Psalm 2:7 in the NT: The Announcement of a King

In Acts 13:32–33, Paul teaches that the promise of a Davidic king who would rule forever (cf. Acts 13:22–23) has been fulfilled in part through the resurrection of Jesus. Since Jesus had been put to death (cf. Acts 13:26–29), God raised Him up in order for Ps 2:7 to remain true of Him: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.”

Psalm 2:7 was written by David and could be applied to Himself. He had been begotten by God as His son in the sense that He was the king of Israel. This language echoes the covenant God promised to David concerning the kings of Israel in his line: “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son” (2 Sam 7:14). Likewise, Ps 89:26–27 says of the Davidic king, “He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father’…And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” The greatest application of these words is obviously to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Psalm 2:7 is applied to Jesus multiple times in the NT. He was first announced as God’s kingly Son at Hs baptism. The Father declared from heaven, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17; see also Mark 1:11 and Luke 3:22). With the addition of “beloved,” the first phrase of the Father’s words quotes Ps 2:7. The second phrase is a quotation of Isaiah 42:1, identifying Jesus as Isaiah’s suffering Servant.

At the Transfiguration, the Father again identified Jesus in terms of Ps 2:7 and Isa 42:1, adding Deut 18:15 as well—Jesus was the greater Prophet to come (Deut 18:15, “it is to him you shall listen”). The Father stated, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matt 17:5; see also Mark 9:7 and Luke 9:35).

Two NT letters mention Ps 2:7 as well. Peter recounts the Transfiguration in 2 Pet 1:17, and Heb 1:5 and 5:5 quote Ps 2:7 in application to Christ to show how He is superior to angels and the Levitical priests.

But, while Jesus has been announced as the Davidic king, He is yet to sit on David’s throne in Jerusalem. Just as David was anointed king and given the Spirit but waited for a time for his kingdom (cf. 1 Sam 16:1–13), so also Jesus was baptized, received the Spirit, and waits for a kingdom all His own as well (cf. Rev 3:21). The difference between David and Jesus, however, is that, while David was on the run from His enemies until he became king, Jesus currently sits enthroned with the Father over all things until He comes again to put down His enemies and take His earthly kingdom to Himself (Heb 10:12–13). When He does come, “then he will sit on his glorious throne” (Matt 25:31). What a glorious day for the Son that will be!

Sufferings, Glories, and Saving God’s People: Joseph, Moses, and Jesus in Acts 7

In Acts 6:11–14, Stephen is falsely accused of blaspheming God by speaking ill of the Mosaic Law and the temple. Acts 7 then records his speech, notable because it is the longest speech in Acts and one by a non-apostle.

Given a quick read of his speech, we might wonder why it took Stephen 50 verses (Acts 7:2–53) to answer these charges. A closer examination of his words, however, reveals a carefully-crafted response that not only answers the charges against him, but also builds a case to rebuke Israel, ending in a climactic fashion by doing just that.

In leading up to his climactic rebuke, Stephen speaks of how Israel historically sinfully treated the very ones that God had sent to deliver them, how God in turn exalted these prophets, and how God then used these men to deliver His people. Stephen obviously speaks of other people and issues along the way (Abraham in Acts 7:2–8; the temple in Acts 7:44–50), but we will focus on Joseph (Acts 7:9–16) and Moses (Acts 7:33–43) in order to show how Stephen would parallel Israel’s persecution of them with how they had treated Jesus and continued to treat His followers. As Stephen would put it, “As your fathers did, so do you” (Acts 7:51).

First, we consider how Joseph was treated by his brothers, “the patriarchs” (Acts 7:9). They were “jealous of Joseph” and therefore “sold him into Egypt” (Acts 7:9), the beginnings of his sufferings, identified as “all his afflictions” (Acts 7:11). “God,” however, exalted Joseph in that He “was with him and rescued him…and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh…who made him ruler over Egypt” (Acts 7:9–10). Joseph then went on to deliver his family during “a famine” and “great affliction” (Acts 7:11; cf. 7:11–14).

