1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.
— Hebrews 1 [NIV]
Sonship in Godheads
God’s word, that is His thoughts and ways, often time could not be understood with a linear thinking which is confined by time. Time, in this light, is but a power works out life or death as it proceeds towards an end from the beginning. But God’s word exist in the eternal realm, and could only be expressed as something like a sequential order before they are actualized in our world as happenstances of time.
Our world or this cosmos is the age of Man with its arrangement of the present heavens and the earth, as the early apostles would call it. In the framing of most of human thoughts it is inevitably marked by or related to time. The reason is easy to detect-human life experience, which is commonly confined in this world or the earthly dimension, will be always be regulated by the element or dimension of time. However, real spiritual life in God is originated from the highest realm, the Eternal Realm, where He is. Even it will also inevitably be influenced and even influence the heavenly realms where He resides and moves, just like in the earthly realm. In the eternal realm, the end is the beginning, and with the beginning. It also conforms into the beginning, witnesses the beginning and evolves or increases the beginning, its nature and substance.
The Son and His Covenant with the Father
Bear this in mind, let us proceed to discuss the Beginning. God never could be confined in any form, visible or invisible, even He expresses His love, power, wisdom and perfection using all of them (names that can be named). He forbids Himself be found in any particular form, until Christ was born. From the Beginning, He gave Man the privilege to express and represent Himself to the visible and invisible world. However His true desire for Man is never merely for his wellbeing in this natural world. He created Man to be a spiritual entity that would bear the fullness of His Likeness (invisible) as He transforms him from his lowly state, even it is made of His Image (visible). We discussed it before. Man is destined to share and rule with Him all that He created, visible and invisible, or natural and spiritual. Man is to embody or tabernacle God.
In essence, God the Father, before He created this world, had his sons, even heirs, in His mind. His intention is that, through the race of mankind, a living being who is able to receive, apprehend and represent His love, He will be gloried in the sight of all creation, even with them. For unto Man, He is pleased to impute His very nature, even the fullness of it. And through His love and fellowship with Man, He will teach him all things. In sum, God the Father desires to create a race or family of sons, so that He can share his wisdom, love and glory with them. This is the true essence of the Gospel. Paul describes this very well:
Eph 1:4-6 [NIV]
4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
Now, in order to put in motion this “Word” or pattern of life of God the Son, God the Father did two things in the beginning.
Firstly, He made an eternal covenant with His Son, the Christ, in whom He imputed all of Himself, even His very Life and Glory.
John would call the Son as the Word of God. All things were created by Him and through Him and for Him. In order to reveal His purpose and His love unto all creation, God the Father set in motion a process to impart His honor and His glory unto the Son even through His embodiment in Man. His Word has to be fulfilled through the instrumentality of the life of Man. Man is to receive the glorification into His very nature and being, as we discussed before. But when the Son or the Word (God’s Decree or Will) was presented or revealed to the angelic realm, the Devil rebelled against God in His choice. That is to have man, a lower race in his sight, to receive the fullness of God’s blessing, even His very honor, glory, power, and life. He could not understand nor receive the possibility that God, as the Father unto His sons, would endow man with such a great love. So, he refused to bow and worship the Son with the Father, rebelled against the eternal plan of God for Man. That is why John in the First Epistles says this:
1 John 3 [NIV]
1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. 3 But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
This is speaking the Christ, or the Anointing that is to teach us all things about the Father and the Son, is now anointing us with spiritual understanding and wisdom. The Word of God thus becomes alive in us. This is what Jesus says, in the Gospel of John, that the Holy Spirit will reveal Him and the Father in us, which will give us a new life in God. It is not necessarily merely talking about a future event, which will happen, but rather a progress that has to be made by a son of God in his journey of spiritual maturity. Paul also spoke of this as of his own experience:
Gal 1:15-16 [NIV]
15 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man,
In the same epistle, John also shares that anyone who denies Jesus Christ came in the flesh is the anti-christ. Why? because such a denial is not merely about the particular historical happening concerning the coming of the Christ as Jesus the Nazarite, rather, it has to do with the original intent of God to have sons through those who choose to believe the Truth and live out His Word, even the very life of Christ Jesus, the Son of God. The perfection of Man is that God Himself will dwell in his bodily form in its fulness, as He will transform or glorify the body of man from a natural one to a spiritual one, as Paul describes it.
