Jesus and the Father

Desiring God 2005 Conference for Pastors

"This Is My Beloved Son!" Exulting in the Trinitarian Relationships of Jesus Christ

Well, what comes into our minds when we think about God is in fact the most important thing about us. And I trust that our time spent in this session, as we move now into a heartfelt, earnest pursuit of who Jesus is in relation to the Father, will help us understand with greater clarity, something true, something more richly understood about the nature of God. Again, I invite you to explore with me further into the riches and the glory of the God whom we know. But let’s know him better, shall we? Amen.

As we begin this morning, I want to pick up where we left off last night and remind us where we left off in regard to the doctrine of the Trinity so we know exactly where to pick up this morning. So in review, let me remind you where we concluded last night.

Orthodox Teaching on the Trinity

The Christian faith affirms that there is one and only one God, eternally existing while fully and simultaneously expressed in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each member of the Godhead is equally God, each is eternally God, and each is fully God. There are not three gods but three persons of the one Godhead. Each person is equal in essence as each possesses fully the identically same and eternal divine nature. Yet each is also an eternal and distinct personal expression of that one undivided, divine nature.

Because the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each possess fully the identically same divine nature, therefore, what distinguishes the persons of the Godhead from each other is not and cannot be the divine nature of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This, the one undivided divine nature, is possessed equally, eternally, simultaneously, and fully by each of the three persons of the Godhead. Therefore, what distinguishes each person of the Godhead from each other is his particular role in relation to other persons and the relationships that each has with each of the other persons.

In light of both the equality of essence and differentiation of role and responsibility, it behooves us then to look carefully at each member of the Trinity in relation to the other. And of course this also affects how we understand the relationship of each member of the Trinity to us, what is sometimes called the Economic Trinity — God in relation to the created order. So we’re talking about both the immanent Trinity, which is God in himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in relation to the persons of the Godhead, and the Economic Trinity, which is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in relation to his created order, and in particular in relation to his people.

So here we focus in our time together this morning and this evening, particularly on the Son and the Son’s relationship to the Father. That’s this session, and the Son’s relation to the Spirit we’ll look at tonight. Let us exalt indeed in the Trinitarian relationships of Jesus Christ.

The Supremacy of the Father

First then, let’s consider Jesus and the Father. This is where we are today in our session, Jesus and the Father. And I want to look with you at four main headings under this large topic that attempt to capture the heart of the Son’s relationship to the Father.

First of all, this is the place I think we must start. It is so clear from Scripture this first point needs to be announced strongly and clearly. First, the Father is supreme among the persons of the Godhead. Consider a number of passages with me. For example, consider Psalm 2:7–9. You remember in that Psalm, the nations are raging and are revolting against the Lord, and God in the heavens is not shuddering. He’s not wringing his hands wondering, “Oh my, what can I do with these rebellious people?” God from the heavens, do you recall, laughs at the rebellion of these little, puny creatures of his. And what does he do to answer the rebellion of earth? He installs his king, his Son. Listen to Psalm 2:7–9:

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
     today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
     and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
     and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

You realize that Jesus comes to win the nations. Do you remember the temptation of Christ? One of the temptations to Jesus is, “Bow before me, worship me, and I will give you the nations of the world” (Matthew 4:9). Now you might think, “What a bogus offer. Doesn’t Satan realize who he’s dealing with? This is the eternal Son coming in human flesh. He created this world.” Ah, but as the incarnate Son, as the Son of David, the seed of Abraham, he had to come and win the nations. And here in Psalm 2, the Father says, “It is to you, my Son, that I give the right to inherit the nations. You will have them as you come and buy them with your shed blood.” Isn’t this what Revelation 5:9 says?

By your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,

In this sense, then, the Father gives to his Son the right to rule as Son of the Father over the very nations, the very world he has created as the Word of the Father. It’s an astonishing thing. The Father reigns over the Son in giving the Son the very inheritance that he came and won by his life and death and resurrection.

