About the Author
Dane C. Ortlund (PhD, Wheaton College) serves as senior pastor of Naperville Presbyterian Church in Naperville, Illinois. He is an editor for the Knowing the Bible series and the Short Studies in Biblical Theology series, and is the author of several books, including Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers. Dane lives with his wife, Stacey, and their five children in Naperville, Illinois.
Miles V. Van Pelt (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Alan Belcher Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages, academic dean, and director of the Summer Institute for Biblical Languages at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson. He also serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Reformed Church in Madison, Mississippi. He and his wife, Laurie, have four children.
Read an Excerpt
A Biblical-Theological Approach
The Bible begins in Genesis 1 and 2 with creation and ends in Revelation 21 and 22 with the new creation. That is the simple and direct way of describing the two ends of the biblical story. Between these "bookends," in the story from Genesis 3 through to Revelation 20, we have the account of the fall of mankind, the consequent corruption of the universe, and the gracious work of God to redeem the situation.
Alpha and Omega: Christ and Creation
At the heart of this redemptive history is the towering figure of Jesus and his saving work through his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. It is remarkable that one of the last words from the ascended Jesus himself is this self-description:
I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star. (Rev. 22:16)
The testimony for the churches in these last days concerns Jesus as the Son of David. Why? After all, Scripture also testifies to the fact that Jesus our Savior is God from all eternity, the second person of the Trinity. Why, then, does Jesus focus on his human lineage as one of his last words in the great narrative of salvation?
A little before this, in Revelation 22:13, he has taken to himself the title of "Alpha and Omega," previously applied to God in Revelation 1:8 and 21:6. Clearly, these two perspectives mean that we cannot avoid the fact that Jesus is true man and true God. Nor can we avoid the fact that we can never separate these two realities: Jesus goes on being identified as the God-man right through the redemptive story and into its eternal conclusion. In this study we will see this truth as it is revealed in the progress of the story from creation to new creation. At the heart of this story is Jesus, who is called the "Son of God." In this study we shall see specifically how the Son of God is the author and mediator of a new creation.
There is a tendency among evangelical Christians to understand new creation in terms of individual regeneration, or new birth, as a purely personal experience relating to our conversion to Christ. If the broader new creation is thought of at all, it is often as something quite separated from our new birth. We think of new birth as a present reality and new creation as a future one. This separation is, I believe, a mistake. We may distinguish the two events, but we should not separate them. This, I trust, will become clearer as we pursue our study of "son of God."
Words and Meanings
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). Peter's confession received commendation from Jesus as having been revealed to him by "my Father who is in heaven" (v. 17).
Many Christians have formed some ideas about the meaning of the title "Christ." It is a Greek translation of the Hebrew word for "messiah," yet for many people it is just a label. But the title "son of God" seems to convey the idea that Jesus has a special relationship to God and that he may even be God himself. What should the title "Son of God" mean to you and me as it is applied to Jesus in the New Testament? What did Peter understand by "the Son of the living God," and what was revealed to him by the Father in heaven? Did he mean by it the same as "son of God"?
The title "Son of God" clearly indicates a special relationship between Jesus and God the Father. At first it might seem reasonable to take this title as an indication of the Son's deity, the more so when we reflect on the fact that another title Jesus frequently applied to himself was "Son of Man." On the surface the latter would seem most obviously to mean simply that he was human, since that is the literal meaning of the term.
But things are not always what they seem to be on first sight. This understandable assigning of meanings to the two titles at least has this to commend it: it seems to provide a way of engaging with the historic confession of the Christian church that Jesus is both truly God and truly man. Yet, for many, this understanding of Jesus having two seemingly incompatible natures is a difficulty and even a stumbling block. It seems to fly in the face of simple, rational logic to say that one and the same person can embrace two such complete but different natures in a way that compromises neither of them. The problem doesn't stop there. A school chaplain was once asked by a student, "If Jesus is God, who looked after things up there while he was down here?" Once we start to investigate the two natures of Jesus, the doctrine of the Trinity also comes into view. In fact, we could say that the gospel drives us toward the confession that God is triune. We confess that God is one, yet the Father is not the Son, and the Son is not the Father. Then we compound the problem by including the Holy Spirit, who is neither the Father nor the Son. Yet we are talking about the one indivisible God.
