BY: JOHN R GAVAZZONI
JANUARY 20, 2006
Very shortly after coming to Christ as a teenager, I found that I had, on one hand, the desire to fit into, and be accepted by the church of my early mentoring, even trying to accept unquestioningly their claim to know what “the Bible says,” but on the other hand, I rather soon found that I couldn’t suppress a healthy skepticism regarding their insistence that they had the truth pretty well nailed down. I was pretty sure I could see at least some holes in their doctrinal assumptions.
(By the way, be aware that there is among Christian leadership, what the psychologist would call, “the adaptive child.” The kind of leader who will never, in any serious way, break rank with what his group has determined to be the best version of the truth. You can only advance spiritually so for with that kind of leadership.)
Back to my story: I had joined a fairly representative congregation of the fundamentalist, independent Bible church movement-branch of the contemporary empirical church of that day. I had come to Christ in the midst of a genuine revival that swept through our city, especially impacting young people. The congregation that I had joined had been part of that revival.
There was, for a time, a wonderful, pristine spiritual dynamic that energized a network of youth fellowship that came to center in an inter-denominational weekly Saturday youth rally sponsored by several churches, including the one to which I belonged. In fact, the rally was the brainchild of my pastor who provided most of the adult leadership. He was a man who genuinely loved us kids.
When say that I came to Christ in the midst of revival, I mean it. There were times as we would gather on those Saturdays when the atmosphere would fairly crackle with presence of God. I have looked back and realized that, though there was no charismatic movement in those days, and we were not at all “Pentecostal,” the same atmosphere prevailed when we came together, as I came to experience when I became involved in “Pentecost” and the Charismatic Movement.
But as time went on, my theological skepticism grew and became more intelligent. The independent, Bible Church fundamentalism of my early mentoring seemed more and more inconsistent with the essence of my experience of Christ.
I share this life-passage with my readers as classically representative of what would become almost a way of life for me; joining up with some grouping of believers who I would soon discover was claiming a corner on the truth; claiming more than they ought to.
I won’t belabor the point by going into all the details of how the above syndrome repeated itself several times with several groups over the last 50 plus years. Lest you misunderstand, in nearly every instance, I did not leave in a huff because I hadn’t found the perfect church. I went to great pains to try stay, yet “be myself.”
What nearly always happened was that “they” either made it clear that I had worn out my welcome by thinking outside their box, or they went so far as to announce publicly that I was demon-infested and a danger to the congregation. I remember one time expressing my dismay about this repeated, very tearing feature of my life during an intimate time of fellowship with several close brethren. The man who had become a spiritual father to me, quite unlike his usual manner, very tersely said to me, “What did you expect? That’s the reward of a prophet.”
Now, I find myself, nearly a septuagenarian, thinking, “Oh, oh, the signs are appearing again.” I’m finding myself questioning some rather basic assumptions held by the majority of those who had come to think of me as one of them, and who have opened their doors to our ministry.
I will say, though, that the last time I “let my hair down” and challenged the status quo definition of what could be called a revelation-distinctive of our tradition (yeah, I’ve got to call it that), the openness of hearts was deeply gratifying, indicating that something is happening in other hearts besides my own in such matters.
Let me make one thing very clear, I have always been intensely averse to “majoring on the minors,” but when a focus of Christian expectation has a seriously flawed element, I must speak out. Specifically, in this case, I’m talking about the particular expectation regarding the “revealing of the sons of God,” as has been held by brethren associated with a move of God, most often referred to as “latter-day rain and/or manifest sonship,” or the message of “kingdom-sonship.”
Up front, before I challenge certain assumptions, I simply must acknowledge the tremendous turn in the direction of the mark of the true gospel of Christ, and with many, the full universal scope of salvation in Christ, and the nature of the administration of God that the Lord has accomplished among my brethren, through this move that began in 1945 and continues to this very day.
Through this company of believers, possibly more than any others, serious attention has been focused on the restoration-constitution of the gospel and the centrality of the revealing of the sons of God being intrinsic to the deliverance of all creation from its bondage to decay.
The perversion of the gospel as a message having to do with the possibility of “shunning hell, and gaining heaven” has been dealt a telling blow. Many, many thousands, even, I dare say, millions of Christians have come to repent of accepting a heaven or hell context in which to understand the Divine Nature, and have come to understand that Jesus, indeed, is Lord, and that His lordship means that “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world and those who dwell in it,” and that the kingdom element of the gospel lies at its very heart.
We have come to see that the grace of God, the gospel of Christ, and the power of God, are not about saving people from an imaginary eternal pit, and getting them to heaven, but about all creation enjoying the rule of a King who is Love. The gospel is the good news that death has been defeated for ALL men, and ALL creation will be infused with the glory of God because of the perfect work of the Father through His Son(s).
But a subtle spin has been put on the grand theme of “the revealing of the sons of God” proclaimed by Paul, as recorded in Romans 8:19-21 (please read it again). Allow me to explain what I mean by a subtle spin, by asking a question or two. First: Who are these sons of God, by whom God shall deliver all creation?
