Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Son of God - Part IX (Conclusion)

Continued from Part VIII.

What is new about the kingdom in the New Testament? When John the Baptist and Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God was “at hand” (Mt. 3:2; 4:17) what did they mean? In what way was it only then “at hand”? What is the content of the Good News as it relates the kingdom of God? It is surely not simply that God rules. He has always ruled over his creation. The Old Testament proclaims that God is already king, not only of Israel (Judges 8:23; 1 Sam. 8:6; Ps. 99), but also of the whole earth (Ps. 22:28, 103:19; etc.). The preaching of the kingdom of God in the New Testament is not merely that God as God is King. There’s nothing new about such an assertion. Rather, the newness of the kingdom in the New Testament has to do with the fact that now, since his resurrection and ascension, the man Christ Jesus has become Lord . This is how the reign of God has arrived, according to the apostolic kerygma. The originally intended divine order for earth, with man properly situated as ruler at God’s right hand, has been accomplished in the installation of Jesus as the Son of God.
Dan G. McCartney, “Ecce Homo: The Coming of the Kingdom as the Restoration of Human Vicegerency,” Westminster Theological Journal 56 (1994): 2. McCartney qualifies this by noting that Jesus enthronement “is not just a reinstatement of the original prelapsarian order, but the original order brought to fulfillment. It is an advance over the Adamic state” (p. 2, n.5).
An examination of the Apostolic preaching bears this out. They did not simply proclaim Jesus to be the divine Son of God, but the incarnate Son of God, resurrected and exalted to the right hand of the Father as man for us. In every recorded sermon given to us by Luke in Acts, the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus as Lord occupies the apex of Gospel’s content (Acts 2: 21, 24, 32; 3:15, 22, 26; 4:2, 10, 33; 5:30; 10:40; 13: 22, 30, 34, 37; 17:18, 32; 23:6; 24:21).

All of these typological/symbolic images (son, image, right hand, firstborn, kingdom, ruler, house-builder, etc.) coalesce in the one Lord Jesus Christ, the one appointed Son of God with power. Jesus has ascended to his throne as both the Son of David and the Last Adam. He fulfilled not only the prophetic promises about a Davidic king, but also God’s plan for both Adam and Israel. He embodies , as the God-man, the Lord God’s intentions for both Israel and mankind in general. “For all the promises of God are Yes! and Amen! in him” (2 Cor. 1:20).

Although it is true that Jesus is called “my Son” by God the Father at a number of points in his life and “son of God” by others (at his conception/birth [Luke 1:32, 35; 3:35, 38]; baptism [Mt. 3:17; Lk. 3:22]; transfiguration [Mk. 9:7; Luke 9:35]; crucifixion [Mt. 27:54; Mk. 15:39]; and with reference to his resurrection [Acts 13:33-34; Rom. 1:4]), nevertheless, it is not accurate to say, as Craige does, that “the coronation of Jesus took place throughout his ministry” (Peter Craige, Psalms 1-50, [Waco, TX: Word Books, 1983], p. 69) Such a mistake appears to be based once again on the error of thinking that “Son of God” is a technical term. This time, however, unlike the systematic theologians mentioned earlier who cannot but seem to read “son of God” without thinking “second person of the Trinity,” Craige assumes that it always refers to Jesus Davidic kingship.

There are different senses, therefore, in which Jesus is called Son. He is the Son from eternity (Jn. 1:18), the Son from his conception and assumption our human nature (the Last Adam, Luke 1:35; 3:38), the Son at his baptism as he is anointed as Messiah and commissioned as the one who will first serve (Isa. 42:1), which service is consummated at his self-sacrificial death (Mk. 15:39), and finally, the Son of God with power at his resurrection, ascension, and enthronement when he is publicly invested with the fullness of Messianic authority (Ps. 2:7; Acts 13:33-34; Rom. 1:4).

By assigning the title “Son of God with power” to Jesus in Rom. 1:4 Paul designates him as the fulfillment and current bearer of Israel's servant-king role in the world. Although Israel was once gifted with all of the privileges and responsibilities of God’s son(s) (Ex. 4:22, 23; Deut. 14;1; 32:6, 18; Jer. 31:9, 19; Hos. 11:1) and in her Davidic kings this royal status was individually embodied, nevertheless, all such filial arrangements are now, with the resurrection of Christ, shown to be provisional and typological. Jesus has been appointed or installed as the “Son of God with power.”

What is even more astonishing is that Jesus does not, so to speak, hold on to his Sonship for himself. The Spirit of the “Son” is the Spirit of adoption (Gal. 4:5), so that together with the Son as the “firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29) are the sons, who are “called to belong to him” and thereby “loved by God” (Rom. 1: 6-7; Gal. 4:7) and as such are “heirs” in union with him (Rom. 8:17; Gal. 4:7). We are gifted with the privilege of sonship by grace only in union with the incarnate Son. The word "son" is used 12 times in Romans (1:3, 4, 9; 5:10; 8:3, 14, 19, 29, 32; 9:9, 26, 27), which is by far the largest number of references to Jesus sonship in any of Paul’s epistles. Moreover, the distribution of references to sonship, both Jesus’ and the Christian’s, reveal two clusters—one in Paul’s introduction, where he summarizes the basic kerygmatic content of the Gospel (Rom. 1:1-17) and the other in Romans 8 (vss. 3, 14, 19, 29, 32), where our sonship is particularly in view.

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