THE ETERNAL SONSHIP OF CHRIST
A sixth lecture in a seven part series on the Godhead.
 

Introduction

What is the Eternal Sonship?

The Eternal Sonship is a Biblical teaching that declares the identity of Jesus Christ as the Son of God to be an eternal identity. A false opposition to the Eternal Sonship is called Temporal Sonship; which states that Jesus became the Son at a certain point in time, usually at the incarnation. The Eternal Sonship is one part of a broader reality; that all of the Godhead relationships are eternal. 

Why should you care?

The denial of the Eternal Sonship places you in heterodoxy; i.e. it takes you off fundamental Christian ground. A denial of the Eternal Sonship comes with a denial of all the eternal relationships in the Godhead. Those who deny the Eternal Sonship teach that the relationships of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (expressed in the threefold Name, Matt. 28:19), are associated with the incarnation of Christ, and do not apply before that time.
 
Generally, the Eternal Sonship of Christ is held to be the orthodox Christian position, although a denial of the Eternal Sonship has surfaced from time to time throughout Church History. The most recent denial came from John MacArthur, although he has since changed his position. Before MacArthur, the previous denial came from F.E. Raven, a leader of a division among Brethren. Otherwise, the denial of the Eternal Sonship is largely limited to false cults such as Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses.

Why do some deny the Eternal Sonship?

Denials of the Eternal Sonship almost always stem from an erroneous notion about the name “Son”. They take a very human approach to the meaning of sonship, and by taking their thoughts from nature instead of Scripture, they conclude that sonship denotes inferiority. Since every human son owes his existence to his father, therefore a son can never be truly equal with his father. If sonship did convey inferiority, and then if Christ’s Sonship were eternal, it would make the Person of Christ inferior to God the Father, which would deny the Trinity (three equal Persons of the Godhead). In other words, those who deny the Eternal Sonship do so in an attempt to defend the Trinity. But really, they rob Christ of His glory, and detract from the Trinity while they attempt to defend it. The truth about sonship, which I will expound in this article, is that sonship does NOT denote inferiority, but rather a place of privilege and relationship.

Why have I written this article?

If someone you love deeply is attacked, it produces a response in your heart; a desire to see their name cleared. This is how every true believer feels when the Person of Christ is attacked. As Christians, we are to be “simple” as to evil (not experts on false teachings) but at the same time we are exhorted to be “wise” concerning that which is good (Rom. 16:19). 
 
In this spirit I would like to set forth, not the intricate systems of error put forth by those who advocate Temporal Sonship, but rather the clear proofs of Scripture that positively establish the Eternal Sonship. My prayer is that the attitude of this article will be one of peace; for “a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth” (1 Tim. 2:24-25 NKJV).

Christ’s Sonship Further Described

  • His Sonship is eternal as opposed to temporal. Christ never became the Son of God; rather, He always was. His Sonship has no beginning and no ending. Sometimes the term “pre-temporal” is used, in that His sonship existed before time. 
  • His Sonship is intrinsic as opposed to extrinsic. Christ’s being the Son is part of His very nature, not a quality conveyed to Him by an outside source or person. He is not the Son merely because of an office or service He fulfills.
  • His Sonship is ontological as opposed to epistemological. In other words, the Sonship of Christ has to do His very existence, not merely how we know Him. He is not merely the Son to us; rather, He is the Son, period. How we come to know Him is important, but His Sonship doesn’t depend on that.
  • His Sonship is intra-Trinitarian as opposed to official. In other words, His Sonship has to do with His relationships and identity in the Godhead, and not dependent on God’s dispensational ways. The names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit derive their meaning from the Trinitarian relationships, which are eternal.

Proofs of the Eternal Sonship

There are many proofs in scripture that Christ’s sonship is eternal. There are direct statements that show, by simple logic, that Christ was always the Son. We will also pay close attention to the little phrases which contain the truth of the eternal sonship; such as His being “with”, “sent by” and “coming forth from” the Father. These are all expressions that have to do with the incarnation and the Son’s place and relationship before the incarnation. These expressions make it clear that His sonship existed prior to the incarnation; it was His eternal identity. The Lord was perfectly self-conscious of where He had come from, and where He would return; “I know whence I came and whither I go” (John 8:14).

