Job’s Daughters & The Inheritance of Sons

You know those period pictures where a daughter in a poor family with no brothers needs to go marry some wealthy lord because she has no inheritance? In most cases, the wealthy dude starts off like a real jerk and makes faces like this…


But eventually, so the story goes, he falls madly in love with the poor man’s beautiful daughter, sweeps her off her feet, and they live happily ever after and she shares in his vast inheritance.

The Bible, from the very beginning, has a lot to say about sonship and inheritance. Isaac, Abraham’s son, inherits the blessing of his father. Jacob, Isaac’s son, through deceit, gains the birthright and blessing of the firstborn Esau. It is the sons who get the property of the family, and it is the firstborn who inherits a “double-portion” of the father’s house (Deut. 21:17).

However, one of the earliest books in the Old Testament canon, tells the story of another wealthy man named Job who follows a different pattern. At the end of the story Job shares the inheritance of his house with both his sons and daughters.

“And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land could women be found who were as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance alongside their brothers.” (Job 42:13-15)

Toby Sumpter elaborates on this,

Job’s sons remain nameless, but his daughters are named and we are told that they are the most beautiful daughters in all the land (42:14-15). Not only this, but Job gives his three daughters an inheritance among their brothers. In other words, Job gives them an inheritance of sons. In Job’s family, there is neither male nor female. (Job Through New Eyes: A Son for Glory, 196)


Here, as far back as the book of Job, we see a father giving all of his estate to his sons and daughters. This is a startling picture of the eternal purpose of the heavenly Father in granting the abundance of his kingdom to his sons and daughters. Now God doesn’t switch-up the pattern entirely. After all, it his Son, Jesus, the firstborn of all creation, to whom belongs all of his Father’s estate. And it is this Son whom we–male and female–are united to by faith in him.

Therefore there is no difference between the wealth of the kingdom, salvation, and eternal life that men and women who have trusted the firstborn Son inherit. All who are in the son–both genders–inherit the entirety of the Son’s estate. Furthermore, the sons and daughters share in the very glory of the Son (Ro. 8:17).

Jesus is better than Mr. Darcy.

The book of Ephesians reveals this at another glorious angle. Not only do men and women share in the whole portion of Jesus’ inheritance and share in his glory, the chosen sons and daughters are the inheritance of God himself.

We inherit God and his cosmic victory in Christ, and God inherits us (Eph. 1:18). We possess the possessions of God and God possesses us. We are his personal possession. The beloved of the Triune God. His chosen. And this from all eternity.

Whether you are a poor single mom or the unsuccessful brother surrounded by successful brothers, if you are trusting Jesus, “all things are yours…and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:21-23).

Saints and/or Sinners: The Desiring God Conference for Pastors 2014

It appears that I wasn’t the only one thinking about the identity of the Christian believer at the recent Desiring God Pastor’s Conference on union with Christ in terms of whether believers are simultaneously saints and sinners or simply saints who sin. My question (one of my sentences blended with others) was one of many fielded by the conferences plenary speakers John Piper, Michael Horton and Sinclair Ferguson [Audio here: 3:30-14:25]. I asked,

“If we are definitively “in Christ” and no longer in Adam (Ro 5-6), are we not definitively saints and not sinners?”

The answers were a bit mixed and appeared combined with some uncertainty and I wish I could have pushed back a little more to clarify what I was intending. My basic reason for asking the question is, to use Sinclair Ferguson’s phrase later in the panel, I think we live far under our privileges as Christian believers. And I wonder if one of the reasons we do this is that in trying to keep us from the errors of Christian perfectionism we undercut our glorious gospel identity. In no way was my question an attempt to minimize the radical nature of sin or the struggle of indwelling sin that resides within every believer.

Dr. Piper got at what I was after in speaking of his friend that came out of a homosexual lifestyle and became a Christian. This man would not let Piper use homosexual as a noun for him because this is not who he was. At conversion this dear man knew that his identity had fundamentally switched no matter what his struggle with a particular sin might be. The sin did not define him anymore. His name had changed.

And I am not certain that we should use “sinner” as a noun for any Christian. Dr. Ferguson, in his earlier talk at the conference, discussed baptism as a “naming event” and the fact that Jesus was baptized into sinners in Adam so that we might be baptized into him. Romans 5 and 6, which Ferguson beautifully unpacked, is clear that Christians have been taken out of Adam completely and placed into Christ. It is not a one-foot in and one-foot out deal.

In fact, many Reformed types don’t seem to bat an eye at speaking of those “in Christ” having undergone a fundamental identity switch in several categories, but we seem hesitant on the sinner/saint category. (I think primarily because of Martin Luther’s maxim simultaneously saint and sinner, Simul iustus et peccator, that Dr. Horton mentioned.)

