I’m doing a series on everyone being a child of God. My first post contains most of the biblical reasons for believing everyone is a child of God. My second post highlights some significant implications. My third post looked at what happens when our Father in Heaven is disowned. Now I’ll look at a common objection:
Doesn’t the NT talk about adoption, about Christians becoming children of God? Does that mean non-Christians aren’t God’s children?
I used to respond by saying that everyone is a child of God but only in some very limited sense—perhaps that everyone has an earthly/old nature but only Christians have a spiritual/new nature. While Paul does use the old vs new language, I was uncomfortable as I didn’t think the response did justice to the passages in my first post. So I was excited to discover two alternatives for addressing the conundrum. The first one I found in Spencer Boersma’s discussion of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and I’ll explain and build on it here.
I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”
Luke 15:18-19 (cf v21), ESV
While the son knows his father is still his father, and addresses him as such, he rightly sees that he hasn’t acted as a son should—that he doesn’t deserve to be called a son, nor treated as one. From his perspective, he feels he has forfeited his place in the family and can now only hope to be a hired servant. So when the father exuberantly welcomed him back into the family, the son understandably felt that he was being adopted.
To apply this to our question, everyone has walked away from God and hasn’t acted as children of God should—we haven’t been living in a healthy relationship with Him. However, given it’s impossible to lose our biological connection to our parents and siblings, I think it’s logical to believe it’s impossible to lose our supernatural connection to our Father and Brother. Therefore, each and every person remains a child of God.
But, like the prodigal son, we can only truly enjoy the benefits of being in His family when we come to our senses; when we realise our need for Him; when we return home. Our “adoption” is our home coming—when we act as His children (with the Spirit’s help), and can therefore be acknowledged and treated as such.
|Anonymous stranger||Heralded/introduced as the father’s son|
|No privileges/position||Privileges/position of a son = “adoption” 1|
|Focused on self||Focused on the father|
In part B, I’ll look at related approach, which I think really reinforces the one above.
1. or huiothesia (see part B).