Sons vs Servants
By William Handschumacher
Rock of Offence Special Commentary
Before beginning our study,
it is necessary to first
understand some prerequisites
about how Christ's salvation
operates - and the way false
religion operating within the
Christian Church tries to shut
The Clear and Present Danger
of Galatian Religion
Beginning in the first century, a counterfeit brand of Christian faith was introduced that sought to undermine the Grace-based salvation provided at the cross. God considers it a serious threat to the redemptive plan of His Son - and exposed its tenants in Acts chapter 15. In response to this threat, we see the gathering of what theologians often to call; 'The First Jerusalem Apostolic Council', which consisted of the early church leadership, led by the Apostle James our Lord's half brother. The council met in Jerusalem and, after considerable deliberation, condemned this doctrine. Later, the Apostle Paul dedicated an entire epistle to exposing this same error that nearly destroyed the Galatian Church. As a result, some modern-day theologians refer to the doctrine as; 'Galatian religion - or the Galatian error'. Some older Christians often call it 'legalism'. Its primary characteristic is mixing the Old Testament Mosaic Law with the New Testament Grace of Christ ... which forces Christ's salvation to be subject to this man-made doctrine. This practice that so many think is 'Biblically correct' - actually creates one of the most dangerous heresies found within Christendom.
Unfortunately, over the next 1900 years, this condemned first century theology survived, was reworded and repackaged - and is now part of the foundational doctrine of many mainline denominations on both the Protestant and Roman Catholic sides of the isle. Some Bible Scholars estimate that more than 8 out of 10 churches (but thankfully not all) embrace its illegal ‘law plus grace’ tenants. It often travels under the popular names of 'Biblical and Historical Christianity' - and various other denominational names.
This intense and emotional conflict, which both Acts chapter 15 and Saint Paul (in his Epistle to the Galatians) warns us about ... continues unabated today. It is essentially a conflict between those who embrace the Grace of Christ - and those who attempt to reinsert Old Testament Law into the tenants of our salvation ... after the cross of Christ fulfilled it and then took it out of the way. Knowing the details about what empowers this internal church war is crucial - since possessing true salvation is determined by the doctrine (and the faith produced by that doctrine) - of the side we choose to embrace.
A more detailed examination
of this internal war is
Readers should be aware that this study represents a core truth of Christ's Gospel that also exposes the error of Galatian religion ... which many within Christendom are fooled into thinking is ‘authentic Christianity’. Therefore, it should be no surprise that studies such as this are often criticized.
When you hear the terms Galatian Religion, Galatian error, Galatianism or Galatianizd used in this study, we are referring to this first century brand of counterfeit Christianity - and those who continue to teach it today.
How the Spiritual Benefits of
Christ are Imputed to the
Believer Through the Divine
The prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament
gives us a glimpse of an exchange that
takes place as a result of the cross
"Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:4-6)
There is one fact that exposes the error of Galatian religion. The cross of Christ, also known as the New Covenant, changed all the previous Old Testament rules that govern how salvation is obtained and kept. As we repeat throughout this study, the cross represents a dividing line between how God related to Israel in the Old Testament - and how he relates to the Church in the New Testament. But, the many advocates of Galatian religion mix (some refer to this practice as ‘intermingling’) these two vastly different covenant programs together. This creates a dangerous misconception ... that God treats human sin the same way after the cross – as He did before the cross. A vast majority of Christendom, on both the Roman Catholic and Protestant sides of the isle, embraces this misconception that essentially invalidates what Jesus accomplished at Calvary (Galatians 2:20-21). Yet, according to the testimony of John the Baptist, all sin (past-present-future) is taken away by Jesus Christ (John 1:29), which is why the Scriptures must be rightly divided in order to properly reflect this revolutionary change.
Those who lived under the Old Testament Mosaic program, also known as Israel (or the Israelites), obtained their righteousness through obedience to the Law, good works and personal merit. Yet, after the crucifixion of Christ this ‘self-righteous’ religious system becomes obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). The sacrifice of ‘The Lamb of God’ permanently takes away sin, which now makes it possible for all believers to stand before God perfectly righteous and worthy. This allows righteousness to be obtained as a free gift which is outlined by Paul in Romans 5:15-21. Instead of achieving righteousness (or worthiness) through human effort (the New Testament calls this ‘the flesh’ – Read Romans 8:2-4) God now freely imputes it – through a faith expressed by the 'confession of the mouth' - and not the Old Testament way through works, behavior and merit. Paul refers to this special kind of saving faith as; ‘the word of faith that we preach’.
