The Nature of the Challenge - Destiny Bound Up with Sonship
Well, there is a challenge in sonship, because in that sonship there is all that is included in the destiny of satan and the destiny of Christ. satan's destiny is a dark and terrible one: Christ's destiny and the destiny of His own is a glorious one. But these two destinies are not just automatic, they are spiritual. Sonship is something which means a full attainment to a certain relationship and a certain nature.
It is very interesting to note the different usages in the New Testament between the word "child" and "son"; child being one born, son being the child a grown up, coming to maturity. The son, meaning a full-grown one, is sometimes used in this very connection of which we have spoken; meaning that those given to doing evil have come to full growth in it; and you will see that is exactly what happened with the Jews and with Israel in the days of the Lord Jesus. I do not want to become too detailed, but I just indicate it. When the Lord Jesus was speaking to the rulers and the heads of the Jewish nation who were so opposed to Him, He did not speak to them as being children of the devil, but called them sons. He used the word about them which meant that they were something more than just offspring. They had come to a far measure of maturity in their devilish relationship and work, and when that sonship came to fullness, then Israel is dealt with, judged and cut off.
In the same way, when born from above, we become children of God, and are sons potentially, and when sonship in relation to God has come to full maturity, then the issue is glory, full deliverance. The whole situation is changed with sonship.
Now satan and his kingdom are coming to that place where the final judgment rests upon the final development of his iniquity. It is sonship in principle. The Old Testament description that answers to it is "the cup of iniquity being full." Sonship, on the side of evil and iniquity, means iniquity full-grown, over-flowing, mature - destruction.
On the other hand, sonship in relation to the Lord, being brought to maturity, means the hour of the Church's maturity, Christ coming to fullness in the saints - "till we all attain unto the unity of the faith ... unto a full-grown man" (Ephesians 4:13); Christ coming to maturity in His saints. And then what? Well, just the opposite of the destiny of satan. That is destruction, and this is glory.
The two destinies are bound up, let me repeat, not with some mechanical thing, but with a spiritual nature and development called sonship, and satan recognizes the destiny of sonship, and that is why he challenges it. "If Thou be the Son ..."
So, the heart and the essence of the faith is the significance of sonship. When again you hear or think of "the faith", always remember in the first place that "the faith" is what Jesus Christ is in the uniqueness of sonship; and, so far we are concerned, "the faith" is what we are in Him in the uniqueness of sonship. I am not touching upon His deity. Do not misunderstand me in that. That is a sonship of His in which we have no part, in so far as that sonship means deity, but the relationship with God in terms of sonship is shared by us with Him. He is the Heir. "God ... hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in His Son, Whom He appointed heir of all things" (Hebrews 1:2). And then, we are "heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17). The principle of sonship is the heart and essence of the faith.
We will leave it there for the time being. But I can say once more that it is in this that the born-anew ones are unique in God's universe, this is what separates them from all others, and with which so great a destiny is bound up. It is upon this that all the conflict rests, and around it all the battle rages. It is because of this we suffer. Do you want less conflict? You can have it at the expense and the meaning of your sonship. If you will not go right on to full growth, you can have a very much easier time, but if you are going right on, you may have the worst time. You are going to know more than any others what spiritual conflict is. You cannot get out of it. Demas evidently found things too hard. "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world" (2 Tim. 4:10). Well, Demas goes back, but those who go on do so by having to accept what Demas found himself unable to accept - conflict.
It is not a very comfortable message, but there are the facts. But let us remind ourselves that, if we suffer with Christ, we shall reign together with Him (2 Tim. 2:12).
(Next: "The Nature of Sonship")