Why Everyone is a Child of God

I often ponder just how much more of a jerk I would be if I didn't happen to believe that all men and women, regardless of their capacity or usefulness, are inestimably precious children of the Creator―John Dickson
John Dickson’s post

I particularly like his point that “all men and women … are inestimably precious children of the Creator”. It is something I’ve been pondering for ages so I thought I’d explore the idea in four posts (drawing a lot from Spencer Boersma’s article):

  1. Why Everyone is a Child of God
  2. Implications of Everyone Being a Child of God
  3. What if We Disown Our Father in Heaven?
  4. Doesn’t the NT also talk about becoming children of God??

I’ll start by looking at where I think the Bible implies everyone is a child of God.

The “image of God” means the child of God

The first place we find God described as a parent is:

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness … So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:26-27, NIV

The same image and likeness language is used to describe the relationship between Adam and his son:

When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.

Genesis 5:3, NIV

Boersma explains that it’s “an ancient way of saying “These are my children”” and we still have a sense of that in the common, “Wow, your baby looks just like you”, compliment. We also find this connection in the NT:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

Colossians 1:15, NIV

His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his substance

Hebrews 1:3, WEB

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

James 3:9-10, NIV

Everyone is a child of Adam and thus a child of God

Another place we find God described as a parent is at the end of the genealogy in Luke:

the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Luke 3:38, WEB

As all humanity comes from Adam, we all inherit his curses (Rom 5:12-21) and blessings―including being a child of God.

God is the Father of everything

I think it’s worth considering Ephesians 4:6:

One God and Father of pás, who is over pás, and through pás, and in pás.

The question is, what is the scope of the Greek pás here? pás is usually translated “all” but when the context is people, it’s appropriate to translate it “everyone” or “all people”; or when the context is creation, it can be “all things”, “everything”, or “everywhere”.

Given verses 4-8 have many people related words―God, Father, body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, “each one of us”, prisoners, and people―it’s possible that pás could be translated “all-people/everyone”, and indeed some translations translate it that way (e.g. CEV, GNT, and ERV).

However, given almost every English translation translates pás as “all-things/everything” in verse 10, it seems most likely that is the scope of verse 6 too (e.g. EXB, ICB, NIRV, NCV, and GW). I think linking parenthood and creator isn’t unique to Ephesians. For example, God’s challenge to Job:

Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens

Job 38:28-9, NIV

And in other OT passages the concepts appear overlapping:

Is this the way you repay the Lord, you foolish and unwise people?
Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?

Deuteronomy 32:6, NIV

Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?

Malachi 2:10, NASB

God is the head of all families

While parental headship isn’t as significant in our culture, hopefully we can still see how this supports God’s universal parenthood:

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.

Ephesians 3:14-15, NIV

Even non-believers are God’s children

In part 4 I will look at the question of why the NT seems to talk about people becoming children of God when they believe but for now I’ll just point out that Paul associates God being Creator, with God being a parent of even non-believers (his audience):

and he [God] gives us the power to live, to move, and to be who we are. “We are his children,” just as some of your poets have said. Since we are God’s children

Acts 17:28-29, CEV

Conclusion

I find it encouraging that Christians across the spectrum, including conservative evangelicals, are acknowledging this life changing (for reasons I’ll explore in my next post) teaching.

In recent years a number of scholars have taken the view that “the image and likeness of God” is the language of family relationship. For example, Graeme Goldsworthy argues that “image and likeness are terms of sonship.” John Dickson writes that “the image of God means that men and women stand in a filial relationship to God; they are his offspring, as it were. They bear the family resemblance.” And Greg Beale holds that “Adam was conceived of as a ‘son of God,’” appealing to Genesis 5:1-3.

… “In the garden, Adam is portrayed by Calvin as the loving son, surrounded with signs of the ‘paternal goodness’ (Institutes I. 14.2) of God. … Adam has no fear at the sight of God, whom he is able to identify as Father.”

Brian Rosner, Image of God as Son of God

8 thoughts on “Why Everyone is a Child of God

  1. Hi Alex,

    beautifully and clearly written, well done. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get time to read it. Reading it today in the wake of the Orlando shootings (and I include Rachel Geimmie) I felt the verses you quote resonate with the evil people do to each other, and the utmost grief God must feel.

    As a parent of an adult son and a rebellious teen, I get a greater understanding of how God feels about us as his children, and how no matter what we do he can never forsake us. However while as a mother, I will never reject my children, I recognise that part of loving them means accepting that they may reject me; and ‘allowing’ them to do so.

    I agree with Lenny Esposito that separation from God is torment, and for as long as a child of God turns his face away from Him, that child will be in torment.

    I’m looking forward to your next instalment.

    Shaelene

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Shaelene! Yes, it’s sobering to consider what happens when we don’t treat everyone as God’s children—the Orlando shootings being yet another tragic example.

