The Father's Audible Witness to the Son: Chapter 12

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THE Lord Jesus said, “No one knows the Son but the Father, nor does any one know the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son may be pleased to reveal [Him]” (Matt. 11:2727All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)). There is a mutual and intimate knowledge between the Father and the Son in the Godhead, which is necessarily infinite in character and measure. In this full and personal acquaintance with Each Other, no creature can possibly share on the ground of either right or capacity. There could be no reciprocity between the Creator and the creature. Hence the eternal relations in the Godhead, by reason of their ineffable nature, must ever be above all human scrutiny and comprehension, apart from the disclosures granted in divine revelation.
“The higher mysteries of Thy fame
The creature's grasp transcend;
The Father only Thy blest name
Of Son can comprehend;
Worthy, O Lamb of God, art Thou
That every knee to Thee should bow."
Nevertheless, we do not, like the Athenians, worship an “unknown God." In rare and choice passages of scripture, the inner chambers of the eternal dwelling-place of God are, as it were, momentarily unveiled to us, and from them we are permitted to learn precious and invaluable secrets concerning the Father and the Son. The Father bears witness to the Son (John 5:3737And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. (John 5:37)), and the Son manifests and declares the name of the Father (John 17:6, 266I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. (John 17:6)
26And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:26)
); and both testimonies are contained in the inspired record.
This revelation of what lies within the Godhead was not vouchsafed in man's earlier days. It is true that glimpses of the eternal glories of the God of Israel were granted to the seventy elders, who saw under His feet “as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone” (Ex. 24:1010And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. (Exodus 24:10)). And Moses, privileged as he was, saw not the face of Jehovah, and only “the back parts “of His glory (Ex. 33:2323And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen. (Exodus 33:23)). But such appearances were occasional and momentary and only in connection with the glory of God in the government of the nation of Israel particularly and of the world generally.
In the New Testament, where Divine love is the central theme of what is made known, revelations are given of the exercises of the heart of God itself. Here we are permitted to know a little of the activities of the Divine affections within the circle of Deity, between the Father and the Son. We learn that loving, delighting, and rejoicing, as well as omniscience and omnipotence, exist in the internal mysteries of the Godhead.
Do we sufficiently prize these august unfoldings in scripture? Sheba's queen was prostrated in spirit when she beheld the royal splendors and vast magnificence of Solomon; what is the glory of Solomon compared with the glory of God! What a chastened spirit, therefore, should be ours, beloved, when we listen to the revealed intercourse between the Father and the Son! Awed by the overwhelming wonder of such words, we shall surely adore the Father and the Son in a worship too profound to be expressed, too fervent to be restrained.
Remembering, therefore, with worshipping spirits, Whose voice was heard, let us briefly consider the Father's utterances to the Son and concerning Him at the Jordan, and afterward on the Mount of Transfiguration.
The Sonship Declared at the Jordan
Our Lord was baptized of John in Jordan, in succession to a multitude of Jews who had believed the preaching of the forerunner respecting the immediate coming of Jehovah, and who had publicly confessed their sins and were baptized. It was at this historical point of the public association of the Lord Jesus with the sin-burdened remnant of Israel that the unique distinction of the Blessed One from all others was proclaimed by the Father from the heavens.
As the Lord Jesus went up from the water of Jordan, both visible and audible testimony were rendered to Him from the opened heavens. The Spirit was seen, and a Voice out of the heavens was heard.
Jesus Himself saw the Holy Spirit of God “descending as a dove and coming upon Him" (Matt. 3:1616And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: (Matthew 3:16)). The Son Whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, the Father sealed (John 6:27; 10:3627Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. (John 6:27)
36Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? (John 10:36)
). The Lord Jesus confessed no sins, but, as the Antitype of the Levitical meal-offering (Lev. 2), He was at once anointed with the Holy Spirit, needing no blood of atonement like the poor of His flock to whom He was bringing the kingdom.
But a further astonishing event immediately followed; and, for the first time in scriptural history, the Trinity stood revealed-Father and Son and Holy Spirit. To the Spirit's visible witness, the Father added His audible witness to the Son. How beautiful is this evidence of the interest and care displayed by the Father for the glory of the Son In this lowly place to which the obedient Son had descended, the Father in audible and articulate speech owned Him in the full unimpaired Sonship, which was His eternally.
