Relating Sonship and Brideship
(An Exhortation to the Bridal Movement)
In our last message, Embracing the Unembraceable God, we learned that embracing God is really a progression of cycles wherein, to possess Him more intimately; we must first pass encounter with Him in ways that are unseemly to us. We saw that the season of God's unembraceability is the season of tested love—the season where offenses in God are born, where destinies are fulfilled or derailed, and the season that defines us as overcomers—all without regard to a previously obtained level of intimacy.
From the foregoing we concluded that:
- brideship, which is the highest possible place of intimacy, is also a place of qualification that cannot be assumed based on our participation in any level of His present corporate glory, and
- because immortality is the clothing of our brideship, it signifies our fittedness to be joined with Him, and so is also a matter of qualification, not assumptions (we did not elaborate on this and will not do so at this time.)
This reality of alternating seasons between intimacy and unembraceability opens the door to understanding a yet greater overarching vibration that exists in our development. This vibration is between parallel pictures or "paradigms" (pronounced "pair-o'-dimes") in Scripture that describe our relating to the Lord.
As dominant as the "bridal paradigm" is right now in the worship-intercessory streams, the truth is that it is only one of two major pictures used in Scripture. The other picture is that of the "sons of God," also called sonship. These two paradigms—brideship and sonship—are of equal New Testament importance and weight. They each describe the same reality—that of our perfected union with the Lord. But they do so from differing perspectives and sets of qualities that must be worked out in us.
The cyclical movement between "enjoyed love" and "proven love" is a great case in point. While both brideship and sonship are centered in the love of God, the bridal picture majors on the enjoyment of the Lord's intimacy—His emotional warmth and satisfaction of our souls—the restfulness and peace we are able to experience in His embrace.
The sonship picture, however, focuses on the element of tested love. It speaks of the commitment, discipline and the challenging aspects of loving God. It is a love characterized by military loyalty and enduring faithfulness in the face of opposition, hardship and emotional deprivation and distance.
There are a number of other sets of creative tension that exist between brideship and sonship. Here, we will only look at two of them.
"I AM the Door for the sheep... whoever enters through me will be saved."
A foundational distinction between brideship and sonship is the perceptual difference between corporate and individual destiny in the Lord. There is but one bride, but there are many sons.
Brideship emphasizes our corporate oneness and function in Christ. But sonship focuses on the fact of our individual uniqueness, calling, destiny and responsibility.
Brideship sees but the one Army. Sonship names the mighty men of that army one by one for their deeds of valor (see I Chron. 11:10-47).
Brideship is developed in us where God calls us to union with others, to break down unholy walls of enmity and division, and to have our uniqueness developed in synergy with the rest of the body of Christ. Sonship by contrast reflects those seasons where we are called apart to solitary inward and outward desert places to discover the Lord for ourselves ("get out from your kindred," "leave father and mother," "leave your nets," and "let the dead bury their dead").
The interdynamic beauty between individual and corporate identity in Christ is seen in our English word "sheep," which is both singular and plural. We are each the Lord's sheep, and we are all the Lord's sheep! But what is clear from the Lord's teaching on sheep is that the soundness of corporate identity is tied directly to the development and fulfillment of our individual destiny in Him.
In describing His relationship to His sheepfold, Jesus spoke of Himself as the door of the sheep pen. Though the pen itself was large enough to house the entire fold, the sheep entered the door of the pen on a name-by-name basis. Thus through this picture, Jesus was prophetically stating that :
- by coming to Him, we are coming into a fold that is larger than ourselves, but
- our participation in the larger fold is predicated on our passing through the individual access door of personal relationship in Him.
The above is true not only for conversion, but throughout our entire development into Him—exercised through this seasonal interdynamic of coming in and out of the pen. We are always coming to something in Him that is larger than ourselves, only to later leave it to find Him alone, only to yet come back to it again, but always coming back to it on the strength of our own unique and inviolable relationship to the Shepherd
"He shall come in and go out, and find pasture."
Another key distinction between brideship and sonship is what we could call the difference between "pure intimacy" and "applied intimacy. " In pure intimacy, we "come in" from the fields of labor to find rest in the Lord and to enjoy His presence unhindered. As the beloved song says, "I lay it all down again, just to hear you say that I'm your friend."
But in applied intimacy, a call wells up from within our intimacy that beckons us to exercise our worship against the atmosphere of mortal awarenesses—everyday life with its issues of faith, ministry and battle. This interplay provides the deeper meaning of the "coming in" and "going out" to which Jesus referred.
Some interesting types draw out this distinction even more for us. One is the resting-place of the Old Testament ark.
The ark's home was of course in the Tabernacle. This is where it normally belonged, and represents pure intimacy. But in times of journey, the ark had to be carried openly against the light of day. And in times of battle, it was actually carried into battle. This is applied intimacy.
