Christ Our All (1935)

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 9 - The Meaning and Value of Sonship

"No one knows the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father, save the Son..." Matt. 11:27.
"No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him... And I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." John 1:18,34.
"He that believeth not has been judged already, because he has not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God... The Father loves the Son... he that believeth on the Son has eternal life." John 3:18,35-36.
"The Father loves the Son... the Son also gives life to whom He will." John 5:20-21.
"Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" John 9:35-37.
"This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby." John 11:4.
"...Glorify thy Son, that the Son may glorify thee." John 11:4.
"...That they may know the mystery of God, Christ, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden." Col. 2:2-3.
"Beloved, now are we children of God..." 1 John 3:1-2.
"The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God ... delivered ... into the liberty of the glory of the children of God." Rom. 8:16,21.
"...That ye may become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish..." Phil. 2:15.
"...Having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself..." Eph. 1:5.

Continuing in our meditations on Christ in the glory as our sufficiency, we now come to another feature of His resources which is related to sonship.

In the first place let us note that there is a difference between the titles of our Lord Jesus Christ as Son of Man and Son of God. They embrace two aspects of truth and work. 

As Son of God the Lord Jesus represents that side of truth in which God Himself was manifested in flesh. After the fall God never again entrusted His work to man. "God was in Christ." Christ was Immanuel, God is with us. The title Son of Man shows us another side of Christ: God is recovering in the form of man and for man what he has lost. It means God has come down to this earth as man; He has identified Himself with man in order to redeem him. But that title 'Son of Man' goes far beyond the ordinary human level. Our Lord Jesus Christ stands far above all other men in His nature. He is the Son of Man from heaven, or, as the Scriptures say, "who is in heaven". That could not be said of any other man. They all were from the earth. Christ alone was from heaven as "the only begotten Son". It is important to understand the meaning of this.

The Lord Jesus was not altogether the only begotten Son. That expression has nothing to do with begetting, for the Scriptures tell us that every believer is begotten of God. Now it does not mean that. That expression has to do with the kind of birth. The Lord Jesus was uniquely begotten; He was the only one of this kind. He stood alone as such. All of us have been begotten through the Word of Christ and the Spirit. But all of us are sinners by nature, because "that which is born of the flesh is flesh". Therefore Paul says of us who are "in Christ" that "the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness". Over against that the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in flesh was something unique. There was no sin in Him who had come in the likeness of sinful flesh. The Son of God was once for all and in a unique way born. That is the meaning of "the only begotten Son". He is the Son of Man out from heaven. Both His titles are divine and belong to heaven. As Son of Man and Son of God He is different from all other men. We must not separate these two titles.

As to the practical application, a very great deal is being bound up with the fact that the Lord Jesus was the Son of God. Notice how often the Lord Jesus refers to His sonship, how much depended upon that for Him. It meant everything to Him. If He had not known it He would have been without the main strength which characterised His life. He lived triumphantly and worked mightily and effectively, because He knew that He was in that essential relationship with His Father.

Let us be diligent that we too derive our strength from the living knowledge that we are, through our Lord Jesus Christ, sons of God. The very fact that He was the Son of God brought to Him a wonderful strength which made Him superior to all other men, in position as well as a person. It was a right kind of superiority, and marked by deepest humility. He could truly say of Himself: "I am meek and lowly in heart". Yet there was a wonderful strength and dignity about Him. Despised of men, with no earthly estate, He could lift up His head like a king. The consciousness that He possessed what no man had was without any self-assertiveness. It saved Him from an 'inferiority complex' which is never a sign of humility. He knew that He had a mission from above. He had a perfect right to stand up among men. He could meet them all, poor and rich, because He knew that God had sent Him. And men recognised that strength in Him. They were conscious of a dignity and a power which was about Him that compelled them to say of Him that He was speaking "as having authority and not as the scribes". He had perfect confidence in what He said and the way He took. The explanation is found on the ground of who He was. "I am come down from heaven." It was sonship which gave Him this strength - that wonderful relationship He had with His Father.

