12. — The Father's Audible Witness to the Son

The Lord Jesus said, "No one knows the Son but the Father, nor does any one know the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son may be pleased to reveal [Him]" (Matt. 11:27). There is a mutual and intimate knowledge between the Father and the Son in the Godhead, which is necessarily infinite in character and measure. In this full and personal acquaintance with Each Other, no creature can possibly share on the ground of either right or capacity. There could be no reciprocity between the Creator and the creature. Hence the eternal relations in the Godhead, by reason of their ineffable nature, must ever be above all human scrutiny and comprehension, apart from the disclosures granted in divine revelation.

"The higher mysteries of Thy fame
The creature's grasp transcend;
The Father only Thy blest name
Of Son can comprehend;
Worthy, O Lamb of God, art Thou
That every knee to Thee should bow."

Nevertheless, we do not, like the Athenians, worship an "unknown God." In rare and choice passages of scripture, the inner chambers of the eternal dwelling-place of God are, as it were, momentarily unveiled to us, and from them we are permitted to learn precious and invaluable secrets concerning the Father and the Son. The Father bears witness to the Son (John 5:37) , and the Son manifests and declares the name of the Father (John 17:6, 26); and both testimonies are contained in the inspired record.

This revelation of what lies within the Godhead was not vouchsafed in man's earlier days. It is true that glimpses of the external glories of the God of Israel were granted to the seventy elders, who saw under His feet "as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone" (Ex. 24:10). And Moses, privileged as he was, saw not the face of Jehovah, and only "the back parts" of His glory (Ex. 33:23). But such appearances were occasional and momentary and only in connection with the glory of God in the government of the nation of Israel particularly and the world generally.

In the New Testament, where Divine love is the central theme of what is made known, revelations are given of the exercises of the heart of God itself. Here we are permitted to know a little of the activities of the Divine affections within the circle of Deity, between the Father and the Son. We learn that loving, delighting, and rejoicing, as well as omniscience and omnipotence, exist in the internal mysteries of the Godhead.

Do we sufficiently prize these august unfoldings in scripture? Sheba's queen was prostrated in spirit when she beheld the royal splendours and vast magnificence of Solomon; what is the glory of Solomon compared with the glory of God! What a chastened spirit, therefore, should be ours, beloved, when we listen to the revealed intercourse between the Father and the Son! Awed by the overwhelming wonder of such words, we shall surely adore the Father and the Son in a worship too profound to be expressed, too fervent to be restrained.

Remembering, therefore, with worshipping spirits Whose voice was heard, let us briefly consider the Father's utterances to the Son and concerning Him at the Jordan, and afterwards on the Mount of Transfiguration.

The Sonship declared at the Jordan

Our Lord was baptized of John in Jordan, in succession to a multitude of Jews who had believed the preaching of the forerunner respecting the immediate coming of Jehovah, and who had publicly confessed their sins and were baptized. It was at this historical point of the public association of the Lord Jesus with the sin-burdened remnant of Israel that the unique distinction of the Blessed One from all others was proclaimed by the Father from the heavens.

As the Lord Jesus went up from the water of Jordan, both visible and audible testimony were rendered to Him from the opened heavens. The Spirit was seen, and a Voice out of the heavens was heard.

Jesus Himself saw the Holy Spirit of God "descending as a dove and coming upon Him" (Matt. 3:16). The Son Whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, the Father sealed (John 6:27; John 10:36). The Lord Jesus confessed no sins, but, as the Antitype of the Levitical meal-offering (Lev. 2), He was at once anointed with the Holy Spirit, needing no blood of atonement like the poor of His flock to whom He was bringing the kingdom.

But a further astonishing event followed; and, for the first time in scriptural history, the Trinity stood revealed — Father and Son and Holy Spirit. To the Spirit's visible witness, the Father added His audible witness to the Son. How beautiful is this evidence of the interest and care displayed by the Father for the glory of the Son! In this lowly place to which the obedient Son had descended, the Father in audible and articulate speech owned Him in the full unimpaired Sonship, which was His eternally.

The heavens, then, were opened, and the Paternal voice addressed the Beloved Son on earth. The voice was sweet and gracious, not like "the voice of words" at Sinai, which "shook the earth," and terrified the hearers (Heb. 12:26). It was the voice of the Father, saying with infinite complacency,

"This is My beloved Son, in Whom I have found My delight" (Matt. 3:17).

Greater Witness than John's

John the Baptist "came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light that all men through him might believe." But the Lord said, "I have greater witness than that of John … the works … that I do, bear witness of Me … And the Father Himself which has sent Me has borne witness of Me" (John 1:7; John 5:36-37).

