September 7, 1992
When we mention the word sonship, what comes to your mind? Those of us who come from a masculine, desert-prophetic ("John-the-Baptist") heritage immediately receive a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ in His uniqueness above and apart from all that is of man. We envision Him in His transcendent Lordship over all things. Moreover, "sonship" speaks of our own quest to become identified with Christ in that transcendence and uniqueness above and apart from man.
This vision of sonship motivates desert-prophetic saints toward bold, fearless independence in their pursuit of God. This pursuit characteristically shows up through their separation and isolation from large, socially-interactive bodies of Christians. It is these saints who have actually coined and harnessed the word "sonship." As a result, the term has come to be exclusively identified with those who lead and teach from this spiritual lifestyle.
But is this the complete picture of sonship? Is sonship characterized only by the kind of separation to God that results in leaving behind participation with large bodies of society-interactive Christians? Is it characterized only by the kind of submission to God that functions without respect to assemblies of believers with human positions of authority?
If we take a closer look at the life of Jesus, we'll discover that this is not the complete picture. We'll see there is another side to separation and submission in the life of the Son. And if true, then we must include it in our own vision of sonship if we want to count ourselves as saints who are indeed becoming conformed to the image of the Son of God.
Desert-prophetic sonship, as accurate as it is, is one-sided sonship. We must have a "double-barrel" sonship if we want to be complete. The purpose of this article is to uncover the other side of sonship.
Following the Father
The term sonship is most fittingly defined as this: “following the Father.” The goal of Jesus was nothing but to "do the will of Him that sent Me.” In turn, we find those who have obtained complete sonship marked in the book of Revelation as those who "follow the Lamb wherever He goes."
But did "following the Father" mean Jesus lived always apart from and without respect to Jewish assembly and their positional authority? Did Jesus follow the Father only "outside the camp"? Yes, Jesus always followed only the Father. But, no, Jesus did not follow the Father only outside the confines of human family, the Jewish religious state, and secular Roman society.
Looking carefully, we find that Jesus lived a large part of His life within the confines of subjection to His family, specifically His mother, Mary. In turn, He was subject to Jewish and Roman authorities. But let's zero in on Mary. For Mary speaks to the mothering factor in God's plan which finds its spiritual counterpart in the Church, i.e., the assembly of the Lord's people.
We see that for Jesus, a large part of His life involved following the Father within the confines of subjection to His mother. Jesus always followed the Father. But there were two distinct stages of that following during His life.
In the first stage, Jesus followed the Father under the care, tutoring, and limited authority of Mary. Mary had been specifically entrusted with the responsibility of bringing up the Christ. During this stage, Jesus was still the Son. But His sonship was hidden.
Later, in the second stage, Jesus was released to pursue the Father outside confinement to Mary, the Jewish people, and Roman civilization. In this second stage, the sonship of Jesus became manifest. He walked in the intrinsic authority of His sonship and no longer under the mothering authority over that sonship in its embryonic form.
The point for note here is that Jesus was no less a son during the stage when He followed the Father within Mary's confinement than He was when He was released to follow the Father beyond this confinement. He was no more the Son of God after He left the family than before He left. When Jesus moved out of the family after the miracle at Cana, He only became more manifestly the Son that He was all along.
The Role of the Church in Developing Sonship (Gal 4:1-2)
To listen to the desert community speak, one would believe that the concept of the large society-interactive ("visible") church and the pursuit of true sonship are antithetical realities, with the pursuit of sonship being the holier, true call for those who have come to recognize the invalid place of the visible church. In their mind, the visible church is considered to be totally contrary to true practice of sonship, a practice that cannot begin for real until one breaks from the visible church to follow the Lord in the "desert.”
It is not as if this desert position is without justification in its conclusion (as we will consider shortly). But if we fully apply what we have just learned about the complete sonship of Jesus, then we learn that the desert conclusion is false. We learn that the idea of the visible church and the idea of sonship are not only compatible, but that the visible church actually has an important role to play in the development of sonship in the lives of its people.
Like Mary, the Church has been ordained to be a Body under which sons are brought up to a certain maturity until the time of their release solely unto the Father. This is in fact the entire purpose of the Church: to nurture an entire generation of sons during the embryonic, hidden stage of their development in pursuit of the Father until the time of their birth and manifestation through their release unto the Father.
This mystery is revealed through the vision of John in Revelation 12. After this sonship generation is released from the mothering authority of the Church, it will walk in the power of its own intrinsic authority over the Church even as Mary submitted to Jesus once the time of His manifestation came.
