Studies in Sonship, part 1
The teaching that I’m commencing with this blog ought to be foundational for all believers. Unfortunately, many Christians live their lives with scarcely even a cursory understanding of the subject of sonship. It is a vast subject with many related subtopics. Just to name a few of them, our multi-part study will explore the topics of children, as in sons; the firstborn, firstfruit, birthright, adoption, heirs, inheritance, and many more.
Look for these terms now as we read this passage in Romans, chapter 8. I will emphasize some of the words as we come to them. This is one of my very favorite passages in the whole Bible because it is one of those passages that really comes close to telling the end of the whole matter, that is, the wonderful destiny for the children of God and of all creation. (I have also offered some alternate renderings in [brackets].)
Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
19 For the earnest expectation of the
creature [creation] waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the [creation]
creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the
creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
Many believers recognize how the concept of family has been changing rather drastically over the past generation or so. The forces of evil have tried—and are having some success in redefining words such as family, marriage and spouse. Homosexual couples desire the blessing of the state on their relationship and are demanding that we call it a marriage. They want everyone to recognize that their partner is their “spouse.”
Since we understand by experience just how rapidly these changes in the concepts and meanings of “family” can occur, it is reasonable then, that as we explore the concept of sonship, that we be very careful in our study of exactly what is meant by a son. It is a premise of this particular study therefore that sonship must be understood in context of the very high-value that ancient societies placed on sons.
In other words, if we truly want to understand what the Bible means when it speaks of “the sons of God,” or “the adoption of sons” then we must understand the meaning of the word son in the biblical context. We cannot take our 21st century definitions and concepts of “son” and apply them to the Bible.
Therefore, as we commence this study, we need to take the time to do some digging, and to get these fundamental principles of what the Bible means when it talks about a son, to get them ingrained into our consciousness. So first we’re going to look at some definitions and then we will look at the imagery of sons as found in the Bible.
I will attempt to keep the definitions portion from getting too boring by, #1, avoiding as much as possible getting into the Greek and Hebrew words themselves. Sometimes though, we absolutely need to look at them to understand the differences. Then, #2, by giving some occasional examples from the Scriptures to show how the definitions are used, this will help keep it interesting.
The primary word for son in the Hebrew Old Testament is ben. Technically, it is pronounced bane, but since everyone in America commonly says ben we will accede to the common practice. Thus, we would say Simon ben Joseph, which means Simon, son of Joseph.
The word “son” is translated by several Greek words, but the most common one is huios; another is teknon. By the way, our word technology does not derive from that word, teknon.
Definition 1. Of course, the most common and literal sense of all three of these words is simply the immediate male offspring.
Definition 2. A ben can also mean a grandson. Mephibosheth is called a son of Saul, although he was actually the grandson of Saul, through Saul’s son Jonathan. (2 Samuel 19: 24) A second example can be found in Genesis, chapter 29, verse five, where Laban is called the son of Nahor. Laban was in fact the son of Bethuel, who was the son of Nahor. So the word ben can mean a grandson.
Definition 3. The word son or sons can apply to distant descendents, such as in the term sons of Israel, which could refer to people thousands of years after our ancient ancestor and patriarch Jacob-Israel.
Definition 4. Oddly enough, the word son can also refer to a son-in-law. Observe these two verses from the book of Ruth.
Ruth 4:16 And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it.
17 And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Now who was Naomi related to in this story? To Ruth, right? And what was her relationship to Ruth? Naomi was not Ruth’s mother, was she? She was Ruth’s mother-in-law. Therefore, the baby boy, Obed, was actually her grand son-in-law. (To be continued.)