At Jordan, then, at the commencement of His public ministry, the accrediting voice of the Father was given to the Son. In the very beginning of Matthew's Gospel it is shown that from birth Jesus was Jehovah, Immanuel (Matt. 1:21-23). And when, as Israel's Messiah, the Lord Jesus humbled Himself in baptism by John, the greatest born of women (Matt. 11:11) , the Father jealous of the honour of His Sent One proclaimed aloud the glory of His Sonship to those who had ears to hear the witness. Thus, the Father bore witness to Jesus that His personal Name of Son sustained His mediatorial office as Messiah, even as the Spirit bore similar witness in Hebrews 1.

If none but the Lord Himself and John the Baptist heard the Father's Voice with understanding, the testimony then rendered was preserved for the faith of all. And what a testimony! How it lifts our thoughts from man's need to the Father's delight! "Unto you is born," the angel said, "a Saviour which is Christ the Lord." Unto Me, the Father said, "This is My beloved Son." Taught by the Gospel record, we know what the Father beheld in the baptized Jesus: He was His Dearly-beloved, His Only-begotten! Pause here and meditate, my soul.

The Father Addressed the Son

From a comparison of the records of this incident in the first three Gospels, we find that the Father's words were spoken to the Son Himself ("Thou art …"), as well as to those to whom the Son was presented ("This is …"). The three sets of words, as arranged below, are quoted from the New Translation. The variations are not due to any imperfection in the narrative or the narrator, but in each case the Holy Spirit preserves the meaning of the Father's utterance suitable to His purpose in the Gospel where it occurs. The records are not contradictory, but complementary.

Matt. 3:17 ———   Mark 1:11 ———— Luke 3:22
This is ————— Thou art ————   Thou art
My beloved Son, — My beloved Son, —   My beloved Son,
in Whom ———— in Thee —————  in Thee
I have found ——— I have found ———  I have found
My delight ———   My delight ———— My delight

The account in Matthew gives the form of the revelation made by the Father concerning the Son, not for the "wise and prudent," but for "babes" (see Matt. 11:25; also John 5:37). The latter are hereby instructed in the knowledge of the Christ: to the "little flock" the Father said, "This is My beloved Son."

In Mark and Luke, the declaration takes the form of an expression of communion by the Father to the Son. The utterance is an acknowledgment by the Father of His complacency and delight in His beloved Son, and it was addressed directly to the opened ear of the Son Himself: "Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I have found My delight." Moreover, it is recorded in scripture for the deepening of our communion with the Father and the Son.

"It was the grace and perfection of Jesus which caused heaven to open" upon the dependent Man, and the Voice to come forth from the Father, expressing His good pleasure to the Son on earth. When God saw the first man, Adam, in his created freshness, He pronounced him "very good" (Gen. 1), but in the Second Man, the last Adam, the Father found His "delight." And this delight in His Sent One is no surprise to us, because it is inconceivable that the Father could have the Only-begotten Son in His bosom, and not be delighted with Him. How transcendent that delight!

Did the Divine Sonship begin at the Jordan?

Because the Sonship was announced by the Father at the baptism of the Lord Jesus, we have no right to conclude that He began to be the "beloved Son" at that point of time. The truth is that, being already the Son, He had descended into this place of lowly obedience on earth (see Heb. 5:8). In His self-humiliation, He is the dearly-beloved Son of the Father because He was that before He became incarnate.

When Pilate wrote, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews" (Matt. 27:37), that description was certainly true of the Lord long before it was affixed to the cross. So when the Father said, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I have found My delight," the words were true of the Lord long before He came up out of the Jordan. How long before, the dearly-beloved Son Himself tells us, for He said to the Father, "Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24). And it need not be said that if the Son was beloved of the Father before the foundation of the world, the Son was there in eternity to be loved. He, blessed be His holy Name, is the eternal Son, ever abiding in the eternal embraces of the Father's love.

Moreover, when the Father said He found His delight or good pleasure in Him, He spoke retrospectively, and not merely in view of the submissive act of baptism. The force of the verb in the original is not only "I am now well pleased," but also "I was well pleased." From everlasting, the Father found His delight in His beloved Son, as also, in another place, we read that Jehovah's soul delights in His beloved Servant (Isa. 42:1; Matt. 12:18); the former in what He is personally, the latter in what He is mediatorially.