Given the full picture, we learn that there is a time and season of spiritual life in which we must pursue our sonship within the confines of the body of the Lord’s people, subject to its various offices and positions of authority. There is a time of life in which, until we are "manifested," we must obey the Father through the mothering Church with its human directives.
Two Kinds of Separation and Submission
If we break this whole discussion down into terms of separation and submission, we find there are two kinds of each when it comes to following the Father into complete sonship. In manifested sonship, there is a submission unto God alone outside the will of man. But in sonship-under-"mothering," there is a submission unto God alone within the framework of the will of men.
Likewise, in manifested sonship, there is a separation unto God alone free from the control of all men. But in sonship-under-"mothering," there is a separation unto God through the Church that produces a freedom from one’s own hidden self-control over his own destiny in God.
From this point, the focus of this article will be to look more closely at the separation and submission God requires of sons within the confines of the greater body of Christ in an attempt to demonstrate to desert saints the validity for their need of this kind of separation and submission.
Sonship through Submission to a Body
To "desert ears," the above phrase is an anathema. The thought that sonship could possibly involve submission to a visibly identifiable, socially interactive assembly of Christians is simply not entertainable. The reason for this conclusion on the part of desert saints is that, by and large, the secularly-interactive Church has had no vision of its true mothering role of an embryonic sonhood.
The basic vision of the mothering church has never seen forward to the release of a mature sonhood generation from its authority. It has tended to go no further than its own self-preservation. Moreover, through subjection to strongholds of jezebellic control over centuries, the mothering Church has actually proven to be hostile to the seed of sonship deposited within it.
At every stage in which saints have pressed into a greater measure of sonship, the Church has sought to either harness or quench outright those manifestations, leading to excommunication and persecution of the seed within her. To borrow the vision of Revelation 12, the Church has had a track record more like that of the dragon positioned to devour the man child than of the woman that is supposed to bring forth the man child unto release.
Desert saints are keenly aware of the jezebellic evils that lurk behind human authority in the Church. The record of church history has given them little reason to think the church could have any relevance to their quest for sonship. Because of this, they tend to acknowledge only the kind of submission God requires outside respect to any human positions and offices.
But in their keenness of awareness of the failings of the mothering church, the desert sonship movement is blind to another more subtle kind of jezebellic force from which they need as much deliverance as they do from the control of men. Namely, it is the hidden control they exercise over themselves through their own perception of their destiny in God.
As desert saints fight hard to break free from the religious control of others, they unknowingly increase self-control over their own lives, a control that carries as much jezebellic force as any from which they flee without. It takes a lot of human willpower to break free from the control of others. This power is present even when it is the Spirit of God motivating saints to make their break from a human religious system.
Yet this willpower carries the seeds of the same destructive force from which they seek release outwardly. The Jezebel that desert saints have discerned in the Church maintains an elusive, hidden presence in their own hearts exercised by the strong self-control they have developed over their own lives as they fight for personal and corporate purity.
As much as desert saints want to pursue sonship outside the Church and thus free from jezebellic control, they cannot enter complete sonship unless that same force lurking in their own power of self-control is also dealt with. The purpose of sonship-under-motherhood is to deal with this false power of self-control.
So it is that when the Father determines that it is time for maturing sons to be delivered from some form of self-control, He requires us to submit to the positional mothering authority of the Church. He requires us to pursue Him through a yielding to the will of men—never as unto men, but as unto Him.
This phase of sonship is obviously hard for desert saints because it requires them to go against the grain and fabric of their independent nature—a nature surely from the Lord, but that nevertheless holds its own hidden death trap. And since a desert saint will almost never hear God actually tell him to submit to a structured body of saints (it's simply outside his frequency), God has to corner and drag him to that submission as a final option after all other efforts to remain independent are allowed to fail.
Complete sonship puts all false human control to death—not just the control of others, but the hidden control we retain over our own lives in seeking to break free from the control of others. To this end therefore sonship leads us as much to submission to God through men as it does apart from men. It leads us to the Father directly, and it leads us to the Father through our “Mother,” the assembly of saints with its authority structure.
Ultimate Manifestation and Seasonal Manifestation
Earlier we said we are under subjection to the Father through the Church until we are "manifested,” i.e., until we have come forth ("birthed") into open recognized authority and power in which we are directly accountable to the Father.
In the ultimate sense, the manifestation of sons will appear at that time when those who have been fully purged of all human control (including self-control) will come out totally from under the temporal authority of the earthbound mothering Church. They will put on glorified bodies and no longer be subject to the mothering authorities of earthbound apostles and pastors. They will have come into the fullness of Eph 4:13.