Investigating the title "son of God," then, may seem to be a straightforward task involving the examination of each occurrence of the phrase in turn. But this would leave any possible synonyms untapped. For example, do the Father's words "this is my Son" as applied to Jesus mean the same as calling him "son of God"? Luke suggests that it does, when he links the baptismal words of heavenly approval with the human genealogy of Jesus that goes back to "Adam, the [Son] of God" (Luke 3:21–38).
Furthermore, sonship is expressed by more than one Greek word in the New Testament, including huios, teknon, and pais. Pais is often translated as "servant," and its application to Jesus does not appear to emphasize sonship but rather his role as obedient servant. The sonship word most frequently used of Jesus is huios. John uses teknon to refer to believers as sons of God, but this is surely not completely identical to the relationship that Jesus has with the Father (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1–2). Yet it certainly raises the question about the link between the sonship of Jesus and our sonship. We will reflect on the nature of our sonship in chapter 4 of this study.
The aim of this volume is to investigate the title "Son of God" and other related sonship titles in order to deepen our appreciation of the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. We will see that we cannot study these titles of Jesus without becoming deeply and personally involved since we, as believers, are defined by our relationship to Jesus. But there are some pitfalls we must avoid. Studies that take up a particular biblical theme can either help us to focus on the sense of the overall unity of the Bible or, unfortunately, serve to isolate the chosen theme from that unity and thus undermine the very thing we want to understand. This mistake can result from an approach to word studies that suffers from the mistaken belief that a particular word or phrase is always used consistently and uniformly throughout Scripture, so that all we need to do is establish a kind of uniform dictionary definition. Focusing on a word or phrase also may easily overlook the same concept expressed by other words or phrases.
There are multiple mistakes, then, to avoid in a study such as this one. First is the notion that the chosen word or phrase always has the same meaning; second, that this meaning is only ever expressed by that one word or phrase. The matter is complicated by the variety of ways that words and phrases have come to be translated in the various English versions of the Bible. Sometimes important words or phrases used in earlier documents are picked up and repeated in later documents to make a significant link. A particular title, for example, may appear to be preserved in the actual words for a purpose.
So, for instance, "son of man" literally translates both the Hebrew and Aramaic expressions that mean "human being." But translating the phrase as "human being" or "mortal" in Daniel 7:13 arguably obscures the reason for Jesus calling himself "the Son of Man" in many places in the Gospels (in which Jesus appears to be picking up the specific language of Daniel 7). The way he uses the term suggests that he is claiming to be the figure referred to by Daniel. And in Daniel, the son of man is not any mere mortal but a uniquely majestic figure. And yet in Ezekiel there are a number of references to "son of man" that designate the prophet himself as a human being (e.g., Ezek. 2:1, 3, 6, 8; 3:1). These are not references to the visionary man in heaven as they are in Daniel.
How, then, do we avoid errors of this kind? First, let it be said that there is nothing wrong with beginning with a preliminary investigation of the way in which a significant phrase, in this case "son of God," is used throughout Scripture. There is a well-known adage that applies here: A text without its context is a pretext. In other words, it is possible to prove anything from the Bible by taking a verse out of context. Therefore the question that demands an answer is this: What is the context of any biblical text that discourages its use as a pretext? We are challenged in this to consider our views on the unity of the Bible. The wider context of a word or phrase is what helps us determine its meaning. Usage is more revealing than some static dictionary definition.
The Unity of the Bible
Is the Bible, as some would assert, a collection of sixty-six books so loosely related that their unity is not a real consideration? Or is it a collection displaying diversity within an inescapable organic unity?
If we take the latter view, we still have to decide on the nature of the unity. Why did the Christian church come to receive these various books, and not others, as Scripture? If there is a real organic unity to the contents of the biblical books, it follows that the broadest context of any given text is the whole Bible. This, of course, does not mean that the place of a text within smaller units is unimportant. Immediate literary units (e.g., a parable or a prophetic oracle), whole pericopes (e.g., the Noah narrative, Luke's birth narrative, the Sermon on the Mount), the book in which our text occurs, and the entire canon of Scripture are aspects of the ever-widening context that shapes the meaning of a text.
