Skip to comments.Bishop J.C. Ryle: "Child of God"
Posted on 07/10/2006 8:00:50 PM PDT by sionnsar
I came across a sermon by Bishop Ryle titled Child of God; as it happens, some of what he wrote in this exhortation is very much applicable to our situation today:
"Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." (Romans 8:14)Tomorrow, if things work out, we'll post what the good Bishop has to say about the special evidences of this relationship of all true Christians to God.
"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, �Abba, Father.'" (Romans 8:15)
"The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." (Romans 8:16)
"Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory." (Romans 8:17)
The people of whom the Apostle Paul speaks of in the verses before us today are the richest people on the earth. It just has to be. They are called "heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ."
The inheritance of these people is the only inheritance really worth having; all others are unsatisfying and disappointing. They bring with them many concerns. They cannot cure an aching heart, or lighten a heavy conscience; they cannot prevent family troubles; they cannot prevent sicknesses, misfortunes, separations, and deaths. But there are no disappointments among the "heirs of God."
The inheritance I speak of is the only inheritance which can be kept forever; all others must be left in the hour of death, if they have not been taken away before. Those who are extremely wealthy cannot carry anything with them beyond the grave. But it is not so with the "heirs of God." Their inheritance is eternal.
The inheritance I speak of is the only inheritance which is within everybody's reach. Most men can never obtain riches and greatness, though they work hard for them all of their lives; but glory, honor, and eternal life, are offered to every man freely, who is willing to accept them on God's terms. "Whoever wants to," may be an "heir of God and co-heirs with Christ."
If any reader of this paper wishes to have a portion of this inheritance, let him know that he must be a member of that one family on earth to which it belongs, and that is the family of all true Christians. If you desire to have glory in heaven, then you must become one of God's children on earth. I write this paper in order to persuade you to become a child of God today, if you are not one already. I write it to persuade you to be absolutely certain that you are one, if at present you only have a vague hope, and nothing more. No one but true Christians are the children of God! No one but the children of God are heirs of God! Give me your attention, while I try to unfold these things to you, and to show you the lessons contained in the verses which head this paper.
I. Let me show the relationship of all true Christians to God. They are "sons of God."
II. Let me show the special evidences of this relationship. True Christians are "led by the Spirit." They have "the Spirit of sonship." They have the "testimony of the Spirit." They "share in the sufferings of Christ."
III. Let me show the privileges of this relationship. True Christians are "heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ."
I. First let me show the relationship of all true Christians to God. They are God's "SONS."
I know of no greater and more wonderful word that could have been chosen. To be servants of God-to be subjects, soldiers, disciples, friends-all these are excellent titles; but to be the "sons" of God is even a more superior designation. The Scripture says, "A slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever." (John 8:35)
To be a son of the rich and noble people in this world-to be the son of princes and kings of the earth-this is commonly considered a great temporary advantage and privilege. But to be a son of the King of kings, and Lord of lords-to be a son of the High and Holy One-who lives and dwells in eternity-this is something far greater. And yet this is the privilege of every true Christian.
The son of an earthly parent naturally looks to his father for affection, support, provision, and education. There is a home always open to him. There is love which, generally speaking, no amount of bad behavior can completely extinguish. All these are things that generally belong to all the sons of this world. Think then how great is the privilege of that poor sinner of mankind who can say of God, "He is my Father."