Second, we consider that Moses was treated in a similar way. He was stirred to help his fellow Israelites and even killed an Egyptian in his zeal (Acts 7:23–24). “He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand” (Acts 7:25). In fact, one Israelite represented the nation when he “thrust him [i.e., Moses] aside” and asked, “Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?” (Acts 7:27). Even after the exodus, Israel again “thrust him aside” and followed idols instead (Acts 7:39). Despite these sufferings, Moses was “sent as both ruler and redeemer,” spoke to the God at the burning bush, led Israel out of Egypt, and was given the Law (Acts 7:35–38). Moses suffered before and after delivering Israel and was exalted in his role as deliverer.

Third, we see that Joseph and Moses bring us to Jesus. In the climactic conclusion to Stephen’s speech and the description that followed, we see the suffering and exaltation of Jesus. “As your fathers did,” Stephen stated (i.e., as they persecuted Joseph and Moses, not to mention the prophets – cf. Acts 7:52), “so do you” (Acts 7:51). Specifically, these Israelites had “betrayed and murdered” Jesus, “the Righteous One” who was prophesied by Moses to come (cf. Acts 7:37; cf. Deut 18:15). Despite His sufferings at the hand of Israel, however, God exalted Jesus. As these Israelites rushed to end Stephen’s life, Stephen testified that Jesus was “standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55–56). And though Joseph and Moses were used to deliver Israel from famine and Egypt, Jesus could bring these Israelites no deliverance at this time—they murdered Him, would murder Stephen, and would continue to persecute Christians thereafter (cf. Acts 8:1–3).

Perhaps we could add Stephen as a fourth in this text as one who experienced suffering and glory. He was obviously not meant to eclipse Jesus in the text, but he does seem to function as an example for Christians in general—like him, they also would be persecuted (cf. Acts 8:1–3). Though he sought to deliver his fellow man by giving them the gospel, his listeners made him suffer instead of receiving this salvation. His exaltation was seen as Jesus gave him a standing ovation, so to speak, to welcome him to glory for faithfully giving the gospel, even to the point of death.

May we all as Christians be like Stephen in that we are willing to suffer as messengers of the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. And whether the Lord lets us die a martyr’s death or rescues us at His return, our glorification is waiting, which is to “be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).1

  1. All biblical quotations are from the ESV. []

The Lord as Shepherd: Our Greatest Delight

Psalm 23 has been precious to the saints throughout the ages. It gives comfort in the midst of death, and it strengthens our delight and trust in the Lord because He is our Shepherd.

Its author is David who knew the Lord as Jacob did, “the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day” (Genesis 48:15 ESV). As king of the nation, David knew Him as the “Shepherd of Israel” (Psalm 80:1 ESV). And, David, too, was a shepherd—first of sheep and then of Israel. God “took him from the sheepfolds…to shepherd Jacob his people” (Psalm 78:70–72 ESV). David was uniquely qualified to write Psalm 23.

In looking at the first four verses of this psalm, we see that… 

Our greatest delight is to know the Lord as shepherd (Psalm 23:1–4).

We can summarize how the Lord ministers to us as our Shepherd in four ways:

First, the Lord gives (Psalm 23:1).

David’s statement “I shall not want” stems from having the Lord as his Shepherd—He gives to us Himself as our Shepherd, which meets our greatest desires.

But how exactly does He shepherd us? Psalm 23:2–4 lists in detail how the Lord ministers as Shepherd.

Second, the Lord guides (Psalm 23:2).

The Lord guides us to be at peace, pictured by the guidance of a sheep to “green pastures” and “still waters,” places where sheep can safely eat, drink, and rest. Through His Word and the gospel, the Lord guides us to be at peace, if nothing else, with Him through Christ who died for us (Romans 5:10). If this is so, we will experience this peace in full when He brings us into His glorious kingdom (cf. Romans 16:20). 

Third, the Lord governs (Psalm 23:3).

Using the word “governs,” we capture the idea of the Lord watching over and bringing back a wayward sheep. The word “restore” (šwb) implies these thoughts.

This word can be used to describe physical restoration, whether strength (Lamentations 1:11, 19) or life itself (1 Kings 17:21, 22). Spiritually speaking, the soul can be restored by a comforter (Lamentations 1:16) or faithful messenger (Proverbs 25:3). As David uses the word here, the imagery of the shepherd restoring the sheep indicates that the Lord brings His wayward children back to Himself and makes them spiritually whole.

