"You will know them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:16)
"By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother." (1 John 3:10)
"For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." (Romans 8:14)
This lesson is the second in a series on "The Children of God." The first lesson in the series discussed "Becoming a Child of God" (Ref. 1). Today's lesson is the first of two lessons on the Characteristics of a Child of God.
Consider. The Bible describes the children of God as having certain characteristics. How do you know a child of God when you see one? What are the distinguishing marks of a child of God?
A child of God bears spiritual fruit. A child of God passes the fruit test. Jesus said, "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?" (Matthew 7:16) A child of God is recognized by the fruit that he or she bears.
Jesus said that in order to bear much fruit, we must abide in (remain in, stay connected to) him. "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing " (John 15:5, Ref. 2). Bearing spiritual fruit is the natural outgrowth of being attached to the vine, Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23).
The first characteristic of a child of God is a person who is bearing spiritual fruit.
A child of God practices obedience, righteousness, and godliness.
A child of God is led by the Spirit. When we are a child of God, the Holy Spirit is our guide for life (Romans 8:14). The Holy Spirit guides us into all the truth and helps us understand the scriptures (John 16:13, John 14:26, Ref. 6). The Holy Spirit helps us to put to death the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8:13). The Holy Spirit guides us in making decisions (James 1:5), what to do (Acts 10:19-20), and where to go (Acts 16:6-10). A child of God has an active, dynamic relationship with God, and follows the leading of the Holy Spirit in his/her life.
Apply. Are you exhibiting the distinguishing characteristics of a child of God? Consider the main points in this lesson:
In the next lesson, we will continue our study of the Characteristics of a Child of God.
"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13 NKJV)
This lesson explains that becoming a child of God is both a starting point - when a person receives Christ - and a process of spiritual growth and maturity.
This lesson is the first in a series on "The Children of God."
Consider. What is the scriptural requirement for becoming a child of God? Are you experiencing growth and increasing maturity as a child of God?
Introduction. John begins his gospel writing about Jesus Christ. John describes Jesus as the "Word" (John 1:1), and as "life" (John 1:4). John describes Jesus as the "true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man" (John 1:9). Note the Greek word for man in this verse is anthrópos which means the human race including women and men (Ref. 1). Even though Jesus is the true Light, many people reject Jesus. John writes, "He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him" (John 1:11).
Becoming a child of God has a starting point - receiving Christ. John, writing about Jesus, begins verse 12 with the words, "But as many as received Him..." The Greek word for receive in John 1:12 is lambanó. Lambanó means to lay hold by aggressively (actively) accepting what is available (offered) (Helps WORD-studies, Ref. 2). In contrast to the great number of people who reject Christ, John writes that Jesus gives the right to become children of God to those who receive (accept) him. John explains in the last part of John 1:12 that we receive Christ when we believe in (trust in, have faith in) him (Figure 1).
Becoming a child of God also is a growth process. In addition to the starting point of when we receive Christ, becoming a child of God includes our growth process from spiritual infancy to spiritual adulthood (Figure 1). The Greek word for become in John 1:12 is ginomai, which means to transition from one point (realm, condition) to another. The word, become, implies motion, movement, or growth (Helps WORD-studies, Ref. 3). Becoming a mature child of God requires growth.
Growing, increasing in maturity, is key to authentic discipleship (Ref. 4).
Indeed, the Lord requires non-stop progress (development) in the life of faith (Ref. 4). The Apostle Peter writes, "Long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (1 Peter 2:2). Hebrews 5:13-14 states, "For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil." The Apostle Paul writes, "Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:15, italics added). BibleStudyTools says it well, "As you spend time in Scripture and pray, you will experience growth and blessings as you pursue righteousness!" (Ref. 5)
Becoming a child of God is a privilege. John writes "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). The Greek word for right is exousia. Exousia means privilege, authority, power, and right (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Ref. 6). Becoming a child of God is a privilege far more so than being the child of any human being (Ref. 7). Jesus gives this favor, this privilege, to those who believe in his name (John 1:12). Becoming a child of God is God's blessing; it is not something we earn (Ephesians 2:8).
Becoming a child of God results when we are born of God, not because of our human lineage. Are all human beings created in the image of God? (Genesis 1:26) Yes. Are all human beings children of God? No, not in the reborn sense described in the Gospel of John. John describes the 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" (John 1:13).
Jesus' opposers claimed they were descendants of Abraham and that God was their Father (John 8:39-41). Jesus, God's Son, told them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me" (Luke 1:31-35, John 8:42). Jesus also told them, "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father" (John 8:44).
Some of us are blessed to have had parents who were Christians during their earthly lifetimes. However, we become children of God not because of our human lineage, or because our parents are Christians, but because of God's work in us. We must be born of God and believe in Jesus ourselves to become a child of God (John 1:13, John 3:3, Galatians 3:26).
Apply. Are you a child of God? If not, put your faith and trust in Christ. If you are a child of God, are you experiencing spiritual growth and increased spiritual maturity? Seek God's guidance through prayer and his word.
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