“The Spirit [Himself] beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:” (Romans 8:16)
We have already touched on it earlier this week but, before moving on, I would like to take one last brief look at the distinction between the word “sons” in Romans 8:14 and the word “children” in verses 16 and 17.
“Sons”, as we saw, speaks of a legal position; it is a public identification of the believer as a rightful and legitimate “heir”in the household of God. Though our natural life began apart from the Father’s household (for the unsaved are not “sons of God”), we have since been adopted into the family of God and have become His sons and daughters. Adoption can occur, really, at any stage of life and Paul’s initial readers in the Church at Rome would have understood exactly what he was talking about. Under the laws of the Roman Empire, even an adult could be “adopted” into a family and be subsequently entitled to all the rights and privileges of any other “son” in the household, naturally born or otherwise. Instances of loyal slaves, even full-grown slaves, being eventually adopted into the family they served (particularly “childless” Roman families with no other heir apparent) would surely have come to the minds of the First Century readers of the Epistle. So it is with the Christian. Though we come to Christ at various points in life, we become “adopted” into the Lord’s family the moment we trust in Him.
But now, in verses 16 and 17, we have the word children used instead of sons. The original word here quite literally means “born ones” and would never be used to refer to an adopted son. This is a natural child, one born into a family, a member of the household since the moment they took their very first breath. How then can the Christian be defined as both adopted and naturally born simultaneously?
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3-5)
Every believer is born into the family of God at the point of Salvation. At the very moment of Regeneration, a new birth occurs as the believer is spiritually “born-again.” The old spirit that we were dies and is replaced with a brand-new spirit which is born within us. We are indeed “born ones” and natural members of the household of God the Father. Yet we are, at the same time, adopted sons of the Father in that there is a difference between the sons that we are and the Son that Jesus Christ is. Christ was ever with the Father, since the very beginning, and enjoys a unique relationship to Him that no one else can ever have (John 1:1-2, Col. 1:15-19). Yet, even so, every child of God becomes a joint-heir with the Lord Jesus Christ the moment that we are brought into the family of our Heavenly Father.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,