We are not children of wrath and sons of God. We are not in the dark and in the light. We are not dead in sin and alive to God. We are not servants of the prince of the power of the air and servants of King Jesus. We are not slaves of sin and slaves of righteousness. The transfer is fundamentally complete in all of these categories even though our experience varies. So are we doing a disservice to our gospel identity when we don’t make the transfer from sinner to saint definitive?

To get back to Piper in the Q&A, Christian evangelicalism is indeed infected with those who minimize sin. The Osteenization of Christianity makes those with a high view of sin want to do all they can to preserve the seriousness of sin and to keep us from a chipper view of sinful men and women apart from Christ or a passive attitude toward making war on indwelling sin. Those in revivalistic parts of the charismatic movement who speak of walking weeks at a time without sinning cause the same reaction from those who will not deny the lingering tentacles of sin on the best of days. These super-rarely-ever-sinning-Christians are walking on the precipice of breaking the Apostle John’s warning in 1 John 1:8: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” These are aberrations. However, it is also the charismatic movement that seems to have a focus upon the identity of the Christian believer that the Reformed camp could use a bunch more of.

Nowhere can I find New Testament writers calling God’s people sinners.

That is except possibly one place.

Paul called the people of God, even at their worst, saints (see those Corinthians in 1 Cor. 1:2), but he did speak of himself as the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). I wonder though if this was more of a reference to all that Christ saved him from than a reference to his self-consciousness as a Christian believer? This appears intended more to demonstrate the radical lengths God’s vastly gracious gospel goes in saving sinners no matter what their sins than in defining the fundamental identity marker for the Christian believer. Paul was deeply conscious of what God had saved him from and what God had saved him to.

It is good for us to remember who we were apart from Christ and who we are in Christ. The structure of Paul’s letters demonstrate that it is imperative we remember both. There are those in charismatic circles who seem to want us to forget entirely who we were and those in Reformed circles who seem to minimize who we are. Rehearsing the fact that you were a child of wrath reminds us of all that we have been saved from, and remembering that we are sons of God reminds us of what we have been saved to. Both are critical. Otherwise Paul wouldn’t structure his letters to remind us of these realities in the way he does. Nor should Christians only do one at the exclusion of the other. Depressive defeatism and overly optimistic triumphalism are both errors.

Piper thought this question might be contextually dependent: if you are a pastor surrounded by those who are continuously walking around defeated you need to emphasize saint, and if you are a pastor surrounded by those who walk around treating their sin lightly you need to emphasize sinner. I understand what he is getting at, but I’m not certain this is correct. I don’t know that Paul thought that this was a contextual issue.

Paul may go a little more Romans 1 and Ephesians 2:1-3 and jump into warning mode on those who minimize their sin, but I’m not certain he would—at the identity level—call true saints sinners. Would he name them presently in categories that belong both to their sinful past and their eternal inheritance? Wouldn’t this obstruct the privileges of the believer as God’s beloved sons in the family with big brother Jesus? Paul didn’t keep his beloved churches from sin by labeling them as simultaneously inside the realm of sin and inside the realm of righteousness. I don’t see him calling believers simultaneously saints and sinners, but I do see him reminding believers of who they were and who they are now.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones summed Paul’s appeal to the people of God in his use of indicatives and imperatives in the phrase: “Be who are!” And from what I’ve been seeing lately, this does not mean, be a sinner and a saint. Rather it means, be a saint, and put sin to death and put righteousness on accordingly.

You have a new name. You are new creation. Act like it.

But I admit: I’m still working through this. Thoughts?

Don’t Believe for a Better 2014

We are eight days into 2014, which means that you should be successfully moving along with all your resolutions and have already met half your goals for the year. I’m sure you’re down as many pounds in as many days.

Just kidding.

Jesus is better than the hopes and dreams, fulfilled or unfulfilled, of a new year.

What every Christian needs to be reminded of eight days into the year, is that you have been united with Jesus and God sees you as in him. This means that you are completely accepted by God, you have been delivered from the penalty of sin, you are in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit, and you are empowered to overcome the assaults of the enemy (see Christmas: The Celebration of the Destruction of the Devil and his Works for more on that last one) in 2014 . These four realities are a riff of of a section in Richard Lovelace’s book Dynamics of Spiritual Life. He calls Christian ministers to encourage their congregations in the following daily practice,

The aim of the minister should be to encourage in every parishioner an intelligent response of faith laying claim to the provisions of Christ’s redemptive work, a daily standing on the four platforms discussed in chapter four: You are accepted, you are delivered,  you are not alone, you have authority. [p. 210, Emphasis in original]

This last sentence could easily become a mantra or just another self-improvement motto. However, Lovelace is not saying we should have faith in our claims, as if our proclamations were magical. They are not.

