The Mystery of the Incarnation: The Biblical Mystery of the Father and the Son
By Xie Wen, Japan
Editor’s Note: Many believers think that the Lord Jesus is God’s Son, but is that understanding in line with the word of God? Is the Lord Jesus actually the Son of God or God Himself? Keep reading to find out.
Recently, as a Bible study group was about to wrap up, Sister Li, a coworker, asked this question: “The Bible records, ‘And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, see, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting on Him: And see a voice from heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3:16–17). And when the Lord Jesus prayed, He would often say ‘God the Father,’ so we’ve come to believe in our hearts that there is a God the Father in heaven and the Lord Jesus is God’s Son. But in my devotionals a few days ago, I saw that the Lord Jesus said, ‘I and My Father are one’ (John 10:30). And in the Scripture, Philip asks the Lord to show them the Father, and the Lord Jesus’ response is, ‘Have I been so long time with you, and yet have you not known Me, Philip? he that has seen Me has seen the Father; and how say you then, Show us the Father? Believe you not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?’ (John 14:9–10). It stands to reason that the Son is the Son and the Father is the Father, so how could They be one? Is the Lord Jesus actually God Himself or is He God’s Son?” I and the other coworkers there all gave serious thought to these passages, but we weren’t sure what to say, so we called the meeting to a close.
I got a call from Sister Gao a few days later. She had been traveling for work for more than half a year and had just come back, so she wanted us to get together and have fellowship. It occurred to me that she had been a preacher for a number of years and had a really pure understanding of the Bible, and during that time she was away preaching she must have gained quite a lot. I figured I could discuss with her the confusion I was left with from the last Bible study and see what sort of understanding she had. I asked Sister Song to go along with me to see Sister Gao. We exchanged pleasantries for a bit, and then I spoke out about the quandaries within my heart.
Hearing this, Sister Gao smiled and shared this fellowship with us: “To understand this issue, first we have to understand where the reference to ‘the Son and the Father’ came from. It actually didn’t appear until the Lord Jesus became flesh to do the work of redemption. At that time, God took on the form of the Son of man to speak and work among mankind, launching the work of the Age of Grace. The Holy Spirit gave direct testimony that the Lord Jesus was God’s beloved Son when He was baptized, and the Lord Jesus also referred to the God in heaven as ‘Father.’ This is how this idea of the Son and the Father came about. But does it really hold water? Is the Lord Jesus really God’s Son? If we look back, did God say in the Book of Genesis that He had a son? In the Old Testament Age of Law, did God ever say through His prophets that He had a son? He never did, right? This shows that there is only one God and there’s no such thing as ‘the Son and the Father.’ Also, if it were as we understand it, and the Lord Jesus were God’s Son and the God in heaven were the Father, then how could the fact that the Bible clearly states there is only one God be explained? For the past two thousand years very few people have truly realized that the Lord Jesus Christ is God Himself, and He was the appearance of God! Let’s open our Bibles to John 14:8. When Philip did not know God, he said to the Lord Jesus, ‘Lord, show us the Father.’ What was the Lord Jesus’ response?”
Sister Song opened her Bible and read: “Jesus said to him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet have you not known Me, Philip? he that has seen Me has seen the Father; and how say you then, Show us the Father? Believe you not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? the words that I speak to you I speak not of Myself: but the Father that dwells in Me, He does the works” (John 14:9–10).
Sister Gao said warmly, “The Lord Jesus corrected Philip’s error by saying ‘he that has seen Me has seen the Father,’ and ‘I am in the Father, and the Father in Me.’ We can see here that the Father is the Son, and the Son is the Father—They are one. The Lord Jesus never said that He and God have a father-son relationship, but instead clearly told people that He and the Father are one. From these words of the Lord Jesus, we can confirm that He is God Himself, that He was the manifestation of God in the flesh.”