Proof #1: The Old Testament Scriptures

The Old Testament scriptures show us that God had a Son prior to the incarnation. Clearly, Prov. 30:4 shows that God had a son prior to the incarnation, and – although the language is poetic – His Sonship was prior to the creation of the wind, the ends of earth, etc. 
“Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell?” (Prov. 30:4)

Proof #2: His being Son in the Work of Creation

Another proof of the Eternal Sonship is the fact that the Person of the Son is identified as the Son in the work of creation. Since creation occurred long before the incarnation, His Sonship could not begin with incarnation.
“God… at the end of these days has spoken to us in the person of the Son, whom he has established heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Heb. 1:2)
“By him [the Son of His love] were created all things, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones, or lordships, or principalities, or authorities: all things have been created by him and for him.” (Col. 1:16)
This is a simple but convincing proof of the pre-temporal, or eternal sonship of Christ.

Proof #3: Sonship is His Intrinsic Identity

Only-begotten. The expression "only-begotten" is one word in the Greek; 'monoganes'. It is an expression that confers the thought of uniqueness. A modern English equivalent is “one and only”. Most notably, "only-begotten" is used to convey the special place that the Son has in relation to God the Father. It is often coupled with the name "Son" or "Son of God", as in John 1:18, which shows that Sonship is our Lord’s unique identity. 'Monoganes' is used only a few other times in the New Testament. It is used three times in Luke for individuals healed by the Lord who were only children of their parents (Luke 7:12; 8:42; 9:38). It is used in Hebrews 11:17 with regard to Isaac. The other occurrences refer to Christ as the Son of God; e.g. John 3:16; 1 John 4:9. The usage of this expression in connection with Isaac shows us that the term "only-begotten" does not infer temporal existence; i.e. it does not mean that the Son of God began to exist at a certain time, like how human children begin to exist when they are begotten of their parents. Similar to the term "firstborn", which is also applied to the Son, and has also been falsely used to deny His eternal existence, the term "only-begotten" has a special significance. The use of the term in Hebrews 11:17 and its equivalent in Gen. 22:2 helps us to see this. Abraham had another son, Ishmael. But Isaac was his only-begotten. The term "only-begotten" has the sense of 'one of a kind', and it is used in this way with regard to Isaac. There was only one Isaac. In what sense is Christ the "only begotten" or unique One? We do not need to speculate, the scripture says; “the only begotten Son of God”. It is in His eternal and ontological identity as the Son of God that He is the Only-Begotten. We can conclude that this term, which has been used to deny the Eternal Sonship, as if He had a beginning in time, in fact it strengthens that truth, because it emphasizes that His Sonship is what makes the Son unique at the most fundamental level!

Since Christ’s sonship is in respect to God the Father, the same is true of His being the Only-begotten. He is the “only-begotten of the Father” and the “only-begotten Son of God”.
 
The Son is God. This is His intrinsic Deity. He is not unique in that He is God; that He shares with the other Persons in the Godhead. But He is unique in His being the Only-begotten, because it has in view His Sonship, an eternal relationship in the Godhead. Christ is the only Son. The full name, “only-begotten Son of God”, establishes: (1) the uniqueness of His relationship “only-begotten”, (2) His intrinsic relationship “Son”, and (3) His intrinsic deity “God”.

“No one has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared [him].” (John 1:18)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him may not perish, but have life eternal. … He that believes on him is not judged: but he that believes not has been already judged, because he has not believed on the name of the only-begotten Son of God.” (John 3:16, 18)

“Herein as to us has been manifested the love of God, that God has sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9)

His claim to God as “His own Father”. In the Lord’s words in John 5:17-18 there was a note of exclusiveness in the Lord’s claim. Critical translations read; Jesus “said that God was his own Father”. We have a complementary expression in Rom. 8:3, 32, where it speaks of “His [God’s] own Son”. It was not “a son” or even “His Son”, but “His own Son”. Again, God claims the Son has His exclusively, and emphasizes the cost to Himself of the One He delivered up. In Matt. 11:27 and Luke 10:22, it is clear that the Father and the Son have a special and exclusive knowledge of each other. It is also clear that the Son’s special knowledge of the Father is in His condition of being the Son. An also, the Father’s special knowledge of the Son is in His condition of being the Father. This is a proof of the eternal relationships in the Godhead because the Father/Son relationship was true of them only. If these relationships constitute the Father and Son’s respective intrinsic identities, the relationships must be eternal, because the Persons are eternal.

