Living As A Child Of God
May 30, 2010
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Being Made An Adopted Child Of God
1. Nicodemus, a teacher from the Pharisees came to visit Jesus one night, and Jesus said to him, "I clearly say to you. Unless a person is born again, he or she cannot see the kingdom of God," (John 3:3). Even the apostle Peter says in an epistle addressed to the church, "You have been born again not by perishing seed, but imperishable seed, that is, by the living, unchanging word of God," (First Peter 1:23). A person can, thus, "be born again." A person can be born twice. [As you may already know,] I gave a talk on this matter in worship four weeks ago.
2. To be born again. The second birth. It is the birth that comes by faith. All of us were born in the first birth, as children of parents in this world. All of us were born in the first birth, into families in this world. Some people will finish their lives having experienced only this birth. However, people can have another birth. In the second birth that comes by faith, "I [can] be born as a child of God." In the second birth that comes by faith, "I am born into the family of God." We will live ever in prayer as a child of God, as the family of God, just as Jesus taught, "Our father who art in heaven!" We will live always calling God "the heavenly father." I gave a talk that that is [our] day to day faith life.
3. Well, in regard to the new faith life that is given to us by faith in this way, and in regard to the faith life whereby we live calling God "father," in the epistle from Paul that I read to you today the following is expressed. "You have not received a spirit that makes a person fall into fear again as a slave, but the spirit that makes a person a child of God. Through this spirit we call 'Abba, o father!'," (verse fifteen). In referring [to God as] "Abba," it is the same as a small child saying, "Daddy." It is a call out to one's father. The reason one can call the heavenly father like this is because "You have received the spirit that makes a person a child of God." It is translated, "makes a person a child of God," but more properly this phrase ought to be translated "makes a person an adopted child." What Paul clearly has in mind is a discussion on the adopted child, not a child from one's seed.
4. Why did it use the phrase "make one an adopted child?" -- Because it is not a proper inherent right that we can call God "Abba, Father." It is [only] possible because of [his] special grace. That distinction is being emphasized here. Even though we cannot possibly be children of God properly speaking, and even though we cannot call him "Father" properly speaking, we have been allowed to be specially accepted as [his] children by a special grace. A people, who were not [God's] children by nature, have been made "adopted children" and have been received into [God's] family. [The text] is saying that. How did such a thing ever come to pass? It is already written in this epistle. It is through God's sending the Christ into this world. It is through [God's] bringing the atonement of sin into fulfillment through the cross of Christ. It is through [God's] justifying believers by means of the cross of Christ. [It's] only because of the cross of Christ [that] we have been pardoned of sin, justified, and accepted by God. Everything has come to pass through the unilateral grace of God. All of it is expressed in the phrase, [we] "have received the spirit that makes one a child of God (have received the spirit that makes one an adopted child)."
No Obligation To Live According To The Flesh
5. In this way then, in our day to day faith practice, I am living [as one] "who has received the spirit that has adopted [me] as a child of God." By the grace of God, I've been accepted and I surely [can] live as a child of God [and] call [God] "Abba, Father." Unless I had been a child of God, [my] faith life would be nothing. But is that all? Was the me before I was adopted, the me before I was a child of God, the old me dead and in a grave? Has [this old part of me] already turned into a stiff corpse, unable to move a beat? If that were true, I guess that'd be okay. But actually, it's not true. Sad as it may be, the old person is still alive. Isn't that our real experience in this world? Paul calls that old person, the me I'm born with, "the flesh." At the beginning of the passage that I read to you today, Paul was speaking about "the flesh." It is neither about the physical body nor its physical desires that the text is referring to here. It is "the me I'm born with," which is not "the me as a child of God."
6. "Therefore, brothers, we have one obligation, but it is not an obligation to the flesh, that we must live according to the flesh," (verse twelve). There is no necessity for us to live according to the flesh. There is no obligation for us to live according to the flesh. That's what Paul says. Why [does he say this]? Going at it from the other way, I suppose it is because we have the potential [not to live that way] or, because it is quite possible to live according to the old me while confessing the faith life.
7. Such a way [of living] may get its origin in a disappointment that we mistakenly find along the way. As believers in Christ and someone who is pardoned of sin, [we] are accepted by God, and [we] begin to live trusting in the heavenly father as children of God. But as we continue in the day to day faith practice, we will get to noticing that there is a self that still sins. We will notice that there is a self that has not changed at all. A conflict arises. We feel disappointed. Meanwhile, the self that prays to God gets a feeling of hypocrisy. Out of that we start to feel like we're a lie, that [our] "true self" is really the part of us that sins. We think reluctantly, "Hey, I call this belief thing or whatever it is, faith, however, in the end, this is me." Meanwhile, I get to where I stop praying. I also stop worshipping God. I get farther from the church, farther from the Bible, and then I start completely living according to the old me I was. It is possible for stuff like this to happen.