This is not the place to give a detailed treatment of how the Bible can be regarded as a unity. Still, it is one of the functions of biblical theology to help us articulate the nature of this unity. The canonical process (that is, the way in which the Bible came to be composed of certain books and not others), which took some time to complete, must surely have involved certain assumptions about why these sixty-six books should be regarded as the Scriptures of the Christian church. And yet the diversity within the canon of Scripture is more obvious: the various books were written in three different languages over a period of more than fifteen hundred years. The biblical books also display a large variety of literary genres or types, all of which have their own characteristics that affect the way we read and understand them. Some three-quarters of the total bulk of the Bible — what we call the "Old Testament"— deal with a religion that predates the coming of Jesus. Therefore only the final quarter of the Bible, the New Testament, is distinctly and transparently Christian.
But the New Testament is full of quotes and allusions that show that the two Testaments are intimately connected. Indeed, it is clear that Jesus, the apostles, and the early church regarded the Old Testament itself as Christian Scripture. In addition to the general historical continuity, the heart of this unity of the Testaments is the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. He is not only the central character and principal concern of the New Testament, but he is also regarded by the New Testament as the fulfillment of, and even the reason for, the Old Testament. In a very important way, Jesus is regarded as what the Old Testament is about (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39–46).
Investigating words and their meanings, whether in the Old or the New Testament, is therefore an exercise in understanding their relationship to the person and work of Jesus Christ. In this study we will examine something of the momentum in the Old Testament that leads us to Jesus Christ in the Gospels, as we reflect together on the whole-Bible theme "son of God."
A Strategy for a Thematic Biblical Theology
For the investigation of any biblical theme, I favor what I would describe as a gospel-driven or gospel-centered approach to biblical theology. Since we begin our Christian journey by coming to faith in the person and work of Jesus, it makes sense to begin with him. Who and what is it that we put our trust in for our salvation and our Christian growth to maturity?
If we start here, we are in a better position to link our investigation with our own personal relationship to God through Christ. Furthermore, since the object of our faith is the person and work of Jesus — his living, dying, and rising for us and our salvation — then explicitly connecting our investigation to our own faith in him renders our study all the more personally meaningful.
This does not mean we are motivated primarily by our personal interest in the matter, for we seek the glory of God in all this. Our personal participation should not be corrupted to become a self-serving, subjectivistic, and wholly introspective exercise. And yet we are intimately, personally involved through our own faith in Christ. The way forward, here, is to ask this question above all others: How does this text testify to Jesus? rather than: What does this text say about us? The latter question is valid but is secondary to the former.
The approach I am proposing and intend to follow in this study is as follows:
1) Make preliminary contact with the chosen theme in the New Testament as it relates to Jesus and his ministry. As Christian believers we are thus personally linked with our investigations from the outset.
2) Identify any ways that Jesus, the apostles, and the New Testament authors relate this theme to its beginnings and its developing background in the Old Testament. We thus begin to engage with the person of Jesus on the Bible's own terms, that is, as the fulfiller of the Old Testament.
3) Trace the development of the theme along the lines of redemptive history in the Old Testament. We may find other related themes that illuminate our central theme and that contribute to the richness of its meaning in the context of the progressive revelation. It is important that we understand how God's plans for his people and the world are progressively revealed. I suggest a basic structure to redemptive- historical revelation as follows:
i) Revelation of the structure of redemption in the historical events of the people of God in the Old Testament. This is the source of "typology," that is, how people, events, and institutions create patterns that ultimately foreshadow and are fulfilled in Christ.
ii) Revelation of the structure of redemption in the prophetic eschatology as it comments on the past history of God's people and recapitulates (that is, repeats, but with heightened intensity) its redemptive structure in the projected future day of the Lord in which all God's plans are envisaged as being finally worked out. This provides confirmation of the typology within redemptive history.
iii) Revelation of the structure of redemption in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The revelation of God's kingdom and of salvation that had its typological expression in (i) above, and is confirmed in the prophetic eschatology in (ii) above, is now declared to be fulfilled in Christ. (This fulfillment of the type is referred to as the "antitype.")
According to the nature of the theme under investigation, the study of its use in the New Testament may require a further distinction being made between the three stages or modes of fulfillment in Christ. These are concerned respectively with:
a) what Jesus did for us in the past, historical gospel event in fulfillment of the promises of the Old Testament;
b) what the word of Jesus and his Spirit go on doing in us as we live in the present our life of faith and in the world as the gospel is proclaimed; and
c) what the end-time consummation with us will be when Jesus returns in glory to judge the living and the dead and to bring in the fullness of his kingdom.
This way of distinguishing the work of Jesus as "for us," "in us," and "with us" is simply another way of distinguishing our justification (in the past), our sanctification (in the present), and our glorification (in the future). It is what we express when we say, "I have been saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved."
