Sonship (no updates made to original article; original article found in ARISE Journal - 01/1997)
The Distinction Of Sonship
The inspired author of the book of Hebrews put forth the ever so challenging statement, "have you lost sight of that piece of advice which reminds you of your sonship in God" (Heb 12:5). Never has the Spirit of God dealt with me more recently than on the distinction of sonship. Such a dimension is reserved for those of spiritual maturity. No longer in an elementary stage of our walk in Christ, but rather grown up. Indeed, our stages of growth in the natural have various descriptive designations which can also be used to indicate our degree of maturity in the realm of Spirit. Such descriptions include babes, children and adults. The portion of Christ in which we aspire is that of adulthood which is reserved for sonship.
Before John the Baptist was born, he was called a "babe". "And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost" (Luke 1:41). The shepherds found Jesus himself as a "babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger". Scripture also bears record of babes having been brought to Jesus to touch; babes slain by the king of Egypt; and from an infant Timothy had been acquainted with the holy scriptures.
Figuratively speaking, the same writer of our opening text wrote, "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe." (Heb 5:12-13). Likewise, Peter wrote to the elect of God the Father, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" (I Peter 2:2).
Some translations use the word 'minor' rather than 'babe' for Hebrews 5:13, however, I find no difficulty with the word 'babe' based on the following premise: The same Greek word is translated 'babes' in Matthew 21:16 when Jesus said "out of the mouth of babes....". Jesus quoted from Psalms 8:2 which also used the word 'babes'. It is obvious that Psalms correctly translated the word 'babe' by comparison of the same Hebrew word having been used by Job when he spoke of untimely births "as infants which never saw light" (Job 3:16). Furthermore, Paul's reference of milk would most likely apply to babes rather than minors.
Paul also used the same phrase on several occasions. Once he had to tell the boastful church of God at Corinth, "And, I brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with the milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able." (I Cor. 3:1). Paul also spoke regarding himself, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." (I Cor. 13:11). According to the Englishman's Greek concordance, the word 'child' from this text is the same Greek word rendered as 'babe' used in other verses. (I believe that Paul used this word with the idea of his babyhood while under the law and not of his natural upbringing nor of his conversion experience in Christ. This would follow the same thought as Timothy's exposure to holy script from his infancy). Paul also wrote to the church of Galatia, "even so we, when we were babes, were in bondage under the elements of the world" (Gal. 4:3). And to the saints at Ephesus, Paul admonished them to no longer be babes, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.
The phrase 'babes' is not intended to be degrading nor should it be belittling for God has chosen to hide His truths from the wise and prudent while revealing such things to babes. And Psalms reads, "out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength". Praise the Lord for BABES! The Lord has recently blessed my wife and me with a beautiful baby girl. At this time, she is now nine months of age. What a joy! My heart has been touched to degrees in which I've never known before. We never would think of making fun of her because she is only a baby. She loves her milk and baby food, we would never give thought in forcing dada and mama's food upon her. She has just recently started crawling, we would never frustrate her and expect her to walk, run and jump before she is ready. I respect and honour those who understand this principle. About seven years ago while living in Orlando, FL, I observed a friend and dear brother delicately feed and care for the flock entrusted to his stewardship. Although very able to teach otherwise, this brother wisely fed the people with the milk of the word rather than strong meat. And so, one day my daughter will no longer do those things I find her doing today. The things I call cute and adorable today will no longer be called as such tomorrow.
Likewise, Paul had experienced this with those who should have progressed more than what they had. He said that they were yet carnal because of the envying and strife and divisions among them. We see this among the brethren on all sides around us. Even those professing the deeper Christian life still walk as men. Brethren are unable to reconcile their differences. Splits, divisions, offenses and such are rampant. Negative attitudes and gossip are on the increase. Men coveting the ministry of others. I receive 'tons' of literature and tapes across my desk every month and it appalls me to observe the childish behaviour which is still among many, especially those who should know better. I agree that doctrinal differences ought to be corrected, even Paul withstood Peter to the face. But let us never forget that we are known by our love for one another, not our differences! Many have separated out of religious organizations, denominations and sects, which are Mystery Babylon the great, thinking they have done God a great service, yet they have done nothing other than taken on another religious spirit. Such ones constantly dwell on the negative, exalting themselves, usually at the expense of tearing down and "bashing" others, particularly brethren. Such have never read the words of James, "Speak not evil one of another, brethren." Yet, if a person never leaves babyhood, never grows up in the Lord, never moves on in the Spirit, never moves beyond the elementary principles to follow onward in Christ, they are yet infants!