“All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son but the Father, nor does any one know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom the Son may be pleased to reveal [him].” (Matt. 11:27, see Luke 10:22)

We have two analog expressions which show the uniqueness of the Father/Son relationship. Speaking of the Father, Christ is called; “His own Son” (Rom. 8:3; 32). The expression conveys the uniqueness of His Sonship. This is similar to; “His only-begotten Son” (John 3:16). Speaking of the Son, the Father is called; “His own Father” (John 5:18). The expression conveys the uniqueness of His Fatherhood.

Proof #4: His being “With the Father”

There are a number of scriptures that speak of the Son as being “with the Father”. This confirms the eternal Fatherhood and the eternal Sonship. If the Son was “with the Father” before the incarnation, the Father must have been the Father and the Son must have been the Son. In the Lord’s prayer to His Father (John 17:5) we find that His personal glory in the future is the same as His pre-temporal glory. That glory is connected with His being “with” the Father before time began, and His anticipation of being “with” the Father (as His Father) in the future. The Lord clearly identifies His future glory with His pre-temporal glory. If you affirm the anticipated (present) Fatherhood/Sonship, you cannot deny the pre-temporal (eternal) Fatherhood/Sonship.

“And now glorify me, thou Father, along with thyself, with the glory which I had along with thee before the world was.” (John 17:5)

Furthermore, this state of being “with the Father” was not something that came be in the course of time. John 17:5 says that it was “before the world was”. Another verse that, while it does not expressly infer sonship, still presents the same truth is Prov. 8:30; “Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him” (Prov. 8:30). Again, this was the state of the Father and Son was “before his works of old… from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was” (Pro 8:22-23).

Proof #5: His being “Given” or “Sent” by the Father

There are a number of scriptures that speak of the Son being “sent by the Father”. The fact that the Father sent the Son confirms the eternal Fatherhood and Sonship. The same is true of the expression “God… gave His only-begotten Son”. It could not be said that God gave the Son if it were true that He gave Him to BE the Son. It is perfectly clear that the Person of the Son existed in the unique relationship of Son prior to the incarnation. Another way to say it is; when Christ came into the world, He came as the Son, whom He always was.

“And we have seen, and testify, that the Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world.” (1 John 4:14)

“But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law…” (Gal. 4:4)

The above-quoted two passages would suffice, but we have the same truth repeated on numerous occasions in our Lord’s own words; John 5:30, 37; John 6:29; John 8:16, 18; John 10:36; John 12:49; John 14:24. 

Proof #6: His “Coming forth from the Father”

In John 16:28 we have a beautiful statement by Jesus, that “I came out (exerkomai) from the Father and have come into the world”. This expression confirms three profound realities about the Father and the Son:

  1. It confirms the eternal Fatherhood and the eternal Sonship. The Father had to be His Father before the incarnation or it could not say He came from the Father. He had come from a Person (the Father) to a place (the world), and was leaving that place to return to that Person.
  2. But more than that, the expression “I came out (exerkomai) from the Father” characterizes the Son’s relationship as a man in this world. Coming forth from the side of the Father, the Son came into the world enjoying the full communion of the Father’s deep affection. He always had that relationship of love (John 1:18), but it was declared when the Son came forth.
  3. Finally, the expression “and have come into the world complements and strengthens the previous clause, showing that Sonship is His transcendent identity. The mere sending of a person to execute a mission or fill an office does not require transcendent identity; e.g. “there was a man sent from God whose name was John” (John 1:6). John was ‘apestalmenos’, or commissioned. But the sending of the Son was different. Not only was the Son “sent by the Father” but He “came into the world”. The coming of the Son is the counterpart to the sending of His Father. He did not merely arrive here. He came. That purposeful coming proves that He is not only a servant, but God Himself.

“I came out (exerkomai) from the Father and have come into the world; again, I leave the world and go to the Father.” (John 16:28)

From the Father vs. From God. His coming out from the Father carries the thought of the Son coming into the world in the consciousness of His Father’s affection. His coming out from God carries the thought of the Son coming into the world as a Divine Person in the Godhead; as “God was in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:19). The name “Son of God” carries more the thought of His divinity, His coming forth as a Person in the Godhead. The name “Son” carries more the thought of His relationship and place in the Father’s affections; He is the Son of the Father, the Son of His love (2 John 3; Col. 1:13).

“For the Father himself has affection for you, because ye have had affection for me, and have believed that I came out (exerkomai) from God. I came out (exerkomai) from the Father and have come into the world, etc.” (John 16:27-28)

“Jesus said to them, If God were your father ye would have loved me, for I came forth from God and am come [from him]…” (John 8:42)

Come forth vs. Being Sent. These two expressions are different, and they are twice used in the same sentence to emphasize the difference. In both passages, the coming and the sending are named separately and in the same sequence. This is not mere repetition, and the order is important. In “coming forth” the Son acted in His own Personal rights and sovereign will. In His “being sent” the Son came to accomplish the will of God His Father. Both Persons are involved in the act of sending — the Sender and the Sent.

