He Is The Son Of The Most HighErwin W. Lutzer | December 1, 2013
Selected highlights from this sermon
In the Bible, Jesus is called by many names. He is proclaimed to be “the” Son of God, and Jesus Himself claimed this unique and lofty title. Yet many deny this.
The Word of God is clear. Jesus is God, and Jesus’ special sonship denotes His elevated rank and relationship to the Father. He was not created; instead, He is worshiped as the eternal Lord of all (Revelation 5).
Yesterday when I arrived at O’Hare Field, you know how it is today. You don’t want to check any luggage and my suitcase was very small so I brought it on the plane and then you know what they do. They take it from you and put it in the hold of the plane, and then when you arrive you stand in the jet bridge and wait for your suitcase.
So I was standing there and the man next to me who I think was older than I am (That may be hard for you to believe that there are people who actually fly on planes who are a little older than I am.) said, “What book do you have in your hand?” Well, that was a little surprise because I never even had the title showing, but I turned it around and showed him the picture of Martin Luther and said that it’s about the Protestant Reformation. And he looked at it and he said with more than just a little bit of cynicism, “Well isn’t it too bad that all of those heretics died and went to hell back then?”
Now, you remember it only takes about a minute for your suitcase to appear, so this is not a time when you want to open a discussion about Medieval Theology and who was right and who was wrong, and I knew that I had only maybe 30 or 35 seconds. So I said, “You know the Church has made many mistakes throughout history, but the primary thing is whether or not Jesus is actually a Savior who can save us from our sins.” He said, “Well, according to His promoters He seems to be able to do that eternally.” More sarcasm! So I assumed that he meant according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, though I never had the chance really to ask because remember your suitcase is going to appear in just a moment. (laughter) So I just said to him, “Well, you know the stories of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have been confirmed in many ways, and we have a reliable record of Jesus.” My suitcase appeared. I took it. I walked by him and I said, “You know the best thing that you could do is experience first-hand what the Bible has to say about Jesus, reading the New Testament.” He said, “I thought you were going to say I should experience sin first-hand.” Well, I left that conversation. Of course I could have said, “I suspect you’ve already done that,” (laughter) but that would not be the way you witness.
But here’s the reason I tell the story. If I had time to sit down with that man and ask him, “What makes you tick; why all this cynicism and bitterness?” he probably would have told me a story about being born and reared in a very strict home, you know going to parochial school, having religion drummed into him, and no reality in his relationship with God, and so he’s turned off to religion and turned off to God.
And I mention that story because in this large congregation today, and listening by radio or the Internet, that may be you. You may be listening to this message today with a certain amount of cynicism, hardness of heart, and a decision that no matter what is said, it’s not going to reach you. Could I encourage you to open your heart to God today? You might be on the cusp of one of the most remarkable miracles and fulfilling experiences that you have ever had in your life as we discuss the Scriptures.
Now there are two reasons why I am speaking about the topic that I’m talking about today. The first is that two weeks ago yesterday two women appeared and knocked on our door on a Saturday morning, and they said they were witnesses of Jehovah, and that they wanted to show us some things from the Bible. I’m going to be giving you information in a few moments as to what to say in a situation like that, that you will remember for the rest of your life. You will never be without words. You will never again stand there not knowing what to do. And I can assure you of that.
That’s one reason I preach the message but not the primary reason. The primary reason is so that at the end of this message we worship Jesus perhaps like we’ve never worshiped Him. We are blessed so much by what He has done for us and what we will someday be because of Him that we’ll leave here excited about wanting to tell somebody else about our Savior. That’s where we are going.
Now the Bible gives various answers to the question of who is He in yonder stall? It’s actually a song written by a man by the name of Benjamin Hanby entitled Who Is He in Yonder Stall? There are different answers that are given. Today we look at only one, and in today’s message I’m going to be quoting a number of different Scriptures. I’ll be asking you to turn to one or two of them, but I’m going to bring together various threads from the Bible because that’s the way we are going to unpack one phrase that was said by Gabriel.
And I’ll simply remind you of what he said to Mary. He said, “He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His Father David, and He shall reign over the House of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” That little phrase occupies us today. “He shall be called the Son of the Most High (or the Son of God)” as we have it frequently in the Bible.