Col 2:9-12 [NIV]
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
Phil 3:20-21 [NIV]
20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform (is transforming) our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (This also should be understood in the present tense as well. The power of resurrection is now imparting power and life to us through the in-dwelling of the Spirit of Holiness. )
1 Cor 15:42-49 [NIV]
42 So will it be (is) with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the likeness (image) of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
God the Father, in His full knowledge and righteousness, allowed His decision to be challenged, so that His justice and His power will prevail, His wisdom and His love be fully revealed. His judgment and His goodness will then be proved to be unshakable.
So, secondly, He extended His eternal covenant to include Man, with him, the whole world. He designed that Man will have to exercise faith and love unto Him and willingly subject to a process being disciplined or tutored in order to know and to be like Him. That is His being God to all creation and His being the Father to those believe in His Word.
In essence, man is designed to be a template of a life of obedience by faith and love unto God. The choice, even the joy, to believe and obey unto God as his Lord and his Father is ever with him. Notice that the judgment of whether God is right or wrong was not absent when God created the visible world. Satan was given the opportunity to challenge and oppose, and man the freewill to trust and obey. It is represented by the existence of the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God created the world or this age and placed Man in the Garden of Eden and then covenanted with Adam. With this personal covenant, His eternal covenant with His Son, was then activated in the Manhood of human flesh and soul unto Sonship of the Spirit. He planted the seed of the spirit of Sonship in Man (male and female, he created them.), and granted them full capacity to hear His voice, behold His face and learn His wisdom, receive and give love. Also, because the purity and holiness (set-apart) endowed unto him as a gift (birthright), Man, in his natural being, would have the privilege to walk in His presence. All creation would witness this and get to know God in His Holiness, Power, Love, Wisdom and Goodness.
To sum up, when God created Man, He extended the fullness of His Life to him if he would have obeyed. That is why John mentioned in his Gospel.
John 1:1-13 [NIV]
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. …
10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- 13children born not of a natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Paul commented on this in the Book of Colossians a lot. Let us look at a few portions in this book.
Col 1:15-17 [NIV]
15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Col 1:27 [NIV]
27To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
First-Born: Birth Right and Inheritance
The Concept of Sonship clearly undergirds all God’s dealings in human history. We will only mention few instances for the purpose of illustration. But before doing that, let us look briefly at the concept of first-born or first-fruits. Let’s give a closer look at Col. 1:15: “He is the image of the invisible God”, which stated by the author of Hebrews as “the exact representation of His being”. We know that the invisible world includes angels and spiritual entities of various forms and ranks, a whole array of spiritual beings that exists in the spiritual world and they are all created through Christ, by Him and for Him. And certainly beside this is the whole universe, the visible world and all in it.
Now, this clearly implies the concept of first-born. He is the first born of eternal life into creation. When death entered the visible world, man was then separated from God, thus fell into the dominion of darkness. But by God’s grace, man was still preserved as a spiritual womb for His promised eternal life, even this womb was not able to marry or become one with the spiritual seed, for which is born of the flesh can only give birth to the flesh. In essence, for God’s promise of spiritual life, which is man’s endowed birthright and promised inheritance, the existence and linage of mankind is but a desolate womb, incapable to give life in the Spirit of God, even though it still can be touched or used by Him, as He did with many godly men and prophets in the Old Testament.
