Christ Followers or Sons of God?

I was reminded recently (via the message given by RC Sproul Jr. at the Ligonier National Conference) that we are often mistaken in the way we express our identity as believers.  It is clear that when we do so, we miss a central truth regarding the Gospel.  Let me explain.

Dr. Sproul addressed the crowd in Orlando with a confession.  He explained that there is a particular teaching that, in light of a clear understanding of the Gospel, he now has to repent for teaching.  What has come to distress him is that for years he had taught that God loves you now as much as he ever will.  There is nothing we can do to gain more of God’s love.  This is often where we stop in our teaching.

While this is definitely true in what it affirms, it is slightly off.  The truth of the matter, a central hope of the Gospel, is that God loves us in this way for the very fact that He loves His Son in this way.  Now, through the atoning and substitutionary death of Christ, we are now clothed in the imputed righteousness of Christ.  When God looks upon us, he doesn’t see filthy rags of our sinfulness, He sees the righteousness of His Son.

What Christ accomplished through Good Friday and Easter Sunday was not simply a doing away of God’s wrath.  At the same time, He made it possible for us to know the fullness of God’s Fatherly love.  We are now given the privilege of being called children of God.

In hearing this truth again, my heart immediately asked this question: “If this great truth of sonship and adoption is so central, then why are so many Christians trying out this new identifier ‘Christ Follower’?”  So often we will hear people say in response to the question “Are you a Christian?” the seemingly provocative reply, “Well, I am a Christ follower.”

Again, while this is certainly true- we follow Christ, it misses the point and could be misleading to the hearer.  Are we simply a follower of Jesus like Muslims are followers of Mohammed or Buddhists are followers of the…um…whatever?  We don’t simply adhere to another way of life, a certain teacher we follow.  We are radically different.  We have become children of God.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:3-9

We have been born again.  We have an inheritance.  Two things unique to sonship through Christ, not traits of mere following.  Through this (Christ’s atoning death that achieved our adoption) we have a living hope that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading. It is so because Christ has won it.

What is it that caries the Christian through trials and testings?  Is it the quality of his followership…or the reality of his sonship?

We need to remember that the power of the Gospel rescues the thief on the cross and the death-row converted not because they follow Christ, but because he has made them His own.


One thought on “Christ Followers or Sons of God?

  1. I think you have a wrong view of imputation:

    In my study on this topic of imputed righteousness, the Greek term “logizomai” is the English term for “reckon/impute/credit/etc,” (all terms are basically equivalently used) and when I look up that term in a popular lexicon here is what it is defined as:

    QUOTE: “This word deals with reality. If I “logizomai” or reckon that my bank book has $25 in it, it has $25 in it. Otherwise I am deceiving myself. This word refers to facts not suppositions.”

    The lexicon states this term first and foremost refers to the actual status of something. So if Abraham’s faith is “logizomai as righteousness,” it must be an actually righteous act of faith, otherwise (as the Lexicon says) “I am deceiving myself.” This seems to rule out any notion of an alien righteousness, and instead points to a local/inherent righteousness.

    The Lexicon gives other examples where “logizomai” appears, here are some examples:
    Rom 3:28 Therefore we conclude [logizomai] that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

    Rom 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted [logizomai] as a gift but as his due.

    Rom 6:11 Likewise reckon [logizomai] ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    Rom 8:18 For I reckon [logizomai] that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

    Notice in these examples that “logizomai” means to consider the actual truth of an object. In 3:28 Paul ‘reckons’ faith saves while the Law does not, this is a fact, the Law never saves. In 4:4 the worker’s wages are ‘reckoned’ as a debt because the boss is in debt to the worker, not giving a gift to him. In 6:11 the Christian is ‘reckoned’ dead to sin because he is in fact dead to sin. In 8:18 Paul ‘reckons’ the present sufferings as having no comparison to Heavenly glory, and that is true because nothing compares to Heavenly glory.

    To use logizomai in the “alien status” way would mean in: (1) 3:28 faith doesn’t really save apart from works, but we are going to go ahead and say it does; (2) 4:4 the boss gives payment to the worker as a gift rather than obligation/debt; (3) 6:11 that we are not really dead to sin but are going to say we are; (4) 8:18 the present sufferings are comparable to Heaven’s glory.
    This cannot be right.

    So when the text plainly says “faith is logizomai as righteousness,” I must read that as ‘faith is reckoned as a truly righteous act’, and that is precisely how Paul explains that phrase in 4:18-22. That despite the doubts that could be raised in Abraham’s heart, his faith grew strong and convinced and “that is why his faith was credited as righteousness” (v4:22). This is also confirmed by noting the only other time “credited as righteousness” appears in Scripture, Psalm 106:30-31, where Phinehas’ righteous action was reckoned as such. This is confirmed even more when one compares another similar passage, Hebrews 11:4, where by faith Abel was commended as righteous.

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