Praying to the Father

Consider Matthew 6:9–10, which is another instance where it’s clear Jesus understands the Father has supremacy. Jesus says:

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Jesus acknowledges and encourages us to acknowledge the supremacy of the Father. Christian prayer ought to model how Jesus commands us to pray. Is that an astonishing statement to you, that we ought to pray the way Jesus said to pray? So he says, pray this way, “Our Father who art in heaven.” I don’t think it’s wise to teach our children to pray to Jesus, “Dear Jesus . . .” I think we do this because it sounds sweet. Honestly, I think that’s why. I don’t think we have thought about it theologically. We think it sounds softer, more tender, more gentle, which may indicate our conception of father needs some reconstruction, perhaps. But Jesus said, pray this way, “Our Father who art in heaven . . .”

Christian prayer is modeled after the Trinity. We pray to the Father in the name of the Son as inspired by, as prompted by, as urged by the Holy Spirit at work within us, to pray what is according to the will of God in the name of Christ to the Father who reigns above all.

All Things Subjected to the Father

Another passage is 1 Corinthians 15, which is one we’ll come back to later. It’s a very important text in understanding Christ’s relationship to the Father. In 1 Corinthians 15:28, we read:

When all things are subjected to him (Christ), then the Son himself will also be subjected to him (the Father) who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

For all of eternity, as we’ll see more in just a few moments, there is a recognition by no one less than Jesus Christ himself that the Father is supreme in the Godhead and supreme over the entire created order. Ephesians 1:3, we looked at last night. It says:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul purposely specifies the Father as the one who rightfully receives our highest praise and glory as that’s repeated three times then in those verses that we saw last night. Praise to the Father, glory to the Father for what he has done through his Son in the power of the Spirit.

So we have this Trinitarian structure by which we understand the work of God. The Father stands as supreme, the architect, the designer, the planner, the implementer through his Son and Spirit of all that he does.

Consider Philippians 2:9–11 again, which we talked about briefly last night. This is after the cross, after the death, then we read:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (and there’s no period), to the glory of God the Father.

That is precisely what Jesus, in his own life, constantly reminded his listeners of. He said, “I do what I do to the glory of my Father.” In his high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus says, “I have sought to glorify you in all that I have done.” The Son seeks to glorify the Father. All of the created order will acknowledge the Father while they acknowledge the Lordship of Christ over all. He has the name above every name. Every knee will bow to Christ and acknowledge he is Lord, but that is under yet a higher canopy in which the Father reigns as supreme and receives highest glory. The Father then is supreme among the persons of the Godhead.

The Headship of the Father

The second theme is that the Son is under the headship or the authority of the Father. Now before we look at texts here, I just want to think with you a bit about how astonishing this is. Remember we are talking about the Son who has the identically same nature as the Father. We are not talking, as Arias would, of a subordinate being, of someone who is of lesser value, whose essence is created. No, we are talking about the one true God whose nature is possessed fully by Father and Son. It is fully and identically the same nature, but here we have in the relationship of the Son to the Father, clear biblical teaching that indicates the Son’s relationship to the Father, that though he is equal, though he possesses identically the same essence, he is under the authority of his Father.

Now, some people upon hearing that say, “Well of course it’s true. It’s true in the incarnation when he takes on human flesh, but not bigger than that, not in eternity past and eternity future.” Well let’s see, shall we, if this is the case. Let’s start with what most people agree upon, and that is that the Son submits to the Father during his incarnation. A verse that is sort of a banner verse over all of this, I had meant to mention, is 1 Corinthians 11:3. Paul says:

I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

I submit to you that this is not meant by the apostle Paul to indicate an ad hoc relationship of Christ to God, the Son to the Father. It is not just an arbitrary thing. It’s not temporary. What he’s rather stating is an eternal verity upon which is built a created order of authority and submission. So we have what we have in this world precisely because it reflects the eternal reality of God, who is Father and Son in an authority-submission relationship. Amazing.

The Son’s Submission During the Incarnation

Let’s start with where most people agree, and that is that the Son submits to the Father in his incarnate mission. Let’s start with that. The Son’s submission to the Father during his incarnation and earthly mission, and surely this is the case. Think for example of John 8:28–29, which one of many, many texts we could look at:

When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.

Can you believe these words? Really? Have you thought about what this means? It means that Jesus woke up every morning of his conscious life and from the first minute, through every day that he lived, he never once said something that he just thought he’d like to say. He never said, “You know, I just want to speak my own mind on this.” No, he said, “I speak as the Father tells me.” I just am astonished at this. He never once did something on his own. He never said, “You know what, I think this is a good idea. I’m just going to launch ahead and do this, not once.”

