I was at a baptismal service a while ago where one of the two candidates said something that resonated with me;
“God has no grandchildren”
This stuck in my mind. Its a simple phrase, a simple idea, something that is evident and something that is unspoken.
Its always a joy being at baptismal services. The testimonies and stories of lives transformed are wonderful trophies of grace. Its great to see and hear people of a variety of ages publicly witness to the transformation that God has wrought in their lives. As a ‘church kid’ (raised in a Christian family, which is a mixed blessing), who has found his own place in God’s family, I’m always particularly encouraged when young, new Christians state that their faith is separate from their parents. That they are not children of children of God, but children of God in their own right.
God has no grandchildren.
It is easy to rest on our parents laurels. Or their resources. Or their favour. And rightly so, in many cases. But that can be dangerous. And assumes that everyone has an idyllic upbringing with perfect parents. Which no-one does. God uses radical language throughout the bible regarding his people. In the New Testament, we see the earliest followers of Jesus exploring this language. The earliest Christians realise that they, through Jesus, are children of God.
The prologue to John’s Gospel announces this as central to the Gospel message (John 1:12-13):
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God”
The evangelist here makes it clear that receiving Jesus, believing in his name, gain something. They gain something amazing. They gain the “right to become children of God”. This is a radically different status from anyone else, and everything changes.
The 1st Johannine Epistle goes on in this theme, exploring in 3:1-10 the radical reality of what it means to be a child of God. Here, we see why Christians do not easily fit in this world; “the reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him“. We also see a crucial part of the reason why Jesus came into the world; “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil“. What is most radical comes in verses 9 and 10, where we see that to be a child of God is to be one who does not sin, because he/she is born again. This is what being born again means: and it is a process, no-one (especially this blogger) is perfect straight away. Being a child of God is to be transformed by God. Radically. Into a perfect life, echoing that of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Paul emphasises the sonship of Christians in Romans 8:16-17:
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
Paul is excited to be a child of God. An adopted joint-heir with Christ of God’s kingdom and riches. Receiving of the Spirit of God. Living for life, not for death. And the Holy Spirit, God himself, bear witness with us that we are children of God. This is the exciting part. Its a tricky process working out ones identity as a child of God. A tricky process working out how to show the love of Christ through ourselves, in our own unique way, using our own unique giftings. But that is part of it.
Paul, John and Jesus don’t use the language of grandchildren. Every follower of Jesus is adopted as an equal co-heir of the kingdom with Jesus. Sons and Daughters.
Maybe, like me, you were brought up by Christian parents. You may rejoice, or your may resent it. Regardless, do not rest easy on their parenthood. The eternal father is the one whose parentage we must seek. We want to be children of God – and that happens through and with Jesus.
Maybe, like me, you find it easy to be discouraged by the disconnect of God’s promises and everyday life. I believe that there is deep encouragement to be found in Gods Word, specifically in what it says about our new identity in Christ as children of God.