THE ETERNAL SON(S)
BY: JOHN R. GAVAZZONI
The sons of God have begun their transition unto the full unveiling of their glory. Their glory is the glory of the only begotten Son in them, revealing in turn, the splendor and majesty of the Father to all creation. The truth of sonship shall be made increasingly clear by the Spirit of Truth in this day and that increase of clarity will not simply be a matter of teaching about sonship but will be the actual unfolding of the liberty of the glory of sons of God. We shall witness a divine intolerance for any confusion or carnal imaginings concerning the nature and origins of this royal and August company. Many who have had an improper association with the true sons will depart from them so that it may be made manifest that they were not of them.
Recently I heard within me the words, “You will write some corrective epistles”. Being as susceptible to grandiosity as the next fellow, I was at first suspicious of the impression, thinking that the words were coming from the egotistical religious mind which illegitimately dwells in my flesh by the Father’s wise permission. But the thought persisted until I became convinced that I was receiving instruction from the Spirit. The following is sent out with the intent and hope that, like Aquilla and Priscilla, I may be enabled to expound this truth “more perfectly” or better, “more accurately” (Acts 18:26) as Harold Lovelace translates it, for the sake of God’s elect. My intent IS NOT to compose some cold, creedal statement and to attempt to intellectually impose it upon others but to give expression to the delight in my own heart as to the true nature and origin of our relationship to “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.“ (2 Cor. 11:31) As I pause in this writing, I fear that what I’ve written thus far will come across as rather pompous but I choose to leave it as it is because of the seriousness of the truth we are considering. So on with it.
Are we really clear dear saints, that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, was uniquely begotten of the Father in and from eternity? Some time ago I was invited to participate in a dialogue during which the question of the nature and origin of Christ as the Son of God entered the discussion. Up to that point, I had appreciated and commended one of the participants concerning his understanding of the truth of the family of God. When suddenly via e-mail, in the boldest of language, he insisted that Christ was not eternally begotten of the Father and that anyone affirming that was claiming that Christ was born twice, once eternally and then a second time of the virgin Mary. Now I am not one normally given to religious argument but on this occasion something rose up in me with revulsion at the arrogant spirit that I was confronted with and I answered in no uncertain terms that what he thought was enlightened logic was pure nonsense and I expressed that in rather coarse terms which I will not get into here. I ended up “sticking to my guns” after he asked me if I thought I knew everything and no one was allowed to disagree with me. After examining my conscience I decided not to apologize but to tell him I was being tough on him because such theological tripe was not worthy of a child of God which I believed he was. I countered with this observation, that if believing that God fathered the Son eternally (that is that the Son always proceeds by divine generation from the very loins of the Father without beginning and without end) meant that we were necessarily saying that Christ was born two times then by that logic we would be saying that Christ was crucified twice since He is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. If I were verbally preaching instead of writing this I’m sure at this point you couldn’t keep me behind the pulpit in a calm and dignified manner but I’d be roaming over the platform, cranking up the volume and punctuating every phrase with appropriate body language affirming in the boldest possible way that IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE ETERNAL FATHER TO BEGET A LESS – THAN – ETERNAL SON. The post-apostolic fathers may not have gotten it all right and may have instigated some serious deviation from apostolic tradition, but this they got right —Christ is eternally begotten, not created. That is, His is a birth consistent with the eternality of His Father and our Father!!! Much confusion exists because of a distorted understanding of the nature of eternity. It is not an infinite succession of ages from the past and into the future. It is from this distortion that men have argued that at some time Christ was created or birthed and so could not have existed before that point on the time line. They do not understand that eternity is not someTHING, it is a dimension of God Himself who identifies Himself as “I AM”. Everything He does is totally free from the limitations of time and cannot be understood by a time-oriented mentality. As another dear friend of mine, Lennie Antonsson, often says, “We have a problem in that we are always trying to understand God in terms of time”. That which is unfolding in the ages has its source in the Primal Origin (Karl Barth) which is the Ageless God.
There is a Day of the Lord. In that Day Christ is birthed and lives for the pleasure of the Father in all things. In that Day He is glorified by the Father and the Father is glorified in Him. In that Day His birthing and His glorification all occur in the eternal instant. This Day of the Lord, the Day the Father spoke of when He said, “Thou art my Son, this Day have I begotten thee” (Heb. 1: 5), that Day has broken through into the ages and continues to break through bringing forth in time, space and matter that which already IS in God and by grace all creation is brought to share in the eternal Reality as the Word is made flesh and dwells among us.
