Foundations 4: The Divine Son

Foundations 4: The Divine Son

The earliest Creeds/Statements of Faith of the Church teach a belief in the Trinity. In this week’s lesson, we are looking at the 2nd Person of the Trinity. Prior to the Incarnation, His identity was shrouded in the mystery of the Godhead. Since the Incarnation, we now refer to Him by the Name by which He was known on Earth, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, possesses all the attributes of the Godhead, and in/because of these He is coequal, consubstantial, and coeternal with the Father (John 10:3014:9).

  • He is eternal (John 1:1-3 with 1 John 1:1-4, John 1:15, John 8:58, John 17:5, 24, Hebrews 1:11)
  • He is omnipresent (John 3:13, Matthew 18:20, Ephesians 1:23)
  • He is omniscient (John 16:30, John 21:17, Colossians 2:3, John 4:29, Luke 6:8)
  • He is omnipotent (John 5:19, Hebrews 1:2-3, Matthew 28:18)
  • He is immutable (Hebrews 1:12, Hebrews 13:8)
  • Creator and Sustainer (John 1:3, Colossians 1:15-17, Hebrews 1:3, 10 Psalm 33:6
  • Jesus Christ has the prerogatives of God (Matthew 9:2, 6; Luke 7:47- John 5:25-29 John 6:39, John 11:25-26 John 5:22

 

Jesus names Himself as God and explains I AM in John’s Gospel (Exodus 3:14)

  • the Bread of Life (6:35, 41)
  • the Light of the world (8:12)
  • the Good Shepherd (10:11, 14)
  • the Door (10:7, 9)
  • the Way the Truth and the Life (14:6)
  • the Resurrection and the Life (11:25-26)
  • the True Vine (15:1)
  • John 8:24
  • John8:58

Eternal Sonship (gotquestions.org)

The doctrine of eternal Sonship simply affirms that the second Person of the triune Godhead has eternally existed as the Son. In other words, there was never a time when He was not the Son of God, and there has always been a Father/Son relationship within the Godhead. This doctrine recognizes that the idea of Sonship is not merely a title or role that Christ assumed at some specific point in history, but that it is the essential identity of the second Person of the Godhead. According to this doctrine, Christ is and always has been the Son of God.

Yes, the eternal Sonship is biblical and is a view that is widely held among Christians and has been throughout church history. It is important, however, to remember when discussing the doctrine of eternal Sonship that there are evangelical Christians on both sides of this debate. This is not to say that this is not an important doctrine, because it is; it simply acknowledges the fact that there are orthodox or evangelical Christians that hold or have held both views. Those that deny the doctrine of eternal Sonship are not denying the triune nature of God or the deity or eternality of Christ, and those that embrace the eternal Sonship of Christ are not inferring that Jesus Christ was anything less than fully God.

Throughout church history the doctrine of eternal Sonship has been widely held, with most Christians believing that Jesus existed as God’s eternal Son before creation. It is affirmed in the Nicene Creed (325 A.D.) which states: “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.” It was also later reaffirmed in the fifth century in the Athanasian Creed.

There is considerable biblical evidence to support the eternal Sonship of Christ. First of all, there are many passages that clearly identify that it was “the Son” who created all things (Colossians 1:13-16Hebrews 1:2), thereby strongly implying that Christ was the Son of God at the time of creation. When one considers these passages, it seems clear that the most normal and natural meaning of the passages is that at the time of creation Jesus was the Son of God, the second Person of the Triune Godhead, thus supporting the doctrine of eternal Sonship.

Second, there are numerous verses that speak of God the Father sending the Son into the world to redeem sinful man (John 20:21Galatians 4:41 John 4:141 John 4:10) and giving His Son as a sacrifice for sin (John 3:16). Clearly implied in all the passages that deal with the Father sending/giving the Son is the fact that He was the Son before He was sent into the world. This is even more clearly seen in Galatians 4:4-6, where the term “sent forth” is used both of the Son and the Spirit. Just as the Holy Spirit did not become the Holy Spirit when He was sent to empower the believers at Pentecost, neither did the Son become the Son at the moment of His incarnation. All three Persons of the Triune Godhead have existed for all eternity, and their names reveal who they are, not simply what their title or function is.

