We shall now consider more fully this one particular thing at the heart of this whole matter of the greatness of Christ, lying beneath the choice of Solomon and summing up his significance, and this one thing is his sonship. We are passing as quickly as we can from Solomon to Christ, and perhaps we might remind ourselves of the words said about him in this connection. The Lord said to David: “Solomon thy son, he shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be My son, and I will be his father” (1 Chronicles 28:6).
Now that, as the first fragment in that connection, gives us the key to the basis of this matter of sonship. Let me say again this general word—before we come to the particular—that the significance of Solomon lies in that word ‘sonship,’ for, while Solomon’s kingship did represent the very peak of Israel’s history in the matter of the monarchy, David is always, in the Word of God, kept to the fore as the greatest of Israel’s kings. David certainly was a very much greater man than Solomon when it comes to personalities; and it might be wondered at that things did not end with David, seeing that he was what he was in the Divine thought and was going for ever after to be kept by God in the first place of Israel’s kings. Why did the history not stop with David? For this reason: that a spiritual principle is being held to by God in a sovereign way, and the principle is that everything is gathered up in sonship. Ultimately, it is sonship which represents and embodies all God’s thought. So the one thing that is constantly reiterated about Solomon is sonship. “Thy son... my son.” David said: “Of all my sons (for the Lord hath given me many sons,) He hath chosen Solomon my son” (1 Chronicles 28:5)—the inclusiveness of sonship, and in a certain sense, the exclusiveness also. It is this word ‘son’ that rules where Solomon is concerned. And when we come over to Christ, to the greater Son of David, we find that everything heads up to, and takes its character and its meaning from, His Sonship. Well, that is a general statement of fact which you will do well to remember and to ponder, for reasons which will become apparent as we go on.
We find that John and Paul are the great exponents in this matter. John presents Christ pre-eminently as the Son. He sums up all his Gospel in a statement that everything written therein was with one object: that the readers might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing they might have life in His Name (John 20:31). John, then, presents Christ as the Son; it is the Person that he has in view.
Paul also represents Christ as the Son, but he goes further. I have just said that there was nothing further, but what I mean is this: that Paul goes on to open up the content of sonship, and to show that there is an aspect of it which is a related matter. By the Holy Spirit we are sons. Christ is a first one, the Firstborn; and (leaving out the factor of deity) sonship as a relationship is something into which we are called. And the meaning of sonship is Paul’s great theme; the content, the explanation, the relatedness and the inclusiveness of it.
Now it is with these two things that we shall be occupied for a little while at this time, and here we must make some links in the Word:
“Moreover the Lord telleth thee that the Lord will make thee a house. When thy days are fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, that shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kindgom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be My son” (2 Samuel 7:11–14).
“He shall build a house for My name; and he shall be My son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever” (1 Chronicles 22:10).
“Solomon thy son, he shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be My son, and I will be his father. And I will establish his kindgom for ever” (1 Chronicles 28:6,7).
“And we bring you good tidings of the promise made unto the fathers, that God hath fulfilled the same unto our children, in that He raised up Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee. And as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, He hath spoken on this wise, I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David” (Acts 13:32–34).
“Unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee? and again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son? ...But of the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; and the sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom” (Hebrews 1:5,8).
Son on the Principle of Eternity
I think it is quite patent that the things said by God to and concerning Solomon were not meant to be fulfilled in their entirety and fulness in him. The Lord was speaking with a further thought, with a mind beyond Solomon. He was really, in His own mind, speaking about the Lord Jesus. Solomon would be but a temporary, partial fulfilment of what God said about sonship, and about the kingdom and the house. God was thinking further on. (That is our manner of speaking as men. God does not speak in past, present and future; everything is present with Him, an eternal Now, and, when He spoke, Christ was present in mind and intention with Him. But so far as we are concerned, as children of time, the completeness of the statement related to the future, to the Lord Jesus.) “I will be to Him a Father, and he shall be to Me a Son;” “I will establish his kingdom”—these words were spoken of Solomon, but it is not difficult to see that, in the case of the Lord Jesus, there is an infinite transcendence. There is something here in connection with Him which goes far beyond anything that was possible in the case of Solomon, and the one thing which proves that is the very language that the Lord uses: "I will establish his throne for ever.” That was not true of Solomon, nor of Israel, but it is true of the Lord Jesus.
