INTRODUCTION: This devotional series is based on J.I. Packer’s classic work, Knowing God. There is no greater quest, no more important activity, nothing that should be a higher priority than getting to know God. Too many Christians know about God without making their time with him personal. These devotionals are designed to challenge you to ask questions of yourself, bring these questions before God, make you think, and transform your relationship with God. My prayer is that your study will overflow in emotion, in touching your heart, in connecting with God, and sharing your relationship with others. The book consists of 22 Chapters, thus this series last 22 days. Dig in! 

Reflections on Chapter 19: Sons of God

The richest definition of a Christian is one who has God as his father. There is a false teaching that all people are children of God, a concept not in the Bible. God loves his entire creation, but the Bible emphasizes the specialness of being God’s children.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:26-29)

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. (John 1:12)

Old Testament Names of God

The Bible uses many names for God, but Father is the ultimate name. Genesis 1:1 introduces us to “Elohim” – emphasizing God as Creator. Abraham called God “Adonai, Adonai” – translated in the NIV as “Sovereign LORD,” emphasizing the elevated position of God as Master. God used the covenant name “YHWH” (I AM) to emphasize his eternal nature with Moses. Israel proclaimed ‘holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts’ to emphasize his majesty, purity, and holiness. God told Moses to tell Pharaoh, “Israel is my firstborn son,” the first time God emphasized his relationship as father to the nation. Jeremiah echoed God’s fatherhood in 31:9: “I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son.”

New Testament Fatherhood

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus introduces God to the disciples as “your heavenly Father,” teaching disciples to pray “Our Father in heaven.” In John 1:12, John introduces the concept that believers have the right to become children of God. John emphasizes the concept that Jesus considered God his Father, even that Jesus was nearly stoned for calling God his Father, “making himself equal with God” (Jn 5:18). However, John primarily emphasizes God as Jesus’ father, or “the Father,” until after the resurrection, when Jesus proclaims to Mary, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (Jn 20:17). Jesus clearly expanded the concept of God’s fatherhood to individuals, not just a nation.

The pinnacle of New Testament teaching about our relationship with God is that God is now our father. Paul explains that our sonship comes through God adopting us (Gal 4:4, Eph 1:5) and making us full heirs of his kingdom.

The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Rom 8:15-17)

Jesus is not ashamed to call (us) brothers and sisters (Heb 2:11)

John describes the wonder of being God’s children:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God. (1 John 3:1-2a)

As children we now confidently draw near to God (Heb 4:16). God’s fatherly relation implies:

1.     Authority – a son does what the Father wills (John 6:38, 17:4, 5:19, 4:34)

2.     Affection – the Father loves the son (5:20, 15:9)

3.     Fellowship – sons are not alone because the Father is with us (16:32, 8:29)

4.     Honor – God desires to exalt His Son (17:1, 5:22)

Adoption Principles

1.     Adoption is the highest privilege the gospel offers, higher than justification, which is the primary blessing. Adoption is a family idea while justification is a legal/forensics term. Adoption is a binding blessing, bringing the stability of family into our relationship with God.

2.     The entire Christian life must be understood in relation to our adoption.

a.     Here am I and the children God has given me (Heb 2:12)

b.     Whoever does the will of God is Jesus’ brother or sister (Mark 3:35)

c.      Think of the sermon on the mount as the royal family code the Father gives his children

d.     We imitate our Father (Eph 5, Matt 5:44,48)

e.     We glorify our Father (Matt 5:16)

f.      We please the Father (Matt 6:1-18)

g.     We pray to “our Father” (Matt 6:9) who will treat us as sons (7:7-11)

h.     We trust our Father rather than worry (Matt 6:25-33)

3.     Adoption demonstrated the greatness of God’s grace (1 John 3:1). Adoption is by God's choice an act of free kindness.

4.     Adoption shows us the glory of the Christian hope.

5.     Adoption shows us that heaven will be a family gathering.

6.     Adoption gives us the key to understanding the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We have received the Spirit of adoption, that allows us to cry, “Abba, father” (Rom 8:15, Gal 4:4). The Spirit continually prompts us to act as God’s children, through the work of sanctification.

7.     Adoption reveals the motive for holiness: “All who have this hope purify themselves, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

8.     Adoption reveals God’s desire to discipline us, as children, for our holiness (Heb 12:6-12).

9.     Adoption reveals God’s desire to be with us in heaven – he longs to be face-to-face with his children!

10.   Adoption combats legalism, for understanding God’s love is a pure motivation.

God humble us, instruct us, and make us true sons – in your image.