ARE CHRISTIANS AUTOMATICALLY GOD'S SONS?
Some Sobering Thoughts
Are Christians automatically the sons (and daughters) of God? might seem a preposterous question to most Christians, and particularly those of the evangelical school who maintain that when a soul, in faith, accepts Jesus Christ as his Saviour, automatically becomes a son (or daughter) of God. But is such a teaching Biblical?
The Prince and the Son
Such a question had never crossed my mind before I read a passage in the book of Ezekiel. One evening I opened my Bible up and I read these verses: "The Lord God says: If the prince gives a gift of land to one of his sons, it will belong to him forever. But if he gives a gift of land to one of his servants, the servant may keep it only until the Year of Release (every seventh year) when he is set free; then the land returns to the prince. Only gifts to his sons are permanent. And the prince may never take anyone's property by force" (Ezek.46:16-18a, Living Bible).
My initial reaction was to see this passage in the context of our own Church situation. This is the New Covenant's seventh anniversary about which we have said much in this publication. We had understood that this New Covenant was a gift to God's people but the thought that it might only be probationary and that we might perhaps be "servants" and not "sons" had never crossed my mind before. But then, seeing this passage in the context of other recent events -- our persecution, our inner struggles to be true, and so on, made me realise with crystal clarity the truth that we are servants -- we have not earned the right to sonhood yet. And why not?
The Lord gives the answer plainly to Ezekiel. We are servants because we are not free. Why are we not free? Because we are slaves of the flesh. Both we, and the Covenant the Lord has given to us, are impure. The Church -- the New Covenant Church of God -- in truth belongs partly to God and party to man because we, as God's servants, have not obtained the full freedom of sonship. And until we do, God cannot claim complete ownership over the Church.
Whilst collecting one of the brethren from the railway station recently for a meeting, he shared thoughts with me that were almost identical -- thoughts that had struck him forcibly whilst he was walking down the street in Oslo: "Are we really God's sons? What right do we have to claim to be His sons? Where in the Bible does it say that we are automatically His sons when we call upon the Name of Jesus for salvation?" The "coincidence" of our conclusion struck both of us forcibly.
He reminded me that God the Father did not tell the mortal Christ, "Thou art My well-beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" until after His struggle in the desert with Satan. If the Son of Man, God in the Flesh, did not obtain the title of Son by declaration of the Father, until He had overcome the devil, then what right have we, as "mortal mortals" to claim sonship without any sort of struggle ourselves?
So we must ask this sobering question: Are we free men (and women)? Are we the sons (and daughters) of Christ just by making a confession? Or does this adoption as sons come only after we are made free? And how are we made free? The answer is clear: we are only made free when we have given everything to the Prince, who is Christ -- when we have laid everything on the altar of sacrifice, because only then can God claim any sovereignty over us.
"But," an evangelical Christian might protest, "does not the New Testament teach plainly that we become the adopted sons and daughters of Christ through faith?" "Yes," I would reply, " but what is faith? Is it passive assent or is it more?"
As we New Covenant Christians know from an exhaustive study of the scriptures, faith is inseparable from works so long as we can do works. Those works are an expression of our love and faith and the outward sign that we have that true faith.
If it is true that Christians are not automatically children of God, do we therefore find a boundary, and where in that case does it go between the child's rights by which we are able to call Abba, Father and the general grace in Jesus Christ?
In one sense we are all children of God because God is our Creator, both physically (viā the first man, Adam) and spiritually (before the physical creation of the world). But there is another sense of sonship.
The Rights of Sons
I have a son who is a child. When he is an adult he will remain a my son but have the same rights as myself. As we learn in the parable of the prodigal son, the elder son was told by his father that he owned everything that he had but would not obtain his estate until after he, the father, had passed away. The prodigal son demanded his estate before his time and squandered it in riotous living.
When evangelical Christians say that we become sons and daughters of Christ by faith, they are half right. But it is not full sonship. Full sonship comes only through perfect obedience to God's Law, through grace, and a willingness to give the Lord full sovereignty over ones life. Until that full sovereignty has been given, we remain slaves or servants, without the full rights of fully adopted sons. My young 10 year-old son does not have all the rights of an adult but is a "slave" to rules and regulations which I have established in my household. These he must obey until he becomes "of age" and can walk as an adult in the world with the full responsibilities of an adult. When he has accepted that responsibility then he has the right to be treated equally with me, as being an equal recipient of grace.
So it is with us. When we accept Christ as our Saviour we become adopted into Christ's family as servants, or "secondary sons", if you like. Not until we have yielded complete control over our lives to Christ can we become fully his slaves and therefore His true sons with the right of eternal possession. And what is that "land" we have the right to possess -- "land" which the "Prince" can never take back? Our right to the highest position in heaven, in the celestial Kingdom!
From Servants to Sons
Let us be under no illusions. Accepting Christ as personal Saviour is only the first step in our salvation. Of course, this salvation we have received includes the possibility of full salvation in the highest spiritual realms, but it is not the fullness until we have let Christ into every corner of our being. That should be obvious but alas there are far too many who, wanting a short cut to salvation, thereafter try to persuade others to copy them and lead them into the delusion that they are fully and completely saved and have no more to do.
Are you a son or daughter of God? Or are you just a servant? Dare you risk not knowing? If you are not sure then ask yourself this question: have I surrendered every area of my life into God's hand, or do I exercise personal control over some areas which I don't want to surrender? If the latter is true then you are not fully saved. And what a frightening prospect that is!
This page was created on 17 April 1998
Last updated on 17 April 1998
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