What I am stressing in the first place is this: that John and Paul bring Christ into view as Son on the principle of eternity. You know how John seeks to press that home in his Gospel in a number of very impressive ways. He opens: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” clearly intending to emphasize the eternity of this sonship, for He very soon comes into time: “And the Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us;” that is the time aspect, the Now; the other is timeless. He seeks to emphasize the eternity of the Son in other ways, but there is one way which is tremendously impressive throughout John’s Gospel, and that is his use of the title “I am.” That title comes out specifically, and I think supremely, in John 18, in the narrative of the guard, led by Judas, coming to take Jesus. There He was with His disciples, and the band with lanterns and torches and weapons arrived. He quietly said: “Whom seek ye?” They said: “Jesus of Nazareth.” He said: “I am,” and they went backward, and fell to the ground. And He said again: “Whom seek ye?” “Jesus of Nazareth.” “I told you that I am.” (There is no ‘He’ there, as you know. ‘I am He’ is not in the text at all.) “I AM!” You are at once taken right back to Moses. “And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is His name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” (Exodus 3:13,14). You remember the other occasion when the Lord Jesus used that title for Himself: “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). What a mix-up of tenses! “Before Abraham was, I am.” That takes us outside of our language altogether, right out of time and of natural sense, into God’s realm. I AM is not time at all. I AM is not this world at all. I AM is from everlasting to everlasting. John brings in Christ as Son on that basis of eternity.
But Paul not only brings Christ in in His eternity: he begins to build the Church upon that eternity. In the Letters to the Ephesians and Colossians, which are in my mind just now, we have Christ in His eternity, and then: “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). From that eternal election and foreordination and predestination Paul builds the Church. He says: ‘This is no thing of time or of earth. This is a thing which has its roots and its foundation away back in eternity, and it goes on unto the ages of the ages. Time is a mere fragment in this thing.’ Paul is building upon the eternity of Christ. What has that to say to us? Well, of course, it bears out our first and all-governing point—the transcendence of Christ over Solomon. This greater than Solomon that is here, this Son—how infinitely more He is than that son!
What is sonship? In accordance with God’s full thought (not His partial thought in Solomon—that is only representation and type and figure and shadow), it is something which takes its rise out of eternity and goes on when time shall be no more. That is sonship in God’s thought. But what more does it say to us? Chosen in Him before the world was, foreknown, foreordained, predestinated before time was—what does it convey? Well, I AM is the synonym for stability: “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever”—the stability of Christ, the stability of the Church, and the stability of saints. Oh, what an assurance, what a strength and what an immense thing for faith is this matter of the sovereign grace of God! Grace working hand in hand with sovereignty! As we have pointed out before, there is no accounting for Solomon, seeing what happened in relation to his birth, except for the sovereign grace of God, and that is the message of sonship. Yes, sovereignty and grace: how vast! how great!
We have said before that emancipation from all our difficulties and problems will be along the line of spiritual enlargement, and spiritual enlargement will be by way of a new and a far greater apprehension of Christ; and here it is. Look at Him! What is the object of telling us all this about Christ? Do we just want information that Christ is God’s Son, and that He was one with the Father in eternity, and will be for ever and ever? I am quite reverent in asking that question, and in saying that, as a purely objective matter somewhere out in God’s universe, it does not matter to me very much. But when you say that God has revealed this to men, then I want to know why. What is in the Divine mind in revealing it? And the answer is here—you and I are concerned in it, we were chosen in relation to it before the world was, and in Him we are bound up with it. Oh, then, what an immense thing it is to be receiving eternal life, age-abiding life, and being linked with the eternal Son of God! Sonship goes beyond anything that is merely temporary and transient. Our union with Christ brings us right into the roots of His eternity, not only in duration but in character, in nature; for eternal life is not merely endless duration, it is the glory of God in nature, in essence. So Paul builds everything upon this fact of eternity, and brings us in. What a wonderful revelation! As a mere presentation of truth it is fascinating, captivating, bewildering. But brought home by the Holy Spirit, how transforming it can be, how establishing and how emancipating! Oh, if only the Church lived in the good of that, how all these petty, temporary factors would go out! After all, what does this and that matter? It is only for a time, and for this world at most, but the thing that matters is what God is doing above and beyond this world altogether.
Well, that is the first thing which comes in here through John and through Paul: Christ as the Son, and then the content and nature of sonship.
