The Difference Between Sons of God & Children of God
"The Lord Jesus used huios [Greek word meaning 'sons'] in a very significant way, as in Matt. 5:9, 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God,' and vv. 44, 45, 'Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be (become) sons of your Father which is in heaven.' The disciples were to do these things not in order that they might become children of God, but that, being children (note 'your Father' throughout), they might make the fact manifest in their character, might 'become sons.'" (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testaments Words, by W.E. Vine, pp. 585)
"The difference between believers as "children of God" and as "sons of God" is brought out in Rom. 8:14-21. The Spirit bears witness with their spirit that they are "children of God," and, as such, they are His heirs and joint-heirs with Christ. This stresses the fact of their spiritual birth (vv. 16, 17). On the other hand, "as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God," i.e., "these and no other." Their conduct gives evidence of the dignity of their relationship and their likeness to His character." (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testaments Words, by W.E. Vine, pp. 585)
There is a significant difference between the children of God and the sons of God. The phrase “child of God” is an election term. Even before salvation was made available, Jesus spoke of his disciples as children of their Father God in heaven. Only those on this earth who are appointed to eternal life, whose names were written in the book of life before the foundation of the world, are known as children of God. They were spiritually born into this world as God's children and because they belong to Him, they will instinctively and inevitably believe in Jesus.
...as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48, NASB)
Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. (John 11:51–52, NASB)
The children of God are not called so because they are Christians, for if the phrase “child of God” were synonymous with “Christian,” how could they have already been scattered abroad before they encountered Jesus and became Christians? This makes no sense. It would be like saying, “I was a Christian before I became a Christian.” If they were already scattered abroad before Jesus died on the cross, then Jesus didn’t die in order to turn them into children. Instead, He died in order to gather them together, because they are already His children.
He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:10–13, KJV)
To be a son of God is the highest status or title that God chooses to give to some of His children. This title or rank is achieved when certain children of God, after receiving the truth and believing in Jesus Christ, make such perfect choices, do such an amazing and courageous job, and are so pleasing to the Lord in their fierce loyalty to Him that God grants them the highest rank and reward possible: to be called sons of God. The children of God who are loyal to Jesus (i.e. Christians) can choose to work toward achieving this “son of God” title, but they cannot choose to be children of God. They are born into this world as children, and those children of God who are loyal to Jesus have the authority to work towards inheriting from God the highest title of “son.”
For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:13-14, NASB)
It is a hope of God that all His children will do their best to achieve this rank and title. Only the children of God who believe in Jesus Christ will have the ability to race for such a high prize.
The Spirit Himself [Holy Spirit] testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:16, 17, NASB)
The children of God each have a spirit, and this spirit can connect with the Holy Spirit. We could call it God’s spiritual identification system, and this spirit of ours can courageously declare our identity as God’s children by a personal connection with the Holy Spirit. God’s children have the capacity to understand and accept spiritual things. Because our spirit is what connects us to God, many people will often refer to this spirit as the “conscience,” because it convicts us to a degree of what God wants — of what is righteous and unrighteous.
Romans 8:16 also indicates that the degree of glorification we receive as fellow heirs with Jesus depends upon the degree of our allegiance to Him while on this earth. All children of God are fellow heirs with God the Father, but those children of God who follow and trust in Jesus Christ while on this earth are also heirs with Jesus Christ and will be glorified with Him.
The children of God do not automatically receive the “son of God” title when they become Christians. Instead, He gives to them the right or power to attain this rank. When the children of God make the right choices to honor and serve their King, their own character will be formed in the likeness of their King's character. The closer they form their own character to Jesus' character, to closer they are to being known by Jesus as "sons of God." It is the highest honor any child of God could receive for the choices they make on this earth, and it does not come without trials or sufferings.
For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:10, NASB)
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. (Hebrews 12:7-8, NASB)
Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. (2 Timothy 2:3-7, NASB)
God wants to gather all of His children together under their King Jesus, and He wants as many of them as possible to do the best they can to form their character to the likeness of their King's character. That is the ultimate prize, to know and follow our King so much so that we are likened to Him in both character and conduct. It is also God's ultimate will for his children.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. (Romans 8:18-19, NASB)
Not only will some of God's children attain this position with the resurrection at judgment, all of creation waits eagerly for an appointed revealing or maturing of many "sons" at a most pivotal turning point in history, that is, the beginning of the period of the restoration of all things and the beginning of the subjection of all things under Jesus: the war in heaven, when Jesus' enemies are finally made a footstool at His feet. What do God's sons have to do with this war? The answer is: everything.Back