Paul's letter to the Romans calls believers "children of God" and "sons of God." Is there a difference between the two? For instance, are the sons of God mature believers and children of God are all those who trust in Jesus? Here are some example verses from Romans showing the two designations:

Children of God

"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:16).

"That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed." (Romans 9:8).

Sons of God

"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." (Romans 8:14).

"For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God." (Romans 8:19).

To keep this simple, I am only interested in their meanings in the epistle of Romans, not the whole Bible.

7 Answers 7


There is a distinction.

The Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16; cf. John 1:12).

The Spirit witnesses to our most elementary relationship with God, that is, that we are His children; it does not witness that we are His sons or His heirs.

The fact that the "begetting" Father wants His children to grow unto maturity is presented clearly in Ephesians 4. Paul says that the Father has predestinated us unto sonship (not unto salvation) through Jesus Christ (1:5).

God predestinated us not to be His children, remaining in the initial stage, the stage of immaturity, but to be His sons, attaining to the final stage, the stage of maturity.

This is the background for Paul's exhortation in chapter four of Ephesians, where he says,

Until we all arrive at the oneness of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, at a full-grown man, at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (v. 13).

In order to arrive at this degree of maturity, we should be “no longer little children tossed by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching in the sleight of men, in craftiness with a view to a system of error” (v. 14). For this, we must hold to truth in love that “we may grow up into Him in all things, who is the Head, Christ” (v. 15). By means of such growth, the children of God become the sons of God for the fulfillment of the God's purpose.

Paul's burden for the believers' growth to maturity permeates 1 Corinthians.

I, brothers, was not able to speak to you as to spiritual men,” he tells the saints at Corinth, “but as to fleshy, as to infants in Christ” (3:1). And “Brothers, do not be children in your understanding…in your understanding be full-grown” (14:20).

As the result of their growth in the divine life, the sons of God, in contrast to the children of God, are mature, full-grown, in their understanding.

The fact that sonship, the making of believers into mature sons of God, is an organic process can be seen in numerous places in the New Testament.

Brendan Byrne points out the tension that exists between the present and future aspects of υίοθεσία in Romans 8 (if υίοθεσία is viewed as adoption). This can be resolved by an understanding of “a real but hidden status of υίοθεσία in the present, attested by the Spirit (vv. 15-16) and the public revelation of this status at the time when believers will share the bodily resurrection of the Firstborn Son of God (v. 29; cf. Phil. 3:20 1)." (Byrne, Brendan. Rev. of "Adoption as Sons of God—an Exegetical Investigation into the Background of υίοθεσία in the Pauline Corpus." Ed. James M. Scott. Journal of Theological Studies 44 (April 1993)

With regards to Romans:

There is a progression to become sons of God through salvation in life (5:10), which, according to Romans, includes sanctification, renewing, transformation, conformation, and glorification (6:19; 12:2; 8:29-30).

The more we are sanctified, renewed, transformed, and conformed, the more we become sons of God, awaiting "the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (v. 21). This glory is related to the redemption, the transfiguration, of our body, which is the full sonship (v. 23).

The word heir κληρονόμος indicates maturity. Sons of God are heirs (Gal. 4:7; cf. Rom. 8:17). Son is particularly significant in dealing with inheritance. In ancient times inheritance laws privileged the son who inherited everything when he came of age. When the believers attain to the maturity in life of being mature sons of God, they are qualified to inherit all that God is and has for them.


In general different words are used to convey different meanings:

Children (τέκνα)

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children (τέκνα) of God. (Romans 8:16 KJV)

That is, They which are the children (τέκνα) of the flesh, these are not the children (τέκνα) of God: but the children (τέκνα) of the promise are counted for the seed. (Romans 9:8 KJV)

Sons of God (υἱοί - υἱῶν)

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons (υἱοί) of God. (Romans 8:14 KJV)

For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons (υἱῶν) of God. (Romans 8:19 KJV)

Paul was inspired to use different words, so different meanings are intended.

