God’s Plan: A Family of Love
God’s desire from the very beginning was to share his love. Eternally there existed love between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. God’s desire was to have children – a family with sons and daughters made in His image, who could intimately relate with God in a way that would be satisfying to Him. Children who would be like him, who would love Him from the heart because they wanted to is what the Father God wants. This was God’s purpose in creation – to have a family to whom he could express His love and from whom receive love (Eph. 3:14,15; Eph. 1:2-5).
The Father and His Family
Both Old and New Testament reveals that God is a Father. Psalm 89:26 says, “He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.’ “. Psalm 68:5 declares that God is a Father to the fatherless and a defender of widows. God asks where His honour as Father is (Mal. 1:6) in the way His people were treating Him. God reveals Himself as Father in all these passages.
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ gave us a fuller revelation of the Fatherhood of God (John 14:9). He taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father, which is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9). Paul bows his knees in prayer “to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” (Ephesians 3:14,15).
God’s Fatherhood reveals that He is the author and initiator of life, that He is warm, loving, generous, good and strong. God’s intention was that we be in His image, just as Jesus Christ was and is (Gen. 1:27; Col. 1:15). We have seen other aspects of God’s Father heart in lesson 2. Love is the motivation of God’s heart (1 John 4:8).
The Father’s family begins with the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God. God the Father loved Jesus before the foundation of the world (John 17:24). Jesus often called God His Father (John 10:29), and yet He says in the next verse, “I and my Father are One.” (John 10:30). Jesus Christ could say this because He Himself is Uncreated. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:1,14). All things were made through Jesus and for Jesus, including the material universe as well as spiritual beings and authorities (John 1:3; Col. 1:15). The word “first-born” in Col. 1:15 means “pre-eminent”, “heir”, and “first in authority”. It does not mean that Jesus was born at a point in the distant past. We have seen in lesson 2 and even from the verses above that this cannot be – a fundamental doctrine of the Bible is that Jesus is fully God.
John the Baptist testified of Jesus that “this is the Son of God.” (John 1:34). Jesus was declared by God Himself to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead. (Rom. 1:4).
God’s intention has always been to have a large family, both in heaven and on earth. The angels are called “sons of God” (Gen. 6:24; Job 1:6). The creation of the first man, Adam, was part of God’s purpose to have sons. Luke 3:38 calls Adam, “the Son of God”. As we will see, Adam lost his sonship relationship to God the Father through wilful rebellion, when he chose to ignore God’s Word in relation to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But God’s plan to have true sons on the earth was not totally frustrated at this point. In fact, through the victory of Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection, we can all become sons of God once again through faith in Jesus Christ (Gal 3:26). For this purpose to unfold even creation eagerly waits (Rom. 8:19).
“But as many as received him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13).
We see that becoming a child of God involves a new birth, a definite trust and receiving of Jesus and the power of His name. The greek word for “name” – ‘onema’ also means ‘authority’ and ‘cause’. We must believe in Jesus’ Lordship, His authority and His cause – the salvation of mankind – in order to become children of God. Thus not all men and women are children of God. By nature and natural birth we are “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). Jesus said to the religious Jews of His day, “You are of your father the devil” (John 8:44).
The apostle John in his first letter writes, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” (1 John 3:1). There is a difference between the children of God and the people of the world at large.
All people and all things were created for God’s pleasure (Rev. 4:11 KJV). God knew before creation took place who would have an inclination to turn back to Him in love and trust, and so through predestination he made sure that they would be adopted into His family as sons. “For those he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29). Ephesians 1:5 tells us that true Christians are adopted into the family of God.
This family is a family of love, marked by love for the Father and for one another. (John 17:23,24,26; John 13:34,35; 1 John 3:10,11). God loves us and wants us to enjoy eternal life with Him (John 3:16).
Mankind, Created in God’s Image
“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27)
Both men and women were created in God’s image. To be created in God’s image means to be created “like God” (Gen. 1:26). Women are meant to be part of God’s family also, and to reflect God’s glory just as the men. In the new creation order in Christ, there is neither male nor female; we are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28). This doesn’t mean there are no functional differences between men and women in the Christian life or in family life, but it does mean that a woman in Christ is just as much a child of God as is a man in Christ.