Why did he spend so much time in prayer? I think the nights that he spent in prayer are evidence that he was fearful of doing something that contradicted the will of his Father. Or to put it positively, he was earnestly longing to do the will of his Father, so he sought to know it with all of his heart and he carried it out perfectly.

What an incredible Savior is this Jesus, especially because you know the bigger picture, the lamb who goes and bears the sin for the people has to be spotless. He has to have lived his life sinlessly. And he did this as he obeyed the Father completely. Honestly, I just find this so astonishing. I could not believe it were it not in Scripture telling me it was true, that a man could do this, could live this life of perfect obedience before the Father. Every word he speaks, every action he performs, every attitude of his heart was in conformity with the will of his Father. Astonishing.

Perfect Freedom

Let me mention one more thing here. It’s a little bit of an aside but it’s worth it. This is the same text, John 8, where a few verses later, after Jesus says, “I do nothing on my own initiative, but the things that I hear from him, these are the things that I speak,” he then has the audacity to go on and instruct people about freedom. He tells his disciples, “Abide in me, live as I live, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Well guess what? Freedom means something very different, does it not, from what we think it means in our culture. In our culture freedom means doing what I want to do, when I want to do it, how I want to do it, with whom I want to do it and there are no repercussions for it. That’s freedom.

But freedom for Jesus, freedom for you and me, is a freedom by which we are empowered — more on this tonight — to live life according to the will of God, to live life in obedience, to live life in submission to the will of another. This is the freest human life there is. There is no greater freedom than the bondage to obedience to God. Do we know that? Do we believe it when we are tempted to disobey, tempted to lust, tempted to pursue activities we know we should not do. We think these will bring us freedom in our human life, when in fact what they do is bring us bondage. So let’s be free. Let’s be like Jesus. Let’s obey the Father. Jesus obeyed perfectly in submission to the Father.

My Food Is to Do the Father’s Will

Another text, which of course just states again what Jesus said so many times. In John 4:34, he says:

My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

Do you remember the context of this? Jesus had been talking to the Samaritan woman, and the disciples had gone out to get food to eat and Jesus hadn’t had anything to eat yet. When they came back they said, “Surely you’re hungry, don’t you want something to eat?” And Jesus’s response is, “My food, my nourishment, my joy, my deepest satisfaction is doing the will of my Father. That’s what I want to do.”

It’s clear, and because it’s so clear, because there are so many texts — it’s so uniform in the Gospels that Jesus submitted to the will of his Father, like when he said “Not my will, but yours be done” in the garden of Gethsemane — there are few people who dispute the notion that in his incarnate earthly mission Jesus submitted to the Father.

The Son’s Submission Before the Incarnation

What about, number two, in eternity past? What about the Son’s submission to the Father in eternity past? Over 40 times in John’s Gospel, Jesus mentions the fact that the Father has sent him into the world to accomplish the mission that he is sent to do. Now think about it. When does this sending into the world take place? Answer: in eternity past. It’s before the incarnation surely. And don’t we know from 1 Peter 1:20 that in fact, God favored the Son whom foreknew. He favored his Son to be the one who now in this time would come and be the incarnate Son of the Father. Forty times in John’s Gospel we read that the Father sent him.

When did the sending take place? It was before the incarnation. Does this not mean then that the Son obeyed the Father in coming as the incarnate Son, and then lived out, as the incarnate Son, a life of obedience that reflected the relationship that he had with the Father previously? Consider the simple verses in John 3:16–17:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

The Father loved the world and gave his only begotten Son. How did he do this? He sent his Son into the world. John 10:36 is another statement of this:

Do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, “You are blaspheming,” because I said, “I am the Son of God”?

Again, the Father sent him into the world. John 6:38 says:

I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Isn’t it clear that he obeyed the Father’s will in coming and then obeyed the Father’s will after he had come in his incarnate mission. It’s clear that the Son obeyed the Father in heaven in order to come from heaven and do the will of his Father. He was the Son of the Father.

The Role Relationship of Father and Son

Think of the very names that we have of these two persons of the Godhead. He is the eternal Father of the eternal Son. Doesn’t that indicate by the names themselves an authority-submission relationship? Yes, it is a relationship of love and intimacy — we’ll talk about that — but also an authority-submission relationship, a Father and Son. Therefore, the submission of the Son existed in eternity past.