Are they – as many have come to believe and are inclined to maintain inflexibly and unyieldingly – a select “company” of sons within the family of God, who will, at the close of this age, emerging out of the larger community of saints, and possessing, by some definition, a level of spiritual maturity distinguishing them from the rest of their brethren, be a final, elite, divine instrument for the fulfillment of nature’s divine destiny?
Brethren, listen to me; while I hold dear the hope of the deliverance of creation from corruption by it’s participation in the freedom of the glory of the sons of God, I no longer hold to the particular spin put upon that truth as explained above. Let’s return to the question, who are the sons of God, of whom Paul writes? Well, dear ones, in a word, they are the children of God, grown up.
They are the children of God (all of them) fully grown up, not relatively, but absolutely to that goal of maturity that can only be attained when “we ALL attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to A mature Man (singular)(emphases, mine), to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”
You see, the measure of maturity required to deliver creation, is not a maturity relative to all lesser maturity, it is the absolute maturity which is “measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (Eph. 4:13 NAS). This is the final maturity of the whole body of Christ grown up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the WHOLE body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (vs.16)
This colossus of God is a corporate body comprised of every child of God, fully matured by the life of Christ within, and that life is a life with a quality of unity consisting of the Son of God’s faith in, and knowledge of, the Father. The unity of the body of Christ, is the unity of the Father and Son, marked by the Son’s complete dependence on the Father, based upon His knowledge of the Father’s love-nature and the absolute faithfulness that is rooted in that love. It is the very unity of the Godhead, of Deity Itself.
The New Testament admits to no maturity that stands on its own, that is not interdependent. All spiritual maturity is interdependent. All spiritual maturity draws from the life and members of the whole body of Christ. Whenever any one, or several members advance in maturity to some degree beyond all the members, it is because the life of the body has, at that stage, required a maturity on the part of that member, or those members, toward the larger and final, absolute maturity of the whole body.
Has it occurred to many of my readers, that for one, or a few, to make some relative advance, it is required that others be slower than they, for the relative immaturity of some spurs the advance of others. This is a divine principle. Haven’t you noticed that stubbornness and resistance to further light, has the effect upon the ones sharing the greater light, of causing their roots to sink deeper into the truth the others are, for a moment, rejecting. What would you “mature” ones do without the weak and opposing brethren?
Conversely, the slower are dependent upon the more advanced if they are to mature, and the roles can, at any time, become reversed. But in respect to that absolute maturity that is “the measure of the stature that belongs to the fullness of Christ,” until we ALL attain to that, ALL penultimate maturity, though advanced by comparison to that of some others, is not sufficient to be that by which God shall “fill all things.” (vs.10b)
We have failed to connect Romans with Ephesians. Only the One New Man (Eph. 2:15), complete, will be up to the task of filling all things with the fullness of God.
If I have at least influenced you a little to revisit, to rethink “sonship,” may I apply just a little more pressure and encourage you to ask the question, “How great is the number of children who will grow up to be sons revealing in themselves the glory of God?” How large is the family of which they are members? Hear the word of the Lord, church: It is as large as the family of man. To conceive of the family of God as being smaller than the family of man, is to, in some measure, miss what the family of God is all about.
We will turn again to our brother, Paul, as he reveals his understanding regarding that childhood out from which sonship has been coming, is coming and will continue to come unto consummation. If the sons of God are the children of God grown up into an absolute, corporate maturity, the question arises, who are the children of God? Paul’s answer is that all men are the children of God, and he is very precise in His wording. We have the record of the breadth of Paul’s understanding of the family of God recorded in Acts 17:28,29.
In his address to the religiously and philosophically inclined Athenians who gathered regularly at the Areopagus, he declares all men to be God’s kin, God’s offspring. Yep, that’s the word he used. Look it up in Strong’s Concordance #1085: “Genos.” The root of the word, to which Dr. Strong refers us, reinforces the truth that we are kin of God, His offspring, for he refers us to a Greek word meaning “generated,” “caused to be.”
Paul could have easily chosen a Greek word indicating only physical creation, but he did not. He specifically called upon a word to convey generation, kinship, same-species birth. We are all the offspring of God, the fruit of His loins. In the aion, we return to that Being in which we have our being by REgeneration. We become in the aion, what we are from eternity. This is the nature of the aionian administration of God, to reproduce in time – in the face of the lie that seeks to separate us from our Father – what is true of us from eternity.
So the conclusion is that nothing less than the totality of humanity will finally manifestly comprise the body of Christ, the family of God, the one new Man, the sons of God. What presently appears as the body of Christ and the family of God, is only representative of that final, universal family that all creation is waiting upon to lead it to glory.
“They can’t see the forest for the trees.” That could be said of so many formal or informal fellowship-networks of believers whose gathering together, in one form or another, has tended to be around some particular revelation-distinctive, as rich in content as that distinctive might be.
