I have been thinking about this question for months now. It first came to my mind when I got interested in this Lordship Salvation debate that keeps flying around cyberspace. It was a question that I think relates directly to the issue. I am a child of God – having been born into his family by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit through faith that was wrought by the Word of God. Must I prove to myself ... or others ... that I am His child?
My children are my children. I gave birth to them. My husband and I were married and ... through biological processes, they were brought forth to be members of our family. Must they prove that they are our children? Must they look like us? (Adopted children don’t look like their parents. Are they any less the child of their mother and father? Don’t say that!) I have thought of the implications for adopted children. People bring a child that is not theirs biologically into their family by legal means. Does such a child have to prove that he is their child in order to remain a member of the family? Do they have to exhibit certain characteristics to bear out the fact that they have truly been adopted by those parents? Behave a certain way?
Certainly they must not look like their daddy!
I see both natural birth and adoption as very useful comparisons to the status of a child of God. The Word of God itself uses this "child" illustration to tell us who we are.
12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1)
1Whosoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loves him that begat loves him also that is begotten of him. (1 John 5)
I ran across this verse below and wondered why Peter uses the phrase “being born-again” as though it is something continually happening. I think he must be talking of the renewing of our minds with the Word of God.
23Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides for ever. (1 Peter 1)
This verse below is one that is probably used by some to suggest that if we currently don’t “bear the image of the heavenly” then we can’t possible have been born of God.
48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. (1 Cor. 15)
I can’t help but notice, though, that it says “we shall.” If I knew more about tenses, I could comment on that. Either way – if it is saying that we DO currently bear the image of the heavenly – or that WE SHALL bear the image – I am convinced both are true! In fact, the Bible takes it a step further:
18We know that whoever is born of God does not sin (1 John 5)
Look in the mirror. Do you see God? Do you feel that you have arrived at Christ-likeness? I don’t. However, there is an “inward man” that is perfectly untainted by sin and the flesh. She is the real me that will go on to live in the presence of God. She is the offspring of God. The “old man” is the me that has been around since I was born of the flesh and it will finally perish completely when my body dies. I believe the Christian – the “born-again one” has two natures. We must strengthen the inward man by feeding on the Word, by fellowship with God and other Christians. I know not all Christians see it this way. Their views just don’t make sense to me, though. How else can the different things be said of the Christian all be true, unless there are two distinct natures within us? … else you would have to be able to look in the mirror and see that you have arrived at Christ-likeness. (I just added some links to posts that I did a while back on the subject of “dual natured” in my sidebar for reference to this point - and I also added some other things under "posts of note".)
So … do we have to prove that we are born into the family of God?
Does 1 John 5 provide a litmus test to the children of God? None of us may be sure that we are of our Father in heaven if it does. In fact, I would think all of us would believe we were not His children according to that verse, if it is a litmus test.
We have to face it: born-again children of God (the only kind there are) are not perfect yet. We are still dragging around a corpse. It stinketh. (Romans 7:24) The only way you can know if you are His child is by asking yourself the same thing that Jesus asked of Martha:
Do you believe this? Do I believe this?
25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11)
What does she believe? Does she simply believe in God? No, she believes specific things about Christ –
She agrees with Jesus about His statement:
* That through faith, even though destined for death, those who believe IN HIM will live.
* That He is the resurrection and the life (I would like to unpack that some day)
* That He is the Christ
* That He is the Son of God
* That He is “the One” promised
Do you believe this? Then you don’t have to PROVE that you are God’s child by doing this or that. You don’t have to walk an aisle, you don’t have to say a prayer, you don’t have to “look like” God to be assured that you are His child. You don’t have to love a lot, or serve a lot or do many wonderful works in His name. You don’t have to cast out demons; you don’t have to prophecy in His name. You don’t have to attend church every Sunday. You must not necessarily like all the Christians that you meet. You must not give up this sin or that sin… You don’t have to give away all that you have to the poor to prove that you are God’s child. You don’t have to have an “experience” … or speak in tongues … or tithe. Knowing that you are a chid of God is not about doing ... it is about the non-doing of faith. Just like my new baby - when that one comes - will not do anything, but BE MY CHILD.
However, as they move along in life, children get along much better with their parents and have much more familial blessing when they do certain things in the family. My intention is to write a post about that soon.
In order to be found in the family of God you must receive Him by faith in His promise and His ability to deliver on His promise because of who He is ... just like Martha did. 12But as many as received him … (John 1:12) In this way - this "receiving - being born-again seems a little different than the passive act of a child being birthed by a mother.
I don’t think my Calvinist friends … or my Free-Grace friends …. agree with me that it is not passive.