Let me read to you now a passage out of Augustine’s treatise On the Trinity. He wrote this between 400 and 419 AD. He spent 19 years working on this masterpiece and this is just one little passage from his treatise on the Trinity. It’s a long quote, so hang in there with me. I’ll put a part of it on the overhead for you, the most critical part, but listen to the flow of this:

If however, the reason why the Son is said to have been sent by the Father is simply that the one is the Father and the other the Son, then there is nothing at all to stop us believing that the Son is equal to the Father and consubstantial and co-eternal, and yet that the Son is sent by the Father (in an equal but different authority-submission relationship). It’s not because one is greater and the other less, but because one is the Father and the other is the Son, one is the begetter, the other the begotten. The first is the one from whom the sent one is, the other is the one who is from the sender.

For the Son is from the Father, not the Father from the Son. In the light of this, we can now perceive that the Son is not just said to have been sent because the Word became flesh, but that he was sent in order for the Word to become flesh.

Let me read that part again:

We can now perceive that the Son is not just said to have been sent because the Word became flesh, but that he was sent in order for the Word to become flesh and by his bodily presence to do all that was written. That is, we should understand that it was not just the man who the Word became that was sent, but that the Word was sent to become man.

Shall I read that part again? Look at it carefully:

It was not just that the man who the Word became that was sent, but that the Word was sent to become Man. For he was not sent in virtue of some disparity of power or substance or anything in him that was not equal to the Father, but in virtue of his being the Son of the Father.

This is a beautiful expression by Augustine which states the co-eternality and the co-equality of Father and Son, both equally divine in their being, and yet there is a role relationship that is seen by the Father having authority over the Son.

The Submission of the Son into Eternity Future

What about in eternity future? Do we see the Son in submission to the Father when all is said and done here in this created order? And sure enough we do. Let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 15. This is no doubt the clearest text, though it’s not the only one. This is 1 Corinthians 15:25–28:

For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he (the Father) is excepted who put all things in subjection under him (the Son). When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

It is very important isn’t it? The Father who put everything in subjection to the Son is not himself in subjection to the Son. The Father stands above the Son in giving to the Son everything that is subject to the Son. The passage continues:

When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:29).

It’s an amazing thing. This is a text that Arius cited to defend his notion that the Son is not eternal God, but rather it indicates the relationship that exists eternally between the Father and the Son. The Son who is the Word, who is God, is the Son of the Father who in eternity past, in the incarnation, and in eternity future evidences his own submission to the Father. It’s an amazing thing.

Think just one more moment about another text. This is Philippians 2:5–8:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form (morphe of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself . . .

It’s not that he poured something out of himself. That’s the Kenotic heresy. He didn’t pour out his deity. He didn’t pour out his divine attributes. He poured himself out taking — the key is the participle. It continues:

By taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:7–8).

To whom was he obedient? To his Father. He says, “I have come to do your will.” This is enormously instructive, and I’ll come back to this in application at the end. Imagine this eternal verity of authority and submission in God. The implications are huge as one contemplates this. Some of that we’ll come back to at the end of this.

The Love of the Father

The third theme that I want us to look at is the love relationship between the Son and the Father. While one might think that a relationship marked by such strict and unequivocal authority and submission would not, indeed could not, be marked by love, in fact it is filled and overflowing with love. Isn’t that instructive? Authority and submission does not contradict but rather sets the framework in which love is fully manifest.

I don’t know about you, but this is just so remarkable, so incredible. It’s hard to take it in. It’s hard to believe what in fact we read in Scripture. What is here? What do we see about the Son’s relationship with the Father in this respect? The Son expresses his absolute, unqualified allegiance to the Father. No question. We saw that, didn’t we? He expresses his absolute, unqualified allegiance to the Father in strict obedience to every word, every commandment, every desire, and all that the Father called him to do. But the Son does so out of a deep and abiding love for the Father.

This is not a begrudging obedience. He is not saying, “Okay, if I must, I’ll do it.” No, this is, “It is my food to do the will of my Father.” This is he who for the joy set before him endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2). This is a relationship of obedience that is motivated and moved by love for his Father. In John 4:34, Jesus says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” Even stronger though, is John 14:31. Look at this verse. Look carefully:

I do as the Father has commanded me . . .

There’s the obedience of Christ, the absolute submission of Christ to the will of his Father. And he continues:

I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.

