The Sons of God
The highest destiny set before any man is to be recognized as a son of God: nothing else could equal this. Since it is mentioned in the Bible, the major churches have not been able to entirely overlook it; neither have they been able to understand it. In some very vague and general way, they have decided that we are eventually to become "sons of God" by some process which they call "adoption."
A lot of fuzzy thinking has developed around that unfortunate use of the word "adoption" ‑ which word is not in the original language from which our translations are made. It is a translator's unfortunate attempt to express his understanding ‑ or, rather, Misunderstanding ‑ of what he thought was meant, rather than what was SAID.
What the original language refers to is NOT the adoption of a stranger, but the coming‑of‑age ceremony for a lawful son. The Apostle Paul's choice of words has often made his writing hard to understand for those who do not know the things he is talking about ‑ as even the Apostle Peter commented in 2 Peter 3:15‑16.
Some of the modern English translations make Paul's meaning much clearer than the earlier versions: Moffett, Weymouth, and The Twentieth Century New Testament, for example, have a more correct rendering on this point. Galatians 3:23‑26 and 4:1‑7 has been the basis for this misunderstanding about "adoption." In Moffett's modern English translation, it reads thus: "Before this faith came, we were confined by the Law, and kept under custody, in prospect of the faith that was to be revealed; the Law thus held us as wards in discipline till such time as Christ came, that we might be justified by faith.
But faith has come, and we are wards no longer: YOU ARE ALL SONS OF GOD by your faith in Christ Jesus.. What I mean is this: as long as an heir is under age, there is no difference between him and a servant, though he is lord of all the property; he is under guardians and trustees till the time fixed by his father. So with us. When we were under age, we lived under the thralldom of the Elemental spirits of the world; but when the time had fully expired, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to ransom those who were under the Law, THAT WE MIGHT HAVE OUR SONSHIP. IT IS BECAUSE YOU ARE SONS that God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!' So you are servant no longer, but son; and as son, you are heir, all owing to God."
The Twentieth Century New Testament translates it, "so that we might receive the privileges of sons." Weymouth translates it, "so that we might receive recognition as sons."
"Adoption" could not possibly be a true translation, as the general context forbids it. A stranger is not "lord of all the property" already, before his adoption; neither is he "under guardians and trustees." But one who is a true son and heir by birth is in just this situation when he is still a minor: he cannot yet take possession of what he has inherited until he becomes of age. Note how Paul emphasizes that "It is because you ARE sons that God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying 'Abba! Father!'"
How did we become sons? And how long have we been sons? Long before Adam. Luke 3:38 tells us that Adam was a SON of God. But even before the foundation of the earth, God made us sons. We read in Ephesians 1:3‑5 (and again the modern English translations are more accurate): "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in Christ has blessed us with every spiritual blessing within the heavenly sphere! He chose us in Him ere the world was founded, to be consecrated and unblemished in His sight, destining us in love to be His sons through Jesus Christ." (Moffett.)
This is confirmed again in the 38th chapter of Job, where God asks of Job, "Where wast thou when I founded the earth?... When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" And in the original Hebrew, God adds, in verse 21. "Thou knowest, for then hadst thou been born, and in number thy days are many!"
These "sons of God" who were present at the creation of the earth and shouted for joy were not angels, for in Hebrews 1:5 it asks, "For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father and he shall be to Me a Son?" No, it is clear that the angels are not sons of God; but "ALL the SONS of God shouted for joy" when the earth was made.
Again we have recognition that we are the sons of God, in the 82nd Psalm. A little of its meaning is lost in the older translations, through their failure to use the Hebrew word "Elohim," meaning "Gods."
"God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; He judgeth among the Elohim. How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course. I have said, Ye are ELOHIM: AND ALL OF YOU ARE CHILDREN OF THE MOST HIGH. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. Arise, O Elohim! Judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations."