But how can sinful men like ourselves become sons of God? When do we enter into this glorious relationship? We are not the sons of God by nature. We were not born as "sons of God" when we came into the world. No man has a natural right to look to God as His Father. It is a vile heresy to say that he has. Men are said to be born poets and painters-but men are never born sons of God. The Book of Ephesians tells us, "Like the rest, we were by nature objects (children) of wrath." (Ephesians 2:3) The Book of John says, "We know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God." (1 John 3:10) The doctrine of the Church of England wisely follows the doctrines of the Bible, and teaches, "By nature we are born in sin, and children of wrath." Yes: we are all, in our natural state, children of the devil, rather than children of God! Sin is indeed hereditary, and runs in the family of Adam. Grace is not hereditary, and holy men have not, as a matter of course, holy sons. Then, how and when does this mighty change and transformation take place? When and in what manner do sinners become the "sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty?" (2 Corinthians 6:18)
Men become sons of God in the day that the Holy Spirit leads them to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, and not before. (Note: the reader will of course understand that I am not speaking of children who die in infancy, or of persons who live and die so mentally retarded that they could not begin to understand the gospel) What does the Book of Galatians say? "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:26) What does the Book of 1 Corinthians say? "It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus." (1 Corinthians 1:30) What does the Book of John say? "Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right (or privilege) to become children of God." (John 1:12) Faith unites the sinner to the Son of God and makes him one of His members. Faith makes him one of those in whom the Father sees no spot, and is well-pleased.
Faith marries him to the beloved Son of God, and entitles him to be counted among the sons. Faith gives him fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3) Faith grafts him into the Father's family, and opens up to him a room in the Father's house. Faith gives him life instead of death, and makes him a son, instead of being a servant. Show me a man that has this faith, and then despite whatever church he goes to, I will say that he is a son of God.
This is one of those points we should never forget. You and I know nothing of a man's sonship until he believes. No doubt the sons of God are foreknown and chosen from all eternity, and predestinated to adoption. But remember, it is not until they are called in due time, and believe-it is not until then that you and I can be certain they are sons. It is not until they repent and believe, that the angels of God rejoice over them. The angels cannot read the book of God's election: they do not know who "His cherished ones" are on the earth. (Psalm 83:3) They rejoice over no man until he believes. But when they see some poor sinner repenting and believing, then there is joy among them-joy that one more burning stick is snatched from the fire, and one more son and heir is born again to the Father in heaven. (Amos 4:11; Luke 15:10) But once more I say, you and I know nothing certain about a man's sonship to God until he believes in Christ.
I warn you to beware of the delusive notion that all men and women are children of God, whether they have faith in Christ or not. It is a wild theory which many are clinging to in these days, but one which cannot be proved out of the Word of God. It is a dangerous dream, with which many are trying to soothe themselves, but one from which there will be a fearful waking up in the last day.
I do not pretend to deny that God, in a certain sense, is the universal Father of all mankind,. He is the Great First Cause of all things. He is the Creator of all mankind, and in Him alone, all men, whether Christians or heathens, "live and move and have their being." All this is unquestionably true. In this sense Paul told the Athenians, that their own poet had said, "We are His offspring." (Acts 17:28) But this "offspring" status gives no man a title to heaven. The "offspring" status which we have by creation is one which belongs to stones, trees, animals, or even to the demons, as much as to us. (Job 1:6)
I do not deny that God loves all mankind with a love of pity and compassion. "He has compassion on all He has made." "He does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." "He takes no pleasure in the death of anyone." All this I admit completely. In this sense our Lord Jesus tells us, "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." (Psalm 145:9; 2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:32; John 3:16)
I utterly deny the doctrine that God is a reconciled and pardoning Father to anyone except those who have united themselves to His Son Jesus Christ, and that no one can be united with Jesus Christ who does not believe in Him for salvation. The holiness and justice of God stand against such a doctrine. They make it impossible for sinful men to approach God, except through the Mediator. They tell us that God is "a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29) against those who are without Christ. The whole New Testament is against the doctrine. It teaches that no man can claim an interest in Christ unless he will receive Him as his Mediator, and believe on Him as his Savior. Where there is no faith in Christ it is a dangerous error to say that a man may take comfort in God as his Father. God is a reconciled Father to no one but those who are united with Christ.