Now the spiritual value of that divine sonship is ours. This does not mean that there has to be any pride or conceit. We have to be like He was, meek among men, lowly in heart and unassuming. There has to be no self-assertiveness, yet we must have the strength of the Son of God. We ought never to have anything apologetic about our testimony. We are sons of God. John says: "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and we are." It is the affirmation of a fact. "Now we are the children of God". Let us stand upon that fact. What a strength would be ours if we truly recognised the position we have as sons before God through our Lord Jesus Christ! "The Father loves the Son." That holds true for all the children of God. Sonship is based upon the Father's special love. "The Father knows the Son." We too are known of Him. The world knows us not. It may look at us as a very poor specimen, but it knew Him not. But the Father knows and loves His children. That is our strength.

Then again let us note that sonship is basic to resurrection (Rom. 1:4). The whole creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God, because it was created for them. But it is now subject to vanity and put into severe limitation. For when Adam (who was the crown of God's creation) fell, the whole creation fell with him and sonship was suspended. Consequently the whole creation suffers. It is groaning and in travail until now, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. But when the sons of God are revealed, then the creation too will be delivered from the curse of sin and of death, and brought into glory. Thus there are high privileges bound up with sonship. The whole creation is depending upon us. The whole universe is waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. How could we overlook the tremendous meaning and vocation of our sonship? Whatever we are among men, there are tremendous possibilities bound up with us for the world. It is unspeakably great and has nothing to do with self-importance. For God has willed it so that everything in this universe should depend upon us and our sonship. We are born of God in order to be conformed into the likeness of the Son of God. Growing up into Him we are allowed to enter into the high position of a heavenly calling which is appointed for the sons of God.

Now sonship is the basis of God's activity. The position and vocation of sonship has nothing to do with an 'official' appointment. God's dealings with us are not on an official ground; it is not because we have taken up some Christian work, or go by a certain name which represents a special office, that God is interested in us. To be ministers or Christian workers does not imply that God is especially working through us. God's dealings with us are based upon our relationship with Him as children of God. He is dealing with us as with sons. It is a spiritual thing not an official matter. Ministry, therefore, results from a special relationship to God. The real work of God depends on our spiritual relationship with Him, and the value of our service is in proportion to our union with God.

Only those who are absolutely one with God can take responsibilities for Him. Whatever we may call ourselves, however great may be our activity for the Lord, God does not take account of that. It is no use coming to Him and saying: "Now Lord, You know that I am engaged in this work, and therefore I want You to help me in this." That is no reason why He should help us. God stands by His children and only works with them on the basis of an inward relationship. Some person who is not in an 'official' position may be far more useful to the Lord than many who have an official ministry and position. What matters is not our spiritual knowledge or official ministry, but our secret relationship with God. God fits us spiritually for His service and upholds our sonship, not our office. He will see to our position if we see to our relationship with Him.

God called Israel His firstborn. He stood by His people on the basis of that sonship. Therefore Israel could take an important and significant position among the nations. It was the chosen vessel of God's testimony in the earth. But the day came when it ceased to go on with God as His firstborn. Its inward relationship to God became merely an outward form and God had to withdraw from His people and send them into captivity. It would have been useless if Israel had turned to the Lord with this complaint "Why are You dealing with us in such a way? Are we not Your representative among the nations?" God's answer would have been: "The official position is nothing to Me. I cannot help you as long as your relationship to Me is not right, as long as you are not in that which your sonship means and demands." You see our position and vocation is in relation to sonship. For that very reason the Lord Jesus put the emphasis upon sonship. He never said that the Father loved the ministry He had come to fulfil on this earth. But He said: "The Father loves the Son". Position and vocation have to be based upon sonship. Without sonship they are worthless before God.