The record in Mark and Luke agrees in significance with that in Matthew. The direct address to the Son, "Thou art My beloved Son," is consistent with His Sonship in the eternal past even as at the moment of the Father's utterance. Just as the Lord's "I am" spoken to the Jews ("Before Abraham was, I am," John 8:58) reaches back into eternity, so also do the Father's words, "Thou art …", spoken to the Son.

The phrase, "Thou art," may have a retrospective meaning even when applied to the creature. Thus, the word of Jehovah to the chosen nation was "Thou art My servant, O Israel" (Isa. 49:3; Isa. 41:8). This was their status from the beginning of their national existence. The children of Israel were brought out of Pharaoh's house of bondage eight hundred years before Isaiah appealed to them to serve Jehovah (Ex. 23:25). "Thou art My servant" was true of the nation from Moses to Isaiah.

Similarly, David said in the wilderness of Judah, "O God, Thou art my God: early will I seek Thee" (Ps. 63:1). But God had been David's God from his youth. The relationship was as true when he was in the desert with the sheep and the lion and bear, or in the valley of Elah with Goliath of Gath, as when he was in the wilderness of Judah a fugitive from Saul, and the psalm was composed by him there.

In like manner, we believe that when Jehovah said to His Anointed King, "Thou art My Son" (Ps. 2:7), and when the Father said to the baptized Jesus, "Thou art My beloved Son," the utterances were of the widest import and indeed comprehended the eternal relation of the Son in the Godhead.

Moreover, the Father then added the confidential communication to His well-beloved Son "in Thee I have found My delight." As we listen to these words, we learn that the Father's love was resting then, as it ever had done, even before time was, in an immeasurable, invariable complacency upon the Son Who alone could apprehend the eternal fullness of that affection, and also adequately appreciate such a word. The Lord said to the Jews, "It is My Father Who glorifies Me … ye know Him not … but I know Him" (John 8:54-55).

Further, how exquisitely sweet it is to observe in Luke's Gospel that the Father's voice came in immediate sequence to the Son's prayer (Luke 3:21 22)! As the dependent and obedient Jesus was "being baptized, and praying," the heaven opened, the Holy Spirit descended, the Voice came. What delicate perfections and spiritual beauties are here portrayed in these blended activities of heaven and earth! The Son lifting up His eyes to heaven in prayerful intercourse with Him Who sent Him: the Spirit proceeding to fulfil His part in the lowly service of the Son: the Father out of heaven, in the inexpressible blessedness of His ineffable delight, saluting the Eternal Son, with may we say, the "kisses of His mouth!"

"Loved with love which knows no measure
Save the Father's love to Thee,
Blessed Lord, our hearts would treasure
All the Father's thoughts of Thee."

The Father's Witness on the Holy Mount

Once again in the days of His flesh did the Son by audible witness receive "from God [the] Father honour and glory." For on the Mount of Transfiguration His voice was again heard, not out of the heavens this time, but out of the overshadowing cloud, the pavilion of the divine Presence, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I have found My delight: hear Him." The record of this attestation is found in Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35; 2 Peter 1:17, with slight variations, all in harmony with the truth and beauty displayed by their contextual setting.

Though the circumstances and the significance of this heavenly witness are so attractive to the contemplative spirit, we cannot now tarry before these passages. It will, however, bear upon the special subject of these papers to remark that by this personal testimony the Father's words turned the hearts of the awe-struck apostles from the glory of the coming kingdom to consider the glory of the Son Himself. They must "hear Him."

The imminent dispensational change was now in view. The earthly kingdom and its glory was deferred by the cross, but the personal glory of the Son, due to His essential relationship to the Father, was revealed to them, and would remain as the portion and joy of those who took up their cross, and followed the Master in His rejection. Hence the word of command to them (added in the Gospels, but not included in the Epistle), "hear Him."

From this witness out of the cloud of glory the apostles would learn that the rejected Christ was the Beloved Son and the delight of the Father. "So it had been in eternity before creation; so it was when the world was made by Him, and in all the dealings of providence, in the secret working of grace with individuals, and in the public government of Israel under the law.

"So still more when the incarnate Word presented that object of His everlasting complacency as man on earth in unwavering dependence and obedience on His way to death for His glory, for man's salvation, for the church's blessedness, for His people's deliverance, and for the reconciliation of all things" (W.K.).

This revelation on the holy mount is, therefore, a heavenly truth concerning the Person of the Son, in its character infinitely above, and indeed independent of His mediatorial offices in the earthly kingdom. Being the eternal Son, He had become the Servant to take in due time the kingdom of universal rule and authority; and in that same proper personality He will at the end deliver up the kingdom to God the Father (1 Cor. 15:24-28).