When the Jews accused Jesus Christ of blasphemy because He said that God was His Father, He quoted this Psalm, saying: "Is it not written in your law, I said YE ARE GODS (ELOHIM)?" He called them gods unto whom the word of God came. (John 10:34‑35)
The 82nd Psalm rebukes us for not having properly performed our duty to judge the world. Its prophecy that we shall inherit all nations is correct: as members of the Body of Christ, with Jesus Himself as the Head, we shall inherit the nations. Psalm 2:8‑9 quotes a decree that was proclaimed by Jesus Christ: "Ask of Me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."
But Revelation 2:26‑27 is spoken by Jesus Christ, to us: "And he that overcometh, and keepeth My works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of My Father." So there can be no doubt that in the 82nd Psalm we are called Gods, Elohim, and children of the Most High, even while we are still in our mortal bodies.
We are sons of God because we are born of Him, not strangers who are merely adopted. First John 2:29 and 3:1‑2 tells us so: "If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is BORN OF HIM. Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not. Beloved, NOW are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him..."
This is what Jesus Christ was speaking of in a passage which is badly misunderstood because it is badly mistranslated: it is John 3:1‑8, which tells of the visit of Nicodemus to Jesus Christ, and it mis‑quotes Jesus as saying that "you must be born again" ‑ from which fanciful doctrines of "the second birth" have been taken. But the original Greek from which this was mistranslated says: "Verily, verily I say to thee, If anyone is not born FROM ABOVE, he is not able to see the Kingdom of God.
Nicodemus says to Him, How is a man able to be born, being old? Is he able to enter into the womb of his mother a second time and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily I say to thee, If anyone is not born of water AND THE SPIRIT, he is not able to enter into the Kingdom of God. That which has been born of the flesh is flesh; and THAT WHICH HAS BEEN BORN OUT OF THE SPIRIT IS SPIRIT. Do not wonder that I said to you, You must be born FROM ABOVE."
It was only Nicodemus who misunderstood and talked of being born AGAIN; Jesus Christ never said this, but spoke only of being born FROM ABOVE, born OF THE SPIRIT. You are not somebody else's illegitimate offspring who can only hope to be adopted: you are God's own children BY BIRTH OUT OF THE SPIRIT. Now do you think that you have any need to worry about Russia and what it will try to do to you? Our Father, the one true God, will take care of His own children.
We are already the children of God, not by some process of adoption of a stranger, but because we are His children by birth, born of the Spirit. This is almost too big an idea for the human mind to grasp. Think what a marvelous position we are in! And think also of the solemn responsibility that position carries!
Jesus Christ, Himself, calls us His brothers! He is the first‑born Son of God; and we His younger brothers and sisters. Colossians 1:15‑17 tells His position (I like Smith and Goodspeed's translation of it): "He is a likeness of the unseen God, born before any creature: for it was through Him that everything was created in heaven and earth ‑ the seen and the unseen, angelic thrones, principalities, do‑minions and authorities ‑ all things were created through Him and for Him. He existed before all things, and He sustains and embraces them all."
So, in Hebrews 2:10‑12, 14‑18 we read that Jesus Christ calls us His brethren: "In bringing MANY SONS to glory, it was befitting that He for whom and by whom the universe exists should perfect the Prince of their salvation by suffering. So Sanctifier and sanctified have all one origin. That is why He is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, I will proclaim Thy name to My brothers: in the midst of the church I will sing of Thee... Since the children then share flesh and blood, He Himself participated in their nature, so that by dying He might crush him who wields the power of death (that is to say, the devil) and release from thralldom those who lay under a life‑long fear of death. (For it is not angels that He succors, it is the offspring of Abraham.)
He had to resemble His brothers in every respect, in order to prove a merciful and faithful High Priest in things divine, to expiate the sins of the people; it is as He suffered by His temptations that He is able to help the tempted" (Moffett).