Third, 1 John 3:8 speaks of the appearance or manifestation of the Son of God: “the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” The verb “to make manifest” or “appeared” means to make visible or to bring to light something that was previously hidden. The idea communicated in this verse is not that the second Person of the trinity became the Son of God, but that the already existing Son of God was made manifest or appeared in order to fulfill God’s predetermined purpose. This idea is also seen in other verses such as John 11:27 and 1 John 5:20.

Fourth, Hebrews 13:8 teaches that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.” This verse, again, seems to support the doctrine of eternal Sonship. The fact that Jesus’ divine nature is unchanging would seem to indicate that He was always the Son of God because that is an essential part of His Person. At the incarnation Jesus took on human flesh, but His divine nature did not change, nor did His relationship with the Father. This same truth is also implied in John 20:31, where we see John’s purpose in writing his gospel was so that we might “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” It does not say that He became the Son of God but that He is the Son of God. The fact that Jesus was and is the Son of God is an essential aspect of Who He is and His work in redemption.

Finally, one of the strongest evidences for the eternal Sonship of Christ is the triune nature of God and the eternal relationship that exists among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Particularly important is the unique Father/Son relationship that can only be understood from the aspect of Christ’s eternal Sonship. This relationship is key to understanding the full measure of God’s love for those whom He redeems through the blood of Christ. The fact that God the Father took His Son, the very Son He loved from before the foundation of the world, and sent Him to be a sacrifice for our sins is an amazing act of grace and love that is best understood from the doctrine of eternal Sonship.

One verse that speaks of the eternal relationship between the Father and Son is John 16:28. “I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again, and going to the Father.” Implied in this verse is again the fact that the Father/Son relationship between God the Father and God the Son is one that always has and always will exist. At His incarnation the Son “came from the Father” in the same sense as upon His resurrection He returned “to the Father.” Implied in this verse is the fact that if Jesus was the Son after the resurrection, then He was also the Son prior to His incarnation. Other verses that support the eternal Sonship of Christ would include John 17:5 and John 17:24, which speak of the Father’s love for the Son from “before the foundation of the world.”

After one considers the many arguments for the doctrine of eternal Sonship, it should become clear that this is indeed a biblical doctrine that finds much support in Scripture. However, that is not to imply that arguments cannot be made against the doctrine as well, or that all Christians will agree to this doctrine. While it has been the view of the majority of Christian commentators throughout history, there have been several prominent Christians on the other side of the issue as well.

The term, “son of God,” occurs more than 40 times in the Bible, all of them in the New Testament. The phrase is found in the KJV in Dan. 3:25, but the Hebrew word of God is actually in the plural so it should read, “son of the gods.” So, what do we find when we examine the phrase in the New Testament?

  • Jesus Christ is the Son of God, ( 26:63, Mark 1:1, John 20:31, Heb. 4:14).
  • Unclean spirits would fall down before Jesus and say, “You are the Son of God,” (Mark 3:11).
  • “ . . . the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God,” (Luke 1:35).
  • Adam is said to be the son of God (Luke 3:38).
  • Those who hear the voice of the Son of God shall live (John 5:25).
  • Paul had faith in the Son of God ( 2:20).
  • Son of God has no beginning or end ( 7:3).
  • The Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).
  • Believe in the Son of God so that you may have eternal life (1 John 5:13).

We can see that the term refers to the majesty, position, and power of Jesus who is holy (Luke 1:35), associated with salvation (John 5:25) and that we are to have faith in the Son of God (Gal. 2:20) so as to have eternal life (1 John 5:13) and that He has no beginning or end (Heb. 7:3).

The only exception to this flow of exultation is Luke 3:38 when it says Adam was the “Son of God,” but here the context is a genealogy, and we know that Adam was the first man created by God.

Furthermore, in reference to Jesus, the term, “Son of God,” does not mean that Jesus is the literal offspring of God as if God had some form of sexual relations with Mary to produce Jesus. God is spirit (John 4:24), and spirit does not have flesh and bones (Luke 24:39), so God the Father is not the literal father of Jesus.