It is so important that, besides closely examining individual trees in the forest, that we get up higher and see the whole of the forest, its larger majestic grandeur, so that we don’t end up, so to speak, with our noses up against tree bark, virtually oblivious to the larger picture.
This most certainly applies to the subject of creation eagerly waiting for the revealing of the sons of God. (Rom. 8:19). There is a principle that, once grasped, helps to get us to that higher ground that will afford us a view of this breathtakingly glorious forest. This principle is: – simply stated – “You ain’t, as the elect of God, generically different than any other human being, fella.’ You need to get that through your head, AND, even as to your initial and continuing response to God’s call, you have nothing of which to boast.”
You see; folks who have received the grace of God that is intrinsic to the election of God, have not received that grace to set them apart as God’s pets, but as God’s patterns. Day after day, God adds to, and sets apart some as members of, what is, the penultimate manifestation of the elect of God. They are the less than final expressions of His election. There is the ultimate dimension of election and the penultimate dimension.
Ultimately, all humanity is the elect of God. Those presently participating in election are meant to be indicative of, REPRESENTATIVE of, how He, not only values all mankind, and relates to all mankind, but representative of that community to which all men belong – the community of the elect.
Let me draw a parallel as an excellent illustration. When, on earth, believers gather together, interact together, relate to one another as members of Christ’s body in locally expressive ways within society, we call that the church (or better, the gathering, or assembly). But certainly, whenever or wherever there is that expression, we don’t think of that as the whole of the body of Christ, It’s a local corporate expression of Him at any given point in time.
Even if we were to speak of the whole called-out gathering of Christ in the entire earth, even that would not be the whole of Christ’s body, for there are those who are no longer with us visibly, and there are those who are yet to be added to our ranks. Ultimately, the “church” (poor translation) is the totality of the redeemed, and that totality is/will be the totality of all humanity.
The present expression is, just that, a present expression; it is not the whole, and until the whole is revealed, whatever the called-out ones are meant to accomplish will not be fully accomplished. Though much is accomplished penultimately as we move toward the aionian consummation of God’s purpose in the earth; though we do break through the gates of Hades and proclaim our Lord’s victory over death and the grave, the gates still have, by some definition, a presence in the earth that presents us with the challenge of that final unqualified demonstration of death’s impotence.
When the writers of the New Testament – particularly in respect to the epistles – speak of “we,” “us,” “you;” they did not intend to be understood as addressing an eternally distinct element within the human family, but a called-out expression of the whole of humanity, which will be called out of death, into life abundant; out of the kingdom of this world, into the kingdom of our God, and of His Christ.
So it is with the revealing of the sons of God. The sons of God are all the children of God, fully grown up into nothing less than the measure of the stature of Christ, and those children, finally understood, are each and every child “born of a woman.” The Last Adam, gathers together, sums up, and fulfills in Himself, all of the first Adam. Until we see this, the cult-mentality is still present with us and corrupting the fellowship of the saints. “Us” and “them” has to begin to take on a different meaning to us. “Them thar folk” who don’t know what we know need to be seen as “them thar folk” who are OUR kind, but just don’t know it yet.
I’ve got to get a minor matter out of the way before continuing our study. A couple readers pointed out my very obvious mistake in saying that the latter-day rain revival began in 1945. That was either a typo or a momentary mental block on my part. That phenomenal move of God began, of course, in 1948, and lasted until 1953 in terms of its pristine dynamic. I said that it has continued to this day, which is true in the sense of its impetus still being felt in the dynamic of much continuing revelation.
Responses to the first two installments were all, in my estimation, very intelligent, both in terms of the kind of questions that were raised, the depth of understanding where there were affirmations given, and in the honest confession of deep disturbance that was caused in some cases. All in all, a gracious spirit, so far, has prevailed. I have been urged by close friends to write at least this third installment to probe our subject further, and to add clarification to what has been shared thus far.
Here we go: In order to freshen our perspective regarding that particular eschatological expectation-distinctive that prevails within a loose-knit, wonderfully enlightened community of believers, often identified as those who embrace the manifest sonship/kingdom message, it is important to look at the subject within its larger context. It became very obvious to me, from one phone call response and several e-mail responses – and I hasten to acknowledge again how intelligent was the content, and how gracious was the spirit of the responses – that the immediate larger context of consideration had to be the doctrine of election.
Very few subjects have the potential of exposing either a general darkness of spiritual mentality, or of remaining pockets of darkness in other-wise enlightened hearts, than does the subject of divine election. I have a burning desire that the saints of God might come to see the grandeur, the scope, the simplicity, and yet, paradoxically, the complexity, and finally, that singularity of purpose in the nature of God’s predestinating choices.