The Old Testament use of sons of God (ex: Genesis 6:2; Job 1:6, 2:1) indicate angels. That is not a usage that is carried over in the New Testament:

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels (ἄγγελοι), nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 KJV)

Typically the New Testament uses a separate word for angels, not the idiom "sons of God."

The best explanation for the expression "sons of God" is found in Luke's description of the answer Jesus gives to the Sadducees when He is questioned about the resurrection:

Jesus said to them, “The sons (υἱοὶ) of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons (υἱοί) of God, being sons (υἱοὶ) of the resurrection. (Luke 20:34-36 NASB)

The sons of God are sons of the resurrection. So children of God are believers who have not experienced a physical death and sons of God are believers after the resurrection. The difference is not so much maturity in the body from child to son (although that certainly is true) as it is in a final revelation in a resurrected body as a son of God.

Thus, "...the earnest expectation of the creature waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God" is describing the expectancy of creation for the final outcome of God's plan of redemption which will be manifested when believers are resurrected as sons of God.


The posts on here that state 'sons of God' in the OT means one thing and in the NT means another would be contradicting the term. We do see 'son of Man' in the OT ascribed to Elijah and 'son of man' in the NT ascribed to Jesus and that is because in the Humanity of Christ he was given that title. The title typology beginning with Elijah never changed from the OT to the NT. And the title 'sons of God' always means to describe Men of Faith in both testaments.

The assertion that sons of God are angels in Genesis 6:2 is poor Hermeneutics. Looking at v. 4 in the Genesis account is key '4 There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men'. Notice here that the text Moses records is that there were giants (comma) when the intermarriage of sons of God with daughters of men happened. The sentence structure in no way suggests that Giants were a result of the Men of Faith with Faithless Women. This pattern of intermarriage between Men of Faith with Unholy Pagan Women continued with Israel many times over in the Old Testament.

The Job account also in 1:6 & 2:1 nowhere suggests that Satan is accompanying unholy angels to accuse Job at the Throne of God. Satan lost his place in the 3rd heaven when he fell and will be cast out of the 1st & 2nd heaven in the End Times. Remember that the presence of God is not restricted to the 3rd heaven. Also, there is the Hermeneutics of harmonizing scripture with scripture. The appearing before the 'presence of the Lord' was not just in Job, but also in Deut. 16:16 '"Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses"

These were not called sons of God in Deuteronomy but they were men of Faith just the same and they certainly were not appearing in the 3rd Heaven.

The Rabbinical mythology of Angel/Human hybrids was from Kabbalah Jews and others that were influenced by Greek Mythology which told similar wild-eyed tales of hybrid Giants & Beasts via Spirit & Women breeding.

Hebrews 1:5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?


In Galatians chapter four Paul makes a distinction between being a child and a son. The implication in the chapter is the position of a "child" is lesser than that of a son. The distinction being one of age and maturity.

In First Corinthians Paul also makes the comparison to the church in general being in an infancy state and at some point we would put away childish things.

It leads me to believe that the difference between being a "child" of God and a "son" of God does involve spiritual maturity.

Note in Hosea God makes reference to Israel once as a "son" and then as children of God which perhaps would lead one to believe the terms are indeed interchangeable.


I don't believe the author (Paul) is trying to make a distinction between these two groups - the two terms seem in my opinion to be used synonymously to refer to the same group of people - all of Jesus followers. Yes I a have mistakenly answered the wrong question in the previous post, sorry.

It is probably just slight variations in the translations that almost give the impression of two groups. 'Sons of God' is actually a term that is used in the old testament to refer specifically to the angelic beings. It may be that Paul is referring to the fact that they (his followers) will eventually become like the angels in a future time at the resurrection - Matthew 22:30 - "At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven." (also Mark 12:25). Luke 20:36 - "and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection."

  • Welcome to Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. Please consider registering an account to fully take advantage of what this site has to offer. Also, be sure to check out the site tour and read up on how this site is a little different than other sites around the web. This is not a comment on the quality of your answer, but rather a standard welcome message.
    – ThaddeusB
    Sep 2, 2015 at 22:39

The fact that the "begetting" Father wants His children to grow unto maturity is presented clearly in Ephesians 4. Paul says that the Father has predestined us unto son-ship (not unto salvation) through Jesus Christ (1:5).

