John’s Gospel: The Baptism of Jesus, Part 5

I get emails. This one is from reader and frequent commenter Laymond –

Jay, I tried to make this comment on your blog post, but was denied access, so I will
e-mail it in hopes of getting an answer.

You ask this in the very first of your post. #4 “So did Jesus receive his divine nature at his baptism?” and you were right to say “Well, nothing in the four accounts we have or John’s reference to the baptism in 1 John 5 say that.”

But having said that, John is not the only place we can look for that answer.

2Pe 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature,

2Pe 1:16-17  For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17  For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Mat 3:16-17  And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17  And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

2Pe 1:18  And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

Mat 17:5  While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him

– the only time this statement is made, as far as I can tell is in –  Mat 3:17, Mat 17:5  and in 2Pe 1:17.  So when do you think Jesus came into “Divine Nature”?

(lightly edited for form).

I’ll post my answer in three parts.

Laymond,

I think the Son of God is co-eternal with God the Father, and so has always been divine (in the sense of being part of the Godhead).

Phil 2 and John 3:34

According to Phil 2, the Son emptied himself when he came to earth in human form.

(Phi 2:5-7 ESV) 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

The Son was originally equal with God, per v. 6. But when he emptied himself by “being born in the likeness of men,” it was the Son who was born of Mary, not a mere human who would later become the Son. Rather, it was the Son himself who was born as a man. V. 7 is quite plain.

However, taking human form constituted a real self-emptying. “Likeness” is borrowed from Gen 1:26. It’s ironic: just as God made man in his likeness, the Son of God took on the likeness of man.

I would not claim to understand this transformation fully, but it’s obvious that the Son gave up some of the essential attributes of the Godhead. He no longer existed as spirit. He was no longer omnipresent. Rather, he took on the finitude of humanity. He suffered hunger, pain, and all the other vicissitudes of human existence.

On the other hand, the Gospels are plain that Jesus had miraculous powers. Whether he had these because he’d never given them up — because of his God-ness — or because the Spirit gave these to him, I really don’t know. We are told –

(John 3:34 ESV) For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.

This is conventionally understood to mean that Jesus had received the Spirit in a vastly greater amount than the prophets. For example, the NET Bible’s translators’ notes state,

Leviticus Rabbah 15:2 states: “The Holy Spirit rested on the prophets by measure.” Jesus is contrasted to this. The Spirit rests upon him without measure.

The Leviticus Rabbah is an ancient Jewish midrash (commentary) on Leviticus. The point of Jesus’ having unlimited access to the Spirit’s power surely indicates that the Spirit is to be credited with much of the power evident in Jesus. In context, the point John is making is that Jesus’ words are authoritative because he came from heaven (John 3:31) and because he had unlimited access to the Spirit’s power.

Hence, John actually argues both ways: that Jesus’ words have authority because Jesus came from God’s own presence and because Jesus had the Spirit without measure. John doesn’t have any interest in picking one possibility or the other.

[to be continued]

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About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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