“For the words which thou hast given me I have given them, and they have received [them], and have known truly that I came out from thee, and have believed that thou sentest me.” (John 17:8)

“Jesus said to them, If God were your father ye would have loved me, for I came forth from God and am come [from him]; for neither am I come of myself, but he has sent me.” (John 8:42)

Proof #7: Sonship not Weakened, but Strengthened in Incarnation

Whenever the title “Son” is used of Christ, it cannot be separated from the eternal, transcendent identity involved in it. When Christ’s sonship is mentioned in connection with His incarnation (such as in Psa. 2:7; 2 Sam. 7:14; Heb. 1:5; 5:5), it does not set aside His eternal Sonship, but rather it strengthens it!

“For unto which of the angels said he at any time, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?”And again, “I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?” (Heb. 1:5)

“So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, “Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee?” (Heb 5:5)

These passages are probably among the most frequently used to attack the doctrine of eternal sonship. However, when properly understood, they really strengthen it! The expression “this day have I begotten thee” refers to the incarnation, that though the Son was now a man in humiliation on earth, He was begotten of God, not merely a product of the flesh as other men.1 But the expression “Thou art my Son” declares the truth of His eternal relationship.2 The point is simply this: that even as a man on earth, Christ remained the Son! Rather than detract from the glory of His Person, it adds to it, because His sonship could not be displaced by His manhood.3
 
Son over His Own House. Hebrews 3:6 says “Christ, as Son over his house, etc.” The question might arise: is this verse presenting the Sonship of Christ as an extrinsic truth; i.e. that He is Son only in relation to the house of God? No! If we read the surrounding context, we find that Christ is being compared with Moses. As great as Moses was, he never had a place higher than a servant in God’s house. But Christ, because He is the Son of God, takes a place that is due Him! His place it that of “Son over His house”.4 The intrinsic truth of His Sonship had extrinsic results in the place He took in God’s house.
 

Debunking the Sonship-Inferiority Theory

The way people go wrong on the Eternal sonship is by borrowing the image of human father/son relationships. Within the realm of creation, the term “begotten” speaks of the origin of one’s offspring, but not so of the “only-begotten of the Father.” The problem arises when our thoughts are not formed by the Word of God. When correcting his earlier position, John MacArthur wrote in his Reexamining the Eternal Sonship of Christ:
“My previous view was that Scripture employed Father-Son terminology anthropomorphically—accommodating unfathomable heavenly truths to our finite minds by casting them in human terms. Now I am inclined to think that the opposite is true: Human father-son relationships are merely earthly pictures of an infinitely greater heavenly reality. The one true, archetypical Father-Son relationship exists eternally within the Trinity. All others are merely earthly replicas, imperfect because they are bound up in our finiteness, yet illustrating a vital eternal reality.”
The term “son” does not denote inferiority, but a special place of dignity and excellency before the father. For example; Moses refused to be “called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” (Heb. 11:24). It is interesting that many Christians still have a hard time understanding the believer’s sonship as well as Christ’s sonship. They cannot seem to distinguish between “adoption of sons” and being “children” in the family of God. The issue is with their understanding of the term “son”. It is true that we will never be divine persons, but the term “sonship” implies that we have been given the dignity and privileges of the Son in relation to the Father! The Sonship of Christ is the pattern for the sonship of the believer. In no sense does the name “Son” imply inferiority. Rather it implies an elevated status, and a place of affection. Those who deny the eternal sonship of Christ are clueless about the sonship of the believer.
 
Dignity inferred. Notice that Heb. 7:1 says “though he were Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered”. This verse speaks of the experience the Son gained as a man. Before the incarnation, the Son never had to obey anyone. It was something that could only be learned experientially. Jesus learned obedience in spite of His being the Son. It is proof that Sonship denotes dignity, not inferiority!
 
An Equal Name. Notice also that in Matt. 28:19 we read of “the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. The use of the singular word “Name” denotes equality between all three persons of the Godhead. This rules out the idea that sonship denotes inferiority, which is a primary argument from those who want to deny Eternal Sonship. In John 5:17-31, we find that, in the Jews understanding, the Lord’s claim to be the Son of God was a claim to equality. This sets aside the argument that sonship denotes inferiority. 
 