Isaiah used this word when he foretold that the Christ would restore Israel to the Lord (Isaiah 49:5 ESV). Christ likewise does so for us today: “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25 ESV).

The reason for restoring His sheep is “for His name’s sake.” The Lord will not allow His reputation as Shepherd to be shamed by a sheep’s wayward walk. He gathers us away from evil ways to lead us unto “paths of righteousness” so that others think highly of Him as a Shepherd. 

Fourth, the Lord guards (Psalm 23:4).

In perhaps the most memorable portion of this psalm, David speaks of when he would “walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” Death is so close to the sheep that it overshadows the sheep. This “shadow of death” (ṣalmāwet) is not just literal darkness but indeed speaks of death. It is elsewhere paralleled to “the gates of deep death” (Job 38:17) and the death-giving desert, “a land of drought” (Jeremiah 2:6).

Despite walking in death’s valley, “evil” brings no “fear” to David because the Lord is present with him (“you are with me”)—notice how David moves from speaking about to speaking to his Shepherd. An Ancient Near Eastern shepherd led by going ahead. Here the Lord walks beside the sheep in this valley. Only He is present, it seems.

Furthermore, the valley’s evil brings no fear because “comfort comes from the Lord’s “rod and staff,” tools of defense against enemies (cf. 1 Samuel17:35) or for controlling the sheep through such a perilous walk. 

Summarizing the Lord’s shepherding ministries up to this point, we saw that our greatest delight is to know the Lord as shepherd because He gives Himself to us, guides us in following Him, governs us back to Him when we go astray, and guards us as death is near (Psalm 23:1–4).

Coming to the last two verses of our psalm, we see that…

Our greatest dwelling is in the house of the Lord (Psalm 23:5–6).

At this point, David breaks from the imagery of the Lord as his shepherd to speak of what it is to dwell in the house of the Lord. We could summarize these verses with two statements:

First, the Lord gives His people a grand entrance (Psalm 23:5).

We see this entrance into the house in how the Lord prizes His people.

The Lord Himself is the table-master who delights to “prepare a table” for his guests. The psalm thus moves from a personal metaphor of sheep and shepherd to something even more intimate—companions at the table who eat together.

The Lord even goes so far as to “anoint my head with oil” and make sure the guest’s “cup overflows.” Anointing a guest with oil was an act of celebration (cf. Psalm 104:15) or welcoming someone into the home (cf. Luke 7:44, 46). An overflowing cup showed an abundance lavished upon the guest. This picture shows us that the Lord lavishes His love upon us as His children who make up the household of God.

Once in the house, we see also that the Lord protects His people. This table, anointing, and overflowing cup are “in the presence of my enemies.” Whereas David once spoke of walking through the valley of the shadow of death, now he has moved to sitting at the Lord’s table because the enemies have been conquered or have been held at bay so that feasting can take place. Either way, the picture is one of protection—He keeps us in His house, and once there, there is no one that can harm us.

Second, the Lord gives His people a grand eternity (Psalm 23:6).

The psalm moves from (1) being led by the shepherd (Psalm 23:3) to (2) walking with the shepherd (Psalm 23:4) to (3) eating with the Lord (Psalm 23:5) and finally, to (4) dwelling with the Lord forever. The intimate setting for a meal in Psalm 23:5 anticipates constant fellowship in Psalm 23:6.

In this final scene, we see this grand eternity in how the Lord pursues His people. They are not the one’s to chase “goodness and mercy,” but these blessings rather “follow” them. This takes place, yes, “all the days of my life,” but it is something true for the one who will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Besides this promise, a note of comfort closes the psalm with one last use of šwb. Earlier translated “restores” in Psalm 23:3, the semantic range of šwb allows for “dwell” in Psalm 23:6. While “dwelling” is the primary thought, having Psalm 23:3 in mind, David may have meant to recall that wandering sheep, if truly God’s sheep, will be shepherded back into the fold and with such grace that such a one will one day never wander again. Just as the Lord pursues His residents with blessing, so also He preserves them in bringing them to heaven.

Summarizing our look at Psalm 23:5–6, we saw that the Lord meets our every desire to want nothing else (cf. Psalm 23:1) because He does more than minister to us in the present—He will faithfully love us for all our days in heaven and graciously ensures that we will be there.

