The Christian as a Son

The Christian as a Son

Ross Rainey

Have you ever thought much about portraits? No, not about such portraits as Leonardo di Vinci’s celebrated Mona Lisa, which presently hangs in the Louvre at Paris, France, but about God’s portraits in His precious Word.

In 2 Timothy 2 there are seven portraits of the Christian, and in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ they may be looked at as follows:








The first of these seven portraits is readily gleaned from verse one where the beloved Apostle Paul refers to the young man Timothy as “my son.” Earlier in this same letter, the last he ever wrote, Paul refers to his young colleague as “my own son in the faith” (in each instance “son” literally means child). Why did Paul call Timothy his child?

The answer at least in part, is disclosed in Acts 14:6. Paul and Barnabas, on the first missionary journey, preached the gospel of Christ at Lystra. This was Timothy’s home city and it is quite probable that at that time young Timothy was led to know the Lord Jesus Christ as his own personal Saviour by none other than the Apostle himself. At any rate, by the time we get to Acts 16:1-3, Timothy had developed into a splendid young Christian. Paul had done the reaping with regard to Timothy’s salvation, but from the human standpoint no little credit for the salvation and growth of Timothy was due to the faithful sowing and fervent praying of his godly grandmother and mother, Lois and Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14, 15). Nevertheless, it was the power of God that transformed Timothy’s life. Has that same power transformed your life?

In our study of the subject of son-ship we want to consider three major aspects of it, using this brief 2 Timothy 2 passage as a steppingstone to other Scriptures embracing this important and glorious theme. The first thing we want to consider is:

The Reception of Sonship

How does a little baby become a prince? There is only one way, and that is, he must be born into the family of a king. Only a king’s son is a prince. In like manner, there is only one way whereby the sinner can become a child of God. He must be born into God’s family by the New Birth, that is, he must be “born again,” as the Lord Jesus instructed Nicodemus (John 3:3,7).

Two things must be clarified. First of all

Our position as sons. In John 1:12 we are told that when we receive the Lord Jesus Christ we receive the position of children of God. This right to be called the children of God comes as a result of being born into God’s family, and John 1:13 plainly declares that this new birth is not of human descent, or of human determination, or of human design but of GOD! Though we may not always act like His children, God plainly declares here that all true believers are His children. Such is our present and eternal position in Christ.

The second thing that must be clarified is

Our condition as sons. The question may arise, “How can such a passage as 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 be reconciled with John 1:12?” The answer is simply this. The former passage is talking about our practice, while the latter has reference to our position. If we do what the 2 Corinthians passage says, we who have believed on Christ shall behave like God’s sons and daughters and He will be able to act as a Father to us in all the fulness of such a blessed relationship.

This brings us to consider the second major aspect of our subject, and that is

The Rights of Sonship

A king’s son has certain rights, or privileges, which one who has not that position does not possess. The same is true of God’s children. They have rights which belong exclusively to those who are members of His family, having been born again by the power of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

One of the classic passages on the subject of sonship is Romans 8:14-17 wherein at least seven privileges of every believer are revealed. They are as follows:

Deliverance from bondage (8:15 with Ex. 20:18, 19; Heb. 2:14-18). The Spirit of adoption (8:15).

Our “adoption” has primarily to do with our position; while the designation “children” has mainly to do with our relationship.

True relationship to the Father (8:15).

The witness of the Holy Spirit (8:16 with 1 John 5:8-10).

Heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (8:17).

Suffering with Christ (8:17 with Phil. 3:10; 1 Pet. 2:21; 4:13).

Glorified with Christ (8:17 with Rom. 8:30; 1 John 3:1-3).

It is important and instructive to note that the Greek word for “sons” (huioi) in Romans 8:14 is different from the word translated “children” (tekna) in 8:16 - 17. W. E. Vine has briefly explained the difference between the two words as follows: “Huios expresses the dignity of the position into which the child is brought, and the character which is consistent therewith. In his standing a believer is a child of God; in his state he should be a son of God, and only as he gives evidence that he is a son of God can he really claim to be a child of God” (The Epistle to the Romans, p. 119).

Finally, we come to the third major aspect of our subject — namely,

The Responsibility of Sonship

There are many responsibilities of sonship such as trusting, submission, obedience, and growing in grace, but the one we want to emphasize is revealed here in 2 Timothy 2:2. It is the important matter of not only telling others how to become the sons of God, but of committing these glorious truths to other Christians who in turn “… shall be able to teach others also.” In recent years we have heard and read a great deal about atomic “chain reaction “ but here is a far greater and more important “chain reaction” that has been going on for almost two millenniums among God’s sons and daughters. It is illustrated right here in 2 Timothy in the persons of Lois, Eunice and Timothy, respectively —(cf. 1:5; 3:15).

Guy H. King, in his very excellent exposition of 2 Timothy entitled, To My Son (which I highly recommend for all young people to read, including those who are eighty and over), recounts a very interesting and unusual “chain reaction.” He states that “Richard Sibbes, an old Puritan, wrote a little book called The Bruised Reed. One day it fell into the hands of a tin pedlar who gave it to a boy called Richard Baxter, who, through reading it, became in time the saintly Richard Baxter of Kidderminster. In process of time Baxter wrote A Call to the Unconverted, and by doing so kindled the flame in the heart of Philip Dodderidge, who in turn wrote a book called The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul. This fell into the hands of William Wilberforce, changed his life, and led the great emancipator of the slaves to write A

Practical View of Christianity. By reading this the heart of Leigh Richmond underwent a strange blossoming, and, as one result, he wrote The Dairyman’s Daughter, which besides being the most powerful religious influence in the life of Queen Victoria had a good deal to do with the transformation of Thomas Chalmers, who in his turn touched the whole world. Precious chain! Every Christian thus occupies a strategic position; in modern phrase, he is a ‘cell’, a new centre of influence” (p. 39).

God wants and needs strong sons and daughters. But how can we be strong? Paul told Timothy, “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:1). The verb translated “be strong” literally means be strengthened. In other words, he says to the young man Timothy, keep in touch with the one true source of strength and power, Christ Himself.

In ourselves we can never be strong. Rather, it is realizing our utter weakness and, in complete dependence upon God, drawing upon the infinite supply of grace that is in Christ Jesus that will make us strong sons and daughters in Him, and for Him. This is something we must do daily through prayer, Bible study, quiet meditation, and bold —though not tactless — witnessing.

Let us remember, as Paul put it elsewhere, “when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).