The Nature of Sonship
"When the Son of man cometh, shall he find the faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8)
Place that passage alongside of those read in our previous meditation (1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7; Jude 3; Rev. 2:13); we will not repeat them in full just now. Just be reminded that the two passages in Paul's letters to Timothy were among them; first, his exhortation to Timothy to fight the good fight of the faith, and then his own statement that he had fought the good fight and had kept the faith; and we were and are occupied with this phrase - "the faith".
I am quite sure that, in the light of what we said in our previous meditation, the passage in Luke 18:8 takes on new significance and we are better able to understand it. "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find the faith on the earth?" That certainly does not mean, shall He find a Christian system of doctrine on the earth. He will find plenty of that. And it certainly does not mean, shall He find faith in the sense of people who believe in Christianity or in general in Christ. There would be no point, I think in asking that question, if He meant that. There are multitudes of people who believe in a general way in Christ and Christianity, if that could be said to be the meaning of faith, and I do not know that we are to expect that kind of Christianity to diminish very greatly, at least to such a point where it is really a question whether He will find any of it at all when He comes.
But when we look into this phrase, "the faith" as we were doing earlier, and really understand its essence and nature, then the question has some point, and it i really concerning the point of the question that we are going to spend a little time now.
We have sought to see that the faith in its essence is the essential and the unique nature of Divine sonship. It is over that that the fight goes on, rages and intensifies, and that sonship is something into which believers are initially brought by new birth, and thereafter progressively by a life in the Spirit, and it is therefore saying that sonship, in the New Testament sense, is something more than being born into a family; it is growing up in that family, and carries with it the feature of spiritual maturity. A phrase used so frequently in our New Testament is "perfection"; go on unto perfection" (Hebrews 6:1), or as the margin expresses it, "go on to full growth". Really it means the consummation of things, coming to the full end for which you exist.
Seeing then, that that is sonship - going right on to the full end for which you exist as children of God; which, again, implies a life in the Spirit continually - then you have room for the question, shall He find the faith on the earth? In other words, shall He find on the earth a real going on in the Spirit unto full growth? I do not think the question was meant to suggest that He would not find it, that it would not exist at His coming, but I do think that the question contains this factor, namely, that it would be far from being a general thing and that you would have to look for it. In order to find it, you would have to look for it; it will not be there in such a way that everybody can see it. That, I think, is the point of the question.
Well then, we want to look a little more closely at this matter of sonship, seeing that everything is bound up with it. It is the faith, it is the occasion of the conflict, it is the cause of the question of the Lord. What is the nature of sonship? We can answer that by two or three quite simple statements.
Sonship - Essentially and Exclusively of God
Firstly, it is essentially and exclusively of God. We are familiar with the statement in John 1:13: "who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God". Not this, nor that, nor that, but of God! You might very well put in there - "but exclusively of God". Sonship, therefore, is something exclusively of God. It lies altogether beyond the power and possibility of man to achieve, to attain, to reach unto it. It is not in man to produce it or arrive at it. The secret of sonship is not resident in man. The seed of sonship is not in man by nature, in spite of all that of which we spoke in our previous meditation that is the generally accepted doctrine concerning man today. The fact is that this sonship is something which belongs to another realm altogether.
We know that the Word of God sees man as dead, so far as God is concerned, and nothing short of a miracle an change that situation, for life is God's prerogative and gift alone, and resurrection something which is alone in the power of God. Therefore the principle, the law, of sonship is an experience of resurrection which, to those who have it, is such an experience as to settle forever in their convictions that everything they have in relation to God is a sheer miracle of God's own working.
(continued with # 7)