They were born into God’s family by God. That is, they were not born into his family in the way a person is born into this world. It was not by any person’s will. Joh 1:13
When we are born again, we are born into a family. God adopted us as sons. Adoption in the Hebrew sense, not todays.
Adoption back then had a very different meaning compared to today. It was a process natural sons went through, when they turned thirty. If a son had proven a good steward and trustworthy servant – Paul tells us that a son if he is not of age is but a servant with a future hope to possess everything -, if he had proven himself to be worthy, the father went to the gates of the city where the elders were. And there he announced his youngster as son. From teknon – technically a son – to huios – a full grown son in authority.
The son now had authority over all his fathers goods. He was as good for credit as the father was. It was as if he were the father. By the way: it was not about work, but about becoming like him. This adoption happened with Jesus in the Jordan river when he was baptized. And it happened with us when we accepted Christ to be our King and the Father to be our father.
Granted, in the time of Jesus there was yet another, a Roman custom going on called adoption. It was custom in those days that a father, if he was not pleased with his son, had him killed and adopted another, a worthy servant. The servant became his son with full rights, and with forty – seems the Jews were mature 10 years earlier than the Romans – was set into his position of authority. One prominent example: Imperator Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus Divi Filius Augustus. Born as Gaius Octavius, a great nephew of Julius Caesar, he was adopted by Caesar in his testament. And from then on, no Caesar was succeeded by his natural son, but always by adopted Divi Filii, devine sons.
This Roman custom led the church to believe that adoption was about replacing natural sons with somebody else, somebody more worthy. Thus replacement theology – replacing the natural son Israel with heathen, that had proven more worthy. But in the original custom, it was about natural sons with an intact and intimate relationship with the father that had the same values as the father. Made in his image. Come of age.
God in his grace adopts us the moment we run back to him. He gives us new clothes, a ring, and sandals – as the prodigal son was given when he returned home. He restores our dignity, our authority, and our purity. Jesus told the disciples and especially Peter that they were made clean, but for their feet, and that they could have no relationship with him if their feet were not washed. Thus the sandals as a sign for purity.
But for now we are interested in the ring. It was the signet ring, the sign, that the father had adopted his son, restored him to full authority in his household. God does that right in the beginning of our relationship. We just do not believe it. Thus he repeats his admonishment during the time of Tabernacles: this is my son in whom I am well pleased. Do what he tells you to do.
Not that Jesus wasn’t his son before. And Jesus did believe his Father the first time. This repetition was done for us. We start in sin – unlike Jesus – and thus need reassurance. And we hear great truths – and believe it – only when we are ready for it.
Ok now, we just established that we all are born into God’s family as sons. Full grown mature sons in his eyes, babies in ours.
In my last blog entry we saw that the fivefold ministry has a fathering role. To portray the one and only relationship there is: the one between God and his sons. Fivefold ministers are to multiply themselves, thus bringing forth and training fresh fivefold ministers that turn around and do the same. And they are to father the saints. And here we are: a family. With fathers, sons, grandsons, nephews, uncles, and so on. Women included.
Today many interpret the truth that Jesus has done it all in his finished work very dangerously. They ask: do I still have to ask for forgiveness? Jesus has done that for me, so when I do it again, isn’t that disregarding the cross? And do I still get to heaven if I sin and do not ask for forgiveness?
I do not want to know the maximum I can get by with without going to hell.
I do not want to know the minimum I have to do to make it to heaven.
I want to live a father-son relationship with my Father in heaven and a groom-bride relationship with Jesus.
Thus, when I make a mistake, I ask for forgiveness. I know I do not have the be ashamed for I lived a blameless live in God’s eyes, but sin keeps me from fellowship with him. Not because of him, but because of me. I feel unworthy. A simple I am sorry and change of heart takes care of that.
That is part of relationship, part of covenant.
But many run when they hear about covenant. Take Judas. Judas was a disciple like all the others. Even though Jesus had for many months told them that one of them would betray him, they did not know who it was. Peter asked John to ask Jesus: is it me? And John asked: is it me? Therefore, Judas had just like the others performed signs and wonders, for if he had not, they would have known.
But then Jesus wanted to cut covenant with the last supper. This was the point for Judas to leave. He was fine with profiting from a relationship with Jesus, getting out of it as much as possible. But investing?
Today many people do not marry but live together. The difference? When I live together with somebody, I can use the threat of myself leaving to have the other do things for me – and vice versa. A fear based relationship of want.
A marriage covenant is so different. It is laying down your life for the other.
But it’s more than signing a paper, more than cutting a covenant. It’s living it out. It’s marriage, not wedding. Many a young couple invests thousands of dollars and hours into their wedding, and nothing into their marriage. We as christians often invest very much into getting people saved, but little into discipleship and kingdom.
We live in a fatherless generation. Orphans teach orphans to be better orphans. Older brothers lead the rest of the bunch. But older brothers are about control. Look again at the prodigal son. There is no grace in the older brother. He sees his position in danger, a position he invested so much work in.
Hierarchy is a Greek word for pecking order. Yes, just like in a hens’ den. I am more gifted than you, I invested more work and money into the position I am in than you. Thus, if you get better than me, I have to sabotage you.
Not a father. A father knows that he is no father because he is gifted in the natural sense. Not even because he is gifted by the Spirit. But because he is anointed by Jesus do be a father. Thus if a son is more gifted than he is, this is a source of pride for him, not a threat, because his position, or better his function as a father is not defined by that. It is his mission to invest as much as possible into his sons, because that is his call, his duty, his passion. Or should I say, because his son is his call and passion?
A son profits from the many battles a father has gone through. A son that honors his father that is. He does not have to start afresh and fight for was had been fought for already. In a covenant he can inherit what had been fought through, and concentrate on his own battles.
Some non-trivial encouragements about fathers and sons:
Isaac had only one blessing to give for his first born. When he gave it to Jacob, Esau was left without. The blessings of a father are most valuable.
When Moses was to pass on his anointing to Joshua, God told him to call for the high priest. The high priest was to bring the urim. Urim and thummim were a white and a black stone to find God’s will. White for yes, black for no. And the high priest was only to bring the white stone, the yes. God had already chosen and approved. Thus with you. (Num 4:17-21)
Joshua was full of wisdom because Moses had laid hands on him. That is why Israel listened to him. (Deu 34:9) Some things can not be received directly from God. Because God chose to do it that way. That is what we have family for.
When Elisha picked up Elijah’s mantle, he tore his in two for two to pick it up. Multiplication and succession. Will you pick up your fathers mantle?
Are you in such a family? Let me know in a comment.