I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one (1 John 2:12-14).
The express purpose of God in the life of every child of God is to bring forth the image and likeness of His Son in us. As it is with natural childhood development, we go through stages of maturity and growth as we develop into mature sons and daughters of God. The Lord Jesus is not going to marry a bride that does not reflect the blameless perfection revealed in His Person. Although the power of His blood and the work of the cross bring regeneration to dead-in-sin lives, there is still a cooperative work of the Spirit of God in our lives that is purposed to bring us to maturity in both Christ’s character and power. The Father will have a bride without spot or wrinkle for the Son of His love. The blood removes the “spots” (sin and iniquity), and heat and pressure remove the wrinkles (as in ironing)!
There will be a fully matured people/bride on this earth, waiting for Him as He is. (1 John 4:17.) The Lord is restoring the five-fold, ascension-gift ministers (Eph. 4:11-16), as friends of the Bridegroom, whose job description is to minister:
till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting. (Eph. 4:13-14.)
The word “perfect” means “mature.” It is the Father’s express purpose to make us like Jesus so we might be the eternal partner the Son has longed for since before the foundation of the world. This means we are to be a partner in His life, His power, His authority, His glory and His kingdom. We are meant to share not only intimate communion and passion with Him, but we were also made to rule and reign with Him. (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 3:21; Rev. 5:10; Rev. 20:6; Rev. 22:5.) This is the beauty of the divine romance of the ages: weak, broken, fallen, self-centered humans, with no possibility of escape, have been rescued, purchased out of slavery, regenerated (re-gened), made children of God, and have been called to share in the life, rule and throne of the King of kings. We are called to be His eternal partner (His bride) and an extension of Himself (His body)! We are called to share His glory, His throne and the Spirit without measure. What is keeping the church from entering into this fullness? What is the predicating factor for the release of the fullness only God Himself can give? As the Lord Jesus Himself, in His humanity, overcame the world, the flesh and the devil, so must we also overcome to enter into the reality of what the Lord has promised. This means the process that works in our lives must be as it was in the Lord Jesus’ life. There must be a progressive entering into maturity as full-grown sons and daughters of God to be able to be entrusted with the kind of power and authority that sharing His rule and reign entails. We must become “sons” and no longer just “children.” The predicating factor is that we must grow up!
Any male, having passed through puberty, unless there is a physiological reason, can sire a child. But only a mature, responsible man can be a true father. Only mature fathers can produce mature sons. As one generation begins to put childish things (self-centered things) away (1 Cor. 13:11), and embraces the discipline of the Spirit in their lives, they will develop the image and likeness of a mature Son in their lives that they will be able to pass on to the next generation. It is hard to mature when the only examples you have are immature adults. The same rings true in the church. Most of the younger generation is bored and fed-up with what they see in organized religion and church. The worldliness, ambition and pettiness that mark much of what transpires “in the name of Jesus” has had disastrous consequences in the last two generations since the mid-sixties. Many young people turn to the occult, drugs, and other satanic counterfeits to try to find meaning and answers because they are not finding what is needed to fill the emptiness in their hearts. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God placed “eternity” (NKJV) in man’s heart. God created each person with a place within his or her heart so big that only God Himself can fill it. No religious, worldly, occultic, sensual, sexual, emotional, physical, or philosophical substitute can fill the void. An end-time harvest of proportions that we cannot imagine (Eph. 3:20-21) is looming before us. When the spiritual mothers and fathers arise as true examples of Christ, there will not be enough room in any of our church buildings to contain the harvest. They will come because they not only hear good, sound doctrinal teaching, but more importantly, they will come because they experience Him.
The Lord Jesus Grew in Maturity in His Humanity
…though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him… (Heb. 5:8-9).
A modern translation of this passage of scripture could possibly read: Though He was the Son in His Person, His Sonship was made apparent, or brought out, in His obedience even in the midst of trials. It was the Son’s absolute submission and obedience to the Father that brought maturity (“perfected” means “matured”) to His humanity. But, this was not a submission and obedience just born out of “duty.” The Son delighted in His obedience to the Father because He loved the Father more than His own life. His submission and obedience, even to the point of death, was carried out by a burning passion to bring joy and delight to the Father’s heart, and not some mundane, “have-to-do-this” attitude. Because He delighted in delighting the Father, He surrendered to all the Father’s will. His communion was unbroken and the burning passion shared between Father and Son never wavered. From this position as a submitted Son, a submission of love and delight, not duty and bondage, maturity formed in the humanity of Christ. It is our obedience, in the midst of hardship and suffering born out of love that turns children into mature sons and daughters of God.
We are born into the family of God through the power of the blood, the cross of Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit. To be a part of God’s family, a new birth must take place. (John 3:3.) When we are born again, the Holy Spirit applies the blood of Christ to our lives, cleansing us from sin, then He quickens, or makes alive, our dead human spirits. He does this by taking up residence inside of us, in our spirits. (Romans 8:9-11.) Just as the sperm of a father comes and fertilizes the ovum of the mother and a child is conceived, so it is when we are born again. We then, as physical children do, embark on the process of growing up as sons and daughters of God. To facilitate this process of maturity, the Father places us under parents, teachers and spiritual leaders until the time when we have matured enough to be self-governing. This means we have reached a place where we become responsible for our actions and choices, which, hopefully have been superintended by godly, Christlike parents and leaders. Until the time we reach maturity, we are kept under rules and guidelines to act as parameters around our lives to point us to Christ.
Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons (Gal. 4:1-5).
