From the September/October 2023 issue of Discern Magazine

Becoming Sons and Daughters of God

It’s almost beyond our comprehension, but God loves us so much He wants us to be His children! What does this mean for our life now and for our future?

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Before our first daughter was born, I really couldn’t grasp how much you can love a little bundle of joy . . . and sorrow, of smiles and tears, of butterfly kisses and letting go. Being a father is the most challenging and rewarding endeavor I have experienced.

And so the apostle John’s words hit home:

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).

God is a Father with infinitely more love than we humans have—love to pour into His children—into us! What does it mean to become a child of God? How can we be the kind of sons and daughters He desires?

Family: an underlying theme of the Bible

Family is an underlying theme of the whole Bible. Its many genealogies tie us all together in one human family, and its prophecies give us a glimpse of an eternal family plan.

But ever since Satan poisoned the relationship between God and His children Adam and Eve, families have been under attack. There are surprisingly few examples of ideal fathers or children in the Bible, but we can catch glimpses of the ideal throughout.

For example, Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son describes a patient, merciful and loving father—a father like our Heavenly Father (Luke 15:11-32; see “The Prodigal Son: Parable With Overlooked Meaning”).

God Himself is the only perfect example of a father, and so it is fitting that He is called Father about 250 times in the New Testament.

But who are His children? The Bible actually talks about sons and daughters of God in several ways.

Sons of God by creation

Early in the Bible we read about those who are called sons of God by virtue of being created by God. This includes the angels who shouted for joy at the creation of the earth (Job 38:7). And it includes sinful humans before the Flood (Genesis 6:2) and even Adam himself (Luke 3:38).

But the storyline of the Bible first hints, then clearly states, that God has more in mind when He talks about His children.

“His only begotten Son”

The New Testament introduces us to Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. He was not created, but was with God and was God before anything was created (John 1:1-3; see “Jesus, the Son of God” and “Was Jesus Created?”).

The children God desires will strive to be like Him and to please Him.Out of the Father and Son’s deep love came a plan to expand the family. They wanted to share everything with us in a close family relationship (John 1:12).

God’s plan is all about expanding His family!

This loving plan included a plot twist, however. Through Satan’s influence, each human being has fallen into the evils of sin and has earned an eternal death penalty.

The only way out of this dilemma gives us an even deeper look into the love God has for us—His potential children. In John’s memorable words:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). (To learn more about this important yet often misunderstood verse, read “What Does John 3:16 Mean?”)

Creation awaits the manifestation of the sons of God

Jesus died so people of all nations could be forgiven of their sins and have the opportunity to become children of God (John 11:51-52). And God wants us to become His children in a much deeper way than just being physically created by Him. He wants to give us His spiritual DNA through His Spirit so we can grow to be His spiritual children with His character.

We begin a new life through repentance, baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; see “What Is Conversion?”). Paul said that God’s Spirit “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17).

Jesus Christ inherited all things, and He and the Father want to share it all with us!

Paul went on to write about how the creation “eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God” (verse 19), when it will be delivered from corruption “into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (verse 21).

It’s as if the whole of creation is groaning in birth pangs for our becoming God’s children (verse 22).

This transformation will be complete when God changes or resurrects us to glory in spiritual bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-54).

Characteristics of a child of God

As children of God, how should we act now? How are our minds to be transformed? Consider a few of the biblical characteristics of a child of God:

  • “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
  • “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15).
  • “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments” (1 John 5:2).

The children God desires will strive to be like Him and to please Him. Study more about this in our article “How to Please God.”

“Behold what manner of love”

Let’s go back and read more of 1 John 3: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (verses 1-3).

This incredible hope should inspire and motivate us to purify ourselves and become like Him!

“We shall be like Him”

One of our readers asked, “Will we be God’s literal children or pseudo sons and daughters?” John’s statement that “we shall be like Him” helps confirm that God plans to have real children.

God designed this plan. He gave us the motivation and the hope. And He gives us the help we need as we seek to become like Him—pure, peaceable, blameless and loving.

He loves us so much! How will we respond?

You can start by studying more in our online articles “Children of God” and “Why Were You Born?

About the Author

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett is editorial content manager for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in the Dallas, Texas, area. He coordinates the Life, Hope & Truth website, Discern magazine, the Daily Bible Verse Blog and the Life, Hope & Truth Weekly Newsletter (including World Watch Weekly). He is also part of the Personal Correspondence team of ministers who have the privilege of answering questions sent to Life, Hope & Truth.

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