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Thou Art My Son (1)

Robert E Surgenor, USA

In reading the sacred Word the careful student of the Scriptures will often notice the divine expressions of delight and favour that flow from the Father’s lips with regard to His well beloved Son. No one has ever brought such infinite pleasure and delight to the heart of God as did His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

In His lowly birth we find announced by the wondering heavenly host, "Glory to God in the highest" (Lk 2.14). During His thirty years of obscurity in a little cottage in Nazareth He brought infinite pleasure to the heart of His God, so much so that at the presentation of Himself at the commencement of His unique earthly ministry we find the heavens opened and a voice coming from heaven saying, "Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased" (Lk 3.22). Not only do we find such expressions of delight and favour in the New Testament Scriptures, but as we turn to the Old Testament we will likewise find such expressions of the Father’s delight in His only Son. Psalm 2.7 gives an outstanding example of this in the expression, "Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee". What is so unique about this salute in Psalm 2 is that it is quoted three times in the New Testament Scriptures (Acts 13.13; Heb 1.5; 5.5) like a brilliant diamond notably placed in different settings. Since we have such a noteworthy expression found in the Scriptures of truth, let us trace its truths with holy wonder and delight.

The raised up prophet (Acts 13.33)

The scene is at Antioch in Pisidia inside a Jewish synagogue on the sabbath day. A man beckons with his hand and stands up, saying, "Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience" (Acts 13.16). Thus the great Apostle Paul gains his listeners and begins his discourse. Solomon once said, "The preacher sought to find out acceptable words" (Eccl 12.10), and if this was true of any servant of Christ it was true of Paul. The message was geared for the audience, a good example for all who publicly preach the Word today.

First, Paul "baits the hook" by giving his Jewish brethren facts of Israel’s history leading up to Christ (vv.16-25). Second, he solemnly brings before them the full significance of Christ’s death and resurrection (vv.26-37). Third, he states the wondrous saving power and grace to those who believe, coupled with warnings to unbelievers (vv.38-41). You will notice how the preacher, in the first section of his discourse, brings before his audience various changes of government. He starts from Moses to Joshua; then from Joshua to judges; and then from judges to kings, the first being Saul, then David, to whose seed was promised their true Saviour King, a King who would be recognised by a forerunner (v.24). The ministry of this coming One would have no rivalry (v.25), yet He was nationally rejected (v.27), but vindicated by God (v.30) and confirmed to His own (v.31). Paul thus, in five distinct areas, gives the historical details of Christ’s manifestation.

When we consider v.33, where the apostle quotes God’s salute of His Son from Psalm 2, we find much conflict of thought as to its true interpretation. However, if we keep our interpretation in the light of the context we will not go astray. In v.33 the "raising up" of Jesus is not a reference to His resurrection as some believe. You will notice how frequently Paul uses this word "raised" in his discourse. It is found in vv.22,23,30,33,34 and 37. In v.29 reference is made to the tree followed by the tomb in v.30. Here we have distinctly the resurrection of Christ in contrast to the slaying by wicked hands. In v.34 Paul again refers to the resurrection, this time in contrast to David’s death which was followed by corruption. David’s service extended only to his own generation, but the Messiah would have to serve all generations. Jesus is able to do this for He was raised in incorruption, in the power of an indissoluble life to rule forever (vv.35-37).

However, when Paul uses the word "raised" in v.33 he is using the same train of thought that he expressed in vv.22-23. God removed Saul and "raised up" David to be their king (v.22); "Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus" (v.23). Notice, it was according to His promise. Observe how Paul refers again to that promise in vv.32-33: "And we bring you good tidings of the promise made unto the fathers, how that God hath fulfilled the same unto our children, in that he raised up Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee" (RV).

Many promises of God are found in the Old Testament Scriptures of the raising up of the Messiah in the midst of His people. We believe that Paul had in mind the promise of the Lord through Moses (Deut 18), where that coming prophet would be mediator (v.16), spokesman (v.18) and Lord (v.19). "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken" (Deut 18.15). Peter refers to this prophecy in Acts 3.22 and Stephen in Acts 7.37, both in connection with our Lord being raised up in the midst of His people as a Prophet Messiah with a unique ministry to fulfil.

Now Paul resorts to Psalm 2, placing God’s salute in a unique atmosphere: "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee". "This day" refers to the day of His public manifestation to the nation of Israel. He had quietly spent thirty years in obscurity in a house in Nazareth, and now the day had come. He stood with majestic and heavenly dignity on the banks of Jordan, and God saluted His Son: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Mt 3.17).

The word "begotten" refers to the change from John’s ministry to Christ’s, and also to the fact of His being brought forth, as Son, to be manifested as Saviour. Thus Jesus was publicly declared, publicly acknowledged and publicly saluted to be God’s Son before He commenced His public ministry to the nation of Israel.

Finishing the divine salute, Paul brings before his Jewish audience the resurrection of Jesus from the dead in vv.34 and 35. "And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he saith on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, For thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption" (quoting from Isaiah 55.3, and Psalm 16.10). Concerning His resurrection you will notice that Paul chooses Isaiah 55 and Psalm 16, not Psalm 2, and rightly so. "The sure mercies of David," or "The sacred promises of David," are fully realised in our blessed Lord, because He will never be affected by corruption; and as Isaiah 55.1-3 is an invitation to the Gentiles, so the covenant made with Israel will be realised by them also. David’s greater Son shall rule His throne and His kingdom forever. Thus we have Christ, who eternally was the Son of God, brought before us as One being raised up of God in the midst of His people, publicly announced by God as the Son upon the commencement of His public ministry, then slain, but raised by God to the highest pinnacle of glory and government.

To be continued.

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