(Note: This is not to be confused with the modern-day ‘Word of Faith’ movement.)
“"But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved ... For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:8-13)
New Testament ‘imputation’ is understood as a two-way undeserved ‘Divine exchange’, where Jesus receives all our sin and unrighteousness – and in return, we receive His sinlessness and perfect righteousness. Paul describes this spiritual transfer in the following ways;
"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)
“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.” (Romans 4:4-8)
[ End of Prerequisites Section ]
Servants and Sons
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:22-26)
Christ’s righteousness and sinlessness are only two of many spiritual attributes God imputes to the believer in the Divine exchange.
Here’s another one.
The Bible reveals Jesus as ‘God’s Son’. Before the cross He is known as ‘God’s only begotten Son’. But, after the cross, the Divine exchange now ‘imputes’ this relationship to all believers. Jesus will forever be ‘God’s Firstborn Son’. The firstborn possesses all authority. But, after the cross, God now has many sons - and Jesus holds the preeminent position of being ‘the firstborn among many brethren’ (Romans 8:28-30). We see this same title, included in the Scripture quote above, where the Church of Jesus Christ (consisting of all believers) is referred to as ...
“The general assembly and
church of the firstborn”
Under the New Covenant - and contrary to many Galatianized church teachings, God considers anyone who has placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ to be His perfectly righteous son – regardless of their failure to personally live up to the high performance standards of the title. Since this Divine righteousness is now freely imputed and originates, not from the life of the believer, but from Jesus Christ Himself - it is received only by Grace (God’s unmerited favor) through faith - apart from works and merit (Romans 4:4-8).
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He (Jesus Christ) might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30)
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Hebrews 2:9-10)
“He came unto his own (the Israelites), and his own received him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11-13)
“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 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 (speaking of the return of Christ), we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:1-2)
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
"And He (Jesus Christ) is the head of the body, the Church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." (Colossians 1:18)
This special relationship - where
believers are ‘sons of God’ did
not exist before the cross under
the Old Testament Program of the
Law. If this is true (and it is),
then how did people before the
cross relate with God?
A popular misconception must be addressed in order to properly answer the above question. Christians (as we understand the term today) did not exist before the cross. Contrary to popular church teachings, the twelve disciples who followed Christ during His earthly ministry were not 'the first Christians'. They were Jews who faithfully followed the tenants of Judaism, which is different from what we understand as Christianity today. The twelve disciples who followed Jesus correctly believed Him to be 'the Messiah of Israel' according to the tenants of Judaism (also known as the Old Testament Law of Moses). The word 'Messiah' in this case is a term associated with Judaism. The word 'Christian' is a term or label applied to all those who place their faith in God's Son, Jesus Christ, and His sacrificial death and resurrection - which 'took away their sin'. As a result, Christianity (and its followers known as 'Christians') did not and could not exist before the cross. The misguided idea that the disciples were the first Christians comes from Galatianized church teachings that illegally mix certain aspects of the Old and New Testaments together.
Jesus said; "... I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). Notice that the Lord uses the future tense 'I will build' - and not the present tense, 'I am building'. The 'Church' Jesus refers to here is 'His Church' - or what we often call 'The Christian Church' (Saint Paul also refers to this entity as 'The Body of Christ'). It did not yet exist when Jesus uttered these words. Before He could begin to build 'His Church' - His crucifixion, resurrection, ascension - and the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell believers on the day of Pentecost ... had to happen first. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (also known as 'being sealed by the Holy Spirit') is what separates the members of Christ's Church (or the body of Christ) from those who lived before the cross under the Old Testament tenants of Judaism. These individuals were not indwelled (or sealed) ... because the Holy Spirit had not yet arrived to make this possible.
Under the Old Testament program of
the Law - Jesus is known as the
Messiah of Israel. But, under the
New Testament program - Jesus is
'The Lord and Head of the Church'.