Conclusion

Whether we are facing the best of times (Psalm 23:1–2, 5–6), looking death in the face (Psalm 23:4), or walking away from the Lord (Psalm 23:4) – if we are God’s sheep, we will see (Psalm 23:1) or be faithfully and firmly shown (Psalm 23:3) that our greatest delight in this life and the one to come is only found in Him. May we delight in our Shepherd all the days of our life and for eternity.1

  1. For many points made above, see Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72 (TOTC: Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973), 127–30. []

The Names of Jesus and Their Significance in Acts 3–4

Acts 3–4 records how Peter and John healed a lame man. As their spokesman, Peter explained to the Jewish people (Acts 3:12–26) and their leaders (Acts 4:8–12) that the healing took place by faith in Jesus’ name, that is, that by believing in the one named Jesus who has the power to give salvation and heal. Within his explanations, he gave several names for Jesus, which are listed and briefly explained below.

Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Acts 3:6; 4:10; cf. 3:18, 20)

In speaking to the Israelites, Peter did not just name Jesus but specified Him as the Messiah, the prophesied Christ of the OT. He at times simply called Him “the Christ” and “His Christ,” that is, the Christ sent by the Father. He is described as “of Nazareth,” His hometown (cf. Luke 4:16).

His Servant Jesus (Acts 3:13, 26)

Jesus is “his servant,” that is, the servant of the Father. In both mentions of Jesus as “servant,” He is said to have been “raised from the dead” or “raised up” (Acts 3:15, 26), and the first of these two descriptions parallels the idea of God having “glorified” Jesus (Acts 3:13).1 Tracing these themes to the OT, Isaiah quoted the Father’s words and prophesied, “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted” (Isa 53:10 ESV), an interesting notion when Isaiah would go on to describe in this “servant song” how the Messiah would suffer (cf. Isa 52:13–53;12 with Acts 3:13–15; cf. also Luke 22:37 with Isa 53:12). Having just a snapshot of Peter’s words, we at least have enough in concept and terminology to assume he explained Jesus in terms of Isaiah’s prophecy, the Servant who suffered for us and has now been glorified through the resurrection (not to mention His sharing the Father’s throne; cf. Acts 2:33–36).

The Holy and Righteous One (Acts 3:14)

Jesus was perfectly holy, as acknowledged by Himself (Rev 3:7), His own (John 6:69; Heb 7:26), and even demons (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34). He was the prophesied Messiah who was perfect and right and thus righteous in all His doings (Isa 11:4; 32:11; 53:11; Jer 23:5; Zech 9:9; 1 John 2:1).

The Author of Life (Acts 3:15)

Whereas Hebrews emphasizes the example of Jesus as our “author” or “founder” of salvation and faith (Heb 2:10; 12:2; cf. Acts 5:31; archēgos is the same term in each verse though variously translated), Peter uses the term here to emphasize Jesus as the giver of life. He not only restored a man to “perfect health” (Acts 3:16), but His second coming would bring about the prophesied “times of refreshing” and “restoring all the things” as well (Acts 3:19, 21).

A Prophet (Acts 3:22)

Jesus was not just a prophet but the Prophet to whom His people would listen, as Moses prophesied long ago (Deut 18:15, 18, 19). Peter identified Jesus as this prophet, and the Israelites were thus warned that failure to listen to His words and obey Him would lead to their destruction (Acts 3:23).

The Cornerstone (Acts 4:11)

Peter identified Jesus as the rejected cornerstone of Ps 118:22. Though the builders (Israelites) had rejected the stone (i.e., they killed Him), the Father made Him the cornerstone (i.e., He raised Him up and exalted Him). Whereas the psalm described the nations as opposing Israel’s king (Ps 118:10), here it is the leaders of Israel. Nonetheless, the church would be built upon Christ (Eph 2:20; 1 Pet 2:5–6) and a renewed Israel in time to come (Matt 21:42–44; cf. Mark 12:9–11; Luke 20:16–17).

Two themes stand out from Peter’s use of these titles. First, in using these titles and likely explaining their meaning from the OT, Peter was able to explain both the sufferings and glories of Christ (cf. 1 Pet 1:10–12). As the Servant, Jesus suffered but was exalted. As a stone, Jesus was rejected but then made the cornerstone. As a Prophet, some would not listen, but they would ultimately be destroyed and not Him.