It is unreasonable to talk of the view I am now upholding as being narrow-mined and harsh. The Gospel sets an open door before every man. Its promises are wide and full. Its invitations are earnest and tender. Its requirements are simple and clear, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." But to say that proud men, who will not bow their necks to the easy yoke of Christ, and worldly men who are determined to have their own way and their sins-to say that such men have a right to claim an interest in Christ, and a right to call themselves sons of God, is to say what never can be proved from Scripture. God offers to be their Father; but He does it on certain clear terms-they must draw near to Him through Christ. Christ offers to be their Savior; but in doing so He gives one simple requirement-they must commit their souls to Him, and give Him their hearts. They refuse the terms, and yet dare to call God their Father! They scorn the requirement, and yet dare to hope that Christ will save them! God is to be their Father-but on their own terms! Christ is to be their Savior-but on their own conditions! What can be more unreasonable? What can be more proud? What can be more unholy than such a doctrine as this? Let us beware of it, for it is a common doctrine in these latter days. Let us beware of it, for it is often falsely put forward and sounds beautiful and loving in the mouth of poets, novelists, sentimentalists, and tender-hearted women. Let us beware of it, unless we intend to throw aside our Bible altogether, and set up ourselves to be wiser than God. Let us stand fast on the old Scriptural ground: No sonship to God without Christ! No interest in Christ without faith!
I pray to God there was not a need to give this kind of warning. But I have every reason to think they need to be given clearly and unmistakably. There is a school of theology rising up in this day, which appears to me most eminently calculated to promote unfaithfulness, to help the devil, and to ruin souls. It comes to us like Joab to Amasa, with the highest professions of kindness, generosity, and love. According to this theology, God is all mercy and love-His holiness and justice are completely ignored! Hell is never spoken of in this theology-it speaks only of heaven! Damnation is never mentioned-it is treated as an impossible thing-they say that all men and women will saved! Faith, and the work of the Spirit, are refined away into nothing at all! "Everyone who believes anything has faith! Everyone who thinks anything has the Spirit! Everyone is right! No one is wrong! No one is to blame for any action they may commit! It is the result of his position in life. It is because of his circumstances! He is not accountable for his opinions, any more than for the color of his skin! He must be what he is! The Bible is a imperfect book! It is old-fashioned! It is obsolete! We may believe just as much of it as we please, and no more!" I solemnly warn men to beware of all this kind of theology. In spite of all the fashionable words used, such as, "generosity," and "kindness," and "openness," and "freedom from bigotry," and so forth, I do believe it is a theology that leads people directly into hell.
(a) Facts speak directly against the teachers of this theology.
Let them visit Mesopotamia, and see what desolation reigns where Nineveh and Babylon once stood. Let them go to the shores of the Dead Sea, and look down into its mysterious bitter waters. Let them travel in Palestine, and ask what has turned that fertile country into a wilderness. Let them observe the wandering Jews, scattered over the face of the world, without a land of their own, and yet never absorbed among other nations. And then let them tell us, if they dare, that God is so entirely a God of mercy and love that He never does and never will punish sin.
(b) The conscience of man speaks directly against these teachers.
Let them go to the bedside of some dying child, and try to comfort him with their doctrines. Let them see if their puffed up theories will calm his gnawing, restless anxiety about the future, and enable him to die in peace. Let them show us, if they can, a few well-authenticated cases of joy and happiness in death without Bible promises-without conversion, and without that faith in the blood of Christ, which old-fashioned theology commands. Yes, when men are leaving this world, conscience makes sad work of the new systems of theology preached in these latter days. Conscience is not easily satisfied, in a dying hour, that there is no such place as hell.
(c) Every reasonable conception that we can form of a future state speaks directly against these teachers.
Imagine a heaven which would contain all of mankind! Imagine a heaven in which holy and unholy, pure and impure, good and bad, would be all gathered together in one confused mass! What point of union would there be in such a company? What would be the common bond of harmony and brotherhood? What unity, what harmony, what peace, what oneness of spirit could exist? Surely the mind rebels against the idea of a heaven in which there would be no distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between Pharaoh and Moses, between Abraham and the Sodomites, between Paul and Nero, between Peter and Judas Iscariot, between the man who dies in the act of murder or drunkenness, and men like Baxter, and McCheyne! Surely an eternity in such a miserably confused crowd would be worse than annihilation itself! Surely such a heaven would be no better than hell!
