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presents "God's Great Salvation"
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Lesson 11: Sonship
The moment we are born into the family of God, we come into the place of grace and blessing. A tiny baby is not a very important person in himself; everything depends on the family he is born into.
The first son born into the family of a great king is the crown prince. He becomes at once the heir of all the riches and glory of the king himself. As a tiny baby, he has no idea of all the wealth and position that belong to him. Nevertheless, as the king's firstborn son, it all belongs to him. One day he will come into actual possession of the kingdom.
So it is with the believer. By his spiritual rebirth, he is a child of God. He becomes at once the heir of all the riches of God. As a new believer he has no idea of all the wealth and privileges that are his, but it all belongs to him the moment he is born into God's family.
God's Great Salvation
As we have said before, there are two sides of God's great salvation. One side is our side—what we receive in salvation. The other side is God's side—that which God plans and does for His own pleasure.
To get a proper idea of God's great salvation we must look back to eternity. God knew that His first man, Adam, would fail and bring sin and death into the world. But from eternity God planned to give the human race another man—the Man, Christ Jesus. It was God's purpose that we should be before Him forever in the position and acceptance of this Man, Christ Jesus. The Bible says,
"[God]…has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." 2 Timothy 1:9
Do you see the greatness of this? God saved us and called us, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began!
What is the supreme thought of God's heart? Does He have a company of people which are specially blessed for the satisfaction of His own love and pleasure? Yes! The believers—those who have trusted Christ as their Saviour—are especially blessed of God. In the book of Ephesians, God tells what He has purposed for His pleasure. The Bible says,
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." Ephesians 1:3-4
What an astounding thing that is—that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world! We cannot understand this fully, but we can bow our heads and our hearts and worship God for His thoughts of love and grace toward us before the creation of the world.
Furthermore, God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ. Like the tiny son born into the king's family, we have no idea of all the riches and privileges that are ours in Christ. But they belong to us just the same.
We see that God has also purposed "that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." Think of God considering and deliberating in eternity past what would satisfy His own mind and heart—to have a people, holy and blameless, before Him in love. It is a great thing for us to get hold of the fact that this is the blessed God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who is deliberating and planning in eternity what would please and satisfy Him in every way. The Bible says,
"Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will." Ephesians 1:5
God has purposed that we should be "holy and without blame before Him in love" as sons, not servants. We might be satisfied to be God's servants forever, but this would not satisfy God's heart. He wants us before Him as sons!
The Prodigal Son
Let us consider again the wonderful parable of the prodigal son to learn some new truths about our great salvation.
When the son was in "the far country," feeding the hogs, he thought of how his father's servants had plenty of food. He determined to return to his father and to say to him, "Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Let me be as one of your servants."
Being a hired servant of his father might have satisfied the prodigal son, but this would never have satisfied the father's heart of love for him. When the son returned, the father fell upon his neck and covered him with kisses. At that moment the son knew that he was forgiven and accepted, just as he was.
But the father did not leave his son in his rags and dirt. He made him suitable to himself. The father said to his servants, "Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet." (Luke 15:22)
When we come to God as a repenting sinner, God forgives us and accepts us, just as we are in our "rags and dirt." But God does not leaves us that way. He makes us suitable to Himself.
"The Best Robe"
The moment we trust Christ as our Saviour, God makes us perfectly righteous in His sight. He puts us in Christ. He gives Christ to us as our righteousness. "The best robe" is Christ!
This wonderful "robe" was there from eternity. Before the foundation of the world, God chose us in Christ that we might be "holy and without blame before Him in love."
God wants us to understand that He receives us in all the value and infinite blessedness of Christ. We start from a new point altogether. We are new persons in God's new creation, and we are in Christ. When you have Christ as your "best robe," you don't need to think about yourself—how good you are or how bad you are. Christ Himself is your righteousness.
Nothing is more important than that we should be consciously clothed in all the blessedness of Christ.