Jesus can be both God and the Son of God because the terms don’t mean the same thing. When we say that Jesus is God (John 1:114Colossians 2:9Hebrews 1:8), we are saying that Jesus possesses the divine nature (as well as a human nature, see hypostatic union). But the term, “Son of God,” does not mean that Jesus is not God. Think about it. If the term, “Son of God,” meant that Jesus is not God, then does the term, “Son of Man,” mean that Jesus is not a man? Of course not. Likewise, if the term, “Son of Man,” means that Jesus is a man, then does it not imply that when it says that Jesus is the “Son of God,” that He is God? We ought not look at the ancient words found in Scripture and judge them by modern thinking.

“For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God,” (John 5:18).

As you can see in this verse, Jesus was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal to God. Therefore, the term, Son of God, is a designation of the equality with God when it is a reference to Christ.

Those that deny the doctrine of eternal Sonship would instead hold to a view that is often referred to as the Incarnational Sonship, which teaches that while Christ preexisted, He was not always the Son of God. Those that hold this view believe Christ became the Son of God at some point in history, with the most common view being that Christ became the Son at His incarnation. However, there are others who believe Christ did not become the Son until sometime after His incarnation, such as at His baptism, His resurrection, or His exaltation. It is important to realize that those who deny the eternal Sonship of Christ still recognize and affirm His deity and His eternality.

Those who hold this view see the Sonship of Christ as not being an essential part of Who He is, but instead see it as simply being a role or a title or function that Christ assumed at His incarnation. They also teach that the Father became the Father at the time of the incarnation. Throughout history many conservative Christians have denied the doctrine of eternal Sonship. Some examples would include Ralph Wardlaw, Adam Clarke, Albert Barnes, Finis J. Dake, Walter Martin, and at one time John MacArthur. It is important to note, however, that several years ago John MacArthur changed his position on this doctrine and he now affirms the doctrine of eternal Sonship.

One of the verses commonly used to support Incarnational Sonship is Hebrews 1:5, which appears to speak of God the Father’s begetting of God the Son as an event that takes place at a specific point in time: “Thou art My Son, Today I have begotten Thee. And again. I will be a Father to Him. And He shall be a Son to Me.” Those who hold to the doctrine of incarnational Sonship point out two important aspects of this verse. 1—that “begetting” normally speaks of a person’s origin, and 2—that a Son is normally subordinate to his father. They reject the doctrine of eternal Sonship in an attempt to preserve the perfect equality and eternality of the Persons of the Triune Godhead. In order to do so, they must conclude that “Son” is simply a title or function that Christ took on at His incarnation and that “Sonship” refers to the voluntary submission that Christ took to the Father at His incarnation (Philippians 2:5-8John 5:19).

Some of the problems with the Incarnational Sonship of Christ are that this teaching confuses or destroys the internal relationships that exist within the Trinity, because if the Son is not eternally begotten by the Father, then neither did the Spirit eternally proceed from the Father through the Son. Also, if there is no Son prior to the incarnation, then there is no Father either; and yet throughout the Old Testament we see God being referred to as the Father of Israel. Instead of having a triune God eternally existing in three distinct Persons with three distinct names, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, those who hold to the doctrine of incarnational Sonship end up with a nameless Trinity prior to the incarnation, and we would be forced to say that God has chosen not to reveal Himself as He truly is, but only as He was to become. In other words, instead of actually revealing who He is, the Triune God instead chose to reveal Himself by the titles He would assume or the roles that He would take on and not who He really is. This is dangerously close to modalism and could easily lead to false teachings about the nature of God. One of the weaknesses of the doctrine of incarnational Sonship is that the basic relationships existing among the members of the Trinity are confused and diminished. Taken to its logical conclusion, denying the eternal Sonship of Christ reduces the Trinity from the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to simply Number One, Number Two and Number Three Persons—with the numbers themselves being an arbitrary designation, destroying the God-given order and relationship that exists among the Persons of the Trinity.

God the Father created “the heavens and the earth and all that is in them” according to His own will, through His Son, Jesus Christ, by whom all things continue in existence and in operations (John 1:3Colossians 1:15-17Hebrews 1:2).

