Having, in our consideration of the
message of the "Letter to the Hebrews,"
identified the all-inclusive object as the fullness of
Christ, we proceed to crystallize that object, or see
that it is here crystallized, into the Divine meaning of
sonship. This thought runs right through the letter, but
at points the keynote is struck with particular emphasis.
1. THE SON. "Hath at the end...
spoken... in His Son" (margin: a son; literally
"Thou art My Son." (1:5).
"But of the Son He saith." (1:8).
"Christ as a Son, over His (God's) house." (3:6).
2. THE SONS. "...bringing many
sons unto glory." (2: 10).
"My son, regard not lightly the chastening of the
Lord... and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth... God
dealeth with you as with sons... the Father of our
spirits." (12:5-7,9). (See also
"Ye are come... to the church of the firstborn...
enrolled in heaven." (12:22-23).
The central truth then, around which all
else circles, and in the light of which all else must be
read, is the mystery or hidden nature of sonship. There
is no greater thing in all Divine revelation than the
thought and purpose of sonship. But this letter shows (as
do other parts of the New Testament) that sonship is not
an initial relationship but an ultimate one. It is not
what is meant by being born of God or being a child of
God, although sonship is implicit in that, but it is the
maturity and therefore responsibility of those born of
God; it is just that motive of all the exhortations,
entreaties, encouragements, and warnings in the letter,
at one point set over against unduly delayed growth in
the words "Let us go on to full growth," (6:1).
Let us hasten to mention that we are not thinking or
speaking of Deity. We are not called to that unique
Sonship which belongs to Christ as Son of God in terms of
Godhead, but we keep strictly to what is meant by the use
made of the words of the eighth Psalm in chapter two of
this letter with its backward relation to Adam and its
forward relation to Christ and the "many sons,"
"partners". So then, sonship means spiritual
full growth which carries with it the placing in
responsibility to govern the world to come (2:5).
The great implication, if not obvious
statement, of this letter as a whole is that all
"children" of God will not "go on" to
realize the full meaning of their birth, but, while they
may not lose their life, they may lose their
"calling" or the full intention of their birth.
Thus, we are able, by recognizing the
governing object of this letter, to link up with those
things which show what sonship means. There are many such
links; we can take but two of them.
The first obvious link is between
"Hebrews" and the fourth chapter of John's
The New "Hour" Of The Son
"...the hour cometh, when neither
in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the
FATHER... the hour cometh, and NOW IS, when the true
worshippers shall worship the FATHER in spirit and truth:
...God is Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship
in spirit" (John 4:21-24). (The emphasis is
Now, everyone knows that the all-governing
object of John's writings was to bring out Christ's
Sonship. A study of relevant words - "Father,"
" Son," etc., will serve as an initial
indication of this.
But a second unmistakable characteristic
of those writings is the essentially spiritual nature of
everything in relation to Christ. Here is a simple
example. With Christ a new "hour," or day, or
dispensation has come, and in this new day geography,
place, material building, traditional association,
religious centre, or ecclesiastical hierarchy have
nothing whatever to do with it. It is now an inner
relationship of a spiritual nature between Father and
son. So chapter four follows chapter three in John.
"Hebrews" just develops John 4 and gives the
so-much-greater range and content of its implication.
Thus, in the first place, sonship is a heavenly thing. It
takes its rise in heaven: "born from above"
(John 3:3, margin). Then it is an inward thing like a
heavenly well, springing up unto life eternal (John
4:14), and it is not in any way earthbound. "Neither
in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem." It is not
historical but eternal; not temporal, but spiritual. As
the Letter to the Hebrews so quickly passes from the
personal to the corporate, from the individual to the
family, so in "John" there is a distinct point
at which there is a transition from the many personal and
individual incidents to the gathering of all those
separate features into a corporate company in which the
full glory of the Son and of sonship is to be expressed.
This consummation is reached in chapter 17.
Another clearly defined link between
"Hebrews" and the Gospels is seen in the
Transfiguration, and this sees sonship in its
consummation, as what we have just said sets forth its
initiation and nature.