Adam and Eve were full of God’s glory. This is God’s desire for His children. They were to be like God in character, and to a lesser extent, in capacity. The fact that we are made in God’s image, even if now that image is distorted through sin, makes us magnificent and valuable. Even fallen men reveal something of the creativity, brilliance and artistic nature of God. Man should never be treated like an animal or like an object. We should love and respect all people because they are made in God’s image, with potential to be children of God in nature by adoption.
God’s Wants to Bless His Family
God, as we have seen previously, is a good God. He wants to share all His goodness and all He has with us, because He loves us.
“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” (Rom. 8:16,17).
The true children of God inherit all things in Christ because of God’s great love and generosity to His children.
“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:17). God is not holding back. He is a rich Father who will give you what you need and more! The more you believe this, the more you will see it in your life!
We should pray because God will give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:7-11)
God’s Will for us is good. God’s will is not defined as anything that happens, but what He declares is His desire for us in His Word, which is also His Will. His Will includes:
1. His commandments (what He wants us to do and how He wants us to be)
2. His Promises (What He wants to do for us).
We will now take a brief look at God’s will for His children – first in the natural order, then in the spiritual (1Cor 15:46)
God’s will is healing and health for his children ( Ex 15.26; Ps 103.3; 3Jn 2; Is 53:4,5; 1 Pet. 2:22; Acts 10:38). For further understanding of this part of our salvation in Christ, study the lesson entitled “The Good News“.
God’s will is prosperity (having all you need and more for you, your family, and your ministry) ( 3 John 2; Is. 48:17; Pr. 10:22; 2 Cor 9:8),
God’s will is that we know forgiveness (1 Jn 1:8,9)
God’s will is that we may not sin (1 John 2:1). He desires that we beobedient in all things that He reveals to us (Php 2:12,13).
God’s will is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17), hope (positive expectation of good) and faith (Rom 15:13) to be permanent characteristics of our life.
God’s will is that we be filled with love (Romans 5:5)
God’s will is deliverance for his children. In Matthew 15:26 Jesus calls deliverance from evil spirits “the children’s bread”. That is the very basic thing that anyone would provide for his children – bread.
The problems that we and others experience therefore is not due to God’s will. The problem is with us. Are we are willing to agree with His Will, to be submissive members of His family, to co-operate with Him, to receive His love and to obey His Word through His grace and power? Every person should consider carefully their own attitude on this point.
Love Requires a Choice
Some ask, “If God is good and all-knowing and all-powerful, why did he make things so that there could be so much evil and suffering in the world? He knew that it would be that way! So why?” The answer lies in the value God places on having sons who love him. Love without the possibility of experiencing rejection is not possible. A computer or robot cannot love. God considered that it was better to have real sons even if it meant so much suffering to exist in the world. God’s values may be different to ours, but they are right! Also, He wanted his sons to put satan and his dark powers, the leaders of rebellion against God, to shame! (Eph. 3:10,11). It needed to be eternally demonstrated that all alternatives to God’s will were foolish!
Now Adam and Eve did reject God – by rejecting His Word – and succumbed to the temptation to be morally independent of God. We do the same every time we choose our own way in contradiction to the Word of God. But God’s plan to have sons and daughters was not stopped by this act of high treason, as we will see later. But for now we will look at the beginning of sin in humans and some of the consequences of that sin.
The Rebellion in the Garden
God had given to Adam only one restriction. “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you will surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17). Adam’s obedience to God hinged on believing, trusting, respecting and obeying that one commandment of God. After Eve was created, Adam must have told Eve about this command. But Eve listened more to the voice of the serpent (the devil) than to the voice of her husband. She took the fruit and ate it. (See Gen. 3:1-8). Adam knew that his wife was lost because she was deceived by the serpent. Adam was not deceived (2 Tim 2:14). He deliberately rebelled against God, choosing to join his wife in sin rather than to cling to God. On that day they both died, spiritually. All the descendants of Adam now are born spiritually dead(Ephesians 2:1). And spiritual death paves the way for eventual physical death, which brings to judgment and eternal condemnation those who have rebelled against the great God.
How did Satan deceive Eve?
1. He questioned the word of God to inspire doubt in God’s word. “Has God indeed said?” (Gen 3:1)
2. He questioned God’s goodness “you shall not eat of every tree”. (Gen 3:1) Perverting God’s words, he inspires doubt about God’s goodness.