As a result, Jesus operates in two
roles representing two different
programs and two different groups
of people - which are separated by
Contrary to the opinion of some in
the Messianic Jewish movement; it is
incorrect to say that Jesus is the
Messiah of the Church. Yet, He does
continue to be the promised Messiah
"And He (Jesus Christ) is the head of the body, the Church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." (Colossians 1:18)
"And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (Ephesians 1:22-23)
"For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all ..." (The words of Saint Paul from 1 Timothy 2:5-7)
According to the Scriptures - before Christ’s New Covenant started to govern, the Israelites were the only ones who had a covenant with God. This special relationship is often understood through the religion of Judaism or ‘the Mosaic Covenant of the Law’. During this time, the Bible refers to all non-Jewish people as ‘Gentiles’ - who were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” ... as Paul describes in Ephesians 2:11-22. Yet, all these things radically changed for the Gentiles, when God accepted them into ‘Christ’s Church’ ... as a result of the cross. This is why, in order to properly interpret the Scriptures, Paul warned that the Old Testament program of the Israelites and the New Testament program of the Church must be kept separate and ‘rightly divided’ - because each program is governed by vastly different sets of rules known as ‘covenants’.
Under the Old Testament program of the Law, Israel is known as ‘the people of God’. This relationship involved a King (sometimes referred to in parables as a ‘master or lord’) – who essentially represents God. His people (or loyal subjects) are considered to be servants. Various parables taught by Christ in the New Testament are based on this ‘master-lord-servant’ relationship. In these situations, the lord's acceptance of the servant is always the result of their performance and quality of work. If a servant is disloyal or fails to meet the performance expectations of their master or lord, he is in danger of being rejected and cast out. We see this in Christ’s parable of the unprofitable servant in Matthew 25:20-29. The story involves three servants who were entrusted with their lord’s resources. Two of these servants were diligent and multiplied the resources entrusted to them. As a result, they were told, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord."
But, the third servant insulted his Lord and returned the original resources with no increase. As a result, his Lord said to him, “You wicked and lazy servant ... cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
This parable represents a judgment that God performs on His servants – based on their works, behavior and ‘profitability’. We know this to be true because the parable clearly says so. If you are one of God’s servants living before the cross – and judged to be unprofitable or lacking good works ... then being cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (a Biblical description of hell) – is the expected outcome. But, the term ‘servant’ that Jesus uses in Matthew 25:20-29 is being taught within the context of the Old Testament role of a servant which was held by the Israelites. Jesus taught this parable before the cross and before the New Covenant started to govern. During this time, God related to his people (the Israelites) as ‘servants’. But after the cross, all believers (now referred to as Gentiles) are declared to be sons of God.
God never judges or treats His
sons the same as His servants.
Servants are accepted or rejected
according to their behavior,
obedience and quality of work.
But a son remains a member of the
Royal Family regardless of his
failures, disobedience or poor
A servant (or subject) must make a formal request in order to address the King ... and the King can refuse. But the King’s sons can approach their Father's throne anytime they want without permission. This is the kind of liberty the New Covenant extends to the sons of God (all believers in Christ). But, servants do not have the same liberty and freedom.
On the day of His resurrection, Jesus made an interesting statement concerning this truth. When Mary arrived at the tomb the following conversation took place ...
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her. (John 20:15-18)
Notice that Jesus is saying (as a result of His finished work at the cross) that His Father in Heaven is now also the Father of the disciples, who represent all those who have placed their faith in Him ... and includes all true Christians living today. If two or more individuals have the same Father, then they are brothers - and sons of their Father. This is one reason Christians often refer to themselves as 'brethren'.
John and Paul emphasize this same
liberating truth by saying ...
"Love has been perfected among us in this: That we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He (Jesus Christ) is, so are we in this world." (1 John 4:17)
Notice that this Scripture teaches and reinforces the principles of the Divine exchange. All believers can now have boldness in the Day of Judgment - because Jesus, through the cross, purchased their right to ‘sonship’. As a result, since Jesus Christ continues to be God’s Son ... the Divine exchange also makes all those who believe in Him; sons of God in this world.
"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." (Galatians 5:1)
Matthew 25:20-29 is Not
a Judgment for Believers
We often hear various ministers
and Bible teachers make comments
“One day I want to hear Jesus say
to me, 'well done thou good and
faithful servant – enter into the
joy of thy Lord'”.
This statement always sounds
good in a sermon ... but here’s
the problem ...
