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Friday, May 11, 2012

The Sons of God and the Son of God

Both of these phrases should be very familiar to my readers, in the first case, traditionally referring to those who were brought into covenant with their Creator through the formation of the heavens and earth as recorded in Genesis 1 & 2 ( Genesis 5, Deuteronomy 7:14 ), and then to those who were adopted into the family of God through the Revelation of His Son, the true Covenant ( Romans 11, Galatians 4:5, Ephesians 1:5 ) , and in the second case, the phrase 'Son of God' refers traditionally to that very Covenant ( Isaiah 42:6 & 49:8 ), to Jesus, who was the Christ, the Anointed One who became flesh in order to save His people from the sin and the death of Adam.

The first direct reference to these 'sons of God' that we find in the Hebrew Scriptures ( Genesis 6:2 ), is where we find that these 'sons of God' had union and pro-created with those 'daughters of men', the women of the surrounding nations who had no knowledge of their Creator. Some have speculated in the past, and I believe there is still the misguided notion in some circles, that these 'sons of God' referred to male spirit beings who impregnated female human beings. This is a ridiculous notion, and should be discarded 'out of hand'! In reference to this speculation, and related to it, or most likely the cause of it, is where in Job 1:6, this phrase is used to refer to those 'sons of God' ( 'Satan' among them ( ? ) who presented themselves before God on some regular basis.

In the New Testament, or Greek Scriptures, this phrase referred to those who had entered into covenant with God by virtue of their adoption, or by their creation as 'the sons of God' ( II Corinthians 5:17 ). Jesus, in His 'Sermon on the Mount', as recorded in Matthew 5:9, said 'Blessed [ are ] the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God'. When confronted by the Sadducees about a question concerning the resurrection ( which they didn't even believe in ); Jesus told them that 'those who are counted worthy to attain that age', as opposed to the present age, the age in which they were living, 'are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection' ( Luke 20:34-36 ). In the 8th chapter of the book of Romans, verses 14 &19, Paul wrote in much the same manner, saying that 'as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God', and furthermore, that 'the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God'. These 'sons of God' were about to be ( Greek, 'mello' ) revealed in the first century, with the final Revelation of the True Covenant, the Son of God!

Throughout, in particular, the apostle Paul's letters, we find numerous references to the fact that we are 'the Body of Christ'. I do not believe that this is just Paul's way of saying that we have metaphorically become 'a dwelling place of God in the Spirit' ( Ephesians 2:22 ), or even that we are subservient to Him, as He is 'the head of the body' ( Colossians 1:18 ( Ephesians 5:23 ), although these are both glorious facts; I believe that Paul is saying, along with the whole record of Scripture, that, as the Body of Christ, we ARE the veritable 'Son of God', and in that sense divine, though not divinity in the sense that He is the Creator and we the creature, or created ones!

Old Testament Reference to 'the Son of God'

Most famous, probably, is Hosea 11:1; 'When Israel [ was ] a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son', and when Matthew quoted this passage in his Gospel ( 2:15 ) concerning the escape of the child Jesus from the murderous Herod, we can see that, while Hosea is looking back to the escape of the children of Israel from the bondage and slavery of Egypt, Matthew correctly read this as a prophecy of the true Son of God, who would lead His people out of the true bondage and slavery,that of the sin and the death of Adam.

Although the above is most likely the clearest reference to 'the Israel of God' ( Galatians 6:16 ) being 'one' ( Genesis 2:24 ) with 'the Son of God'; we see Adam ( the first Adam ( I Corinthians 15:45 ), in Luke's genealogy ( chapter 3 ) referenced as '[ the son ] of God'. Now granted; the words found in brackets may not be in the original Greek manuscripts, but the idea is there, that as all the others listed were the natural sons ( begotten ) of those listed after them, so the First Adam was truly 'the son of God'! The First Adam, as a historical figure, was a type of the Last, or True Adam, He who would be revealed as the true 'Son of God, the Head of 'the Israel of God'!

 We've already seen most of the Old Testament references to 'the sons of God', but as I've mentioned in the past, I believe; I find it rather interesting that one these 'sons of God', Ezekiel by name, was often called by the name that Jesus 'adopted', calling Himself the 'Son of Man'..

I am not trying to argue here, or make the case that, as certain sects would say, we become gods ( although Jesus does quote from the Psalms ( 82:6 ), 'I said, “You [ are ] gods, and all of you [ are ] children of the Most High', in John 10:34. As I said earlier, 'He is the Creator and we the creature'; we do not become the Creator, although we do have union with Him, and in that sense, become One!

New Testament Reference to the Sons of God

The Apostle Paul, being the most prolific writer in what became the Greek, or New Testament Scriptures, had therefore, much to say about 'the sons of God'. Speaking of the 'age to come', wherein the people of God would once again enjoy union with Him, and the sweet fellowship of His Living Presence; Paul wrote to the followers of Christ in Rome, 'And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You [ are ] not My people,’ there they shall be called sons of the living God', quoting Hosea 1:10.

Paul further wrote, in Galatians 3:26, 'For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus'. Although we are not, in this sense, as the Creed says, 'begotten of the Father before all worlds', and as John 1:18, 3:16 & 18 ( Hebrews 11:17 ), and I John 4:9 say, His 'only begotten Son'; we are yet, in a very similar, yet very different sense, begotten of God. As sons of God by adoption, you might say, and the apostle says as much, we have, as Jesus told Nicodemus on that most memorable night long ago, in a place far from here ( and yet near, at the same time ), entered His Kingdom, having been 'born of........the Spirit' . In John 3:5, Jesus told Nicodemus, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God'. Nicodemus thought that by virtue of his natural birth, as did most, if not all Jews, that one was a son of the Living God, and therefore able to enter His Kingdom, but Jesus set the record straight, telling him, in other words, 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit' ( Zechariah 4:6 ). It is only though His power, and not through any vain planning of our own that we became 'the sons of God'!

