By Irvin Himmel
Prayerful thought needs to be given to this question. A person may suppose that he is a child of God when in fact he is not. The word of God discloses the mind of God on this important subject.
A Child of God Is One Who Has Entered the Family of God
The Jews were considered as children of God because of the covenant that Jehovah made with the nation of Israel. Moses reminded them, “Ye are the children of the Lord your God . . . For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth” (Deut. 14:1, 2).
In the New Testament, becoming a child of God is an individual mat- ter. Jesus Christ “came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God” John 1:11-13). Paul explained the process in Galatians 3:26, 27 as follows: “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
We do not enter the family of God by a physical birth but by “being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:23). The individual who believes in Jesus Christ has the power or right to become a child of God. When his faith is exercised by being baptized into Christ, he becomes a child of God by putting on Christ.
A Child of God Is One Who Is Led by the Spirit of God
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). It is by means of the word of God that the Spirit leads, hence Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
There is more to one’s being led by the Spirit than submitting to the gospel by believing and being baptized into Christ. One must continue to walk by the Spirit. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). To become a child of God one must follow the directions of the Spirit in God’s word, and the true child of God walks by the Spirit. Being led by the Spirit of God is a continuous process.
A Child of God Is One Who Is an Heir of God
‘The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:16, 17). An “heir” is a person who is bequeathed something; he has an inheritance. The heavenly Father provides for his children “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven” for them (1 Pet. 1:3, 4).
The inheritance of the saints is made available in Christ (Eph. 1:11). After Paul explains that we are children of God by faith when we are baptized into Christ, he states, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). What a privilege it is to be considered as sons! “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:6, 7).
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God . . . Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear 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 (1 John 3:1, 2).
A Child of God Is One Who Partakes of the Character of God
“In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother” (1 John 3:10). “For whosoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).
God expects his children to be holy. After John mentioned the exceptional love by which we can be called the sons of God and have the hope of seeing him as he is, these words were penned: “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3).
Peter wrote along this same line: “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:14-16).
The conduct and character of a Christian indicate his spiritual parentage. If one’s life is cumbered with sin, rebellion, and impurity, his claim of being a child of God will not be taken seriously. The true child of God walks in the light and confesses his sins (1 John 1:7, 9), thereby being cleansed of unrighteousness. In his first epistle, John sets forth a number of ways in which one may test himself as to the genuineness of his claim that he is a child of God. When professing Christians are no different from the world except in church affiliation, they are not children of God. To use the language of Jesus, “By their fruits ye shall know them.”