by T. Austin-Sparks
Chapter 8 - The Father of the Son
"Who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the
kingdom of the Son of his love" Col. 1:13.
"Having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved" Eph. 1:5,6.
"The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand." John 3:35.
"Who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead; even Jesus Christ our Lord" Rom. 1:4.
"But Christ as a son, over his house; whose house we are, if we hold fast our boldness and the glorying of our hope firm unto the end." Heb. 3:6.
As we proceed to meditate on the Son of the Father, it is not our present purpose to deal with the whole subject of the Person of the Lord Jesus. For one thing, it is far too big a matter to attempt in a brief space and for another, it leads out into all manner of points which are controversial and debated, but mainly because we have one thing specifically in view at this time and what we have to see in relation to that one thing. We are concerned with the church as a family, and what we have to see will be strictly in relation to that purpose. So we leave the realm of controversy and perplexity about the Person of the Lord Jesus, and just for our present purpose, seek the grace of simplicity to get to the heart, rather than the head, in these matters. We could make our position with regard to the Person of the Lord Jesus perfectly clear and very emphatic, as being utter in the direction of His deity, of His sinlessness in all its aspects, and so on, but the present object in view does not call us into that realm.
It is clear beyond any question that in spite of such great passages of Scripture as Isaiah 9:6: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given..." which seem to be final on the matter, the Jews did not look for their Messiah to be manifested in the terms of Sonship. The Messiah for them was expected along the natural line of David's posterity; David's seed historically. It was in that realm that they were looking and waiting for their Messiah. And it is perfectly clear that they could not reconcile the idea which the Lord Jesus brought in of Sonship with the Messiah. They always looked in the merely natural and historical realm for the evidence of the Messiah.
When He again and again declared Himself to be the Son of God it conveyed nothing to them as to the Messiah. The term "the Christ" to them only meant "the anointed one", anointed in a special way - true, but you find no trace of response on the part of the Jews to the suggestion that the Messiah was the Son of God. If they had expected that, or if they had had that relationship in their minds, you would naturally expect to find somewhere some indication in the days of the Lord Jesus that at least they were open to the idea. However, you find that they were entirely closed to the idea, and it cannot be placed purely to the account of prejudice that even if the Messiah was the Son of God they would not have this One. No! it went further than that. Messiah was an historic figure, coming for purposes in Israel alone, and you notice that whenever that name Messiah was mentioned it was connected with some merely earthly and limited interests, the interests of Israel on the earth.
When Peter made his great declaration at Caesarea Philippi, he put the two things together: "You are the Christos, the Son of the Living God", and immediately Christ made it clear that that was revelation from the Father, that the Christos was the Son of the Living God, and that followed the enquiry of the disciples by the Lord Jesus as to who men said that He was. The enquiry had this point: Is there anybody who has yet seen that the Christ is the Son of God? Have you ever yet heard anybody say, Here is the Messiah, the Son of God? There were those who were perhaps prepared to admit the possibility of His being the Messiah, but that is not the question.
When the man born blind (John 9) traversed that tortuous path with the growing light of the inwardly opened eyes and eventually got through to the supreme thing, beyond the "prophet", beyond the "great man" right through to the "Son of God", he represented a specific act: a supernatural act of divine illumination corresponding to Peter's revelation at Caesarea Philippi, "...flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but my Father...".
That secret concerning the Son, the deeper and fuller meaning of the Messiah as the Son of God, shows clearly as a fact in itself, that God was Father - something more than Jewish restoration and rehabilitation. If Christ, the Anointed, was to be the limited Jewish Messiah and only that, then everything was for the Jews. But the deeper reality and meaning of the Messiah as the Son of God carried with it something far beyond Jewish interests. It indicated that God had a far greater thing in view than that. It meant that God had come, not only as Messiah, but as Son in relation - not to a people of one tongue and nation - but to a family out of every nation and every tongue. That is a deeper thing altogether.
