Sonship, part 23: Jesus, the pattern of an adopted son
Note to a new reader: To fully understand this section, one ought to digest the previous entry.
The phrase, “adoption of sons,” is referring to a ceremony or an appointed time when a father invests his mature son with the power of attorney to act in all his affairs. It has nothing to do with being an orphan and being adopted into someone else’s family. It is a legal proclamation: “This
is my beloved son; hear ye him because he has my power of attorney. He will act on my behalf because he will say and do exactly as I would do.”
In view of that, we can now obtain a more complete understanding as we hear the words of Jesus in the next several passages. Look for the concept of “son placing,”—having the power of attorney, being entrusted to do exactly what the father would do, as we quote…
John 5:16 And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.
17 But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.
18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
Can you imagine Adam in the Garden of Eden before the Fall? Can you imagine the intimacy of fellowship that he had with the Father. He was the son of God and the Father confides in his beloved son. But then Adam fell and that privilege of being an intimate and confidant of the Father was lost—temporarily—until the last Adam came in perfect obedience to the Father’s will. That intimacy and that privilege of being God’s son and confidant is restored through Christ. As Jesus declares here…
20 For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doeth:
Isn’t that a picture of being a confidant? Jesus has that relationship with the Father.
and he will show him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. 21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.
22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:
John 8:28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.
John 8:38 I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
John 10:17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
John 10:35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?
37 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.
John 15:15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends [Greek: philos = friend, close and trusted associate]; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
When a master has a servant, or an employer has an employee, the servant or employee can be entrusted with varying degrees of responsibility, but generally speaking, they are not at the executive or business owner level, where they understand all the details of the business plan. Thus, Jesus said, the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth.
On the other hand, a businessman can have a friend who is so close and so trusted that in him is confided virtually all the details of the business, and he is perhaps a formal partner in the firm.
It is worthy of note that Jesus at this juncture raised the status of the apostles from servants to friends. Elsewhere, and probably at about this same time, He had told them that they would sit on thrones with Him. That would make them overcomers, wouldn’t it? Notice what Jesus says in the Apocalypse:
Revelation 3:21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
So if Jesus is sitting on the throne with the Father, and the overcomers are sitting with Jesus, that means that the overcomers are sitting with the Father as well. And doesn’t that make complete sense since Jesus and the Father are one? Speaking of the deity of Christ, a phrase found in John 14:28 is where some people stumble and disbelieve the deity of Christ.
John 14:28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.
(I will return to address that objection shortly.)
29 And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.
30 Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.
31 But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.
There again, “as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.” we find the Son entrusted to do exactly as expected by the Father.
Going back to the deity of Christ issue, John 14:28 is one of the main verses that the anti-deity of Christ crowd—the Jehovah’s Witnesses and others—where they put a lot of weight. First of all, we grant, that it is not a mistranslation. My Father is greater; the Greek means greater, there’s no question about that.
But secondly, the context here shows that Jesus is telling the disciples that they should rejoice because He is going to return to the Father, and therefore the Holy Spirit can be sent to greatly magnify and empower the spread of the Gospel.
Jesus left his glory with the Father and placed Himself in a subordinate office in respect to the Father. The Father is in the office of the Giver, the Appointer, the Sender, the One who sent the Son, who gave His Son for us, who appointed Him heir of all things, etc.
Jesus took the subordinate position of the One who was sent, who was appointed, who was given. So, in that sense, the Father is greater than the Son; but in their essential nature, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are co-equal. But for the purpose of working out the Plan of salvation, Jesus lowered Himself into a subordinate position. This explains why Jesus would state that “my Father is greater than I.”
For someone to use this verse to try to prove that Jesus is not God is to fly in the face of scores of proofs of His divinity, which I have presented in a lecture series some years ago. See details on how to order at the end of this post.
I detoured onto this deity issue for the moment in order to share with you another proof which I did not include in the aforementioned series. It is found in the penultimate chapter of the Apocalypse. We know that the book of Revelation was basically a dictation directly from the risen and glorified Savior to John while he was on the isle of Patmos. So John is referring to Jesus here as the One who is speaking.
Revelation 21:5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
Many of the anti-deity adherents claim that Jesus never once said he was God, but only the Son of God. Not true! Right there, Jesus claims His divinity when He says “I will be his God.” Now, if Jesus were not God, and He claims that He is, then He was blaspheming and the Jewish leaders were legally in the right in condemning Him to death.
Obviously, we believe He is what He says He is. Furthermore, since He claimed he was the Alpha and Omega, let’s go back to the first chapter of Revelation and we will find another quick proof right there.
Revelation 1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
Boil that down to its essentials and Jesus is saying “I am …the Almighty.” Either He is a liar or He is God Almighty! Back to Galatians 4 now.
Galatians 4:5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
When you see that word adoption now, you could read it as “son-placing,” or “the status of sons,” as in this case, “that we might receive the status of sons.” Paul goes on…
Galatians 4:6 And because ye are sons [huios], God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son [huios]; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
This, too, has to do with the Greek and Roman customs of adoption, this time it is about how a master adopted slaves. Once a slave or a servant was adopted, he could then address his former Master by the intimate term of Abba, Father.
A master might adopt any number of slaves as sons, but only one son becomes his firstborn, and normally that would be his natural son. But the analogy still holds for Paul’s purpose and our understanding. There are many sons, but only one unique firstborn Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, plus one company of firstborn sons, the overcomers.
This brings us to the point where we can ask? When does one become a son in terms of the adoption? In this passage, it seems like Paul is telling the Galatians that they are now—present tense—the adopted, huios, mature sons of God.
But as we continue, the context makes it clear that Paul is speaking to them in terms of what they can become. True, he is speaking in the present tense (verse 6 “and because ye are sons …”), but notice verse 8. Paul is asking these Christians:
8 Howbeit then, [or How is it then that…] when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.
So Paul speaks of their idolatry prior to their becoming believers in Christ, but here comes the zinger.
9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
Paul is scolding the Galatian Christians for backsliding by getting stuck in legalism and thinking they can be saved by keeping the law, so would you say that they are sons of God in the ultimate and complete sense? ….No! …Are they mature? …No! They are displaying spiritual immaturity.
Therefore, when Paul says they are sons of God in verse 6, it is clear he is addressing them only as potentially mature sons. It is Paul’s method of exhorting and encouraging them to strive towards that goal. More on this next time. (To be continued.)
Note: Do you have any doubts concerning whether or not Jesus Christ (or the Holy Spirit) is really God?
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