Now those who want us to believe that Jesus isn’t God point out that that expression, “Son of God,” occurs in the Bible about many different people. For example, Adam is referred to as a son of God. Israel is referred to as “My son.” Angels are referred to as the sons of God, and on and on you go, and you discover that we are sons of God.
Islam believes that it is blasphemy that anyone would be called the son of God. You must understand that many of our Muslim friends believe that this means that God had an intimate relationship with Mary, and the result is Jesus, which is just as reprehensible to us as it is to them.
So what do we mean when we say, “Jesus – the Son of God?” Let me share a few thoughts before we turn to a text. In the Old Testament it was a Messianic title. God said to David, “You’re going to have a son, and he’s going to rule, and then God begins to talk about an eternal kingdom obviously with a son. And in Psalm 2 it says, “Thy throne has been established and this day have I begotten Thee.” God said, “Thou art My son,” and there sonship is connected with kingship. But you know, even in the Old Testament you have this distinction. You already have this distinction between Jesus Christ and other sons. For example, the Bible says in Isaiah 9, the famous Christmas text, “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given,” which is to say that the Son is very unique. “Unto us a Child is born. A Son is given.” And of course the Child turns out to be the Son; the Child turns out to be the King, but notice that distinction.
When you get to the New Testament you must understand that the writers made it very clear that when Jesus is called the Son of God, it is a very unique title of great honor. You know, you can speak today about being the president of your school council. You can speak about being president of a company. You can speak about being president of a large corporation. But then you have also the President of the United States. You see the use of the word president doesn’t lock us in to say that everybody’s the same.
Others may be called sons of God, but here’s the distinction to look out for when you read the New Testament. The distinction is that Jesus is always referred to as “the” Son of God. Do you remember when Peter made his famous declaration, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God?” Peter wasn’t just saying, “Well, you are one son among many.” He was distinguishing Jesus as “the” Son of God. When Satan tempted Jesus in the dessert He said, “If Thou art the Son of God,” and on it goes in the New Testament, emphasizing the uniqueness of Jesus.
Now there is a passage I want you to turn to in John 5. We don’t really have time to unpack it all, but I want you to see how Jesus used this expression, the Son of God, how it was interpreted, and the uniqueness of the relationship between the Father and the Son, and for that matter introduces us to the Trinity.
This is John 5:18. “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” When Jesus was affirming that He was the Son of God, the Jews correctly interpreted that to mean that Jesus was affirming deity. They understood that this was not just one son among many. This is “the” Son of God.
But notice now. So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father do.” This is not the place to unpack all of this, but do you notice the subordination of the Son also to the Father? Jesus said, “Whatever the Father wants Me to do, I do. I came not to do My own will but the will of the Father.” What’s going on there in the text is that Jesus came, you see, and because He was 100% man, He lived as a man - the humanity of Jesus in order to redeem us. So in His incarnation, in His submission to the Father, He was under the Father’s rule and direction and said that He does only what the Father does. But notice that He does not leave behind His divine essence. What a remarkable passage this is.
Verse 20 says, “For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all that He Himself is doing. And greater works then these will He show Him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever He will. The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son (Now notice verse 23.), that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father.”
So on the one hand Jesus is submissive to the Father in His humanity, and in the incarnation, and on the other hand He has retained His essence and status as God because all men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father. What that means is that the Sonship is an analogy so that we might be able to grasp the intimate relationship between the Father and the Son – like Father like Son, so that we might see the fellowship that exists within the Trinity and yet maintain the fact that there is one God, but the three persons in the Trinity express themselves and Jesus Christ receives all the honor that the Father receives. And all honor that should be given to the Father is also given to the Son.
I have to say one other word before I give you the instruction I promised you, and that is in Colossians 1:15. You know, I’m just going to look at this text. The folks who come to the door who tell us that Jesus isn’t God frequently want us to have this text. In verse 15 it says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for by Him were all things created.” So they say to us, “Look, Jesus is the first that was created. He is a God who was created in the image of the invisible God. He is the firstborn.”
What sense would that make to interpret the word firstborn that way? “He is the image of the invisible God, the first to be created, for by Him all things were created in heaven and on earth.” It would make no sense at all. The word firstborn is frequently used of preeminence. God says regarding Israel in the Old Testament, “You are my firstborn.” Does that mean that there were no other nations around or that they were the first nation? No. “You are the one I have chosen. You have preeminence.”