Also, few subjects are more vulnerable to the can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees syndrome that has impaired theology’s search for truth down through the centuries. No subject has endured more abuse and distortion than the subject of sovereign election. For instance, the two theological camps, Calvinism and Arminianism, classically represent the propensity to either blatantly ignore certain undeniable biblical themes, or to twist, bend, and pummel them into a shape to fit some theological box.
Faced with our Lord’s regal claim that discipleship is solely a matter of His choice, as summarily declared in His tender yet authoritarian statement, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you,” (John. 15:16 NAS), what is Armenianism’s response? Well, basically, the Armenian totally ignores the force of Jesus’ assertion because it violates his precious doctrine of free will. And, what about the Calvinist? He takes the statement very seriously and then draws a conclusion that is rooted in the darkest regions of the human psyche.
The Calvinist concludes that God has chosen some for heaven and some for hell, and that’s it – period. The Armenian insists that God can’t carry out His choice without man’s approval, and they both lay claim to scriptural, moral and ethical high ground. You fools; deceivers you are, God-character assassins, lacing the gospel of Christ with the poison of your traditions, blind leaders of the blind.
Brethren, we do not want in any way, or in any measure, to be found in complicity with such infamy. This is a subject of great weight, worthy of our deepest worshipful consideration. Think with me: When our Lord spoke those words to The Twelve – granting that, at that moment the words were meant for their ears only and that He had them particularly in mind -, hasn’t it been right for us to find a principle in his statement that applies to all of us?
Are we not to understand that though speaking to them particularly, He affirmed the incontrovertible, universal, divine principle regarding the call of God, that it is just that – God’s call, God’s choice, wholly? If so, something so essential to understanding has been established. It is just this, that election is not about exclusivity, it is about inclusivity. Many millions have been chosen and called to the Master’s service since He spoke those words to that small company, because His words did not indicate a closed-ended election, but a very special representative election.
Those who are elected, are elected as representing the Way of God for all men. Or we might say that the exclusivity of election points to election’s inclusivity. I am elected by God so that He might reveal through me His election of you and every other man and woman. God’s election begins with One through whom He reveals His election of all. “Many are called, but few are chosen,” but each time the call goes out, more respond, in this life, or the next, and incrementally more are proven to be the chosen, until finally all are approved.
To understand this principle, please notice that God’s choice of The Twelve was for the purpose of them bearing abiding fruit. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance. God gives to us, and calls us according to His immutable will. This is election, plain and simple. We must trace the commission for fruit bearing back to its original aionian appearance, and in so doing we will be able to better interpret the meaning of election as it appears ongoingly in God’s working in and among men.
The record of that original election unto fruit bearing is found in Gen. 1: 27 and 28: “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them. And God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘be fruitful… ‘“ Brethren, this was God’s first and all encompassing election. All other personal applications of God’s electing prerogative are subservient to, under the umbrella of, and moving toward the fulfillment of that original decision of God.
It is man, Adam, in his gender-completeness, male and female, who is the elect of God to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. This is God’s ordination, God’s gift and calling that shall not be reversed, amended, or repented of. This original election embraces, defines and gives meaning to all other incidents of God choosing men and women for this or that subordinate purpose. All election begins with, moves by, and is fulfilled out from the dynamic of God’s commission to Adam.
You may assume that your particular experience of election – as genuine as it may be, and as conscious as God has made you of it – has placed you at the very forefront of fulfilling His ultimate intention. Well, OK. Think that, if you must, but don’t be offended if I give it a raised eyebrow of skepticism. There have been many before you, of a similar mind.
More than once, I have felt deeply that the level of revelation in my heart, and in the hearts of those I was keeping company with in the fellowship of the saints, indicated that I was among the elect of the elect. It’s a pretty heading feeling, I tell you.
Now I would hope that the reader knows that I am referring to Adam, not merely as one individual, but as man, corporate. The human race was in the loins of Adam, and, according to biblical principle, what God spoke to him, male and female, applies to the race that came out of him.
It is that gender-complete humanity that finally is the body and bride of Christ, as seen prototypically in Adam and Eve. Nothing less than the whole body of humanity is the body of Christ and the bride of Christ. Nothing less than the whole of humanity is the temple of the living God. Nothing less than the whole of humanity is “the sheep of His pasture,” the family of God, AND will be the revealed sons of God. Nothing less than the whole of humanity is “he who overcomes.”
Does this mean that the overcoming that His grace accomplishes in each of us individually is of little meaning? Of course not! But it is that complete, final overcoming that gives the fullest meaning to our individual victories. Often we allow ourselves to feel special because of the special group of believers we belong to.
Your special-ness lies in the special-ness of all humanity. Do not demean that by a cultic mentality of spiritual superiority. There is nothing more special than being human. God thought so much of it that, in Christ, He became flesh and dwelt among us.
The great apocalyptic figure in the Book of Daniel, that figure that is at the heart of Daniel’s revelation of God’s forward movement historically toward the conclusion of His purpose in the earth, is “the Son of MAN.” Jesus Christ, our Lord summed up in Himself the whole of humanity and humanness, and by Him, and Him alone, man is qualified as, and demonstrated to be, God’s elect.
