Question and Answer/Essay 2 of 3 on Practical Christ-Centerdness

The Eternal RELEVANCY of Christ’s Self-Identification

Matt: Who is Jesus Christ and how is His identity applicable to our lives?

Brian: In a culture filled with a thousand voices, each with their own understanding of the Person and work of Jesus Christ, I am especially grateful that God has revealed Himself in the Bible according to His will such that we may go to Christ Himself for the answer to the question, “Who is Jesus Christ?”  In answer to this question you may hear that Jesus is your homeboy, a rabbi, a moral exemplar, a long-haired hippy, a great philanthropist, or a lunatic among other things.  Even amongst His contemporaries, He was deemed one born of sexual immorality, a sinner, a drunkard and a glutton, a blasphemer, a political threat.  

The question offered by Matt for this post is even more nuanced, and I believe presupposes rightly that Christ is the authority on Himself, and on how His self-identification matters for us two thousand years after His earthly existence: “How did Christ view Himself, and why does it matter for us today?”  Allow me to offer a brief discussion of Jesus’ self-identification as the Son of God in Luke 2:49, and then, from His Sonship, nine relevancies for you and me and the entirety of the human race, indeed, for the whole creation that groans with eager expectation for the revealing of the sons of God.

It is not my intention to take up all of the titles and realities into this one idea of Jesus as the Son of God.  I highlight 2:49 for this reason – it is the earliest self-identification of Jesus that we have to my knowledge.  He is 12 years old.  At 12 most youths are wanting to be athletic icons, firefighters, models or a vet (or in my case, a teenage mutant ninja turtle), though at 12 we are not these things, and many of us do not become them.  But Christ, at 12, identifies Himself as the Son of God, calling God His Father!  He doesn’t become this; He is this, and His life is the evidence of it.  Having been “lost”, Joseph and Mary begin to look for Him.  When they find Him in the temple, they are astonished and say, “Son, why have you treated us so?  Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress” (Luke 2:48).  This is the 12 year old Jesus’ reply in verse 49: “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  

A few things must be mentioned here.  First, the temple is not Joseph’s house; it is the place where the Shekinah glory of God rested in 1 Kings 8:11.  And therefore, secondly, Jesus is identifying God as His Father, and as such identifying Himself as God’s Son.  Thirdly, that this identification is the very reason that the Jews sought to kill Him and by the sovereign plan of God succeeded in so doing.  John 5:18, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because . . . he was even calling God his own Father, making Himself equal with God.”  Fourthly, that He expected His earthly parents to know this about Him, and rightly so for at least two reasons – first, because angels had told them that this child would be the Son of God (Luke 1:32, 35; Matthew 1:23), and secondly, because the Bible is very plain about this Sonship.  Jesus’ expectation indicates the relevancy of His Sonship, that this was some extremely important for them to know and cherish.  All of this means that the Sonship of Jesus is eternally relevant for you and me.  So exactly how is this relevant to any of us?  Why does Jesus’ identification of Himself as the unique Son of God matter to us?

First, the reality that Jesus is the Son of God divides one man from another into one of two families: you are either a child of God through faith in Jesus, or you are a child of the devil against this Jesus.  Jesus said to the Pharisees who rejected Him, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here.  I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.  Why do you not understand what I say?  It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.  You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. . . . Whoever is of God hears the words of God.  The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God’” John 7:38-44, 47.  Jesus divides those who are children by creation from those who are children by regeneration.   

Second, Jesus’ Sonship uniquely qualified Him to do the work of salvation.  How does it qualify Him?  When Jesus says that He is the Son of God, He is claiming equality with God, and on that basis, He is uniquely qualified for the work of salvation.  Jesus was uniquely qualified to accomplish salvation because He, Himself, is God in the flesh, and only God can save sinners from God.  But Jesus is still further qualified, for not only is He God, but God in the flesh.  In putting on full humanity, Jesus identified with sinners in order to save us from our sins (Hebrews 2:17-18).  His unique Sonship disqualifies everyone and everything else as a way of salvation.

