The Spiritual Sonship
1 John 3:1-6
Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not…

In the words there are two things chiefly: First, what this means "Sons of God"; secondly, what this, "To be called the sons of God." First, sons of God is a title used divers ways; the son of God is either by nature, or by creation, or by participation, or by a general profession, or by adoption. Now, when this sonship by adoption is applied to those whom God chooseth, there are two kinds of it mentioned in Scripture, the former of which is but a resemblance and figure of the latter. Of it is that speech of God to Moses (Exodus 4:22), which very privilege Paul calleth by the name of adoption (Romans 9:4). By it is no other thing meant but God's choosing that people out of all nations under heaven to be His peculiar people; which, albeit it were an high favour, yet it was not properly a spiritual blessing, but a type and a shadow of that adoption which Paul calleth the adoption of sons (Galatians 4:5), which is that grace of God by which He is pleased to take us for His children in Christ, and to make us heirs together with Him of eternal glory; and this is that which John speaketh of in this place. The second thing is, what it is to be called the sons of God. It must not be so taken as though this of being the sons of God were a matter of title only without substance, as when a man hath a word of respect cast upon him only for compliment's sake; but to be called the sons of God and to be the sons of God are here all one. The general points are these — First, that the state of God's adoption is a glorious estate. Secondly, that it is an estate of which it is possible for him that is invested into it to be assured in his own soul. Thirdly, that it is an estate unalterable. Fourthly, that the alone spring and beginning of it is God's love. How the first point is grounded upon this Scripture appears by the admiration which the apostle breaks out into, wondering at the infiniteness of God's mercy, who should vouchsafe unto the sons of men such a prerogative, and provoking others to join with him therein, as though it were a matter singular from all example that we should be advanced to so great an honour to be the sons of God. I could easily collect even a cloud of circumstances for the enlarging the glory and worth of this estate; I will reduce all to three heads. The first is the excellency of the means to procure it to us. The second is the majesty of the person by whose name (through our adoption) we are entitled. The third is the prerogatives and privileges that are belonging to it. Now these prerogatives are to be distinguished thus: To be either in this life or hereafter. Touching this life I will name only two. The first is an interest into God's particular and special providence. If my wants be outward here is my Heavenly Father standing by me, He knoweth what I need, and He cannot forget me. If my defects be from within He is that God of all grace, and shall fulfil all my necessities. This privilege of God's especial providence is that river of God out of which flow these streams to make glad the adopted of God. The second prerogative in this life is the free use of God's creatures, both for necessity and for delight. This is a true saying. The charter anciently given by the great Lord of all at our first creation, touching the use of His creatures, was forfeited into the hands of the Donor by Adam's fall. It is restored and renewed by Christ, and only to those who are honoured with the adoption of sons, only the heirs of heaven are the right inheritors of the earth; all the rest are but usurpers. Now for the prerogative of the sons of God appertaining to the life to come, which way shall I begin to express it? When Haman was willed to speak by Ahasuerus, What should be done to the man whom the king would honour, he (supposing that the king had no meaning to honour any but him), said thus (Esther 6:8, 9). So shall it be to the sons of God at the day of judgment. What should now be the use of this doctrine, or wherefore hath this dignity of adoption been set before us, but to stir us all up to say in our hearts, as Christ's hearers did when He had spoken to them of the bread of life, Lord (said they) evermore give us this bread. So you, I beseech you, say everyone in the strength of your best desires. Is the state of adoption such an honourable estate? Lord, evermore give us this dignity. And now, touching the means by which those that do affect this prerogative of adoption may attain unto it. There are two places of Scripture especially by which we may be rightly informed in this matter (Galatians 3:26; John 1:12). Both put together do make this good, that the means of adoption is faith in Christ Jesus, or believing in His name. First, what kind of faith it is which makes us capable of adoption. Secondly, how it brings us to be the sons of God. Thirdly, how itself is wrought in the hearts of the adopted. Touching the first, this I say, that the believing, or faith, which maketh a man the son of God is an action of the will, whereby a man knowing certainly out of the Scriptures that Jesus Christ is the promised Saviour of mankind doth for the matter of his soul settle his heart and repose himself wholly and solely upon Him. This is properly that faith which is called justifying or saving faith. For the second, that also is necessary to be rightly opened, because some men of corrupt minds do think these speeches, faith justifieth, faith adopteth, faith saveth, to be derogatory to the glory of God, and to carry a contradiction to these, Christ justifieth, Christ adopteth, Christ saveth. Understand we therefore, and be not deceived. One thing may be spoken of divers particulars in a different sense: as, for example, God the Father adopteth, Christ Jesus adopteth, the Holy Ghost adopteth, faith adopteth; these are all true and without any mutual contrariety. God the Father adopteth as the fountain of adoption; Christ as the ground of adoption; the Holy Ghost as the applier of adoption; faith as the instrument of adoption. The third point was to show how this faith is wrought in the hearts of the adopted. The Supreme Giver of faith is God, every good gift is from Him. The second doctrine is, that it is possible for him that is the son of God to be assured in his own soul that he is so. I am commanded by my Saviour when I pray to call God Father. How is He to me a Father into whose presence I may dare to come, but as I am His adopted son in Christ? Shall I term Him Father, and have no assurance that I am His son? This were intolerable presumption. To bring us to the assurance of our adoption is the drift of preaching, the scope of praying, and the intent of our administering and receiving the sacraments: all aim and drive at this, that we may learn to apply the general sweetness of the Scriptures to our own particulars. But to cut off all mistakings: here is a necessary question to be made touching this assurance of adoption. Whether it be such an assurance which is so certain that it is never disturbed with doubting? I answer: I dare not say it is such an assurance; I know David knew himself to be the chosen of God, yet I know that sometimes he thought he was cast out of God's sight, and that the Lord would show no more favour (Psalm 31:22; Psalm 77:7; Psalm 69:3). What assurance then (will you say) is this you discourse of? I answer, an assurance striving after assurance; an assurance wrestling and combating with continual doubtings. It is the wisdom of God by this very means to settle the hearts of His chosen. It was one of the old rules of the law, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word should stand. It is therefore the wisdom of God that the assurance of adoption should be grounded upon the testimony of two very sufficient witnesses, the Spirit of God and our own spirit. The Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.

( S. Hieron.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

WEB: Behold, how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! For this cause the world doesn't know us, because it didn't know him.

The Sons of God
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