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Luke 3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Who do we worship on Christmas? We sing the words: Silent Night Holy Night, Son of God, Love’s pure light. Or “How that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by name”.
The Son of God: yet what does that mean? There is great controversy today over the meaning and use of the term the Son of God. The term means many things to different people – it always has.
1) The Son of God is a Title Given to the Davidic King
The first time we have seen this sort of designation applied to Jesus in the book of Luke is in verse 1:32 when Mary is told by the angel Gabriel, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” In speaking of the throne of his Father David and the kingdom that would have no end, Gabriel was alluding to covenant God made a thousand years earlier with King David. In 2 Samuel Chapter 7 David had desired to build a temple, a house for the Lord, but the Lord tells him that it was not God’s plan for him to do so. Instead, the Lord tells David, I will make you a house, a dynasty.
12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’
God promised David that one of his descendants would sit on David’s throne, which God would designate as his own son. The promise was immediately realized in David’s son, Solomon, who would indeed build a magnificent temple to the Lord, and then sin and be disciplined by the Lord, yet the promise extended through the generations, so that as descendants of David ascended to the throne they also received the designation, “The Son of God.” D.A. Carson helps in explaining how the nature of this sonship is to be understood. “When a Davidide assumes the throne, he does so under Gods kingship. The reign of the Davidic king is meant to reflect Gods reign, including his passion for justice, his commitment to the covenant, his hatred of idolatry, and his concern for the oppressed … the Davidic monarch is called the son of God because he enters into the identity of the Supreme Monarch, God himself.”
This Messianic aspect of the title, Son of God, is stressed in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, gospels that are recognized as being written with Jews being the intended audience. Yet the apostle Paul, ministering among Gentiles also at times alluded to this Messianic aspect. In Romans 1:1-6 Paul notes Jesus’ connection to David while maintaining that it is through the resurrection that Jesus’ was declared to be the Son of God in power – in the gospels we find a suffering Messiah, through the resurrection a victorious reigning Messiah. In other words, Jesus did not fully come into his kingdom, until he rose from the dead, after which all authority on heaven and on earth was been given unto him. Jesus the Messiah, presently reigns as the Son of God, the Davidic King exalted at the right hand of God. He reigns now as King, though as Hebrews 2:8 explains, “Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.” Yet ultimately, at the end of this age, Christ’s lordship will be universally recognized. At the end of this age 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
So there is a sense when we refer to Jesus being the Son of God as a Messianic title, conferred to Jesus at his baptism, confirmed in His resurrection, realized in his present rule, fully implemented in the coming Kingdom age, and ultimately surrendered in the turning over of the kingdom to his Father.
So here’s the question for us: who is your king? Colossians says of the believer 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
All humanity lays under either the domain of darkness or within the kingdom of the Son. Inasmuch as Psalm 2 was written to plead that the nations would pay homage to the kings who ascended to David’s throne, the perfect and final King has come and he demands our allegiance and honour.
2) The Son of God is a Perfect Man Sent to Redeem the Sons of Adam
Though Luke at times employs the messianic use of the phrase Son of God, it is not the primary way Luke understands the term. As Gabriel continues to share with Mary, the child to be born to her will be unique not only in his office, but in his parentage. Luke 1:35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. Jesus is called the Son of God, simply because he has no biological father, but was a product of the Holy Spirit and power of the Most High. Though adopted by Joseph, God alone lays claim to the title of Jesus’ father. As 12-year-old Jesus exclaimed to his parents, “Didn’t you know I must be in my Father’s house?” So when we read in the baptism of Jesus in Luke that the Father calls Jesus his beloved son in whom he is well pleased, were not to read it as a conferring of a messianic title, but as a proud dad, rejoicing over his beloved boy.
Yet there is more and we can dig a little deeper. The pronouncement at Jesus’ baptism is immediately followed by a genealogy. Some people’s eyes glaze over during genealogies, but they are important. Now, much has been made about the difference between the genealogy of Jesus given in Luke and that in Matthew and a lot of different ways to harmonize the two have been proposed, so many that I fear that Luke purpose in including the genealogy has been sorely overlooked. So I’m not going to dwell on harmonizing the two – probably the best answer is simply that Matthew traces Jesus’ legal genealogy through his adoptive father Joseph, while Luke traces Jesus’ genealogy through Mary, or more particularly through Heli, Mary’s father, for, Luke states, he was only the supposed son of Joseph. Yet that’s not the fascinating part of the genealogy to me, to me it's the end, look at it, v. 38: the son of Adam, the son of God.