All of man’s destiny centered in Him, and all that would disqualify man from fulfilling his destiny came to rest upon Him. In His death, all of man’s failure ended, and in His resurrection, all that man was intended to be rose to the throne of God.
Until Jesus, all individual deaths were a part of an ongoing, passed-on death, but in Him, and in His all-inclusive death, death came to its end – resurrection. In Him, man is fulfilled and demonstrated to be the elect of God.
This installment in our series will have a definite confrontational element to it, in order for me to reinforce and clarify my insistence that all men are the children of God. I have heard “through the grapevine,” that I have seriously ruffled feathers by including such an affirmation as being fundamental to the understanding of sonship.
At the encouragement of a father in the faith, I will attempt to shore up my case in the simplest manner possible, beginning with an affirmation of sonship that was made by the Lord Jesus regarding those who he described as being evil and judgmental hypocrites.
If the Lord Jesus included such manner of men in the family of God, then it ought to help us understand the principle, “henceforth know we no man after the flesh.” It seems that regardless of the hostility toward Him that arose out of lie-darkened hearts, the Lord still embraced all men as His brethren. Is that simply wishful thinking on my part or is it really scriptural?
For an answer to that question, I refer you to Matt. 7:11, where the following statement of our Lord is recorded: “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.” (NAS, emphasis, mine). Now I assure you that I can be empathetic to anyone who still has his needle stuck in a fundamentalist groove when faced with this perspective of Jesus regarding sonship.
In my early years as a fundamentalist evangelist, I much preferred majoring on the Lord’s shocking indictment, “Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.” That statement had more get-’em-to-the-altar teeth to it, whereas anything suggesting “the Fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of man,” would set me off on a tirade against what I had been taught was just one more example of the ignorance of “those liberals” who refused to believe what the Bible taught about mankind.
Now I would hope, when faced with what seems to be a serious discrepancy in the record of our Lord’s understanding of man’s generation, one would wonder just what was His view of mankind in respect to our relationship with the Father. Oh dear, here we go again, with the necessity to remind bible students how important it is to interpret the Bible in context.
How could the Lord refer to men as both children of God and children of the Devil? It is obvious from the contexts in which He made both statements that He included, on both occasions, men of evil disposition. Context, brethren, context. If you assume to practice hermeneutics (the science of interpretation, especially biblical), you must practice it IN CONTEXT, and in comparing scripture with scripture, you must allow—by the Spirit’s inspiration, of course – scripture to explain scripture.
When we examine closely the contexts in which Jesus ascribed a satanic identity to people, something very enlightening, and consistent with God’s Fatherhood is revealed in the text. We find that the “person” Jesus speaks to was not truth-constituted, or truth-identified. “He” is the person who does not “know as we are known,” he knows himself “after/according to the flesh.” Knowing oneself after the flesh is to be deceived into accepting a false persona, and the Lord must deal with such a travesty most firmly.
In addition to Jesus’ ascribing Devil fatherhood to men in Jn.8:44, we have a similar incident in His dealing with Peter, an apostle of the Lord, no less. You’ll recall the incident, I’m sure. Peter had just received the Lord’s commendation for his revelation and confession of who Jesus was, i.e., “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt.16:16)
Jesus commends Peter’s revelation as coming from the Father, and affirms Peter’s identification with Himself, with the words, “Thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” Then the narrative immediately moves on, as one might expect, to our Lord’s explanation of His coming passion:
“From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.”
Well, brother Pete went from the sublime to the ridiculous, in short order, didn’t he? One moment he’s full of revelation, and according to Jesus, in respect to his confession, he’s become identified with the rock-foundation of the church, Christ, Himself, and the next moment, he’s standing there with carnal minded pie all over his face.
Jesus could not ignore such a blatant mind-set of contrariness to the “the cross set before Him.” Instantly, Jesus recognizes the voice of the Adversary as Peter’s alter-persona, a counterfeit of who Peter really was in Christ, and He says to that Satan-invented, lie-constituted, false identity, “Get thee behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interest, but man’s.”
I hope you can grasp the fact that, when Peter spoke in such a way so contrary to Jesus mission, the Lord, though speaking to him, does not call him, Peter; He calls him Satan. In other words, the Lord refuses to recognize that projected persona as Peter’s identity, though it was operating through him, he speaks to the persona of the alienated, and alienating carnal mind which is enmity (“the carnal mind is enmity against God), which is the essence of “the enemy.”
When Peter spoke by the Spirit of Christ, Jesus replies to him according to the truth of Peter’s identity: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.”
Brethren, you’ll always find that split-off-from-reality persona in the context when Jesus speaks so harshly to people, He is taking aim at exposing the counterfeit persona that constitutes the kingdom of darkness.
That’s why, on one occasion He could affirm folks as children of God, yet on another occasion, speak to that aionian anti-Christ persona that had taken over the consciousness of ones who were really, as to their spiritual origin, as to their reality within the Reality, children of God.
