Knowing God: Children of God

This is the final part of my lent series on J.I. Packer’s ‘Knowing God’ – first post here.

I’ve now finished reading ‘Knowing God’, and I found it to be an excellent book! I’d like to blog on just one more chapter – although all of them were helpful. The chapter in question talks about being adopted by God. This is a subject we also covered in our Christian Doctrine class recently, so it’s been on my mind!

I’d like to start by asking a deceptively simple question: should everyone – including non-Christians – be taught the Lord’s Prayer?

Let me refresh you how it starts, from Jesus’ words in Matthew 6.9: “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘
Our Father in heaven…'” Notice how it starts: ‘Our Father…’ Can everyone say that? Are we, to put it bluntly, all ‘children of God’?

This is something of a hot potato issue, because there are many who would answer yes to that question. I mean, God created us all, didn’t he? But actually, what I’ve been learning is that we don’t all have the same privileges of calling God Father.

This is spelled out clearly by the apostle Paul in Romans 8.14-17:

… those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, 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.

Similarly, Paul says in Ephesians 1.4-5, “In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”

What I believe Paul is saying is that, actually, being able to call God Father is not automatic. It’s not a given. It is instead a privilege of ‘adoption to Sonship’ – a technical legal term which would have meant, in the Roman world, being adopted as a Son to be an heir and receive the family inheritance.

But, what is amazing is that if we are adopted, we do have the privilege of calling God ‘Our Father’. We will receive the glorious inheritance which he has lined up for us. It’s a truly amazing thought.

Furthermore, being able to call God ‘Our Father’ is being drawn into the Trinitarian life of God. I’ve been studying John’s Gospel this term (and loving it), and I’ve been struck by how deeply Trinitarian it is. Let me conclude by quoting the words of Jesus from John 10:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

Amazing words, and a great place to finish this mini-series. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, brief though it has been. I’ve been thinking about blogging some more on John’s Gospel (as I said, I’ve been enjoying it). Stay tuned 🙂

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