Another good picture of the two intimacies is the angels in Revelation. Early in Revelation, all the angels are seen with all creation surrounding the heavenly throne in pure worship. But elsewhere, these same angels go out to exercise that worship over the earth through their declarations and judgments. In fact, the very fires and vials they pour upon the earth in judgment come forth from the temple of intimacy and its altar (see Rev 15:6 & 8:3-5). The same is true of the fires called down by the two witnesses in Rev 11. (Note that in many instances, the angels exercising these judgments are redeemed humans. See Rev 21:9; 22:8-9.)
A little perceived truth is that, under the present mortal veil, intimacy must breathe if it is to grow. It must inhale in pure enjoyment of God, and it must exhale in application of His earthly will. This breathing must take place until that moment of translation when all distinction between worship and action—between being and doing in the Lord—merges into a single glory.
Outside the challenge of overcoming God's unembraceability, the greatest challenge within His embraceability is to rightly perceive which way the Shepherd is beckoning us. Is it to coming in to gaze and rest as the Bride, or is it to going out with the ark as sons—to minister, to possess, to war, and even to pour out the fire of his judgments?
Understanding the Weaknesses of the Stand-Alone Bridal Paradigm
Both of these paradigms, brideship and sonship, are essential to each other in bringing us through to completion in Christ. Either one taken by itself and elevated as the totality for defining relationship with the Lord produces serious spiritual deformity. The focus of the Lord's message in this three part series is and has been the weaknesses surrounding the current bridal paradigm, which is the majority paradigm in the body of Christ today.
By failing to perceive and integrate the sonship paradigm of spiritual development, the bridal movement is left open to certain weaknesses and incompletions that leave her short of fulfilling the true spotless Bride's destiny she envisions for herself. In the first two messages, we noted the general unawareness the body has of the Lord's continual proving of our love underneath His glory. We then specifically targeted the need to recognize and embrace Him with the love of commitment in the emotionally dry and offended season of His unembraceability.
Beyond this however, the mortal bridal movement is also weak regarding the role of the individual's importance as well as the place of applied intimacy.
- Does the Shepherd Really Know My Name?
What is unclear in the current general bridal presentation is the place of the individual believer's sense of distinctive personal identity, achievement and recognition in the Lord. The exclusive emphasis on "corporate identity" seems to imply that there is no individual entry to the sheep pen, the door is as wide as the pen itself, and there is little allowance for personal distinction and recognition before the Lord.
Nor does there appear to be much understanding of the seasonal necessity for personal solitude and the leaving behind of human relationship to find the Lord. Indeed, the bridal movement carries a strong tone that discourages the sense of individualism of any kind, labeling it as pride and "lone rangerism."
The problem with this emphasis is that only as the individual is mentored and built-up into his or her own personal destiny can the true body or Bride emerge. This is because in the end, in the revelation of immortality, the one Bride is comprised of the many sons—sons who by definition overcome to fulfil the Father's unique call upon them. Thus the two are seen to be one and the same.
The Bride will be who she is only because each of the sons that comprise her are overcomers who will have faithfully completed their personal ascents into His love, finishing their special race in Christ. The Bride is simply the joined body of all the sons who will have successfully negotiated the required cycles of love that—at the Father's appointed eternal moment—converge to produce the "vibratory harmonic" of His Voice that evokes immortality!
Again, the revelation of the perfected Sons, the revelation of the spotless Bride, and the revelation of immortality all converge upon the same eternal moment—all the result of qualified proven love.
Perhaps the best prophetic type of the joining of the Bride as the final meeting of the qualified sons is the mountaintop picture of the 144,000 in Rev 14. At the top of this mountain, the many sons appear as one body (the Bride), but we know from Ps. 24:3-5 NIV that the ascent into that hill of the Lord is a personal one that begins at a different place for each son and yields individual distinction (i.e., vindication) at the summit.
There is no such thing as a "corporate ascent" up this mountain. Nor is the body at the summit a faceless mass. Indeed, the Bride has a face, and her face shines with radiance only because each individual face is recognized for its own special brilliance in the Lord.
The present corporate bridal movements under the Spirit's flow do not yet grasp the legitimacy and role of individual distinctiveness or how to create a sense of personal belonging and community in the individual. Massive conferences are held "under the glory," yet a sense of clear personal identity within the body remains elusive.
For all this glory, the veil of mortality over the body yet remands the distinctiveness of the sons to the shadows. Though surrounded by multitudes, theirs must remain a solitary climb from within the midst.
The gap between today's gatherings and the distinctive congregation in Rev 14 is the same gap between the Rev 12 glorious woman and the immortalized babe to come forth from her womb. It is, as said in our first message, the gap between today's bridal movement as she believes herself to be, and the remnant Bride as she really will be revealed.