The structure of the biblical metanarrative, then, is important for any biblical-theological investigation. The Bible's timeline involves a progression from the remote past event of the creation, through the early history leading to Abraham's call, and then through the history of Israel. We reach the end of the Old Testament period, however, without a resolution to the prophetic expectations of the coming of the kingdom of God.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Son of God And the New Creation"
Copyright © 2015 Graeme Goldsworthy.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Series Preface 11
1 Thematic Studies: A Biblical-Theological Approach 17
2 Jesus the Son of God: The New Testament Testimony 31
3 Adam the Son of God: The Old Testament Testimony 57
4 Son of God and Sons of God 81
For Further Reading 129
General Index 131
Scripture Index 137
What People are Saying About This
“The widespread tendency to treat the Bible as if it has been dropped straight down from heaven into the hands of the individual believer significantly inhibits the life and hampers the mission of the church. This series of Short Studies in Biblical Theology holds important promise of helping to remedy this situation with its goal of providing pastors and their congregations with studies of key biblical themes that will foster a growing understanding and appreciation of the redemptive-historical flow and Christ-centered focus of Scripture as a whole. I look forward with anticipation to the appearance of these volumes.”
Richard B. Gaffin Jr., Emeritus Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary
“At last, biblical theology made accessible to the wider church! Goldsworthy gets this much-needed new series of mercifully shorter books on biblical theology off to a wonderful start with an instructive and edifying exploration of the Son of God through the Scriptures. This book cannot but produce greater love of the Bible, greater worship of the Son, and greater anticipation of the new creation.”
David Murray, Senior Pastor, First Byron Christian Reformed Church
“Goldsworthy has devoted his lifetime’s work to helping us understand the organic unity of the Bible. He has had a huge influence on my understanding of how the Old Testament anticipates Christ. I recommend this important work to all readers, particularly pastors and laypeople who want to see Christ in the Old Testament.”
Tremper Longman III, Distinguished Scholar and Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies, Westmont College
“In this focused little book, Goldsworthy does what he does besthe helps us connect the dots that punctuate the Bible from beginning to end. This book provides those of us who may have quickly read past biblical references to Jesus as the Son of God, thinking we have grasped the meaning of the term, with a tour of its variations and implications throughout Scripture, putting it in context of the failure of previous sonsAdam, Israel, and Solomonso we might grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Nancy Guthrie, Bible teacher; author, Even Better than Eden
“Goldsworthy has provided serious Bible students an excellent treatment of why and how God the Son took on flesh to save the children of God for the kingdom of God. Linking New Testament themes to their Old Testament sources, Goldsworthy demonstrates the importance of the unity of the Bible, union with Christ, and hope based in God’s coming kingdom. This is a solid beginning to an important series.”
Paul R. House, Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School; author, Old Testament Theology
“A thought-provoking, careful, and engaging study of an important, and often misunderstood, notion. A great resource for further thinking!”
C. John Collins, Professor of Old Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary
“The resurgence of interest in biblical theology owes much, perhaps most, to Graeme Goldsworthy. Who better, then, to inaugurate Crossway’s Short Studies in Biblical Theology? And there is no better way for such a series to start than with the Son of God, in whom all the promises are yes and amen.”
James M. Hamilton Jr., Professor of Biblical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; author, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment
“Goldsworthy writes with a clarity that is possible only for someone who has reflected deeply on the issues and is a master of his subject. This is not just a fine study of a biblical theme, but an excellent example of sound biblical-theological method. Don’t miss the last few pages, which show just how pastorally significant this book is.”
Barry G. Webb, Senior Research Fellow Emeritus in Old Testament, Moore Theological College
“There are many rich and vibrant themes that course throughout the Bible, and Goldsworthy has traced the idea of the Son of God with clarity, precision, and discernment. The Scriptures are massive, but with this little book we have a clear line of sight to learn more about the significance of this idea, whether as sons of God or as we contemplate the glory of the one and only Son of God, Jesus Christ. Anyone can profit from reading this study from one of today’s insightful biblical theologians.”
J. V. Fesko, Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi
“In this worshipful book, Goldsworthy focuses on the incarnate Son of God as the climax of redemptive history and considers how his role relates to his also being God the Son as part of the Trinity. This book is for all who treasure Jesus and want to understand better how the whole Bible testifies about him. I delightfully recommend this book.”
Jason S. DeRouchie, Research Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary