Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Son of God

As Christians, we have referred to Jesus Christ as the Son of God all of our spiritual lives. The assumption is that those three words connote the same meaning for non-believers as for believers. Unfortunately, this is not true. A regular, historical-grammatical reading of the Bible makes it easy to distinguish the times when “Son of God” speaks of the divine nature of Christ as opposed to mankind, angels, or other created beings. The problem comes when humanistically biased forms of literary criticism are used to interpret the Bible. When this happens, ghosts of contradiction are “seen” lurking behind every page. The simple explanation is that the title “Son of God” has more than one meaning. To say this solution is not without precedent would be stating the obvious to the point that it would insult even the most modestly intelligent. When Jesus is referred to as the Light of the world, no one confuses that with the light God created on the first day. Furthermore, He is not confused with the light that caused the shadow to go backwards for a sign to Hezekiah. Even more absurdly, who would confuse the light of the darkened sun during the Tribulation as equaling Christ?

Jesus used previously identified titles to refer to Himself such as “Son of man” and Son of God”. Some of the time, the context of His usage was ambiguous enough to keep the legalistic, word-parsing Jews at bay. Just as His parables were not given for everyone to clearly understand, His self-references to deity were partially veiled. Interestingly enough, He did not refer to Himself as the Angel of the Lord, a name that commonly designates pre-incarnate appearances of Christ in the Old Testament. There were times, however, when Jesus lifted the veil and plainly told others who He was. You can recognize those times in the Gospels as the times when the Jews picked up stones. John 8 is the classic passage. Jesus started by claiming to be the light of the world – from the perspective of the Jews, bold, but not blasphemous. Jesus was just getting warmed up. Then, He laid a nice foundation for equating Himself with His Father without telling them who His Father was. Then Jesus did a curious thing – He told them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM and I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” You can almost hear the Jews saying amongst themselves, “Did He just say what I think He said?” In that statement, Jesus continued building the foundation of identifying Himself with His Father, but with a unique twist. He threw in the line, “then you will know that I AM” (most English texts incorrectly add He). He subtly called Himself Yahweh, the Tetragrammaton. He equated Himself with His Father, then called Himself by the name of God. Many people immediately understood and believed in Him. Jesus pushed the envelope even farther – He told those who did not believe, they were sons of Satan. He topped that off by telling them, “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” Once again, you can hear the Jews asking, “Did he just say that when He speaks, God is speaking?” That brought the confrontation level up a notch. Jesus ended the conversation by telling them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Finally, they got it! It reminds me of how, when I really wanted to get my point across, I would hold my son’s face in my hands and talk very slowly to him. It is as if Jesus finally broke it down enough that they could grasp that He was claiming to be God. They understood, because they picked up stones to execute Him for what they saw as blasphemy. They did not believe Him, but they unmistakably understood His claim. When Jesus made His most unveiled proclamation of deity, he said it in the context of being the Son of God.


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