The sons of God are beginning to understand that their sonship does not have its origin at an altar of repentance or in an evangelistic counseling room or, as in my case, beside my bed as a young teenager grasped by the Spirit of grace. That moment, whatever form it took in each of our earthly lives, had its Primal Origin when the Eternal Father birthed the Eternal Son and we shared that birth in Christ as seeds within the Seed before the foundation of the world and were chosen then to be holy and without blame before Him (Eph. 1:4). In that eternal moment of the eternal Day of the Lord we were predestined in love to adoption of sons by Christ Jesus (vs 5) and in the corridors of time that eternal generation became regeneration. That which is regenerated was once generated. That which is born again was first born. That which is born from above came from above. It is not a matter of two separate occurrences, but the reproduction of the eternal in time so that to us, seeing and experiencing it in the space-time continuum, it is regeneration and rebirth.
For each of us there are those wonderful moments when God brings time into alignment with eternity and what IS so eternally becomes so in the confines of time.
It becomes clearer when we realize that we are the children of God AND the creation of God. We are the fruit of His loins in Christ and the work of His hands also in Christ. Both must be affirmed for that is the Father’s will. “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.“ (John 1:18) He birthed us of His own will and by that same will created us. That is, His eternal sons were given an individuality within the dimension of the created and made to be part of creation itself, formed of its dust, to be a kind of firstfruits to subdue all creation by the glorious love of the Father. We are children of God, actually born of Him, but we are also creatures created by Him who have a time-space existence along with all of His creatures and subject to that to which He has subjected all of creation.
So what is the relationship between these two dimensions of our being? It is this — and I hasten to say that my thoughts, understanding and words will be sorely inadequate and I welcome the contribution of more gifted brethren — that the eternal must enter the cocoon of the temporal, there to be changed (metamorphosed, transformed) taking to itself fully the elements of the temporal/created without losing its essential and spiritual eternality and by so doing metamorphose the temporal and transform it by making it share fully the nature of the eternal so that what results is a NEW CREATION whereby the created/temporal is swallowed up unto full assimilation by the begotten/eternal. Now the eternal, unbegotten Father, through His eternally begotten Son(s) both enriches His own glory and makes us to share in that richness. Here is the heart of the gospel and the meaning of grace: God does not call from afar to us demanding change that will make us fit to dwell with Him. But, wonder of wonders, He Himself effects the change by becoming flesh. He changes but not really, for the Word became flesh but in so doing did not cease to be the Word. God initiates and consummates the change from within Himself. The Word became flesh that we might become the Book of Life with the nature of the Word written on every page.
Somehow, beyond my ability to explain, all of creation will be infused with the Spirit of Sonship when the sons of God come into their own. Christ took on my createdness so that my createdness might be raised up into His Sonship and, in Him, my own sonship. Glory, glory, glory. As the kids would say, “Father, you’re too much.”
Though I have attempted to present this with some theological structure, I have marveled at how this understanding of our life in Christ before the foundation of the world has arisen by Spirit-given intuition from within many saints who would never fancy themselves to be theologically astute. My wife Jan is one of those. She just knew it because she knew it. But it is backed by scripture and by Spirit-enlightened reason. It is my hope that those who read this may be encouraged to know that this is the manner of sonship that is being worked out in us as we struggle with what seems to be an intolerable ambiguity of spirit and flesh mixture in our daily lives. We cannot say it better than the beloved apostle and when we read his exclamation we catch his spirit of wonderment –“Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God…” (1 John 3:1)
The gospel of Jesus Christ is magnificently inclusive at its very core. It permits no elitism or exclusivity; that is, its embrace is universal and absolute. Mere religiousity is obsessive-compulsive in its determination to limit the scope of who is “accepted in the beloved.“ (Eph.1:6 KJ) The divine good news of Christ’s saving accomplishment in death and resurrection is the happy tidings that the Father’s will has been done in Christ and so when we speak of the gospel we speak of that which issues forth from a Father’s heart infused with the nature of His Fatherhood. If His family is smaller in number than the human family, then we have a not-so-good good news. This truth is veiled both because of the veil over our hearts and the veil that lies upon the text of Holy Writ. Without the ministry of the great Teacher, the Spirit of truth, the parabolic principle rules; that is, the truth is there in the text but its meaning is locked away from the mind of the one to whom the Father has not YET chosen to reveal either any or all of the meaning of that which characterizes the Person of God –Fatherhood.
A principle that helps unlock the mystery of the gospel, as God sovereignly orders, is the principle that I shall call “The Law of Particularity” or “The Law of Especiality.” The word “particular” can be used to refer to something in a way that sets it completely apart from the “general” or it can be used to speak of something distinct within a greater whole without it being of an absolutely different genre. It is in the latter sense that I use the word “particularity”.