The Consummation Of Sonship
On the mount of transfiguration
three things are noted.
a. Moses and Elijah; corresponding to "divers
portions and in divers manners" (Heb. 1:1).
b. Jesus glorified; corresponding to "we see
Jesus... crowned with glory and honour" (Heb. 2:9).
(See also II Pet. 1:16-18.)
c. "Hear ye Him"; corresponding to "God...
hath at the end... spoken... in His Son" (Heb 1:2).
Thus we have,
a. A new dispensation:
b. Taking its character from Jesus in heaven, glorified.
c. The absolute fullness and finality of God's work and
speech in His Son.
Let us here remind ourselves of the
supreme conflict that has ever circled round this matter
of sonship. In the case of the Lord Jesus Himself it was
the focal point of all the fierce controversy and bitter
hatred. It was the point of Satan's personal and direct
attack: "If thou be the Son." Later, demons
referred to it through their victims of possession. It
was the occasion of the Jewish assault, and it headed up
in the combined assault of devil, demons, and men,
issuing in His crucifixion. Paul not only regarded the
Jews as responsible for His death, but said the
"principalities and powers" invested Him in the
cross, and He stripped them off (Colossians 2:15).
The battle was carried on against the
Church, and almost every New Testament letter has as its
object the urge and constraint of believers not to stop
short at spiritual infancy or immaturity, but to go on to
fullness. This fullness is what is meant by and involved
in sonship. There is nothing so feared and hated by Satan
and his powers as sonship in its full attainment and
expression. As "Prince of this world," having
wrested the kingdom and dominion from Adam, he loses it
to the Son of God - the Son of Man; and the full and
universal manifestation of that loss is to come with
"the manifestation of the sons of God," that
Body of Christ which is "the fullness of Him,"
the "partakers of a heavenly calling" to have
dominion over the world to come (Rom. 8:19; Eph. 1:23;
Heb. 3:1; 2:5).
Any ministry or instrumentality which has
real spiritual full growth and sonship as its anointed
function will meet what such has ever met; firstly from
the enemy himself directly and nakedly, then from
whatever direction and means he can find available. If he
cannot directly destroy, he will seek Balaam's
method of subterfuge. His one persistent method through
the ages has been to divert the people of God from the
Son to a system.
The Letters to the Hebrews, the Galatians,
and the Romans are outstanding instruments of God in
relation to this very thing. Thus, early in
"Hebrews," in bringing in the sons with the
Son, mention is made of a matter which is much more fully
developed later. It is that of
Death In Relation To Sonship And Spiritual
The inclusive statement in this connection
is in chapter 2, verses 9, 14 and 15:
"That... He should taste death for
(in behalf of) every man."
"That through death He might bring to nought him
that had the power (hold) of death, that
is, the devil; and might deliver all them who through
fear of death were all their lifetime
subject to bondage."
The question of life and death is later
taken up and opened out in relation to priestly function.
Aaron and his successors were unable to bring anything to
fullness and finality because death broke in in every
case and cut their work short. Melchizedek is then
introduced as type of another priesthood. "Without
father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither
beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the
Son of God after the power of an endless life"
(7:3,16 and context).
You will thus see that sonship, eternal
life, and spiritual fullness are linked together.