Equal Honor to the Son. Finally, in John 5:22-23 we have a direct statement on this issue; “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.” Equal honor for the Son is shown here be something that is deserved, but not shown by man. Therefore the Father has committed all judgment to the Son, that man will be forced against his will to do what he ought to do willingly. How would this make sense if “son” denotes inferiority? Son must have nothing to do with inferiority.
 
The subjection of the Son as man. “But when all things shall have been brought into subjection to him, then the Son also himself shall be placed in subjection to him who put all things in subjection to him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). Notice when the Son delivers up the kingdom at the end of the Millennium, it specifically says “to God, even the Father”. But when it says that Son subjects Himself to God that God might be all in all, it refers to God in Godhead, without further specification, not excluding any of the three Persons. As man, He submits Himself to God, so fulfilling the Divine purpose in the first creation. As God, the Son remains eternally co-equal with the other Persons in the Godhead.
 

Implications of the Eternal Sonship

Now that we have given a number of proofs of the eternal sonship, I would like to show why it matters. Many believers think topics like the eternal sonship are unimportant. We we will see, this subject touches every aspect of our Christianity, from the core of our theology, to our practical enjoyment of God’s love.

Point #1: Christ’s Personal Glory is Linked to it

In His prayer to the Father, Jesus linked His Personal glory to His relationship in a past eternity; “And now glorify me, thou Father, along with thyself, with the glory which I had along with thee before the world was” (John 17:5). His personal glory was perhaps twofold: (1) His glory as a Divine person, and (2) His relationship as the Son of the Father. This glory was veiled at the incarnation, and only at times were glimpses seen, such as in the raising of Lazarus. But for those who walked with Jesus, they “contemplated his glory, a glory as of an only-begotten with a father” (John 1:14). This was His personal glory – the glory of His relationship with the Father – and it was hidden from the public eye when Jesus was here below. To deny that the Son’s relationship is eternal is an injury against the Person of Christ, because it touches His glory.

Point #2: All Trinitarian Relationships are linked to it

The doctrine of the trinity concerns the necessary, intrinsic, and eternal distinctions between the Persons of the Godhead. These properties are incommunicable. The Word of God provides us with these eternal distinctions. But in addition to the distinction, the Persons of the Trinity are related eternally. The intra-Trinitarian relationships are co-relative. The Fatherhood of God is co-relative with the Sonship of Christ.

The Fatherhood of the Father is not to be confused with His other types of paternity; the Father of Spirits (Heb. 12:9), the Father of Lights (James 1:17), the Father of creation (Acts 17:29), of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named (Eph. 3:15), and "your heavenly Father" (Matt. 6:32). These other types of paternity alone are not the reason He is called "God the Father". He is "God the Father" because of His eternal relationship to the Son. First, Jesus spoke of God as "My Father" (John 5:17; 10:17). Second, Paul speaks of "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph. 1:3), showing that God the Father is the Father of the Son. We can conclude that the term "the Father", which is frequently used without additional qualification or specification in the New Testament, is in relationship to the Son. Third, the other types of paternity are neither intrinsic nor eternal. Whether they pertain to creation or redemption, the other types of paternity relate to things or persons that were conceived and ordered from the eternal counsels of God, and accomplished in time. "They cannot themselves be placed in the eternal and pre-temporal realm."5 We cannot conceive of relationships between God and His creatures as constituting an intrinsic Fatherhood. To do so would be to confuse who the Father is in His being with what comes from the counsel of His will; i.e. who He is and what He does. This shows that God is "the Father" in relation to the Son.

Therefore, if you deny the eternal sonship of Christ, you also deny the eternal fatherhood of God. “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father” (1 John 2:23). Note that when we come to John 20, we find the Lord bringing us into relationship with His Father as our Father!

Point #3: Our individual faith is vitally linked to it

As believers, our faith must be directed to Divine Persons in their true relationships, as revealed in the Word of God. We believe in the Father as the only Father of the Son. We believe in the Son as the only Son of the Father. The same is true of worship. We do not worship Christ as the Father, nor the Father as the Son, but each in His particular place. We have both identification and distinction with each Person. The Person of the Son is identified as God, and distinguished from God. The following points will highlight the centrality of the Son’s identity to our faith:

  • The confession of Jesus as Son of God is normal to Christian faith (1 John 4:15).
  • To deny the Son is anti-christian (1 John 2:22-23).
  • Christ as Son of God is the focal point of our faith (Gal. 2:20).
  • The Christian fellowship centers around Jesus as the Son of God (1 Cor. 1:9).