Less explanation is needed for “especiality” for something may be especially so without being exclusively so. What I am saying is that scripture speaks of things being particularly and specially true for an elect company who are representative of all.
It may be said, and scripture does say, that those who believe in Christ are the children of God and members of His family but that does not mean necessarily that they are so exclusively and in fact it does not say that. Some may enjoy sonship with particularity and in a special sense without depriving others of legitimate claim to the same relationship. For those who are with me or even ahead of me at this point you probably are thinking of the scriptures that express this so beautifully, namely; 1 Tim. 4: 10 where we read, “For it is for this we labor and strive because we have fixed our hope on the living God who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers” (NAS). And 1 Jn. 2:2, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and NOT for our sins ONLY, but also for those of the whole world” (NAS)(Emphasis added). Here we have stated what IS God’s relationship with ALL, not merely what might be if all respond correctly. As impressive as these verses are someone might say, “But they only refer to Saviorhood, not Fatherhood”. Well then I shall call upon whatever expository skills our Lord has graced me with, though my ministry is more in the vein of the prophetic in the sense of insight into the purpose of God. Go with me to Acts 17:26-29a where we find Paul in the Mars Hill auditorium instructing the intellectuals who gathered there daily for philosophical discussion and debate. Picking up the thread of his presentation before these learned men, we hear him saying in regard to all men and their relationship to God, “And He made from one [common origin, one source, one blood] all nations of men to settle on the face of the earth, having definitely determined [their] allotted periods of time and the fixed boundaries of the habitation (their settlements, lands, and abodes), So that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after Him and find Him, although He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being; as even some of your [own] poets have said, For we are also His offspring. Since then we are God’s offspring.“ (AMP) Follow Paul’s argument before these pagan worshippers as he drives home his point in the time they allow him. He wants to lay a foundation upon which he might preach to them about the resurrection of Christ and lead them to repentance. Having asserted that “we” (that is they and himself with all of humanity) have their being in God, he explains the nature of our being by quoting one of their own poets who had said of God “For we are also His offspring”. Then to further establish the thought he himself affirms the same by saying, “Since then we are God’s offspring…”
It must be noted that the Greek word “Genos” is used here which clearly refers to a race or family denoting offspring, coming from a root which means the offspring of men or animals. If Paul had wanted to merely convince them that they were created by God he would have said so, but he specifically uses a word having to do with birth and applies it to their and his and all men’s relationship with God. I find it appalling that the study notes in one of my bibles explains this as meaning that God is the creator of all when the apostle has clearly preached that God is the Father of all. In the exposition of that passage it is clear that He MADE all men of one blood in their physical, earthly existence having BIRTHED them in their spiritual existence by His one Seed, Christ. Now this sonship was ESPECIALLY true of Paul because he, as all believers in this age, had experienced regeneration, had been called out of this world’s system and brought to faith in Christ and made an emissary of God’s grace, which by the way is another example of the Law of Especiality in that Paul was chosen from his mother’s womb as a testimony to God’s grace, not to the exclusion of other believers, but as an example of what is true of all who believe. The evangelical, conservative and fundamental church has so reacted to the humanistic spin put on the universality of God’s Fatherhood that they have abandoned the truth and turned sonship into an elitist club composed of those who can boast that they did what was necessary in obedience to the gospel in order to become children of God. Now that statement calls for explanation since the gospel, as it has been preached to us, has been more man-centered than God-centered.
We are children of God firstly, not because we have acquired a spiritual experience but firstly because God, within Himself, has an eternal loving, self-knowing intercourse that birthed His Son and his many sons in Him. That eternal, primal origin becomes experiential to us who are dead in trespasses and sins in the flesh when we are reborn by His Spirit, but please dear brother and sister, note that it is a rebirth, a resurrection from the grave of our alienation from our Father who first birthed us in Christ before we ever needed regeneration and before the created and physical dimension was added to our being. It is a renewal in time of that relationship which is eternal and it is that identity and relationship that the Father holds to His bosom in His foreknowedge and predestination of us.
WE ARE TO BE — AS TRANSFIGURED, CREATED AND EARTH-FORMED ONES — WHAT WE ARE, HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AND ALWAYS WILL BE IN THE LOINS OF OUR FATHER.