Abraham had two sons. One was Isaac and the other, of course, was Ishmael. Isaac was the firstborn but he was not born first, was he? It was Ishmael who was older than Isaac. So we must understand that the word firstborn frequently has the meaning of rank and honor. He is the first. He is above. That would be a good way to translate the idea. He is above all creation for by Him were all things created, both which are in heaven and which are on earth. The Bible attributes to the Son deity.
Look at Hebrews 1:8. I’ll simply quote it. It says, “To the Son He says, ‘Thy throne, oh God, is forever and ever.’” So the deity of Jesus is strongly affirmed. His relationship to the Father as Son is an analogy to help us to understand the intimacy of the relationship and their one essence. And so when Gabriel said, “He shall be called the Son of the Most High,” in that context he was saying, “He shall be a divine child.”
Now I’m going to give you some practical instruction. You have a knock at the door. Two people come and they hand you a brochure and they say that they’d like to be able to have a Bible study with you, and they have a special event and they are witnesses that belong to Jehovah, and they want you to become a part of them so they can instruct you.
What do you do? It’s a Saturday morning. You don’t have a lot of time. This is not a time to get into all the niceties of every text of the New Testament. Well, I’m not saying that what I have been doing recently is what all of you should do, but I do tell you that this is what I did. And I believe that it will be very easy for you to understand it and to do the very same thing.
First of all, let me say that we should be loving. We should be concerned. We should not slam the door in people’s faces. We should not be rude. We have to represent Jesus. I haven’t always followed my own advice way back when I was younger but now as I get older I have become much more sensitive about the fact that these dear people need to know who Jesus really is and they need to understand the Gospel. So I’ll tell you how it was two weeks ago.
There’s a knock on the door. They identify themselves. I have one question for them. I said, “I have one question for you. Do you worship Jesus?” And they say, “No.” I’ve had some say, “Yes.” But I’ve had others say “No.” And then I say, “What are you going to do if you were in heaven? What are you going to do? Why is it that in heaven they worship Jesus?” At that point they give you the Bible – their own Bible, and they say, “Show it to us in the Bible.”
Now this is very important. I had one tell me that they have given the Bible to every Christian who has ever objected, and that Christian has not been able to find any text. She said, “You are the first one who actually turned to a passage.” I hope I’m not the last.
But anyway, what I did is I went to Revelation 5, and this is what I read. Revelation 5:11-14, “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’ And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.” (applause)
So I read the passage, and then I just didn’t say, “Let’s get on our knees and worship Jesus.” I actually got on my knees. I knelt right at the door and I said, “Now, I’m kneeling here to worship Jesus. Why don’t the two of you just join me in worshiping Jesus, and in this way we’ll be prepared for heaven. We’re going to worship Him there. Let’s do it.” So I knelt, and they, uh, decided that maybe next door they’d have a less memorable welcome, but before they left I gave them a warning.
Philippians 2 (This takes your breath away.) says that God has exalted Jesus and the day is coming when every knee will bow in heaven. That’s all the angels, that’s all the folks who are in heaven - every knee in heaven, every knee on earth, all the living people, and all those who are under the earth. It’s the only time that expression occurs in the book of the New Testament, and it really means, if I might say it bluntly, the damned. It means even demons will confess ruefully, as they did in the New Testament. When they saw Jesus coming they said, “Thou are the Son of God.”
Every single created intelligent being will recognize Jesus and confess Him to be Lord to the glory of God the Father. Wow! (applause) I didn’t tell them this but I will maybe next time. Just visualize eternity. The resurrection has happened, and over here I see Buddha confessing Jesus as Lord. I see him bowing. I see Krishna bowing and confessing Jesus as Lord. Over here I see Muhammad bowing, confessing Jesus as Lord. Over here I see Charles Russell who began teaching that particular group of people about the fact that Jesus wasn’t God. Look at Charles on his knees right over here. He’s bowing, confessing Jesus is Lord. In the end everyone confesses that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (applause)
Now let me ask you something. Will you remember the question, “Do you worship Jesus?” Their answer is no. You say, “They worship Jesus in heaven.” They say, “Show me where it is.” And what are you going to say? Tell me the text.