Second, in using these titles, Peter’s Israelite audience was sorely rebuked. They killed this Jesus, the Christ from Nazareth through conspiracy and the cross. He was the Servant who would suffer, and they were the ones to make Him suffer. He did not deserve their giving Him a criminal’s death, for He was perfectly holy and righteous. In killing him, they gave death to Him who gives life. And in doing so, they egregiously disobeyed the prophesied Prophet to whom they were supposed to listen.

In the wisdom of God, it was through suffering that Jesus would find Himself exalted. And in the mercy of God, here these Israelites heard another appeal to turn to God through Christ and know forgiveness from sin.

  1. Acts 3:13–15 seems to have somewhat of a chiasm. God glorified His Servant (Acts 3:13a), the Jews denied Him (Acts 3:13b–14a), the Jews killed him (Acts 3:15a), and God raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 3:15b). The first and last of the descriptions of Jesus go together. []

A Snapshot Summary of the Use of Psalm 110:1 in the NT

Psalm 110:1 enjoys more references in the NT than any other verse from the OT. It is quoted 5 times and given allusion 15 times. From my own study, I’ve grouped these quotations and allusions into the headings below, and every reference cited is to one of those quotations or allusions.1

Perseverance
“Jesus…endured the cross, despising the shame” because He was motivated by “the joy that was set before Him,” that is, being “seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). Jesus persevered and has been rewarded with the right-hand seat that was promised to Him. We are likewise exhorted to do the same. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1). Stephen faithfully persevered unto death, seeing “Jesus standing at the right hand of God” as if to applaud and welcome him home (Acts 7:55–56).

Power
Paul prayed for his readers to know of “the immeasurable greatness of his power… that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:19–20). The power of God was shown in both the resurrection of Jesus and His placement at His right hand. 

Position
Jesus’ right-hand seat indicated that He had a position over all things. There He sits as the Messiah and David’s greater Lord (Matt 22:44 / Mark 12:36 / Luke 20:42–43). It is a seat that is not even given to angels (Heb 1:13) because there He sits “with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him” (1 Pet 3:22). In fact, His position is one in which the Father “put all things under his feet” (Eph 1:22), which indicates of the Father that “he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him” (1 Cor 15:27). 

Priesthood
“We have such a high priest,” Jesus, “one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven” (Heb 8:1), which indicates the completion and present carrying out of certain priestly functions. He sat there “after making purification for sins” and having “offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins” (Heb 10:12). Shortly after taking this seat, He “poured out” the Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2:33), sits as “Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” and anyone else who repents (Acts 5:31), and “indeed is interceding for us” (Rom 8:34).

Punishment
As seen above, Jesus is over all things at the Father’s right hand. From there, however, He has been “waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (Heb 10:13), including those who disbelieved Him (Matt 26:64 / Mark 14:62 / Luke 22:69) and even death itself (1 Cor 15:26–27).

  1. All quotations are from the ESV. []

A Christmas Promise: Light and Life to All He Brings

From “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” the first two verses of the third stanza read as follows:

Hail, the heav’nborn Prince of Peace! Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings.

“The heav’nborn Prince of Peace” is obviously the Messiah (see Isaiah 9:6), but our understanding of the rest of these verses is not so immediate. Malachi 4:2 states, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings” (ESV). How is it that Christ is Malachi’s “Sun of Righteousness” who is “Ris’n with healing in His wings”?

Roughly 400 years before Christ, Malachi called Israel to faithfulness in light of her sins after returning to her land from exile. Malachi 3:13–4:3 gives an instance of these sins, recording Israel’s “hard words” against God claiming service to Him was profitless because the arrogant and evildoers lived in prosperity (Malachi 3:13–15). God responded that the unrighteous would indeed be judged and that the righteous would be protected (Malachi 3:16–4:3). The righteous would also experience the blessings of global righteousness and healing (Malachi 4:2).

Scripture often uses light as a metaphor for righteousness, and a king’s rule could shine righteousness over his land. As David once said, “When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning” (2 Samuel 23:3–4). Likewise, Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah’s rule, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” (Isaiah 9:2; cf. 9:6–7). The fullest light of Christ’s rule comes at the end of the ages. John saw of the New Jerusalem that “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:23; cf. 22:5).

