Sometimes our good intentions as Christians can betray us and take us down the road of bad, confusing theology. For example, consider the sentiment often expressed by some Christians that “everyone is a child of God,” or that “we are all brothers and sisters in God’s Kingdom,” without qualification.
In a sense, there is some Biblical justification for such statements. After all, the Apostle Paul in his evangelistic sermon to the crowd assembled upon Mars Hill in Acts 17:22-33, quotes with approval from Aratus’s poem “Phainomena,” this line: “For we are indeed his offspring (v.28).” By virtue of being created, Christian and non-Christian alike, we all share a common humanity, as brothers and sisters, and children of God. Sounds good. Right?
Think again. Read the passage carefully.
Paul goes on to say that God “commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him (Jesus Christ) from the dead (v.30b-31).” Elsewhere in the Bible, in John 1:12-13, we read, “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.“
In other words, faith in Christ is the necessary prerequisite before we can know truly that we are children of God, in the sense of being in right relationship with Him. By virtue of God’s saving work of sending His Son Jesus to die for us and our sins, and raising Him from the dead, are we then adopted as children of God (Romans 8:14-17). Being adopted as a child of God, in terms of salvation, is not a natural born right. It is 100% solely a gift from God (Read all of Romans 8, while you are at it, to get the full picture).
So, while it is true, loosely speaking, that we share a common humanity as God’s offspring as His creatures, we must be careful to maintain the Biblical distinction that only those who receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior have the right to truly become children of God, and therefore reconciled with their Creator. If we fail to carefully honor this distinction, as sometimes happens, we risk confusing our unbelieving neighbor to think that they are somehow “okay” with God, when in reality they remain alienated and utterly cut off from Him. Such sloppy theology can also lull the believer to think their salvation is due to some sort of natural birthright, something to be taken for granted, instead of causing us to throw ourselves down in humility at the feet of our Lord and King each and every day, and leaning on His tender and gracious mercies.
Let us not be careless with God’s Word. Let us handle it well.