Becoming a child of God requires faith in Jesus Christ. “To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
“You must be born again”
When visited by the religious leader Nicodemus, Jesus did not immediately assure him of heaven. Instead, Christ told him he had to become a child of God, saying, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3).
The first time a person is born, he inherits the sin nature that stems from Adam’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden. No one has to teach a child how to sin. He naturally follows his own wrong desires, leading to such sins as lying, stealing, and hating. Rather than being a child of God, he is a child of disobedience and wrath (Ephesians 2:1–3).
As children of wrath, we deserve to be separated from God in hell. Thankfully, Ephesians 2:4–5 says, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” How are we made alive with Christ / born again / made a child of God? We must receive Jesus by faith!
“To all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children” (John 1:12, NET). This verse clearly explains how to become a child of God. We must receive Jesus by believing in Him. What must we believe about Jesus?
First, the child of God recognizes that Jesus is the eternal Son of God who became man. Born of a virgin through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus did not inherit Adam’s sin nature. Therefore, Jesus is called the second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22). While Adam’s disobedience brought the curse of sin on the world, Christ’s perfect obedience brings a blessing. Our response must be to repent (turn from sin) and seek forgiveness in Christ.
Second, the child of God has faith in Jesus as Savior. God’s plan was to sacrifice His perfect Son on the cross to pay the punishment we deserve for our sin: death. Christ’s death frees those who receive Him from the penalty and power of sin. His resurrection justifies us (Romans 4:25).
Finally, the child of God follows Jesus as Lord. After raising up Christ as the Victor over sin and death, God gave Him all authority (Ephesians 1:20–23). Jesus leads all who receive Him; He will judge all who reject Him (Acts 10:42). By God’s grace, we’re born again to new life as God’s child. Only those who receive Jesus—not merely knowing about Him but relying on Him for salvation, submitting to Him as Master, and loving Him as the supreme treasure—become children of God.
Become a child of God
Just as we had no part in our natural birth, we cannot cause ourselves to be born into God’s family by doing good deeds or conjuring up faith of our own. God is the one who “gave the right” to become a child of God according to His gracious will. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1). Thus, the child of God has nothing to be proud about; his only boast is in the Lord (Ephesians 2:8–9).
A child grows up to look like his parents. Similarly, God wants His children to become more and more like Jesus Christ. Although only in heaven will we be perfect, a child of God will not habitually, unrepentantly sin. “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how 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; nor is anyone who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:7–10).
Make no mistake—a child of God cannot be “disowned” by sinning. But someone who consistently engages in and enjoys sin without heeding Christ and His Word reveals that he was never born again. Jesus told such people, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire” (John 8:44). The child of God, on the other hand, no longer craves the gratification of sin but desires to know, love, and glorify his or her Father.
The rewards of being a child of God are immeasurable. As God’s child, we are a part of His family (the church), promised a home in heaven, and given the right to approach God in prayer (Ephesians 2:19; 1 Peter 1:3–6; Romans 8:15). Respond to God’s call to repent of sin and believe in Christ. Become a child of God today!