What is a “son”?
Through God’s grace we all are called sons of God in Christ Jesus; but just what is a son? How is it that a female is also called a son in Christ?
In the Hebrew language, the word for son; is the word that is pronounced “ben or bane”; ben comes from a root wood which means “to build”, therefore ben means “a builder”.
Though the word is more often used to show a male offspring; one can be a son to one who is not the physical father of the child; such as, a teacher may call his pupil, son.
Therefore, we should see the word ben as being more prophetic in its application, not just a title; “ben” implies that this child will build its life upon the foundation that is laid before him, that is, through his father’s and other people’s examples that are lived out before him.
This child will build upon the family name, whether it is honor or dishonor. Likewise, when this child grows up and takes a wife, he will be adding to or helping to build the family ancestry.
The word “ben” is also translated children (male & female) in many places to show relationship as a whole or unity; such as the children of Israel, as a community of people; and as a nation they build their lives from Israel their father or grandfather and so on.
The Greek word: (huios) means son and is equal to the Hebrew word (ben); so when translating the Hebrew to Greek, “huios” is used in the place of “ben”.
Huios can be used in a wide range of understandings, but the writers of the N/T often used it to show the relationship of a mature or adult son to his father or one who can express his own rights as an adult in the family unit.
Paul used many terms to help us to understand our relationship with God, unfortunately in the English translations of scripture, many times they do not show the differences between an adult son or an under-aged son.
Such as the difference between a (huios and a teknon), both can be translated son, but each gives out a different understanding to the text or idea given through the Greek meaning of these two different words.
In Paul’s writings; he used mainly four terms; (1.) tekníon, (2.) teknon, (3.) nepios, (4.) huios,
1. Little child: tekníon; diminutive of téknon (G5043), child. A little child. Used figuratively.
A term of affection that is used by Paul as a teacher to his disciples (Gal 4:19) He calls them, “My little children or little darlings”. Using this term, Paul is saying, he is the one who birthed them (a group of people) spiritually through the gospel that he preached to them.
2. Child: Téknon; gen. (G5088), to bring forth, bear children. A child, male or female.
The root word means: to produce, as from a seed (or birthed). Not used to point to adulthood, but as one who is parented, or one who has been born or birthed to another. This gives a point of origin or beginning where one comes from.
3. A child—nḗpios; (G2031), One who cannot speak, hence, an infant, baby or child without any definite limitation of age.
The main point of Paul in Gal 4:1 when he uses this word; is the child can not speak for itself (not of legal age), so it must be under a guardian, until it becomes of legal age as an adult then he may speak for himself.
4. Huiós at times refers to a legal heir and thus by implication, an adult son or of legal age.
Paul uses this term for one who has authority (able to add his voice) and can operate within the family unit as an adult (use authority out from under a guardian).
Paul uses another word; huiothesía; (Gal. chap. 4) which means “son placement” and is translated: adoption.
It may be unfortunate that this word is translated adoption; in light of the fact that within the Jewish law there is no such thing as an adoption nor is this word found in the Greek translation of the O/T; the Septuagint; so if Paul means adoption as we understand it, then he must be referring to a Roman event, yet he claims it pertains to the Jews (Rom.9:4).
In America our culture is somewhat different from that of most other cultures; so we often fail to understand fully what is said by many of the writers of scripture, because we tend to translate most things through our own cultural view (a Western culture) and not theirs.
In most other cultures, there is often the rite of passage; where the boy becomes the man or the girl becomes the woman.
In the Jewish culture (which is probably what Paul is referring to), when a boy turns 13 or a girl turns 12 they become a man or woman in their culture; the boy goes through a ceremony called; “Bar Mitzvah”, which means in Aramaic: (bar = son and mitzvah = commandment”) and (the female goes through “bat mitzvah”, bat = daughter); they become a son or daughter of the commandments (or Law).
