What Think Ye of Christ?
THIS question, as to ‘How and When’ a man becomes a child of God, the writer will answer in the light of his own experience interpreted by Scripture.
Christ came into this world as sent by God and by Him, offered to men for their acceptance. Upon any man or woman, boy or girl, who responds by believing, on Christ's name, by submission to His claims, He confers the title of child of God (John i. 12), God's use of His Word of truth in the soul being the efficient cause of that soul's blessing (Jas. i. 18; 1 Pet. i. 23).
It is all a question of our attitude towards the Person of Christ, our appreciation of Him as the One (1) whom we need absolutely; (2) with whom we resolve to take sides against the world or mere religionists, (3) by whom respectively His claims have been ignored or disowned. When a soul thus comes into vital contact with Christ; a personal relationship by grace is established between that soul and Christ, whereby the individual becomes a child of God.
Such as "receive" Him are "turned from darkness to light" (Acts xxvi. 18), and begin, however imperfectly or unintelligently, to wait for His return from Heaven (1 Thess. i. 10). All such, place their dependence thence forth in the blessed Son as the Revealer of Himself, of His grace. Their understanding of the doctrine of the atonement may be feeble; but their faith and hope in Christ is at the same time in God Himself, because they believe that He, who delivered the Lord Jesus for their offences, raised Him from among the dead (1 Pet. i. 10) for their justification (Rom. iv. 25). Appreciation of His Person comes before that of His work, because the Lord Jesus is first of all "the Way" to God, and that being realized, the soul is prepared for acceptance of Him as the "Truth," in respect now also of His work, which leads to enjoyment through the Spirit (Rom. viii. 15) of knowledge of Him as "the Life" (John xiv. 6; Col. iii. 3 f.).
Knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, on the part of the believer, is to be developed eternally, because the life so imparted is eternal (John xvii. 3); but the establishment of the relationship between the soul and the Saviour, which is expressed by the person being described as a "child of God," is the ABC of the spiritual life. Such an one ceases to be under the dominion of darkness (Acts xxvi. 18; Col. i. 13), becoming from the very first, a "child of light" (John xii. 36) because God, his Father is Light (1 John i. 5).
Having experienced the happiness of inwardly learning that one has thus been "born again," the next step is to definitely confess Christ in the way appointed for and common to all, so as to side with Him, by wearing His badge, and bearing His reproach. This entails detachment from the world, as being dead to sin, and alive to God, henceforth to be in the service of Christ alone (Rom. vi. 3 f.; 2 Cor. v. 15); as having His portion before God (1 John iv. 17).
The child of God in all his conduct has from the outset to become an imitator of his Father (Eph. v. 1), to "walk in the Spirit" (Gal. v. 16; Rom. viii. 4); God's purpose being that His children should day by day have personal communion with Him in the intimacy of the relationship, so as to bear fruit unto Him; and this is realized more or less as the conduct of each one who does not grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom he is indwelt, and who is the power of such communion (Eph. iv. 30; 2 Cor. xiii. 14; Phil. ii. 1). When this is disturbed by backsliding, great or small, through allowance of the "flesh" (Rom. vii. 18; Eph. iv. 22), the child of God needs restoration of soul brought about by his self-judgment (1 Cor. xi. 31), and confession to God (1 John i. 8). Thereupon, Jesus Christ, the Righteous, by His ministry, as Advocate with the Father (1 John ii. 1) restores the soul, and communion is recovered.
The new-born child of God has everything to learn; in particular as to sin, and God's way of dealing with it; also, the difference between justification by faith (Rom. iii. 22-26) and justification by works (Jas. ii. 24), and so the claims of holiness and righteousness, in respect of all which he makes many mistakes (James iii. 2), his own frailty in both thought and deed being constantly brought home to him. Whilst blessing and happiness, and, accordingly, fruitfulness in the Lord's service, are thus impaired, the essential, vital relationship of a "child of God" is never disturbed. Nevertheless, the believer has daily to be exercised in the making sure that "call and election" which pertains to the coming kingdom (Jas. ii. 5; 2 Pet. i. 10 f.), the sphere of enjoyment of reward or deprivation of it, that is quite distinct from the possession of eternal life, which attaches indefeasibly to God's work of grace, peculiar to Himself; to whom be all the glory! EDWARD E. WHITFIELD, London.
"How and When Do We Become Children Of God?"
Edited by W. Hoste and R, M'Elheran.
Glasgow, Pickering & Inglis, 1912. (Every Christian's Library).