The Fellowship 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 [Jesus] not. 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.” —I John 3:1,2

THE INESTIMABLE PRIVILEGE of becoming sons of God on the Divine plane, and therefore members of the Creator’s immediate family, captured the imagination of the loving Apostle John, inspiring him, both in his Gospel account of Jesus’ life and in his epistles, to emphasize especially this theme in his ministry to the church. To claim sonship in the Divine family at the time John was laying down his life with the Master was a much more exclusive point of view than it is today.

Of all the Jews living at that time, only Jesus could really claim to be the Son of God, yet for this reason he was put to death. It required understanding, faith and courage, for any Jew to acknowledge his belief in Jesus as the Son of God, and claim to be his follower. Jesus was condemned to death as a blasphemer, and to the Jewish mind all those who professed to be his followers would necessarily partake with him in this so-called blasphemy.

The immediate disciples of Jesus, however, as well as those who learned of the Master’s virtues through them, would have abundant reason to believe that their Lord was indeed the Son of God. They knew of his purity. They knew that he fulfilled perfectly the prophetic description that had been given concerning the Lamb of God, that he was, indeed, “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” (Heb. 7:26) They knew of, and had been blessed by, the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. They had recognized that “never man spake like this man.” (John 7:46) They had witnessed his miracles, and knew that he ascribed to God the glory for the wonderful works which he performed, acknowledging that they were the works of God and wrought by the power of God.

Knowing of these facts concerning their Master, there was no other conclusion that could satisfy their minds and hearts, except that such a one was all that he claimed to be—the Son of God—and the Christ of promise. While to confess him as such and become his followers subjected them to scorn and persecution, the strength that comes from knowledge sustained them, and enabled them to affirm boldly their belief, and to proclaim the glad tidings of the kingdom which he had verified in their hearts.

But when John wrote, ‘Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God’, he gave expression to a truth of the Gospel which, from some standpoints, imposed a greater test of faith upon the believer than to confess that Jesus, the undefiled one, was the Son of God. Who are we that we should be called the sons of God? We who are defiled and sinful; we who are members of a condemned and dying race; we who are estranged from the Creator through wicked works; we who are as prone to sin as the sparks are to fly upward; upon what authority can we claim to be sons of God? John reminds us that it is upon the authority of God’s love. And what manner of love is revealed on God’s part in the provision he has made whereby such as we may, together with our beloved Master, also be called the sons of God!


To John, sonship in the Divine family meant partnership with the Father and with the Son. He says, “Our fellowship [Greek, ‘partnership’] is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (I John 1:3) It requires the combined thoughts of sonship and partnership to convey the full depth of meaning implied in the glorious privilege that is extended to the footstep followers of the Master. One might conceivably be a son of a noble father, and yet not be taken into partnership in his father’s business. But John would have us understand that the true followers of Jesus are not only, through spirit begettal, made sons of God but also that God takes them into a wondrous partnership with himself and with his Son in the outworking of his Divine plan for the reconciliation and salvation of a lost race.

In the first chapter of his Gospel, John tells of the Logos, the only begotten of the Father. He explains that Jesus, in his prehuman relationship to the Creator as a Son, was even then a coworker with his Father. That was in the original work of Creation. “Without him,” writes John, “was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:3) What a high privilege and honor was thus bestowed upon God’s only begotten Son, the Logos!

And yet, John recognized that in the work of re-creating the human race, the church—as well as Jesus—would participate. He learned from the Master and through the enlightening influence of the Holy Spirit, that the ‘manner of love’ that caused the Heavenly Father to beget us as sons had also purposed that we become partners with him, and with Jesus, in the restoration of the lost race.