Though the age of the child and their test may be somewhat different for each culture; the idea is the same. At about the age of 12 to 20 the child is given a task to perform; which may take up to a year or so to perform.
If the child performs the task given, there may be then given a test to see just how well this child can handle himself in it. Afterwards when the task is over; whether by the father or some other elder, the boy is then declared a man and placed in the family unit as a young adult son with all the rights and privileges which that position holds. Afterwards, at another special event or ceremony, he will be presented to all of the community as a man.
Huiothesía may refer to this event, where the teknon (child) is placed as a huios (adult son) in the family unit.
In Rom.8:19, there is an expectation of the manifestation of the huios (sons) of God. This could be the end event or ceremony where the “New man” in the family is now presented for all to see; no longer the child they knew, but now a man, (In the full stature of Christ).
In most cultures the ceremony isn’t really need, because at a predetermined age the boy automatically become a man; the ceremony is more symbolic or a celebration of the fact.
In Christ we are already a son of God, but Paul seems to point that there is a greater acknowledgement or celebration that is coming where we are brought forth redeemed whole; body, soul and spirit, when the resurrection takes place.
We are the children of God by faith in Christ, born into God’s family. Also, every child (teknon) of God is automatically placed into the family as a son (huios), and as a son we have all the legal rights and privileges of an adult son.
When a sinner trusts Christ and is saved, as far as his condition is concerned, he is a “spiritual babe” who needs to grow through the word of God (1 Peter 2:2–3); but as far as his position is concerned, he is an adult son who can draw on the Father’s wealth and who can exercise all the wonderful privileges of son-ship.
We enter God’s family by regeneration, but our authority in God’s family comes by adoption or placement. The Christian does not have to wait to begin enjoying the spiritual riches he has in Christ. (Although, spiritual growth may be required in order to attain some of these riches.)
“If a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:7). However, even though we can enjoy the benefits as an adult son; if we remain as a spiritual babe and fail to grow up, then there may be consequences that will hinder us from enjoying all of our inheritance here on earth.
So if we act like the nepios who has no rights to his inheritance, but is under a guardian; then our failure to have a voice in the matter is due to our immaturity and our inheritance may not be recognized or obtained. (Read Gal. chap.4)
Paul shows that going back into the law or again come under some legal system (for the Gentiles were never under the Law of Moses) is to lower one’s self from his huios position and he returns back to his nepios condition; whereby you displace yourself from your position of authority that is found in Christ and unable to operate as an adult.
Not that you lose your salvation, but your understanding of Christ is no longer correct or beneficial; and to stay in this condition may eventually influence your salvation causing you to see no real need for Christ; therefore, you may depart or you may sever yourself completely from him.
Though your salvation may not be lost by returning to this immature state under the law, at the very least there will be hindrances to the receiving of many of the benefits (graces) that are found in Christ, because you are operating out from under the rights and privileges of being a huios (adult son).
In Eph.4:14, Paul commands or exhorts that we no longer act as children (nepios), who are at the mercy of every wind of doctrine.
We are to grow up and be a man in the full stature that is found in Christ. But Paul’s exhortation shows it is possible to remain immature or to act as a nepios.
However, Christ gave the ministry gifts for the purpose of our growth; as well as, we are to draw from one another in the body. Therefore, he gives us no excuse for not moving on into maturity and being a huios.
In Rom. Chap. 8, Paul uses the two words teknon and huios; to show that we are given a witness of the Spirit of God that reveals that we are the teknon (children born) of God (v.16).
He also says it is the huios (adult sons) that are led of the Spirit. God’s desire is that we grow pass our being merely birth of God; but also, that we grow up and continue moving forward by entering into adulthood with Christ.
As we mortify the flesh and we yield ourselves to the Spirit of God, there is an image being produce in us (v.29), which is the spirit of Christ; if there is no image then we are not his.
(Since, it is the task of the Holy Spirit to produce this image in us.)