Malachi then pictures the sun’s rays as wings taking healing to all. Wherever this sun shines righteousness, it also gives healing through its rays. David once spoke of the sun’s dawning rays as the “wings of the morning” that reach to “the uttermost parts of the sea” (Psalm 139:9). Wherever God’s righteous rule would be, so also would be His healing. The suffering of the Great Physician on the cross conquers not only sin but also its effects (Isaiah 53:4; cf. 35:5–6).

While Malachi did not speak directly of the Messiah as the sun with healing in His wings, this righteousness and healing obviously do not come apart from Him. As He will one day be the Lamp of the New Jerusalem, we can gladly permit the hymnist the poetic license to call Christ the Sun of Righteousness whose rising day brings Healing as far as His rays will fly.

Merry Christmas to all, and may we be the all to whom light and life He brings.

Christmas, the Face of Jesus, and the Story of the Gospel

It was a significant moment for some individuals when they saw the face of the infant Jesus. The Magi “saw the Child…and worshiped Him” (Matt 2:11). The shepherds “found…the baby.…When they had seen this…the shepherds returned, glorifying and praise God for all they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:16, 17, 20). Likewise, Simeon was promised “that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26) and would later say with the infant Jesus in his arms, “My eyes have seen Your salvation” (Luke 2:30). A proper perception of Jesus can only lead to worship because we see salvation in Him.

In the Scriptures as a whole, the story of looking on the face of God is one just one way to see the story of the gospel.

From an Innocent Look

In the beginning, man regularly saw the face of God. After Adam and Eve sinned, “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and…hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God” (Gen 3:8). (“Presence,” pānêh, could be translated “face” or at least assumes its visibility in this setting.) Apparently, Adam and Eve were accustomed to walking with the pre-incarnate Son of God in the garden before the fall of man into sin. He likely appeared to them as a man, showing His face to them.

To an Occasional Glimpse

As a consequence of sin, man lost the privilege of regularly being in God’s presence  and seeing His face (cf. Gen 3:22–24). In fact, man’s sinfulness led to fearing the presence and face of God. Just as Adam and Eve hid in the garden, so also men such as Moses, Elijah, and Manoah feared to look upon God (Exod 3:6; Judg 13:22; 1 Kgs 19:13). The rarity of seeing His face shifted language about the matter to become figurative for blessing and not to be understood in a literal manner (e.g., Num 6:24–26; Ps 11:7; 17:15; 31:16; 67:1; 80:3, 7, 19, 119:135). If anyone was to look upon the face of God, it was typically a prophet, and even then, to look upon God’s face was rare. Moses illustrates this fact. As he himself recounted, “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend” (Exod 33:11), something so rare that it would later be said at his death, “Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deut 34:10).

But Look Again

But then, God sent His Son, and in seeing the Son, man also saw the Father. As Jesus said, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him” (John 14:7). His person, face included, had “no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to him” (Isa 53:2). At the same time, in showing us the Father, He was and “is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb 1:3).

So, though God had once banished man from being able to regularly see His face, He showed it on occasion and spoke regularly to Moses. Then, God the Son walked among man, and all who saw Him could see that God was now graciously speaking to man through His Son. How would they react?

Though some believed, the greater number eventually marred the face of Jesus, showing what he thought of Him as a whole. With words spoken on His behalf before His time, Jesus could have said, “I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting” (Isa 50:6). Told by Mark, “Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, ‘Prophesy!’ And the officers received Him with slaps in the face” (Mark 14:65).

Then, the Son of God was put on the cross, and as darkness overtook Golgotha, so also the Father forsook His Son. Perhaps we could say that He looked away from His face so that His Son who knew no sin could become sin for you and me so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (Mark 15:33–34; 2 Cor 5:21).

And See Him Now

And now, to our advantage (cf. John 16:7), we no longer physically see our Savior’s face. Rather, we see His face through the gospel. God makes our Savior’s face clear to us by pouring His light into our hearts and revealing to us the knowledge of His glory concerning our salvation through His Son (2 Cor 4:6). And while not seeing our Savior with the eyes of our heads, we see Him with the eyes of our hearts, believe in Him, love Him, and are eternally blessed for doing so (John 20:29; 1 Pet 1:8; cf. Eph 1:18). As we keep our eyes fixed upon Him, we run our Christian race until we one day join Him in heaven (Heb 12:1–2).