Isn’t this what He calls us to? How will the world know that we love Jesus? He says, “If you keep my commandments, you love me.” So he is saying, “You express your love for me by obeying me, and I have expressed My love for the Father by obeying the Father.” There is no conflict, none whatsoever, between absolutely devoted submission and obedience, and heartfelt love.

Love and Obedience

What about the Father? What about his side of it? Look at John 15:9–10, where the love of the Father is manifest:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

Now catch the significance here. Just as there is no conflict in Jesus loving the Father and submitting to him — in fact, his love for the Father is what moves him to submit to the Father, to obey the Father — so there is no conflict between authorial command and love from the authority. Because the authority loves by commanding what is right, what is good, and what needs to take place. The Father commands the Son in love of the Son and the Son in love of the Father obeys the commands of the Father. Commands are given in love, and obedience is rendered in love.

This is the relationship that Jesus has with His Father. Don’t you dare cancel one out because of the other. Don’t say, “Oh, it’s a loving relationship, so there can’t be any of this sort of authority and submission stuff. There can’t be any of these demands and obedience.” And don’t go the other direction, saying, “Oh, there’s this authority and submission, so obviously there’s no love in it.”

No, it is both, and it is glorious to behold because it’s carried out perfectly. There is perfect love in the Father for the Son in commanding the Son, “Go to the cross.” How could that be loving? He favored his Son to be the one who through that excruciatingly difficult pathway would be qualified to be exalted to his right hand, so that every knee would bow and every tongue would confess Jesus Christ is Lord. Don’t you see in this the love of the Father for his Son? But it could only be accomplished as the Son obeyed the Father to go to the cross and accomplish this work by which he qualifies to be exalted and reign over all. Yes, it is love and authority and submission. They go hand in hand in this relationship.

All Things Summed Up in the Son

Fourth and finally, the last theme that tries to capture the relationship of Father and Son is the purpose that all things will be summed up in and subjected to his Son. It is as if the Father says, “I choose to fulfill my will, to carry out my plans and my purposes only as they are fulfilled in my Son.” The Father chooses to implement his plans, to carry out his purposes, and to accomplish his wise design through the Son, not apart from the Son.

Now, oh, this is huge. Do you realize what this expresses of the generous sharefulness of the Father? He does not say, “Son and Spirit, stand aside. I’ll do my work and you watch.” No, he says, “Son, I love you. I want you to be honored in the work I do, in the work I accomplish.” It is the work of the Father, isn’t it? Colossians 1:13 says this. Praise be the Father who has accomplished all these things in his Son. He, the Father, has delivered us from the dominion of Satan and has transferred us and put us into the kingdom of his beloved Son. The Father has done this, right?

So the Father is the One who does it and He says, “Rather than apart from my Son and apart from my Spirit, I do it through my Son and through my Spirit.” We’ll get to the Spirit later. It’s interesting how this works into it, but through the Son is the primary focus of the Father. And in this not only does the Father sharefully, generously make a way for the Son to participate and carry out his work, but he does it in a way in which his Son is in the spotlight.

His Son receives glory and honor. The Father says, “Look at my Son. What a glorious Son he is. Follow him. Listen to him. Love him. Adore him. Worship him. Let all the angels of God worship him, my Son.” The Father chooses to design how he carries out his purposes, not apart from the Son, not apart from the Spirit, but in particular through the Son, giving to the Son a share in what his work is and honoring the Son for what the Son accomplishes by the will of the Father. Amazing.

The Work of the Father Through the Son

Here are some texts: Psalm 2:7-9, which we looked at this earlier, says:

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
     today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
     and the ends of the earth your possession.

The Father is the one who bestows this honor on the Son. He chooses to bring his Son into play, make him the centerpiece of his saving work, and give to Him the worlds as his inheritance. Ephesians 1:9–10 says:

[He made known to us] the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Just as the Son is given the right to create the heavens and earth (Colossians 1:16), so the Son is given the right here to reign over and have everything subject to himself. First Corinthians 15:27–28 says:

God (the Father) has put all things in subjection under his feet.

The Honor Given to the Lamb

And finally, in Revelation 5 we see this worked out in the end of history, a glimpse of the glory the Son will have in the end. Let’s just read and marvel at this text:

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals” (Revelation 5:1–5).

