! “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved,” said Paul and Silas to the jailer in Philippi (Acts 16:31). “You are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus,” adds the Word. Then chapter 4 in Galatians continues:
Galatians 4: 1-7
“But I say: As long as the heir is underage, he differs in no way from a slave, although he is master of everything; but he is under guardians and administrators until the term set by the father. So when we were minors we too were enslaved to the elements of the world; but when the fulness of time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might be sonship ["adoption as sons" according to the King James Bible , Translator's Note]. But because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, who called out: Abba, Father! So you are no longer a slave, but a son; but if son, then also inheritance through God. "
Verses 6 and 7 again call us sons of God, His children. God has promised this by sending the Spirit of His Son into our hearts calling out "Abba"1 (Papa), father! I have read this section many times and I enjoy it every time. However, there is something in it that usually confused me a little. And that is the word "adoption" in verse 5. As we know, adopted children are not linked to adoptive parents by birth. I believe we agree that while it is a wonderful thing to be God's child, it is one thing to be an adopted child where God did not create you by birth and another thing to be a child of Him to be because you were born through Him. So with this article I want to go to scripture with you and see what the Word of God says about being God's children. The following questions are answered:
How do you become a child of God?
What do you need for that?
Is it possible through birth or adoption?
I firmly believe that by the end of this article we will have clear answers to these questions from the only authorized source available: the Word of God.
The word "adoption"
The phrase “adoption as sons” used above is the translation of a Greek word: the word “υιοθεσία” (uiothesia). This word is composed of the word “uios”, which means something like son and the word “thesis”, which means something like insert. “Uiothesia” therefore means something like “set up as sons”. To better understand its meaning in Galatians 4, let's look at the context. Galatians 3: 23-4: 4 speaks of children under a teacher. Children who were heirs were nothing but slaves at the time. In other words, children who, despite being children, had the hierarchy of slaves:
Galatians 4: 1-3
“But I say: As long as the heir is underage, he differs in no way from a slave, although he is master of everything; but he is under guardians and administrators until the term set by the father. So, when we were minors [in Greek: “nepioi”, small children who are unable to speak, a little older than babies - does not correspond to “uioi”, the word translated as “sons” in Galatians) ] were enslaved among the elements of the world; "
Galatians 3: 1-2 gives us an example of an heir who is under guardians and stewards until the term set by the Father. As long as he is in this stage, as long as the time set by the father has not come, he is like a slave, in spite of his son. “So were we, too,” says Galatians 4: 3, before the term set by the Father we had the rank of slave, enslaved to the elements of the world. Then verses 4-5 tell us what happens next:
Galatians 4: 4-5
“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive the uiothesia [the institute as a son]."
The word “but” at the beginning of verse 4 contrasts what follows with what precedes. What was the situation before? The father's appointed deadline had not yet come; we had the rank of slave; we were among the elements of the world; we were among discipline masters, guardians and administrators. However, the word "BUT" introduces a change in the situation. What is this change about? The fulfillment of the time, the time appointed by the Father! God sent His Son to deliver those who were under the law, and from the rank of slave we are now given the place of sons. We can see the same thing in the words of Galatians 3: 23-26 as well.
Galatians 3: 23-26
“But before faith came, we were kept under the law, including the faith that was to be revealed. So the law became our instructor towards Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come we are no longer under a disciplinarian; for you are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus. "
There was a time "before faith came". That was the time of the law, the time of the disciplinarian, the time of the guardians and administrators from Galatians 4. This was the time when we had the rank of slaves. But then came faith, the fulfillment of time. Christ came! The taskmaster, the guardian and the administrator, the law that governed all of this went away. We are no longer among them, nor are we slaves any longer. Instead, we now have the rank of son.
In other words, the word “uiothesia” used in Galatians 4 translated as “adoption as sons” would be much better translated as “the rank of son”. This word is not used to tell us that God is our adoptive father as the translation makes it appear, but that through the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, with the coming of faith, we have traded our rank and we instead of that Rank of slave have the rank of son. It is not about our relationship with God in terms of adopted or brought into the world, but in terms of the rank of sons versus the rank of slaves.