The heavens, then, were opened, and the Paternal voice addressed the Beloved Son on earth. The voice was sweet and gracious, not like “the voice of words" at Sinai, which "shook the earth," and terrified the hearers (Heb. 12:2626Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. (Hebrews 12:26)). It was the voice of the Father, saying with infinite complacency,
"This is My beloved Son,
in Whom
Greater Witness Than John's
At Jordan, then, at the commencement of His public ministry, the accrediting voice of the Father was given to the Son. In the very beginning of Matthew's Gospel it is shown that from birth Jesus was Jehovah, Immanuel (Matt. 1:21-2321And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (Matthew 1:21‑23)). And when, as Israel's Messiah, the Lord Jesus humbled Himself in baptism by John, the greatest born of women (Matt. 11:1111Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11)), the Father jealous of the honor of His Sent One proclaimed aloud the glory of His Sonship to those who had ears to hear the witness. Thus, the Father bore witness to Jesus that His personal Name of Son sustained His mediatorial office as Messiah, even as the Spirit in Heb. 1 bore similar witness from the Old Testament scriptures.
If none but the Lord Himself and John the Baptist heard the Father's Voice with understanding, the testimony then rendered was preserved for the faith of all. And what a testimony! How it lifts our thoughts from man's need to the Father's delight “Unto you is born," the angel said, "a Savior which is Christ the Lord." Unto Me, the Father said, “This is My beloved Son." Taught by the Gospel record, we know what the Father beheld in the baptized Jesus: He was His Dearly-beloved, His Only-begotten! Pause here and meditate, my soul.
The Father Addressed the Son
From a comparison of the records of this incident in the first three Gospels, we find that the Father's words were spoken to the Son Himself ("Thou art..."), as well as to those to whom the Son was presented ("This is..."). The three sets of words, as arranged below, are quoted from the New Translation. The variations are not due to any imperfection in the narrative or the narrator, but in each case the Holy Spirit preserves the meaning of the Father's utterance suitable to His purpose in the Gospel where it occurs. The records are not contradictory, but complementary.
This is My beloved Son, in Whom I have found My delight
Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I have found My delight
Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I have found My delight
The account in Matthew gives the form of the revelation made by the Father concerning the Son, not for the "wise and prudent," but for “babes” (see Matt. 11:2525At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. (Matthew 11:25); also John 5:3737And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. (John 5:37)). The latter are hereby instructed in the knowledge of the Christ: to the “little flock” the Father said, “This is My beloved Son."
In Mark and Luke, the declaration takes the form of an expression of communion by the Father to the Son. The utterance is an acknowledgment by the Father of His complacency and delight in His beloved Son, and it was addressed directly to the opened ear of the Son Himself:
“Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I have found My delight." Furthermore, this utterance is recorded in scripture for the deepening of our own communion with the Father and the Son.
“It was the grace and perfection of Jesus which caused heaven to open upon the dependent Man, and the Voice to come forth from the Father, expressing His good pleasure in and to the Son on earth. When God saw the first man, Adam, in his created freshness, He pronounced him “very good” (Gen. 1), but in the Second Man, the last Adam, the Father found His “delight." And this delight in His Sent One is no surprise to us, because it is inconceivable that the Father could have the Only-begotten Son in His bosom, and not be delighted with Him. How transcendent that delight!
Did the Divine Sonship Begin at the Jordan?
Because the Sonship was announced by the Father at the baptism of the Lord Jesus, we have no right to conclude that He began to be the “beloved Son” at that point of time. The truth is that, being already the Son, He had descended into this place of lowly obedience on earth to become a disciple or learner (see Heb. 5:88Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; (Hebrews 5:8)). In His self-humiliation, He is the dearly-beloved Son of the Father because He was that before He became incarnate.
When Pilate wrote, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (Matt. 27:3737And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. (Matthew 27:37)), that description was certainly true of the Lord long before it was affixed to the cross. So when the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I have found My delight," the words were true of the Lord long before He came up out of the Jordan. How long before, the dearly-beloved Son Himself tells us, for He said to the Father, "Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:2424Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)). And it need not be said that if the Son was beloved of the Father before the foundation of the world, the Son was there in eternity to be loved. He, blessed be His holy Name, is the eternal Son, ever abiding in the eternal embraces of the Father's love.
Moreover, when the Father said He found His delight or good pleasure in Him, He spoke retrospectively, and not merely in view of the submissive act of baptism. The force of the verb in the original is not only "I am now well pleased," but also “I was well pleased." From everlasting, the Father found His delight in His beloved Son, as also, in another place, we read that Jehovah's soul delights in His beloved Servant (Isa. 42:11Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. (Isaiah 42:1); Matt. 12:1818Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall show judgment to the Gentiles. (Matthew 12:18)); the former in what He is personally, the latter in what He is mediatorially.