The promises of a better year is one of the great false gospels we are tempted to believe every year at this time.

We are not laying claim to our claims, but laying claim to Christ.

Remembering who God in Christ is and who you are in light of what he has done is critical to your spiritual health. As I’ve written before, it should be a regular spiritual discipline because all of us have spiritual Alzheimer’s. Families and friends get together and go from story to story saying “remember when…”, and each day you should do the same thing rehearsing all that Jesus is and what he has won for you.

Believing for a better 2014 is empty apart from Jesus. Don’t do that. Because if 2014 turns out to not be what you think it should have been and you do things you wish you hadn’t (which you will) discouragement and even depression can set in. On the other hand, if it turns out to the best year of your life with less body weight, a happier marriage, goals met, and a finished Bible-reading plan, you may be tempted to self-righteousness. But if 2014 is built on Jesus instead of the hopes and dreams and possibilities of 2014, it can be the best year ever no matter how the year ends.

Jesus is better than the hopes and dreams, fulfilled or unfulfilled, of a new year.

Enter this year believing that God is for you (Ro. 8:31), God has rescued you (Ro. 8:1), God is with you (Heb. 13:5), and God is in you (Ro. 8:9-11)

The promises of a better year is one of the great false gospels we are tempted to believe every year at this time. Of course it is good to plan and to dream and to hope for the future, but it is best to enjoy all that God is for you in Jesus. The promises of Jesus, who he is and what he has done and who you are in him, is the only thing–the only person–worth banking the year on.

You are completely accepted, you are delivered, you are in-dwelt, and you are empowered in 2014. To put it another way, enter this year believing that God is for you (Ro. 8:31), God has rescued you (Ro. 8:1), God is with you (Heb. 13:5), and God is in you (Ro. 8:9-11). Why? All because of the person and work of Jesus.

Now with him in mind, forget the success or failures of the last eight days, and go get 2014.

The Christian’s Relationship with God is Better than Sinless Adam.

Abraham Kuyper, in The Work of the Holy Spirit, shows how the position of a Christian now is far better than the position of Adam before he fell. He writes,

“Therefore, the ungodly, when justified by grace, has nothing to do with Adam’s state before the fall, but occupies the position of Jesus after the resurrection. He possesses a good that can not be lost. He works no more for wages, but the inheritance is his own. His works, zeal, love, and praise flow not from his own poverty, but from the overflowing fulness of life that was obtained for him…

The work of re-creation has this peculiarity, that it places the elect at once at the end of the road. They are not like the traveler still half way from home, but like one who has finished his journey; the long, dreary, and dangerous road is entirely behind him. Of course, he did not run that road; he could never have reached his goal. His Mediator and Daysman traveled it for him and in his stead. And by mystic union with his Savior it is as tho [sic] he had traveled the whole distance; not as we reckon, but as God reckons. (49, 50)

The relationship of the Christian with God is less like the relationship of sinless Adam with God in the garden, and more like the relationship of Jesus with God. By grace, we have been unified with Christ not with sinful or even sinless Adam.

The Father’s Extravagant and Compassionate Love

Michael Knowles, describing the father, who represents the Father, in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), writes,

“The extravagance of the father’s gestures is as outrageous as the scandalous selfishness of the son’s previous conduct.”

According to Jesus, God’s compassion amounts to an offer more profligate than any wayward child, for it is the longing of a parent who cannot forget the children to whom he or she has given life. Although the younger son has done everything in his power to break his father’s heart, in the end he fails to do so, for he discovers that his father is willing to bear more shame, sorrow, and loss than the son is able to inflict.

Michael P. Knowles. The Unfolding Mystery of the Divine Name: The God of Sinai in Our Midst (Kindle Locations 942-944). Kindle Edition.

Knowles gives seven ways the father of the parable shows how God’s grace is outrageously more abundant than our sin (Romans 5:20),

First, he runs to meet his wayward son. Second, the father embraces and, third, kisses him, public gestures not only of greeting but also (in this case) of forgiveness. Fourth, the father orders that his son be honored with the best garment in the house; fifth, he orders a ring for the son’s finger, and, sixth, he provides sandals for his feet. Seventh and finally, the father orders a celebratory feast. A “fattened calf” cannot remain in that state for long; it quickly grows to maturity, all the more so for having been fed so well. It can only be that for as long as his younger son has been absent the father has fattened each calf to which his cows have given birth, each time hoping against hope to make a joyful banquet of it.

The extravagance of the father’s gestures is as outrageous as the scandalous selfishness of the son’s previous conduct.

(Kindle Locations 933-938). Kindle Edition.