From Pure Intimacy to Perverted Intimacy: A Deeper Lesson from David's Fall
Those of us who have suffered under the religious tyranny of empty activism (called "ministry") in the body at large owe the upcoming bridal movements an unspeakable debt for beginning to restore the lost concept of spiritual intimacy. To this time it is difficult to find any sustainable place of restful solace and meditation in the program-driven church.
However, the general bridal movement vision of intimacy falls short in its application. Almost certainly in reaction to the feverish activism from which it has been freed, bridal teaching is quickly coming to redefine the totality of love for God in terms of the passion-centered experience of pure intimacy. In some quarters, the suggestion exists that the Bride's only role is to develop a sustained ardent passion for the Lord in the secret place (i.e., to just keep inhaling God). "Jesus will take care of the peripheral matters of kingdom exercise by Himself."
In this view, there is little or no application on our part, no "going out," no exhale. And throughout whatever of the bridal movement doesn't hold to this extreme, there yet exists an almost universal denial by silence that the Bride has any role whatsoever in executing the Lord's final judgments, especially upon His human enemies.
A local prophetic friend of mine has an interesting statement about the "weakness that stands at the edge of our gift." He notes that on the outer edges of our vision in God (being where our spiritual strength is found), lies a blind area and natural weakness where our gift mingles with our mortality. At this edge, if our gift is left untempered by the counterbalancing realities in the Lord, this blind mingled area will actually lead us to a place of spiritual deviation and demise. Hard as it may seem to believe, this observation is true about our greatest strength of all, our mortal capacity to experience and abide in the pure intimacy of the Lord.
The weakness related to mortal enjoyment of the Lord's intimacy is portrayed in the life of none other than David—on record as perhaps the most God-loving man in all the Bible. We are all familiar with the story of David's eventual fall with Bathsheba. Many of us are also familiar with the immediate reason for that fall, which is that David was not out at war during the season that warfare was supposed to be conducted.
But what the Lord would show us here is a story behind the story. There is a deeper reason for what happened which we, as lovers of God must heed. It is simply this: David's greatest gift and attraction in life was the experiencing of intimacy with God in the secret place. It was David who wrote, "One thing have I desired... that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to enquire at His temple." And this he did! We might say that David was an "incurable spiritual romantic!"
But at the edge of that gifted attraction to the Divine was a lifelong natural romanticism of which David was never cured. David was a very passionate man. But there was little distinction between natural and spiritual passion in him. It remained intermingled, and therefore susceptible to moral failure. Interestingly, David's attraction to the experience of the Lord's beauty did not purge Him of that natural weakness. But it appears David believed that it would. He was somehow persuaded that as long as he just remained to bask in the Lord's presence, this would take care of whatever otherwise needed to be tempered of his natural passion.
Like Moses, we do not know what specific lifelong remedies the Lord may have sought to purge David of his natural passion. We only see the fruit of what happened as a result of its failure to be purged. Once David was in the position of kingly authority, his position went on to feed that weakness to the place of David's open derailment. That weakness was sown into the way he raised his children (especially Solomon), and was passed on into their natures, leading to the eventual destruction of Amnon, Absalom and even Solomon.
But it was on that fateful night, as king, under the power of kingly authority, that David's mistaken trust in his positive experience of the Lord's presence finally led to the official sanctioning of his weakness. The irreversible evil of perverted passion was released, and what mercy had been extended on his family to keep their inherited undisciplined natures in check was lifted.
We understand rightly that if David had been at war that particular season, this situation would not have happened. But there is a deeper meaning to this. The point is that, out on the battlefield, David would not have been able to do the "one thing" that he desired most. In fact, this was one day of his life David should definitely not have been in the house of the Lord to gaze on His beauty ! (That's heresy to a worshipper, I know.)
What we are really saying is: on that day, David's mortal relationship with the Lord needed to be in the mode other than that of the pleasurably pure intimacy he always desired. That mode—which he otherwise trusted would take care of any underlying problem with his natural passion—actually fed his natural passion in the shadows leading to his downfall.
No. On that day, and in that season, David needed to be in the place of applied intimacy. More specifically, he needed to be in the place of executing the Lord's judgments upon His enemies.
The pull between David's desire to be in the house of prayer and the requirement of his presence as an earthly battle commander is a tension every one of us feels as the Lord works to fashion the brideship and sonship frequencies of intimacy in our lives.
The truth is, not only must we overcome testing places of God's unembraceability to find His intimacy, but once there, our pleasurable experiences of the Lord's closeness must be checked and counterbalanced by the seasons of applied intimacy—even the spreading of His kingdom authority. For as wonderfully superior as is the deep bridal experience of the Lord, our mortality leaves us vulnerable to perverting that experience into reinforcing its fleshly romantic counterpart unto sin.