What is the purpose of sonship? It is to bring us into a place of spiritual responsibility. God never puts responsibilities upon 'official people', but upon sons. Therefore He has to train us as children in order to develop sonship in us, to bring us there where we can take responsibilities for God. He seeks to bring us to a state of spiritual maturity, to full growth. This cannot be done in some Bible school, or by putting people 'into the ministry'. God never works on an official side. Oh yes, God does take us into His school. He can also take us into His school in some training institute. And it is a blessed thing if He does it. But God's school is something very different from mere scholarly activity. His Word says: "My son, regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art reproved of Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." Note this word "whom He receives". The exact meaning in the Greek is not 'receives', but "whom He positions" or places. It is a matter of position. God is seeking to develop a state in us where He can trust us. When God is dealing with us, there is behind it a wonderful assurance that He is going to put His trust in us. He is bringing us into a position of trust. We do not just want to be servants, bits of a machine, but sons who have become one with the Father, and in whose hands He can put spiritual responsibilities. When we truly recognise this, we begin to understand why God is dealing with us as He does. But because God is in it we know that the end is sure. He will bring His children through.

The fact of His sonship gave to the Lord Jesus perfect assurance as to the ultimate issue and accomplishment of His life. It carried Him far, although He knew that the Cross was immediately ahead, and He was going to be killed. He ministered here for three and a half years, and then all His earthly life came to an end. How did He face it? He regarded it as something to come and to pass, but it made no difference to Him and His relationship to the Father. His sufferings were just a tunnel to go through, and then to come out into the light to go on for all eternity, because He was the Son of God. Death was a mere incident for Him, for His sonship was indestructible, eternal. He knew that His work did not finish on the Cross, but was going on, on the ground of resurrection for all eternity. He was not just living for this little space of time. Thus He derived His strength from the fact of sonship.

Are we saying this is the end of all? Do we take the trials of this earthly life as something incidental which are passing, and which make no difference to us and our inward state? We should be aware that if we go through the grave (if the Lord tarries), it is but a passing through into enlargement. We shall have a service and a glorious future in the ages to come. "His servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face." This knowledge of sonship carried the Lord Jesus through the darkness of the Cross in triumph. His last word was "Father". It would have been otherwise if the Cross had been the end of all. His disciples thought that all had come to an end. But later they understood that it meant something more than that. It was the beginning of a new thing - sonship was in view. In the case of the Lord Jesus that position of sonship brought a mighty assurance to Him as to the issue of things. Behind it was the strength of a death-conquering eternal life.

That assurance holds good for us too. If we look at our Lord Jesus in the glory our questions will be solved. What God is after is the consummation of sonship. Sonship is the basis upon which the Father gives all His fulness, which makes all things possible for us. "For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things, that He does Himself." The Lord Jesus knew that "the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He came forth from God".

Look again at the letter to the Hebrews where we are told that the whole inheritance is given in relation to sonship. The Father's fulness is included in sonship. It may be that we have not much here on earth. Certainly the Lord Jesus had not much in the way of earthly goods, but He could say: "In my Father's house are many mansions". And what a house of fulness this is! He knew that He was heir of all things. What is included in this inheritance? Paul writes to the Colossians that "in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily". What does that mean for us? Just this, that "in Him we are made full".

In Colossians chapter 1 we read that all the fulness of the universe was created in Christ and unto Christ, the Son of God's love. And in chapter 2 we see the place we have in Him. The sons are sharing the fulness of the Son. Now there is given us a foretaste of this, for we have received of His fulness grace upon grace. "Though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." What is that glory? It is the day of His appearing. Something of the coming glory is shining into our hearts now, for we believe in Him. Faith brings the future glory into present enjoyment. Faith in Christ in heaven brings joy to our hearts. We derive our strength from that union with Christ in the glory, in being one with Him, as He is one with the Father. Out from Him and our fellowship with Him flows His fulness to us.

What a privilege and joy to know that we are sons of God through Jesus Christ our Lord; that we have become fellow-heirs of the glory which the Father has given to His Son! There is a fulness of strength in the knowledge of sonship. Let us seek to live continually in the consciousness of that fact that we are sons of God.

"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and we are."

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