Sonship vs. Servanthood

Posted on 17. Feb, 2014 by in Sonship

For the past few days the idea of sonship has been on my heart, as it is an issue that I think is poorly understood in the body.  Today I was reading Hebrews 3:5-6, as follows:

“Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” (Hebrews 3:5–6, NASB95)  (emphasis mine)

This verse differentiates between the service of Christ and the service of Moses.  Moses was commended for his faithfulness as a servant, but Christ for His service as a son.  As those that have been raised in Christ, we are also called to walk as sons and daughters.  The primary difference, in my opinion, between a servant and a son relates to the authority that each walks in.  A servant walks in very little authority.  He does what he is told.  A son walks under the authority of the father, tending to the affairs of the father, with the authority given to him by the father.  According to Matthew 28:18, all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus.  As His body, as those that are raised up in Christ, we are to walk in that same authority, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Hebrews 2:6-8 discusses the authority that God has given to man, in Christ:

But one has testified somewhere, saying, “What is man, that You remember him?  Or the son of man, that You are concerned about him?   “You have made him for a little while lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, And have appointed him over the works of Your hands; You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”  For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.

I used to read that verse as referencing Christ, but both the original passages in Psalms 8 and the passage in Hebrews gives a lower case “m” in “man”.  Man is not referring to Jesus, it is referring to us!  When God created the earth and put Adam and Eve in the garden, He gave them authority over all creation.  They were commanded to rule and subdue it, and cultivate and keep it.  When man fell, that authority was abdicated.  When Christ came, died and was resurrected, the mantle of that authority was picked up again, but it is once again given to man to walk out this authority.

Hebrews 3:14 states “For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.”  If we partake of Christ, then surely we partake of His authority.  Indeed, the church is referred to as the body of Christ on multiple occasions.  What does that mean?  It means that we are His hands and feet!  If He is going to accomplish something in the earth, He will do it through a person, a man or a woman, through His body!

Read Romans 8:14-23.

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.  And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”

I want to make a few points regarding this passage.

  • First, verse 17 points out that we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ”.  This furthers the idea from Hebrews 3:14 mentioned above.  We are partakers of Christ, and we are fellow heirs with Christ.
  • Verse 17 puts a qualifier on being fellow heirs, stating “if indeed we suffer with Him”.  The bible has a lot to say about suffering, and this passage is one that verifies the fact that following Christ will bring suffering.  This topic of suffering is a whole other post, which some day I will write on!
  • Verses 19 and 21 identify the importance of the “sons of God” and “children of God” in God’s planning.  In verse 19 we learn that creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.  In verse 21 we read that creation will be set free into the “glory of the children of God”.  Notice that creation isn’t groaning for the revelation of Christ, but for the revealing of the “sons of God”! Of course, the revealing of the sons of God began with the revelation of Christ, as we only find our expression as sons through Christ. Nevertheless, by God’s design, creation groans for US to be revealed as sons and daughters in the earth, mature believers who walk in the fullness of Christ.

I want to hit on another important theme I have come across in studying sonship.  Galatians 4:4-7 makes it clear that those that are in Christ are sons of God.  However, Romans 8:19 mentions the revealing of the sons of God as an event that has yet to occur, and Romans 8:23 states “but also we ourselves…groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of the body”, implying that it is yet to come.  Here we find the dual reality of scripture, that, at the same time, something has been accomplished and is being accomplished.  This is similar to the concept in Philippians 2:12 and 3:20, which state that we should “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling” and that we still “eagerly wait for a Savior”, even though Christ has already come!  So, at the same time we ARE sons (and daughters), and we are BECOMING sons (and daughters).  The answer to this riddle comes in 2  Corinthians 4:18:

while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Our salvation and sonship are complete in Christ, in “the unseen” or eternal realm (since God is not ruled by our sense of time).  In the temporal realm, our sonship and salvation are still a work in progress, thus the encouragement to “work out your salvation…”.  So, if we are walking towards sonship, how will we know when we have “arrived”, so to speak (in reality we will never fully arrive in this life, but we will continually work towards it).  Romans 8:14 gives the answer:  “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God”.  Galatians 4:1-7 describes a transition, from being merely children (or slaves) to being adopted sons.  This transition, of course, occurs in Christ, but as we’ve asserted above that transition is actually a process of working out that eternal truth into a temporal reality.  So how does a “child” grow up to become a “son”?  By maturation, or in this case spiritual maturation.  And the more we mature in our pursuit of Christ the more we act as sons, and the more we are led by His Spirit, instead of by our own fleshly wants, desires and fears.  And the more we walk as sons (and daughters) the more we understand what it means to be a son of God.  We begin to grasp hold of the fact that we are heirs with Christ, and that we walk in His authority.  Consider Ephesians 1:22-23:

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

All things have been placed under subjection to Christ, and Christ is the head over the church, and the church is “the fullness of Him”.  If we are the fullness of Christ, then we must also have the ability to operate in His authority!

In researching for this article I came across a writing by Josh McDowell, entitled The Authority of the Believer.  This article references Ephesians 1:20, stating that the victory of Jesus over the enemy was accomplished when He was raised from the dead and seated “at His right hand”, or at the right hand of God the Father.  Likewise, according to Ephesians 2:5-6, WE were “made…alive together with Christ”, when he “raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places”.  So, Jesus was raised and seated at the right hand of God, and likewise we have been raised and seated at the right hand of God.  Ephesians 2:21 goes on to describe how Jesus has been raised “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion”.  If Christ is at the right hand of God, and He is above all rule and authority, etc., then it follows that if we are in Christ at the right hand of God, that we also are above all rule and authority.    Josh McDowell defines our authority as “delegated power”.  This concept comes from Luke 10:19, where Jesus states “Behold, I have given you authority…over all the power of the enemy”.  This same power has been delegated to us, His body, as was discussed above.  I love Josh’s statement about how we walk out our authority in  Christ:

But this is only to the extent of our spiritual apprehension. Because, you see, authority is delegated power and until the believer comes to realize the power behind him, he will never exercise the authority of the believer.  The more you apprehend the power behind you, the more you will exercise the authority of the believer.

So, the point of this discussion is that, in our growth and maturation as believers, in our progress towards sonship, we see more and more of Christ, and come to realize more and more just how powerful He is.   Once we see that, and realize that we are His fullness, and His representative on the earth, we begin to understand what it means to be a son (or daughter) in the kingdom, and we begin to stand up and exercise the authority that we have been given.  We begin to stand up and take our place as sons and daughters!  You see, we have been placed in the greatest place imaginable:  in Christ!  But if we don’t realize what that means then we will continue to live our lives in defeat.  The Father wants to exercise the authority of Christ in the earth, but He has given it to us to be the conduit of that authority!  We don’t have to live in subjection to fear and doubt, to the storms and waves of this life.  We are called to walk out His victory.   This does not mean we will not suffer.  In fact, the bible makes it clear that we WILL suffer!  But, if we persist, we will find that our victory has already been won.

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