Some time later, Jesus was no longer considered a babe but rather a small boy or child. Troubled by the news of the birth of Jesus, King Herod had enquired of the wise men what time the star appeared to determine the age of Jesus. Judging by Herod's actions, Jesus could have been nearly two years of age for Herod had all the male children killed "according to the time which he diligently enquired of the wise men." (Contrary to popular tradition, three wise men were not present when Jesus was born. Such fables we ought to discard). So, Herod sent the men to diligently search out the young child. No longer a babe, but rather a little boy. Finding the child in the house with his mother Mary, they fell down and worshipped him.
We find the word 'child' over fifty times in the New Testament and 'children' several hundred. Jesus fed the multitudes, including children; Jesus called a little child unto him to use as an illustration when teaching his disciples; Jesus raised the child of Jairus; and Jesus grew as a child and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon him.
Scripture also refers to babes as children in some instances. The story of John the Baptist according to the gospel of Luke serves as one example while the dedication of the child Jesus as but another. The latter would be the observance of the required forty days of purification, according to the law of Moses (ref. Lev. 12:2-4). In the natural, we know that this also is the case as babies can be children, however not all children are babes.
Figuratively speaking, Jesus taught his disciples that "except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3). Paul also used this word when he dealt with the church of God at Corinth, "Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men" (I Cor. 14:20). John had also said, ".....I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father."
A son can also be the child of a Father as noted by the words of Peter in Acts 3:13 "... the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son (child) Jesus" and "unto you first God, having raised up his Son (child) Jesus" (Acts 3:26). Again, the same word is used when the child Jesus tarried behind at the age of twelve sitting in the midst of scholars in the temple both asking and answering questions. These three references seem to carry the idea of service for the word 'child' and could be viewed as a young servant or boy and probably should not be rendered as 'son'.
Isaiah said "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanual." Jesus was born a son and yet this very one was "God with us". Many had been given the place of a son, but never like this one, this carpenter's son. More so than the sons of God who shouted for joy when the morning stars sang together, more so than that son of God who walked in the Garden of Eden, more so than the nation who was honored as sons of the living God. He was more, much more. He was Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. Quoting one, "He was a Son in a way that no other man has ever been a son of God. He was begotten by God. He came from the bosom of the Father." - endquote. (ref. Job 38:7; Luke 3:38; Hosea 1:10; Ex. 4:22).
The significance of Christ's relationship to God as a Son cannot be ignored. When he was baptized in Jordan and the voice of the Father said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased", it becomes evident to me that this recognition was not based on some service performed for the past thirty years. Nay, it was but rather from the vantage of a loving tenderness and attachment due to a Father's affection towards His Son. Praise the Lord!
In one of Paul's epistles, the term "sonship" was used regarding the privileges of the nation of Israel. He stated "my brethren, my relatives according to the flesh, who are Israelites, whose is the sonship and the glory..." (Rom. 9:3-4). They represented the Lord here on earth. This held no reference to their origin but rather their position or standing in the Lord. Yet at the same time, as individuals, they were under the law, under guardians, under an administration. "Now I say, that the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father." (Gal. 4:1-2). But there came a time when the realm in which they served was brought to an end, a time when things would be fulfilled in sonship. God sent forth his Son to redeem them. And for what purpose? That they might receive the place of a son! Unlike Israel of old, we have much more than merely a designated position of sonship. We now have an origin of having been placed as a son. God had sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts in order that we experience sonship. The great Apostle Paul experienced this transition from the law to one of sonship. He said, "But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen...." (Gal. 1:15-16).
Our Father would not have us remain as children under the law, but rather be sons. He has chosen us in Him that we become holy and flawless in His sight, designating a place of sonship. Yet, we do not have to wait until we are fully mature in order to claim the place of a son. James said, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God." And indeed we are sons, His sons. Yet, in a sense, it is restricted to our spirits at the present. We have only the firstfruit of the spirit. In fact, James continued "and it doth not yet appear what we shall be." Paul said, "For we.... which have the firstfruits of the Spirit" (Rom. 8:22-23).
We are sons and yet are becoming sons, that is, full mature sons, sons to glory. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God..." (John 1:12). And again, "in bringing many sons unto glory" (Heb. 2:10). As Brother George Hawtin once wrote, "We shall yet see on this earth a great company of begotten sons who have been born of God even as Christ was born of God. These sons will be completely incapable of sin in any aspect or in any sense of the word. I am sorry to say that, though I have been a believer for many years, yet I am still capable of sin in thought, word, and deed. But I think I can truthfully testify that I am far less capable of sin now than I was when I first believed, and I see such a growing hatred within of all that pertains to sin's realm that sin rendered well nigh impossible. Those who thus walk are in the process of becoming sons of God and, when that birth is complete, they will have this testimony, "They cannot sin because they are born of God." "Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as He is pure." (I John 3:2,3). We speak too lightly about the deep and sacred things of God. We speak flippantly about such divine eternal wonders as the new birth, sonship, the fulness of the Spirit, transfiguration, and the manifestation of the sons of God." - endquote.