What’s that overcoming a reference to? Satan, sin, cross, and resurrection. Christ is given the honor of being the one to break the seals, to bring the judgment of God upon earth, to bring in the new age that will come. Then Revelation 5:8–9 says:

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
     and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
     from every tribe and language and people and nation . . .

The Son is the Father’s focal point. The Son is the one in whom the Father brings all things to consummation. The Son is the centerpiece of the Father’s glorious manifestation, both in the incarnation of the Son and in the work of the Son. He honors the Son. It’s very clear.

Applying the Relationship of the Father and the Son

Okay, here are some points of application. Let’s think about several things that come home to us as we think about these glorious truths of the Father and the Son.

Marvel at the Father’s Greatness and Generosity

First, marvel at the Father who designs and purposes and wills that all that he does happen in the Son, so that the spotlight shines not on himself first and foremost, but on the Son to the ultimate glory of his name. He is supreme in the Godhead. He is the one to whom ultimate glory must be given, according to Philippians 2. Though this is true, he designs it so that his Son receives the praise and the glory directed at the Son. Praise be to Jesus. Every knee will bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

But rather than bypassing the Son and taking to himself, as it were, in a direct fashion, the glory to put the spotlight on himself, he doesn’t do this. He puts the spotlight on his Son. “Look at my Son. Marvel at my Son. Follow my Son. Worship my Son. Love My Son,” says the Father.

Now in a lesser way, that same disposition of the Father that we see in regard to the Son comes to us. This thought that I’m about to share with you has meant so much to me. It’s just incredible. Here it is. This same God, this God who is so generous, so lavish and shareful that though he is supreme in the Godhead, though he has every right to shine the spotlight on himself, and chooses instead to shine the spotlight on his Son, put his Son in center place so that every knee bows to the Son, this same Father works this way with us.

He gives us graciously, generously, lavishly the privilege of sharing in his work. Do you realize — I hope you do — God doesn’t need any of us to do any of the things that we do?

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

He doesn’t need us. God was not going, “Oh Bruce, I hope you come to the pastor’s conference. If you don’t do this, I don’t know how I’m going to get this work done in these people’s lives.” It’s the same thing with missions. He is not saying, “Oh, if you don’t go out there, these hidden peoples won’t hear it. Please, will you consider it? Please?”

God could speak with a heavenly megaphone. He could write it in the sky. He could whisper it in their ears. In a zillion different ways, he could make the gospel known to the nations. But you know what? He has designed to do it differently. He has designed to do his work, not apart from us — marvel at that — but through us. It’s giving us a stake in his work, giving us participation, meaningful and significant participation. As Ken talked about earlier. It’s the joy of ministry and stewardship. He gives to us this stewardship.

He didn’t have to do it, but he’s generous. He’s lavish. He’s shareful. He loves us and he says, “I want you to have the joy of participating in my work. So I call you and I gift you and I train you. I do all these things to equip you so that you can share in it more fully. You can share in the joy and the richness and the fullness of it to the full extent that you can in your finite existence as human beings, empowered by my Spirit, instructed by my word, participate in what I do.”

Stripping Away Our Ego

Isn’t God amazing? Isn’t he loving? Isn’t he shareful? It transforms your vision of ministry when you see this because you realize that it’s not the case that God’s up there going, “Boy, I’m pretty lucky that Sam or Bill or Phil, or whoever, decided to go into the pastorate. Wow, I really needed help over here in this church.” And we said, “Here I am God, here I am to offer you all I have. Yeah, you are pretty lucky. I won that preaching award.” And on you go. Oh no, he just does it this way out of love for his people to allow us this privilege to share in his work.

So it is a stewardship. It’s not a right. Yeah, it’s not my church. It’s not some person’s church. It is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. And we are granted this privilege. As the Father has related to the Son, so in a similar manner he relates to us. He even allows the spotlight, a small one, a flashlight maybe, to shine on us. We are given a small measure of glory. We are given reward in heaven for the work that we do all by his grace. Paul said, “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

So, my friends, just drop your egos, will you? If you’re hanging onto them, leave them at the door on the way out and just be done with it. Be done with ego. Just realize the privilege that God has given in everything we have, every gift we have, every ability to the extent we have it, is God’s granting a favor to us for kingdom work he’s allowing us to do. As he works with his Son, in a similar manner, that same gracious God works with us.

