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The Revealing of the Sons of God
From John 4 they say, "whosoever wants Living Water." They mean, "whosoever wants the Holy Spirit." What sort of person wants the Holy Spirit? How about a Son? John 3:19-21,
And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.Monergists use this passage to prove Calvinist logic. Instead of proving the depravity of man, it actually proves the doctrine of Romans 1:20 - all men are without excuse even before hearing of Christ. Paul preached in Acts 14:17,
Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.Acts 17:26-30 is slightly longer on this gospel essential.
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent...Imagine Reformed evangelists affirming the Athenians for the scant portion of light they had received. Would they call them "God's offspring," or expect them to know it's about time to repent, or tell them to reach out to God with ease? For every soul of man there is opportunity for immortality, glory, honor and peace, and it is given to those who work what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Rom. 2:10) - potentially including the Athenians.
The Depravity in a Man of the World
Depravity comes from without: "The whole world is under the sway of the wicked one" (1 John 5:19). Depravity comes from within: the 'mere human (1 Cor. 3:3)' nature is full of sin (Rom. 3:10-18). Whether one is a Jew or a pagan, all are under sin (Romans 3:9) apart from the leading of the Spirit. Who escapes depravity, and when? Galatians 4:1-7,
Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.Sons are heirs and heirs are sons. "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be my son" (Rev. 21:7). Who are the inheriting sons of God? Galatians 3:26-29 says,
And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.Seeds first, heirs also; if you are dissolved according to the promise. "According" is defined as "a preposition denoting motion or diffusion from the higher to the lower." Not all believers in Christ are heirs of the Kingdom of God, however all believers will enter the Kingdom of God. Only sons inherit, those conformed after the promised Spirit.
Romans teaches son-ship as conditional as well. 8:14 deliniates,
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.All believers who receive Jesus by faith are immediately positioned as sons of God to inherit, but the ones who put it into practice are sons indeed and one day will be publicly revealed as such by God (Rom. 8:17-19). Sons who need God's discipline are called "children" in the NT epistles. Children are believers (seed) who are in Israel or in the Church. It is not a designation of salvation, but performance. They are not mature enough yet to put into practice the Way of the Spirit which achieves the work of God in their life. Only "sons" amongst the children know how to successfully manage God's house like Christ did (Heb. 1-3). In an audience of only Christ-followers (abiding disciples), Jesus gave His wisdom away. John 15:15,
No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.He Led Them By The Hand out of Egypt
Children need a babysitter. There was something missing with the old covenant, for which reason the second was sought (Heb. 8:7-12). They did not truly understand righteousness with the ten commandments. The law's ministry was to illustrate their bondage. Jesus said, "And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." Sons of the Kingdom are grown to maturity in God. They have the capacity to set others free because they have the mind of Christ within. With the Spirit they, along with the angels (Heb. 1:14), minister to both slaves (unsaved) and children (saved but foolish) that they might also become sons. I've heard it said that Kingdom preparations are absent in the gospel written for evangelism (John), but freedom from Satan is the reason Jesus was manifested (1 John 3:8). Luke 4:18,
The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,Sons from Seeds
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed
"A child does not differ at all from a slave." Unlike the slave, a child has the possibility to escape the guardians and stewards of the law, and escape the elements of bondage and futility in this world. But being called a child is not flattery; he delays and dallies. He chooses to follow after the flesh. How does a believer look who follows after the flesh? Does he not look like the unbelievers of this world? And that is what Paul means. Surprisingly, then, Paul tells his doubts of a second birth in the life of the Galatian people. Gal. 4:11,
I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.The six chapters he writes to the bewitched Galatian people is summed up in a single designation.... Not just children, but little children:
My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you.Is Paul doubting their salvation? No! He spent the book reminding them of their salvation! What is he doubting by saying they had been born again, and now needed to be born yet again? That the reason for which they came to Christ - the uncircumcised heart that needed to be made alive so that one might fulfill God's will - their desire to be Spirit-led - had been squashed. It is the Spirit they had originally sought after in receiving the gospel. "Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" (Gal. 3:3). Yes, believers have a choice as to which nature they will follow, and their desire to obey determines their status as child, or son. Gal. 4:21-26,
Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar — for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children — but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.