This is why, in Matt. 11:10-11, Jesus made a clear distinction between the fruits (disciples of the wisdom from above) of His ministry and those of John the Baptist’s, who is the greatest of all Prophets before Him. Jesus said:
10 This is the one (John the Baptist) about whom it is written:
“ ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’
11 I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
We are familiar with the picture that John was the one sent by God to give testimony of Jesus as the Messiah (the Christ). But the Messiah is more than a prophetic fulfillment of God’s promised King and Savior to a peculiar people, namely the Jews in this case, rather He is one who will become Savior unto all mankind, Jews and Gentiles alike. Because through Him, the promise and the power of God’s eternal life is restored back to all mankind. John was merely a messenger in the desolate land (the desert) of mankind to make a proclamation of His coming. The Seed of God’s life is to be yet again sown in the promised land of mankind and to bring forth a great harvest of sons of God. In essence, Jesus is the Seed or the Branch (son) that will bring forth a new linage of man, as sons of God, not sons of Adam. That’s why Paul would call us believers as “a new creation”.
We can see now, man’s hope unto the eternal life of God was denied because of sin, which can be taken away or redeemed only by a perfect atonement. This atonement is required because of God’s justice or the law of Spiritual life in His Holiness. The sinful nature or the flesh of man has to be abolished before he can partake of God’s nature, even to be transformed into His very being and glory.
Then, what is the concept of first-born in relationship to Sonship in God?
God, the creator of all things, in His Being, is self-sufficient, which means He does not model after the roles and characters of man. Rather He created and uses them as types and shadows so that He can become the model (image) and the substance (likeness) that man desires of and finds fulfillment in. So in the Fatherhood of God, His being the Father is never to be understood as if He is a separated entity or person like our earthly father from our earthly mother. Rather, His Fatherhood is much about His being the progenitor of His spiritual sons (decedents). This is especially true in His relationship to His Only Begotten Son. The Son is out of His Being directly, which requires no vessel, nor a process of conception. He is the exact expression and embodiment of eternal life by the Spirit of the Father unto mankind as the Model or Pattern (Dwelling Place, Form, Image) and the Reality or Truth (Glory, Substance, Likeness). The Son becomes the image of His Father, not merely to the visible world, but also to the invisible spiritual realms. Bible calls these as the earth and the heavens.
In this light, Sonship should also be regarded as a positional and conceptual term, not after one of man’s genders, rather it expresses itself in the both of them and the unity of them. That is why Paul mentions several times in his epistles that “there is no male nor female” as a son of God when one is born of Him. In order to make known His divine thought about His Son, as Paul put it, “the mystery of Christ”, God the Father ordered in the family of man the concept and ordinances of first-born.
The first-born in the ancient Hebrew culture would have two separated endowments from his father. One is his birth right, the other is the bestowing of an inheritance of double portion compared to that of his younger brothers.
This is clearly seen in the story of Jacob. He firstly lured his twin brother, Esau, the natural first-born, into exchanging the birthright for a bowl of soup. Then when Isaac was dying, he pretended to be Esau, at the encouragement of his mother, and stole from him their father’s blessings for the first-born. This can also be clearly seen in his own dealings with his sons when he passed on his blessings before his death. He gave Joseph a doubt portion while claiming Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, as his own. Interesting to notice, Ephraim, the second son of Joseph, thus became the first-born in the blessings of the family. This speaks of Jesus the Covenant restorer or redeemer. The name of Ephraim actually means “double portion” or “twice as much as fruitful”. While Manasseh, the first-born in the natural, means, “forget or being forgotten”, speaking of Adam the Covenant violator and breaker, who forgot or being forgotten of his Father God and His Household. And we know Adam indeed lost his inheritance, the homeland of Eden. In this divine drama, we see God the Father reversed the tragic fate of mankind as sons of Adam, redeemed him through Jesus the Christ, the last Adam, even the True Man and His Begotten Son, to be yet again in the rank of His first-borns. That is to be restored back to the blessings of His eternal life and His divine nature.
