I wrote part of the following on my facebook page recently and it brought about some good discussion and insights. I’ve mentioned these ideas before, but I think they came out particularly clearly and concisely in this instance.
I believe there are two ways of relating to God: as servants or as sons. The relationship of a servant is one of keeping laws and fearing punishment, but not of receiving reward for obedience. Law doesn’t give any rewards – it simply waits to punish those who step out of line.
Sons, on the other hand, while they may need to grow and mature, are still considered equals and partners with their Father, being members of His household. They are not under the laws of the servant, so they do not fear punishment or rejection. They love their Father, honor Him, and as they mature they increasingly learn and conform to His heart and ways. Servants are kept out of the “inner circle” of the family, but sons actually help run their Father’s Kingdom by fulfilling the tasks He gives them, and simply because their nature is as His (in other words, they don’t have to “act” a certain way, they ARE that way)! Sons cooperate with the Father and inherit all that He has. The relationship of a son is one of freedom, honor, cooperation, peace, and joy.
Although they deeply want to please their Father and further His purposes (Kingdom), sons aren’t even aware of laws – they know they’re accepted and loved members of the family, so with freedom and without fear they live and go about their Father’s business and tasks, enjoying the benefits of being in His household. Servants, however, are (rightly) very worried about breaking the laws and rules, because strictly obeying them is their entire life and purpose.
LAW CREATES SERVANTS, AND SERVANTHOOD IS AND WILL ALWAYS BE IMMATURE AND INFERIOR WHEN COMPARED WITH SONSHIP.
Jesus, the firstborn Son, made himself a servant in order to elevate us to sons.
Now, in saying sons aren’t under the law, which is true, I’m not saying that following the flesh is “ok.” Trying to find the limits of what is ok or not is a servant mentality to begin with. But it’s true – if you’re following the flesh, you’re not following the spirit. But remember, “flesh” can be very good, religious and devout. If you’re walking in the spirit, you’ll naturally be aware of love and freedom, not the self-examination that comes with law-keeping as a means of righteousness.
I know many will ask: “so what about sin?” I think it’s important to understand that “sin” literally means to “miss the mark,” or to “miss the goal.” For servants, the goal is to keep the law, and therefore sin is a violation of the law’s regulations. In a very real sense, sin is only able to exist in the presence of law. Scripture actually says this plainly in multiple ways and places, one of which is in Romans 7:
Romans 7:8-9 WEB (R): “But sin, finding occasion through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of coveting. For apart from the law, sin is dead. (9) I was alive apart from the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.”
I will probably write more about that another time, but for now, I simply want to point out that for sons (male and female), who aren’t under these commandments and laws, there is no “sin” in the usual sense. For a son, the “goal” is conformity to the Father’s nature of love and His corresponding heart/will at the present time. Therefore, whether he realizes it or not, a son can keep law perfectly, can refrain from all outward forms of sin, but still very much “miss the mark” (sin). Have you known someone who outwardly seems very righteous, but who can be harsh, critical, unloving, and self-focused? That person is not walking as a son, though they may be seeming to “keep the law.” Sonship is actually a higher call, harder and more costly in many ways, but also much, much more glorious.
This topic is easily big enough for a book. While I can’t make anyone “see” these things, I pray these words can be used to open some eyes to a deeper revelation of God and the gospel, and to feed some hungry hearts. Many scriptures testify to these things and highlight the distinction between servants and sons. But others, it’s true, seem to be directed toward those with a servant mentality. Perhaps it’s true that scripture speaks to both servants and sons. I suppose both have a place, but I’d rather be a son, even if it’s harder.
By the way, I am convinced that the scripture which mentions “sinning willfully after receiving a knowledge of the truth” in Hebrews 10 is referring to one who rejects the sacrifice of Christ and the sonship it brings, and instead continues to try to relate to God by what scripture calls the “old” and “obsolete” way of law and self-righteousness. It’s exactly like Paul wrote in Galatians 5:4: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by (literally: “in”) the law; ye are fallen from grace.”
The difference between servanthood and sonship is truly radical. Galatians 4:4-7 KJV says this:
“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
Likewise, Hebrews 10:12-22 KJV says this:
“But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience (no awareness/consciousness of sin, see Hebrews 10:2), and our bodies washed with pure water.”