Knowing God, chapter 19: Sons of God

This chapter will be split in two parts, with part two appearing tomorrow.

The richest answer to, “What is a Christian?” that Packer knows is, “one who has God for his Father.”

Not all men are children of God. In the OT, God is Father to the seed of Abraham (Ex 4:22-23a); in the NT, God is Father to those who’ve put their trust in Christ (Gal 3:26). The gift of sonship comes not through being born, by through being born again (John 1:12-13). It is an adoptive sonship.

The divine fatherhood of God is one aspect of the NT teaching that isn’t found in the OT. Believers as sons of God have a model in Christ and His fellowship with His Father. We learn this from John’s gospel and his first epistle. Packer says:

“In John’s gospel the first evangelical blessing to be named is adoption (1:12), and the climax of the first resurrection appearance is Jesus’s statement that He was ascending to ‘my Father and your Father, my God and your God’ (20:17, NEB). Central in John’s first epistle are the thoughts of sonship as the supreme gift of God’s love (1 John 3:1); of love to the Father (2:15, cf. 5:1-3) and to one’s Christian brothers (2:9-11, 3:10-17, 4:7,21) as the ethic of sonship; of fellowship with God the Father as the privilege of sonship (2:13, 23f.); of righteousness and avoidance of sin as the evidence of sonship (2:29, 3:9 f. – 5:18); and of seeing Jesus, and being like Him, as the hope of sonship (3:3). From these two books together we learn very clearly what God’s fatherhood implied for Jesus, and what it now implies for Christians.”

Jesus’ testimony as recorded in John’s gospel reveals four implications of God’s fatherly relation to Him:

  • It implied authority: John 6:38, 17:4, 5:19, 4:34
  • It implied affection: John 5:20, 15:9-20
  • It implied fellowship: John 16:32, 8:29
  • It implied honour: John17:1, 5:22-23

In and through Jesus Christ, God’s adopted children enjoy all these benefits (1 John 5:1,3; John 16:27; 1 John 1:3; John 12:32, 17:24)

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A) One aspect of the divine sonship is that it is the highest privilege the gospel offers. Justification is unquestionably the primary and fundamental blessing, and the gospel offers it before offering anything else. Everything else in our salvation rests on it—adoption included. However, adoption is a higher blessing than justification because of the richer relationship with God that it involves. Justification views God as Judge; adoption views God as Father. To be right with God the judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the father is greater.

Another wonderful aspect of God’s adoption is that it’s lasting. God isn’t a bad father, and won’t throw His children out of the family. This is a great assurance of His preservation.

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B) The second point about adoption is that the entire Christian life has to be understood in terms of it. Jesus’ knowledge of His unique sonship regulated His earthly life. In the same way, our knowledge of adoptive sonship must control our lives. This comes out in His teaching, and nowhere more clearly than in the Sermon on the Mount, which can be called the code of living for the Kingdom.

From the Sermon on the Mount, we learn the following:

  • adoption is the basis for Christian conduct.
    • The principle of imitating the Father: Matt 5:44-45a, 48. The children must show the family likeness in their conduct.
    • The principle of glorifying the Father: Matt 5:16. Our constant concern must be to act in a way that brings praise to our Father.
    • The principle of pleasing the Father: Mat 6:1-18. Our Father will notice, and be pleased when our efforts are to please Him and Him alone.
  • adoption is the basis for Christian prayer. Jesus taught His disciples to pray saying, “Our Father…” (Matt 6:9). Jesus could say to His Father, “Father I thank you  that you have heard me,” (John 11:41), and the same is true of all God’s children. Consequently, prayer shouldn’t be impersonal or mechanical (Matt 6:7-8); it should be free and bold (7:7-11).

God, being the good Father He is, won’t always give us what we ask for, but what we need. Nor will He ignore His children or disregard their feelings.

  • adoption is the basis of the life of faith, i.e. the life of trusting God for one’s material needs as one seeks His kingdom and His righteousness. Matt 6:25-26, 31-33.