The not-inheriting bondwoman and her son are "symbolic" for more than just the people of Islam. It breaks into any un-Spiritual category: those in bondage to sin, those in the covenant of the Mosaic Law, those of Jerusalem which now is and her children as well (OT believers). But there is one more group of people who must be grouped there with them, implied here from Paul toward the Galatians -- it includes the Galatians who had rejected Spiritual life. Therefore, it's for people perhaps like me and you. For we who are believers in Christ who then abandon the Spirit's kind of works and power, we should not expect to inherit and possess the kingdom as a son of God, though we shall all enter it regardless of our performance.
Position versus Practice
I believe as you look at various examples of spiritual warfare it falls into two categories: those who are Spirit-led compared with everything else. A child of God, of course, differs from a slave, in one extremely important way! The child has been reconciled to God positionally through belief in Jesus. There is no room for a Calvinist or an Arminian doctrine of deciding who is saved and who is not saved because of the word "child." Without regard to performance we are saved by grace through faith in Christ. As for the concern of self-achievement in synergism as an alternative to monergism, faith is the condition for salvation. Faith is not self-accomplishment because faith is not a work. Scripture always says faith is apart from works.
"Tell me, you who desire to be under law," Paul says, consider your lifestyle a crossroads. Gal. 4:28-31,
Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.Take an indication from the spiritual warfare. Who is persecuting who? Those who reproduce after the fleshly nature persecute those who are reproducing after the Spiritual nature. Jesus was the epitome. Jesus talks to Christians who don't seek Him in John 8:31-45,
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”Tell me, why does Jesus diagnose their works to prove their parentage? Because it requires only one parent in/from the promise of God in order to be justified and enter the Kingdom. It takes two parents of promise to be a son, to possess an inheritance within the Kingdom. To explain this in other terms, a person who accepts God's covenant by faith is born into His Bride through Abraham/Christ. Once inside that covenant betrothal, whoever's essence you pursue proves your other parent (Satan or the Father). If I'm wrong, tell me why Paul teaches about offspring in a marriage that one believing parent is enough to produce "Christian children" in 1 Cor. 7:14,
They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.”
They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.”
Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.”
Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.”
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.Children by position (justification) may become sons indeed. In the upper room discourse (John 15-17) these 11 believers are they who seek both "parents" (they who seek both justification and sanctification); they who are abiding disciples. To them he entrusts Himself and His Spirit. But in John 8 Jesus only acknowledged that they are Abraham's children... He doesn't say who their mother was!
Friendship With the World is Enmity With God
There are sons who inherit and children who are illegitimate; all in the proving. "Children of God" and "children of the devil" refer to what kind of life-works one reproduces after being integrated into His covenant. 1 John 3:7-8,
Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.Jacob & Esau
Let's read Romans 9:6-13 with this help.
But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”To be "called" is a post-justification invitation to participate with Christ. Children of God (those who are Spirit-led) are not children of the devil (those who reproduce fleshly lifestyle) but regardless of whose children they are, the seed are undeniably saved regardless of performance.
Calvinists don't have excellent answers to Arminian passages, and visa versa. They have both misunderstood Jacob and Esau. Watch them spin in confusion, here. It is not about which was justified and regenerated - this is a picture of Mt. Sinai versus the heavenly Jerusalem. When Abraham turned to Hagar in self-effort as a way to achieve the promise, he sowed that covenant into the lives of his offspring. "You bring persecution into my house?" God asks Abraham.... "I'll bring persecution into your house." He did so with Isaac, in Rebecca's womb. That's why there is heavy-duty language of God's purpose in the wrestling before they were born. Esau was all about self-sufficiency. It would soon show what that would gain. Jacob wanted to be born first with all its privileges but didn't have the strength, holding onto Esau's heel. This is the more humble person, the sort to which God chose to reveal Himself. "You did not choose Me but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit" John 15:6. We know doctrinally that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble - and even more - His choice for Jacob does not congratulate him - it is still from grace.
