#20. HOW TO BECOME A CHILD OF GOD. In Matthew 6:9 the Nazarene’s model prayer begins with first things first, or the primary teaching of the Bible: the Fatherhood of God. This includes the potential, or possibility, that you can enjoy a close and intimate relationship with God through a spiritual rebirth. For Jesus begins,
‘Our Father in heaven.’
#21. The designation “Father” was one of Jesus’ most preferred terms for God. He uses it 45 times in Matthew and 109 times in John.24
Jesus uses this intimate designation or name “Father” in his own prayers.25
FATHER. Here is where a concordance is handy to check these occurrences. Note: on occasion there will be a slight difference in the total number for the occurrence of a given word depending on the source of the original language manuscript or the translation used.
PRAYERS. See John 17:1, 5, 11, 21, 24, 25 for the Nazarene’s use of “Father” in a private prayer with his apostles rather than the noma sagrada YHWH.
#22. WHO IS THE FATHER? When the Nazarene uses the expression “Father” he means God, or more specifically The God (ho theos) in the mode of a special relationship with His worshippers. It is one thing to speak of God in a general sense as the Supreme Being, the Creator, or the Almighty. It is quite another to infer a specific relationship with God the Father, indicating one believes oneself to be a Child of God.
#23. The word “father” occurs over 1,000 times in the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures. Of this total only about a dozen refer to God directly. Most of these verses are in the context which would apply to the foretold Messiah26. It does occur rarely with reference to those other than the Christ27. So, that in the whole body of the Hebrew Bible this relationship with humans is mentioned less than a dozen times. Abraham stands unique as a “Friend of God”28
but no where is he called a “Son of God” nor does he ever address God as “Father”.
#24. It is the Nazarene who introduces to his world the possibility of becoming a Child of God and entering a Father-Child29
relationship with the Almighty. Though the relationship is foretold by inference, it is now with the Nazarene, that this becomes a true possibility when he introduces his model prayer.
FATHER-CHILD. See the Dictionary of New Testament Theology (DNTT), volume 1, page 619: “In the concept of the fatherhood of God we see one of the central ideas of primitive Christianity.”
#25. In his famous Sermon on the Mount (or, Mountain Teachings)30
the Nazarene uses the Divine Name31
once in a quotation but uses “God” 6 times and “Father” 17 times. Is it fair to state that Jesus has a clear bias for his preferred designation of the Supreme Being -- “Father.”
MOUNTAIN TEACHINGS. See the commentaries The Nazarene’s Mountain Teachings.
DIVINE NAME. See elsewhere for more notes on this subject. Did Jesus use the Divine Name “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” (YHWH)? In Jesus’ day it was the custom to use “Lord” or “God” in place of the Divine Name (YHWH, or Yehwah; see vowel points at Genesis 2:4; Yahweh, see the NJB at Genesis 2:4; or Yehowah; see vowel points at Genesis 3:14) which was considered too sacred to pronounce. The utterance of YHWH was viewed as a violation of the Commandment, ‘You must not take in vain the Name of Jehovah your God.’ (Exodus 20:7) (See Josephus’ War of the Jews) It is interesting that the Jews make an issue with Jesus over supposed violations of the Sabbath but never accuse him of any abuse of the Commandment. Does this indicate the Nazarene never publicly uttered YHWH when quoting the Hebrew Bible, either in its Hebrew or Greek forms? It is thought by some that YHWH occurred in copies of the Jewish Greek Septuagint (LXX) in Jesus’ day. A study of the Gospels would show Jesus’ use of YHWH in quotations but virtually never in normal speech. Even in his prayer in a private upper room with his apostles at John chapter 17 the Nazarene does not use YHWH.
#26.ARE ALL CHILDREN OF GOD? All persons are not children of God by virtue of birth. In Moses’ song at Deuteronomy 32.5 he sings in praise as a warning to Israel, ‘They are not Jehovah’s children.’32
This hymn demonstrates, in the first use of the term “Father” to designate Jehovah, that divine parenthood does not come automatically.
JEHOVAH’S CHILDREN. See DNTT, Vol 1, p 620: “Jesus did not teach the idea that God is the father of all men.”
#27. The beloved Apostle of the Nazarene, John, teaches us when he comments, ‘As many as received Jesus, by believing in his name, he gave authority to become children of God, not willed by flesh, but born of God.’33
Conversely, those pious religious leaders who claimed Abraham as their natural father asserted, ‘We are not bastards! We have one Father, God!’ But, Jesus replies to them,
‘If God were your Father you would love me for I come from God. You are of your father the Devil34and it is his passionate lusts you desire.’
