By H. Forbes Witherby.
14. The Relationship of Child.
The sovereignty of God in begetting his own by his word — the child of God rejoices in the nature of his God and Father — the intimacy of the relationship between the Father and the children.
Every believer on the Lord Jesus Christ has everlasting life; he is born of water and the Spirit, and is a child of God; and once a child, he is always a child. To the new life there is no termination; and in the relationship created and fashioned by the Spirit there is no break, no severance. The fact of the existence of the relationship is due to the sovereign grace of God; He is our Father; and according to His own will, He hath begotten us by the word of truth.
The sovereignty of the favor of God is exercised toward us not only in His forgiving us all our sins and trespasses, and in bringing us into peace in His presence, but in His communicating to us the life which is in His Son, and in making us His children. A man cannot make himself a child of God; no effort of his will, no labor of his hands can effect his birth. We have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before God, in love; perfect liberty is to mark the children in the presence of their God and Father. The nature of God is holy and is love, and having a nature which is as God's, holy, the children will dwell in the presence of God in the joy and repose of His love. This is the divine purpose concerning all His people; He is light, He is love, and they shall all be before Him perfectly holy, and absolutely without blame; and in love. The holiness and the love indicate the nature of God, of which we are partakers; and such is His great work for us that, sinful creatures, as we are in ourselves by natural birth, and enemies to Him as we are by our wicked works, yet we shall not be blameable by Him when we reach our home in the glory. Not one fault will be found there with any child.
Once, and we can never forget it, we were far off from God, alienated from Him, enemies to Him, in our minds, by wicked works. Let the human mind be fathomed, and down in its deepest depths enmity to God will be found. But now, even in this lifetime, God path reconciled us. God has made us friends, according to the perfect grace and perfect work of the cross of Jesus. God has removed the enmity in the body of Christ's flesh, through death. That precious body given for us, mocked with the crown of thorns and pierced with nails upon the accursed tree, demonstrates what human enmity to God is. Yet in that body has God now reconciled us, for in that body, through death, we, in our natural enmity, are gone clean out of God's sight. We have died, we have been crucified with Christ; and now we are in Christ, who is risen; and He will present us to God, before long, holy, and unblameable, and unreprovable in His sight." Only let us cleave to the truth grounded and settled therein, and let us not be led away to a religiousness which practically denies that in the body of His flesh, through death, we are reconciled. (See Col. 1:20-2 3.) The present is as divinely certain as the future.
Intimacy with Himself is the marvellous thought of God our Father concerning us, who, in the first Adam, hid ourselves from His voice, and who, until He gave us in His sovereign grace to believe on His Son, dreaded the thought of meeting Him. Formerly the thoughts of His holiness were terrible; and the contemplation of Him as light made us shrink from His presence. But the cross of His Son, the body of Jesus in death the end of all that we are as the children of Adam, in God's sight — has calmed every fear, and therefore we are perfectly happy in the presence of our God.
The child of God rejoices in the nature of God his Father, because, by grace, he is made partaker of the divine nature. There is a moral capacity for delighting in God given to the children. Save God Himself, none can satisfy the desires of His children. "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God" (Ps. 63), is the longing of him who has the divine nature; Thou art with me" (Ps. 23:4), his present satisfaction.
In our day, redemption being accomplished, the Spirit of God is sent into the hearts of the redeemed, and, by His indwelling, the desires of their hearts are rendered more deep, even as their satisfaction is enlarged. The children of God, when under the law, and before redemption was accomplished, had the desires of children, hut not the liberty. The way of liberty was not then known; indeed, it was not made. The way of liberty lies through the open grave of Jesus, and the liberty itself is the child of God's delighting in the light and the love of God the Father. "I will declare Thy name unto my brethren," was a prophetic word, and one which was fulfilled after the sufferings of the cross (see Ps. 22 and John 20); but now the Lord has ascended to His Father and our Father, to His God and our God, and, in the midst of His redeemed, leads the praises of the children, as He will do, uninterruptedly when all are assembled around Him, and when He is in their midst, their centre, their object in glory. "My Father and your Father, My God and your God," are the Lord's words to us in resurrection; and what identity do they show us, exists between Himself, the First-born from among the dead, and the many whom He is not ashamed to call "brethren."
The intimacy of the relationship between the Father and the children is most richly expressed in the writings of the apostle John. Let us note our Lord's own words relative to Himself: "Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me." (John 14:11.) This He said to Philip. That disciple had not grasped the truth of the relationship of the Son of God's love to His Father in heaven, neither could he grasp this, even though possessed of divine life, until the Holy Ghost, sent down from heaven, became in him the power of understanding the truth. "In that day," when the Comforter had come, said the Lord, "ye shall know that I am in My Father." Not fully knowing who the Son was, even the disciples, with whom He had been so long, could not comprehend the meaning of the Son being in the Father, and the Father being in the Son. The Lord had said before, pointing to His works, "The Father is in Me, and I in Him," and had told the people to believe the works, that they might know and believe the truth of the relationship between the Father and the Son (John 10:38); but they understood not.
Perhaps our reader finds no difficulty in, at least, mentally acknowledging this relationship between the Father and the Son, for the glories of the Lord, as the Son of God, are the first principles of our christian faith. He is in heaven, not on earth; we think of Him as He is, and His divine as well as His human glory fills our minds. He is not now as He was then, in His humiliation. The value of His atoning blood depends upon the majesty of His person, His work is what He Himself has made it. The divine work and the divine Worker cannot be disassociated from each other in the christian's mind. He is where He is, because He is who He is. But do we find any difficulty in following these words of our Lord, "At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you"? (John 14:20.) Do not we sometimes stop short at the word "Father"? But the same Spirit who teaches us the relationship between the Father and the Son, teaches us what our relationship is in Him: "Ye in Me, and I in you." This truth rests upon the basis of the glory of the person and work of Christ. We are what we are because He is what He is and where He is.
The words which the Father gave the Son He has given us, and, if we have received them, we know that He came out from the Father. And He spoke for us, as well as for the disciples of eighteen hundred years ago: He spoke for those also who should believe on Him through their word, saying, "That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us." (John 17:21.) It is, indeed, a marvellous reality to be a child of God — to have the life of God, and God dwelling in us. Let us consider the position into which we are brought, the moral union, the family union, which is ours. "One in Us": in the Father and in the Son — as the Father is in the Son, and as the Son is in the Father. The highest christian joys emanate from this relationship which is the common portion of all the children of God. Mighty as were apostolic gifts, and deep as was the knowledge of apostolic days, yet the feeblest and most simple of the children are in the Son and in the Father — and this love is more marvellous than all gifts and all knowledge.
Nothing can disturb this union, for it is of divine formation; much may disturb its enjoyment in the children, and its fruits in their lives upon this earth; but the reality itself eternally exists, for it is absolutely of sovereign grace.
As we proceed we shall touch upon the practical questions of enjoyment and fruit-bearing; but the primary consideration is the rooting and the grounding of the soul in grace, and the knowledge of divine truths. In the things of God we must possess the truths by faith before the experiences can be known; we must believe before we can perceive. Let us believe that "Ye in Me, and I in you," is each letter true; then in due season we shall begin to understand what we believe. The Comforter will instruct us, and we shall know. Do we lift up our eyes and set our heart upon the consideration. By pondering well its deep meaning, we see how God the Father loves us: "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children (lit.) of God." (1 John 3:1.)