Descriptive Terms of Christians
When God called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light, He used rewards to give us incentive to leave the darkness and to come to Him. One of the rewards is evident from the following quotation:
"Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord.
And do not touch what is unclean;
And I will welcome you.
And I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,
Says the Lord Almighty" (1 Cor. 6:17-18).
The promise of sustaining a Father-child relationship to God is sufficient to motivate us to leave the world and turn to God. Growing out of this relationship to God as children is our relationship to one another as brethren. The term "brethren" is used numerous times in the Scriptures to designate fellow-Christians. Thus, in any study of the descriptive terms applied to Christians, we must consider the terms "children" and "brethren."
Child: A Vertical Relationship
John said, "See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are" (1 Jn. 3:1). When one considers all of the possible relationships which one could sustain to God (e.g. the relationship of enemies, a relationship similar to that of deistic theology, etc), he should marvel that God has so richly blessed us in allowing us to sustain the intimate relationship of Father-child to Him. Our relationship to Him as His children comes from our new birth. His seed abides in us; we are born of God (1 Jn. 3:9). The words of inspiration use the terms descriptive of physical birth to refer to our spiritual descent from God. The seed which is used to beget us is the word of God (1 Pet. 1:23f; 1 Cor. 4:15). Paul referred to this process when he wrote, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ" (Gal. 3:26,27). Every person who has been born again is a child of God.
There are some important blessings which come from being a child of God. (1) An Intimate Relationship to God. Paul wrote, "And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!' " (Gal. 4:6). Again, "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba! Father!'" (Rom. 8:15). The emphasis of these verses is our attitude toward God; we do not approach Him as a slave does his master but as a son does his father. "Abba" is "an Aramaic word. . . . It approximates to a personal name, in contrast to 'Father,' with which it is always joined in the N.T. . . . 'Abba' is the word framed by the lips of infants, and betokens unreasoning trust; 'father' expresses an intelligent apprehension of the relationship. The two together express the love and intelligent confidence of the child" (W.E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. I, p. 9). "Abba" corresponds more nearly to "Da-da," the first word framed by infants in English, than to any other English word. Our relationship to God is described by this intimate human relationship.
(2) His Concern Over Our Prayers. Because of our relationship to God, we can approach Him in prayer as "Our Father who art in heaven" (Mt. 6:9). (This blessing is not available to any non-children.) Because of this relationship, we know that God listens to and answers our prayers. Jesus said, "Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks it shall be opened. Or what man is there among you, when his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he shall ask for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" (Mt. 7:7-11). Reflecting this confidence, John wrote, "And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him" (1 Jn. 5:14,15). The spirit of fear is removed because of our new relationship to God.
(3) Our Heirship. As children of God, we are also heirs of God. Paul said, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ . . ." (Rom. 8:16-17). I do not know everything involved in the idea of being an heir of God, but it is certainly a blessing far superior to being the heir of a rich father on earth!
Because we are descendants of God, we should do our best to imitate our Father. Paul said, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children" (Eph. 5:1). I can remember, as a child, helping my Daddy plant a garden. We always borrowed a mule which was blind in one eye from my Uncle Jim to plow our garden. I used to walk behind my Daddy trying my best to follow in his tracks. I sometimes had to jump from one footprint to the next but I always tried to imitate him. I can also remember the times when I wanted to be a log-hauler just like Daddy. Similarly, we who are children of God ought to imitate our Father. As children, we best imitate God by walking in the light as He is in the light (1 Jn. 3:9-10). The child who imitates God will strive to be as morally pure as is possible.
Brother: A Horizontal Relationship
Whereas the word "child" refers to our relationship to God, "brother" refers to our relationship to each other. Every person who is born of God is my brother or sister; where God has a child, I have a brother. Every person who obeys the Father is a brother or sister of Jesus and of every other obedient person (Mt. 12:46-50). The word "brother" is thrown around so frequently and commonly around the church building that we seldom stop to think what is conveyed by that term. It asserts that we sustain a relationship to one another similar to that which one sustains toward his fleshly siblings. We are brothers and sisters to one another. Regardless of the fact that you were born in the Philippines and I was born in Texas, that you might be black and I am white, that you might speak Italian and I speak English, that you might be rich and I am a middle-income person, we are brothers to one another. We are both descendants of the same Father.
This fact should effect our relationship to one another. Brethren are expected to conduct themselves differently toward each other than unrelated persons do (cf. 1 Cor. 6:8; 1 Tim. 6:2). Because we are brethren, we ought to come to the assistance of each other whenever help is needed. John wrote, "Every one who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world's goods and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?" (1 Jn. 3:15-17). Sometimes, the assistance we give is in time of a spiritual, rather than a financial, crisis. Paul admonished, "Brethren, even if a man ii caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted" (Gal. 6:1).
These facts are so frequently overlooked by Christians that it is not unusual to hear someone referring to "Brother ___________" while he figuratively is knifing him in the back. We must treat one another as brethren. A little less referring to one another as "brother" and a little more treating one another as brethren would not hurt the body of Christ.
Are you a child of the Father? If you have never been born again, you are not a child of God and do not enjoy the benefits pertaining thereto. You do not even have the right to petition God as your "Father who is in heaven." If you are a child of God, do you treat His other children as your brethren? Do you conduct yourself as brothers and sisters should? If not, you may fancy yourself to be a Christian but you are not worthy to wear that precious name because all Christians are brethren. If you do not act as a child, in imitating your Father, and as a brother, in your conduct toward His other children, you are not a faithful Christian.
Truth Magzine, XX:7, p. 12-14