This deeper reality indicates the deeper consciousness of purpose in Christ, which made it possible for Him to reject Israel. Here is the Christ, the Messiah, and Messiah having come, He can reject Israel. Surely Messiah, according to Israel's ideas, has come for Israel and His whole purpose is bounded by Israel! If He does not save Israel then why has He come? Not to save Israel, as Israel seems to clearly indicate that as Messiah He is an utter failure! Surely it could never be that the Messiah has broken down! And yet Messiah, Who in Israel's mind was simply limited to Israel for Israel's salvation and could not fall, rejects Israel in such strong terms and in such an utter way as His cursing of the fig tree so that it withered up and died; that is Judaism. Messiah does that to Israel! Then Messiah must have come for something more than that! The something more is found in Who Messiah is:
The Son of God.
That Name, that title, "Son", is such an immense thing. It goes far beyond the bounds and limitations of Israel, it speaks of something more; and so it indicates the deeper consciousness of purpose in Christ. Christ had the consciousness of a purpose in His heart which was far deeper than Israel and His very knowledge of His Sonship carried Him much beyond the confines of Israel.
Then again, just as Christ related "Father" to everything, and made it clear that all that He was and did was intended to reveal the Father, so God the Father has related everything to the Son, and has nothing whatever to say to or give to man apart from the Son. It is impressive to recognise that the Son has nothing, does nothing, says nothing apart from the Father. The Son's entire horizon is "Father". He has nothing beyond that horizon of "Father", and everything within that horizon is "Father". What He is in all His aspects, in all His activities, in all His utternesses... "Father" is brought in, declared, revealed and expressed. From beginning to end He has nothing, knows nothing, does nothing without the Father. He refers everything to the Father. You never saw loyalty like that! You never saw abandonment like that! It is as though, whenever He was called upon to do something or say something, He turned and said, "Father, shall I do it? Is it Your will?" Whenever He was drawn out He would, in effect, say: "I must ask my Father; I can do nothing until I have been to the Father about it!"
In the same way, the Father relates everything to the Son. Go to the Father, and the Father says: "Go to My Son." Ask the Father, and the Father says: "Go to My Son; My Son has all that you want from Me. I have bound everything up with Him, I can do nothing without Him, I will do nothing apart from Him." The Father has made it perfectly clear that the Son is His full and final means of meeting man. "The Father loved the Son, and has given all things into His hand." And that "all" is final.
Our first thought, then, having seen all that, is that of the manifestation of the mutual love relationship between Father and Son, and Son and Father. That is foundational to everything. It sounds simple, but there is a great deal more in it than may appear. The mutual love relationship between Father and Son, and Son and Father, is the basis of everything, and nothing whatever can ever come to us of God except on the basis of that mutual love relationship. It is a marvellous unveiling. Think of a member of a family who absolutely and positively refuses to move a hand, to utter a word, to be drawn into anything, without consulting the other member and working in complete and perfect co-operation and harmony and fellowship with that other member, and you see what the relationship is between the Father and the Son, the Son and the Father.
It was that at which the adversary aimed all his blows, to get in between that. That was basic to everything in this universe in relation to the purpose of God, and the one thing that the enemy was trying to do was to get in between these two; to interfere with that, to get independent action and personal concern; anything just to break into that, "If you are the Son...".
Oh the infinite triumph, the boundless triumph, that is represented in the last sentence that the Lord Jesus uttered in this world before He died. When you remember all that He had gone through just then, being made sin, and the Father then having to turn away His face, and you hear the last word, the last sentence, beginning with: "Father... into Your hands I commit My spirit", there is a triumph in that. He went right back, and stood at the end where He had always stood. Tested, as no being in the universe had ever been tested, as to His relationship, as to His loyalty, as to His faithfulness; tested by a necessary rejection from heaven and then saying: "Father". There is grandeur and majesty there.
What is behind everything else in this universe is the mutual love between the Father and the Son, and the Son and the Father, and what that means of strength; or the strength of that in action in every detail and expressed all along the way, under all kinds of temptations and trials, stresses and strains, circumstances and conditions. Through everything that love triumphed in its utter loyalty. That is the first and basic thing.
Then there is the gift of everything to the Son by the Father, the utter committing to the Son: "...and has given (or committed) all things into His hand". That speaks of an infinite trust. The Father has a Name, and what a Name! What is bound up with that Name! What is included in that Name! All that the Name of God means in righteousness, truth, integrity, holiness, unassailable equity; every interest that the Father ever had in this universe; every intention; yes, all that God stands for - not just as a Being in relation to the universe, in purposes and intentions and desires and thoughts - everything He has entrusted to the Son.