Third, As the Son of God, Jesus is uniquely qualified to atone for sins.  John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Only the Son of God could do what Jesus did on the cross.  The cross was specifically determined for Jesus alone.  As the God-man Son of God, Jesus by virtue of His infinite value and sinless life, is uniquely qualified to atone for sins.

Fourth, As the Son of God, Jesus is uniquely qualified for enthronement.  Only the Son could inherit God’s throne.  Hebrews 1:8, “But of the Son he (that is, God the Father) says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.’”   As the Son, Jesus is enthroned as the King of kings, and His inheritance includes the nations.

Fifth, And friends, this may or may not be good for you, though I hope it is, that having been uniquely qualified for enthronement, Jesus, as the Son, is uniquely qualified to render judgment.  Acts 17:31 says that God “will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”  Who is the man?  The One raised from the dead – Jesus, the Son of God.  Jesus puts it this way in John’s Gospel, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son . . . 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” (John 5:22, 24).  The Son is both the Judge and the standard of judgment; we must repent of our sins, then, and embrace the Son who is the only One whose death on the cross can save sinners, who is the only One who can make guilty sinners innocent.

Sixth, the reality that Jesus is the Son of God means that those who are not children of God can become children of God because God adopts those who trust in His Son, Jesus.  Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”  In Jesus Christ, God adopts those who were slaves to sin into His family, and makes them sons, princes of His kingdom.  When you embrace Jesus for salvation, God cleanses you of your sin, and makes you just as much a son as Jesus, His only begotten.  

Seventh, having been adopted as sons in Jesus, God blesses us with the Spirit of adoption to help us be what we now are in Jesus, namely, sons of God.  Galatians 4:6, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”  God gives His children the Spirit of His Son, Jesus, so that our lives begin to look more and more like that of Jesus, that is, God is our Father and as such He is our refuge when we are tempted to sin.  To be a son of God in Jesus is to desire to love and please the Father supremely.  In our strivings against sin, and pursuits for holiness, we strain for our Father for help and to no one or nothing else.  We are no longer a slave to sin, but cry out to our Father – this cry assures us that we are no longer slaves, for slaves do not care to cry out against that which they love.  But if we love God, then we cry out to him, “Abba! Father!”

Eighth, having been adopted as sons in Jesus, the Father grants us an inheritance.  Galatians 4:7, “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”  This means that anyone who has believed in Jesus and has thus been adopted by God in Him, receives the inheritance of a son – we receive the Spirit of Christ and new life right now, we receive eternal blessings that have not been uttered, we receive eternal life, we receive eternal enjoyment in everything, we receive eternal freedom from sin and death, disease and discomforts, but best of all, we receive the eternal privilege of communion with God that will never end.  As sons in Jesus, we inherit eternal glory.

Lastly, in light of these things, the Sonship of Jesus commands our affections for Jesus.  When we return to the passage in Luke, we remember that thirteen years earlier, Joseph and Mary had been told of the beauty and grandeur and majesty of this child, Jesus Christ, and they treasured these things up in their hearts.  And then, thirteen years pass by, and the affections grow cold.  The parents of Jesus had forgotten His majesty.  He was their earthly son, and they did not understand Him when He said to them, “Why were looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  They did not understand such a radically new statement.  Jesus speaks as if they ought to have known the great realities concerning Him.  But they had forgotten with time, and with time downplayed the majesty of Jesus’ deity in favor of His humanity.  This is what happens with everyone of us, even if you are a child of God this morning, having believed in Jesus.  Over time, we become used to Jesus and our hearts are no longer stirred by who He truly is and what He has truly done for us.  Let us consider the full and biblically balanced Christ of glory, the Son of God and perhaps we will be like Mary in Luke 2:51, who at last having seen both His divine majesty (v. 49), and full humanity (v. 51), saw the glory of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and “treasured up all these things in her heart” once more.  So, as we consider the Son, let us also treasure Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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