Sister Song said happily, “Yes, the Lord Jesus’ words are so clear: ‘I am in the Father, and the Father in Me,’ and ‘I and My Father are one.’ He is God Himself! We’ve read these words from Him so many times—why haven’t we ever understood them?”
While listening to Sister Gao’s fellowship, I thought to myself, “It’s true. The Lord Jesus never said that He and God had a father-son relationship but said that They were one and the same. This means that He is God Himself.” However, I still felt some uncertainty within my heart and asked, “Since the Lord Jesus is God Himself, why did the Holy Spirit bear witness that He was the beloved Son after His baptism? And when He prayed, why did He pray to God the Father? There must be some mystery within this, right?”
Smiling, Sister Gao went on in fellowship. “You’re right; there really are mysteries contained within this. When God incarnates, His Spirit is hidden within the flesh, and that flesh can’t feel it at all, just like we, human beings, can’t feel our own souls within us. Before the Lord Jesus started to work and carry out His mission, He was living in a state of normal humanity. He had no idea that He was God incarnate because when God’s Spirit inhabits the flesh to work, His work is not supernatural, but is entirely normal. It’s just like the Bible says, ‘But of that day and that hour knows no man … neither the Son, but the Father’ (Mark 13:32). When the Lord Jesus officially took up His position, the Holy Spirit uttered words to personally testify that He was God incarnate, and only then did the Lord Jesus know His true identity and that He had come to do the work of redemption. But before He was nailed to the cross, He was just the Son of man, He was Christ. That’s why it was natural for Him to pray to the heavenly Father, and He was also praying to God’s Spirit from the stance of His humanity—it was a very natural thing. When the Lord Jesus was about to be crucified He also prayed to God the Father, and through this we can see His humility and obedience.”
After hearing Sister Gao’s fellowship, Sister Song and I both exclaimed, “There are so many mysteries hidden behind the Holy Spirit bearing witness that the Lord Jesus was God’s beloved Son! Thanks to the Lord—if it weren’t for this fellowship we never would have understood this!”
Sister Gao then took a book out of her bag with “The Scroll Opened by the Lamb” written on the cover. She said happily, “There are some passages in this book that really clearly address this question. Let’s read them!” While saying this, she opened up the book and read out: “When Jesus called God in heaven by the name of Father as He prayed, this was done only from the perspective of a created man, only because the Spirit of God had put on an ordinary and normal flesh and had the exterior cover of a created being. Even if within Him was the Spirit of God, His exterior appearance was still that of a normal man; in other words, He had become the ‘Son of man’ of which all men, including Jesus Himself, spoke. Given that He is called the Son of man, He is a person (whether man or woman, in any case one with the exterior shell of a human being) born into a normal family of ordinary people. Therefore, Jesus calling God in heaven by the name of Father was the same as how you at first called Him Father; He did so from the perspective of a created man. Do you still remember the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught you to memorize? ‘Our Father in heaven….’ He asked all man to call God in heaven by the name of Father. And since He too called Him Father, He did so from the perspective of one who stands on an equal footing with you all. Since you called God in heaven by the name of Father, this shows that Jesus saw Himself to be on equal footing with you, and as a man on earth chosen by God (that is, the Son of God). If you call God Father, is this not because you are a created being? However great the authority of Jesus on earth, prior to the crucifixion, He was merely a Son of man, governed by the Holy Spirit (that is, God), and one of the earth’s created beings, for He had yet to complete His work. Therefore, His calling God in heaven Father was solely His humility and obedience. His addressing God (that is, the Spirit in heaven) in such a manner, however, does not prove that He was the Son of the Spirit of God in heaven. Rather, it was simply that His perspective was different” (“Does the Trinity Exist?”).
