God said to Jesus, ‘You are my Son, whom I love.’ Through him, we too become God’s beloved children.
Jesus is the Son of God in a unique way. There is a sense in which all people God has created are his children, simply because he created them. There is another sense in which we become his children by adoption, through our faith in Jesus Christ. Paul writes about this in Romans 8:14-17, Galatians 3:26-4:7, and Ephesians 1:5; and it is implied in much of the rest of the New Testament. But Jesus Christ is as it were a natural son, not an adopted one; before anything was created, ‘in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1). He saw himself as one with the Father, equal to the Father. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that God has spoken to us through his Son, that his Son is the heir of all things, that through the Son all things were made, that the Son is the exact representation of God, that the Son dealt with the problem of human sinfulness, and that he is now ‘seated at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven’ – the place of all authority and power. (See Hebrews chapter 1.)
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem he lost none of his divine nature as the Son of God. He had added a human nature, and was a completely normal human baby – except that he was also the Son of God! But that divinity did not shine through his skin, as it were – no-one looking at him would see that there was anything unusual about him. As a child he was obviously aware of his divine connections – he stayed in the temple, aged 12, because he wanted to ‘be about my Father’s business’. And when, aged about 30, he came to John to be baptised, John recognised that Jesus was by far his superior (see Matthew 3:14). But it was the coming of the Spirit and the voice from heaven that made plain his position as God’s Son.
It is interesting that Paul in Romans chapter 8 talks about the Spirit as the ‘Spirit of sonship’. He is seen as the one who assures us that we are children of God, who assures us of our future inheritance, and who enables us to live as God’s children, growing the family likeness as it were. More than that, he also enables us to play our part in the ‘family business’ – the business of bringing creation into line with God’s purposes, the business of establishing God’s kingdom on earth. Our task as children of God is to keep in step with the Spirit, rather than doing our own thing; walking with the Spirit is the only way to embrace the future God has in store for us.
This is the way Jesus went. The voice from heaven proclaiming him as God’s Son was accompanied by the coming of the Holy Spirit upon him. Until then he had lived in obscurity; the next few years changed the whole course of history.
It is important for us to realize that his ministry was all done in the power of the Spirit, as a human being. His status as God’s Son was for evermore linked to his status as a ‘Son of Man’. In him human nature was linked to divine nature – so that any human being linked by faith to him would also became a suitable home for God to dwell in, as shown by the presence in us of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was showing us the way to live as human beings anointed with the Spirit of God. He was not showing us what the Son of God could do – that would impress us, but not really help us. His teaching and his miracles were all done by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by the power of his own divine nature. When he tells us to follow him, he is not asking us to do the impossible, but to do what God has made possible for us, by sending us the Holy Spirit.
When Philip first preached the good news of Jesus to the Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17), they believed his message, put their faith in Christ, and were baptized into the family of God. They knew they were forgiven and accepted, and rejoiced. But when Peter and John came, they saw that there was something very important missing: the Holy Spirit. So they prayed that they would receive the Spirit, laid hands on them, and the Spirit came. It is possible for us to believe the right things, to live ‘good Christian lives’, and yet miss out on the most important thing of all, the presence of God in our lives in the form of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit longs to fill us. Do we really want him to come?
1) Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? If not, can you think why not?
2) Why is being a member of God’s family so desirable?