Useful Bible Studies > Hebrews Commentary > chapter 12

How Christians become the children of God

Hebrews 12:8

When we call God Ďour Fatherí, we claim to be his children. In many modern families, it has become the custom to deal with all children in the same manner. But that did not happen in the ancient world. There were different types of sons, with different rights in the family. A daughter received her rights from her husbandís family on marriage, so we shall not discuss daughters here. But let us think about some types of sons, and their relationship with Godís family.

The fatherís first son was called the first-born, and he was the most important son. On his fatherís death, the first-born became head of the family. And the first-born received twice what his brothers received.

In Godís family, Jesus is called the first-born Son (Hebrews 1:6). In fact, he is called Godís only Son (John 3:16). When the first-born son was also the only son, he was even more important. Everything that the father had would become his.

The author of Hebrews mentions another type of son: the illegitimate son. That means a son whose mother was not married to the father. People considered that such a matter brought great shame to the father. The father might deny that the son was his. He took no responsibility for his son, and he refused to teach him.

God has no illegitimate sons. If someone is not a child of God, then that person does not belong to Godís family. That person has no right to call God his Father. That person has no relationship with God.

So, God has only one Son, his first-born, and no illegitimate sons. That fact would seem to mean that nobody except Jesus has a relationship with God. But the author of Hebrews insists that this is not so. He writes that God deals with Christians as sons. God is teaching them all as a father teaches his sons.

In fact, there was another type of son in the ancient family. It is the son whom the father adopts. That was not an uncommon arrangement in the ancient world.

When a man adopted a boy, that boy received all the rights of a son. The boy called the man Ďmy fatherí and the man called him Ďmy soní. Servants and slaves in the family had to deal with that boy as they dealt with the manís other sons. Those other sons had to accept the boy as their brother. And the boy received the same rights as those brothers did on the manís death.

Christians believe that God has adopted them into his family (Galatians 4:5-7). They were not the sons of God before that; in fact, they had no relationship with God (1 Peter 2:10). But God chose to adopt them into his family (Ephesians 1:5). That did not happen because of something that they did. It was Godís action that saved them. He sent Jesus to die on their behalf, so that God could forgive their evil deeds. God offered them a relationship with him, and they accepted it. So God made them his sons.

That is why Jesus calls them his brothers (Hebrews 2:11).

That is why they call God Ďour Fatherí (Matthew 6:9; Galatians 4:6). It is not just words Ė it is the reality. They really are the children of God (1 John 3:1).

Next part: The meaning of God as our Father (Hebrews 12:9-10)


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© 2014, Keith Simons.