“There are still those who say, ‘Did not God expressly state that Jesus was His beloved Son?’ Jesus is the beloved Son of God, in whom He is well pleased—this was certainly spoken by God Himself. That was God bearing witness to Himself, but merely from a different perspective, that of the Spirit in heaven bearing witness to His own incarnation. Jesus is His incarnation, not His Son in heaven. Do you understand? Do not the words of Jesus, ‘I am in the Father, and the Father in Me,’ indicate that They are one Spirit? And is it not because of the incarnation that They were separated between heaven and earth? In reality, They are still one; no matter what, it is simply God bearing witness to Himself. … But at that time, the Spirit in heaven stated only that He was the beloved Son of God, and made no mention of His being the only Son of God. This simply did not happen. How could God have an only child? Then would God not have become man? Because He was the incarnation, He was called the beloved Son of God, and, from this, came the relationship between Father and Son. It was simply because of the separation between heaven and earth” (“Does the Trinity Exist?”).
Once she was done reading, Sister Gao shared this fellowship: “From these words we can clearly understand that when the Lord Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit testified that He was God’s beloved Son, this was God speaking from the point of view of the Spirit. And when the Lord Jesus Christ was praying and called God in heaven ‘Father,’ it was just the Lord Jesus praying to God’s Spirit from the perspective of the flesh. It does not at all prove that the Lord Jesus was the Son of God in heaven. But since we’re not clear on this aspect of the truth and we don’t understand the perspective that God was speaking from, we rely on our own speculations to arbitrarily explain God’s words. That’s why we’ve come up with this notion that the Lord Jesus Christ was the Son of God, but it’s not remotely in line with the truth and it particularly doesn’t match up with the facts. Clearly, we don’t know God and we don’t understand the true meaning behind God’s words. We just rely on our own imaginations, delimiting and resisting Him. As far as knowing God goes, we absolutely must seek with humble hearts!”
I was really moved after hearing those two passages and Sister Gao’s fellowship. I thought, “So it turns out that when the Holy Spirit bore witness that the Lord Jesus was God’s beloved Son, He was speaking from the perspective of the Spirit, and when the Lord Jesus called the God in heaven ‘Father,’ He was speaking from the perspective of the flesh. We haven’t understood the mysteries behind this but have just examined and delimited God according to our own notions and imaginings. That’s so foolish, so absurd!” I felt really guilty inside, but there was still something I was confused about. I went on to ask, “Why wouldn’t God have directly testified that the Lord Jesus was God Himself? Surely God’s wonderful will is within this. Can you share more fellowship on this with us?”
Sister Gao continued on with her fellowship. “This is something that I’ve only come to understand through prayer and contemplation, as well as seeking and fellowshiping with other brothers and sisters. The Holy Spirit not directly testifying that the Lord Jesus was God Himself truly does contain God’s wisdom and will. The Lord Jesus, who worked among mankind, was in fact God donning flesh and becoming human, coming to work and appear to us. No matter how He worked or spoke, or prayed to God the Father, His essence was divine, not human. God is Spirit and we cannot possibly see Him, but how about when He dons the flesh? What we see is a body of flesh; we cannot see God’s Spirit. If the Holy Spirit bore witness that the Lord Jesus was God Himself it would have been difficult for us to accept, because the people of the time had no concept of God becoming flesh. They particularly had no understanding of this when they had just encountered God incarnate, and they would never imagine that such an average-seeming Son of man was actually the embodiment of God’s Spirit, that He was the appearance of God in the flesh. So, even though the Lord Jesus uttered many words while He was working, brought us the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, and revealed many signs and wonders, fully displaying God’s authority and power, His followers did not realize from His work and words that He was God Himself, that He was the manifestation of God. Think back on it—what did people at the time call the Lord Jesus?”
Sister Song said right away, “The Bible records, ‘Some say that You are John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets’ (Matthew 16:14).”