Son in Terms of Sovereignty
Then John brings in Christ as Son as Sovereign King. He brings Him in in a strange way, but how deep and terrific is its significance:
“Pilate therefore entered again into the Praetorium, and called Jesus, and said unto Him, Art Thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered, Sayest thou this of thyself, or did others tell it concerning Me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests delivered Thee unto me: what hast Thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto Him, Art Thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end have I been born, and to this end am I come into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice” (John 18:33–37; ASV).
A strange way of bringing in the Son in terms of sovereignty! There is a statement here: “My kingdom is not of this world.” It is just a naked statement, made in the presence of none who could understand it, but it is recorded by John with a purpose, for it links sonship and kingship. But Paul not only takes up the fact; he explains and opens out the statement.
“My kingdom is not of this world.” What has Paul to say about that?
“...He raised Him from the dead, and made Him to sit at His right hand in the heavenlies, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things...” (Ephesians 1:20–22).
There we stop, for the next words take us to the greatness of the Church, and we are dealing with the greatness of Christ. That is Paul’s explanation of Christ’s statement: “My kingdom is not of this world”; “...at His right hand in the heavenlies, far above all rule, and authority.” You cannot say that of Solomon! Great as Solomon was—and the statement about Solomon is that he was vastly superior in every sense to every other king that was known—here is One Who leaves Solomon altogether in the shade! He is far above all rule and authority, not only on this earth, but in every realm. He is over all things. That is the greatness of Christ the Son in terms of kingship.
But then what about His kingdom? “I will establish his kingdom for ever” (1 Chronicles 28:7). Oh, that has its full fulfilment in Christ, in His kingdom. Paul takes this up in Colossians:
“...Who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13).
How I would like to stop there, by way of parenthesis, to try and disentangle the situation into which Christianity has got today through mixing up the idea of the Kingdom and the Church—a tangle which is entirely the cause of its weakness and defeat. What I mean is this: that today the Lord’s people—yes, even evangelical Christianity—are trying to run the Church on the Solomon-kingdom line, that is, an earthly thing, something of this world, to be seen, known, heard of, taken account of by and in this world; bigness to impress, to write up; to gain place and influence by names, titles and all the things that belong to this world; and they call it: ‘Extending the Kingdom.’ They have a false idea of the Kingdom. Here Paul links these two things for this dispensation—Church and Kingdom—and says it is heavenly and not of this world at all. Immediately after this he goes on:
“If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth” (Colossians 3:1,2; ASV).
No, not even in a religious way. “My kingdom is not of this world,” said the Lord, and Paul explains it. The Church in this dispensation is the embodiment of the Kingship and Kingdom principles of Christ in a spiritual way, and they lift the Church clean out of this world and make it a heavenly thing. Immediately we begin to get a church with its own orders and forms and means which belong to this earth, in architecture, vestments and all that sort of thing, we are back on a Solomon basis of the Kingdom, and we have left the heavenly basis of the Church.
“My kingdom is not of this world,” said John as to this Son, and Paul explains: “...seated at His right hand in the heavenlies, far above all rule,” “all things in subjection under His feet,” “Head over all things.” But where is it? Go over the world and see where you can find it, and the only thing you will find is that ghastly caricature of it, the Pope and the Roman Church—a false presentation of this “Head over all things to the church,” a temporal thing. With Paul it is a spiritual thing. In union with Christ we are not only lifted out of time into eternity, but out of earth into the heavens; and all now is of a spiritual and heavenly order in this dispensation. “My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight.” That is the statement, putting it in one way. Put it the other way: ‘Because My Kingdom is not of this world, My servants do not fight with flesh and blood for its establishment.’ Paul tells us what that means: “Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies” (Ephesians 6:12). That is what Christ meant! Here it is Christ speaking and explaining Himself through Paul, explaining what He said to Pilate when there was no one who could understand. Now it is possible to explain. The Spirit has come and formed a company of people who, by the Spirit, are capable of understanding things the Lord said when no one did understand and He had to say: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He shall guide you into all the truth” (John 16:12,13); and here it is. Not with flesh and blood, for it is spiritual. It has gone out into a vast realm, so much greater than the realm of Solomon, and it is in and from that realm that everything is being governed. Do not make any mistake about it! This world, and the kingdoms of this world, are not taking their own course, and they are not ultimately taking the devil’s course. Yes, the world-rulers of this darkness—that is the immediate scene, the devil’s work, but behind there is One Who is using the devil and his work, Whose servant Satan is, Who is Sovereign Lord, far above all rule and dominion, authority and name, whatever that name may be, man or devil. He is over all. Either the Scripture is not true, or that is a fact.
