As it is the exclusive right of human parents to name their children, so God reserves the right to name His children of faith. But although human parents sometimes give their children inappropriate names, the names that the Lord gives those born into His family are always appropriate and, therefore, significant. Among the most wonderful of these names that He bestows on believers is that of “child of God” or “son of God.”
Distinctions between the names. Although the AV does not distinguish between the words when translating them, two Greek words—teknon and huios—are translated as “child/children” and “son/s.” According to Vine, the former “gives prominence to the fact of birth,” whereas the latter “stresses the dignity and character of the relationship.”
Teknon. A brief survey of the verses utilizing this word reveals several blessed truths. Paul explains that “ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:15b-17a). These verses emphasize the many blessing and implications of the Father-son relationship that exists between God and the individual members of the church. This term describes our “genetic” link with God through the indwelling “Spirit of adoption.” It explains that the Spirit makes us aware of our relationship with the Father. And it reminds us of our intimate and privileged relationship with the Son of God, our Savior. Using the same term, Philippians reminds us of the character that sons of God are to manifest: “blameless and harmless,” “without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation,” “shine[ing] as lights in the world,” and “holding forth [“fast”] the word of life” (2:15, 16a). John, in his first epistle, can only marvel at the “manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God;” he continues by affirming that believers are right “now the sons of God,” but that, when Christ appears, we will be revealed clearly as such because “we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” The sure hope of this revelation causes every believer to “purify himself, even as he [Christ] is pure” (3:1-3). Finally, though stating it in negative terms, John assures us the children of God are distinguishable from the children of the devil because they do “not righteousness” and do not love their brothers (3:10).
Huios. A glance at verses using this term reminds us that we “are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ. For as many of you as have been baptized [by the Holy Spirit, see Rom. 8:15-17 above, also I Cor. 12:13; Col. 2:12) into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26). This relationship, then, is neither automatic nor a function of being human. God sires us by His Spirit, and we believe unto salvation. Furthermore, Paul explains the infallible linkage between the Father and His children: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). In other words, it is not those who declare themselves to be Christians who are truly children of God, but those who possess the indwelling Spirit and are governed by His tutelage. In this same passage, Paul, scanning the long corridor of time, sees a future time when creation, having waited “for the manifestation of the sons of God,” will be set free from sin and the curse and all its consequences (Rom. 8:19). These terms, then, provoke us to look back to the time of our spiritual birth and realize that salvation is God’s work, to look around that we might “walk worthy of the calling wherewith” we were called (Eph. 4:1), and to look forward expectantly to the time when we and all creation will be delivered from the presence of sin.
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