Another example of this is found in Matt. 7:21-23. The subject has to do with those who expect entrance into the kingdom through their religious profession and performance: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ “
When, out of the enmity of the carnal mind, we present to the Lord an identity of self-righteousness as that which makes us worthy of His kingdom, the Lord refuses to accept that identity of us. To that projected identity, He says, I never knew you, depart from me.” He knows who we are, and will not acknowledge any other identity than that which He, and our Father knows as us. Not only will he refuse to acknowledge such, but He casts it out of His presence.
The Father knows us all as His children; even when we do not know ourselves as such. I have heard brethren many times try to sidestep scripture’s affirmation of our God-generation, by saying that, except for those who are born again, if God refers to people as His children, it is only in the sense that He has created them. No, we are, all of us, both the fruit of His loins, and the work of His hands.
It is not God’s creativeness that makes us His children, it is by His Seed, by divine impregnation, conception and birth that we are children of God. Our creature-hood is a matter of our being sent into the space-time continuum and into material formation, but He has known us, and chosen us as His children, His sons, from eternity.
I have to say to some of my brethren, “are you a teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things?” Do you not understand that if we experience REgeneration in the aion, it is because we were generated in eternity. If there is REbirth, there must have been birth. If God is an eternal Father, by nature, He can only have eternal sons. We are eternal sons in the Son, children born of the extension of that singular Seed, the Christ.
In His wisdom, He has given us creaturely form in the aion, and here, we forgot our eternal family, but by the regeneration of His Spirit, through Christ Jesus, our Lord, we REmember, we are returned to that MEMBERship in the family of God, by faith in Christ.
It is not unusual, early on in the renewal of our minds, for the Spirit to penetrate the theological frame of reference within which we have formed our concept of God, and, while effecting genuine, life-giving changes, not yet, at that stage, challenging the very skeletal structure of our view of the Divine Nature.
When the Lord revealed to me the universal breadth of salvation in Christ, for instance, I still, more or less, incorporated that truth into my personal version of classical Reformed theology, though, of course, the necessity for some modification became immediately apparent. I had no idea, back then in 1963, how drastic a process of conceptual renovation I was about to undergo.
All of us who have been significantly enlightened by kingdom-sonship truth, still cling to concepts, that if carefully examined, would be found to be grossly inconsistent with what lies at the heart of our revelation. Time and time again, I’ve been brought face to face with the fact that my concept of God and His ways were going to require serious renovation, and not a mere re-arranging of mental furniture, a fresh coat of paint, and some new pictures on the wall.
Part of the frame of reference within which we seek to understanding God’s Fatherhood, is our view of the relationship of eternity and time. We really need to ask ourselves what we mean by the word, “eternity.” To the best of my knowledge, having been, I think, well informed on the subject by brethren trained in the original languages of scripture, there is no Hebrew or Greek word used by the writers of either old or new testaments, that exactly equates to, or is adequate to define eternity, in spite of conventional translations.
If eternity is to be found in the Bible, it must be by implication rather than by direct linguistic statement. I think this is true in respect to the whole gamut of what folks understand eternity to be. We are all sure, it seems, that there is something that, while being somehow related to time, transcends time. We are sure that there is a dimension where beginnings and endings fit, but that there is another dimension where beginning and ending are no longer relevant. We call these two dimensions – however we finally define them – “time” and “eternity.”
There is a strong association of eternity with death in most western minds. Most folks think of someone going out into eternity at death, and (yuck), a very popular evangelical concept joins eternity and death together as eternal death – a very painful, never ending death. I gather – and I’ve been around taking mental notes among Christians of all persuasions for a long time – that most Christians assume, that at death, time ends for a person, and eternity begins.
There’s a common conception that we proceed from time into eternity at death, that we “cross over,” but it’s very uncommon to find someone with the understanding that we proceed from eternity into time at birth, and that eternity is hidden within time.
That’s often referred to as belief in “pre-existence.” But that’s a very misleading misnomer, for eternity is not to be understood as being before time and after time, but as that dimension which encompasses time, and within which time has its meaning, and though it can be said that we proceed into time from eternity, we are not to infer that by doing so we have left eternity. We are presently within time, which is within eternity, and eternity is acting upon time both from all around it and within it.
That brings up the relationship of Being and becoming. “In Him, we live and move and have our being.” God is not the big Being among all us lesser beings; God IS Being, in which we have our being. God’s Being is eternal, and it is within the eternity that He IS, that we have our being. Our time (aionian) experience ultimately has to do with becoming in time what we are in eternity.
That’s why John informs us that those who receive Christ are given the right or authority to become children of God. That is a most interesting statement. Have you ever wondered what “right” or “authority” has to do with becoming a child of God? Ought you not to be wondering, “I always thought that becoming a child was a matter of impregnation, conception and birth, not a “right.”