How tremendous is this sovereignty of the Lord Jesus! So many of our problems will begin to dissolve when we get a true conception of the greatness of Christ! Why this? Why that? Why the other? Why does Satan seem to have it all his own way? Why does Satan score and win? Are you sure he does? Look beyond, and see if that very work of Satan is not going to be taken up into the sovereignty of our Lord and made eventually to serve Divine ends. “I would have you know, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12). The sufferings of the Church at the hands of devils and men have, in the end, resulted in the furtherance of the work of God.
Son as Redeeming Kinsman
John, then, presents Him as King; yes, in humiliation and in suffering, but King. Oh, there is a marvellous secret and mystery there which it would take me too long to deal with now. I see it there but dimly, but I see it in that outstanding incident in the life of Solomon, selected as an isolated example of his wisdom. No doubt there were many others, but this was taken out of them all and recorded as an example—the two women and the two babes. They were living and sleeping together, and in the night one of the babes was overlaid and died. The woman, whose babe that was, quietly put her dead child over by the other mother, and took the living baby to herself. In the morning the rightful mother saw that her child was gone and this dead one was not hers, and she went to Solomon about it. The two women were arraigned before Solomon and the whole problem was presented to him. Solomon, with that insight, discernment and wisdom which God had given—and remember, wisdom is always the means by which problems are solved—decided on a very radical course. He called for a sword and said: ‘Divide the living child in two, and give half to each of the women.’ That settled it! The false mother stood as a spectator, coldly unmoved by this procedure. The rightful mother let go; she let go herself, let go her own rights, for the life of that child. “Oh,” she said, “give her the living child, and in no wise slay it.” In effect: ‘Do not kill my child, even if I must part with it. I let go all that is dear to me. If it costs me everything, let the child live!’ Solomon said: ‘That is the mother. Give her the child.’
Do you remember the Lord Jesus saying: “He that is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, beholdeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth, and the wolf snatcheth them, and scattereth them: he fleeth because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; ...and I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:12–14)? Have you got the principle in the two things? You have to solve this problem of life and death. How is it going to be solved? By yielding up your own life. This is true of Christ. He could only solve this problem and establish His right, His claim and His ownership by letting go. “Whosoever would save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for My sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25). It would take much longer than that to investigate the matter properly, but I see dimly a kingship here. A greater than Solomon is here, and He is dealing with a much greater problem and situation.
His right and His ownership have to be established. How will He do it? By grasping, or by fighting in the flesh, or by asserting Himself? No, by giving His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). There He deals with the whole problem of life and death, and that is what John brings out.
What I am seeing here is this: John records what the Lord Jesus says—“Father... glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee: even as Thou gavest Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom Thou hast given Him, He should give eternal life” (John 17:1,2). “As the Father hath life in Himself, even so gave He to the Son also to have life in Himself: and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is a Son of man” (John 5:26,27). Here is sonship brought out in a third aspect, and in this He comes immediately into vital relationship with mankind. The Son of Man is a racial title: it speaks of relatedness to man. But how does He find man? In death. How is He to redeem man? As the Redeeming Kinsman, the Son of Man. How is He to exercise the authority which He has been given to raise man from the dead? He will lay down His life, He will let go His own right, He will yield up His own claims, He will set His own personal interests aside, He will die for that which He has come to redeem. “I am the good shepherd... I lay down My life for the sheep.” The Son of Man redeems. How? In that infinite wisdom of the Cross; “Christ crucified... the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23,24); that infinite wisdom of laying down the life, of letting go. That woman let go what was her right. The Lord Jesus, “existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even into death, yea, the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5–8). In that letting go He redeemed us unto God, He saved the flock. Solomon was very wise, and that story is very impressive and beautiful, but he could not do this. He could not go right out into that vast realm of redeeming kinship with a whole race, and, on the principle of becoming obedient unto death, redeem the race.
That is the greatness of Christ. Son, Eternal Son in Sovereign Kingship, Son as Redeeming Kinsman. Paul opens that up to bring the Church right into the full stature of a man in Christ—but that is another subject.