The ring in Scripture signifies honour and authority. When the children of Israel were in Egypt, Pharaoh had a dream which greatly troubled him. None of Pharaoh's wise men could tell him the meaning of his dream, but Joseph, a Hebrew slave, revealed to Pharaoh the meaning. Joseph told Pharaoh that God had revealed the meaning of the dream to him.
Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph, that he took off his ring from his hand and put it on Joseph's hand. This meant that he was giving Joseph his authority. Joseph was put in charge, under Pharaoh, of everything in Egypt.
We are the sons of God and God has given us "the ring." When Pharaoh gave this ring to Joseph it was as much as to say, "You are to represent me." God has chosen us to be His representatives in this world. Think of the honour that has been bestowed on us—being chosen by God to represent Him!
The sandals speak of sonship. Only sons wore sandals in the house; servants were barefoot.
What is God saying to us here? He is saying, "You are not before Me as servants but as sons. As you go about your life, I want you to always be conscious of the fact that you are My sons."
We are sons of God now. The Bible says, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God." (1 John 3:2)
God has given us the greatest honour and dignity that He can bestow upon us. God wants us to know who we are. He wants us to walk about this earth in the consciousness that we are the sons of God.
Think of the dignity of being a son of God! If we realise who we are, we would never want to do anything mean or little or unworthy of God. The Bible says,
"Do all things without murmurings and disputing: That you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." Philippians 2:14-15
The Secret of the Parable
The surprising thing about the parable of the prodigal son is that we are not told the secret. The secret is the death of Christ. How can we have the robe, the ring, and the sandals? The death of Christ is the explanation of everything. Why am I received by God as a son? Because Christ died for me.
From eternity past it was the purpose and will of God that we should be "holy and without blame before Him in love" as His sons, in all the acceptance and blessedness of His Son, Jesus Christ.
God's first man brought forth a family of sinners. What could be more contrary to God's purpose than our condition as children of Adam? The Bible says that we were "foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers [various] lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another." (Titus 3:3) We were separated from God, guilty and under death and judgment as the rightful consequences of our sins.
How could such sinners be "holy and without blame before God in love"? The answer is: Christ's death on the cross. The Bible says,
"For He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Corinthians 5:21
The Bible says that God saved us and called us "according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began."
What was in the mind of God then has taken form now. Christ has been in the world and dealt with the whole matter of sin by His death on the cross. He has been raised from among the dead to be the Head of God's new creation.
The death of Christ is precious and glorious enough to bring about all of God's purposes. Christ went into death to bring about the will of God—that we might be "holy and without blame before God in love," not only for our own happiness, but for God's pleasure. The Bible says,
"And you were at one time strangers and enemies in your minds as expressed through your evil deeds, but now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death to present you holy, without blemish, and blameless before him." Colossians 1:21-22 (NET Bible)
We have been reconciled to God through Christ
To be reconciled to God means to be made entirely suitable to Him. The Bible says that, "when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son." (Romans 5:10)
The prodigal son was made perfectly suitable to his father. You might say that he was made "holy and without blame before his father in love."
The robe, the ring, and the sandals made him conscious that he was entirely suitable to his father. He lived in the consciousness of his father's delight in him.
If you had asked him, "What kind of terms are you on with your father since you came back?" he would have said, "I am on the very best of terms with my father. I am an object of delight to him. I enjoy being in his presence, knowing how much I am loved by him."
Dear friend, have you realised that, in Christ, you have been reconciled to God? Do you know that you are an object of delight to God? Are you rejoicing in God's great salvation?
We are "accepted in the Beloved"
In His great salvation God has placed all believers before Him as sons, holy and without blame before Him in love. How can we be "holy and without blame before Him in love"? The answer is: We are accepted in the Beloved. The Bible says,
"To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He has made us accepted in the Beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." Ephesians 1:6-7
"The Beloved" is Christ Himself. God gives us the same place that He has given to His beloved Son. God accepts us with all the love and delight with which He accepts His own beloved Son. We are "accepted in the Beloved"!