Do you wonder that the devil tried to capture the Son? Do you wonder that he made the Son the Object of his fiercest assaults, his most sinister malice, his venom, and all the depth of his cunning? All things were committed to the Son. Oh! the infinite trust of the Father! And the Son knew it, and it was on the ground of that trust that the Son went through. It was that which lay behind the way in which He answered the enemy. If you could explain the life of the Lord Jesus, and why He took the course that He took on every occasion when there were two courses to take, why it was that He chose the one that He took when there was another way open to Him, you would find the explanation is this: The Father is trusting Me! See what strength that gives; there is nothing personal about that. He was saying, in effect: "I am carrying the honour of the Father; I am carrying the interests of the Father. What I do just at this moment involves the Father and raises the whole question as to whether He has rightly reposed confidence in Me."
Look on, and see that the family is to take its character from the Son. If we could get something of that in the hour of testing and trial, of suffering and sorrow, and say: "The Father is trusting just now; the Father's interests are at stake!"
In connection with that there is the larger universal design. What is that? It is to make the Son give the full and the final character to the universe. The love of the Father for the Son, the committing of all things by the Father to the Son is with the intention of the Son giving the full and the final character to the universe. If we are just getting the simplest glimpse of what Sonship means, as represented by the Lord Jesus, such devotion to the Father as we have seen, such honour of the Father; then we are going to see the moral nature of the universe in the ages to come. That sort of thing is going to be stamped through this universe. What have we in the universe today? God dishonoured, God disregarded, God flouted, God either openly rebelled against or openly ignored. What is the result? Such a universe as we have got is the result. And God has no intention of a universe such as is now, continuing forever. He never intended it, and He will never consent to it. The whole moral fabric of this universe has got to be changed, and when God realises His thought for this universe it will be stamped through and through with what we are seeing in the Son; where the Father is honoured in this way and loved in this way and brought in in everything. And there will be no room whatever for another contrary element. The contrary elements were met by the Son.
The forces of the adversary were set to break into that loyalty, to come between the Son and the Father by disobedience, self-interest, and so on. All that was overcome by the Son, in virtue of His utter love for and devotion to the Father; and the devil was worsted by that. That victory of love for the Father is going to fill the universe. There will be no room for the devil then. It is a moral thing. Get that thing through the universe; get that reproduced in a vast family to survive time; and you see what kind of a universe you are going to have. Christ, the Son, is the universe in moral state. Oh! this marvel of sonship according to God's thought. The universe marked, stamped and taking its character from the Son!
This, by reason of eventualities not before planned but foreseen, the eventualities of the fall, rebellion, sin... necessitated the working out of the whole redemptive plan in a Representative, a Substitute. So that God's intention for the universe and for its realisation, demands a whole redemptive activity because of sin; and the Son became that. Within the compass of that we find the most wonderful of all the revelations of the meaning of sonship. I can understand why the gates of the City are of pearl. What is the pearl? The beauty of the pearl is simply the product of bleeding, suffering the exquisite suffering of the oyster when some grit works its way in and cuts through the sensitive flesh and lets out the life blood, which chemical process forms into the glory of the pearl. In that way the most precious revelation of sonship comes through the suffering necessitated by the representative and substitutionary work because of sin.
Has the Scripture, which clearly declares that the Lord Jesus was declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead, ever made you ask questions? Have you ever had difficulty in reconciling the two things; that He was Son before He died, that He was Son by birth, and yet the Word clearly says that He was declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection? The Psalmist, who is three times quoted in this particular utterance in the New Testament intended (as the New Testament references make perfectly clear) to refer to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus when he put these words into the mouth of the Father: "You are My Son, this day have I begotten You". That, in the New Testament, is clearly related to the resurrection. How do you reconcile these things? There is a Sonship peculiar to resurrection. It does not cancel the Sonship of birth, nor the eternal Sonship, but it indicates that the family really and only comes in by redemption.