Brethren, if you can grasp the following truth, you will take a substantial step toward a mature understanding of “sonship,” of spiritual generation and regeneration. That truth, simply stated, is that only by being God’s child in and from eternity, gives you the right to become God’s child in time. You cannot ultimately become what you are not. You can only become what you eternally are, and you will be subjected in that process to enduring what you are not, in order that the full glory of who you are might be revealed.
Our sonship is, as are all things, within the Son, within the eternal Son. In Him, before the foundation of the world, we were chosen that we should be holy and blameless before Him. He did not choose us as children yet to be, as He did not choose His only-begotten Son as One yet to be. His Son is the eternally chosen One, within Whom all chose-ness (election) exists, and in Whom all election has its meaning and is to be understood.
We, in Christ, were not – as I once thought – merely a thought within God’s mind in eternity. In, and proceeding from, eternity, we ARE in Him Who IS, and together, in the aions, we become what we are, stripping off all that we are not by His death and resurrection. Christ is the Word of God, meaning God’s complete thought expressed in the Person of His Son.
We cannot say that there was a time in eternity when the Son was only a thought in God, and later in eternity, the thought became the Word. There is no “later” in eternity. All that God is in His Son, and the Son’s identity, as per His testimony, is in the I AM. It was not through His human birth that He became the Son of God, it was by that eternally constituted birth that what He eternally IS, entered time, and so it is with all men in Him.
The apostle, Paul, evidently experienced a great renewal of mind in respect to the message of the gospel as found in the history of God’s dealings with the Hebrew patriarch, Abraham. It is by the story of that man, that the apostle is apprehended to see the place of election, promise and grace in the economy of God.
He is brought face to face, among other things – but in this case, quite disturbingly – with the fact that his own, and his fellow Jew’s obsession with the law of Moses – a necessary contrarian insert into the relationship of man with God – completely deviates from the straight-line thought of God that leads all mankind out from eternity, into, and through the ages, on to glory.
Certainly, other very noteworthy personages appear on the biblical scene before and after Abram (exalted father), who would become Abraham (Father of many). Who, among Bible students, has not found an element of example for spiritual living in Enoch, Noah, Joseph, Daniel, David and a host of others that stand out in the history of God’s way with men?
Through each and every one of them, we have been afforded glimpses into the righteousness of God. But Abraham stands out among them as quite singular and unique in affording a clear and comprehensive frame of reference for Paul’s, and our search to understand the nature of divine intrusion into the human condition.
Without the story of Abraham, the experiences of all of our other brethren leading up to the appearance of Christ, would only give us fragments, little bits and pieces of the puzzle, inadequate, in and of themselves, or taken together, to give a complete and cohesive picture of “Him, with Whom we have to do.” Finally, of course, the story of Abraham must defer to the Logos, Himself, but only to Him as the One who explains and defines in Himself the nature of God’s embrace of humanity.
While fully appreciating the wisdom in the generally accepted assertion that basing any doctrine on biblical silence is to do so on very shaky ground, there is an unmistakably significant silence on God’s part in respect to anything about Abe that would particularly qualify him as one by whom God might gain a foothold among men for a momentous advance toward fulfilling His aionian purpose. As the saying goes, “the silence is deafening.”
This certainly must have contributed to Paul’s understanding that God’s choice of human instrumentality traces back to the womb before the man or woman in question could have done any good or evil that would qualify or disqualify them for heavenly service. He understood that in respect to Jacob and Esau, and was keenly aware of it in respect to his own calling as one in whom God would very uniquely reveal His grace.
One of the first things that is established in God’s relationship with Abraham, is that Abraham brings nothing to the table. He is sovereignly chosen. Superiority of human character is irrelevant. It has no place in the matter. God chose him on no other basis than His sovereign will. There is a prevenient grace that kicks off a process of grace that leads to a consummation of grace. In a word, it’s grace all the way.
Prevenient grace causes a person to come face to face with his own emptiness. The man or woman finds themselves no longer able to hide from the depths of their need. Palliatives no longer work. He or she realizes that they cannot escape the One Charles Spurgeon called, “The Hound of Heaven.” His hounding lies deep within our own humanness, and suddenly it rises up demanding to be recognized. The writer of Hebrews says that Abraham looked for a city whose Architect and Builder is God.
The sovereign God within Abraham uncovered for him, and to him, his need to be part of a gathering, an ecclesia of humanity, which could satisfy the ache of his heart; for that community formed by the communion which constitutes the family of God, the family which God is. We know it now as the communion of the Holy Spirit, the communion in the love of God and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It has first the vertical dimension in that it can only come from above, but it must also be horizontal as the body edifies itself in love. Every failure of religion is rooted in man’s attempt to bring this about. Only God can do this by His sovereign election and will, and He always starts very small. He starts with one tiny elected injection-point into the whole of humanity in order to fulfill His larger election of all humanity as the family of God.
