Paul did not understand what it means to be a son of God.
Paul and other New Testament writers refer to God as the Father of mercies (2 Corinthians 1:3); the Father of glory (Ephesians 1:17); and the Father of lights (James 1:17). This dilutes Jesus’ unique message about the fatherhood of God.
God is not a Father through creation. He created so many things to which he is not a Father. He created the heavens and the earth, but he is not the Father of the heavens and the earth. Hebrews says God is not the Father of angels (Hebrews 1:5-7); and then says he is (Hebrews 12:9). But, according to Jesus, God’s sons are exclusively men and women of faith who do God’s will (Matthew 12:47-50).
Paul did not understand what it means to be a son of God. He says: “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). That is simplistic. Jesus reveals in the parable of the Prodigal Son that in God’s house, there are servants and there are sons (Luke 15:11-32). The prophets were led by the Spirit of God and yet were not sons but were servants of God (1 Peter 1:10-11; Numbers 12:7-8). Servants came to God without Jesus; but no son comes to the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6).
Paul says: “He who is called while free is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men” (1 Corinthians 7:22-23). That is false. The believer is not Christ’s slave but his brother (Matthew 12:48-49). Slaves are bought and sold but sons are not. However, contrary to Paul’s position, Jesus requires sons of God to be servants of men (Mark 10:42-45).
Not surprisingly, Paul refers to himself as “a servant of God” (Titus 1:1). That would explain his chronic lack of understanding of kingdom dynamics. A servant is not given the knowledge of a friend. Jesus told his disciples: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).
Paul says eternal life is a gift (Romans 6:23). But Jesus says it is very costly. One of the costs is earthly kinship. Jesus says: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).
Christians do not become sons of God through vain confessions as Paul teaches (Romans 10:9-10). They become sons by planting the words of Jesus in their hearts and by doing the works of God (Mark 4:11-20; John 10:35-38). Servants of God love their neighbours and hate their enemies (Psalm 139:21-22). But sons of God love their enemies and repay evil for good (Matthew 5:43-48).
Sons of God also operate as peace-makers in a world implacably hostile to God (Matthew 5:9). But their objective is not to make the world a better place or, according to Paul, to heap coals of fire on their enemies’ heads (Romans 12:20). They simply want to be like their Father in heaven (Matthew 5:45).
The new birth
Paul’s ignorance leads him to refer to himself as the father of Gentile Christians like Timothy (1 Timothy 1:18; 1 Corinthians 4:15-16). But Jesus says: “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for one is your Father, he who is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9). Surely, Paul cannot play God’s fatherly role in Timothy’s life.
Paul even claims he birthed some Christians (Galatians 4:19); showing he knows nothing about Jesus’ kingdom principle of being “born again” (John 3:3). He says sons of God are adopted by Christ (Ephesians 1:5). But Jesus is not our Father. He then says we are adopted by God (Galatians 4:5-6), meaning we have spiritual father(s) (Paul); an adoptive Father (God); and biological fathers.
But here again, Paul’s self-serving doctrine contradicts Jesus. According to Jesus, we are sons of God by birth and not by adoption. If we were adopted, we would not need to be “born again.” To be born again means to be born “from above” by God himself. A man who is “born again” by God cannot at the same time be adopted by God.
If God merely adopted us, we would retain our blood relations. But Jesus says different. When we are born of God, we lose all blood-ties and receive a hundredfold return of spiritual relatives (Mark 10:29-30). Unlike our previously limited number of biological relatives, all God’s children the world over become our relatives.
However, we do not receive a hundredfold return of spiritual fathers. We relinquish our earthly fathers in exchange for the one Father in heaven.