Now here is another picture from ancient time. With birthright, the first-born is destined to bear the name of the father. When he is mature, he is to represent his father in social and legal or covenantal matters. For this reason, he will be put into strict discipline by the father even under the guidance of the household in the hands of the stewards (servants), who are familiar with the businesses of the family. This way he will be equipped with skills, knowledge, wisdom and enough experience for the responsibility of the family when his receives his inheritance. The name of the family, with it, honor and wellbeing, goes with the birthright. Furthermore, the first-born is also to be entrusted with the duty to watch over his siblings and help them to manage well their affairs, so that they all can live together in wisdom, unity, love and prosperity as one family.
In this, we can clearly see the underling revelation why the author of the Hebrews would say that “the Christ is the first-born among many brothers”. Paul would call him the “first-fruits among many”. He is not ashamed to call them brothers and friends, because truly they were made so by the love of the Father and their faith in the Son and His finished work on their behalf. The Son chose to more than empty Himself of his heavenly blessings and privileges, laid down his honor and royalty to wash our feet as a humble servant, He would also willingly lay down His life for us on the Cross so that we be reconciled back to the Father. Is there any love greater than this? Bless His Holy Name! This is His Gospel and the Truth He gives to us, freely!
With inheritance, the first-born is privileged to enjoy a double-potion. This double-portion, however, was passed on to the Church, or His called out ones, in Christ Jesus. (Isa. 61) Our double portion is the Father and the Son. Our inheritance is God Himself and we are His inheritance. This is a very familiar concept in the Bible, yet requires more exposition. We will not dig into that in this brief presentation.
Sonship in the History of Man
Now, in this light, let us give a brief review of the concept of Sonship in the history of Mankind.
Adam and Eve
God created Adam and Eve to be one. As we shared above that in Sonship, there is no male nor female. Well, in this oneness is hidden the mystery of the Christ and His Bride, the Church. He is the head of the Church and they are one. Actually before the Fall, woman’s name was given by Adam as “woman”. In Hebrew, it sounds the same as man, which implies Adam named her after his own name. In terms of oneness, they are indeed on equal ground in the eyes of God concerning His covenant with man.
This oneness has many facets and levels. Just a brief observation: it is of flesh and blood in their communion of human intimacy and cooperation as a natural being, of mind and soul in their communion of human conscience and understanding as a conscious being, of heart and spirit in their communion of spiritual intimacy and agreement as a spiritual being, also of love and wisdom in the counsel and power of God the Father, who is the Spirit. With this blessing of oneness with God and with each other, they are destined to mature in wisdom and love and will eventually transform fully their natural being into the Life or Being of God, even His very Nature and His very Glory. They are even to learn to manage things on His behalf and eventually to rule with Him in His Kingdom.
However, after the Fall, God’s judgment made it impossible for Adam to treat Eve as an equal partner (helper) any more. Man was put in a place to rule over Woman, because it was through Woman that Man was deceived. So Adam changed the name of woman to “Eve”, which means ”living”, because she would become the mother of all the living. Interestingly when they had children, Eve was the one began to name them. So in essence, none was named by Adam (Man), rather was named by Eve (Woman). And you know the story, God also put enmity between her seed and the seed of the serpent. Man lost the blessings of the Name of God and had to suffer the wound and pain by the poisoning of his mind with his fasle wisdom or the darkened counsel from the Deceiver, the Devil.
The core of his deception, as John clearly points out, is to deny man, a being in the flesh, of his birthright and inheritance as a son of God.
John 4:1-3 (NIV)
1Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (in the lives of Jesus and His believers) is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
In essence, in the covenant with God, a covenant of peace and life, Adam was equally-yoked with the woman, yet he is the one God held accountable for its fulfillment. Unfortunately when Eve sinned, he did not intervene in the process, rather he ended up being a participant in her rebellion. Sadly this imprudent act broke their oneness and produced a separation between them in God’s sight, so they were judged separately. And through this judgment, eternal life is separated from Man and thus ended the blessedness of an oneness that God intended for them with Him and with each other. The womb of Manhood is denied of the planting or seeding of the Spirit of Sonship. Man was separated from God and denied the benefit of the eternal covenant.
