For those who have accepted the reality of a right division in scripture, it can be a breath of fresh air, especially when coming from the stagnant humidity of religion’s spin doctors. But, even with right division, there is no immunity from being caught up in right division itself and not seeing the grand doctrines it reveals for us. Paul writes that the law served as a schoolmaster to Israel to point them to their need of a Messiah. But, many of Israel’s day rejoiced in the schoolmaster, rather than in the Messiah. I wonder how often we have done the same? I know I have. My schoolmaster, if you will, are the scriptures rightly divided. But yet, how many hours of study have gone into the nooks and crannies of right division while neglecting the grandest truth of all? What right division is supposed to point us to is our standing in grace by our union with Christ. Right division helps us find exactly where our doctrine about being in Christ is. Yes, we should know what right division is all about. We should know that Paul was called to reveal a mystery that God had been keeping secret since the world began. We should recognize the difference in Christ’s earthly ministry to the Nation of Israrel vs Christ’s heavenly ministry to the Body of Christ. But, do we let our excitement in this matter keep us at the starting line rather than running the race? …a personally sobering thought for me.
I had posted this sometime in 2013 and as we’ve migrated to a new web host, I wanted to be sure this was on my new server as well. The purpose of this post is to give a general response to the Sonship Edification teaching that has been surfacing from time to time in the mainstream. The general tenants of this teaching are that a believer must, through continual attention to the mystery revealed by Paul, suffer in this life to ‘graduate’ if you will from a child of God to a son of God. However, is this what Paul teaches about our child of God/son of God status? I’m going to post some comments first concerning the idea of our (already) promoted status to a son of God and then, I’ll post the response from last year (in italics).
Paul writes in Galatians 4 that children are under the care of governors and tutors until the appointed time of the Father.
Galatians 4:1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;
Galatians 4:2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.
Galatians 4:3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
Galatians 4:4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
Galatians 4:5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Galatians 4:6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
Paul is using a general truth to teach the Galatians something about maturity. The Galatians were being taken down the road of bondage of law-keeping. In many different fashions, Paul writes to correct that thinking by showing the Galatians the ramifications of being justified by law-keeping (that they have fallen from grace). One of these facets is the issue of being considered a son, from the Father’s standpoint. Notice that Paul writes that a child is one who is left to the care of governors and tutors. Those that need the rudiments of a law over them are children. However, those who no longer need that law, the Father deems them to be a son (a full, 100% heir of all things of the Father).
Paul wants the Galatians to realize that by subjecting themselves back to law-keeping, they are subjecting themselves to the immaturity of children. Now, we need to note this – Paul isn’t writing to tell them that they have BECOME children, but that their law-keeping mindset is the same as a child. In chapter 3, Paul writes that the law was a schoolmaster to point them to their need of a Messiah and that once the Messiah (Faith) has come, they are no longer under the schoolmaster. The tutors and governors are this schoolmaster that is NO LONGER needed. The point is, when the believer is in union with Faith (Jesus Christ), they have already been promoted to a son of God. When the appointed time of the Father came, He sent forth Jesus Christ to redeem them that were under the law, so that we might receive the adoption of (promotion to) sons. Our individual position in Christ is what allows us to be granted son-status the moment we trust the gospel. Being in Christ, we are free from the bondage of tutors and governors.
Here is what I wrote last year:
There has been a teaching that seems to be cropping up more and more amongst professed grace believers that there is a higher level of “in Christ-ness” that one must strive to attain (and maintain). This teaching may not be “new”, but it certainly seems to be at the forefront of many discussions. I’d like to address this “sonship edification” by simply looking at what Paul teaches about being in Christ. This isn’t going to be a point-by-point counter to the position, but simply to make observation.
First, the proponents of this position that I’ve had encounter with on Facebook have taken refuge in belligerent badgering to where they try to overwhelm the unsuspecting victim into belief. I know the presentation style of a position doesn’t prove nor disprove the position itself, but for those who are relishing in their “sonship” status, I find it rather counterproductive that they adorn the phylacteries of the Pharisees, as it were, and use their Gnostic choke-holds to rob a believer of who he/she is in Christ, to convince them that they need to do something more. Didn’t Paul deal with the Galatians concerning those brought in unawares to spy out their liberty in Christ? They’ve also taken a rather dogmatic and militant approach to reconciliation. One in particular stated that Christ didn’t pay for anything at Calvary, but rather earned what was necessary for God to credit the payment at each individual’s point of belief. This is why I say that we shouldn’t expect some special hedge of protection around those who claim to rightly divide the word of truth. The terminal cancer of religion will metastasize where ever it can.