And See Him Fully in Time to Come

When we get there, we will be “face to face” with Jesus, knowing Him fully as we shall be fully known (1 Cor 13:12). We will be glorified and thus be “like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). And for us at that time, “They shall see His face” (Rev 22:4). What Adam lost long ago, we shall have in perfection and with no potential to lose it again.

May we see Jesus as the Magi, shepherds, and Simeon saw Him long ago—not only with our eyes, but also with our hearts, worshiping Him because we truly see Him for who He is, the Savior of the world. And may we thereby see His face one day when it shines on us forevermore.

Jesus: the Pioneer and Perfecter of our Faith

In Hebrews 12:2, Jesus is identified as “the founder and perfecter of our faith.” What do these two titles mean?

The title “founder” is variously translated: “author” (NASB, NIV, KJV, NKJV); “pioneer” (NET Bible); “source” (HCSB). Other suggestions in commentaries are “forerunner,” “initiator,” “beginner,” “champion,” “leader,” and “originator.” I remember a sermon in which He was the “trailblazer.” The same Greek word (archēgos) is used to identify Jesus as “the Author of life” in Acts 3:15. Likewise, God exalted Him as “leader” in Acts 5:31.

Closer to our meaning and within the book of Hebrews itself is Hebrews 2:10: “it was fitting that He…should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” “Founder” is the same as in 12:2, and “make perfect” is the verb form (teleioō) of the title “perfecter” (teleiōtēs). Insomuch as Jesus “founded” our salvation, He could be said to be its origin or source, which is why the HCSB gives its translation “source” in 12:2. At the same time, while this thought is in the background in 12:2, the emphasis of 12:1–3 is upon Jesus as an example of enduring and not so much the theological significance of His work as it pertains to our salvation. In other words, He is highlighted as an example for perseverance in 12:1–3, and relationship of His suffering to our salvation is not center-stage.

The title “perfecter” is used only once in the NT and, as best we know, nowhere else in Greek literature. It may have been coined by the author of Hebrews. It carries the idea of someone bringing something to perfection or completion. Hebrews 5:9, speaking of Jesus, states, “And being made perfect [teleioō], he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” As in 2:10, this perfection came through obedience in His suffering (cf. 5:8). While these other verses are helpful, they speak of how He Himself was perfected through suffering and not so much what it is that He perfected (i.e., “our faith”) as in 12:2.

Some clues from the surrounding text also push us closer to the titles’ meanings.

First, as just mentioned, both of these titles somehow relate to “our faith.” Technically, the word translated “our” is the Greek article “the,” and the article is used with the word “faith” in Hebrews only when referring to the faith of a group of people, such as “those who listened” (4:2), “all these” (11:39), and “your leaders” (13:7). The faith here is of the “we” in 12:1 who “are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” whose faith is likewise mentioned in 11:39. So, whatever Jesus’ titles may mean, they are somehow related to the personal and active faith of the readers of Hebrews.

Second, the titles share the one article “the,” indicating that there is some notion that ties them together. “Founder” has the idea of beginning something, just as “completer” brings out its end. What is brought out, then, is that Jesus is somehow related to our faith’s beginning and end.

Third, another technical point, the name “Jesus” comes after “founder and perfecter” in the Greek. Literally, the text reads, “Looking unto the of-the-faith founder and perfecter Jesus.” The emphasis, then, is to give these titles first so as to help us think in a certain way about who Jesus is. While Hebrews 11 gave us many examples of faith, they fade to the background, surrounding the runner. Now we look to the man Jesus as the best example for our faith, for He lived it perfectly from beginning to end. We should run the race with endurance like Him.

Putting together all of the above, it is tempting to identify Jesus as the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith. He is certainly the source of our salvation, and, more the point of Hebrews 12:1–3, He also pioneered what it was to perfectly live by faith. And, in so doing, He perfected and finished how to do so, even unto the cross, bearing immense hostility along the way. His joy and reward was to sit down at the Father’s right hand, and we will likewise one day reign with Him (cf. Rev 3:21). When we run the Christian race with endurance and look at Him, we will not stumble but be faithful to the finish.