So Jesus is not the only one called Son of God in the opening chapters of Luke, Adam is as well. Luke is highlighting for us that Jesus is like Adam in that he uniquely finds his origin in God himself. There were two men in history who were not born of man but of God. This sheds light on why Gabriel says the Jesus will be called the Holy One for he does not participate in Adam’s sin. For Luke, Jesus being the Son of God means that he is the new Adam, the second Adam, the better Adam. The second Son of God sent to get us out of the mess the first Son of God got us into. This is a concept that the Holy Spirit also work out in the Apostle Paul’s writings, who happened to be Luke’s mentor and travelling companion. I 1 Corinthians for example, Paul contrast the work of the second Adam to the work of the first
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive … Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22, 45-48 ESV)
Why do we need the second Adam? Because the first Adam and all who came after him were stained by sin and rebellion. It is not only that were are physically descended from Adam, but that we are spiritually his descendants. As he sinned and died, we sin and die.
There could be no savior from Adam’s line. Yet in Christ God could father a new line, he could break the curse of sin and death, and through the obedience of his second Son, start a new line of faith and obedience and life. We needed a saviour who was like unto us, but not of Adam.
Second question: Are you still of your father Adam, rebelling against the word of the Lord? Or have you found yourself in Jesus Christ, the second Adam, the Son of God.
So to say Jesus is the Son of God speaks first to him to him ascending to the throne of David as king, and second to him being a new man, and new Adam. In both of these first two senses, Jesus becomes the Son of God at a particular point of time, in either his birth, baptism, or resurrection. Is there any other sense in which Jesus can be understood as the Son of God?
The Son of God is God the Son
Sent by God: The first hint that something more is going on here is that over and over again in the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as the Son of God who is sent into the world. A sampling of these passages:
• Romans 8:3: God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.
• Galatians 4:4: God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.
• 1 John 3:9: God sent his only Son into the world.
• 1 John 4:14: God sent his son to be the savior of the world.
The natural reading of each of these texts is that the Son of God existed with the Father before Jesus’ birth, and was sent into the world through the birth of Jesus. These passages draw on the careful wording of the prophecy of Isaiah 9:6: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.”
Loved by God: Someone might argue that the language can be stretched in such a way as to say that these texts simply mean that the child who came into being was what was sent by God – so that the sending language does not imply pre-existence. Yet the sending texts speak to more than just the act of sending, they also refer to the fact that the Father loved the Son before he was sent, and so the sending of the Son into the world stands as the supreme act of love that in fact defines for us what love is. Reading on from 1 John 3:9, states
10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
We know that God loves us, because God loved his Son and sent him to us. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only son.” Part of what it means for Jesus to be the Son of God is that he existed with the Father in a state of blissful love. To be a Son means in this case, to be Beloved.
Essence of God: John explains more of this relationship in his Gospel. He starts out not speaking of Sonship but of the Word, who was with God and in fact was God himself. The word is the expression of God the Father. Yet very quickly John identifies the Word with the Son, verse 14, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John uses a very unique word here, mongineis. Many theologians for thousands of years have argued back and forth over the precise meaning of this word, but I think the biggest clue is in the two verses before - 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. It seems clear that John is contrasting us, who are brought into God’s family through faith, being grant the right to become God’s children through the process of adoption, with Jesus, who was not adopted as a son of God, but is a Son of the Father’s own essence. John consistently keeps up this distinction throughout his gospel and his epistles. Believers like us are consistently referred to as children of God, whereas Jesus alone is referred to as the Son or the Only Son.
Moreover, in verse 18, John says that while no one has ever seen God, the only God, the monogineis God, that one has revealed him. So John explicitly calls the Son God, yet again clearly distinguishes him from God.
Was this hard for people to wrap their head around, that Jesus was in fact the Son of God in a yeah-He’s-God sense? Yes. In Chapter 5:16 John writes: And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” John 5:18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
John 5:19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Here is the takeaway: Do you honour the Son as you Honour the Father? Do you see the glory of the Father in the Son? Do you marvel at the wrosk of the Son who does whatever the Father does? Have you heard the word of the Son and so received the life the Son offers?
Here’s my hope for today? That you would fall more and more in love with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. That in seeing him more fully, you may love him more dearly. We’ve only scratched the surface. Had we more time this morning I could show in how in Matthew, Jesus being the Son of God means that He is the perfect embodiment of the nation of Israel. How in Hebrews, Jesus being the Son of God means that He is the only perfect representative to stand between God and man. How in Colossians, Jesus being the Son of God means that He is image of the invisible God, holding together the universe and preeminent in all things. The Bibles revelation of the Son of God is so multifaceted, so glorious. Don’t try to force every Son of God passage into your favorite picture. Let the glory of the Son of God in scripture affect you like a perfectly cut diamond, every cut radiating and reflecting the light back at a different angle, so you step back and marvel.