Justification and the Path to Sonship

Robert Wurtz II

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (Galatians 3:13-14). 

“For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:10 KJV).

Justification is the process by which God forgives a sinner’s sins and declares him/her to be righteous. It is by grace and through faith. We are sinners with an enormous list of sins that had to be forgiven before we can go forward with God. Romans 4:5 puts it this way, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5 KJV). Repentance and faith lead to justification, but there are more steps in God’s plan to bring many sons unto glory. 

The New Testament scriptures declare plainly that we are all born into this world “children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2) and “of our father the devil” (John 8:44). We are born in a state of perishing (2 Peter 3:9). We need above all things a new spiritual father (if you will). We need to be reborn from above with the nature of God (John 3:3). This is a divine miracle greater than walking on water or changing water to wine. Yet God has determined to take children of disobedience, children of the devil, etc. and make them by nature sons and daughters of God. 

The Adoption of Sons

God chose to adopt us into His family through His uniquely begotten Son Jesus Christ. By the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, we are transformed into His children with His nature. This process fulfills God’s original plan to “make man in Our image and likeness” (Gen. 1:26) and “bring many sons unto glory” (Heb. 2:10). It begins with the blessing of Abraham, who was justified (declared right with God) on the basis of his faith and trust in God alone. This justification predated the Law of Moses. 

We must focus on the fact that Abraham’s faith was more than mental assent; it was faith that moved him. God called him out of Ur of the Chaldees and he went out not knowing where he was going (Heb. 11:8). Understand that God’s call is a command. Jesus called the disciples saying, “Follow me…”  Centuries before Abraham, Noah believed God and “moved with fear” prepared an Ark to the saving of his house. This is genuine faith. 

It is amazing to read that Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness, and he was called the friend of God. Yet under the New Covenant, this grace allows for more than friends of God–we have the promise of being sons and daughters of God.  

Moving Faith

As with justification, we become sons/daughters of God by faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:26). Paul’s emphasis is always that neither the promise of justification or sonship (adoption) is by the works of the law. You will recall that Saul (before he was Paul) was a child of disobedience like the rest of us (Eph. 2:2, 5:6, Col. 3:6), but when he was called and turned to Christ, he obeyed his command and traveled to Damascus. Notice that Saul’s faith is “moving” him to action. It is instructive to note that when Ananias met Saul he referred to him as “brother” Saul. Keep in mind that Saul had not yet received the Holy Spirit at this point. 

How can Saul be a son and therefore Ananias’ “brother in Christ” when he had not yet received the Spirit? The answer is in Eph. 1:5 where Paul (Saul) tells us that we are chosen to Adoption in Christ, and we receive that reality by grace through faith. When God told Ananias to go meet Saul he referred to him as “a chosen vessel” unto God (Acts 9:15). This chosenness is what enables us to be sons/daughters. This agrees with the insightful passage in Rev. 17:14 where the saints are described as “called, chosen, and faithful.”

God initiates the process by calling and choosing us. If we respond rightly in faith, like Saul, we are declared to be sons–with a view to receiving the Holy Spirit making us literal spiritual sons/daughters of God. The proof that we are in fact sons/daughters is in the receiving of the Holy Spirit. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15 KJV) and again, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9 KJV). 

Sonship and Adoption

The sonship motif in Galatians agrees with Romans, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). Paul, having already reminded the Galatians of the circumstances of their having received the Holy Spirit, takes for granted that they also remember the events leading to receiving. Since Paul’s Gospel was universal, we know that his counsel to the Corinthians was likewise universal. Being “called and chosen” of God implies that we must “COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM AND BE SEPARATE, SAYS THE LORD. DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN, AND I WILL RECEIVE YOU. I WILL BE A FATHER TO YOU, AND YOU SHALL BE MY SONS AND DAUGHTERS, SAYS THE LORD ALMIGHTY” (2 Cor. 6:17-18 NKJV).  

Notice that “come out” is a command and is required for becoming sons and daughters. If we intend to become sons/daughters we must come out from among the world and be separate. This is repentance in the John the Baptist sense of the word and must be carried out in faith. Genuine faith will move us to do what 2 Cor. 6:17-18 is telling us to do. Understand that this passage was derived from prophecies concerning the exile into Babylon and the people’s returning to Israel after 70 years of captivity. 

When we come out of our personal Babylon or Egypt (if you like) we are to renounce the former life. Not as Lot’s wife who looked back seemingly reluctant to leave the place from which she was being delivered, but we go out with a high-handed readiness such as those who celebrated the first Passover in Egypt (Exodus 12:11). That is the simplicity of “coming out” and it requires a moving kind of faith just as we read about with Noah, Abraham, and Saul. For Abraham, he “came out from among them” in Ur and became a friend of God; for the New Covenant saints, we come out from among the world to become sons and daughters of God. 

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