The Seed of Promise
But God never broke His covenant with His Son. Through the ages He preserved a linage of mankind to carry the Hope and Promise of His life in the natural seed, so in the fullness of time, as Paul puts it, He would take away the sinful nature from man and plant the seed of the Spirit of Sonship in Man yet gain.
After Abel the righteous was killed, death entered the family of Man. But in place of Abel, God gave the “first couple’ another son, whose name is Seth. Now Seth was named by Eve, but he was in Adam’s image and likeness, which, at least in token, is a restoration for things of God in the family. From the line of Seth, bloodshed of killing one’s brother is not counted, although his decedents inherited the fallen nature of Man, which means they were not immune to sin. But still, in His rich mercy and faithfulness, God preserves through them a seed with the promise of His Life for mankind. This went on until the time of Noah, judgment came upon the earth and only Noah with few members of his family were saved. One of his son, Shem, was reserved as the first-born to inherit the covenant God made with his father till the time of Abraham.
God called Abram’s father to move with his family out from the Chaldeans. In the process, they stopped at Haran. Then God called Abram out to move to the land He promised that He will give to his descendants. During this journey of faith, God made a covenant with Abram (exalted father) and changed his name to Abraham (father of many). And as He promised He also gave him a son, Isaac, who is a type of Christ. (Much can be expounded about the story of Abraham, his wives and two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Please read the story yourself and pounder on it. Paul mentioned it in Gal. 4.)
From Jacob, David and Solomon to the restoration after the Babylonian Exile, the story of the Israelites is quite familiar to many. We will spare it here.
Christ Restored Sonship Back to Us
But in between, God allowed the Israelites to be enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years till He raised up Moses to deliver them. On Mount Sinai, He gave them the Law through Moses and His angels. In the Law, a particular thing about first-born and father-son relationship is very illuminating. We will expound a bit on this.
Deut 21:15-23 [NIV]
15If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, 16when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love. 17He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father’s strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him.
18If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard.” 21Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.
22If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, 23you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.
In the Law, God ordained the right of the first-born, also the death penalty of a rebellious son. Notice, one who is punished with death as a rebellious son is to be hung on a tree. And he should not be left there overnight, or it will desecrate the land as the inheritance. Every details here is speaking certain aspects of Christ’s death on the Cross, who took away the curse that was upon Man through Adam and restored back to us our right as the first-born and our inheritance in God the Father. In a sense, our Lord Jesus Christ, as the last Adam, stepped into the place of the first Adam who was dead, and married again “Eve”, the mother of the living, figuratively speaking. Eve had been desolate till then, but through this marriage, she will now have many sons.
This fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah. We will quote all of them and Paul’s comment here to show the importance of this.
Isa. 49 [NIV] 8
This is what the Lord says: “In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances,
9 to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ “They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill.
10 They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.
11 I will turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will be raised up.
12 See, they will come from afar— some from the north, some from the west, some from the region of Aswan.”
13 Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
14 But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.”
15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.
17 Your children hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you.
18 Lift up your eyes and look around; all your children gather and come to you. As surely as I live,” declares the Lord, “you will wear them all as ornaments; you will put them on, like a bride.
19 “Though you were ruined and made desolate and your land laid waste, now you will be too small for your people, and those who devoured you will be far away.
20 The children born during your bereavement will yet say in your hearing, ‘This place is too small for us; give us more space to live in.’
21 Then you will say in your heart, ‘Who bore me these? I was bereaved and barren; I was exiled and rejected. Who brought these up? I was left all alone, but these—where have they come from?'”
22 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I will beckon to the nations, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their hips.
23 Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”
24 Can plunder be taken from warriors, or captives be rescued from the fiercet?
25 But this is what the Lord says: “Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save.
26 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh; they will be drunk on their own blood, as with wine. Then all mankind will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
Isa. 54 [NIV]
1 “Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord.