Isaac was one man. His seed was one seed. He was one father yet there were two children. Esau represents some kind of believer who knew all the promises in the family but did not appreciate it. His lifestyle "mother" or "father" (however you view it) was Satan/the harlot. He was free to prove his performance within the covenant from neo-natal to death. Esau wasn't hated before he was born, only later when God looked back on his life's accomplishment in Malachi. Esau is mentioned in Hebrews, too, as seeking the inheritance with tears after losing it (12:16). He's not damned to hell there either. Perhaps chapter ten's quote of God's attitude toward the life-works of the backslider, saying "My soul has no pleasure in him" (Heb 10:38) had Esau as an example in mind. No pleasure, looking back. Is "no pleasure" the same as "hate"? It is a litotes.
Though the Hagar deviation occured, it could neither annul nor add to the promise, which was 430 years before the law. Praise God for it!
- two spirits
- two fathers
- two covenants
- two cities
- two mothers
- two nations
God is finished with the problem of persecution inside His house. He conquered it in the most ultimate way by raising Jesus Christ from the dead and dispensing the gift of the Spirit. Abraham provoked God by bringing His people into a temporary downgrade of self-effort in the law of Moses, but, God had his vengeance. Before the Gentiles had finished hearing the gospel in the book of Acts, before they had a chance to say "Yes!" the Spirit had already fallen. "I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation," ... "I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did no ask for Me" (Rom. 10:19-20).
So in the book of Galatians Paul wonders about believers who signed up for Christ's Living Water. "You wanna rely on your own strength? Go ahead. You don't think you on-goingly need Me?" Deceived they'd become from what they bought in-to. Hebrews 12:5-11,
And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:One can lose their sensitivity in the leading of the Holy Spirit, even as it permanently indwells unconditionally (seed). It's all over the NT, but one example is James 5:19-20,
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the LORD loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”
If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.Spiritual Warfare in Us, In the Church
To stay in the dark when there is a portion of light to be grasped, is to not believe God and God's work, and human need to imitate Him (John 9:41). Sons are a threat to those in bondage. They destroy Satan's works, manifesting tangible freedom and victory, and an unseen God who is True and Compassionate without partiality. Do not be surprised if they tell you there's something odd about you. They thought Jesus was propelled by a demon. The power of God ministers far beyond the scope of the ten commandments and 'churchendom' at large. Are you taking responsibility to see God's will done on earth? No matter the cost? Then you are a son of God.
What to say if you're having doubts... or want to become a son.... I have wrestled with this a lot while creating this post. When I look at my life, I don't feel or look like someone who is spiritually responsible, who finds a way to see His will done. I see a good deal of immaturity. In fact, the more I look at me, the more immaturity I experience. There was only one escape I discovered: "Look to Abraham your father, And to Sarah who bore you; For I called him alone, And blessed him and increased him" (Is. 51:2). The Israelites came from a promise, but the law did not save. We need both parents to raise us right! As soon as we take up the Spirit, we immediately begin an adventure and are responsible in the works of a son. Our own nature will never be pure, but God's, is. You can take it up right now, and see for yourself the power of God in the likes of someone like you.
The Gospel Message
Works are an appropriate backdrop for the hope in the gospel. Those who are ungodly begin by receiving the grace of God through a promise, that He may receive all glory and praise. Need is essential to the gospel presentation of Christ who died, was buried and who was resurrected from the dead: it is hope of sonship. The lost at least intuitively seek to escape the corruption, or the futility, of this world.
Free Grace people neither front load nor back load the gospel with a message of works. They tell the truth: the LORD cares about bondage both inside and outside His house. He offers salvation freely through Christ in Whom He would discipline and motivate accordingly. Like He, we respect choice even amongst believers as Paul does when he says, tell me what you desire; carnality, or purity? All of the same capacities for failure exist for Christians as they do for the unsaved person. But a Son finds the Way to rise above it all.
Spiritual works reveal those who have been justified. As He reveals Himself through you, He consequently puts you in association with Him. It is what John 3:19-21 (the opening scripture) says. This is the abiding advantage that lost people crave. The woman at the well sought living water. She sought son-ship.
Go to the final part in this series, How Much We Need Need (-final-)
How Much We Need Need (part 3)
How Much We Need Need (part 2)
How Much We Need Need (part 1)
How Much We Need Need (introduction)