I was blessed and excited to learn that;God predestination for us is more that just being his children, we are to grow beyond the initial stage, like we are little kids which is a stage of immaturity,we should be desiring the sincere milk of his word because he wants us to grown to be his sons, showing we have reached the stage of maturity that God our Father desire. Don't worry God always has our back. Thank you for sharing and enlightening in his word.

  • 3
    It is not clear how this post actually answer the OP question regarding the difference between the two expressions. Needs clarification.
    – user17080
    Aug 14, 2017 at 6:23

Yes there is most certainly a distinction between the two groups. It is widely recognised that the Sons of God are the angelic beings and many biblical translations render the term 'Sons of God specifically' as 'the angels': (NIV - 'Angels', NLT - 'members of the heavenly court', ISV - 'Divine Beings').

Many scholars try to claim that the Sons of God are the same as the children of God; whom are also referred to as the 'good sons of Seth'. Notice how on numerous occasions in the Bible including the very first mention of the Sons of God in Genesis 6, they are always attributed as being propagators of WICKEDNESS - hardly the works of the 'good sons of Seth'!

In Job 1:6 and 2:1 that Satan presents himself alongside the other Sons of God - if these 'Sons of God' were the good sons of Seth, what business would Satan have accompanying them?

Also the first mention of the Sons of God in Genesis 6 tells us that they were guilty of atrocious sins including having sex with the 'daughters of men'. The daughters of Men are claimed by the 'Good sons of Seth' proponents to be the wicked daughters of Cain - but if theses 'Sons of God' were so good, why were they all marrying the wicked daughters of Cain?! The theory that the Sons of God are the Good Sons of Seth makes absolutely no sense whatsoever when applied to the biblical texts - in fact it is entirely contradictory.

Also Genesis 6:4 tells us that the result of the intermarriage between the two parties (Sons of God and Daughters of Man) resulted in the produce of diabolical beings who are referred to as the Nephilim who are claimed as being also 'Giants'. These beings were clearly supernatural and were subjugators of the human race. There is no reason why a human to human marriage would result in such a wicked and unnatural offspring.

Further information about these Nephilim is found in the book of Enoch where we are told these beings 'devoured the flesh', 'sinned against animals' and taught people many occult practices.

Enoch 7:1 - "And all the others together with them took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in unto them and to defile themselves with them, and they taught them charms and enchantments, and the cutting of roots, and made them acquainted with plants. 2. And they became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells: 3. Who consumed all the acquisitions of men. And when men could no longer sustain them, 4. the giants turned against them and devoured mankind. 5. And they began to sin against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish, and to devour one another's flesh, and drink the blood. 6. Then the earth laid accusation against the lawless ones."

Here the 'Lawless Ones' are of course the Sons of God and their hybrid progeny - the Nephilim. Do these bizarre beings sound like 'GOOD sons of Seth' to you?

Also Sons of God is a general term for the Angelic Beings and does not designate whether they be rebellious or obedient angels - but rather that they are simply angels. The Bible tells us that a third of all the angels were cast out of heaven, which means about two thirds of the angels are still on Gods side. Rev. 12:4 - “And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven, and threw them to the earth." Angelic beings are often referred to as stars.

Satan and his angels had no place being on the earth, because Lucifer's (Satan's) duty was to protect the throne of God in the heavenly place.

Ezekiel 28:14 - "You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones." As part of his punishment for rebelling, Lucifer was cast out of the heavenly place and he and his angels have fled to the earth, where they hope to destroy Gods creation. Isaiah 14:12 - "How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!"

Job 1:7 - "The LORD said to Satan, 'From where do you come?' Then Satan answered the LORD and said, 'From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it'."

  • 2
    This question is specifically asking about Romans, where the two terms do seem to be pretty synonymous.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 2, 2015 at 13:13
  • 2
    I don't believe for a moment that the sons of God in the Romans verses I cited are angelic beings, ryan. You, like me, need to read postings twice before answering. I've made the same mistake.
    – Steve
    Sep 2, 2015 at 13:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.