I am speaking now to a growing unchecked emphasis on the self-sustaining power of experiential spiritual passion beginning to echo through the bridal movement. Let's be clear: the capacity to abide in the Lord's closeness must be the unmovable core of all that we undertake to do with Him in the earth. There can be no substitute for this. Activism divorced from intimacy is an abomination to Him, and is the overarching problem of the entire church.
No partial concept of God's love is greater than the cross, including passion. Thus, as ultimate as our desire is and destiny will be to experience the Lord's desire for us, in today's theater of mortality, we have definitely not been appointed to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our life. (Hear me, church. Don't warp this to justify activism. Hear the context of this carefully.)
David's attraction to the Lord based on spiritual passion alone led to deception concerning his own natural passion and in turn to his downfall. He was deceived because romantic passion—natural and spiritual, being representative of the feminine element of creation—is especially prone to deception.
For this reason, the feminine passion-centered bridal paradigm was never designed to sustain our relationship with the Lord by itself—any more than marriage was designed to be sustained by feelings. Unqualified by, ungrounded in and unintegrated with the sonship paradigm, the vibrant dominant bridal paradigm in our worship-intercessory movements is unknowingly contributing to a misty deception over the Body of Christ regarding the nature of relationship with the Lord and how it is developed.
It is actually the Lord's own true "passion" now to begin ministering the tougher nature of sonship love into the heart of the bridal movement and to awaken her leaders to the need for this completion. He wants to bring the way of the cross to bear on her passion to effect her perfecting.
At present, there is in bridal circles a latent aversion (and the Lord shows me even hostility) toward basic scriptural sonship concepts. These include concepts of individual discipleship in the Lord, the critical discernment of evil, separations of spiritual ranking within the body of Christ based on the passing of spiritual tests, and the ability to give and take directive spiritual orders.
If by no more than omission, the concept of tested love itself is being debunked in bridal ranks. There is also a blind impetus for indiscriminate unity as a be-all, end-all virtue—the breaking down of all "walls of division" on almost any terms among and between all so-called Christian religious systems and all natural people groups of every kind.
Some if not most of the bridal offense over sonship realities is due to negative experiences with self-proclaimed would-be "macho desert sons". These are people who through a proud adolescence have given a bad name to spiritual masculinity. Understandable.
However, of all the walls the would-be bride would demolish, this wall with sonship she must overcome at all costs. For the Lord has shown me that if left uncorrected, the unqualified passion-centered bridal paradigm can and will lead to outbreaks of physical immorality in the very house of prayer.
We must not think this can't or won't happen.
Conclusion: "in Christ there is neither sonship nor brideship"
The concepts of brideship and sonship represent sets of counterbalanced divine attributes that have already found their resolution in Christ and so in Him find no distinction. These divine natures are perfectly and indivisibly fused such that in Him is "neither male nor female," neither "sonship nor brideship." But these qualities have yet to be reconciled in us. And the degree to which they are not reconciled in us is the measure of our shortfall from His glory and of our inability to be physically joined to Him.
It's the Lord's ultimate intention that the sonship/brideship interdynamic become so fused in us that we are enabled to cross the veil into immortal union with Him. For this to happen we have to grasp the full legitimacy of these natures, then understand that neither dynamic is complete by itself. They are indispensable to each other. Then we must rid ourselves of engrained biases against one or the other, whether due to past bad experiences or to inherited prejudiced teachings. Finally, we must fully embrace each in their seasons as God directs their weaving within us.
It takes two seeds to become one whole person. And it takes the fulfillment of the two broad natures of the Lord for one complete Helpmeet for His Son to come forth. God is developing that Completed people now. To this end, we must expect to begin hearing more and more of this sonship voice of the Lord among the bridal people.
This voice will not arise from out in the deserts of unchecked extremes, unhealed bitternesses and uncured pride, but from within the body of the great bride-oriented contingent. It will arise—as we have pointed out—even from within her womb. Right now, and for many years, that voice has been heard, but only in the privacy of sonship-attuned hearts deep within the glorious congregation.
But as the Lord nurtures that fetus, this voice will begin to be heard aloud. It will not come with proud divisions and acrimonious declarations of "Thus saith the Lord, O Harlot…". But in its quietness, it will nevertheless produce relational contortions between those who respond and those who cannot or will not.
So expect to begin hearing the voices of the sons of God whom Hebrews says are being brought to glory. More importantly, prepare to embrace that voice as a bridal worshipper yourself if you have not already done so:
"And be neither troubled nor deceived, for as this voice of the Lord grows, there will be an increasing travail over the tension it will produce. Turn not to the right nor to the left. Only prepare for the great birth. Prepare for release from this life; for the final delivery into immortal destiny and into the final embrace of the Lord is at hand."
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
Page created June 6, 2003