And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. (Luke 4:41)
(This article is #4 in a series on The Trinity)
The foundational confession of Christianity is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. The Apostle Peter was the first to make this confession; however, he did not fully realize what it meant for Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God. Unpacking these two confessions is really what the entire Christian faith is about. To be the Christ meant that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and Old Testament stories. It ultimately meant that He had to go to the cross for our salvation (See Peter’s confession and what followed in Matthew 16:16ff). To be the Son of God meant that even though Jesus is truly a man, the son of Mary, yet He is more than a man, for He is the eternal second person of the Holy Trinity, God’s Son. Only by being God could Jesus redeem mankind.
In Sunday’s Gospel, we observe the demons correctly identifying the basics of the faith. They cried out to Jesus, You are the Son of God! Our text also indicates they knew that he was the Christ. Why then did Jesus rebuke them? Satan and his demons are liars, and a liar is the worst witness. Jesus speaks of Satan as the father of lies [Jn 8:44]. When the truth comes out of a liar’s mouth, then the truth is doubted. For example if Satan said, “Adolf Hitler was a great, caring leader,” then he adds, “and Martin Luther was a great Christian leader,” what would you think? Since he lies about Hitler, he certainly must be lying about Luther. The cleverest liars will mix truth with their lies, thus creating uncertainty and doubt.
There is a Spirit who always tells the truth, and indeed He is the source of truth; Jesus calls Him the Spirit of Truth [Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13]. The Spirit of truth is the third person of the Holy Trinity who, working through the Word, brings people to the correct identification and confession of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is God, for only God can take corrupt, unbelieving hearts and make them new, by cleansing them and enabling faith in Jesus. At the close of Sunday’s assigned Gospel Jesus indicates the importance of His preaching, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea [vv 43-44]. As Jesus thus preached, He gave the vehicle for the Holy Spirit and thus, as the Spirit of truth worked upon the hearers’ hearts through the preached Word, Christ was beginning to show and enable hearts to believe in Him as the Christ, the Son of God.
This information about and faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, would not fully shine forth until Christ poured forth the Spirit of truth on Pentecost. On Pentecost, the Spirit through the Word of Christ would testify of His substitutionary work of salvation, which culminated in His death, resurrection and ascension. Through this Word of Christ, the Spirit of truth would bring people to repentance and to fully realize what it meant for Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God. On Pentecost the Apostle Peter preached about Jesus as “Lord and Christ”: Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified [Acts 2:36]. The identification of Jesus as “Lord” in this context is simply identifying Him as the Son of God; Jesus is the Lord God. We thus observe the foundational confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God being echoed. Peter then responded to the law-stricken people with these words: Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:38]. In Holy Baptism they were thus blessed in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Observe the working of our God, the true God—the Triune God. Through the Word, the Spirit of truth attests to the Son of the Father, bringing the gifts of salvation earned by the Son of God to the hearts of men.