The term “manifestation of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19) evokes strong feelings of wonder among many in the church yet evokes feelings of disdain in others. Many splinter groups have taken the manifested sons doctrine to outrageous extremes and this has had a chilling effect on all sober efforts to teach on this important scriptural doctrine. However, merely because someone teaches the sonship message doesn’t mean that he claims to be a manifested son or claims to be sinlessly perfect or to be elitist. This writer doesn’t claim to be a manifested son although he does feel led to teach about it.
The sons of God, when they are manifested, are likely to be humble and gentle like Jesus who was manifested as the only begotten son of God. Jesus is the pattern son, the forerunner (Heb. 6:20), the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). Jesus is the only manifested Son I know! As ancient Israel, before the time of Christ, longed for the coming of the Messiah (the first manifested Son), so now the whole creation longs for the manifestation of the sons of God!
This writer’s opinion is that the sons of God will be manifested just prior to the second coming of Jesus which will be just prior to the millennial reign of Christ. Christ will come to His church before He comes for His church. The portion of the church that grows to full maturity in Christ, or as Eph. 4:13 puts it “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” are those who are overcomers. Revelation chapters two and three contain great promises to “him who overcomes”. The sons of God who will be manifested are the overcomers who will rule and reign with Christ.
To him who overcomes, Christ will give authority over the nations (Rev. 2:26). This is a great responsibility and a great undertaking. God will give such great authority only to those who have proved faithful in small things. The small thing that is of greatest consequence in our stewardship before God is the self. God commands that we place no other gods before Him, especially the god of self. We must subdue the self. The self is a small thing in one sense yet in another sense it’s the most difficult foe that we ever encounter! Each of us must deal with that which is within ourselves that opposes God. This, of course, can only be done by the grace of God; but we must be faithful in laying hold of the grace of God. The overcomers must overcome self before being entrusted with the greater ministry of subduing things outside the self-life.
The overcomers overcome self by way of the cross. The term “cross”
refers of course to Jesus’ suffering and death for our sins but there is an additional facet of meaning to the term. Each of us is commanded to deny self and to take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23). The cross is where Jesus denied Himself and the cross is where each of us must deny our self-lives. The cross is the place of surrender. The individual believer=s laying hold of the cross is to deny self hence “self-denial”.
Much of the teaching in this book will be on the subject of self-denial. Denial or surrender of the self is how a Christian allows God to transform the self. Transformation of the self is sanctification and this is how a Christian grows from being a mere babe in Christ to being an overcomer. At a set time in the future the overcomers will be manifested as mature sons of God.
Sanctification is also an often misunderstood subject. Some teach that we are fully sanctified at the time of our new birth. This teaching is a part of a theological system often called “sinless perfection” or “triumphalism.” Others teach that complete sanctification occurs during a crisis some time after conversion. This is “crisis sanctification” more popularly called “the second blessing” or “entire sanctification.” The purpose of my pointing this out is not to disparage Christians who hold such teachings. There is a measure of sanctification that occurs at the new birth and there is a measure of sanctification that occurs at a crisis point sometime after conversion. However, we shouldn’t stop there and assume that sanctification is complete.
There is a second blessing but there‘s also a third blessing and a fourth blessing and so on. In fact I maintain that sanctification takes place daily – a daily blessing! Jesus commanded us to deny self and take up our cross daily. This is “process sanctification.” There is sanctification that takes place in a crisis in which we are tested and renew our commitment to Christ and there is also a daily process of sanctification throughout our lives.
Sanctification involves the surrender of self, called self-denial. The world teaches people to build up self or raise self-esteem. Nowhere else is the world and Christianity more at odds. Christ taught us to lay self down, to surrender to God, to turn the other cheek. The world says to improve self and defend self. Jesus taught us that we must lose self in order to find the self and that if we hang on to self we lose it. Notice that Jesus did teach that we find self (the renewed self) in the end. Ultimately Christ‘s message is a positive message regarding the self. In fact, as we shall see, Christ‘s message regarding the self is far more glorious than anything the world has to offer!
“Self-denial” is another term which is very often misunderstood. A major reason for the writing of this book is to clear up the common misperceptions as to what self-denial actually means. The first thing that comes to mind when “self-denial” is mentioned is usually a legalistic asceticism. That rigid lifestyle is self-righteousness and is not truly God’s righteousness. Biblical self-denial, by contrast, is to surrender the self-life and walk by the Spirit in radical commitment motivated by genuine love for God. It yields a close, intimate, one-on-one relationship with God.
The apostle Paul in Romans 1:16 said that the power of God unto salvation was unto “the Jew first.” Later in Romans 11:28 Paul describes physical Israel as being “beloved for the father’s sakes.” Here a distinction is made on the basis of physical ancestry. I hasten to add that with respect to salvation there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female but on a different level other than salvation the Lord does regard national origin. My point is simply to inform the reader that I reject replacement theology. The church doesn’t replace Israel or any other nation. National distinctions do matter. The overcomer company shall rule the nations (Rev. 2:26) during the coming millennium. Israel is receiving her homeland now, all the nations shall receive their homelands in the coming eon. As salvation is to the Jew first I believe that the first Christians to be manifested as mature sons of God will be of Jewish ancestry. The first thing that Paul the apostle mentions about Israel in Romans 9:4 is that “Theirs is the adoption as sons” (NIV).
May God grant the readers keen insight and joy as they read this book and may they avoid the quagmire of legalism and come to a full understanding of God‘s wonderful plan of sanctification which begins with the daily surrender of the self and culminates with the resurrection of the glorified self that fully knows God, will serve God in great things, and will enjoy Him forever!
My book, The Cross, Self-Denial and the Manifestation of the Sons of God is available for free download at my website: www.gracelawandsonship.com.
William P. Nugent
West Harrison, NY, USA