They were thus identified as having a different fatherhood by their murderous passions and religious lies.
BORN OF GOD. Or, God-born. See John 1:12, 13.
DEVIL. See John 8:42, 44.
#28. HOW DOES ONE KNOW? The tone of the Nazarene above is similar to what the great Presbyter John wrote about sixty years later. In First John (1 Jn) the apostle identifies five basics for knowing one is truly born from above, or God-born by a spiritual rebirth.
#29. 1) RIGHTEOUSNESS. We must practice righteousness or be law-abiding, for, ‘Everyone God-born does righteousness.’35
Anyone claiming to be a Child of God must give evidence of habitual obedience to the commandments of God as revealed through His Son36, the Nazarene. This one God-born demonstrates a character or disposition which always has a bent toward what is right, just, or correct from God’s view.37
RIGHTEOUSNESS. See 1 John 2:29. “Righteousness” is the state of being “right” or not breaking “law”. It is different from “good” which goes beyond law to what is morally excellent. The Righteous Man obeys the speed limit; the Good Man stops to help the motorist.
SON’S COMMANDMENTS. See John 14:15; 15:12, 14.
GOD’S VIEW. Note Romans 7:13-25. This “righteousness” is despite the tendency of inherited or in-born sin (breaking the law) which sometimes leads the flesh contrary to God’s will.
#30. 2) HABITUAL SIN. We must not become habitual sinners, for, ‘Everyone God-born is not doing sin.’38
Here the negative of the previous point is emphasized. Anyone claiming to be a Child of God and yet persisting in the habitual practice of sin belies such a profession.39
SIN. See 1 John 3:9. Note that when John speaks of “sin” he often has a particular type in mind. (Compare 1 John 5:16, 17)
PROFESSING. See 1 John 1:8-10 and Matthew 7:17-23.
#31. 3) LOVE. We must be characterized by love (agape), for, ‘Everyone God-born is loving.’40
The Child of God is evidenced by a loving nature and a character which conforms to that description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: ‘Love is tolerant and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful. Love is not arrogant and never ill-mannered. Love is never concerned with Self and never provoked. Love does not keep a log on hurt and never rejoices over the hurt that befalls others. Love rejoices over Truth. Love bears everything, believes in all, always hopes, and endures anything.’
LOVING. See 1 John 4:17. Compare 1 John 3:23.
#32. Two of the better definitions of this kind of “love” (agape) are given in 1 Corinthians 10:24 and Philippians 2:4: ‘No one should always be looking after his own welfare41 but rather let each one seek the good of others.42 Stop looking after your own interests but practice looking out for the interests of others.’43 The scholar William Barclay defines this quality as ‘always looking for the highest good of your neighbor.’
WELFARE. This phrase is from the Williams (WMS) translation.
SEEK GOOD. This phrase is from Norlie (NOR) translation.
OTHER’S INTERESTS. This phrase is from the WMS.
#33.4) BELIEF, OR FAITH. We must believe Jesus the Nazarene is the Christ, or Messiah, for, ‘Everyone God-born believes Jesus is the Christ.’44 When asked what the “works of God” were, Jesus responded,
‘This is the work of God, that you believe in the One sent forth.’45 The apostle John wrote, ‘The one believing in the Son has everlasting life.’46
In making that statement John paralleled the idea of belief or faith with obedience to the Son. This subject of belief47
or faith in Jesus as the Son of God is a major theme of the Nazarene’s preaching as well as the subject in much of the apostolic letters. The one who claims to be God-born must give evidence of such a belief and this usually shows up in speech. Paul wrote, ‘I believed, therefore, I spoke.’48 Persons who have a firm conviction will be found speaking about it.
CHRIST. See 1 John 5:1.
THE WORK OF GOD. See John 6:28.
BELIEVING IN THE SON. See John 3:35.
FAITH. Review the subject of faith” or “belief” in a concordance.
#34. 5) VICTORIOUS! And, finally, we must be victorious over worldly influence because of our faith, for, ‘Everyone God-born conquers the world.’49
The Nazarene made a similar claim,
‘I have conquered the world.’50
It is not enough for one to just begin with faith, for conviction and trust must be carried on to complete victory. The Nazarene exhorts,
‘The one who endures completely will be saved.’ (Matthew 24:13)
CONQUER. See 1 John 5:4.
NAZARENE VICTORY! See John 16:33 and Revelation 3:21.