2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.
3 For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.
4 “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
5 For your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.
6 The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit— a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.
7 “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
8 In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer.
9 “To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again.
10 Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
11 “Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise,t your foundations with lapis lazuli.
12 I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones.
13 All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.
Isa. 62 [NIV]
1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.
2 The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.
3 You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4 No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah,t and your land Beulaht; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married.
5 As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.
Gal. 4 [NIV] 26
But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.27 For it is written: “Be glad, barren woman, you who never bore a child; shout for joy and cry aloud, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.”
28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise.29 At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now.30 But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
There is actually another ordinance in the ancient time in the family of the people of God. It is a custom for a brother to marry the widow of his elder brother. Their first-born son will be then named after his brother, thus is entitled as the rightful heir for his brother. This is to preserve the name or linage of his brother. This also speaks of the redemptive nature of Jesus’ life and ministry. He became the first-born among the dead, thus is able to grant eternal life to others. This is a well-established theme through the Bible. Let’s just look at few passages.
Col 1:18-20 [NIV]
18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
1 Cor 15:20-22 [NIV]
20But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
Ps 89:19-29 [NIV]
19 Once you spoke in a vision,
to your faithful people you said:
“I have bestowed strength on a warrior;
I have exalted a young man from among the people.
20 I have found David my servant;
with my sacred oil I have anointed him.
21 My hand will sustain him;
surely my arm will strengthen him.
22 No enemy will subject him to tribute;
no wicked man will oppress him.
23 I will crush his foes before him
and strike down his adversaries.
24 My faithful love will be with him,
and through my name his horn will be exalted.
25 I will set his hand over the sea,
his right hand over the rivers.
26 He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father,
my God, the Rock my Savior.’
27 I will also appoint him my firstborn,
the most exalted of the kings of the earth.
28 I will maintain my love to him forever,
and my covenant with him will never fail.
29 I will establish his line forever,
his throne as long as the heavens endure.
(This is a messianic Psalm. Things about David are actually speaking about Jesus Christ.)
Heb 2:9-11 [NIV]
9But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.
And He did this by the sending of His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Sonship, the promised Gift from God the Father. Most of us are quite familiar with the concept of “born-again”. It becomes a buzz word for one when becoming a Christian, even just nominal. But to be born again is not just a change of faith in the context of any religious practice or encampment, it is a spiritual reality and experience one has to possess in order to be saved and live a life of the Spirit. Only by this will we know how to live as a son of God. When we received the seed of the Spirit of Sonship just like Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit, we are sealed for a work of transformation and it takes a period of quickening of our spirit, not mention soul and flesh, for us to fully immerse into this reality and live in its ways or laws. Paul describes it well in
Rom. 8:13-17 [NIV]
13For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Again, remember, in this, there is no male, nor female. It is in a sense like a missing child coming home and being included gradually in the love of the father and mother. The example of adoption can only reflect certain aspect of this process. In a sense, we come from being a total stranger to being an integrate part of a family, getting acquainted with the ways of the family, the love of the parents and the privilege of our family name, family tradition and inheritance.
But there is something more to our own well-being as a man, something miraculous in nature and in power. It is a life of a blessed son, not an orphan whose soul ever wondering and searching for a home of love and belonging.
Son and Orphan
It is evident that when Adam was judged by God as unfit for His Life, a life without sin and full of goodness, he was discarded from God’s household as a son. In this is the essence of the story of the Prodigal son, who lost his privileges in his father’s house and went on in his own ways. In a sense, sin made us all orphans unto God as sons of Adam. But Christ Jesus ever teaches and helps us to be restored back to God the Father and His household. Much can be said if we are to expound on this. One thing, however, ever worth to be emphasized, is that God the Father never wants anyone to live a life as His orphan, even though they might have to go through terrible things in life as the result of a corrupted world, laden with the sins of men and the deceptions of the evil one. He always wants us to come back to His Home as His beloved sons.