This exalted position of Divine sonship in the plan of God was, in the Apostle John’s mind, such a priceless gem of truth, that when writing his Gospel account of Jesus’ ministry he laid special emphasis upon it. The Jewish nation, as the natural descendants of Abraham, were the first in line to have such high favor bestowed upon them. But nearly all in Israel to whom Jesus went at his First Advent rejected him. The apostle tells us, however, that while he came to his own, and his own, as a nation, received him not, yet as many as did receive him, “he gave authority to become children of God, to those believing into his name.”—John 1:12, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott

Having laid down this foundation fact early in his Gospel account of the Master’s life, John then selects from the day-by-day experiences and sayings of Jesus many things which are calculated to enhance the reader’s appreciation of the marvelous love of God displayed in extending to true believers such a high calling. Not that John’s Gospel deals exclusively with this subject, but in many instances, nevertheless, we discover that the points which have been omitted by the writers of other Gospels and mentioned by John, have to do particularly with Jesus’ Sonship and our sonship and partnership in the Divine family.

It is John who records the conversation that took place between Jesus and Nicodemus. In this dialogue Jesus brings to light the necessity for a rebirth on the part of those who enter the kingdom of heaven as joint-heirs with him. In this lesson it is made plain that becoming sons of God, as Jesus was a Son of God, involves much more than merely thinking of the Creator as a Divine caretaker. The sonship which John saw in the Divine plan called for a New Creation, not merely a reformation of character as human beings but a new life, begotten now, developed and perfected in a glorious new birth in the first resurrection when we shall be like him and see him as he is. Ye must be ‘born again’ (John 3:3), said Jesus to Nicodemus, and from this John caught the idea of actually becoming sons of God on the Divine plane.


It was John who recorded the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus asked her for a drink of water. She was surprised that a Jew asked a favor of a Samaritan, and so expressed herself. Jesus finally explained to her that those drinking the water which he gave would find that it would be in them as a well of water springing up unto everlasting life.—John 4:7-14

John knew, and all true believers in Jesus know, that those who believe on him will have everlasting life. But in this particular conversation, John saw an additional ray of light! He saw that not only do believers of this age receive life through the Master, but because they are begotten and will be born into the Divine family and become partners with him, they will also share in the magnificent privilege of dispensing life to the fallen race. In them, indeed, there will be wells of water springing up to give everlasting life to all who seek it in God’s due time. In this dialogue, therefore, John found further confirmation of that sublime love which ‘the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God’.

John records that on another occasion Jesus, using the symbolism of water, explained the great privilege of all true believers in this age, saying, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38) Here again we have a far more important thought than merely that of receiving life as believers. Unmistakably the Master is explaining that his disciples were to be partners with him in giving the water of life to others.

John observes on his own part (vs. 39) that the Master was referring to the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. The apostle knew that to be a disciple of Christ involved much more than that which we receive from him. Precious indeed is the gift of life that all believers receive for themselves, but we should not overlook the glorious reality of our partnership with him in the blessing of others.

If the Holy Spirit of God and of Christ, the disposition which motivated them, is the controlling influence in our lives, there will be no adequate way in which we can express appreciation for what has been done for us except by laying down our lives in sacrifice for the blessing of others. If faithful in this, faithful even unto death, the partnership with the Father and the Son which begins now will be perfected and enlarged on the Divine plane. Then, from Jesus and the church, through the kingdom arrangements of the new age, will flow the river of water of life to all mankind, cleansing and healing all.—Rev. 22:1-3


In all that Jesus said and did, John saw Divine love revealed. God loved the world, and gave his Son that the people might have life. God loved his Son and Jesus loved his Father. In the parable of the sheepfold (John 10:17) Jesus explains why the Father loved him. He says, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life.” Doubtless it was this, and other similar expressions by Jesus, that helped the Apostle John to understand how truly important it is that love should be such an overwhelming force in our lives that we, too, like Jesus, will sacrifice all that we have and are in the Divine service.

And how consistent this is seen to be when we analyze the thought! Back of every partnership there is a motive. In the ordinary business partnerships among men the motive is more or less a selfish one. It is to make money, or to provide a living for oneself and family. But in the Divine partnership in which the Father, the Son and his disciples work together in a common cause, the motive is love.

