Ephesians 2:2,3, 5:8
Within God’s word, a phrase is often used to describe the state or the way of
life of individuals or collective groups, most often from the spiritual
viewpoint. Since this is God’s word, we would do well to consider which of
these descriptive terms and/or phrases apply to us and, if they are unpleasant
or unwelcome, do our best to change that. Let’s consider just a few.
Children of Disobedience. In his letter to
the Ephesian brethren, Paul reminded these Gentile Christians that they had
all, at one time [before they were converted to Christ], “walked, following
the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the
spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2, 3). Those
“sons of disobedience” were those who lived for themselves, under the sway of
the devil, “carrying out the desires of the body and the mind” (v. 3). Simply
put, they were living to fulfill the fleshly desires — the very thing our
spiritual enemy, the devil, wants us to do, but a life that is at odds with
the life God wants us to live.
As long as they [and we] lived for the fleshly pleasures, they/we were
disobeying the will of God and could rightly be called “sons of disobedience.”
Of course, the one who held us in captivity (cf. 2ndTim. 2:26) convinced us we
were really “free” and doing what we wanted, but it was really his will that
we were fulfilling — just not God’s will.
Children of Wrath. Paul went on to say
that while they lived according to the ways of the world and sought only to
fulfill their fleshly pleasures, they identified themselves not only as “sons
of disobedience,” but also as “children of wrath, like the rest of mankind”
(v. 3). Here’s the description that is not so pleasant to hear, for many men
love to live the ungodly, worldly life without thinking about the consequences
of such a life. Many love to live as if they will face no consequences and
certainly not as if they might be condemned to an eternal hell.
While many live as if these things were true, it is only wishful thinking.
Paul reminded the Christians at Rome that they could not live as they were,
doing the very things for which they condemned others, and expect to escape
the righteous judgment of God. To them, he asked, “Do you suppose, O man — you
who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself — that you
will escape the judgment of God?” (Rom. 2:3); he would then remind them, “But
because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for
yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
He will render to each one according to his works” (vv. 5, 6). As they then
lived, these men faced the wrath of God and, as such, were rightly called
“children of wrath” because that could be their only expected outcome. They
were the product of a life that indulged in fleshly pleasures and sin, and
which demanded retribution from God for their transgressions. Every man who
lives as one who has not been forgiven of his sins, everyone who does not obey
the gospel of Jesus Christ, can expect this because we deserve it. It is only
by God’s grace and mercy that He established a way for us to be forgiven and
to escape that wrath.
Children of the Flesh. While we might be
tempted to think this is simply another way of saying the same thing, Paul
used this phrase to describe those who emphasized their fleshly heritage,
rather than their true spiritual relationship with God. The Jews loved to tell
others that they were children [descendants] of Abraham, but Paul cautioned
them, “it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but
the children of the promise” (Rom. 9:8); in other words, just because they
were fleshly descendants of Abraham did not mean they were going to inherit
the blessings of the promises made to him by God — particularly the blessings
of forgiveness that came through the seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ.
It is somewhat ironic that we still have the problem today of people trusting
their fleshly lineage as some sort of guarantee they are saved. Many, many
people come to God’s word and find that what they have believed all their
lives and what their parents taught them is not the right way, but then fall
back on their fleshly lineage and heritage as the “surety” of salvation,
rather than what they read in God’s word! While men may not be appealing to
Abraham, they are still appealing to some fleshly relationship as a sign and
assurance they are saved, instead of their true spiritual relationship with
Let us be reminded that Jesus Himself said plainly, “Whoever loves father or
mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter
more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37). Sometimes, we are blessed to
have had parents who raised us according to God’s will but, sometimes, we have
been led astray by those who love us. When it comes down to it, you may have
to decide between being a child of your parents, or being a child of God,
because they are not always the same thing.
Children of the Most High; Children of God.
I would heartily concur with the words of the apostle John when he wrote,
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be
called children of God!” (1st John 3:1). Indeed! What a blessing! But we
cannot stake a claim to being one of His children unless it were true, no more
than anyone could claim to be a son of Bill Gates without it being true. You
might desire that it be true due to the possibility of a great inheritance,
but desiring it does not make it so. Likewise, no man can claim to be a child
of God and expect His abundant blessings unless he truly is the child of God,
and the only way that can happen is by adoption into the spiritual family of
Paul wrote, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of
God” (Rom. 8:14); that is, those who allow the words given by inspiration of
the Holy Spirit — those who obey the written word of God — these are the ones
led by the Spirit and, thus, children of God. One cannot follow anything other
than the revealed word of God and please Him, and it is when we do those
things that bring us into the family of God that we can be truly called the
children of God.
Children of Light. In the Bible, the life
of righteousness is sometimes referred to as “light,” while the way of sin is
sometimes called “darkness.” For those who have obeyed the gospel and have
been adopted into the body of the saved, this means we no longer live in
darkness or are influenced by its appeals, and we now live “as children of
light” (Eph. 5:8). Being a child of light means we are led by it, influenced
by it, and filled with it. As the psalmist said, “Your word is a lamp to my
feet and a light to my path”(Psa. 119:105); this means we must let God’s word
be that which leads us, influences us, and fills us. We must make God’s will
our will, His limits our limits, and His word the last word.
So, whose child are you? The things that produced you and made you who you
are, are the things that identify to the world and to God whose child you are.
If you are led by the fleshly things, you are a child of the flesh and likely
a child of disobedience, for it is enmity with God (cf. Rom. 8:7, 8). If,
however, you allow God’s word to teach you, rule you, and guide you in all you
say and do, you can be a child of God and, thus an heir of His promised
blessing. But the choice is yours.
God is a Father like no other, but are you His child?
By Steven Harper
From Expository Files 19.7; July 2012