The Bible emphasizes this close relationship: in Ephesians 5:30 it tells us that "we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones." We are the children, the family or household of God. So in Hebrews 3:5‑6, we are told, "Now the faithfulness of Moses in all the house of God was that of a servant, in faithfully repeating what he was told to say; but Christ's faithfulness was that of a Son set over the house of God. And we are that house, if we keep up our courage and our triumphant hope to the very end" (Smith and Goodspeed). The word here translated "house" is the Greek word "oikia" ‑ here it does not mean "house" in the sense of a building, but "household" or "family."
So also where Jesus Christ said, "In My Father's house are many mansions" (John 14:2) the same word is used. The meaning may well be, "In My Father's household are many mansions or temples for His spirit." We are told that each of us is a temple of God. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 it says, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you?"
Again, in 2 Corinthians 6:16‑18, we are told: "What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
Then what is our destiny? Wonderful: greater than we can yet understand. The angels, whose power is so much greater than anything we have seen, greater than atomic bombs, are sent to help us. In Hebrews 1:14 we are assured that "all angels are merely spirits in the divine service, commissioned for the benefit of those who are to inherit salvation" (Moffett).
We are to become more like Jesus Christ. It tells us, in Ephesians 4:11‑13, that "He has given us some men as apostles, some as missionaries, some as pastors and teachers, in order to fit His people for the work of service, for building the body of Christ, until we all attain unity in faith, and in the knowledge of the Son of God, and reach mature manhood and that full measure of development found in Christ" (Smith and Goodspeed).
Under Jesus Christ as our Head and Lord, we are to become the rulers and judges of the world ‑ indeed, even judges of the angels: 1 Corinthians 6:2‑3 says, "Do you not know that God's people are to be the judges of the world? And if the world is to come before you for judgment, are you unfit to decide the most trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to be the judges of angels, to say nothing of ordinary matters?"
Again, in Hebrews 2:5‑9, it says: "For the world to come, of which I am speaking, was not put under the control of angels. One writer, as we know, has affirmed 'What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou carest for him? For a little while Thou hast put him lower than the angels; crowning him with glory and honor, putting all things under his feet.' Now by putting all things under him, the writer meant to leave nothing outside his control. But as it is, we do not yet see all things controlled by man; what we do see is Jesus who was put lower than the angels for a little while to suffer death, and who has been crowned with glory and honor, that by God's grace He might taste death for everyone" (Moffett).
Do you realize what a tremendous future our God and Father has set before us? This is the same thing which Jesus Christ promised us in the Book of Revelation, where, in chapter 2:26‑27, He says, "He that overcometh, and keepeth My works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of My Father."
With all the power of God in back of us to carry out His promises to us, His children, how can we take a gloomy or despairing view of the troubles of the day? Can Russia prevail against God? No sincere Christian could ever say "Better Red than dead." All the powers of hell are mobilized against us, we know: but we also know that they are destined to failure.
In Romans 8:28‑33. it assures us: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He did also predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first born among many brethren. Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? IF GOD BE FOR US, WHO CAN BE AGAINST US? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth."
To be the children of God also brings the responsibility to act like it. No, I don't mean that we meet this responsibility by being effeminate and browbeaten in our manner. I mean that we must do the works of the sons of God. Remember the 82nd Psalm?
We are there rebuked for our failure to "deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked." Why are we cringing in shameful and abject cowardice here when half of our brothers of the White Christian world are in horrible slavery under Asiatic Communism? Have we no faith in God? Are we crawling before Russia and Cuba out of fear of their bombs? Why don't we believe God, instead of the "leaders" of our government?
We have God's promise, in Isaiah 54:17, that "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of Me, saith the Lord." God's work was never accomplished by cowards or weaklings. Elijah believed God, and 7,000 faithful, courageous men were all be needed to cleanse his nation. Gideon believed God, and 300 men were all he needed to rout and slaughter an immense enemy army. If we believe that God is our Father, let us start acting like His children! Not just in the next world, not just several hundred years into the millennium, but NOW! (Taken, in part, from a study entitled “The Sons of God,” by Bertrand Comparet)