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 (CSB) And you were dead in your trespasses and sins 2 in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient. 3 We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.
And just when we think that Paul is being too critical or even too harsh, look at what the Apostle John has to say :
John 3:36 (CSB) The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who rejects the Son will not see life; instead, 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 (CSB)
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned.
13 In fact, sin was in the world before the law, but sin is not charged to a person’s account when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin in the likeness of Adam’s transgression. He is a type of the Coming One.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if by the one man’s trespass the many died, how much more have the grace of God and the gift which comes through the grace of the one man Jesus Christ overflowed to the many.
16 And the gift is not like the one man’s sin, because from one sin came the judgment, resulting in condemnation, but from many trespasses came the gift, resulting in justification.
17 If by the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
18 So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone, so also through one righteous act there is justification leading to life for everyone.
19 For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
20 The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more
21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in 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|
|Many died||Many live|
|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 (CSB) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one 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. While Paul did agree with the Greeks that imagebearers of God are indeed “his offspring” (Acts 17:25-29), Paul and all of the Bible makes it distinctly and crystal clear who are heirs of God and who are heirs of destruction.
Here is the distinction made by God.
Calls them goats and sheep:
Matthew 25:31-34 (CSB) “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
Chaff and wheat:
Matthew 3:12 (CSB) His winnowing shovel is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn. But the chaff he will burn with fire that never goes out.”
Weeds and wheat:
Matthew 13:29-30 (CSB) “‘No,’ he said. ‘When you pull up the weeds, you might also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I’ll tell the reapers: Gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to burn them, but collect the wheat in my barn.’”
Many of those who are on the wide road of destruction versus those who go through the narrow door of salvation:
Matthew 7:13-14 (CSB) “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.
Those who set their mind on the flesh versus those who set their mind on the Spirit:
Romans 8:1-11 (CSB) Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirement would be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit. Now the mindset of the flesh is death, but the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace. The mindset of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him. Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you.
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 8:12-17 (CSB) So then, brothers and sisters, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, 13 because if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” 16 The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, 17 and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
And if God is our Father, God absolutely promises we will look like His Son (and God does not break promises).
Romans 8:29 (CSB) For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Hebrews 12:3–11 (CSB)
3 For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, so that you won’t grow weary and give up.
4 In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
5 And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or lose heart when you are reproved by him,
6 for the Lord disciplines the one he loves and punishes every son he receives.
7 Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline?
8 But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
9 Furthermore, we had human fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live?
10 For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but he does it for our benefit, so that we can share his holiness.
11 No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, 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 (CSB)
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’
23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!'
Romans 8:16 (CSB) The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children,
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 (CSB) and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Hebrews 1:1-2 (CSB) Long ago God spoke to our ancestors by the prophets at different times and in different ways. 2 In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him.
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 (CSB) I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 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; never mind 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 (CSB)
39 “Our father is Abraham,” they replied. “If you were Abraham’s children,” Jesus told them, “you would do what Abraham did.
40 But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.
41 You’re doing what your father does.” “We weren’t born of sexual immorality,” they said. “We have one Father—God.”
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I came from God and I am here. For I didn’t come on my own, but he sent me.
43 Why don’t you understand what I say? Because you cannot listen to my word.
44 You are of your father the devil, and you want to carry out 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 tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.
45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.
46 Who among you can convict me of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?
47 The one who is from God listens to God’s words. This is why you don’t listen, because you are not from 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.
Give us life!