The kind of judgment and acceptance these ministers are referring to (from Matthew 25:20-29) is conditional and not meant for the Church as ‘sons of God’ and members of Heaven’s Royal Family. It’s a judgment based on works and religious performance, that existed before the cross, designed for the Old Testament servants of God. They are making the classic mistake of ‘mixing’ Israel’s Old Testament role as God’s servants with the New Testament program of the Church. As a result, the Church’s role as ‘God’s sons’ is quietly set aside ... and replaced with the previous Old Testament role of a ‘servant’. Most Christians fail to notice this dangerous and subtle shift in doctrine, which is a major characteristic of Galatian religion. It represents a disastrous way of interpreting the Bible and should never be viewed as some ‘minor difference of opinion’. In such situations, eternal life is changed from a gift established on God’s Grace (unmerited favor) – into a benefit earned through the good works and performance of a servant. It’s dangerous because it creates counterfeit Christian faith. It’s no mystery why Paul condemned this popular way of believing and teaching the Bible as being ‘perverted and accursed’ (Galatians 1:6-8). As a result, this represents yet another warning that many ministers who claim they want to be judged as a servant according to Matthew 25:20-29 ... are actually teaching a variant of Galatian religion ... and not true faith in Christ.
Being fooled into believing they are servants ... and not sons is why those who live under the tenants of Galatian religion find it difficult or even impossible to have any boldness or assurance of salvation.
It’s impossible to know for sure that they (as God's servants) have successfully met the expectations of their Lord ... until His decision is announced on judgment day. By then, it’s too late to change. Yet, the sons of God know for sure that these expectations are met long before judgment day arrives ... because Jesus, as their substitute, perfectly fulfilled these requirements on their behalf at the cross.
According to the New Covenant, Christ's righteousness is freely imputed (assigned or transferred), through the Divine exchange of the cross, to those who simply believe on His name (Romans 4:4-8 and Romans 5:15-21). This is the truth John was speaking about when he said ... ‘that we (all believers in Christ) may have boldness in the day of judgment’ (1 John 4:17). We can have boldness because Jesus is now our righteousness ... and possessing His very own righteousness (as sons) is what exempts us from any further judgment that might condemn us to hell as a servant. Paul repeats the same truth by saying ...
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2)
Important Note: ‘Walking according to the flesh’ is a term the New Testament assigns to those who seek to be righteous the Old Testament way, through 'keeping the Commandments' and their own religious behavior and works – instead of accepting the freely imputed righteousness of the new and better covenant of Jesus Christ (referred to here as 'walking in the Spirit’). Paul suggests that those who conduct their Christian lives by ‘walking according to the flesh’ might outwardly appear as good Christian people or church members - but do not possess true faith in Christ ... which is also why they continue to remain under God's condemnation (or judgment). As a result of "walking according to the flesh", they can never experience ‘boldness in the day of judgment’. Both of these groups (those who walk in the Spirit - and those who walk according to the flesh) exist within the world-wide Christian Church. Yet, the New Testament warns that God accepts one - but rejects the other.
Saint John emphasized this important
characteristic of ‘knowing’ when
he said ...
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” (1 John 5:13-15)
All believers (God’s sons) will appear at ‘the judgment seat of Christ’ (Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:10), which is not a judgment that determines their fate in heaven or hell. It’s a judgment that determines their rewards (or lack thereof) in their eternal heavenly home where they live with their Father. It’s a vastly different judgment than the servant receives in Matthew 25:20-29 ... because God never judges or treats His sons the same as His servants. Contrary to popular Galatianized church teachings, being sentenced to hell (or what the Bible calls ‘condemnation’) is no longer a possibility for the sons of God - which is why Paul said; "There is therefore now no condemnation (or any judgment involving hell) to those who are in Christ Jesus in Romans 8:1-2. (Important Note: "Those who are in Christ Jesus" are God's sons.)
Paul sometimes started his epistles by identifying himself as “a bond-servant of Jesus Christ”. He used this title to describe the unique nature of his ministry, which was vastly different from the rest of the leading apostles. Paul is not saying that all believers in the Church should be “bond-servants of Christ”. God called Paul to a special level of suffering “for the sake of the Gospel” (Acts 9:13-15). This calling often required him to live outside many of the New Covenant benefits and blessings - which the rest of the church continued to enjoy. Paul called some of these sufferings a “thorn in the flesh”. Contrary to popular church teachings, this ‘thorn in the flesh’ and the title of 'bond-servant' is something only assigned to Paul - and not to the other believers in the Church.
Christians often describe their life as one of 'servant hood' (or being a servant of God) which is completely in agreement with the Scriptures only when we properly define our terms. It's important to understand that serving God and one another is an attitude that God wants to see in every believer, who is also His son. It is often used to describe love, submission and humility toward fellow believers (also called 'brethren'). It should never be confused with Israel's program of an Old Testament servant that operated before the cross according to the vastly different rules of the Old Testament Mosaic Law.
We hope this study is beneficial to
your walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.
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