Because Ye Are Sons
The greatest joy of the Man of Sorrows was His Father’s love. He prayed, “O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was… Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.” What was that “glory” but the eternal love which subsisted between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: the bond of Deity? (John 17:5, 24).
“The Son of His love:… Who is the image of the invisible God, Firstborn of all creation: for by Him were all things created that are in the heavens, and that are on earth, visible and invisible,…all things were created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist…that in all things He might have the pre-eminence.” “The Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into His hand.” This authority He never relinquished; for even on the eve of the cross He knew that “the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God, and went to God.” The “princes of this world” actually crucified the Lord of glory! (Col. 1:13-18, Newb. marg.; John 3:35, 13:3; 1 Cor. 2:8).
Predestinated to Sonship
However, the Father’s greatest love-gift to His Son was not the possession of those “all things” which He created, but the inheritance of a people for His Name. That people was foreknown and chosen in Him before anything was created, and predestinated to be conformed to His image; that Heaven might be filled with a multitude of children, every one of whom would be resplendent in the holy character of the beloved One and united to Him in the bond of everlasting love. Their names were written in the book of life, for they were predestinated to sonship (John 17:23; Rom. 8:29-30; Eph. 1:4-5; Luke 10:20).
But the bringing of many sons to glory required that the Son of God Himself must become their Redeemer and lay down His own life as Son of Man, for the whole world lay in the wicked one and those whom He loved were alienated from Him and enemies by wicked works. Primarily because He loved the Father and delighted to do His will, but also because He loved those whom the Father had given Him, He was willing to give Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour. Even though all the fulness of Deity dwelt in Him, He made peace by the blood of His cross and reconciled us to Himself; that He might present us holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight (1 John 5:19; Col. 1:19-22; John 14:31; Heb. 2:10; Eph. 5:2).
How We Became Sons
We were not always sons. Nobody ever became a son of God by natural birth. On the contrary, before we were given life by the Spirit of God we were dead in sins, and as such “children of wrath:” revealing our evil nature by fulfilling the desires of our corrupt minds. But God, who is rich in mercy, called us from death to life. Experimentally, we became sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus. We received the Lord Jesus Christ; even as those of whom it was written, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth” (Eph. 2:1-7; John 1:11-14; Jas. 1:18).
God sent forth His Son to redeem His people: that they might receive the gift of sonship. “And because ye are sons,” He sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father.” When we received Christ Jesus, the Spirit of God took up His dwelling within us, bringing the life of God: we were born of the Spirit, and His presence became evident by our recognition of God as our Father, the Lord Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, and the Holy Spirit as our Comforter. The indwelling Spirit characterizes the sons of God. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are sons of God…ye have received the Spirit of sonship, whereby we cry, “Abba, Father.” … the Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God (Gal. 4:4-7; Rom. 8:9, 14-18).
We are sons; not “adopted sons” in the sense in which that term is generally understood, but sons by spiritual birth: born into the family of God and partakers of the divine nature. God our Father would have us to be fully assured of our sonship; for He has a glorious destiny planned for His children; and there are exclusive privileges to be enjoyed and obligations to be discharged (2 Pet. 1:4).
Destiny of the Sons of God
“If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together… wherefore thou art no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” With our sonship, our Father has given us an inheritance in Christ. Our destiny is inseparable from His, for we were given to Him before the foundation of the world. One in Christ, the sons of God shall share His glory and the possession of all those things which were created by and for Him.
“All things are yours,” wrote Paul, “whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.” We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ, for His divine power has given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness. Since we have received God’s greatest Gift, this could not be otherwise, for “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:17; Gal. 4:7; 1 Cor. 3:23; Eph. 1:3; 2 Pet. 1:3; Rom. 8:32).
But God has a greater and more glorious future planned for His sons than the enjoyment of “all things,” or even than the dignity of sonship. His purpose in choosing us in Christ was that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: that we should be His sons not only by divine birth but also by divine character; and that each of His own should bear the likeness of His beloved Son and be united to Him forever.
The fulfilment of that purpose is the object of all of our Father’s gracious dealings with us on our journey home. God deals with us as with sons. Every activity of the Spirit within us; all His exhortations; all His discipline; all suffering for Christ’s sake; are designed for the perfection of our character: that we might be partakers of His holiness. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose:” and to understand that purpose is to solve many of the perplexing problems which we encounter in our lives (Heb. 12:5-11; Rom. 8:28).
