The other day, I was a bit perplexed when I came across the Luke 3:38. Verses 23 to 38 describe the whole genealogy of Christ, but I had to stop and think when I read v. 38
“… the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God”.(Lk 3:38 )
Wait. I thought only Jesus Christ was ever referred to as the “Son of God”? Or does the fact that we capitalise the spelling of his make him a different kind of son than Adam? Further study helped clear things up a bit, and I’ll only make a tip-of-the-iceberg attempt here.
The Bible states in John 1:12 that we who believe and receive Jesus Christ are given the right to become children of God (KJV “sons of God”). The question is why we need to be given the right to become sons of God. Why does God make us his sons? The truth of that is stated in Ro 8:29:
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”(Ro 8:29 )
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his suffering in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Ro 8:17 )
So here we have a simple statement of the mind of God in redeeming us. The purpose of our discipleship, the grand design of it, is to get sons & daughters of God who will share the reign of Christ with him. This is also in keeping with John’s vision of the millennial kingdom in Rev 20:4,6.
“I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God … Blessed and holy are those who have a part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years”.(Rev 20:4;6 )
Note the description here.
These people are seated on thrones. (compare with Lk 22:28-30)
They have been given authority to judge (compare with 1 Cor 6:2-3).
They are called “priests of God” and they reign with Christ as kings. We’ll delve more on this royal priesthood later.
As I pointed out to a someone the other day, Jesus Christ came to give this opportunity to everyone worldwide, but He knows that it is only the few who will qualify to be take this opportunity in spite of numerous attempts by the masses. Remember the broad way/narrow way story? It was not for naught that James said they were given apostleship by Christ NOT to call ALL Gentiles but to “call out from among the Gentiles a people for his name” (Ac 15:13). So then, how does on qualify to be amongst the “called out”? How does one become a son? Let’s look at certain other passages that talk more about sonship.
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26 ) – similar to Jn 1:12, the first qualification to be a son is faith in Christ and his finished work on the cross. As Peter conceded , “Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Ac 4:12). I believe many of us are familiar with this first step and I will not belabour the point.
“Because those who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God”(Ro 8:14 ) – this refers to a continuous submission to the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit.
Many of today’s Christians are still living the baby life. After being saved by faith and grace, we refuse to be matured by submission to the Spirit’s guidance, and continue to live in our unregenerate nature. We want to claim a faith in God but continue to serve him according to our own wisdom. But Gal 2:20 tells us what we’ve become, again by faith in Christ.
“I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”. (Gal 2:20 )
If we refuse to accept the fact that when we decided that Jesus should be our Saviour, we were crucified with Christ and Christ lives in us, then everything we do will be under the direction of the flesh, and not of the Spirit. We will still be trying to please God according to our own wisdom, which James describes as “earthly, unscriptural, of the devil”(Jas 3:15). Paul puts it very simply: “those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (Ro 8:8).
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” (Heb 12:7)
I’ve come to the point which is the most difficult for the contemporary Christian to submit to – suffering. It’s importance is underlined by the fact that the Son of God, whom we are supposed to be like, had to go through his own share.
“Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered, and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him …” (Heb 5:8-9 )
The purpose of God allowing us to go through suffering is so our characters will be refined. If God is going to entrust the rule of this world to his sons, then he must make sure that such sons would be sons who are worthy of leadership, and the greatest mark of leadership is always defined in character.
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope” (Rom 5:3-4)
Note that this is not a character that is constituted of self-belief, but – in sharp contrast to today’s “believe in yourself” theory – a character that reflects God’s own character. Such a character is not formed out of our own self will, but a simple and total submission to the authority of God, to His Word and to His Spirit. The characters of faith in Heb 11 exhibited such submission, and Abraham’s example is described below.
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Heb 11:8).
Contrary to the contemporary Christian’s mentality, the early disciples were under no misconception about the imperative of suffering
“Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God’”, they said. (Ac 14:21-22).
But the endurance of suffering is not worth anything if that endurance is abandoned midway. Christ has promised that “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev 3:21). It is interesting to note that this was contained in the letter to the Laodicean church – obviously to believers. So even though we are sons by our faith in Christ, our final declaration as sons of God will only be made if we overcome. Then, we can sit with Christ and rule the nations, as Rev 20 shows us.
But how do these explain why Adam, who was thousands of years before Christ’s coming, could be called a son of God? Given that he never believed in Christ, was never filled with the Holy Spirit (at least not as far as I know) and was never deemed to be an overcomer, how could he be called a son of God? The answers will be found in these subsequent points. Note that my references to Adam also refer to the whole human race in general.
God created Adam in his own image and likeness (Gen 1:26) and gave him authority over the earth. God gave man a taste of the authority that he was to inherit in his final state, if only he obeyed God.
God intended that if Adam passed the test of not eating of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, he will give him to eat of the fruit of the tree of life. Christ intends to give that reward to those who overcome – “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev 2:7). This was the same tree of life that God prevented Adam from eating after his fall in Gen 3:22.
God intended that everything, including Adam renewed after eating the fruit of the tree of life, will be summed up in His Son Jesus Christ. Paul calls that the “mystery of His will” that God had made known to them: “And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ”(Eph 1:9-10).
That this has been God’s eternal plan was also not in doubt to the early Christians. Paul reminds Timothy of it in his second letter to him – “God, who saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done, but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” (2 Ti 1:8b-10)
All of these go to point out the fact that Jesus Christ only came to fulfil the purpose that God had intended for man right from creation, and God had already made provision for man’s (through Adam’s) failure. The purpose has always been the same, as well as the means to achieve it. The purpose was that men become sons of God, and the means was in Christ through a total belief and obedience to God. All is summed up in his Son, Jesus Christ. In fact, it is important to note that it is God who is the one pursuing man, not the other way round. When Jesus Christ said “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Lk 19:10) he meant what was lost to God. God lost his potential sons, and those sons had to be bought back.
It is then of exceeding annoyance that God’s effort to save man is thwarted by man’s unbelief, and God has consciously made it a point throughout His word to state clearly His coming merciless judgement of such unbelief. As it turns out, Adam’s primary sin was a disbelief in God, and that has been the bane of man since, with the nation of Israel no exception. He had punished the unbelief of the Israelite nation before, wiping out all the six hundred thousand (counting men only) Israelites who left Egypt on the exodus, and allowing only Joshua and Caleb out of that generation to enter the land of promise. This is the theme that the writer of Hebrews uses to exhort us to hold on unwaveringly to our belief in the living God.
“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.’” (Heb 3:12-15 )
Finally brethren, I’ll like to leave this discussion by reminding us again of a section of Hebrews.
“In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” (Heb 2:10-11 )
Is Jesus ashamed to call you a brother?