Righteous Children of God

Okay…at this point I will allow any of you who consider the subject of proper biblical hermeneutics boring to stop reading this article…

Still there? 🙂

Well, for those of you who are braving what could be a really dusty, boring dialogue…get a good shot of coffee and let’s dive in!

Of course, you may not even know what the word “hermeneutic” means. My Mac’s dictionary is short and sweet, stating it’s “a method or theory of interpretation.” Giving that topic it’s proper attention would take far more than a single bulletin article, but let’s go with a couple simple rules that perhaps we can immediately agree upon:

  1. The same word doesn’t always mean the same thing (even if it is the original language word in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek).
  2. The natural reading of a verse betrays its most likely meaning.

Those seem like common sense, don’t they? You don’t assume that a train in a church during a wedding is the same thing as a train kachugging down the tracks, do you? (Context, context, context.) Also, unless you have clear evidence otherwise, don’t you generally assume what you hear is what people meant?

The first Twitter “let’s argue over semantics” had to do with the concept of “children of God.” I suggested that although scripturally it appeared to always mean that someone was saved (e.g. John 1:12; Romans 8:16; 9:8; Philippians 2:15; 1 John 3:1, 10; 5:2), it has a secondary use: all of God’s human creation are “children of God.” Well, a couple of my Twitter friends insisted the biblical use of the phrase was the only allowable use. So, I shared these (biblical) words from Paul to them:

And [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man (Acts 17:26-29, English Standard Version).

Well, I know it doesn’t say “children of God,” but it does say we are all God’s offspring. Ergo, we are all children of God.

They would have none of it. One said that Paul was not saying we were God’s children…that he was just quoting a pagan poet. My pointing out verse 29 (“Being then God’s offspring…”) wasn’t part of the poem didn’t matter. No! Nada! Nuh huh! Only the saved are children of God!

Well…I mentally let that go until another Christian friend this week asked what it meant to “pursue righteousness” (see 1 Timothy 6:11 and 2 Timothy 2:22). She got the answer that it was to pursue Christ because it’s His righteousness that is counted as ours (“imputed righteousness”). I pointed the two having the conversation to these verses:

…even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord God (Ezekiel 14:14).

…even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, declares the Lord God, they would deliver neither son nor daughter. They would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness (Ezekiel 14:20).

Well, the guy who was answering insisted that still was imputed righteousness because the Bible calls Lot righteous and “clearly that dude wasn’t righteousness.” He was referring to:

…and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)… (2 Peter 2:7-8)

Hmmm…I don’t know about you, but even given Lot’s reluctance to leave Sodom and his liquored-up incest issue (which was more due to his daughters really wanting children)…Peter seems pretty darn convinced that Lot was a good guy (an example to hold up the recipients of his letter).

The natural reading of those references is that Noah, Daniel, Job, and Lot were themselves righteous, not that they had “imputed righteousness.”

So why in the first case they insist that “children of God” only could mean one thing and in the second case that the only righteousness that a person could have was imputed? Insisted even when I made it clear I wasn’t saying that “children of God” or “righteous” in my contexts meant “saved”?

I would suggest because we all approach the Bible with more mental non-negotiables than Scripture demands, and it blinds us to the truth to varying degrees. I don’t question the sincerity or salvation of any involved, but I do think we “righteous children of God” really need to make sure we are reading God’s words and not our prejudices.

Something for all of us to consider whenever we open up the Bible…which should be very often. 🙂

P.S. By the way, I am not saying I am definitely right. Perhaps I’m the one, in this case, who is being impeded by an unwarranted mental non-negotiable…but I don’t think so. 🙂

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Alan is an ordinary guy, living in a small, high plains Colorado town...and humbled to be a minister of God...

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