 

The Resurrection of Jesus in the OT

Isaiah spoke of Jesus in Isaiah 52:13–53:12, with thoughts of the resurrection in Isaiah 53:10. Hinting at His death, Jesus would be “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” (Isa 53:7), and, indeed, He would be “taken away” and “cut off out of the land of the living” (Isa 53:8). He would die and lie in “His grave,” being made “an offering for guilt” (Isa 53:9–10). Nonetheless, Isaiah promised of Jesus that “He shall see His offspring” and that the Father would “prolong His days” (Isa 53:10). Though Isaiah does not specifically mention the resurrection, it is obviously implied between the prophecies of the death of the Messiah and His prolonged days thereafter

Psalm 16:10 gives another clear prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection. Speaking of Christ, David promised, “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” Similar to how Abraham believed that God would have raised Isaac from the dead because of His promise of Abraham’s descendants through him (Heb 11:17–19), David knew that his Descendant would one day rule forever, which meant for Him that Sheol and corruption would be overcome by a resurrection (Ps 16:10; see also Acts 2:30–31; 13:34–37).

Many OT texts could be added to the two above.1 In summarizing the gospel, Paul pointed out of Jesus “that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:4). If only Paul could have told us which Scriptures!

Similarly, when Jesus spoke to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection, Jesus rebuked them for their failure to believe in His resurrection. (They did not realize it was Him at the time; cf. Luke 24:31.) Luke 24:25–27 states, “25 And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.’”

We only wish we could know in detail from Jesus Himself what Moses and the prophets had to say of Christ’s resurrection, a necessary event for Him to “enter in His glory.” At the same time, we at least know what some OT passages say of His resurrection, and, in our place in redemptive history, we can see the story and significance of the resurrection in the NT. Paul gives a snapshot of both in 1 Corinthians 15:20–22: “20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Praise be to God for the resurrection of Christ, a picture and guarantee of our resurrection to come!

  1. For a fuller discussion of the above, see Rolland McCune, A Systematic Theology of Biblical Christianity: The Doctrines of Man, Sin, Christ, and the Holy Spirit (Allen Park, MI: Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 2009), 221–23. []

The Importance of Jesus’ Supernatural Conception

2016-10-06-opened-bibleGabriel announced to Mary, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son” (Luke 1:31). Being a virgin, Mary questioned how this conception would take place (Luke 1:34). Gabriel explained, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). An angel likewise told Joseph in a dream, “Joseph…that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matt 1:20).

We can summarize the supernatural nature of Jesus’ conception by using the terms above. The Spirit overshadowed and came upon Mary so that what was conceived was from the Holy Spirit. Why is it important that Jesus was conceived in this way?

This conception would have never happened otherwise.

One answer is obvious―Jesus had to be conceived by the Spirit because virgin women do not ordinarily have divine babies. In other words, a miracle needed to happen, and the Spirit makes miracles happen. The miraculous work of the Spirit was to bring about the conception of Jesus in Mary. Without this miraculous work, Mary would not have conceived Jesus in her womb.

This conception was necessary because God’s Word is true.

Another answer is that God said that a child would be born of a virgin. Centuries earlier, God promised through the mouth of Isaiah, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa 7:14). God speaks only truth, and thus this promise was bound to be fulfilled. And so it was (Matt 1:23). Along these lines, just as God’s Word through Isaiah was true and verified as such through this miracle, so also God’s Word from Matthew and Luke is true in recording the miracle after the fact.

This conception guaranteed the sinlessness of Jesus.

Jesus’ conception had to be by the Spirit for Him to “be called holy” (Luke 1:35), meaning, yes, that He was set apart unto God, but also that He was sinless. Supposing a son could have been born to Mary apart from a biological father and without the work of the Spirit, Mary would have passed on a sinful nature to Jesus. By virtue of the Spirit’s active, holy presence and work in the conception, anything of Mary’s sinfulness was mitigated, enabling Jesus to be born without sin. Without this sinlessness, we would have no sinless Substitute who died on the cross for us, and we are of all men most miserable.

This conception explains how God and man are one in Jesus.

We will always fall short of words to adequately describe how God and man can be one in the person of Jesus. What we can at least say, however, is that the divine nature and human nature were united together in the person of Jesus through this conception in Mary.