– Both these doubts are attacks on the mind of man today.
3. He aroused her emotions by contradicting the Word of God. “You shall not surely die”. Satan knows that bold lies built on a foundation of mistrust laid earlier are effective means of temptation.
4. He appeals to her imagination. “You will be like God!”, “You will be enlightened, knowing good and evil” were satan’s promises to her if she ate the forbidden fruit.
Satan uses the same strategy today to entice people into sin.
Eve was guided not by her spirit, nor by the word of God, but by her soul and body. The lust of the flesh “the tree was good for food” (Gn 3:6a), the lust of the eyes “it was pleasant to the eyes” (v6b) and the pride of life “desirable to make one wise” (vs 6c). It is these three factors which we must overcome in our warfare with sin and satan today. Jesus overcome all three in the wilderness when tempted by satan (see Mt. 4:1- 11; 1Jn 2:16).
Mankind Perverted as children of Satan
The consequences of this rebellion against God affected not only Adam and Eve, but also all their descendents. Adam “begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth” (Gen 5.3). Now God’s image in man was perverted, and that perverted image was multiplied through procreation. We all became “children of wrath” (Eph 2:3), “sons of disobedience” in whom satan, now “the prince of the power of the air”, worked (Eph 2:2)
Even religious people are not exempt from this. Jesus said to the religious Jews of His day: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.” (John 8:44).
John said: “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practise righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.” (1 Jn 3:10)
So not all men are children of God as some would say. We have to be adopted into God’s family as sons. (Gal 4:5). This happens throughrepentance and faith in God. We are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:26). Those without faith in Christ Jesus therefore are not sons of God.
Fallen mankind are under the curse. (Ex 20:5; Deut. 28:15ff). The wrath (anger) of God abides on them. (Jn 3:36; Rom. 1:18). They are on their way to hell (Ps. 9:17; 2 Thes. 1:8,9). They are slaves of sin (Rom. 6:20), children of wrath (Eph 2:3), strangers from the covenant of promise, having no hope and without God in the world (Eph 2:12). Who then can be saved? With man it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:25-26).
It took Jesus Christ Himself to save man out of this mess. Adam had received dominion from God in the garden but when he obeyed satan he gave this authority to rule over the affairs of earth in large measure to satan. Satan became his god. (2 Cor. 4:4). This is why the world is in such a mess today – because people are still believing the devil’s lies instead of God’s word. Instead of receiving the promised enlightenment, Adam and Eve became spiritually blind and cut off from God. Sin separates from God, the wages of sin is death. (Is. 59:1,2; Rom 3:23) Sin is not just an act. It is an attitude of the heart – the attitude of rebellion.
The Nature of Rebellion
Rebellion is related to pride and is the refusal to submit to God’s authority and it is the spirit which leads men to do wicked things which hurt God’s heart. Let us remember that God is good, wise and righteous. Rebellion against God then, is stupid and evil. It is wrong. It deserves to be punished, isolated, eradicated for the good of God and the whole Universe.
It is the rebellious nature in man that makes him want to disobey God’s word and do his own thing. This rebellious nature must be put to death before man could ever become a loving, trusting obedient son of God.
Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, according to God’s Word. (1 Sam 15:23). God hates it intensely and will never accept it. It is not right to rebel against God, because God is good and just and never makes bad decisions. The rebel considers he knows better than God. It is this pride which causes him to refuse to listen to the word or voice of God. Cutting himself off from God’s wisdom, the rebel is a fool. He is the fool mentioned in the book of Proverbs. Those who don’t listen to God’s word can never please God. You must make up your mind which you prefer – the spirit of rebellion or the spirit of obedience to God. If you want to know God and be forgiven you must lay down your rebellion and admit that you were wrong in it. This means going a different way to the rest of the world which is led by this spirit of rebellion against God. You must make the choice.
Many people are shocked and offended by this kind of black and white teaching. Many consider themselves quite good – and certainly not deserving any kind of condemnation. The next lesson on the law of God, however, reveals something of the standard which God calls for from us, who owe our existence and prosperity and all that we enjoy to God and His creative power. We should consider ourselves at least once in our life in the light of God’s Law – before deciding whether we think we need a Saviour or not.