You see what this Son now is doing: He is now taking the place as the Representative of a family who were not born as sons of God by nature. We can only be sons of God, or children of God, on the ground of redemption; and redemption means that the Cross is finished and the resurrection is accomplished. It takes the resurrection to seal the redemption. The resurrection is the seal on the redemptive work, so now, as the Representative - not what He is in Himself as the Eternal Son, but what He is representatively for us - He is Son by the resurrection. This is a specific kind of Sonship relative to redemption and sealed in resurrection; because it is there that the family is introduced: on redemption ground.
To see that will forever get rid of these fictitious ideas about God being the Father of us all; all being God's children. No! The Cross is essential! The representative and substitutionary work of the Lord Jesus is indispensable, and those statements about being declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection cannot be explained, interpreted or understood except on the ground that He is acting representatively now, and not as in His own unique Person.
This has been typified in Israel. God's Word to Pharoah was: "Let My son go...". "You have refused to let him go; behold, I will slay your son, your firstborn". How did Israel become in type God's son, God's firstborn? Through the blood of the Passover, the Red Sea; through the Cross, in effect. God looked upon Israel in the light of that shed blood, in the light of that slain lamb, in the light of that baptism in the cloud and in the Sea; and the Lord said concerning Israel on the night of the Passover: "This shall be to you the beginning of months" in other words: This is your birthday. His son, His firstborn, on the ground of redemption. So Israel typified this truth.
Following that we see that the dearness of the firstborn exhibits the dearness of the family. If the Father loved the Son, if He is the Son of His love, the Beloved, then the dearness of the Firstborn sets forth the dearness of the whole family. John 3:16 is the matchless declaration of that: "God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes...". God loves the family with the love that He has for His Son. He loves us even as He loves Christ.
The classic illustration of that is in the twenty-second chapter of Genesis. God said to Abraham: "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love... and offer him". That is some reflection of the heart of God in relation to His own Son: "Your son, your only son, whom you love..." a foreshadowing of John 3:16. Do you recognise the issue? Why that? What was in view? Was it some isolated piece of history, some fragment of a man's life-trial, discipline, something bound up with an individual, a unit? No! It was because Abraham was the father of Israel, and that the family was to come through Isaac on to the ground of redemption, and so death and resurrection were necessary. They must be typified there. And the very type draws in the agony of a father's heart over his son. The family is in view.
God does not call for all that anguish and suffering which is a part of such love, for a worthless object or for something that is of less concern to Him. God does not give His well-beloved Son for something which He prizes less. The object of His giving must be as equally dear to Him as the gift. So the gospel concerning His Son is this marvellous gospel, that the love of the Father for the Son is the love wherewith He loved us: "He loved me and gave Himself for me", said the apostle. "He loved the church, and gave Himself for it." "The church of God, which He purchased with own blood". The same love for the family as for the Christ, the Son, is the exhibition of the Father's love for the family; firstly, in securing it by redemption.
God's dealings with Israel on the basis of a Father and a son, are an illustration of sonship according to God's mind. We have all been amazed with that forbearance of God with Israel, that longsuffering. Through all their waywardness and unfaithfulness, through all that history in the wilderness and afterwards for many centuries; and then in the days of the prophets you hear the cry of God, like the sob through the voice of the prophet: "How shall I give you up, Ephraim?"; "When Israel was a child, then I loved him...". This prophetic expression of God feeling His heartstrings torn to hurt Israel, after all, with all the judgements He has pronounced, and all the hard things that seem to come in, there seems to come in: "O that I did not have to do this; O that I could be spared this!" That is God's attitude.
Read the prophecy of Hosea and others, and see what that represents of God's love towards a wanton people, a people who, of all peoples, might have been said to have exhausted to the last drop any love which could be expected or even justified. Yet He loves and still loves, and will yet recover Israel. We look on Israel today, and in whose human heart is there love for Israel? Knowing what we do of the Jews today, it takes divine love. There are the individuals amongst them whom you may love and feel drawn to, but speaking generally there is no love in the human heart for them. Yet God's love goes on! Why? What is the explanation? That God has chosen Israel as a means to exhibit the love of a Father for a son. "My son", "My firstborn"! God has Himself chosen those terms to express His relationship to Israel. So Israel brings out the meaning of sonship. Israel seems to drag out from God the very content of the Father's love for a son. That is the illustration.