Who is ultimately that injection-point? Why, of course, it’s Jesus Christ. He is to be understood as that elect One to whom all other election points. He is the Chosen One, the Son of God’s love. Now, brethren, we’re zeroing in on the meaning of election and sonship: The One, who is God’s elect, includes all in Himself, thus, in Him all are elect. Paul wrote that we thus judge, that if One died for all, then all died. How could that be true, except that all were in him, so that His death was inclusive of their death.
Back to Abraham. God’s sovereign choice of Abraham was for the purpose that in him, by way of his SEED, all the families of the earth would be blessed. Remember, Paul explained that the SEED – singular – of Abraham was to be understood as Christ. God’s choice of Abraham points forward to God’s choice of Christ, Who includes in Himself, the whole of humanity. As the first Adam included all in himself naturally, so the Last Adam included in Himself all spiritually.
We need a whole new mindset regarding election. Election, as classically pictured in Abraham, was not about Abraham alone, it was about God’s election, in Christ, of all humanity by which He will fill all things (or the whole.) That’s THE election. Read Ephesians. All of us were chosen in eternity to take on material form in the aions, so that out from our spirit-essence, which is Christ, we might fill all creation, including own creature-hood with the glory of God, which is the substance of our being in God.
There’s a lot of lip service given to Christ-centeredness, when all the while a whole lot of very subtle ego-centeredness is going on, and THAT often in the name of election! I’ve been through the gamut of pretensions to election. First, as a Roman Catholic. You see, we were the true church, the original church, founded on God’s choice, Peter. God brought me out of that into independent, Bible-believing fundamentalism, with its version of election. We were Bible believers, and Dr. Scofield’s notes gave us an answer for every question.
Then there was Pentecostalism, with its evidence of election; speaking in tongues, followed by a brief stint in “holiness.” The election-distinctive there was the “eradication of the carnal nature.” I’ll tell you, you’re special when the very “root of sin” has been ripped out of you. I remember a mentor of mine who tested a man’s profession of that experience. He kicked him in the shins, and the man lost all his sanctification in a moments time.
Next came “The Recovery of the Church,” with its claim to be a special gathering of those who were faithfully “obedient to the heavenly vision.” Then, the charismatic movement that saw itself as an elect bunch out of classical Pentecost and old-line denominations. That was a particular mix of the sublime and the ridiculous, I’ll tell you.
Now, I find myself among brethren – and I say this with the greatest sincerity – who express more of the Spirit of Christ across the board than I have ever witnessed before in my walk with the Lord. Never have I witnessed, generally, such purity of heart regarding money (and that’s significant, believe me). Never before have I been able to participate with a network of believers so open to the spirit of wisdom and revelation.
Never before have I noticed such sincere desire not to build personal kingdoms. Yet, once again, I have to say that I can’t help discerning a certain element of spiritual elitism that has crept in among us which misunderstands the nature of election and is resistant to revisiting our “sonship” – distinctive.
Am I being unnecessarily critical? Well, you judge. I’ve always been one to recognize and acknowledge what God did through these movements and what He did in my own life, personally, through all of my truth-search forays. I’ve always encouraged others to recognize and acknowledge the same. But, brethren, I’m raising a standard against religious elitism and making no apologies for doing so. May the Lord be merciful and gracious to us and show us how truly inclusive is His heart.
My foremost hope, in sharing this study with my brethren in Christ, is that we all may come to see, and increasingly appreciate, God’s election of, commitment to, and solidarity with, the whole of humanity. We will fail to grasp the nature of sovereign election if we fail to grasp the truth that election, like all else pertaining to the purpose of God, unfolds in time as it is in eternity.
In eternity, God chose the man of the earth, in whom dwelt the Man from heaven to be the radiance of His glory, radiating out the excellence of Deity to all of an ever-expanding creation. That election is THE election to which all lesser election points, within which all lesser election operates, and to which all lesser election moves.
Just as it is true in regard to the interpretation of scripture, that is, that we must interpret according to the context, with the exegetical process becoming one of an ever-widening circle of consideration, comparison and connection, until we involve the whole from Genesis to Revelation, so it is with the subject of election.
One could look almost anywhere within the pages of the Bible and find there, or nearby, an example of election, but as one enlarges the circle of context, we are apprehended by a singularity of choice that properly dignifies the parts by the nature of the whole. Otherwise, it would turn out, as it seems to the natural mind, that God is a respecter of persons.
Without understanding that singularity of election which was from the beginning, is continuing and will surely consummate gloriously, God’s seeming love of some, and hatred of others; His attention to, and neglect of others; His focus upon the one or few with others barely within His peripheral vision, we will suffer from some measure of bewilderment and consternation, as we seek to trace the wisdom of God in the administration of God.
The more we come to appreciate and admire our God and Savior, the more we shall value all mankind and exult in God’s choice of His One New Man, who is the delight of His heart.
REVISITING SONSHIP, Parts 1-6 [John R. Gavazzoni] 1-20-06 1