Psm. 68:5-6 [NIV]
5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
6 God sets the lonely in families,
he leads forth the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
This is actually the very core and essence of the teachings of Jesus, the Word of God. That is through our Faith in Him, we will be restored back to the Father.
John 14 [NIV]
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in Godt; believe also in me.2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.7 If you really know me, you will knowt my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
15 “If you love me, keep my commands.16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will bet in you.18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
John 15:15-16 [NIV]
15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
John 16:23-28 [NIV]
23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
25 “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”
John 17:13-26 [NIV]
13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
John 20:16-18 [NIV]
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Now we can see that through His teachings, Jesus was able to make the Father known to the disciples and had them firmly planted in the hope and faith extending out from His word, even the promise of eternal life in God as sons of God. Also He had equipped them with wisdom and power to go about preaching and teaching this message, which is the Gospel. The mission is to free others from their sins and this corrupted world, to be reconciled back to the Father Himself as sons of God as well. I think it would be helpful for us to take a brief look in a general sense some of the differences of being an orphan and being a son.
- Family Love: A son is free to receive love from members of the family and also free to offer his love and affection to others. An orphan is often fearful to do so.
- Inheritance: A son has the right to claim his father’s inheritance; an orphan have nothing to inherit. As result an orphan often carried with him either of a sense of failure or a pride of being of a “self-made”, either way, he is more likely to be burdened with the worries and anxieties of life. A son, on the other hand, often enjoys a natural posture of being assured with everything, especially his future.
- Provision and Protection: A son freely enjoys his father’s protection and provision; these are absent for an orphan for the lack of a father. An orphan often struggles with the feeling of insecurity, often falls prey to a spirit of fear and lack.
- Mental and Emotional Well-being: A son, with a good up-bring and healthy education, is most likely to be stable in his mental and emotional expressions of himself as he enjoys great security, stability and confidence of being who he is. An orphan, lacking of these, seldom is wholesome in his thinking and emotions, thus often appear to be unstable in his expression of himself, being it mentally or emotionally, not mention spiritually.
When Jesus was with His disciples, he shared with them that He will lead them to the Father, his Father and their Father. When He is ready to die, He encouraged them with the thought that He will not leave them as orphans.
In a sense, by the Adamic nature, we all lost the spiritual sense of being at home in life and love, as we are all cast out spiritually from the presence of our Heavenly Father. Only when we received the Spirit of Sonship, could we be able to be restored back to our relationship with our heavenly Father. And that takes a process. It could not be done by self-will and self-strength, but by apprehending and appropriating of His grace and love through Christ Jesus.
From adoption to about the Father’s Business
We are firstly adopted back into the Family of God and begin to fellowship with Him as a son with his father. We will live in His love, security and provision. But more than that, the Father will begin to teach us about Himself and impart His Likeness unto us. The Father’s heart is to have mature sons, not just babes. And this takes a process. Let look at what Peter has to say about this.
2 Pet 1:3-8 [NIV]
3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Then, how we come to maturity?
- We will have to have faith and hope in Jesus Christ.
- We will have to learn obedience unto God the Father through discipline.
This is the journey of our spiritual life even in time and space. Jesus learned obedience from the things He suffered for, so are we. If we are to be like Him, we will have to yield to the Father’s discipline and partake His divine nature in the life of His Son, which is love, righteousness, wisdom, peace, joy, power, mercy and goodness. The Father’s desire is to have us mature in His being and worthy of His Name, so that we can reveal and teach the creation of His love, wisdom and justice. Now, are you ready for this journey? We will have more discussion along this line.
Sonship and Its “History”
Matt 22:41-46 [NIV]
41While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”
“The son of David,” they replied.
43He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,
44“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.”’
45If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Luk 15:11-32 [NIV]
11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Gal 4:4-7 [NIV] 4But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
Son and Orphan
John 14:15-19 [NIV]
15“If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.
Matt 5:43-48 [NIV]
43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Heb 12:4-11 [NIV]
4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.