8. Now, at the onset I spoke of "a disappointment that we mistakenly find along the way." [This stuff that happens] finds its source in mistaken disappointments. What do we get wrong? It's when we ignore the fact that we have this existence of being children of God. There is certainly "the self that never changes." And there may be this condition where [I am] weak and frail, like a baby; however, the born again me is also alive. Which [part of me] is eternal? Of course, it is the son of God [part of me]. Born a person as part of this temporary world, I as flesh will one day go under. We must put our eyes on the me born as a child of God, the me who calls God "Father." Paul says, "We have one obligation, but it is not an obligation to the flesh, that we must live according to the flesh." I agree; there is no need to live according to the flesh.
Not Slaves But As Children
9. However, there is also a time when "living according to the flesh" shows itself another way. It is the time when it takes a religious form. For Gentile Christians, "living according to the flesh" may appear as one kind of self-indulgent lifestyle or another, or it may even appear as a pagan custom. However, in the case of a Jewish Christian, it probably doesn't show itself in such forms. Since [Jews] are basically devout people observant of the law, even if they "live according to the flesh," they seem to have a pious practice in daily life and fear God outwardly. We might be quick to see [their sin], in a certain sense, as by "I get to where I stop praying. I also stop worshipping God. I get farther from the church, farther from the Bible." However, I don't mean that, I mean this, it is possible that while living according to the flesh, we are extremely serious Christians, we have a devout daily practice, we live in a rigorous obedience to God. We're really deep into it, dead serious, super strict, chained to the commandments. Therefore, with that in mind, Paul declares, "You have not received a spirit that makes a person fall into fear again as a slave, but the spirit that makes a person a child of God."
10. At this point in the text Paul raises the example of "slaves." [He does that] because "a slave" is clearly different from "a child." "A slave" serves [his or her] master. About when this epistle was written, within the Roman empire, there were lots of people called slaves. Many of the members who made up the primitive church were persons with the social status of slave. Thus, when Paul said, "a spirit that makes a person fall into fear again as a slave," he knew they would intuitively understand it as their own conditions. Paul attaches the word "fear" to "slave." They surely must have understood that immediately, "Oh I get what [Paul] is saying." The slave hears what the master says. The slave obeys the master. Why does [a slave obey]? [A slave obeys] because when a slave doesn't listen to what the master says, he or she will be beaten. So, he or she obeys the master. They will work the best they can as they listen to what he says, but they will be scared stiff the whole time wondering, "When will I be beaten?" This is the master-slave relationship.
11. So in a way similar to that, there are unfortunately times when the God-human relationship turns into something that looks like a master-slave relationship. If we don't listen to what God says, we will be beaten. If we don't keep God's commands, we will be given punishment. We will be cursed by God. We will have catastrophes. We will never be saved. He will never let us into the kingdom of God. So, we obey. We obey the whole time scared stiff wondering if we are getting God mad or have his approval. Thus, when it turns into this relationship like that of master and slave, as far as appearance goes, just maybe, we might look like fine believers, very serious about it and devout. -- Cause we're obeying God with all we got. Cause we're subservient and obedient.
12. Yet, this too is none other than "living according to the flesh." It is the way of "the old man, the old woman," the person you used to be before God made you a child of God. However, therefore, there is no need to live according to the flesh in fear of being beaten like a slave. Paul says, "We have one obligation, but it is not an obligation to the flesh, that we must live according to the flesh."
13. Well, I wonder what is it we should be doing? The scripture says, "We have one obligation," but what is that one obligation? There is obviously here an abbreviated reference to it. Here in this text "the spirit" is set forth in contrast to "the flesh." Therefore, were it written in a more complete form, it would be that of in verse twelve as follows. "So, brothers, we have one obligation, but it is not an obligation to the flesh, that we must live according to the flesh. It is an obligation to the spirit, that we must live according to the spirit."
14. We live according to the spirit. We live according to the spirit of God, who guides the child of God. We live according to the spirit, who makes us the children of God, the spirit who makes a person an adopted child. That is, no matter what, we live as adopted persons, as children of God. We live ever calling God, "Abba, o father!" Is the sinful self still alive? Is the old man we used to be alive? Do you feel disappointment at the old self you used to be still being alive? Do you feel the grief of it? Yet, even I, as I feel the disappointment of this, as I feel the grief of it, am truly truly a child of God.
15. Therefore, what we should really do is live as children of God, no matter what. We do not need to live according to the flesh. We do not need to live going back to the [natural] self that is not a child of God. Furthermore, we do not need to live like a slave always scared stiff with fear. By [God's] special grace, by the atonement for sin on the cross, as persons who have been completely accepted and made into adopted children, ever calling [him] "Abba, o father!," we trust in God, and entrust ourselves over to God, [that's how] we should live. [And we should do so] because the current way we are now, which suffers because of the flesh, is not our final way we will be. In the place I read to you today, it was written that since you are [his] child, you are also [his] heir. It was written in the text that in the kingdom of God we are co-heirs with Christ. That time is coming when salvation will finally be complete, and [you and] I as a child of God will fully come out. That time is coming when ultimately we will have a share in glory with Christ as God's children.