Pertaining to the sons of God, Brother L. Dane Tabor writes, "For many years, those who spoke of the ministry of the sons of God, of their manifestation, seemed to think that these sons were individual superstars of the church who speak to multitudes, either in great amphitheaters or cathedrals, or by means of radio or television. Most have thought of them as having great miracle-working powers and affecting the masses with signs and wonders. We dare not say that true sonship ministry will never participate in such wondrous work, however, most who have at this point participated in these endeavors do not understand that God's plan is to save all. Most, if not all of them, impute sin to all whom they attempt to lead to Christ. These statements are not for the purpose of casting aspersions toward any servant of God. The point is, the sons of God who shall set creation free will be partakers of the divine nature, the unconditional love of God. They will possess understanding of what it means to participate in the priestly ministry of the Melchisedec order reconciling all unto God, not imputing their trespasses unto them."
"....... As He is love, they are becoming love. As He is merciful, they are showing mercy. This firstfruits unto God and the Lamb are being changed into His image from glory to glory as they experience transformation from the earthly into the heavenly. The divine attributes of the Father are being infused into this people. They shall ultimately become His substance in the earth for the purpose of manifesting His nature and glory." "....... God has purposed to conform every man to the image of His Son. He has begun this great feat by forming an ecclesia who are perfectly joined to the headship, Jesus Christ. Until the day this body of sons function in singleness of mind, purpose, spirit and nature, Jesus will continue to sit at Father's right hand, but with confident expectation. It is gratifying to see certain attributes of this unity now in our midst. There is an acute awareness that this is a corporate ministry wherein all are interdependent. There are no "Lone Rangers" or "Super Stars" in this one corporate man." - endquote.
I have found the vision of many "would-be" sons of God to be carnal. Their concept of sonship is a jam-packed stadium of people, with themselves at the center stage. The only thing they can see in sonship are the crowds flocking to hear them, numbers larger than the flimsy "Promise Keepers" movement of today. Yet, I cannot help but to consider sonship in a much different way. It has a much larger picture and can only be seen when the self-serving agendas are put aside. It reaches every creature that ever has been or ever shall be created. It reaches far beyond the galaxies. Paul said, "For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." (Rom. 8:22-23).
Haven't you experienced a deep lament within? Not only a groan to experience the fullness of sonship, which includes the redemption of our bodies. Oh no, it goes way beyond our own personal release. But for all of creation to be delivered from the slavery of corruption. Although our sonship is now concealed, it shall then be revealed. When the sons are unveiled, creation shall be freed and from that point there will be a continual progress until all are led by the Spirit of God.
Paul said that he put away childish things when he became a man. After his letter to the Romans, he affirms that "for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). I hear many use the phrase 'led of the Spirit' to do such and such. I suppose that sometimes, not always, divine guidance is actually assisting them, but this is not what Paul meant by being 'led by the Spirit'. To be led by the Spirit means being subject to and governed by the Spirit at all times, to be under divine authority, having our wills in complete submission to the will of God. To be a son of God is more than a casual leading on this day and not again for another several weeks. A person is a son insomuch as we fellowship with our Father on a daily basis, displaying His character to others.
As did our brother Paul, we would likewise do well to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ, to be crowned with glory. We would do well to hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of our expectation (hope) firm unto the end, to be crowned with honour. And yet, our pattern Son had been lowered into humanity and suffered death, even the death of the cross. "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered" (Heb. 5:8).
Many aspire full sonship but have become oblivious of the exhortation which reasons with them as a son. In our opening text verse, the encouragement is addressed to those who are no longer children but rather sons. Another translation reads, "Have you forgotten that encouraging test in which you are addressed as sons? - My son, when the Lord corrects you, do not treat it lightly; but do not get discouraged when he reprimands you. For the Lord trains the ones that he loves and he punishes all those that he acknowledges as his sons" (Heb. 12. 5-6 Jerusalem). Becoming a son involves the discipline of the Lord. Neither should one be discouraged when reproved by the Lord, for He scourges every son whom He receives. His love towards us, as a Father to a son, does not cater to our every whim. Oh no, His love is much more meaningful. His love instills holiness into our character. As our heavenly Father is holy, we can also be the same in all manner of thought, word and deed.
One must come to realize that if they aspire the holy calling of sonship, they no longer belong to the world, to others, nor even to themselves. We only belong to the Lord! And if we belong to another, we ought to find ourselves yielding in obedience unto righteousness!
"He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and HE SHALL BE MY SON.