#35. These brief basics help one appreciate what is involved in being “authorized” (John 1:12) to become a Child of God. John continues to stress this theme when he writes, ‘Everyone begotten of God is not a habitual sinner because the divine sperm abides within and this child cannot continue in habitual sin. This is how to know the difference between the children of God and the children of the Devil: the habitual sinner and the unloving are not from God.’ (1 John 3:9, 10) This is something like inheriting a certain gene from a parent but here the source is God and so the spiritual DNA as it were keeps one from habitual sin which could bring about the Father’s permanent displeasure.51
FATHER’S DISPLEASURE. Some may object to the idea that God could withdraw his good pleasure upon one of his children but chapter three of Genesis alone ought to indicate He can and has in the past. We Nazarene Saints do not agree with the doctrine of Predestination nor the popular idea that “once saved, always saved.” We do not wish to entertain this subject in length here, other than to quote Will Durant, with whom we agree: “But we shall always find it hard to love the man (John Calvin) who darkened the human soul with the most absurd and blasphemous conception of God (found in the doctrine of predestination) in all the long and honored history of nonsense.” (The Story of Civilization, Vol VI, The Reformation, page 490) And to cite Paul, ‘But I beat my body black and blue, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.’ (1 Corinthians 9:27)
#36. HOW MANY CAN BECOME CHILDREN OF GOD? It ought to be clear “all” or “everyone” or “as many as” who follow the above and truly “receive” Christ, can be called “sons of God.” There are no limitations to this as if there were a pre-selected number. It is open-ended and all real Christians hold this hope dear. ‘Everyone,’ John wrote. (John 1:12, 13; 1 John 5:4. Compare Romans 8:14. These verses all use a form of the word hosoi which means “everyone.”
#37. This endearing form of address, “Father,” is used by those disciples of the Nazarene who wrote their great epistles. Paul uses “Father” four dozen times, almost always with the connecting designation “God” in a formula such as “God the Father.” Peter uses “Father” four times in much the same way. The beloved Apostle John uses it most often, 16 times. Despite this, none of the Nazarene’s disciples ever address God as “my Father” as Jesus himself does. On the other hand the phrase “my God” occurs about 190 times in the Bible with Paul using it several times. (Romans 1:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Ephesians 1:3; Philippians 4:19; Philemon 4) In harmony with the spirit of the Lord’s Prayer’s opening phrase, “Our Father,” this expression occurs about a dozen times only in the writings of Paul. (Romans 1:7; 4:12; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:16; Philemon 3) It seems clear the term “Father” is very Christian and finds its root in Jesus the Nazarene. Thereafter, “Father” becomes one of the two most popular designations52
for the Almighty.
DESIGNATIONS. The other is “God”; or, more precisely, “The God.”
#38. It is Jesus who uses the metaphor or parable of the difficulty of putting “new wine” into old wine skins. (Matthew 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37) If one views the old wine skins as the Jewish receptacle under the Mosaic Law with its Pharisaic distortions, and the New Wine as the teachings of the Nazarene, then here is entirely new “wine” in the form of a new relationship between God and those disciples of the Nazarene. They are not standing below Mount Sinai in the relationship Moses had with YHWH. They are not trembling in fear at the awesome spectacle of Sinai. They have approached an entirely different spiritual mountain as the writer of Hebrews53
puts it, ‘For you have not come to a physical mountain like Sinai, which burned with fire, approaching darkness and blackness, begging not to hear any more words from (Yehowah); but, you have come to Mount Zion, the City of the Living God… the Father of our spirits.’ (Hebrews 12:9, 18, 19, 22)
WRITER OF HEBREWS. This is questioned by many, but others accept Paul as the author. We will accept this and so may refer to Paul as the author later.
#39. What else is involved in this spiritual rebirth is taught by the Nazarene himself when he speaks to the Jewish Elder Nicodemas:
‘Only if one is born of water and spirit may he enter into the Kingdom. It is a necessity that you be born from above.’54 (John 3:3, 5) Peter and James echo the same: ‘The Father regenerated us into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. You have been regenerated by incorruptible seed through the Word of a living God. As newly generated infants, eagerly crave the pure milk of the Word.55 The Father of the Lights wished our birth by the Word of Truth and we became, as it were, the first children of His new family.’56 The later statements by the Nazarene’s disciples emphasize the place God’s Word plays in this process of rebirth. It cannot occur without some appropriate knowledge of the Bible.
BORN FROM ABOVE. The popular phrase “born again” is drawn from this idea.
REGENERATED. “Regeneration” comes from Peter’s pen at 1 Peter 1:3, 23; 2:2.
NEW FAMILY. This final phrase is based on James 1:17, 18 from the Living Bible.