The Expository Files


Children Of…

Ephesians 2:2,3, 5:8

Within God’s word, a phrase is often used to describe the state or the way of life of individuals or collective groups, most often from the spiritual viewpoint. Since this is God’s word, we would do well to consider which of these descriptive terms and/or phrases apply to us and, if they are unpleasant or unwelcome, do our best to change that. Let’s consider just a few.

Children of Disobedience. In his letter to the Ephesian brethren, Paul reminded these Gentile Christians that they had all, at one time [before they were converted to Christ], “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” (Eph. 2:2, 3). Those “sons of disobedience” were those who lived for themselves, under the sway of the devil, “carrying out the desires of the body and the mind” (v. 3). Simply put, they were living to fulfill the fleshly desires — the very thing our spiritual enemy, the devil, wants us to do, but a life that is at odds with the life God wants us to live.

As long as they [and we] lived for the fleshly pleasures, they/we were disobeying the will of God and could rightly be called “sons of disobedience.” Of course, the one who held us in captivity (cf. 2ndTim. 2:26) convinced us we were really “free” and doing what we wanted, but it was really his will that we were fulfilling — just not God’s will.

Children of Wrath. Paul went on to say that while they lived according to the ways of the world and sought only to fulfill their fleshly pleasures, they identified themselves not only as “sons of disobedience,” but also as “children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (v. 3). Here’s the description that is not so pleasant to hear, for many men love to live the ungodly, worldly life without thinking about the consequences of such a life. Many love to live as if they will face no consequences and certainly not as if they might be condemned to an eternal hell.

While many live as if these things were true, it is only wishful thinking. Paul reminded the Christians at Rome that they could not live as they were, doing the very things for which they condemned others, and expect to escape the righteous judgment of God. To them, he asked, “Do you suppose, O man — you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself — that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Rom. 2:3); he would then remind them, “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works” (vv. 5, 6). As they then lived, these men faced the wrath of God and, as such, were rightly called “children of wrath” because that could be their only expected outcome. They were the product of a life that indulged in fleshly pleasures and sin, and which demanded retribution from God for their transgressions. Every man who lives as one who has not been forgiven of his sins, everyone who does not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, can expect this because we deserve it. It is only by God’s grace and mercy that He established a way for us to be forgiven and to escape that wrath.

Children of the Flesh. While we might be tempted to think this is simply another way of saying the same thing, Paul used this phrase to describe those who emphasized their fleshly heritage, rather than their true spiritual relationship with God. The Jews loved to tell others that they were children [descendants] of Abraham, but Paul cautioned them, “it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise” (Rom. 9:8); in other words, just because they were fleshly descendants of Abraham did not mean they were going to inherit the blessings of the promises made to him by God — particularly the blessings of forgiveness that came through the seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ.

It is somewhat ironic that we still have the problem today of people trusting their fleshly lineage as some sort of guarantee they are saved. Many, many people come to God’s word and find that what they have believed all their lives and what their parents taught them is not the right way, but then fall back on their fleshly lineage and heritage as the “surety” of salvation, rather than what they read in God’s word! While men may not be appealing to Abraham, they are still appealing to some fleshly relationship as a sign and assurance they are saved, instead of their true spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ.

Let us be reminded that Jesus Himself said plainly, “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37). Sometimes, we are blessed to have had parents who raised us according to God’s will but, sometimes, we have been led astray by those who love us. When it comes down to it, you may have to decide between being a child of your parents, or being a child of God, because they are not always the same thing.

Children of the Most High; Children of God. I would heartily concur with the words of the apostle John when he wrote, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1st John 3:1). Indeed! What a blessing! But we cannot stake a claim to being one of His children unless it were true, no more than anyone could claim to be a son of Bill Gates without it being true. You might desire that it be true due to the possibility of a great inheritance, but desiring it does not make it so. Likewise, no man can claim to be a child of God and expect His abundant blessings unless he truly is the child of God, and the only way that can happen is by adoption into the spiritual family of God.

Paul wrote, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom. 8:14); that is, those who allow the words given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit — those who obey the written word of God — these are the ones led by the Spirit and, thus, children of God. One cannot follow anything other than the revealed word of God and please Him, and it is when we do those things that bring us into the family of God that we can be truly called the children of God.

Children of Light. In the Bible, the life of righteousness is sometimes referred to as “light,” while the way of sin is sometimes called “darkness.” For those who have obeyed the gospel and have been adopted into the body of the saved, this means we no longer live in darkness or are influenced by its appeals, and we now live “as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). Being a child of light means we are led by it, influenced by it, and filled with it. As the psalmist said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”(Psa. 119:105); this means we must let God’s word be that which leads us, influences us, and fills us. We must make God’s will our will, His limits our limits, and His word the last word.

So, whose child are you? The things that produced you and made you who you are, are the things that identify to the world and to God whose child you are. If you are led by the fleshly things, you are a child of the flesh and likely a child of disobedience, for it is enmity with God (cf. Rom. 8:7, 8). If, however, you allow God’s word to teach you, rule you, and guide you in all you say and do, you can be a child of God and, thus an heir of His promised blessing. But the choice is yours.

God is a Father like no other, but are you His child?

By Steven Harper
From Expository Files 19.7; July 2012