The Joy of Sonship
God's blessings for those who believe in His Son are beyond anything we could have ever imagined. We are forgiven of all our sins. We are justified—counted righteous in God's sight. We become a new person in Christ. Christ Himself is our righteousness. We are in-dwelled by the Holy Spirit. The climax of all that God does for us is sonship. He makes us His son.
The foundation of all these wonderful blessings is the death of Christ on the cross. We have "redemption through His blood." The blood of this great Person, Christ, has been shed. No price was too great for God to pay to secure what He had set His heart on.
God Himself cannot give us any greater gift than the gift of sonship. Do you know what it means to be a son of God? It means to be the object of God's love. Sonship means that we are called to be companions of Christ in the Father's presence, to enjoy what he enjoys, and to be loved as He is loved.
Christ has a special distinction and glory about Him which will never be shared with any created being. But we will share in His glory, and the Father loves us with the same love that He loves Christ. In Christ's prayer to His Father, He said,
"The glory which You gave Me I have given them; they that may be one, even as We are one: I in them, and You in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them, as You have loved Me." John 17:22-23
We do not learn the meaning of sonship by looking at ourselves. We do not learn it by looking at other believers. We learn it only by looking at the glorified Christ. Jesus, as a glorified Man in the presence of God, shows us our place of perfect acceptance before God. He is "the Son," but we are sons also, accepted by God in all the perfection of Christ.
I may think, "But I am such a poor, weak thing. I don't feel as though I am a son of God."
Yes, I may feel that way at times, but feelings are not facts. What is the fact regarding my place before God? The fact is that I am His son! It takes us a long time to get hold of the fact that it is God's pleasure to give us sonship. Sonship is for God, for His own delight. Nothing would suit the heart of God but that we should have the places of sons before Him. The Bible says,
"Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God…Beloved, now are we the sons of God…" 1 John 3:1-2
God has given us His Spirit that we might be conscious of our sonship. We are not to have a spirit of bondage as though we were slaves, but we are to be conscious that God is our loving Father and we can approach Him without fear. The Bible says,
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." Romans 8:14-15
We belong to God's glory system which will be revealed when Christ returns to rule and reign. Because we are sons of God, we will rule and reign with Him. The Bible says,
"The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together." Romans 8:16-17
What is God doing now? He is giving us heavenly light on what will soon be ours as His sons. We will experience trials and suffering in this world, but these are nothing compared to the glory that will soon be ours as the sons of God. The apostle Paul said,
"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Romans 8:18
* For His own pleasure and satisfaction, God has given us sonship.
* We are "holy and without blame before Him in love" as sons.
Privilege and Responsibility
With every great privilege we have as believers, there comes responsibilities. God gives us our privilege first; then He tells us about our responsibility.
God has given us the place of sonship, and He has given us the Spirit of Christ. All that God can give us is wrapped up in Christ and the Spirit.
What is God's purpose in this? His purpose is that of each of us, as His sons, should be the continuation of Christ's life here on earth. We are to tell and show people what God is like.
God's glory and His testimony on earth are to be exhibited in His children who act like Him. God says to us, "You are My sons; you are to be like Me and show forth My nature to unsaved people." Jesus said,
"You have heard that it has been said, 'You shall love your neighbour, and hate your enemy.' But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you, and persecute you. That you may be [seen as] the children of your Father who is in heaven…" Matthew 5:43-45
Formerly we were "the children of disobedience," but now we are God's "obedient children." The Bible says,
"Like obedient children, do not comply with the evil urges you used to follow in your ignorance, but, like the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in all of your conduct, for it is written, 'You shall be holy, because I am holy.'" 1 Peter 1:14-16 (NET Bible)
Again and again, in the New Testament, we find that God first gives us our responsibility. Are we "risen with Christ"? Then God's Word says,
"If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not things on earth." Colossians 3:1-2
Are we the "elect of God"? Then God's Word says,
"Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others." Colossians 3:12-13
Are we God's "called-out assembly"? Are we all partakers of the one Spirit, and members of the one Body of Christ? If so, then we should act accordingly. The apostle Paul wrote the saints at Ephesus,
"I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling." Ephesians 4:1-3 (NET Bible)