Who has the right to be called a child of God in the New Testament? Do we need to be born into the lineage of Abraham or can anyone become God’s child?
The Bible makes a clear distinction between two types of people, those who are God's and those who are not. In the Old Testament the Jews (the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) were God’s chosen people. The Gentiles were those who were not God's – instead they worshipped other gods. But what happens in the New Testament, can Gentiles also become God's people? Who exactly are God’s children today?
A new dispensation under a New Covenant
In the Bible, the word "Covenant" and "Testament" are both translated from the same root word. So when we are speaking of the New Testament, we are actually also speaking of the time of the New Covenant. In the same way, when we are speaking of the Old Testament, we are speaking of the period in time when God worked under the Old Covenant.
The exact moment when God's covenant changed over from the Old to the New, was when Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice on the cross. His death initiated the New Covenant, which is why only hours beforehand He taught His disciples to use communion (the symbol of His crucifixion), as a reminder of the New Covenant:
"Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.' " – Matthew 26:28
"And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.' Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you." – Luke 22:19-20
When the New Covenant was established, it replaced the Old Covenant and so the people of God found themselves in an entirely new dispensation, one that was very different to what had gone before.
"...He says: 'Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant... not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt... In that He says,'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." – Hebrews 8:8a, 9a, 13
This leads us to our question, who are God's children in the New Covenant? This will be easier to answer if we first define the term 'Gentile' in both the Old and New Testaments.
Who are the Gentiles?
In the Old Testament, God chose the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (also called Israel) to be His people. Everyone who f