We have fully established that we are not fully alive despite being biologically alive. Throughout the Bible, starting in Genesis 2, God states that sin separates the soul of man from the spirit of God. And without God, we are dead.
And just being dead is not enough:
Ephesians 2:1–3 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
And just when we think that Paul is being too critical or even too harsh, look at what the Apostle John has to say 1:
John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
So you see, by being born and apart from God, we are doubly both dead in our trespasses and by nature children of the wrath of God.
Paul explains this in the best way by way of comparing our original father, Adam, and the second Adam, Jesus Christ:
Romans 5:12–21 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Now I know that is a long passage, but let me put together a pros and cons list to help better see Paul’s point:
Sin came into the world through him
Righteousness came into the world through him
Death came into the world through sin
Life came into the world through him
Death spread to all men because all men have sin
Life given for many because Christ was sinless
Sin was the trespass of Adam
Grace is the free gift of Christ
Judgment brought condemnation because of trespass
Free gift brought justification despite many trespasses
Death reigned through Adam
Life reigns through Jesus Christ
Adam’s one trespass led to condemnation for all men
Christ’s one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men
Adam’s disobedience the many were made sinners
Christ’s obedience the many will be made righteous
the law came in to increase the trespass
where sin increased, grace abounded all the more
sin reigned in death because of Adam
grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ
So why so much focus on the distinction between the unbeliever and the believer?
The easy answer is because God makes that distinction quite clear in his word.
But the difficult answer lies with the beliefs of many Christians today.
A couple of years ago, I was put to the task of debating classic Calvinist Non-Calvinist views of Scripture after dinner with a friend. The debate was thoroughly enjoyable and quite full of passion.
My friend and I started shaking the word of God down to its core teachings (doctrines). I did not want to start off with hard-hitting verses on faith and regeneration (the question of which came first) until we established the what we did have in common: namely, the goodness and loveliness of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To make a long story, short, I contended that we must first have a new heart in order to choose God, have faith in Christ, and obey His commands by the power of the Holy Spirit. I argued, without God, we cannot choose God. I pointed to this verse (backed by John 1:12-13)
1 John 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.
In other words:
- If you believe in Christ, you must be born of God
- If you love the Father, you must be born of God
So my friend said, “Exactly”. Colored me confused.
She contended that every person ever been born (which God calls “born of man”) is born of God. We ended our debate there.
God makes the clear distinction between unbelievers and believers. Calls them goats and sheep 2. Chaff and wheat 3. Weeds and wheat 4. Many of those who are on the wide road of destruction versus those who go through the narrow door of salvation 5. Those who set their mind on the flesh versus those who set their mind on the Spirit. 6
A life lived by absolutes is wholly not recommended. It is only where God makes clear distinctions between one way and the next is where we can be sure that there is no in-between.
So what can we say to all of this?
If we are saved by God, then God is our Father.
Romans 8:12–15 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
And if God is our Father, God absolutely promises we will look like His Son (and God does not break promises).
Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Hebrews 12:3–11 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
And if God is our Father, we will not stand before Him in our own defense as though we could do so in our own self-righteousness. No! God himself bears witness with our witness that we belong to Him.
Matthew 7:21–23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
And then God is our Father, and the Holy Spirit of adoption is our witness, then it stands to reason that Christ is our Eldest Brother. If that being the case, we are then co-heirs with He whom is heir to all things.
Romans 8:17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Hebrews 1:1–2 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
And to that end, you believe and trust in God, then the Father of Christ is your Father. We are His sons forevermore because a Perfect Father never loses his kids.
John 10:28–30 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
In some states, when a child is adopted, the law ensures that the adopted child is given an inheritance no matter what (assuming there is an inheritance to be left to the child) even if the natural born children are left out of the will. But even still, sometimes adoptive kids can feel like second-class family members in their own home; nevermind the reality of not being with your original parents.
But here’s why adoption has to be rightfully seen according to the Bible. By birth, we are children of wrath. All of us are born very much related to Adam in every conceivable way and that is terrible news. By Adam’s blood, we are born into sin and destined to die.
Christ takes it even a step further:
John 8:39–47 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
There is no neutral ground. Christ himself was perfectly clear. If God was our Father, we would love Christ and we would do his will. Otherwise, the devil is our father and we only do his will.
We were born in a sin state. But by God’s grace alone, we are born again. Because we were of a different family other than God’s, God adopts us into His own family. Furthermore, He saves us to himself forever. He promises that our being will look like His own Son because His own Son gives us his own robes of righteousness, and seals us with His Spirit. And because we are His children, we are given the world in order to go and proclaim the gospel of peace to every person and baptizing them in the name of our Father, our Savior the Son, and our Holy Spirit.
- I do not completely ascribe the red letters as being absolutely the spoke words of Christ, even though all words are from Christ. So I take precaution to automatically crediting red words to Christ unless the author specifically said, “Jesus said” ↩
- Matthew 23:33 ↩
- Matt 3:12 ↩
- Matthew 13:24-30 ↩
- Matthew 7:13-14 ↩
- Romans 8:4-8 ↩