The Manifestation of the Sons of God
Edwin S. Harper
Considering the tremendous spiritual and moral swing that we have witnessed in the past two decades, it is altogether probable that in the near future we preachers in the United States of America are going to be faced with the threat of being charged with a hate crime if we identify and preach against the prevalent sins of this modern era. As this possibility already exists in Canada, and in light of these looming developments here in the United States, it is imperative that we decide now how we are going to conduct ourselves in the pulpit, and what practices we will embrace to stay faithful to our scriptural convictions and our divine mandate to reach and evangelize our nation and the world. Pondering this dilemma, it is beneficial that we remember the decisions God made for us long before this world had the privilege of meeting the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When the Church in the Wilderness was journeying through the desert places after leaving the land of Egypt on their way to the Promise Land of Abraham, Moses encountered God on Mount Sinai and received explicit commandments concerning civic and religious lifestyle choices, and theological principles that were never to be abandoned until the Fulfiller of the Law would come. When Jesus Christ came, his righteousness exceeded that of the Law, the scribes, and Pharisees. In turn, a revelatory statement was made by the Apostle John: “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” (1 John 3:1).
Entering the ranks of this exclusive community we find passages in Scripture giving record of their existence and activity. Genesis sees them as exceptional sires whose gene pool, when mixed with the daughters of men, produced giants in the land (Genesis 6:1-4). Revealing their humanity, which was uncontaminated by the dwarfing limitations of the sin of Adam. These sons of God were not angels, as some have thought, for we are informed that “when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven,” suggesting that after the resurrection humanity will no longer need to procreate, which is the purpose of marriage, and will be as the angels, who are immortal and do not procreate (Mark 12:25). Further elaboration is given to these unique individuals in Job 1:6, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.” One of the participants, Job, was declared by God to be “a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil” (Job 1:8; 2:3). It is apparent that Job, a son of God, loved God and was seemingly without sin.
Paul gives insight to this group in Romans 5:12-14, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.”
There is a suggestion here of a community who “had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression,” but where could they have come from? An answer may be found in the question posed to Job by Eliphaz (Job 15:7), “Art thou the first man that was born?” Is it possible that Job, along with the other sons of God, was born in the Garden of Eden before Adam’s transgression? Job later states, “If I covered my transgressions as Adam,” which could indicate that he knew Adam (Job 31:33).
The questions of creation posed to Job in his dilemma were reminders that he knew more about righteousness, God, and the purity in creation, which warranted him a fortunate soul to have escaped the contamination of the fall. His friends, and Satan, attacked him at his lowest level of human emotion trying to persuade him in the company of his wife to curse God or at least confess to a nonexistent error for self justification of his suffering, but in all this he did not sin. Regardless of his sinless nature, Paul correctly pointed out that death would reign even over those who had not sinned.
What the Sons of God around Job knew was that they were the children born to Adam and Eve who were commanded to multiply and replenish the earth on the sixth day of creation. If you hold to the teaching of Peter “that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8), then it’s conceivable that Adam and Eve lived in that Garden perhaps as much as two thousand years before the Fall, since God rested on the Sabbath. If Job was indeed the first born son of Adam and Eve, there were thousands of years of childbearing without suffering before the Fall. The antediluvian book of Job, carved in stone and engraved in lead, survived the flood to introduce us to a better understanding of the sons of God” (Job 19:23-24).
The sons of God were born without sin. A person, born in sin and shaped in iniquity, who comes to a consciousness of their sin and desires to come to Jesus Christ, as did the 3,000 on the Day of Pentecost, who asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do,” must obey Peter’s ultimate invitation to salvation: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:37-38). This begins a journey to a sinless state allowing the convert to enter the community of the sons of God.
Being born again is not the end result of our Christian character but indeed the beginning. The scriptural reference is “through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience” (I Peter 1:2), and embracing Titus 2:11-13 we understand “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Thus, the discipline of Grace results in sanctification.
It is the process to deliver us to that ultimate goal of being saved: “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13). Paul’s statement, “For by grace are ye saved through faith,” denotes an ongoing process of the future tense (Ephesians 2:8).
Jesus, in his discussion about the end results of salvation, said, “The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:34-36). This shares with us the fact that the final description of the sons of God, or children of God, is that they are “the children of the resurrection.”
Quite accurately we have been born again, adopted, justified, and are now on a journey to live and demonstrate to the world by modeling Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Sanctification is a day-by-day separation from the world and isn’t just an issue of dress and cosmetology, but involves every aspect of our existence. John powerfully insisted: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Bible readers know that if the world is loved then God is absent from their life. Therefore, attitude becomes a measuring stick for where a man’s treasure is there will his heart be also (Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34). The flesh, the eye, and one’s pride must bow to the principles of this holy adventure of Christianity.
John 12:32, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” The trip stone of great revival and mass conversions is our understanding the role of Ambassadorship for King Jesus in this life. It may not be defined in a single verse but is exampled throughout Scripture. Apparently, Jesus knew that times of political chaos would threaten our participation in bringing converts to him. So, beginning in the Law of Moses, our schoolmaster, it was stated that you were forbidden to call the name of another god” (Exodus 23:13).
