True or False: All people are children of God?

“If what you say is true, then why have I never heard it. Why are you the first person in all my years to tell me,” Mr. Z said with tears and more than a touch of indignation. I had just shared with him what the Bible says in John 3, that the only way to eternal life is by being born again. My heart was rent to pieces for this man. Mr. Z had spent his whole life believing that we were all children of God, and all that was required for life was to believe that God exists. He had been baptized twice, but no one ever told him that baptism signifies the new birth of a believer.
 
 
I don’t expect to make many friends from what I am about to write, but the Church has committed a terrible evil. It must be exposed and a solution must be offered. There are too many Mr. Z’s out there for us to ignore. They are the harvest of a watered-down gospel that is good for making converts but powerless to make disciples. Mr. Z had a right to be angry because he was sold a counterfeit product, which left him void of hope. Why should he believe me, someone he saw as just another counterfeit salesman?    

 

There are three lies that I want to confront in the false gospel that has been making rounds in the Church for the last 50 years. Then I will propose some solutions.  
 
 
1. All people are not children of God. The willingness to shirk the necessity of the new birth in order to make the gospel message more palatable for the masses is the most grievous evil that I can find in the Church and in Christian people in general today. If we were “all God’s children,” then why does Ephesians 2:3 tell us that apart from Christ we are all “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind?” Why does the Spirit tell us in 1 Timothy 2:5 that there is a need for a mediator between a holy God and sinful man? Children do not need mediators to represent them before their parents. They need a mediator to represent them in a court where they stand accused.  
 
In John 1:11-13 it is written, “He (Jesus) came to his own, and His own people did not receive Him.
But to all who did receive Him, who believed on His name, he gave them the right to be called children of God, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (emphasis mine). We see here that not even all of the Jews were children of God. Only those who “received Him and believed on His name” were given the right to be called children of God. Where do we get off saying, “We’re all God’s children?”  
 
Yes, it is true that we are all created in the image of God and as such we should love all people. We should value human life. More than that, we should treat all people no matter race, creed, political persuasion, sexual preference, or gender with the highest dignity. Every human being has the image of God etched into their DNA, so to mistreat anyone is an offense against the creator. (Cf. Galatians 6:10, Genesis 9:5-6)  
 
It is also true that God loves everyone. Indeed, “He makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sends the rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Also, He desires all people to be saved. He rhetorically asks through His prophet Ezekiel, “Have I any pleasure in the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn away from His evil and live” (Ezekiel 18:23)? In 1 Timothy 2:4 we read that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  
 
God’s love for all is not His affirmation that all people are children of God. Quite contrarily, the common grace He shows to all is a kindness that is meant to lead to repentance (Romans 2:4). Romans 2:5 is a warning to those who presume upon the common grace of God– “But because of your hard impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”  
 
Clearly, there is a dichotomy of peoples in the Bible. There are those who have received Him and believed on Him with penitent hearts. These have been given the right to be called children of God. Then there are those who daily drink in His common grace, but because of their hard hearts refuse to submit to Him as their Lord. These are definitely not the children of God. They are children of wrath, who are storing up wrath for themselves on the day of judgment.  
 
 
2. Believing in Jesus is not the same as trusting in Him. We commit another grievous evil when we rush our “converts” through the baptismal waters based on their acknowledgments of a few propositions. Those responsible for the care of souls ask too many “yes” or “no” questions when assessing the readiness of a candidate for baptism. Of course, the candidate is going to say that they believe in Jesus as God’s son. Of course, they are going to say that they believe he died for their sins. Of course, they are going to say that they believe, but the real question is when and how they came to trust in Jesus alone for saving grace?  
 
I can study how a parachute works and come to the conclusion that I believe the concepts, but trusting in the parachute is another matter altogether. Trust cannot be demonstrated with words. Trust requires action– jumping out of the airplane.   Belief begins in the mind. The brain does all the calculations and if the math and logic work out then the person will believe the proposition. Trust, on the other hand, is a matter of the heart. Trust requires an existential demonstration of what one believes in the heart. In the Bible’s conversion stories, this is precisely what we see.  
 
Andrew, Peter, James, and John, when called by Jesus, immediately left their boats and their families behind to follow Him (Matthew 4:18-22). The Ethiopian Eunuch immediately desired to exercise his trust in Jesus by being baptized on the spot (Acts 8:29-36). Paul immediately called the one who struck him down, “Lord,” in acknowledgment of his wholehearted trust in Jesus and spent the rest of his days demonstrating his trust in the Lord (Acts 9:5). In the case of Lydia, the Philippian seller of royal robes, it is written that when Paul spoke to her “The Lord opened her heart (not her mind) to pay attention.” Because of this move of the heart, she was not only baptized but also moved to host the Philippian mission in her home (Acts 16:14-15).  
 
