“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (King James Version, 1 John 3:1).
We are exploring this text in a way that may be unfamiliar to some of you, but I believe it is the way we have been divinely instructed to do, as we seek to understand God's Word.
God tells us through His prophet that we are to "Meditate on the Scriptures until the understanding, the gate to the door to the heart, is opened to comprehend its requirements and our dependence" (Ellen White, In Heavenly Places, 277).
In this study we will see a little of what God means when He calls us "sons of God." The Greek word here translated sons is not the word that would generally be used to denote a son as a male child of a particular father.
METAPHORICAL UNDERSTANDING OF “SONS OF GOD”
The word in our text rendered "sons" is teknon, which is offspring, or children, and its meaning lies more in a metaphorical understanding such as in an “intimate and reciprocal relationship formed between men, by the bonds of love, friendship and trust, just as between parents and children” (Thayer’s Greek – English Lexicon). Teknon also carries the sense of "anything who depends upon it [the bond or the intimate union that is necessary to this kind of binding together], is possessed by a desire or affection for it, is addicted to it" (Thayer's Greek - English Lexicon).
Let's look at some of the ideas presented in this text as we meditate on it and seek to learn some of the glory of God's love that is revealed in this concept of being called sons, by God.
First of all, let your mind seek to grasp the idea that God is not thinking of us merely as offspring, as beings He created. What God has in mind for us, our purpose, the reason He created us, is so we can enter into the very highest, intimate, and reciprocal relationship that is "higher than the highest human thought can reach" (White, Education, 18). We are to have a unity with our Heavenly Father that is similar to what He has with His Son and our Saviour, Jesus Christ. While we can never be divine as Jesus is, we were made to have the unity with God that Jesus exhibited when He came as a human to this earth. In heaven we will enjoy a privilege based upon the position Jesus has as our elder Brother.
When I was in my 30's, my Dad and I were talking in the hallway at church one day. Someone saw us and asked, "Having a father-son talk?" I will never forget the feeling I had when my Dad said, "No, we're having a man to man talk." Obviously I was still his son, but our relationship entered a higher and closer level. He was showing respect to me as a young man, and my love and respect for him increased.
What must God think of humanity when His Son became human, and then for all eternity carries that humanity into the highest heaven! Think about the manner, the kind of love, God has for us because of Jesus.
SONS WHO DEPEND ON GOD
This leads to further thoughts on what it means to be called God's sons. "Anything who depends upon it, is possessed by a desire or affection for it, is addicted to it." First look at what it means to me as a human to be called God's son. To have this bond God is speaking about means I must depend on it. I must realize that my standing with God is based on dependence, I must depend fully and totally on Him. I have to be possessed by a desire to belong to Him. In fact, I need to have such a strong affection, that I must LOVE the idea, even to the point of being addicted to that dependence on God.
Remember this is reciprocal, so while we desire and depend on God, so He desires and depends upon us. “I have created him for my glory . . . Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD” (Isaiah 43:7,10).
Sin began because Lucifer wanted to depend on himself. At some point God showed His love to Lucifer in a way that convinced him of His love and goodness. Lucifer was convinced of his error, but he refused to acknowledge his dependence and sought instead to be totally independent. We must be transformed from sinners who think we can do something, anything, on our own. We have to come to the point where we will never, ever, think of being independent of God. Rather we must love our dependence. Even more, be addicted to dependence on God.
This is the point Jesus tried to reveal to us. Though He is, and was still on earth, a divine member of the Godhead, He said "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me" (John 5:30). All His words were what God gave Him to say. "The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me" (John 14:10). Even now that He is in heaven the messages, the revelations we receive from Him, originate with the Father. We are plainly told that the Revelation of Jesus Christ is “what God gave unto Him . . . and He [Jesus] sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant” (Revelation 1:1).
Let's think about this for a bit. From all eternity, from an infinity we cannot comprehend, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have always been united in love, purpose, and activity. Their unity was such that though they are each individually divine in all ways, yet they had never done anything on their own. Never acted with separateness from each other. Such is their unity that though they are three individuals, they are yet One God. This adds something to my comprehension of the terror Jesus experienced on Calvary.
Beginning in Gethsemane, and culminating on the cross hear again His agonizing cry, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” Think of some of the words from Proverbs, “The LORD possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the earth was . . . I was by Him as One brought up with Him. I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him" (Proverbs 8:22-30). This unity Christ carried with Him all during His earthly life. His greatest delight, the source of all His joy was found in His union with our Father.
OUR SINS SEVERED THE DIVINE UNION OF FATHER AND SON
Then it was broken. "He trod the winepress alone." Alone! For the first time in His eternal existence the Son was alone. To top it off it this aloneness was caused by a purposeful forsaking by the Father. My sin broke up the eternal union, the union that had never been breached before!
Oh how terrible sin must be. How terrible MY sin must be! So great is God's love that He would endure infinite pain and suffering so we could again have that intimate and reciprocal relationship formed by the bonds of love, friendship, and trust. He wants us to be more than just offspring. Our Father wants us to be one with Him, in fulfillment of Jesus' prayer, "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us" (John 17:21).