Secondly, this “sonship” teaching draws a drastic and fatal distinction between salvation (justification) and sanctification. Christ’s righteousness is unto all and upon all them that believe. (Romans 3:22) We are made right (justified) by the gracious and divine decree of God simply by taking Him at His word. The only way God can declare us righteous is to join us to Himself. It has always been God’s will and purpose to join believers unto Himself (Ephesians 1:4). None of us measure up in our own performance (Romans 3:10; Romans 3:23). Our righteousness, just as Israel’s was, is nothing but filthy rags to God. The nature of man’s righteousness has never changed this side of Genesis 3; and, neither has God’s decree of righteousness changed – that it is only given by faith. When we are joined in union to Christ, we are set apart from Adam. The circumcision not made with hands (by the Spirit), separates us from Adam and places us into one body – Christ’s body. Galatians 3:27 – so many of us as were baptized INTO CHRIST have PUT ON CHRIST. 1Corinthians 12:13 – For by one Spirit have we all been baptized INTO ONE BODY Therefore, not only are we justified before God (in a right standing since we are clothed with Christ’s righteousness), we are also sanctified before God. To be sanctified is to be “set apart.” It has nothing to do with sin’s removal from one’s life (or whatever other religious definitions you wish to ascribe to it). How did God set us apart? –by separating us from Adam and placing us in Christ! The transaction of justification and sanctification happened the moment you trusted Paul’s gospel. 2Thessalonians 2:13 – But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth Salvation doesn’t exist without sanctification.
The “sonship” teaching leaves salvation at the “starting line” as if it is just minutia, and then seeks a higher level of understanding as they run the race. Paul, however, didn’t view salvation as simply the starting point, but the very reason life has any meaning. Salvation has many facets because of what it accomplished for you and what it bestows upon you. It is to encapsulate our thinking and our lives. Not only are you justified (secure) in Christ, but you are sanctified (made special) in Christ. And, it is Paul’s desire that we all come to a thorough understanding of what it means to be in Christ and to allow that to govern our lives. Let the reality of being joined to Christ be the doctrine we allow life to be shaped by. “Sonship” teaching is really the Nazarenes of the grace believers. Nazarenes believe in a “2nd work of grace.” In short, this teaching is that there is a special level of sanctification that one must achieve to get beyond “basic salvation.” What a farce! How anyone can view salvation with such low-esteem is beyond me. The “sonship” teaching will claim that that is the goal of its teaching as well. However, the stark difference is that the “sonship” teaching looks inward, to self, to obtain that sanctification. By setting certain Pauline truths in place, one can finally be counted worthy of joint-inheritance in Christ. (As if being joined to Christ wasn’t enough to count you worthy for that).
Paul would have us render our members (physical bodies) functionless to sin, not because we need to merit any additional favor with God, but because of the favor we ALREADY have. How can I be blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3), but yet, there is still something I must “do” to achieve “sonship” status? How can I already be seated with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), but yet there is still something lacking? How can I be COMPLETE IN HIM (Colossians 2:10), but yet, I need to make sure I make proper choices concerning Paul’s teachings in order to be personally complete? How can I be accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6), but yet still need to perform to complete that acceptance? How can I be an heir of God, but not automatically a joint-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17)? Is Christ not God? If I’m an heir of the Father and Christ is the Son and I’m joined in perfect union with Christ, then how in the world is a believer not an heir of all things Christ is?
Lastly, “sonship” teaching is guilty of frustrating the grace of God. Grace seeks to bestow upon another what that other does not deserve. Have you ever been frustrated? How do you feel? You feel angry or overwhelmed. Depending on the severity of the frustration, you may have a headache because of all you are trying to work out in your mind. Imagine God’s grace. Think about the death of God’s own Son by sinful man, and not just death, but torturous death. Knowing that many would reject it, mock it, spit upon it, made no difference to God. Despite all of that, God demonstrated His love for us. Christ arose victoriously to offer something that we don’t deserve nor could ever merit on our own. Christ arose to offer us an eternal right standing before God.
That free gift is the unsearchable riches of His grace. But, the moment we try to put our finger prints on it, God’s grace is frustrated. Salvation is a complete package of grace through faith. There is nothing more that needs to be done; there is nothing more that needs to be added. If our status with God was based upon anything other than Him, then Christ died for nothing. God wasn’t interested in making a new man out of 1/2 Adam and 1/2 Christ. God was interested in making a new man by your complete removal from Adam and complete fusion with Christ. Allow who you really are in Christ to be the motivation to edify one another.
Ephesians 4:17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
Ephesians 4:18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.
One of the glaring deficiencies in religion is their view of the believer and Christ. Religion views the believer trying to walk hand in hand with Christ, but always falling behind and needing to do his best to catch up and keep up. The liberating aspect of Grace, however, shows us that we are not on a journey to keep our stride in line with God’s stride, but that we are in Christ no matter what. If Christ stands still, we stand still by necessity. If Christ moves, we move at the same speed and to the same location, again, by necessity. When we are joined in perfect union with our Savior, our life is now His life. (not that we have given Him our lives (again, that’s religion talking), but that His life is what we are joined to and identified with.
The Fruit of the Spirit is all-inclusive. In other words, we won’t possess some but not the other. You’ll notice too that the fruit of the Spirit are mind-issues - issues concerning our thinking. These concepts are not intended to be a bridle on our behavior, but the manifestation of the Spirit’s working on our thinking. The more we allow the Spirit to work on our thinking (by the intake of God’s word, rightly divided), the more yield of His fruit we will possess.