The Greek word for the verb “to believe” (pisteuo) occurs 132 times in the gospels, 37 times in Acts, and 54 times in the letters of Paul. Never is the word used to say that one merely ascribes to a set of propositions. In the gospels, when Jesus called for one to believe, He was calling for a demonstration of trust. He said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” When belief was described by Jesus and by the Holy Spirit through Paul it was not described as a mere acknowledgment of a set of propositions.  
 
Paul was in prison when he wrote, “I know whom I have believed” (2 Timothy 1:12). He was so convinced of the truth of the gospel that he was willing to be placed in chains, beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked to advance the gospel to the known world. This is the kind of trust that is required for salvation. It is the kind of trust demonstrated by jumping out of a plane, getting out of the boat and onto the raging seas, taking up a cross, being willing to die knowing that the One in whom you have believed is able to keep you in that day.  
 
 
3. Discipleship was Jesus’ goal, not baptism. Jesus doesn’t care about how many people your church baptizes. He cares how many disciples are being made. For far too long we have made baptism the goal and discipleship an afterthought. I am not saying that Baptism should be an afterthought, but it should not be the end that we seek.  
 
What would you think about a doctor who after delivering a baby never made an effort to bring the baby back to the parents where it could receive the nourishment needed for life? What if the doctor just set the baby out on the street believing that someone would come along and pick it up? And what if after doing such a horrible thing, he boasted in his advertisements about how many babies he had delivered? This is precisely what the Church is doing by making converts and not discipling them while boasting in their baptism numbers.    
 
When Jesus told us to make disciples, He told us that those disciples were to be baptized and taught. The onus is not on the convert seek discipleship, any more than a baby must fend for itself for nourishment and raising. Jesus calls upon his own disciples and gives them the authority to make more disciples.  
 
Back to Mr. Z: The first worst evil that the Church committed against him was allowing him to trust in a false gospel. The second was that they left him to fend for himself. The Church was eager to affirm his false conversion, but where were they when he needed a guide? Where were they when he was growing up in a violent home and needed comfort? Where were they when he faced temptation and needed to know there was another way out? Where were they when he was in prison? Where were they when he lost everything he was trusting in to save him?  
 
 
Solutions to the Problem:  
 
Solution #1: Trust in Jesus. I’m convinced that the evils listed above stem from generations of false teaching in the Church. There are many in our pews today who preach, serve on committees, serve on deacon bodies, and direct ministries who have never trusted in Jesus alone for salvation. They are the lost seeking the lost and when they make a convert they only make him or her twice as fit for hell (Matthew 23:15). Many church leaders need to get into the Scripture and seek the deep conversion of their own souls. You cannot give away what you have not received.  
 
Solution #2: Preach the word. Stick to the Scripture. There is only one gospel and it is revealed in God’s word. All these other destructive and false gospels do not stand the biblical test. In the Bible, each false gospel is condemned even when preached by an angel from heaven (Galatians 1:7-9). Answer questions using the Bible and not popular wisdom. If you cannot answer a question from Scripture then say so, and seek God’s guidance.  
 
Solution #3: Ask hard questions of your Christian brothers and sisters. Yes or no questions are not hard questions. They can be answered without any search of the heart. Ask questions like, “When did you become a follower of Christ?” Then, listen to the answer and compare it to the conversion narratives in Scripture. Ask, “Who are you going to tell about Jesus?” Then, later follow up “Did you ever get an opportunity to speak with ‘so and so?’” Ask, “how is your prayer life? What are you praying for right now?” and “What can I ask God for on your behalf?” and “Is there any sin that you are hiding?” and “What is your greatest temptation right now?” and “How is God speaking to you in your daily Bible study? What is He doing in your heart?”  
 
Solution #4: Have a plan for discipleship. All followers of Christ are duty bound to preach the gospel. It is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). But what you do after a person is converted matters just as much. If your church is planning a major outreach event i.e. a revival, VBS, special Easter service, or a harvest festival where you will actively try to reach people with the gospel, the church must also have a plan in place to disciple those who respond. Sunday School classes are great but have specific people assigned to reach out to those who respond. Have someone assigned to invite them to worship and have them sit with their families and maybe even treat their guests to lunch. Build in your church a culture that will serve as a nursery for new baby Christians.  
 
Solution #5: Pray. It’s last on the list but not the least important. We cannot expect God to do what we do not ask of Him (James 4:2). He is sovereign. He does not need for us to ask, but He wants to hear our hearts. He loves it when His children demonstrate that they are depending upon Him in their prayers. If we ask, then we can have confidence that He will do what we ask especially when we know we are asking in accordance with His will (John 15:7-11).