Love for each other? Yes! They are unselfishly interested in the well-being of each and every one participating in this united work, but even more important than that is the motive of love that energizes this Divine partnership in its service for others. The love of God for a fallen race is the love that brought Jesus to earth from his heavenly home. It is this same love that caused him willingly to lay down his life. This love also prompts all of his faithful disciples similarly to lay down their lives.

Love begets love, and the love of Jesus manifested in his supreme sacrifice for humanity called forth toward him and upon him the boundless love of his Father. It is the same with us, his followers. God loved us while we were yet sinners, and gave his Son to die for us. But if we desire to be loved by him as a father loves his children, the only basis upon which we may be assured that this is indeed so, is that like Jesus, we, too, lay down our lives.


Jesus said, and John reported it, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” (John 5:17) Having been invited to share in this glorious partnership of work with the Father and the Son, it is now our privilege also to work; to work for God and with God; to work for Christ and with Christ; to work for each other and with each other in this blessed fellowship of love.

One of the evidences of Jesus’ Sonship which his disciples, not yet spirit-begotten, could comprehend was the miraculous works which he performed. Jesus always accredited to God the power by which these miracles were performed. The Master disclaimed that the message he delivered was his own, rather that it also came from his Father. He was desirous that his disciples comprehend this thought in order that they give glory where it properly belonged. Jesus said, for instance, “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.”—John 14:10,11

In emphasizing this mutual partnership of the Father and Son, Jesus did not fail to tell his disciples that they, too, as believers in him, were to become associated as coworkers therein. He said, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”—John 14:12

Were it not for our understanding of the Divine plan, it would be difficult to imagine the possibility of performing greater works than the outstanding miracles wrought by Jesus. Not only did he heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons from the afflicted, but he also raised the dead! However, there are greater works of God than these yet to be performed on behalf of mankind—works that are greater from the standpoint of volume, and greater also because of their enduring qualities.

The entire length of Jesus’ earthly ministry was only three and one-half years. His days during this time were crowded with many events. While he gave generously of his time and strength for the healing of the sick, yet when we consider the number of the afflicted in the world, those who were healed by him were pitiably few. Of all the countless millions who have died, the record indicates that Jesus awakened only three. Even the comparatively few who were restored to health by him had no assurance that they would not again become ill. Indeed, they all finally were struck down by the Grim Reaper, Death. Those whom Jesus awakened from death again went the way of all the condemned race into the tomb.

Contrast these limited good and miraculous works by Jesus with that which is to be accomplished during the thousand years of restitution. All the sick will be healed! All the dead will be awakened! And every individual then, who believes and obeys, will be restored to absolute perfection, and have the privilege of living in peace and happiness forever!

Truly fraught with meaning, therefore, is that statement by the Master: ‘Greater works than these shall he [the believer] do’. In recording these words, John evidently saw in them further confirmation of that condescending love of the Father which provided that a few members of a fallen and condemned race are to be taken into a Divine partnership and share in the work of restoring their fellowmen to that which was lost.


What a precious lesson of the Master his whole church would have failed to learn had John not recorded his parable of the vine and the branches. In this parable we have presented to us, from yet another standpoint, the precious truth of our partnership in the divine family. “I am the vine,” Jesus said, “ye are the branches.” “My Father is the husbandman.” (John 15:5,1) In this parable is represented the unity of the Divine partnership—a unity made possible, not because of our worthiness of the position to which we are called, but by the grace of God exemplified through Christ. The parable places even the Father in the position of obtaining fruit from the vine through the branches.

The branches cannot bear fruit without the vine, nor can the vine bear fruit without the branches. The husbandman is supreme and independent in this illustration, only in that he exercises the privilege of cutting off the branches that bear no fruit, and pruning those whose fruitage is deficient. Otherwise the Father and the Son and his church together constitute a glorious partnership arrangement whereby the Divine purpose of blessing all mankind buds, then blossoms, then bears fruit to the glory of God.

