Before I start, I want to say that nothing I am about to say should be taken to refer to the only-begotten Son of God (John 1:14). That is a class that belongs to Jesus alone, and cannot be shared with any other human being.
This matter comes up because of a discussion I had recently over the issue of Hell. This was part of the same discussion that inspired my prior post on annihilationism. This Seventh-Day Adventist friend of mine stated that she thought that it was a violation of the Fatherhood of God to believe that He would consign some of His sons and daughters to eternal punishment. My friend was stunned when I objected that the damned are not the sons of God, for only believers can bear that title.
In the same hymn of the Incarnation that I quote above, we read (John 1:12), "To all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God" [emphasis mine]. These believers are contrasted with those who "did not receive Him" in the verse before. So, the Apostle John clearly portrays the relationship of son to Father as the result of faith, not birth or creation.
The Apostle Paul adds his own authority to this definition (Romans 8:14-15): "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God... [Y]ou have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!'" And in Galatians 3:26, "in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith." And in II Corinthians 6:18, "'I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,' says the Lord Almighty." So, again, we see that the relationship of human sons to the divine Father is based on faith, not nature. Only Jesus Christ is the Son of God by nature.
Often we see this "fatherhood of God" discussion, when liberals try to turn everyone into an implicit Christian. That isn't the problem with my friend. Rather, she was trying to justify a doctrine which I can only call a heresy, a misunderstanding of the status of unbelieving men and women.
In his book, A Theology of the New Testament, Fuller Seminary Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Theology George Eldon Ladd says on this issue (p. 86), "It is not as Father that God cares for the birds [Matthew 6:26], and it is not as Father that God bestows His creaturely blessings on those who are not His children [Matthew 5:44-45]. The Fatherhood of God belongs to those who have responded to the divine seeking love and have submitted themselves to God's Kingdom. God seeks men, not because He is their Father, but because He would become their Father" [emphasis added].
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