James Smith, 1861
"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, sons of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe!" Philippians 2:14-15
Privileges should always be employed to enforce duties. This is the apostolic method, and it is like oiling the nail before we attempt to drive it. Paul wanted the Philippians to be of one mind, therefore he enforced humility, and set before them the example of the Lord Jesus, who had done so much for them. He wished them to be contented and thankful, blameless and harmless, or sincere — transparent — and he reminds them that it befit them, because they were "the sons of God." What an honor to be conferred on man, fallen man, and yet this honor have all the saints.
The Privilege.We were by nature the creatures of his power, the subjects of his government — and yet traitors to his throne. By grace we become his sons.
First, by adoption, as Pharaoh's daughter adopted Moses, and brought him up for her son; and as Mordecai adopted Esther, and brought her up as his own daughter; so the Lord in the exercise of his rightful sovereignty, adopted us.
Second, by a new birth, we are born again, born from above, born of God, born of the Spirit; in consequence of this we have a new nature, a spiritual nature, in a sense, a divine nature.
Out of the new birth, as its effect and fruit, grows faith; and faith leads us to Christ, connects us with Christ, and it is testified that we are the children of God, by faith in Jesus Christ.
Adoption, changed our state;
regeneration, changed our nature;
and faith, proved our relationship.
Adoption, was an act of God without us;
regeneration, was the work of God within us;
and faith was an act put forth by us.
Adoption was of pure grace;
regeneration, was by divine power; and
faith was by the exercise of the newly imparted principle of spiritual life.
Adoption, was by the Father before time;
regeneration, was by the Spirit in time; and
faith in Christ, was after we had passed from death unto life.
Adoption gave us a name in the book of life,
regeneration made us one of God's family, and
by faith we were manifested to, and recognized by our brethren.
Blessed be God for putting us among his children, for giving us the nature of his children, and for working in us the faith of his children.
The People.Children honor their Father; and the Lord's people honor and reverence him. Therefore he asks of some, "If I am a father — where is my honor?" Children obey their father, and God's children obey him, and obey him from the heart. Children love their parents, and the children of God love him, and prize his presence above their best joys.
They are led by the Spirit to know themselves, to trust in Jesus, and to enjoy fellowship with him; and as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. They love all their brothers and sisters — all who are of the same family, who have the same nature, and resemble the Lord Jesus. Therefore John says, "We know that we have passed from death unto life," — and does he refer to some deep experience of law terrors, dreadful temptations, frightful manifestations, or glorious joys? No, valuable as these things may be, he alludes to none of them — but says, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." Love to saints, as saints, is a sure proof of saintship.
The marvelous grace displayed — for it is marvelous grace — that God should adopt us for his children, especially when he had a Son, and such a son! A Son who is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person. A Son whom he calls "his dear Son," or "the Son of his love." In whom his love centered, and all the rays of his glory met. He had one only begotten Son — but in addition to this, he had myriads of bright, beautiful, and obedient beings, who had witnessed his creating power, and rejoiced in the displays of his wisdom. For at the creation of this earth, we read, that "the morning stars sang together — and all the sons of God shouted for joy."
Now that God with such a Son as his only begotten, and with such sons, as those blessed and holy angels — should choose and adopt such vile, degraded, and deformed beings as we are — is wondrous grace indeed! Besides which, some whom he has adopted for his children, appear to be the very basest! Where all were bad — God seems to have taken the very worst!
And then the price it cost him to redeem us, that he might honorably put us among his children; us, who were his open, shameless enemies.
Not only so — but that he should take such numbers of us, myriads — and take us to raise us to such great, such amazing honor. O wondrous grace, of an infinitely glorious God!
Beloved, in our adoption, Jehovah acts like a God. Everything connected with this display of his grace, is glorious, godlike, and divine. It was the thought of a God — profoundly deep, wondrously wise. It was the purpose of a God — grand and surpassing human conception. It was the act of a God — displaying such condescension, such love, such glorious grace, as only an infinite God could.
Our adoption secures us from all evil. From all penal evil at present, and from all physical evil in eternity. Naturally we could only expect evil, unmixed evil, and evil from every quarter; but God's grace displayed in our adoption, will remove us to an infinite distance from all evil, and put us in possession of all that is really good.
Our adoption lays us under infinite obligation to God. To spare our lives was mercy. To deliver us from going down into the infernal pit was grace. But to raise us above angels, to place us before his face forever, to constitute us his children, to love us as he loves Jesus, to make us his heirs, and to cause us to inherit the throne of glory — is grace beyond degree, almost beyond belief! Our adoption and its blessed results, will fill all worlds with wonder and surprise. Even now the angels seek to pry into the subject, and come to learn the manifold wisdom of God — in the redemption of the church. But to all God's intelligent creation, he will show the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness toward us by Jesus Christ.
Beloved reader, are you one of "the sons of God?" Have you proved your adoption — by a new birth? Have you proved your regeneration — by your faith in Christ? Do you daily prove your faith in Christ — by your good works? Do you honor, fear, and obey God as a Father? Do you love him, and prefer his presence to all things besides? Are you led by the Spirit — into the truth of God, into fellowship with God, and in the ways of God? Do you love the brethren; all the brethren? Do you love them for Christ's sake, because they belong to him and resemble him?
If so — rejoice that your name is written in Heaven.
If so — trust in the Lord, and expect to receive from him all that you need.
If so — honor the Lord more and more, by your confidence, humility, and grateful spirit.
If so — publish the wondrous grace, tell to all around you, what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he had compassion on you.
If so — in all your troubles, trials, temptations, and distresses, look forward to the time, when absent from the body you will be present with the Lord, and dwell in pleasure and plenty in your Father's house forever!
Behold what wondrous grace
The Father has bestowed
On sinners of a mortal race,
To call them sons of God!