His purpose will surely be accomplished; for even though we manifest little of the character of our Lord now, when we shall see Him we shall be like Him. Fully transformed into His image, we shall be presented faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. Then shall our beloved Lord, who loved the Church and gave Himself for it, having sanctified and cleansed it, present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blemish (1 John 3:1-3; Jude 24; Eph. 5:25-27).
The Privileges of Sonship
We share our Father’s life. Of all the blessings that could have been bestowed upon men, the greatest is the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Christ is our life; and we enjoy the closest communion with His Father, because He is our Father. Far beyond earth’s sweetest relationship is the bond which binds us to our Father. He has placed His Name upon us; sealed us as His own by the Spirit, and made Himself responsible to supply all our needs, spiritual and material, until He takes us home. He seeks our love; and for that love to be evinced by obedience to His will, for therein is the maximum of blessing and satisfaction forus. He delights to hear our voices in prayer, and to accept the thanksgivings, the worship and praise which must flow from adoring hearts (Psa. 37:4).
We share His light. Once we walked in the vanity of our minds, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that was in us; but the light of truth brought us the knowledge of our sin, and led us to confession and the knowledge of the forgiveness of sins through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We became children of light, rejoicing in the truth and enjoying fellowship with Him in whom is no darkness at all, and obtaining access to all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that are in Him. We enjoy the privilege of shining as lights in the world and of showing forth the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvellous light (Eph. 4:18; 1 Thess. 5:4-8; 1 John 1:3-7; 1 Pet. 2:9).
We share His love. “The Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me.” How great a privilege it is to be of those who are beloved of God! Our salvation had its source in the love wherewith the Father loved the Son; and we have been made partakers of that love, which has been poured into our hearts by and with the Holy Spirit. Thus we in turn are able to love: because He first loved us. The fruit of the Spirit is love: which brings in its train joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. These lovely graces are the heritage of the sons of God and the Spirit delights to produce them within us and cause them to flow out to our Father, to those who are His, and even to those whom He loves, though they may be enemies. “Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God … for God is love” (John 16:27; 1 John 4:7-8, 19; Gal. 5:22-23).
Because we are sons, and enjoy the privileges of the highest degree of sonship, we have commensurate obligations to discharge: to God our Father; to His children; and to the world.
The Father’s approval of the Lord Jesus Christ was expressed by His word, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him!” Our Lord not only claimed to be the Son of God, but He manifested His Father’s Name by His perfect life. His own testimony to the Jews was, “He that sent Me is with Me: the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him.” Our Father has honoured us by calling us unto the fellowship of His Son and making us His sons; and since He has not left us alone but given to us His Spirit to dwell in us, He expects us to behave as His sons. Therefore, “He that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself also so to walk even as He walked” (Matt. 17:5; John 8:29; 1 John 2:6).
“Let every one that nameth the Name of Christ depart from iniquity.” It is unfortunately possible for us to be like those of whom it was written, “For the Name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you;” but on the other hand, we may let our light so shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in Heaven (2 Tim. 2:19; Rom. 2:24; Matt. 5:16).
We have an obligation to the Church. Since God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. This commandment have we received from Him, “That he who loveth God love his brother also.” Our love for Christ must he shown by loving deeds to His own. “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” “The perfecting of the saints …the edifying of the body of Christ” is an object dear to our Father’s heart; and for this purpose He has endowed each of us with some spiritual gift; and we owe it to the saints to develop and use that gift: for when it is not exercised the whole body suffers from the lack of it. When we are not in a spiritually healthy condition we become a burden and a care to others (1 John 4:11, 21; John 13:34-35; Eph. 4:12; Rom. 12:4-10; 1 Cor. 12:25-26).
Our responsibility to the world chiefly concerns our testimony. We have been put in trust with the Gospel and charged to publish it with and by the Holy Spirit, for we have a part in the taking out of the nations of a people for His Name. Paul the Apostle realized this responsibility when he wrote, “I am debtor both to Greeks, and to Barbarians; …so, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you that are at Rome also … for though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel (Matt. 28:18-20; Rom. 1:14-15; 1 Cor. 9:16).
We have the responsibility to commend Christ to the world by our life. Our walk, our talk, our interests, and the manner in which we meet the vicissitudes of life provide us with plenty of opportunity to prove the power and the desirability of the salvation which is in Christ Jesus. We can show the world how a Christian should endure trial or adversity; how to suffer bereavement, or pain, or injustice; how to carry success; and how to die: in all circumstances we may bring glory to our Saviour’s Name. Even the opposition, the adverse criticism, the ridicule which we sometimes encounter, can be used to magnify Christ; for there is no better answer to these things than a holy life, “for so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Cor. 10:31; 1 Peter 2:15).