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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 48 - Romans 8:19 - The History of Sonship Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


The name, sons of God, is not exclusively applicable to the church. Angels are called sons (Job 38:7); so is Adam (Luke 3:38); so is Israel (Hosea 1:10). Yet the redeemed get that name in a deeper, fuller sense, by reason of their higher standing and their closer connection with the Son of God (1 John 3:1; Romans 8:17, 29; Revelation 21:7). There are thus outer and inner, higher and lower, circles of sonship; Christ the one center; and His redeemed occupying the innermost circle or region nearest to Himself, and nearest to the Father.

The history of these "sons,"—these heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, the redeemed from among men,—divides itself into the following parts or epochs:

I. Their past eternity. They had a history ere they were born; not conscious to themselves, but truly in the eye and purpose of God. (Roman 8:29; Ephesians 1:3, 5; 2 Timothy 1:9; Revelation 17:8.) In these passages the history of each saint and of the church of God is traced to that eternity in which God only existed. Even then they were sons of God by anticipation; sons of God in the Father's purpose, and in the everlasting covenant. How marvelous, how glorious their history!

II. Their unregenerate life on earth. They were born no better than others; shapen in iniquity; children of wrath; able to claim kindred only with the first Adam, only with the flesh and with earth; not a vestige of the second Adam about them; no trace of heavenly sonship; no lineament of their Father in heaven; walking according to the course of this world; hateful and hating one another; their hearts "enmity against God."

III. Their adoption. In God's purpose this adoption stood from eternity; but it was seen when they actually passed out of the family of the evil one into that of God. When they were begotten again they became sons, receiving the name, privileges, legal rights of Sons. Let us note the different statements of Scripture as to these things:

(1.) They are begotten again. (1 Peter 1:3.) They are born of time Spirit (John 3:3), born from above.

(2.) They believe. (Galatians 3:26.) They pass out of the region of unbelief into that of faith. In believing they become sons.

(3.) They receive Christ. (John 1:12.) They accept the Father's testimony to Him as the Son of God, and the Christ of God.

(4.) They get the name of sons. (1 John 3:1) They are now "called" sons of God. This is their new name, given by God himself.

(5.) They receive the spirit of adoption. (Galatians 4:5,6.) A new spirit fills them; the spirit of sonship; and, "Abba, Father," is their cry.

(6.) They are led by the Spirit. (Roman 8:14.) They are not their own guides; nor do they trust in human guidance; but are led by Him.

(7.) They are chastened. (Hebrew 12:7.) Discipline is their lot; and chastisement is the badge of sonship.

(8.) They are brought to glory. (Hebrew 2:10.) To this are they redeemed and called. "Whom He justified, them He also glorified."

(9.) They are made like Christ himself. (Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2.) Conformity to the Son of God is their destiny and their privilege: "We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."

IV. Their time of obscurity. For a season they are hidden; men's eyes are holden so that they do not recognize them; they are in disguise; the world does not believe that they are what they claim to be, or that their prospects are so very glorious. Their life is hid with Christ in God. It doth not yet appear what they shall be. They do not wear the raiment either of kings or of sons. They are strangers and pilgrims. This is the day of their obscurity and non-acknowledgment by men. As it was with their Lord, so with them. He was unknown and unrecognized; nay, despised and rejected. This is the discipline through which they are passing; this the manner in which they glorify the Father upon earth; this the trial of their faith, and this the touchstone of the world's willingness to own their Lord. Are we content with obscurity?

V. The manifestation. The obscurity does not last always; nay, not long. The day is coming when the disguise shall drop off, and their royal robes display themselves; when He who is their life shall appear, they shall appear with Him. Then shall they be like Him to whom they adhered in the day of sorrow and gloom. But let us see,

(1.) What this manifestation is. (The word is the same as in 1 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:7, 13; 4:13.) It is revelation, or outshining, or transfiguration. They are in this conformed to their Lord. They were like Him in their obscurity; they shall be like Him in their manifestation. It shall be transfiguration glory; resurrection glory; royal glory; bridal glory; priestly glory. What a contrast between the obscurity and the manifestation will be presented in that day of unveiling, when they shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. What a future is ours! how unlike our present!

(2.) When shall the manifestation be? In the day of Christ's appearing; not in the day of death. The soul of the saint is blessed when he dies; he is with Christ in Paradise; but still the glory is not full, and the body is still in the grave; the grave is part of our obscurity. But when time Lord descends from heaven, then the dead in Christ shall rise; then this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and death be swallowed up in victory.

(3.) How long shall the manifestation be? Forever. A whole eternity of glory. Our obscurity was but a day; our glory is everlasting. We are to shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars forever and ever. What a blaze of splendor will break forth from the glorified church, in the day of manifestation! What, in comparison with this, is the brightness of the sun or stars?

Let us walk worthy of our prospects; content with present obscurity and shame; "passing the time of our sojourning here in fear."