The 2nd Person of the Trinity as the God-man

  • In the incarnation (God becoming man) Christ surrendered/laid aside His prerogatives as God but nothing of the divine essence, either in degree or kind, instead subordinating Himself to the will of God the Father and accepting the limitations of humanity. In His incarnation, the eternally existing second person of the Trinity accepted all the essential characteristics of humanity and so became the God-man (Philippians 2:5-8Colossians 2:9).
  • Jesus Christ represents, perfectly, humanity and deity in indivisible oneness (Micah 5:2John 5:2314:9, 10Colossians 2:9).

         The Definition of the Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D)

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.

The Scriptures teach:

Why did God the Son become man?  Why did He subject Himself to His creatures and allow Himself to be humiliated?

  1. to fulfill God’s promises

Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 7:14, Micah 5:2, Daniel 9:26

  1. to reveal the Father to man

God had been revealed as Creator and Lord…

now He is revealed to be Father, completing the revelation

  1. to become a faithful High Priest

a sinless High Priest to represent man

Hebrews 2:17-18, Hebrews 5:1-3, Hebrews 7:25-27

  1. to put away/put an end to sin

Hebrews 9:26, Mark 10:45, 1 John 3:5

Lev 16:20-22, John 1:29, Isaiah 53:6, 2 Corinthians 5:21

  1. to destroy the works of Satan

1 John 3:8, Hebrews 2:14-15, John 12:31

  1. to give us an example of holy living

1 Peter 2:21, 1 John 2:6 (saved then follow)

Awesome events with the incarnation of God the Son

  1. He emptied Himself

The humiliation of Christ began in His attitude  (Phil 2:6)

Showing us the necessity of an attitude of humility

His divine glory was veiled, but not surrendered  (Matt 17:1)

He voluntarily restricted His attributes of Deity in keeping with                   His purpose to live among men and all their limitations

i.e.  He remained “in the form of God” as He accepted also the                            nature of a servant

 

  1. He was made in the likeness of man

Flesh that was subject to weakness, pain, temptation, incredible limitations so that God could dwell among us (John 1:14)

but He did not take on man’s sinful nature  (Rom 8:3)

He did not exchange natures, He took an additional nature

During His time on Earth, The Lord Jesus Christ accomplished our redemption through the shedding of His blood and sacrificial death on the cross and that His death was voluntary, vicarious, substitutionary, propitiatory, and redemptive (John 10:15Romans 3:24, 255:81Peter 2:24). In the future, we will look at both of the major views on the Atonement, the traditional Reformed view known as Penal Substitutionary Atonement, and view known as Christus Victor. The two are often seen, needlessly, as being in opposition to each other. Both, however, are accurate portrayals of the Atonement.

On the basis of the efficacy of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, the believing sinner is freed from the punishment, the penalty, the power, and one day the very presence of sin; and that he is declared righteous, given eternal life, and adopted into the family of God (Romasn 3:255:8, 92Corinthians 5:14, 151Peter 2:243:18). {This is the Penal Substitutionary Atonement}

Our justification is made sure by His literal, physical resurrection from the dead and the fact that He is now ascended to the right hand of the Father, where He mediates as our Advocate and High-Priest (Matthew 28:6Luke 24:38, 39Acts 2:30, 31Romans 4:258:34Hebrews 7:259:241 John 2:1).

In the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave, God confirmed the deity of His Son and gave proof that God has accepted the atoning work of Christ on the cross. Jesus’ bodily resurrection is also the guarantee of a future resurrection life for all believers (John 5:26-2914:19Romans 4:256:5-101 Corinthians 15:2023).

In the Resurrection to come, Jesus Christ will return to receive the church, which is His body, unto Himself at the Rapture and, after the Tribulation, returning with His church in glory, will establish His millennial kingdom on earth (Acts 1:9-111 Thessalonians 4:13-18Revelation 20).

The Lord Jesus Christ is the one through whom God will judge all mankind (John 5:22, 23):

  1. Believers (1 Corinthians 3:10-15;2 Corinthians 5:10);
  2. Living inhabitants of the earth at His glorious return (Matthew 25:31-46); and
  3. Unbelieving dead at the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15).

As the mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5), the head of His body the church (Ephesians 1:225:23Colossians 1:18), and the coming universal King who will reign on the throne of David (Isaiah 9:6, 7Ezekiel 37:24-28Luke 1:31-33), He is the final judge of all who fail to place their trust in Him as Lord and Savior (Matthew 25:14-46Acts 17:30, 31).

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