Sister Gao confirmed this: “That’s right. It was because the people of that time just acknowledged the Lord Jesus as one of the prophets or referred to Him as ‘Master’—they didn’t realize that He was God in the flesh. This is why God allowed people to call the Lord Jesus the Son of God for a limited period of time based on people’s stature at the time; He didn’t push people beyond their capabilities, but bore witness that the Lord Jesus was God’s beloved Son in accordance with what people were able to understand. That’s the only thing that could have been in line with people’s notions and that they could easily accept. Since He was doing the work of redemption, no matter what they called the Lord Jesus, as long as they accept His salvation, confessing and repenting to the Lord, they would no longer be condemned under the law—that was enough. Wouldn’t you say that God’s kind intentions and wisdom were hidden behind all of this?”
Hearing this, Sister Song and I found ourselves nodding at the exact same times. We saw that at every turn, God has been completely forgiving of our juvenile, ignorant natures—He knew that we didn’t know about God becoming flesh, so He employed that method to bear witness that the Lord Jesus was God in the flesh. That truly was God’s wonderful, kind intention!
Sister Gao continued on, saying: “When God’s Spirit took on the flesh, even though we couldn’t see His Spirit, His disposition, what He has and is, plus His almightiness and wisdom were all expressed through that flesh. We can fully confirm from the Lord Jesus’ work and words and the disposition He expressed that He was God Himself. The Lord Jesus communicated that the kingdom of heaven was at hand and provided people with the way to repent, opening up the Age of Grace and calling a close to the Age of Law. He expressed a disposition of benevolence and mercy, achieving the work of redeeming mankind. Wasn’t all of this work something that only God Himself could have done? In addition, His words were full of authority and power—what He said came to be, and what He commanded came to fruition. Any word that left His mouth became fulfilled in fact. The Lord Jesus could absolve someone of their sins, quiet the stormy seas, and bring a person back from the dead with a few simple words. From the Lord Jesus’ work and words, we saw God’s authority and power in His rule over all things, and we also saw God’s almightiness, wisdom and wondrous deeds. The Lord Jesus’ work and words were all direct expressions from God’s Spirit—doesn’t that prove that He was God’s Spirit in the flesh, directly speaking to, working among, and appearing to mankind? Wouldn’t you say that what the Lord Jesus did was God’s own work?”
Upon hearing this, I nodded in agreement and felt certain within my heart that the Lord Jesus was doing the work of God Himself, that He really was God Himself. Feeling sheepish, I shared this fellowship with Sisters Gao and Song: “I’ve believed in the Lord all these years and have enjoyed so many blessings and so much grace from Him, but I never realized that the Lord Jesus was God Himself, that He was the appearance of God. I’ve always had the notion that He was God’s Son, so I never approached Him as God Himself. Now I understand—the Lord Jesus Christ was God Himself, and He was the appearance of God. These quandaries I’ve had in my heart have finally been resolved—I really give thanks for the Lord’s guidance!”
Sister Song said abashedly, “We believe in the Lord but we don’t know Him at all, and we don’t have the slightest understanding of the mysteries of the truth of the incarnation. When I think of the fact that I’ve been a believer for all these years but I’ve really only believed in the name of the Lord Jesus without understanding His divine essence, I feel so backward, pathetic, and blind!”
I then recalled those words Sister Gao had read and felt that that book, The Scroll Opened by the Lamb, must be so precious and able to resolve our confusions and difficulties. I rushed to say, “Sister Gao, can I hold on to this book for a few days? I really treasure the words within it—they are from the Holy Spirit. I would also like for my brothers and sisters in the church to hear what you read today so that their confusions can also be resolved.”
Sister Song agreed enthusiastically, saying “That’s so true. God’s will and the mysteries of His work are laid out so clearly in this book. It’s not something a regular person could write—it has certainly come from the Holy Spirit. I’d also like to take a closer look at it.”
Smiling, Sister Gao said, “No problem. Its content really is edifying—let’s get the brothers and sisters from the church together to take a look at it.”
“Oh, that’s so wonderful! Thank the Lord!”
“Thank the Lord!” …