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On Second Thought! Revisiting Jesus as God’s Son or Servant in Acts Pt. 1

This is a follow up to the rebuttal I wrote titled, Is Jesus God’s Servant or Son? Pt. 1

Pt. 2

Pt. 3

Pt. 4

Pt. 5

Pt. 6

In those series of articles I basically argued that the Greek words pais/paidion, which are used to describe Jesus’ relationship to God in Acts 3:13, 16 and 4:27, 30, essentially mean servant, i.e. that Jesus is God’s Servant whom God glorified by raising him from the dead and seating him on his throne in heaven. Here I am going to revisit this issue by digging a little deeper to see whether these terms also refer to Jesus’ being God’s unique Son. After all, these Greek terms can and do refer to children as the following Bible expositor noted:

Thy holy child Jesus – The word “child” is commonly applied to infants, or to sons and daughters in very early life. The word which is used here παῖς pais is different from what is commonly applied to the Lord Jesus υἱός huios. The latter expresses sonship without respect to age. The word which is here used also sometimes expresses sonship with out any regard to age, and the word “son” would have been a more happy translation. Thus, the same word is translated in Acts 3:13, Acts 3:26. In Acts 20:12, it is translated “youngman.” (Albert Barne’s Notes on the Whole Bible

Here, again, are the verses in question:

“The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His Son Jesus (ton paida autou ‘Iesoun), whom you handed over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Creator of Life, whom God has raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. And His name, by faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. And faith which comes through Him has given him perfect health in your presence… God, having raised up His Son Jesus (ton paida autou ‘Iesoun), sent Him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your iniquities.” Acts 3:13-16, 26

“Indeed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were assembled together against Your holy Son Jesus (ton hagion paida sou ‘Iesoun) whom You have anointed… by stretching out Your hand to heal and that signs and wonders may be performed in the name of Your holy Son Jesus (tou hagiou paidos sou ‘Iesou).” Acts 4:27, 30

Upon further reflection and examination I have come to the conclusion that the word pais/paidion not only refers to Jesus as God’s Servant, but also speaks to his being God’s unique Son. I feel that the reason why the inspired Christian Scriptures chose to describe Jesus as the pais/paidion of God is because, unlike the words hyios (“son”) and doulos (“Servant/Slave”), this term communicates the point of Jesus’ being both God’s Son/Child and Servant. I believe that pais/paidion are used to signify that Jesus is a Son who voluntarily chose to honor his Father by becoming his Servant in order to demonstrate his deep and great love for his Father:

“But I do as the Father has commanded Me so that the world may know that I love the Father.” John 14:31

“As the Father loved Me, I also loved you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, even as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.” John 15:9-10

There are good reasons for assuming this to be the case. In the first place, Christ is identified as God’s pais/paidion in a context where the disciples cite Psalm 2 in their worship and prayer to God:

“On being released, they went to their own people and reported what the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they lifted their voices in unity to God and prayed, ‘Lord, You are God, who has made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, and who by the mouth of Your servant David said: “Why did the nations rage, and the people devise vain things? The kings of the earth came, and the rulers were assembled together against the Lord and against His Christ.” Indeed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were assembled together against Your holy Son Jesus whom You have anointed, to do what Your hand and Your counsel had foreordained to be done.” Acts 4:23-28

In this particular Psalm God’s anointed king or Christ is expressly said to be God’s Son whom God spiritually begot to reign on his heavenly throne:

“Why do the nations rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear off their bonds and cast away their ropes from us.’ He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord ridicules them. Then He will speak to them in His wrath and terrify them in His burning anger: ‘I have installed My king on Zion, My holy hill.’ I will declare the decree of the Lord: He said to me, ‘You are My son (bani); this day have I begotten you (‘attah ‘ani… yalidtika). Ask of Me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession. You will break them with a scepter of iron; you will dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’” Psalm 2:1-9

The Son was spiritually begotten by the Father on the day when God raised Christ physically from the dead into heaven in order to have him sit alongside him in glory:

“And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son (Hyios mou ei su), this day have I begotten thee.” Acts 13:32-33 AV

There is no denying that both the Hebrew word ben and the Greek word hyios mean S/son. To, therefore, identify Christ as the pais/paidion of God in the same context where Psalm 2 is cited strongly supports the view that the specific Greek term was used to convey the notion of Jesus’ being God’s Son who became a servant so as to fulfill the will of his beloved Father.