The Myth of Individuality

Especially in the modern church, but pervading today's society and culture as well, is this notion of individuality, as some have put it, 'me and Jesus', or 'my faith is between me and my God'; 'it's personal'! While all of this is certainly true, in a sense, ( God is a personal ( maybe 'personable' would be a better term? ), and it is true that we are individuals, and that each of us must make the choice of whether to follow the leading of the Spirit or to live in 'Hades'; it was not individual sinners, in that sense, that the Son of God came to save! Some of my readers have no doubt heard this before, or rather seen in my writings, but Matthew 1:21 tells us that Jesus came to 'save His people from their sins'. True; as 'His people' is constituted of individuals, even those who have not yet known, or reconciled with their Father; as the apostle Paul again wrote, 'we, [ being ] many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another' ( Romans 12:5 ). Although we are individuals, and each one of us makes our own individual choices; it is not just 'me and Jesus': as part of the Body of Christ, our faith is not a private matter 'between me and my God'. We are accountable, not only to God, and to Jesus Christ as our Head, but we must remember that as 'members of one another', we are accountable to each other as well! If we claim, individualistically, that we are accountable to God alone, and that only He can judge us, not only will His 'judgment' fall hardest on us, but our life will not be blessed by the communion of the Body of Christ, because we will have basically become our own god, deciding ( interpreting ) for ourselves what is right and what is wrong!

I have mentioned this before, but John 3:16 is probably one of the most famous, as well as most misinterpreted and misunderstood passages ( especially when it comes to soteriology ).

First of all; we must realize that Jesus was nearing the end of His conversation with Nicodemus, in which He had been addressing a specific problem that Nicodemus, as a representative of the Jewish school of thought, had presented. Without rehashing much of the ground that we have already trod, let me just say that Nicodemus was also coming at the problem from an individualistic point of view; 'How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?' This tells us, among other things, that even though he was very familiar with the prophecies of the new birth, or resurrection of Israel, he truly did not understand what Jesus was saying; Jesus was simply stating, in other words, what prophets, like Ezekiel in Ezekiel 37, had spoken of.. Neither Jesus, nor the apostles, were saying anything new, but only what had been concealed in the Hebrew Scriptures, writings which the leaders of that rebellious generation were very familiar with!

Secondly; we must understand, as I just hinted at, that the 'world', of which Jesus spoke in this famous verse, was not the 'world' that we are used to thinking of! God does, no doubt, love His entire created 'order', and while that 'created order' is made up of individuals; Jesus was addressing a specific problem in this conversation, and was referring, in that context, to the 'created order', the 'world' of Nicodemus, and the Jewish economy, for as we saw, Jesus came to 'save His people from their sins'!

Thirdly, and finally; we must look at this passage, or verse, from the covenantal point of view, which is necessary to a correct understanding of all of Scripture. Note that 'God so loved the world', in the first part of this wonderful, but often misleading statement, which is later qualified with 'whoever believes'. This again ties in with what I wrote earlier, about keeping in mind passages like Ezekiel 37, where, although individual bones came together, making up individual bodies, it was the Body of Israel that was signified as being raised from the dead, or born again; as Paul, again, said in I Corinthians 15:36, 'what you sow is not made alive unless it dies'.


The Scriptures are a 'covenant document' from Genesis to Revelation, and so, I believe, must be read with this in mind, if we are to correctly understand them! Proof-texting is yet another problem that is and has been prevalent in the Church, as regards this individualistic way of thinking. No Scripture can be correctly interpreted without examining other like Scriptures: another way of saying this is, 'no Scripture stands on its own'! Like Solomon the Preacher said, '[ there is ] nothing new under the sun'. It's all been said and done before; what God did in the New Covenant ( Jesus ), was to renew His original creation, not make a whole new one!


'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.'

Read individualistically, we are presented here with a potentially omnipotent ( but closer to impotent ) God who, because of His great love for every individual in the world, sent His Son to die for that world, all the while wringing His hands, hoping against hope...................oh wait, He has foreknowledge too, so He knows that not all will believe.............hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm............. 


From a covenantal point of view, though; we see an omnipotently sovereign God who, because of His love for His people, sent His Son to die for their ( yes, our ) sins, that, yes, whoever, as part of His Body, or People believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Through covenant lenses; we also see things like the fact that it is not simply belief in Him that brings us into communion with Him ( everlasting life 
): 'No', James said, 'Even the demons believe' ( James 2:19 ). It is only when we act rightly, according to that belief, that we have communion with our Creator and enjoy His Presence forevermore!


We are thus presented with a choice; as 'sons of God', will we live individualistically, bumbling through this drama that we call life, trying to make sure that everyone for whom Christ died ( 'the world' ) believes in Him, and thus 'holding His hand', so to speak; or will we live covenantally, bringing every aspect of life ( our life ) in subjection to Him, not just existing, but participating in His Kingdom, which has been brought from heaven to earth, knowing that He has, through His Advent ( life, death, and resurrection ) completed His work of salvation, and now dwells with in and through His people!


Let us, as 'sons of God', so conduct ourselves in His Kingdom, as to present the 'Son of God' ( with Whom we have Union ) before those who have not yet entered the City, and to build up the Body in which we partake!


A 'Son of God',
Charles Haddon Shank

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