Any parent that would let their children do as they please, making their own decisions, and running their own lives should be cited for child abuse. A child, if left to itself without proper training and discipline, would probably never choose broccoli over chocolate. In fact, most children would probably never bathe and practice proper hygiene if they were left to their own ways. Most children would choose to stay home and play games instead of going to school or doing schoolwork/homework, if they had the choice to make. Such is the need for leaders, structure, and rules and regulations in the early years of childhood. The same is true in our spiritual development. To grow into mature sons and daughters of God, we must have training, structure and discipline until the flesh is dealt with so the Spirit can lead us. Being led by the Spirit always means that we are led by love. This love will manifest itself as a love, first for the Father and the Father’s will, and then as that which does what is best for those we meet on a relational level. This is perfectly modeled through the life of the Lord Jesus. He never lived for Himself, but He lived for the Father. He lived a life of self-denial, thinking about the needs of others before His own needs. This is one true sign of maturity and of someone who can be trusted with authority and power: a servant’s heart born out of love.
Notice in Galatians 4:5, that God’s children are placed under training and discipline so “that we might receive the adoption as sons.” This is a concept that the western understanding of adoption does not comprehend. To the western mindset, adoption indicates the process of applying to adopt a child into our family that was born to another set of parents. This is not the biblical concept of adoption. Devern Fromke, in his classic book Unto Full Stature relates the following:
…much of the misconception…of adoption and sonship has resulted from assuming our Western custom of adoption is identical with the Biblical. In Eastern lands it was the practice of the noble-father to submit his infant male child to the tutelage and training of a trusted household servant or pedagogue…It was into such custody that the infant child was entrusted for maturing and discipline until the time when he should come of age…it was the tutor’s task to bring the child into the ways, purposes and spirit of the father of the family…Thus adoption, as presented in the Bible is the placing of one who is already a child in full sonship rights…The believer’s relation to God as a child results from the new birth, whereas adoption is the act of God whereby one is already a child, through redemption from the law, placed in the position of an adult son…Birth made him a child, preparation and discipline brought him to adoption and the full stature of sonship.
The following commentary on the biblical concept of adoption is from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, copyright 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers:
huiothesia ^5206^, from huios, “a son,” and thesis, “a placing,” akin to tithemi, “to place,” signifies the place and condition of a son given to one to whom it does not naturally belong. The word is used by the apostle Paul only.
In <Rom. 8:15>, believers are said to have received “the Spirit of adoption,” that is, the Holy Spirit who, given as the Firstfruits of all that is to be theirs, produces in them the realization of sonship and the attitude belonging to sons. In <Gal. 4:5> they are said to receive “the adoption of sons,” i. e., sonship bestowed in distinction from a relationship consequent merely upon birth; here two contrasts are presented, (1) between the sonship of the believer and the unoriginated sonship of Christ, (2) between the freedom enjoyed by the believer and bondage, whether of Gentile natural condition, or of Israel under the Law. In <Eph. 1:5> they are said to have been foreordained unto “adoption as sons” through Jesus Christ, RV; the KJV, “adoption of children” is a mistranslation and misleading. God does not “adopt” believers as children; they are begotten as such by His Holy Spirit through faith. “Adoption” is a term involving the dignity of the relationship of believers as sons; it is not a putting into the family by spiritual birth, but a putting into the position of sons… (italics and emphasis mine).
Adoption indicated the process of boys maturing into sonship. After going through all the training designed to make him like his father, a son could then share in his father’s business, estate or rule. Only when this process was complete was the child considered a “son.” This does not deal with the reality of relationship, but deals with an ability in the child to be responsible in sharing in the father’s government or business. Maturity became the foundation of sharing in the father’s work and rule.
From Children to Sons
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs– heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:15-19).
The word for “children” in verse 16 above is a completely different word for the word “sons” in verse 19. The Greek word for “children” in verse 16 is the word “teknon.” It means “a child.” It is the same word that is used in John 1:12, where the apostle tells us that if we believe on the Lord Jesus, we are born again, or become “children” of God. The Greek word for “sons” in verse 19 above is “huios.” This word means “mature sons.” The entire creation is groaning and travailing for the unveiling of the mature sons of God in the earth, not just the “children.” This is about to happen in the times we are in, just before the return of the Lord Jesus back to earth. The Lord will have a fully mature “body” on the earth, connected to the “Head,” that will fully manifest His glory and sonship to the whole world. These fully mature sons and daughters of God will manifest the glory of the Lord (the full inheritance) and will do the “greater works” (John 14:12) that Jesus prophesied we would do. The Lord Jesus had the Spirit without measure (John 3:34) in a human, flesh and blood body. There is coming a supernatural work of the Spirit in these end-times that will cause the fullness of the Lord to be seen and experienced in the earth through His body.
We are now in a time of training and discipline, which includes rules and regulations, because we cannot yet be trusted with the “Spirit without measure.” The fullness of the Father and all the Father has will be revealed in these last days through the Son and His church. (Eph. 3.) When we learn submission and obedience in love, in spite of our feelings or circumstances, then we can be entrusted with the full inheritance, as was the Lord Jesus on this earth in a flesh and blood body. The full inheritance of God only comes with mature sonship. When the Son was endued with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, He began to systematically destroy the powers of darkness. In so doing, He remained a devoted, loving Son who always put His relationship with the Father and obedience to the Father’s will first.
The Holy Spirit is about to be released in a way that will bring a purity to the body of Christ that will, in turn, release the authority, power and glory of the Lord in such an unprecedented way that even the creation itself will begin to respond. The power of death will be broken. We will be like Jesus, waiting for Him as He is.
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:1-3).
Questions for Reflection:
What does the word “perfect” mean as it relates to Eph. 4:13-14?
Jesus is our example of becoming a mature son. What is the process he shows us?
Who are the sons of God?