Spiritual death has not essentially altered that relationship but it has alienated us from the Father who refuses to be alienated from us. More explanation is needed now for those whose minds have been corrupted by a misunderstanding of Jesus words, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies.“ (John 8:44) (NAS). This verse has been used to bludgeon sinners in an attempt to make them see their need of salvation and in God’s sovereignty even the element of misinterpretation could not hinder the grace of God in turning them to Christ. But, in all the years I spent as an evangelist and pastor, I never heard anyone explain Jesus’ balancing statement found in Matt. and Luke and here I will quote Matthew’s version in Chapter 7 verse 11 (NAS) and I point out to the reader that He is speaking to yet unregerate men, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him.“ It is an evangelical dictum that one cannot claim God as Father without the experience of the new birth but here Jesus tells them God is their Father and in Luke’s version they are encouraged to ask for the good gift of the Holy Spirit. They are encouraged to look to Him, who is their eternal Father to confirm that relationship by the gift of the Holy Spirit. I call your attention also to the fact that Jesus never, in all of his severity with the religious leaders, ever predicted that they would be finally and forever barred from His kingdom but rather says in Matt. 2l:31b, “Truly I say to you that the tax-gatherers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God BEFORE you.“ (NAS)(Emphasis added)
We must take note that when Jesus said to the Pharisees “You are of your father, the devil”, he was dealing with them according to how he had essentially described them on other occasions, as hypocrites, which simply means, “play-actors”. These were men who were so devoid of any awareness of true spiritual relationship with God as Father that they had spent their lives building facades of self-righteous personas so that their whole lives lacked any reality at all and simply were lives lived out on a religious stage with a carefully written script. It was these “characters”, birthed by the lie of Satan that Jesus attacked so vehemently planting a seed that would eventually cause the true person in Christ to burst forth cracking and destroying the false persona of religious imagination. Have you noticed that that “your father, the devil” passage was aimed at upright, religious men and yet we usually aim that barrage at poor helpless out and out sinners, totally missing where Jesus was coming from.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God. even to those who believe in His name.“ (John 1:12 NAS) The wording of that verse puzzled me for many years even after I had come to understand sonship with some degree of maturity. I couldn’t understand why in that Gospel, which clearly sets forth our sonship as a matter of being born of God, that here John would speak of God giving the right to become God’s children. Was not sonship a matter of spiritual begettal and not a right to be legally bestowed? It was more obscure to me since the Greek word used is for children instead of full-grown sons. There the KJ version has it wrong. Then one day while reading E. Stanley Jones’ book, “They Unshakeable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person”, I happened upon a definition of authority by that dear, now departed brother. Keep in mind that John 1:12 if translated more fully would read “He gave them the right and/or authority to become children of God”. Jones, in tracing the essential meaning of authority said that, at its heart it means “according to the nature of.” Ah, there it was. By the nature of, first, my Father’s relationship with me and out of that my relationship with Him I may become a child of God.
This brings us to another principle. It is that we can only become what we are. We become children of God because we are His children. For a season, we may be children of wrath and children of disobedience but we are His children waiting to be manifested. Those who have read or heard much of what this disciple has written and preached know the prized relationship I have with my dear spiritual Papa, Harry Robert Fox. I know, I only have one Father in heaven, but Harry’s relationship with me has been one where THE Father has caused Harry to participate in that Fatherhood and incarnate it in our friendship and fellowship. One time as we discussed something of the order of what I am writing about, He, very unassumingly pointed out this truth of the economy of God: All the imperatives of scripture are based upon the indicatives. Case in point; (this is my case in point) the apostle Paul prays, as recorded in Ephesians, for the Church that we will be filled with all the fullness of God. But he has already declared the Church previously in the same book to be “the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.” The imperative based upon, and proceeding from the indicative. So likewise, men must be born of God in order to see and enter the kingdom of God (John. Chapter 3). We must be born from above because we are born from above… the indicative issuing forth in the imperative. Dear child of God, if sometimes the imperatives of your relationship with Christ are about to drive you to despair, remember – that which you must be, God has made you to be in His Son.
I have been a Christian for over 47 years now since He stormed into my life and commanded me, with a word that could not return Him void, to follow him and I am just beginning to realize the wonder, the glory, the inexpressible truth that I am a child of God, the fruit of His loins. The great Father of glory the creator and sustainer of all things is my Dad. It’s finally getting hold of me and I know that nothing else has any real value compared to that and that anything that has real value, even the dearest of relationships, finds it content and worth in Him. Look out world, one of God’s kids is about to burst on the scene, one just like His first-begotten Son and there are millions more just like Him/me. God bless all of you who consider these things.
ETERNAL SONS, Parts 1-2 [John R. Gavazzoni] 1