The gospel of John begins in a unique way, different than the other three gospels. His focus, more than narrative about the Saviour of the World, was on the character of this God-Man. Character in the Bible is revealed first by names, then by testimony of action. So far, we have seen Christ described as Eternal Word, Light, Living Word, Only Begotten Son, Lord and Christ, Lamb of God, and Preferred One. Today’s verses describe one more very important name, and character trait.
John the Baptist (as opposed to the writer of the gospel) bore witness to Jesus. He had prepared the way for Him, and now announced the arrival of the Messiah, also called the Christ. His witness in verse 32 refers to the events surrounding the baptism of Jesus in the presence of many witnesses. “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him.” This Spirit that John refers to, is the Spirit of God, which we call the Holy Spirit. In the likeness of a dove, God presented Himself in visible form to corroborate the testimony of John, that this indeed is The One. ‘He remained’ tells us that this event was the beginning of Christ’s ministry, by the power of this Holy Spirit. Since God took human form, in the person of Jesus Christ, He took on all attributes of humans, with the exception of the sin-nature. One of those attributes is the necessity of relying on the Spirit of God to do the ministry of God. Luke’s gospel tells us that Jesus ‘grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.’ (Luke 2:40) It would seem that He lived a ‘normal’ human life, although perfect in discernment between right and wrong, without the full benefit of the Holy Spirit until this point.
It is interesting to note that John did not know Jesus, or at least that He was the Christ, until the sign of the dove was given, even though John was related to Jesus. The Spirit of God had instructed John to announce the Messiah when he saw ‘The Spirit descending, and remaining on Him.’ “This is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” John baptized with water, a tradition that the Jews were well familiar with, but the One that he proclaimed and prepared people for would bring about a baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is a controversial subject, much misunderstood, yet vital to the message Jesus Christ brought. Jesus, Himself, testified of Himself as the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, baptism was done as a symbolic cleansing every time one would go to the synagogue (church). In the New Testament, under the new covenant in Jesus’ blood, baptism was (and is) a one time event to symbolize not just cleansing from sin, but also identification with Jesus’ death and resurrection. Yet this is different from the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s letters clarify later, telling us that this baptism is the start of the work of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of one who believes. Other than the baptism of Jesus, the first time we see this is the collective baptism of the disciples on Pentecost. From then on, it would seem that this baptism takes place upon genuine conversion to faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27; Romans 8:9). Jesus told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)
John completes the testimony by stating clearly, “This is the Son of God.” Apostle John uses this name of Jesus as a theme for his entire gospel. This One, the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit, is the Son of God. He is not a son of God (as the JW’s would claim), but the Son of God, which is the third person of the Trinity or Godhead. This is the Word of God in the flesh; all that description we have seen so far leads to this climactic description. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. John has now introduced the Messiah, the Son of God. His next task is to move on to what this God-Man came to do, and His message.
Do you know who the Son of God is, as presented in the Scriptures? It is time you get to know Him better!