There is another place where Christ is called God’s pais/paidion within an OT Prophecy that clearly points to his being the unique Son of God:

“But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great crowds followed Him, and He healed them all, and warned them that they should not make Him known, to fulfill what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘Here is My Servant (ho pais mou), whom I have chosen, My Beloved (ho agapetos mou), in whom My soul is well pleased (eis hon eudokesen); I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will render judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not struggle nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not quench, until He renders judgment unto victory; and in His name will the Gentiles trust.’” Matthew 12:15-21

Here the inspired author cites the witness of the prophet Isaiah:

“Hearken to me, ye islands; and attend, ye Gentiles; after a long time it shall come to pass, saith the Lord: from my mother’s womb he has called my name: and he has made my mouth as a sharp sword, and he has hid me under the shadow of his hand; he has made me as a choice shaft, and he has hid me in his quiver; and said to me, Thou art my servant (doulos mou ei su), O Israel, and in thee I will be glorified. Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have given my strength for vanity and for nothing: therefore is my judgement with the Lord, and my labour before my God. And now, thus saith the Lord that formed me from the womb to be his own servant (doulon heauto), to gather Jacob to him and Israel. I shall be gathered and glorified before the Lord, and my God shall be my strength. And he said to me, [It is] a great thing for thee to be called my servant (paida mou), to establish the tribes of Jacob, and to recover the dispersion of Israel: behold, I have given thee for the covenant of a race, for a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:1-6 LXX

Elsewhere, this same Servant is said be a child (paidion) who grows up before God:

“Behold, my servant (ho pais mou) shall understand, and be exalted, and glorified exceedingly.… O Lord, who has believed our report? and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? We brought a report as [of] a child (paidion) before him; [he is] as a root in a thirsty land: he has no form nor comeliness; and we saw him, but he had no form nor beauty.” Isaiah 52:13, 53:1-2 LXX

This is the same One whom the prophet says is a child that is born and a son who is given to reign over David’s throne forever:

“Drink this first. Act quickly, O land of Zabulon, land of Nephthalim, and the rest [inhabiting] the sea-coast, and [the land] beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. O people walking in darkness, behold a great light: ye that dwell in the region [and] shadow of death, a light shall shine upon you… For a child (paidion) is born to us, and a son (hyios) is given to us, whose government is upon his shoulder, and his name is called the messenger of great counsel: for I will bring peace upon the princes, and health to him. His government shall be great, and of his peace there is no end: [it shall be] upon the throne of David, and [upon] his kingdom, to establish it, and to support [it] with judgement and with righteousness, from henceforth and forever. The seal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this. Isaiah 9:1-2, 6-7 LXX – cf. Matthew 4:12-17

This may explain why at the baptism, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ in fulfillment of Isaiah 42:1, God testified to Jesus’ being his beloved Son (hyios), not Servant (doulos):

“And when Jesus was baptized, He came up immediately out of the water. And suddenly the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son (ho hyios mou ho agapetos), in whom I am well pleased (en ho eudokesa).’” Matthew 3:16-17 

The foregoing strongly supports that pais/paidion are meant to communicate the fact of Jesus’ being more than God’s Servant. Christ is the unique Son who humbled himself to serve the Father by coming to the earth to die a shameful and accursed death.

We will have more to say about the word doulos a little later. With that said we are ready to proceed to the second part of our discussion

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