Michael the archangel avoided the risk of frustrating God when he refused to bring a railing accusation against Lucifer on top of Nebo when he disputed with him over the body of Moses, which teaches us that we are a spectacle before men and angels, insomuch that the true worshippers are a model, not only for men but also angels, and again that the church will judge not only the world but also the angels as to their conformity to the example of the church as we model His Word.
Here is an insightful scripture: “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (22) Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: (23) Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:” (1 Peter 2:21-23). This was the Son of God sent to the world, not “to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).
The Pharisees went out of their way to catch a woman in the very act of adultery, and in plying the Law of Moses in argument they asked Jesus, “What say ye?” He said, “Let him that is without sin cast the first stone” (See: John 8:3-11).
In Stephen’s closing moments of consciousness before dying he cries out on behalf of his persecutors, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Acts 7:60).
A key example is Paul’s response to the Athenians and Ephesians. In Athens, he passed by the vast display of altars and idols in the valley and standing on Mars Hill in front of the Acropolis within 100 yards of a house where prostitutes lived and were hired by men to go into the Acropolis and worship the gods of the Greeks and Romans in various sex acts did not mention the lewd surrounding, but with all the vigor of Godly revelation he addressed their superstitions:
“For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. (24) God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25) Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; (26) And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; (27) That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: (28) For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. (29) Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. (30) And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: (31) Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (32) And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. (33) So Paul departed from among them. (34) Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them” (Acts 17:23-34).
In Ephesus, concerning the worship of Diana, the magistrate underlines this non accusing Christian principle with the observation in Acts 19:37, “For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.”
With divine wisdom, Paul doesn’t touch the subjects of error but makes sure that the deity of Jesus Christ is exalted by teaching truth and yielding to the demonstration of the gifts of the Spirit. The result is that all of Asia will hear the Gospel in a space of three years.
Four prevalent factors can be observed in the history of God’s plan:
1. Exaltation of God, the Lord Jesus Christ
2. Principles of a separated lifestyle
3. Genuine love for fellow man
4. Demonstration of the Spirit
These factors of the Word of God, when applied to the believer’s life produce results for us, which can best be summed up in the words of Jesus, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7).
Peter preaching at Solomon’s Porch in Acts 3:20-21 said, “And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” What things?
When the Church, the body of Christ in the world, exemplifies in practice and lifestyle the Jesus that the world met in his 33 ½ years of humanity, all of creation will, regardless of the laws of the land, meet the irresistible Jesus Christ in the full measure of the manifestation of the sons of God.
Paul wrote of this anticipated manifestation:
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (19) For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. (20) For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, (21) Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (22) For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. (23) And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:18-23).
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God…” (1 John 3:2).
In 1865, the United States Government instituted the Secret Service to suppress counterfeit money and to catch counterfeiters. Their training consisted of exclusively looking at and studying authentic printed U. S. Currency only. It has been proven that looking at and knowing what the real thing looks, feels, and smells like prepares a Secret Service agent to immediately identify the phony because they know exactly what the real thing is.
Jesus Christ presented the positive and left the negative to the mouth of the Pharisees. The Jesus way was emphasized when he complimented the one we refer to as the Rich Young Ruler by telling him you have everything right except the one thing you lack (Mark 10:17-22). Another time, He said to one, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). To the woman at the well he did not tell her she was wrong but he did introduce her to the right through the Jewish man that deserved to be addressed as, “Sir,” because he was a prophet that revealed to her the Messiah that became her Savior. He was not only her Savior but the Savior of Samaria, which was later evangelized through the ministry of Phillip.
What do we do when we realize that it is in the best interest of revival and the welfare of the ministry to present the positive to a lost world without mentioning the negative? Will we preach about the health benefits, the mental comfort, the advantages of a strong and healthy family, the rightness of righteousness, the wholeness of holiness, the sanity of salvation, the completeness of clean living, or the perfection of love? When we demonstrate the positive attributes of godly living we make real what United States Supreme Court Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis believed, that the public is intelligent enough to identify and delineate between what is right, or true, and what is wrong, or false, if the right is talked about enough.
Even the “Golden Rule” is presented from a positive posture: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31).
Do we abandon Holiness teaching? Not at all! As ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ we have to be smart enough to know when we are preaching to a lost world and when we are teaching the converts of Jesus Christ how to live the sanctified life that is one of the foundation blocks of the manifestation of the sons of God. There is a difference in reaching the world and training the Church. The Word of God gave us five books to evangelize the lost with and twenty-two books to disciple the Church of the Living God through: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the Catalogue of everything we can have if we become a Christian; Romans through Jude are the Owner’s Manual; Revelation is the Guarantee; and, Acts is the Order Blank.
In conclusion, the changing political and social environment in North America demands the manifestation of the sons of God: “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. (2) Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (3) And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:1-3).
It is time we made ourselves known.
This article “The Manifestation of the Sons of God” by Edwin S. Harper was submitted by the author. Used by permission. March 2012. It may be used for study & research purposes only.