Born of God - not adopted
The fact that the above verses from Galatians and the word “uiothesia” do not mean that God is our adoptive father can also be proven by a multitude of Bible verses which make it clear that we did not adopt God but put God into the world Children are. Starting with John 1:12 we read:
"As many as welcomed him [the Lord Jesus Christ], he gave them the right to become children of God, those who believe in his name [the name of Jesus Christ];"
The word “children” here is the Greek word τέκνα (tekna), which means something like “which is born (from τίκτω, to give birth)2”. It is a word that “emphasizes the fact of birth3”. In fact, the next verse makes it very clear. Let's read this together with the above verse:
John 1: 12-13
“As many as welcomed him [the Lord Jesus Christ], he gave them the right to become children of God, those who believe in his name [the name of Jesus Christ]; who are not born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. "
Who were these children of God from verse 12 born from? Verse 13 answers it: out of God they were born! So obviously connects us with God when we are born of God, birth and not adoption!
The next passage that testifies that birth, not adoption, binds us to God and makes Him a true Father to us is in John 3: 3-8. There we find Jesus and Nicodemus (a Jewish teacher) talking about a second BIRTH.
John 3: 3-8
“Jesus answered and said to him [Nicodemus]: Verily, verily, I say to you, if a man is not born again [but in Greek it means“ born from above ”], he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus said to him: How can a person be born when he is old? Can he go into his mother's womb a second time and be born? Jesus answered: Verily, verily, I say to you, if one is not born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the spirit is spirit. Do not be surprised that I told you: You must be born again [in Greek "born from above"]. The wind blows where it wants and you hear its rustling, but you don't know where it comes from or where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit. "
As Jesus makes it clear, there are two births. The first birth is birth out of the water or out of the flesh. This is physical birth, and all people who have ever lived on earth were born this way. In addition, there is another birth which, as Jesus makes clear, is a prerequisite for entering the kingdom of God. This is "birth from above". Many translators have translated this as "born again". Although this is indeed a second birth and therefore it is correct to say that we are born again4, is what the Greek word says here, “born from above”, which also means something like “born of God who is from above”.
We saw earlier in John that the Word speaks of those born of God who believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here the Lord speaks of “born from above”. Both are one and the same and emphasize that a second BIRTH is necessary to bring us into the kingdom of God. This is the birth of God or the birth from above or the birth out of the spirit, as it is also called in the above verse. See again that the Word does not speak of adoption. Jesus did not say that we are adopted by God, but that we are born of God. It is this birth that makes us children of God and gives us the right to call God Papi (Abba) Father. We could of course also call Him Father if we had been adopted by Him, but obviously this is not about adoption, but about birth. However, let's go ahead and go to the first chapter of John. There we read:
1 John 5: 1
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and everyone who loves him who gave birth loves him who was born of him. "
We saw earlier in John's Gospel and also in Galatians that someone becomes a child of God when he believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is repeated here again. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ, i.e. the anointed one, the Messiah, is born of God. It's so simple and it's so good! Gospel means good news, and that IS really good news!
If we go further, we can also see this truth in 1 Peter 1:23, where we read:
1 Peter 1:23
"For you are not born again from perishable seed, but from imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God."
Again Peter speaks of a new birth: the second birth, the birth of God, of which John also spoke. It is a birth not from perishable but from perishable seed and the fact of this birth comes through the living and abiding Word of God.
Thus 1 John 3: 1-2 tells us, as in 1 Peter 1:23:
1 John 3: 1-2
“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God! And we are. That is why the world does not recognize us, because it did not recognize him. Beloved, now we are children of God ... ”
Now we are children of God. Not tomorrow, not when we die ... NOW !! How? By believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah. This is not something that is promised for the future. It is a today's reality and it is available to you now! As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6: 2:
2 Corinthians 6: 2
“For he [God] says:" At the welcome time I have heard you, and on the day of salvation I have helped you. " Behold, now is the most welcome time, behold, now is the day of salvation. "
“In anticipation of sonship” - Romans 8:23
After seeing what 1 John tells us and that we are now children of God by faith in Jesus Christ, let's go to Romans 8:23. There we read:
“Not only they, but also ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we too groan in ourselves and await sonship; [uiothesia - to be appointed as sons] the redemption of our body. "