The only legitimate reason for there to be no image; is because we are not his and the Spirit of God is not there to produce the image.
Paul likens our mortifying the flesh as a growing process which causes suffering (v18). Many children as they grow in stature suffer what is called growing pains; where bones, muscles and tendons all growing and stretching can cause great discomfort and a groaning within us.
This process is normal; likewise, there are some normal things (sufferings) to be expected as we grow up in Christ.
However, (Paul says), we do not know how to produce this inner image ourselves; and this is our infirmity or weakness; that we do not know what to pray in order to bring about this manifestation of the sons of God; so, to help us; the Spirit groans with us, whereby he helps us to produce this image.
Though the growth process of mortifying the flesh may seem painful at times, he works it all for our good; and as we mature, there is a more defined image of Christ that will be revealed in us.
In a way, this is the rite of passage for the child of God; that he may then be seen or recognized by the entire world that he is in fact a son (huios) of God; not just inwardly, but outwardly.
For the whole of creation groans for this manifestation. (Where the inner image is manifested outwardly and we are seen in his glory.)
So our positional placement through Christ is, that we are already the huios of God, yet there is still a manifestation to be brought forth; in the family we have already been declared sons (huios), but there is yet the ceremony where the son is presented to the community as a man.
The Apostle John never uses the word huios in referring to the believer in Christ, except once where he is quoting O/T scripture; John seems to reserve this term for Jesus alone; it’s as if he is waiting for our final ceremony before the term actually applies to us.
As I stated before the Hebrew term for son is (ben); which means builder. In the O/T there are many examples of a son building his life where he brought honor and some who brought dishonor upon the family name.
A son is called a builder because he builds from the examples his father puts before him.
Eli was a judge and a high priest of God; and if we will take a good look at some statements about Eli; we may be able to see why his sons turned out the way they did.
(1Sam. 2:27-29): Where God revealed that Eli had made himself fat by the best of all the offerings, (also read 1 Sam.2 12-17).
We are told that the priests were to take from the pot whatever came out by the hooks; yet, the charge is that Eli is taking the best. By this we can see that Eli was going beyond what was allowed for him and he had been doing this for a long time; because the charge is he has made himself fat!
Eli had lost true respect for the things of God and took advantage of his position; in doing so he had laid the foundation or examples for his sons to follow. Eli’s position required of him to honor the Lord above all, but his own actions prevented him from correcting the actions of his sons; by Eli’s failure to bring judgment or correction to his own sons, it caused him to honor his sons above God.
So the blueprints were laid out and the builders (Eli’s sons) built according to what they saw!
Samuel was the last judge over Israel. There is nothing negative said about this man; yet the actions of his sons were the reason Israel cried out for a king to be placed over them (1 Sam.8:1-5).
One of the saddest thing that can occur is the falling away of a righteous man’s children. I have seen many a Pastor’s children fall into sin; it can be heart breaking for Pastors to do all the things in raising their children, as right as possible; and yet see their children go a different way.
Samuel would not have placed his sons as judges if he had not thought it was a good thing to do. We are not told how old Samuel is, but many believe he lived to be about seventy years of age.
It’s not told how long Samuel’s sons were judges or when they became corrupt. Sometimes no matter how well we do in raising our children; they decide to go their own course.
The one thing I wanted to point out is; this is not the last we hear of these two sons of Samuel!
In 1 Ch.6:28 we see that these two sons are placed by King David to sing in the house of the Lord. Why would David place these men in this place; could it be, that somewhere along the way, the blueprint that Samuel had laid out before them was finally being built?
If so; then there is still hope for you Pastors and others as well, who have been faithful to live the example; your children are still capable of returning to the original design you laid out for them.
Samuel never saw it in his lifetime, but I’m sure he did in the Spirit (he knew what he had placed in them); or he never would have placed them as judges. Likewise, God knows what he has placed in us, or he never would have placed us as sons!