Bring that into the spiritual reality. God forbid that it should be necessary in any of us to drag that exhibition out from God; but we should respond more to Him, be more faithful and more devoted, if we caught a glimpse of the love and the infinite forbearance of God. What is it that amazes us more than anything else? It is God's longsuffering with us. So much so, that again and again we have had to go back to Him and say: Lord, I am worthless; my only hope is in that longsuffering. That is our only hope. Ah! but what a hope! Israel was an instrument in history for bringing out an exhibition and a showing of a Father's love for a son. The Lord Jesus did not drag out that exhibition in the way that Israel did, but we must remember that the Lord Jesus took the place of Israel representatively and substitutionally, along with all who were not of Israel, and had that all laid upon Him. Do you mean that God loved Him even when He was made sin and made a curse? Yes! He did not love the sin - He never loved Israel's sin - but He loved Him. And while He may hate our sin, He loves on and on and on. I am not sure but that one of the deepest pangs of the eternally lost state will not be a discovery of what the love of God meant and was missed; to wake up one day and discover that you have been loved with a supernatural love and you have violated that, persistently sinned against that, and now all that that might have meant to you is beyond your grasp or reach. That will make misery, to carry that into the infinite, into the eternal.
This working out of everything in the Son is seen also in the making perfect through sufferings. The Lord Jesus is said to be the Captain or File-leader of our salvation, and as such, it behoved Him to be made perfect through suffering. He was perfected. As He was Eternal Son, so He was eternally perfected. But here is the other statement corresponding to the fact that He is declared Son by resurrection. Now He is said to have been made perfect through suffering representatively. It is all wrought out in Him. It is all done in Him. God has wrought out our perfection in Christ, the Son, as He has wrought out our redemption. As He has exhibited His love in sonship, so He has perfected us forever in Christ. His Son becomes the instrument in which all that eternal intention is made good - redemption, revelation, perfection.
What is sonship? It is being brought into the good of what is true about the Lord Jesus. What is true about the Lord Jesus? He was made perfect through suffering. Sonship is being brought into the good of that in a living, vital, organic way. To recognise that we have been perfected forever in the Son as a part of our sonship is one of the glories of sonship. God will never have any imperfect sons. If you ever get down before the Lord and say that you are a very imperfect child of God, the Lord will understand what you mean, but He will not agree with you. The Lord never has any imperfect sons. All His sons are absolutely perfect; His family is a perfect family - it is flawless. God is not looking at what we are in ourselves; He is looking at what Christ is as our Representative: "He has perfected forever them that are sanctified". That is in the past tense. He is making us what we are in Christ, conforming us to the image of His Son.
If the Lord takes the responsibility of calling us home, away from the world where He is working conformity in us, and cuts short the time of our conforming to the image of Christ, it is all finished in Christ, nothing is left undone. The Lord has taken that responsibility. The responsibility that is ours while here is simply this: to go on in the light which we have. We are responsible for being obedient to the light that we have. If we are disobedient to any light that we have, we stand to lose. If God takes the responsibility of cutting us short before we get any more light, that is His responsibility and He has all the rest to make good already in His Son, and He can do that at once. If the Lord should appear today He would find none of us fully and finally conformed to the image of His Son, but in the moment when we shall see Him we shall be like Him and the whole thing will be finished then. The Lord can take responsibilities like that when He has got the thing done. That is the value of sonship: "Has sent forth the spirit of His Son into our hearts..."
What applies in all these ways applies to the glorifying. He has glorified and exalted His Son, but the Son is there already glorified as us, and we are glorified in the Son. Sonship is that. See what He has made His Son! All that comes out of the suffering necessary because of sin. That is the pearl. That is the way into the City. It is the glory of our inheritance in Christ, our place in the Body, the City, the church; whatever title by which it may be known. Here is sonship: the gospel concerning His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord.
The Lord give us a new, inner delight in His Son, and cause to grow in us the reality of sonship.
In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks' wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely - free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.