Marvel at the Son’s Submission

Here’s the second point of application: marvel at the submission of the eternal Son to the eternal Father carried out with absolute fidelity to the Father’s will with nothing but joy and happiness and satisfaction. Learn afresh at this moment what life is supposed to look like. Learn what freedom is. Learn where joy is found. Learn where our humanity finds its richest, fullest expression. Our only true expression in our living is in obedience to the One who created us, following in his pathway.

And learn this. Are you ready? It is just as God-like to submit to rightful authority, as it is God-like to exert proper, wise, rightful authority. Submission is in God. It’s in God. It is just as God-like to submit with joy, with gladness, and with whole heart to rightful authority, as it is God-like to exert wise, careful, thoughtful, edifying, rightful authority over others.

There are a few wives here. Wives, does this hearten you to realize that the call God has given you to submit to your husbands is not unlike the call all of us have to submit, but it’s a unique case where wives are called to submit to their husbands. Does it help you to know that this is a reflection of God himself in human marriage? When God said in Genesis 1:26, “Let us make man in our image, male and female,” God intended there to be, in the creaturely realm, a reflection of his own nature, where God is equal in essence and yet different in role. There’s a role distinction between Father, Son, and Spirit. There is a built in eternal authority-submission relationship in the Godhead. So he creates a world that reflects what he’s like. So male and female are in the image of God. Amen.

And men, take to heart 1 Peter 3:7 if you are tempted to demean your wives, to look down on them, to speak down to them, to boss them around, to put them in their place. Remember the words of Peter in 1 Peter 3:7, when he says:

Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

Yes, she is not like you in every respect, there is role distinction. The first six verses were all about her submitting to you. Yes, she’s a weaker vessel, but grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life (she has all the riches in Christ that you do), or God will not hear your prayers. There is equality of men and women, but there is differentiation where God intended there to be male headship. And the same thing is reflected not just in marriage, but it is reflected in society.

Here’s an amazing fact. God loves, and does not despise, authority and submission. He loves it because he is it. He does not have the same revulsion that we do to authority. He does not view submission as demeaning. May we see in God what authority and submission in love looks like and mirror that in our human relationships.

Marvel at the Unity and Harmony of the Father and Son

Here’s my last point of application: marvel at both the unity and harmony of the relationship of the Father and the Son. Unity implies that the two have one purpose. They work toward one common goal. They follow one common plan. They fulfill one common mission. The Son fully accepts the will of the Father, and in this there is full unity. Okay, that’s clear enough, right? Now keep listening. In this unity we find it is a unity, not of unison, but a unity of harmony.

The unity is manifested through differing parts, not just one — not differing voices, if you will, to use a music metaphor. It’s not unison. The voice of the Father might be likened to the melody line, perhaps, of a song. But the Son and the Spirit do not sing in unison with the Father. Rather, each has his own part to sing that’s distinctive. There is a line of music the Son has to sing, and there is a line of music the Spirit has to sing. But when they sing together in glorious harmony, there is unity of expression. They follow one composition. They sing the one song, but they don’t sing it in unison.

May we learn from this that God, just as he revels in authority and submission, also revels in unity and difference. Think of the personalities in this room and you tell me that God doesn’t like difference. Look at the cultures of this world and ask yourself if God doesn’t like difference. Look at the gifting of the body of Christ. Why should we think, “Because I’ve got this gift, it’s the top one. Cool. I’ve got the top one.” Why is it the top one? “Well, because I have it. That’s what makes it top.”

Why do we think this way? Why not realize that God designs the gifting of the body of Christ to reflect the diversity expressed in unity with one common mission, one common purpose, but lived out and worked out in a variety of ways as God gifts the body differently. Let’s celebrate rightful diversity and joyous, heartfelt unity in the common purpose of God. Don’t you see that in the Trinity? Ought we not see that in our lives lived together? Amen.

In Jesus’s relationship to the Father, the Father is supreme overall. The Son submits to the Father. The submission to the Father takes place in a love relationship that is pure and glorious, and in this love relationship, where the Son submits to the Father, the Father shines the spotlight on the Son and he says, “Worship my Son, and honor him to the glory of my name.” May we see the Son in his beauty lived in the power of the Spirit tonight to the glory of the Father, and may we marvel and exalt in this great Savior. Amen.