The record in Mark and Luke of the Father's voice agrees in significance with that in Matthew. The direct address to the Son, “Thou art My beloved Son," is consistent with His Sonship in the eternal past even as at the moment of the Father's utterance. Even as the. Lord's “I am” spoken to the Jews ("Before Abraham was, I am," John 8:5858Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:58)) reaches back into eternity, so also do the Father's words, “Thou art...", spoken to the Son.
The phrase, “Thou art," may have a retrospective meaning even when applied to the creature. Thus, the word of Jehovah to the chosen nation was “Thou art My servant, O Israel” (Isa. 49:3;41. 8). This was their status from the beginning of their national existence. The children of Israel were brought out of Pharaoh's house of bondage eight hundred years before Isaiah appealed to them to serve Jehovah (Ex. 23:2525And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee. (Exodus 23:25)). “Thou art My servant" was true of the nation from Moses to Isaiah.
Similarly, David said in the wilderness of Judah, "O God, Thou art my God: early will I seek Thee" (Psa. 63 I). But God had been David's God from his youth. The relationship was as true when he was in the desert with the sheep and the lion and the bear, or in the valley of Elah with Goliath of Gath, as when he was in the wilderness of Judah a fugitive from Saul, and the psalm was composed by him there.
In like manner, we believe that when Jehovah said to His Anointed King, “Thou art My Son” (Psa. 2:77I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Psalm 2:7)), and when the Father said to the baptized Jesus, “Thou art My beloved Son," the utterances were of the widest import and indeed comprehended the eternal relation of the Son in the Godhead.
Moreover, the Father then added the confidential communication to His well-beloved Son: “In Thee I have found My delight." As we listen to these words, we learn that the Father's love was resting then, as it ever had done, even before time was, in an immeasurable, invariable complacency upon the Son Who alone could apprehend the eternal fullness of that affection, and could also adequately appreciate such a word. The Lord said to the Jews, " It is My Father Who glorifies Me... ye know Him not... but I know Him " (John 8:54, 5554Jesus answered, If I honor myself, my honor is nothing: it is my Father that honoreth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: 55Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. (John 8:54‑55)).
Further, how exquisitely sweet it is to observe in Luke's Gospel that the Father's voice came in immediate sequence to the Son's prayer (Luke 3:21, 2221Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, 22And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. (Luke 3:21‑22))! As the dependent and obedient Jesus was "being baptized, and praying," the heaven opened, the Holy Spirit descended, the Voice came. What delicate perfections and spiritual beauties are here portrayed in these blended activities of heaven and earth! The Son lifting up His eyes to heaven in prayerful intercourse with Him Who sent Him: the Spirit proceeding to fulfill His part in the lowly service of the Son: the Father out of heaven, in the inexpressible blessedness of His ineffable delight, saluting the Eternal Son, with may we say, the “kisses of His mouth"!
“Loved with love which knows no measure
Save the Father's love to Thee,
Blessed Lord, our hearts would treasure
All the Father's thoughts of Thee."
The Father's Witness on the Holy Mount
Once again in the days of His flesh did the Son by audible witness receive “from God [the] Father honor and glory." For on the Mount of Transfiguration His voice was again heard, not out of the heavens this time, but out of the overshadowing cloud, the pavilion of the divine Presence, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I have found My delight: hear Him." The record of this attestation is found in Matt. 17:55While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. (Matthew 17:5); Mark 9:77And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. (Mark 9:7); Luke 9:3535And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. (Luke 9:35); 2 Peter 1:1717For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (2 Peter 1:17), with slight variations, all in harmony with the truth and beauty displayed by their contextual setting.
Though the circumstances and the significance of this heavenly witness are so attractive to the contemplative spirit, we cannot now tarry before these passages. It will, however, bear upon the special subject of these papers to remark that by this personal testimony the Father's words turned the hearts of the awe-struck apostles from the glory of the coming kingdom to consider the glory of the Son Himself. They must “hear Him."
The imminent dispensational change was now in view. The earthly kingdom and its glory was deferred by the cross, but the personal glory of the Son, due to His essential relationship to the Father, was revealed to them, and would remain as the portion and joy of those who took up their cross, and followed the Master in His rejection. Hence the word of command to them (added in the Gospels, but not included in the Epistle), “hear Him."
From this witness out of the cloud of glory the apostles would learn that the rejected Christ was the Beloved Son and the delight of the Father. “So it had been in eternity before creation; so it was when the world was made by Him, and in all the dealings of providence, in the secret working of grace with individuals, and in the public government of Israel under the law.
" So still more when the incarnate Word presented that object of His everlasting complacency as man on earth in unwavering dependence and obedience on His way to death for His glory, for man's salvation, for the church's blessedness, for His people's deliverance, and for the reconciliation of all things " (W. K.).