It is very easy to get confused reading the above verses as it looks like we are still waiting to be instituted as sons while Galatians says that Jesus Christ came to receive sonship and John tells us that we are children of God NOW. The key to avoiding this confusion is the word “uiothesia”. If someone understands this word as adoption, as the English translation translates this word, then we are definitely confused. Adoption is just as specific a time as it is birth. There is an exact date and time of birth when we are first born (it is the date and time that is on your birth certificate) and there is an exact date and time of birth when we are second born ( it is the date and time when you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead). There is also an exact date and time when someone is adopted (it is the date and time when the adoptive parents sign the papers). So if we translate “uiothesia” with adoption, then this exact date and time - according to Romans 8 - has not yet occurred! We're not even adopted by God because we're still waiting for it. But this misunderstanding is artificial and arose from the fact that the word “uiothesia” is translated as adoption. The correct translation is "to be instituted as a son" and to understand its meaning we need to look at the context, starting with verse 18:
Romans 8: 18-25
“For I think that the sufferings of the present time do not weigh against the future glory that is to be revealed in us. For the longing waiting of creation waits for the revelation of the sons of God. Because creation has been subjected to nothingness - not voluntarily, but by him who has subjected it - in the hope that even creation will be freed from the bondage of impermanence to the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Because we know that all of creation sighs together and is in labor pangs together until now. But not only they, but also ourselves, who have the firstfruits gift of the Spirit, we too groan in ourselves and await sonship [the institution as sons]; the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved. But hope that is seen is not hope. Because who hopes what he sees? But if we hope what we do not see, then we wait with perseverance. "
Paul tells us about creation that it is subject to nothingness. She is under the bondage of impermanence. She sighs and is in labor. This is great pain! And not creation, we too, who have the FIRST GIFT of the spirit! We too, sigh over ourselves, and wait for better, the redemption of the body, for the time when the Lord will come back and transform these mortal, fragile bodies into immortal, immortal bodies like His body. We sigh and look forward to the time when we will see face to face. For as Paul says:
1 Corinthians 13:12
“Because we now see indistinctly by means of a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know bit by bit, but then I will know how I was also known. "
There is a “now” and a “then”. Now we look in a mirror, but THEN face to face! Now we only know in part, THEN we will know how we too have been known! Now creation sighs and we with it, but THEN it will be freed from this bondage to impermanence! Now we have the FIRST GIFT of the spirit, which also means that a time will come when we will have the abundance! We are now sons of God, born of God, children of the Almighty, brothers of Jesus Christ as He calls us in Hebrews 2: 11-12, but that is not full sonship. Full sonship is when we see face to face, when we know how we too have been known. So yes, we are now employed as sons and daughters of God, but yes again, there will be a lot more to come! And yes, we now have the firstfruits gift of the Spirit, but it is also true that it is the FIRSTFruits gift and there is still a lot to come. When? When the Lord comes again! When creation will be freed from the bondage of impermanence; when we see face to face! When the engagement to Christ (2 Corinthians 11: 2) becomes a wedding (Revelation 19).
We close this article with Romans 8: 14-17
Romans 8: 12-17
“So then, brothers, we are not debtors to the flesh to live according to the flesh; for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if you kill the acts of the body by the Spirit you will live. For as many as are guided by the Spirit of God, they are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of bondage, again to fear, but you received a spirit of uiothesia [sonship] in which we cry: Abba, Father! The spirit itself, together with our spirit, testifies that we are children of God. But if children, then also heirs, heirs of God and co-heirs of Christ, if we really suffer with them, so that we can also be glorified. "
By faith we become children of God and we receive holy spirit. By living in that Spirit, by being guided by that Spirit, we are children of God in revelation. To put it another way: whether we are really children of God shows in how we live. Real children of God are those who are guided by God's Spirit. Here is the direct link between faith and the practice of faith that runs throughout the New Testament. Real faith always shows itself in practice, through the fruits that are brought forth. James says it very clearly:
James 2: 17-18
“So even if faith has no works, it is dead in itself. But someone will say: You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith without works, and I will show you the faith from my works! "
We are saved not by works but by faith. However, if this belief is genuine, it will always result in appropriate actions by listening to God and His word. The key word is practice (i.e. what you usually do mainly). A true believer, true Son of God, will not practice lawlessness (i.e., living normally as a way of life). We are not talking about a single sin here. We're talking about practicing sin (living it as a habit, a way of life). Likewise, they are those who are guided by the Spirit of God, who live as real sons of God do. To close with Paul:
"If we live by the Spirit, let us walk by the Spirit!"
1. As it says in Vine’s dictionary: “Abba is an Aramaic word ... It is a word from the lips of children, and from unfounded trust; [on the other hand] “father” expresses an intelligent kind of relationship ”(Vine’s dictionary, p.11). Another source says: "As the rabbi says," a small child "learns to say’ abbā ’(papi) and’ immā ’(mommy)." Abba means papi. Papi is the word we normally use when speaking to our earthly father. Both papi and father mean the same thing, but Abba is the more intimate word. It is the word a child uses when calling his father. And God does not limit His children to the word "Father", but He tells us that for us He is Abba, Papa, Papi. This alone shows how personal, intimate, and real the relationship He desires with His children.
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. Indeed, the word uses the phrase “born again” as we will see later in 1 Peter.
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