Sonship (Lent #6)

Now we begin with Luke’s narrative, starting with Jesus’ baptism:

“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.'” (Luke 3:21-22, ESV)

The background to the temptation of Jesus is his baptism, at which God the Father says to him, “You are my beloved Son.”

The divine sonship of Jesus is precisely what Luke shows through his genealogy, ending with “son of Adam, son of God.” Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record Jesus’ baptism, with the voice from heaven, before his temptation. His sonship is what the devil questioned first: “if you are the Son of God…” yet it was also Jesus’ sonship that gave him the power to overcome the devil.

Many New Testaments use the word “adoption” to describe this relationship towards God, but this seems a very poor representation of what God does in our lives. An adopted daughter has a changed status, but she still does not resemble her parents inwardly or outwardly. Her new life is like ill-fitting clothing she has to grow into, and the life and habits of a new Christian can feel like this. But when God gives us a new life, there is a true inward change that is much more than a transferral of status or a change of name. God does not just give us the rights of a changed status; he gives us the right to become children of God.

If we ask what makes someone a true son or daughter, there are the elements of sonship, without which no one can be a son:

1) There is an inward likeness, which we now ascribe to our genes. When we are born again, we become children of God, and God has the power to implant his likeness inside of us. He does this by changing our desires and teaching us to want what he wants.

2) There is an outward likeness, in which our behavior begins to line up with our Father’s behavior. We act like God acts; we forgive like God forgives. As they grow older, sons and daughters become more and more like their fathers and mothers. Apart from merely acknowledging that God asks us to obey, we want to do what we see our Father doing.

3) There is a corporate likeness. Paul never said that one person’s body is a temple; he said “Know ye not that ye [that is, you, plural] are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you [again, plural].” If we are the temple then there is a special likeness of God that we have as a community. We could call this “the culture of the Holy Spirit,” or the family likeness between God’s twice-born children and their Father.

Whatever battles we go into, may we go into them carrying the truth that God has called us his children.

Father, I pray that we would become like your Son in every way, and that you would show us the awesome privilege we have in being your children. “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”

Amen.

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