As a climax to all the other remarkable teachings of the Master pertaining to our partnership in the Divine family, John records the prayer of Jesus that was uttered near the close of his ministry. In this prayer, Jesus first of all reports to the Father that he has finished the work of his earthly ministry. No small part of that work was the selection and instruction of those who were to carry on the ministry after he returned to the heavenly courts. Fundamentally, this instruction consisted of manifesting his Father’s name and glory to his disciples. This was essential because they, like Jesus, were to reflect God’s glory in their ministry, and later to partake of that glory themselves.

The means by which Jesus instructed his disciples was largely through the words of his Father. He had received these words himself, and was guided by them. If the disciples were to become truly one in the Divine partnership, they, too, would need the words of God that they might be inspired and guided thereby. Jesus explains in this prayer that he was sanctified by God’s truth, and prayed that his disciples might, likewise, be sanctified by the same truth. From this we see that the oneness of the Divine family is based upon a common understanding of the Divine will, and a dedication on the part of Jesus and his disciples to do that will.

Jesus formerly had said, ‘I and my Father are one’. They were one, not because both had agreed to forego certain of their plans in order to find a common ground for cooperation, but because Jesus, the Son, was fully consecrated to do the whole will of the Father. There is no other way by which we may hope to share in the Divine partnership except that of being one with the Father and with the Son, even as they are one, which is a oneness in the plan of the Father. And what a blessed oneness this is! Jesus explains it, saying,
“As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast love them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.”—John 17:21-24


Previous to this, Jesus had promised his disciples that when he returned at his Second Advent he would receive them unto himself, that where he was there they might be also. Knowing the Divine plan, that his followers were also to become sons of God on the Divine plane, and partake of the heavenly glory, he knew that this promise was in keeping with the Father’s will. In his prayer, therefore, he asked on behalf of his disciples that they might indeed be rewarded with the privilege of being with him and sharing in his glory.

In order that we might comprehend to some slight extent, at least, the transcendent height of glory to be occupied by the Divine family, Jesus said to his disciples, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” (John 14:2) This is a reference, undoubtedly, to the many planes of existence already created by God through the Logos. Jesus would know of these, because without him was not anything made that was made.—John 1:3

Jesus did not, however, promise one or more of these many mansions to his disciples. He alludes to them in connection with the promise that he was about to make in order that they might appreciate more fully the surpassing love of God manifested in calling them into the Divine partnership. In this promise, it is as though Jesus were saying to his disciples that although there were many mansions in his Father’s house, none of them was sufficiently high or exalted or glorious to be suitable for the position that they, as his bride, were to occupy with him and with the Father.

So he promised, “I go to prepare a place for you”—a place on the Divine plane; a position that none other than the Creator himself has ever occupied. I go to the Father, and will appear in his presence with the blood of my sacrifice, which will make you acceptable for this high position if, like me, you too lay down your lives in sacrifice.

Jesus did not attempt to explain the details of the glory to which his followers were invited. He knew that men and women with finite minds could not possibly comprehend any description that he might give of heavenly glory. New Creatures in Christ Jesus may, and do, understand spiritual things up to a point, but even these are unable to peer beyond the veil to glimpse the realities of glory that were pictured by the gold and the Shekinah light of the Most Holy.

John himself was unable to visualize the grandeur of our home beyond the veil, and the limitless powers of those who become partakers of the Divine nature. ‘It doth not yet appear’, said John, the beloved apostle, ‘what we shall be: but we know that … we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is’. In this wondrous assurance John was content to rest and work and wait. He already knew God better, and more about him, than he ever thought possible for mortal man to know. He had learned of God’s love, a love so boundless that it defied description—‘Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God’.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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