One of the clearest teachings of Scripture running from Genesis to Revelation is that there are two classes of humanity: those who belong to God and those who do not; those who will live with him forever and those who will not.
This simple yet basic truth is taught everywhere in the Bible, yet far too many people seem totally oblivious to this – and I refer here to so-called believers, not just non-Christians. Not only have I had biblically illiterate believers chew me out for suggesting that there are two humanities, but almost every day we have someone claiming that we are all God’s children.
There are of course countless examples of this, so no need to pick on any one individual here. But the most recent and most publicised example of this occurred a few days ago, and is worth using as yet another instance of how not to think on this topic. I refer to the remarks of Pope Francis on this in a video he just released. As one Catholic site reports:
The Pope’s first video message on his monthly prayer intentions was released Tuesday, highlighting the importance of interreligious dialogue and the beliefs different faith traditions hold in common, such as the figure of God and love.
“Many think differently, feel differently, seeking God or meeting God in different ways. In this crowd, in this range of religions, there is only one certainty that we have for all: We are all children of God,” Pope Francis said in his message, released Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany.
At the beginning of the video, a minute-and-a-half long, the Pope cites the fact that the majority of the earth’s inhabitants profess some sort of religious belief. This, he said, “should lead to a dialogue among religions. We should not stop praying for it and collaborating with those who think differently.”
The video goes on to feature representatives of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, who proclaim their respective beliefs in God, Jesus Christ, Allah and Buddha. Later on, after the Pope affirms that all, regardless of their religious profession, are children of God, the faith leaders state their common belief in love.
For those interested, you can see the video here: http://apostleshipofprayer.org/
Of course this is not the first time Francis has made such claims. And a fair amount of this push for all things interfaith has been heard often before in Catholic circles, although there are many Catholics who are not so thrilled with it all, especially when it comes to cosying up to Islam. See here for more on that: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2015/12/07/20359/
But let me look at this claim that we are all God’s children. The truth is, there is so much biblical material on this topic, that a small book could easily be produced on this. Let me keep it brief and simple. It is of course true that we all belong to God because we are all created by him.
But biblical sonship overwhelmingly refers to being his by redemption. While every single human being is indeed a creation of God, only the redeemed are actual children of God. Again, this is plain teaching found everywhere in the Scriptures. The biblical story line throughout presupposes this, and it is found in the earliest of Biblical passages. Way back in Genesis 3:15 we read about the two humanities that came about after the Fall:
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
These two seed lines run throughout the Bible. Everywhere we see God making such distinctions. Yahweh chooses Abraham and his seed; he chooses Joseph above the other brothers of Jacob; he chooses Israel over all the other nations on earth; and so on.
The wicked and the righteous are constantly being contrasted, as in Psalm 1:1: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.” The final book of the Old Testament continues this theme. In Malachi 3:18 we read:
Then you shall again discern
Between the righteous and the wicked,
Between one who serves God
And one who does not serve Him.
The apostle Paul makes much of the two humanities theme as in places like Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 where he speaks of the first Adam and the last Adam (Christ). We are all without exception part of the line of Adam, and share in the death that comes as a result of that. But for those who come to Christ, we receive newness of life.
As Martyn Lloyd-Jones remarks, “God has always dealt with mankind through a head and representative. The whole story of the human race can be summed up in terms of what has happened because of Adam, and what has happened and will yet happen because of Christ.”
Jesus constantly spoke in such terms as well. We read about the judgment between the sheep and the goats for example in Matthew 25:31-46. But one of the clearest and most strongly stated examples of this idea of two humanities comes from the lips of Jesus in John 8. In a heated dispute with the Pharisees over sonship, we find this in verse 39-44:
“Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the works of your own father.”
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Wow, super strong words, and words which forever dispel the blatantly false notion that we are all God’s children. Unless people enter into a relationship with God through faith and repentance, they are none of his. Indeed, simply looking at how the Bible describes the lost makes it clear that they are not God’s children. Consider some of these telling descriptions about what we are as sinners:
-spiritually sick (Luke 5:31-32)
-rebellious children (Luke 15:11-32)
-lost (Luke 19:10)
-in darkness (Acts 20:18)
-under the power of Satan (Acts 20:18)
-slaves to sin (Romans 6:22)
-spiritually blind (2 Corinthians 4:4-6)
-God’s enemies (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
-objects of wrath (Ephesians 2:3)
-dead (Ephesians 2:5)
-darkened in their understanding (Ephesians 4:18)
-separated from the life of God (Ephesians 4:18)
-in the dominion of darkness (Colossians 1:13)
-alienated from God (Colossians 1:21)
-his enemies (Colossians 1:21)
-idol worshippers (1 Thessalonians 1:9)
-not a people who had not received mercy (1 Peter 2:10)
-sheep going astray (1 Peter 2:25)
Um, it is pretty hard to consider the unbeliever as a child of God in the light of such passages. Only those who are in right relationship with God can claim the title of being his child. Indeed, we are all alienated from God until we come to Christ, and then we become adopted into God’s family, as these passages explain:
Romans 8:14-17 For 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.
Galatians 3:26-29 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 4:4-7 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
Ephesians 1:3-6 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. 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.
It is vital that we adhere closely to the word of God on this matter. Not everyone is a child of God. If people want to have interfaith powwows to better get along with one another in a messed up world, that is one thing. But we help no one when we push unbiblical notions that somehow we are all one big happy spiritual family.
Nothing could be further from the truth.