[Congregation answers: Revelation 5:12.]
Let’s say it again.
[Congregation answers: Revelation 5:12.]
All right, now you are ready. (laughter)
You say, “Pastor Lutzer, you said that you are going to not only instruct us, you are also going to bless us.” Boy do I have blessing for you. Here’s the truth. God had one special Son by the name of Jesus, but it says in the book of Hebrews that God wanted many sons and many daughters. And so what He decided to do was to adopt us into His family. We are children of God, sons of God by adoption, and of course sons and daughters both by adoption. And I began to think about what that means. You see, we have by divine grace that which Jesus, of course, had by divine right. And we will never be like Jesus. We’ll never have a divine nature, but you know, He invites us to be His children, and what an invitation it is.
Listen to these words. “Beloved, now it is that we are the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
I began to meditate on that and thought, “What does all that mean?” In what ways will we be like Jesus someday, the divine Son, we who are adopted into His family? First of all, we are going to be like Jesus morally. We’ll not have a sin nature. We will not need any intermediary between us and God. We will see God unmediated. All the light that you and I see today is created light. We will finally see God as uncreated light, and our consciences will be so pure that we won’t mind if our thoughts and heart are broadcast to the entire world because we will be so pure. Don’t you look forward to that day when we will stand before Jesus? (applause)
We are going to be like Him morally. We are going to be like Him bodily. Notice what the text says in the book of Philippians. “We await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body (When you rolled out of bed today did you say, “This is a lowly body?”) to be like His glorious body by the power that enables Him to subject all things to Himself.” It’s because of our lowly bodies that we have all of the disputes regarding healthcare, because we know our lowly bodies need help. Someday we’ll be like unto His glorious body. Morally we are going to be like Him. Bodily we are going to be like Him.
Relationally we are going to be like Him. The Scripture says in the book of Romans that we are heirs of God as His sons and daughters. We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. “You know when Jesus calls us,” you say, “Will be able to sit at His table?” Not just sit at His table! I’m not making this up, but actually sit on His throne! “To him who overcomes to him I shall grant to sit with me on My throne even as I overcame and sat with My Father on His throne.”
God says, “You become My son, you become My daughter and when the title deed of the Universe is opened, your name is going to be beside mine, and you will also inherit all things.” And what we will inherit the most and be blessed by the most is that we will actually inherit God Himself. We’re going to be like Jesus in all of these respects.
We’re also going to be like Jesus eternally because His name shall be on our foreheads and we shall reign with Him forever and ever. Wow! (applause)
In a few moments we are going to be participating in communion and we’re going to be saying this. “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in His only Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.” What are we confessing? We are confessing the deity of Christ. We’re confessing the uniqueness of Jesus Christ’s relationship with His Father. We are confessing also that because His blood was shed and His body was broken that we too can participate as His sons and daughters. We are gladly confessing that Jesus is Lord and He is God, and so we confess.
But listening to this message, the hearts of some of you may be like that man I told you about at O’Hare Field yesterday. Your heart may be closed. Remember this. Grace doesn’t enter closed doors. You know there are some people who say, “Well you know I’m trusting the grace of God,” but their hearts are closed to divine grace. Jesus shed His blood. He gave His body for us.
When Gabriel came to Mary, he answered the question, “Who is He in yonder stall?” He shall be great. He shall be the Son of the Most High. And next week we’re going to talk about Him as Savior, and later on as King – God, a very God, our Savior, our Lord. Do you know Him? Have you trusted Him? Have you believed on Him? Have you opened your heart to Him and received His gift? I hope so. Let’s pray.
Father, it is indeed with deeply grateful hearts that we rejoice today that the Son of the Most High has invited us to participate with Him in eternity. We thank you today for grace that is immeasurable, that is beyond our abilities. We pray for all those who do not recognize that Jesus is Lord God, and we ask that they shall bow the knee in this life rather than needing to do it in the life to come, and to do it with regret. Oh Father, we ask today that many people who have listened to this message will right now believe on Jesus. Thank you so much for the blood that was shed, for the body that was broken, and we do believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s holy Son, in whose name we pray, Amen.