Death is the great enemy of spiritual
fullness, but death is - in this letter and everywhere
else - not just a physical matter. Israel is here spoken
of as having died in the wilderness and is used as a
warning to Christians. But the warnings have to do with
the purpose of salvation in its fullness. Death is
a spiritual thing, and it is an enemy ever seeking to
ambush the child of God. So this whole letter is one
solid and comprehensive document and treatise on the fact
that spiritual life can be curtailed, arrested, and
thwarted of its possibilities by the child of God being
brought down, even in a religious way, to an earthly
position with all the trappings of a bygone dispensation,
and losing the essentially heavenly and spiritual
position. "Dead works" the writer calls them
In chapter 1, verse 5 we have a quotation
from the second Psalm related immediately to sonship in
"Thou art My Son, this day have I
begotten Thee." That quotation is made again in
chapter 5, verse 5, in relation to His endless-life
Priesthood. In Acts 13:33, the same quotation is made as
prophetic evidence of the resurrection of Christ, and
thus, sonship and resurrection are linked. This does not
mean that Christ was not Son before the resurrection, but
the New Testament shows that in resurrection there is a
feature of sonship which was not there before, namely
that Christ is "the firstborn among many
brethren" in resurrection. As Peter puts it
"hath begotten us... by the resurrection of Jesus
Christ from the dead." We are not thereby
incorporated into Christ as Son of God in the sense of
Deity, but as Son of Man in a new creation family.
moment, then, the point is that the new life of
resurrection union with Christ as the principle of
sonship must not be put into the old wineskins of earthly
traditions and systems, but into the new wineskins of an
entirely heavenly and spiritual order. This was probably
the occasion of this letter. It was possibly written as
an appeal to the strong section of Hebrew Christians in
Jerusalem who found the ever-widening trend of
Christianity too much for their conservative habits of
Judaistic thought. As the cleavage between the Temple and
the Synagogue on the one hand, and the Church and the
Apostles on the other, became more marked, the Judaisers
were inclined to snap the new ties for the old. The new
wine was bursting the old wineskins, and, like many
today, they were not prepared for that. But the issues
were, and are, infinite.
have arrived at one of those infinite issues which are
exercising most Christians and Christian bodies today,
the issue of
Fullness Of Life In Christ
life in fullness is the question. Many bodies of
Christians who have a great past and great tradition are
deeply concerned with the inadequacy or lack of life
amongst them today. This poverty of life is leading to
great organized efforts, largely outside of the churches,
to try to bring fullness about. Its lack has been the
occasion for the abnormal development of many spurious
and pseudo-spiritual movements and teachings. For want of
it multitudes are passing by the churches as things which
do not count. In many ways the great enemy has triumphed
against the Church by countering its very life impact and
testimony. A major and largely inclusive way of this
achievement is the specific point of our letter. Make
Christianity into another Judaism, i.e., an earthly
religious system of precepts and practices, and you have
made it dead! Is not this the point at chapter 6:1-6? I
am not one of those who believe that the Apostle was
there referring to Jewish ordinances. Some of my reasons
for this are these. Chapter 6:1-6 must be read strictly
in conjunction with chapter 5:12-13. "The rudiments
of the first principles (or beginning) of the oracles of
God" are the same as "the first principles of
Christ," linked together by the
"Wherefore". Jewish ordinances were not the
first principles of Christ. They were the "dead
works" referred to in the phrase "Repentance
from dead works." "The teaching of
baptisms" does not refer to Jewish
"washings". It is the teaching as to the
difference between John's Baptism (or any other) and
baptism into Christ. Acts 19:1-6 ought to settle this
conclusively; and note the context of 18:25. (What a pity
that the chapters are divided where they are, instead of
after 18:23!) In this same place (Acts 19:6) the
"laying on of hands" (Heb. 6:2) is seen as a
doctrine of Christ, not a Jewish ordinance. No, the point
of the Apostle is that, having laid this sixfold
foundation we should "go on to full growth."
Life only begins in the foundation; its fullness requires
the whole building. The peril is that even the first
principles can become another legal system imposed upon
people, and thus the things intended to lead to fullness
of life may be made an arrest of life. Satan is very
recovery of life and its constant increase unto final
fullness will only be as we get away from mere tradition
and earthliness to a new living apprehension of Christ in
His fullness as a Divine Representation of God's thoughts
for His people; away from types, figures, symbols, to
spiritual realities. Even if there are to be expressions
of "first principles" they must come out of the
living reality, and not be mere forms and things in
themselves. We must do nothing with a view to
perpetuating forms of doctrine and practice, but the
expression must be that of life, and the spiritual
meaning and value of everything must be ever growing.
Only so shall we "go on to full growth".