(d) Holiness and morality speak directly against these teachers.
If all men and women are God's children, regardless of the difference between them in their lives-and everyone one of them is going to heaven, however different they may be from one another here in the world, then what is the use of striving after holiness? What motive remains for living soberly, righteously, and godly? What does it matter how men conduct themselves, if everyone goes to heaven, and nobody goes to hell? Surely the heathen poets and philosophers of Greece and Rome could tell us something better and wiser than this! Surely a doctrine which is subversive of holiness and morality, and takes away all motives to seek to be pure carries on the face of it the stamp of its origin. It is of earth, and not of heaven. It is of the devil, and not of God.
(e) The Bible speaks against these teachers from first to last.
Hundreds of texts might be quoted which are diametrically opposed to their theories. These texts must be totally rejected, if the Bible is to square with their views. To suit their theology, these Bible truths must be thrown away! At this rate the authority of the whole Bible is soon destroyed. And what do men give us in its place? Nothing, nothing, at all! They rob us of the bread of life, and do not even give us a stone in its place.
Once more I warn everyone into whose hands this paper may fall to beware of this theology. I charge you to hold fast to the doctrine which I have been endeavoring to uphold in this paper. Remember what I have said, and never let it go. No inheritance of glory without sonship to God! No sonship to God without an interest in Christ! No interest in Christ without your own personal faith! This is God's truth. Never forsake it.
Who now among the readers of this paper desires to know whether he is a son of God? Ask yourself this question, and ask it this day-and ask it in God's sight, whether you have repented and believed. Ask yourself whether you are personally acquainted with Christ, and united to Him in heart. If not you may be very sure you are no son of God. You are not yet born again. You are still in your sins. God may be your Creator, but He is not your reconciled and pardoning Father.
Yes! though the Church and the world may agree to tell you to the contrary-though clergy and laity unite in flattering you-your sonship is worth little or nothing in the sight of God. Let God be true and every man a liar. Without faith in Christ you are no son of God: you are not born again.
Who is there among the readers of this paper who desires to become a son of God? Let that person see and feel his sins, and flee to Christ for salvation, and this day he will be placed among the children. Only acknowledge your iniquity, and grab hold of the hand that Jesus holds to you this day, and sonship, with all it privileges, is yours. Only confess your sins, and bring them to Christ, and God is "faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) This very day old things will pass away, and all things become new. This very day you will be forgiven, pardoned, "to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves." (Ephesians 1:6) This very day you will have a new name given to you in heaven. You began reading this paper as a child of wrath. You will lie down tonight as a child of God. Mark this, if your professed desire after sonship is sincere-if you are truly weary of your sins, and have really something more than a lazy wish to be free-there is real comfort for you. It is all true. It is all written in Scripture, just like I have written it in this paper. I dare not raise barriers between you and God. This day I say, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ," and you will become "a son," and be saved.
Who is there among the readers of this paper that is truly a son of God? Rejoice, I say, and be extremely thankful and joyful of your privileges. Rejoice, for you have good cause to be thankful. Remember the words of the beloved apostle: "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" (1 John 3:1) How wonderful that heaven should look down on earth-that the Holy God should set His affections on sinful man, and admit him into His family! Even though the world does not understand you! Even though the men of this world laugh at you, and reject your name as evil! Let them laugh if they will. God is your Father. You have no need to be ashamed. The Queen can create a nobleman. The Bishops can ordain clergymen. But Queen, Bishops, priests, and deacons-all together cannot, of their own power, make one son of God, or one of greater dignity than a son of God. The man that can call God his Father, and Christ his elder brother-that man may be poor and lowly, yet he never needs to be ashamed.
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