One of the greatest things to remember is that this fruit is His fruit, not ours. In other words, this fruit doesn’t come from the work or intentions of our own hands. Cleaning up our lives or “Christianizing the Flesh” won’t produce these fruits. In fact, the more we work to clean up our lives, the more we will yield the fruit of the flesh – which is the lust for personal elevation.
On 3 different occasions, Paul tells us to follow him and it is in the manner in which he followed Christ. Paul didn’t follow Christ according to Christ’s earthly ministry to the nation of Israel, but rather followed Christ based on His heavenly ministry to the Body of Christ. But, if we are to follow Paul, are there any areas in particular that Paul has in mind? I think we find a very good list from Paul when he wrote to Timothy. In each of these areas, Paul has demonstrated himself as a pattern for us. These are the topics, the details are for you to study
1Corinthians 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.
When folks talk about husbands loving wives even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it (as expressed in Ephesians 5), most read the verse as “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church BY giving Himself for it.” We certainly do not want to diminish the sacrificial aspect of what Calvary was all about. Romans 5:8 states that God commended (demonstrated) His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. However, we should also not diminish the actual ways (outside of the sacrifice), that Christ has loved us. And, when we talk about love, we are talking about ‘agape’ – the personal choice from the will to do for the other party regardless of the other party’s ability to reciprocate the same.
1Corinthians 1:30 shows us what Christ has been made for us and it is interesting that the book of Romans is broken down into some doctrinal areas that correspond to those things that Christ is made for us. It is by Christ’s choice that He loved us and by that love He has given us some pretty incredible things – our justification, our sanctification, and so on. This is to be what husbands are to give their wives, just as Christ loved the church.
(Click below for a larger view)
Is God at work in the life of the believer today? If so, in what fashion? If not, why not? This topic brings all kinds of emotions to the table and rarely ever tries to dig into the word to see what God would have us understand about His working today. Some are so adamantly opposed to having their thinking changed, even if it is God who is trying to change their thinking. Christ, for 3 years, tried changing the thinking of the nation and His very nation – His chosen people – rejected Him and crucified Him. Many of the Pharisees were tired of Christ challenging their thinking. Why? Because if I can demonstrate rigid thinking and be confident in my presentation, then I can very easily convince others to agree…which ultimately feeds the real goal – the quest for power.
What we’ve done is confused a believer, busy about his labor of love (operating under a transformed thinking) with God randomly giving folks a little more evidence that He is real and that He loves them (as religion expresses it). Many seek to validate God and truth by their experiences. Humanistic thinking is bathed in relativism and unfortunately much of that thinking has infiltrated many believer’s minds in how they approach God and His word. There was a status on facebook I read and someone commented on that status, expressing truth by saying, “as far as I’m concerned…” And, that’s what we’ve done. Instead of allowing God to define HOW and WHERE He is at work today, we’ve arbitrarily decided that certain things that happen in our lives should have God’s name tagged to it.
If God is taking action to manipulate a circumstance, then we have to find in His word what the reason is. If we are all one in Christ and if we have all been made the very righteousness of God, then God would have to have uniform and singularity of instruction to all members of the body. Each member would have to be able to rely on God (through His word). God isn’t going to feed the arm but starve the foot.
The issue isn’t about “IF” God is busy about the believer’s life, but where and how is He busy? Some folks, when they hear from others that God isn’t manipulating circumstance, they take a knee-jerk reaction and assume the person is telling them that God is completely apathetic and passive in a believer’s life. Why is this?–because of religious influence on our thinking of how we view God working. To some, if God isn’t manipulating circumstance, then there is absolutely no other way He could be working; so, they falsely conclude that God is not at work and those who teach this deserve a good, old-fashioned facebook SMH.
What do we know about the WHERE and HOW?
2Cor. 4:16 – though our outward man perish, yet the INWARD man is renewed day by day
Ephesians 3:20 – God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we could ask or think according to the power that works IN us
Ephesians 3:16 – That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the INNER man
1Thess 2:13 – ..but as it is in truth the word of God, which effectually worketh also IN you that believe
Romans 7:22 – For I delight in the law of God after the INWARD man
Philippians 2:13 – For it is God which worketh IN you both to will and to do of his good pleasure
Colossians 1:29 – Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh IN me mightily
And, in many of these verses, we find HOW God is working.
2Cor. 4:16 – yet the inward man is RENEWED day by day
Ephesians 3:16 – …to be STRENGTHENED with might BY HIS SPIRITin the inner man
1Thess. 2:13 – …the word of God, which EFFECTUALLY worketh…
Philippians 2:13 – God is working in us to do both His will and His good pleasure
Colossians 2:19 – His workings work in us mightily
How about Ephesians 2:10 – we are HIS WORKMANSHIP
Is God at work today in the lives of believers? Yes, absolutely He is! But, it is the INWARD workings of God that simply prepare us to appropriately make outward choices about life. We have peace and stability when our thinking is governed by this reality. God is at work to do His will and His good pleasure in us – and His will is that we come to a thorough knowledge (epignosko) of the truth and allow that thorough knowledge to be the agent by which the Spirit transforms our viewpoint away from ourselves, and towards His. Many look to the heavens or to their circumstances to find God when God is patiently waiting for us in His word as He wants to diligently work in us that believe.