From this vantage point these sons will share with Christ in directorship over the remainder of the maturing earthbound Church. These are the overcomers to whom all kingdom promises belong. And at that time, the Church will pain in great labor (Rev. 12) because it will be hard for her to release from her authority that generation which has transcended her authority. There will be great offense, even as Mary was offended once Jesus came out from under her wing. (For detailed discussion of this authority transfer, see our complete study on The Dawning Restoration of Masculine Spiritual Authority.)
Prior to this momentous time however, there are lesser seasons of manifestation as "sons" in which God releases us from under one level of temporal church authority to bring us into a higher realm of spiritual authority. That new realm may or may not include a corresponding recognized position of authority within the structure of the Church. In a church relatively free from jezebellic control and tradition, those who mature into higher realms of spiritual authority are, after some relational birthing pain struggles, recognized and promoted into a new position of authority that reflects their new inward authority.
In a jezebellic church however, those who mature into higher spiritual authority are either kicked out or else forced to leave in order to avoid the quenching of their new authoritative life-realm. This happens because those who hold the positions of authority in jezebellic churches do not have the spiritual authority within to back up their position. Their authority is hollow. Therefore they feel threatened when they encounter true spiritual authority being birthed under their nose.
Whichever the case, like ultimate manifestation, seasonal manifestation is a birthing process that involves labor pain in which some degree of consternation and offense occurs to those in the mothering church who are unprepared for the new authority in their midst. There is always some relational shakeup as a result. Yet this seasonal manifestation is the meaning of moving from "glory to glory" in our progression toward the Father.
Alternate Seasons of Body Submission
As there are seasons of increased manifest sonship leading to higher authority and release from lower church authority resulting in a separation from others (often an excommunication), so there are alternate seasons of submission to new human authority within the Motherhood of the Saints.
These are the seasons when God says it's time to deal with our own self-control. We must yield up our previous level of manifestation to become hidden again by becoming "just another nameless servant in the body.” These are times when we must come back under "Mary" in a new way, denying our sense of self-control over the uniqueness and individuality of our pursuit in God.
Despite our present advancements into manifest sonship, we must continue to have our own internal jezebellic nature dealt with. It doesn't matter how far advanced we are in the Lord, how deep our revelation in God, or how anointed our present ministry. Until ultimate manifestation in glorification is obtained, there will never be a time that we can pursue the Father permanently apart from or in transcendence beyond the positional authority of the Motherhood of the Saints, the Advancing Church. This point is the burden of this article.
Conclusion and Testimony
Right now, a work of restoration is occurring in the body of Christ to expose and purge it of the major jezebellic strongholds that have gripped the world since the fall of man. As this work proceeds, it should become increasingly easier for desert-prophetic people to make their submission to the Father through the body.
This is obviously not true everywhere nor even yet in most places. Nevertheless, desert saints must heed the call to resubmit to the Father through the "Mary" context so they can become purged of their own remaining hidden jezebellic nature and enter complete sonship.
As a personal testimony, this inner purging from hidden self-control is the greatest work I have seen God accomplish in my life since submitting me afresh to my present fellowship three years ago. Over the years, God led me into and kicked me out of various bodies.
Each time into a church produced in me a greater submission to the Father through the Motherhood of Saints. Each time out of a church produced a greater submission to the Father beyond and apart from that motherhood, revealing a greater level of manifest sonship. There came a time when, weary of the cycle, I didn't think I would ever become part of a recognized, society-interactive church again. My theology developed around that conviction.
Nevertheless, I wasn't "glorified.” The cycle wasn't over. And God required me once again to submit to a body context. Thankfully, God brought me to a body undergoing a generational change wherein Jezebel was and still is in process of overthrow. Moreover, I had lost enough of my own self-control by that point that the Lord became my protector in my vulnerability to remaining jezebellic forces seeking my ouster.
Because of all this I've been able to stay and be planted, continuing to make increasing seasonal manifestations of sonship within its context, moving from glory to glory. Slowly but surely, God has entrusted growing positional authority to me correspondent to my growing spiritual authority.
True, these manifestations have not come without their share of pain and offense, as all manifestations will. But they have come nonetheless without my removal from the body context. This should give encouragement to wary desert saints who badly need subjection through another body, but who have continued to suffer under the cycle of excommunication under which I suffered.
In the meantime, my heart is still fixed on the desire to be counted worthy of that generation of manifested sons which will be born into the final glorified grace that transcends all limitations of the present Motherhood of Saints with its offices and ministries. I wish to be counted worthy of standing with the Lamb on Mt. Zion (Rev 14:1). And I am sure you do also.
Share with me in the meditation of these things.
[ to Part 2 ]
written from Merrimack, New Hampshire
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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