      I agree, God feels the pain and suffering even more than we do.

      I agree, the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and indeed most of the OT storyline, is an example of God letting His beloved children reject Him. And both are also examples of the suffering that inevitably occurs when we run away from God, although sometimes there’s a period of “living it up in foreign lands” that deludes us for a while first.

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  2. Pingback: Are only Christians children of God or is everyone??—Part A – Reforming Hell

  3. Pingback: Implications of Everyone Being a Child of God – Reforming Hell

  4. Pingback: What if We Disown Our Father in Heaven? – Reforming Hell

  5. phila

    Please help me to understand that,
    ” Yes, creationally we are all God’s children,But relationally, no we are not.
    To be a child of God, both the belief and the action are necessary.

    John 1:12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

    Matthew 5:45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven…

    Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

    1.corinth. 2:9 However, as it is written:

    “What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
    and what no human mind has conceived”
    the things God has prepared for those who love him

    John 10:3-5 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.

    Romans 8:9-17 But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwells in you. Therefore, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if you live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 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”

    Corinthians 6:14-16 Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what communion has light with darkness? And what concord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has a temple of God with idols? For we are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people”

    If God made us, does that mean we are all Children of God?

    n John 8:24 Jesus said that: “Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
    In Luke 13:1-5 He said that: “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
    In Matt. 18:3 He said that: “Unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” And in John 6:37 Jesus made a distinction — between the Children of God and the children of darkness — when He said:
    “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”
    The apostle John carried it further by saying that
    I John 3:7-15 “the one who practices righteousness is righteous… the one who practices sin is of the devil… By this the children of the God and the children of the devil are obvious. He also said that “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren…”
    We are also told to test what people tell us to see if it is true, for
    I John 4:1-6 “… many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not of God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist… They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
    Matt. 7:21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

    Those who think it is everyone, have to answer these articles in detail,

    https://www.gotquestions.org/all-God-children.html

    http://www.thepathoftruth.com/teachings/are-all-persons-people-children-of-god.htm

    http://heavenshelpers.org/?id=42&page=Does

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    1. Thanks Phila for taking the time to read my post and to push back. You’ve given me a lot to digest but I’ll share my initial thoughts on your first paragraph. I agree that relationally most people, like the Prodigal Son, are still in the “foreign lands” and as far as the father knows, “dead” (Luke 15:32). Humanly speaking, it’s not until the Prodigal Son realises who his father is (belief), turns around (v17), and stumbles home (action), that the relationship can be made alive again—that he can actualise his sonship, be a child of God.

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    2. John 1:12: Being a child of God is even more amazing than being a biological child. Yet, like the Prodigal Son, it needs to be received & believed—otherwise one is still “lost/dead”.

      Matt 5:45: The context, v43-48, is one of my favourite passages. Encouraging us—as His children—to imitate our Father’s amazing love for everyone, even those who hate Him!

      Rom 8:28 & 1Cor 2:9: Both edifying passages, although not sure what you’re saying by it. Because God loves everyone, I think eventually everyone will love Him in return.

      John 10:3-5: Yes, we should joyfully listen & follow the voice of the Good Shepherd.

      Rom 8:9-17: That a dense passage. We absolutely need the Spirit’s help to act as children of God ought—otherwise we are still back at the pigpen, dead in our sin.

      2Cor 6:14-16: I think Paul is saying that a long distance marriage between the Prodigal Son living in the “foreign land” and someone living at home with his father, doesn’t make sense, indeed will probably result in the latter leaving and joining the Prodigal Son in idolatry.

      If God made us, does that mean we are all Children of God?

      I think that’s one of many reasons. I like the way the NLT translates Matt 5:45a, “In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” The Prodigal Son was always a child of his father but he wasn’t a true child until he trusted, returned, and acted as his father’s son ought.

      John 8:24 & Luke 13:1-5: Yes, while the Prodigal Son didn’t trust his father but defied him in the “foreign lands”, he was perishing, and if he had physically died there, he would’ve died in his sins.

      Matt 18:3: The Prodigal Son couldn’t enter into his father’s house until he had turned around physically, mentally, & spiritually—until he acted as a child ought.

      John 6:37: I’d suggest that the “all” that the Father has given Jesus is actually everything, as per John 3:35, “The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.” and John 13:3a, “Jesus knew that the Father had delivered all things into His hands”. This is reinforced by John 6:35, which says Jesus will satisfy the spiritual hunger & thirst of whoever comes to Him. Given Jesus is the only way to satisfy that hunger & thirst, it seems inevitable that eventually everyone will be hungry & thirst enough to seek Him (which is what I think we see starting to happen after Judgment Day in Rev 22:17, “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Let everyone who hears this say, “Come!” Let everyone who is thirsty come! Let anyone who wants the water of life take it as a gift!”

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