I have heard the story used many times to illustrate the grace of God towards those who walk away from following him, but then repent and return to the fold. There is no doubt that this was the main point that Jesus was making when telling this story to his followers, but I would like to use this story as a starting point to illustrate a deeper truth regarding the fulfilment of God's plans and purposes in the earth, and how the principle of sonship is key in all he will accomplish.
I am going to make a few bold statements. Firstly I believe that understanding sonship will give the individual believer greater security in God and will result in a greater measure of faith to live the life that Jesus promised. Secondly sonship is the the key to building stronger relationships within the local church and also the wider church, for we realise that we are part of the same family. Thirdly I believe that when we understand sonship it will inspire us to fulfil the great commission and see the world transformed.
In the story of the prodigal both sons came into their inheritance at the same time, but their responses were quite different. The first son clearly had no love for his father and no understanding of the value and purpose of his inheritance. Even when he returned home it was only from necessity as he was starving to death, not out of a longing for his Dad and his family. He didn't even understand the heart of his father and the fact that his Dad wouldn't have countenanced for a moment his request to just be a servant in his house. The second son, who had also inherited, saw himself as a slave and did not understand that he was living in his inheritance already and therefore was not able to enjoy what he had.
Spiritual fathers and sons
The Bible says that an good man leaves an inheritance not only for his children, but also for his grandchildren. An inheritance is something that is built upon and passed on to future generations. I consider myself to be a son of many fathers. Godly men upon whose shoulders I now stand. Men of wisdom and revelation who have helped me become established in what I believe and who have passed on that baton. From my own natural father to the spiritual fathers who have discipled and shaped me in the things of God over the years I am eternally grateful, and I have a deep desire within myself to continue in their footsteps and build upon the inheritance I have been given. I know what house I have been born into and therefore have not wish to take what I have been given, leave my home and go and do my own thing as others have done.
Paul spoke of men such as Timothy, Titus and Onesemus as his spiritual sons. He had spent time with them and they became the embodiment of his revelation and his very heart. These men were more than disciples, they were Paul's spiritual offspring and inheritors of his ministry and his legacy. Paul charged Timothy before his own death to entrust these things to faithful men who would be able to teach others also. Paul was already thinking of his legacy (revelation) and the future of the church family.
As a father in God's house myself these days I am also seeking true sons in the faith. While I still endeavour to build upon that which I have been given from my own fathers, I also must entrust that legacy and the future of the family to other faithful men and women who will not merely receive a body of teaching, but capture the heart of the father and his plans and purposes.
When we understand the true meaning of sonship it will cause us to be faithful to our heavenly father and the family and continue as we have been shown. Not only that, but we will honour the name and the legacy of those who have fathered us in the faith and build upon that which we have been entrusted.
1 Corinthians 4:14-17