Point #4: The foundation of the Church is vitally linked to it

The Lord came to Israel in His Messianic office of King, and He was rejected as such. This rejection is outlined in Matthew’s Gospel. When rejected by Israel, God instead opens up a wider sphere of blessing. When rejected as King of Israel, God falls back on what His is in His eternal relationship; Son of God. See for example Matt. 11:25-27. When Jesus had come into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He queried the disciples to manifest the highest of man’s opinions as to who the Son of Man was. Many opinions were brought forth, but at last He said “but whom say ye that I am?” Peter gave the blessed confession: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Peter confessed the eternal, ontological, intra-Trinitarian identity of the Son. It was something that must be revealed by the Father. Jesus says, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”
 
Upon this confession, Jesus announces the dawn of a new thing, the Assembly of Christ. This building would be founded, not on His Messianic offices of Prophet, Priest, or King, but on His eternal relationship as the Son of the Living God. Because of this foundation, the Church can never fail! Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Because the Church’s foundation is based on something that is eternal and therefore outside the scheme of time, in the future eternal state, when distinctions between Jew and Gentile disappear, the Church will always remain distinct!

Point #5: The Depth of His Humiliation is accentuated by it

The mention of divine Sonship in connection with the Lord’s suffering serves to bring out the contrast between what He is eternally and intrinsically, with the place He stooped to in His humiliation. As we have already shown, the dignity of Christ’s sonship is not suppressed by His learning obedience or by His being fully dependent on the Father. But now we show that the dignity of His Sonship serves to accentuate the reality of His humiliation. Several examples follow:

  • “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). It was the eternal Son pleading with His Father whose bosom He enjoyed from all eternity. How much deeper the sorrow, having to take the cup from the hand of an eternal Father. See also Matt. 26:53.
  • “Though he were Son, he learned obedience from the things which he suffered” (Heb. 5:8-9). His being Son gives special significance to His humiliation as a man. The reality of His dignity as the Son accentuates all that He suffered in manhood.

Point #6: The Certainty of Continued Grace to the Believer is vitally linked to it

The eternal sonship is also linked to the measure of God’s grace daily working on our behalf. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). God choosing not to spare, and to deliver up of the eternal Son is the proof that God will freely give the believer all things. Once again that expression is used; “His own Son”. To say that the Father delivered up one merely given the title of “Son” in time, is to strip that verse of its full meaning. The denial of the eternal sonship in effect lessens the grace of God toward the believer.

Point #7: The Intensity of the Father’s Love is linked to it

The greatest practical implication of the eternal sonship of Christ is that it is liked to the greatness of the Father’s love. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). If we attribute “only-begotten” to His manhood, we take away from the pre-temporal sonship, and we take away from what is stressed in John 3:16, namely, the Father’s love. In other words, it destroys the meaning of John 3:16 if we deny the eternal sonship. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). To say that God gave one over whom He placed a title (“Son”), is not even close to Him giving the only-begotten Son, who is in that relationship intrinsically, ontologically, and eternally. The Father was no mere spectator in the garden of Gethsemane, and in the abandonment of Calvary. When He sent the Son, He knew what was ahead. In this His love is manifested toward us. “God sending His own Son…” (Rom. 8:3). Who did God give in love to us? An angel? No. A deputy? No. An official called the Son? No. An inferior person? No. He gave the one who was in His bosom from all eternity. 
 

Conclusions

In conclusion, we have seen that the name “Son of God” denotes His transcendent identity, His eternal relationship, and never inferiority. To separate Jesus from identity as the Eternal Son of God falls far short of the divine revelation. This is the tendency of the evangelical world. The true Christology is one that finds its starting point and basis in His eternal relationships. A great dishonor has been done to God the Father by taking up a Christology that is not rooted in Trinitarian doctrine (John 5:23). Any claim to the knowledge of God that denies that Jesus Christ (a man) is the Eternal Son of God is a false system that (1) denies God His proper glory, and (2) denies the adherent eternal life.

“And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20)

Footnotes

  1. The quotation here from Psalm 2, “This day have I begotten thee,” does not refer to His eternal Sonship, but to His being born into the world in humiliation. He is called to be high priest. He has this calling as a man, not as being taken from men. The glory of His Person comes first. Looked at in the flesh He was begotten of God; with us, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh.” But He in His very nature is associated with God, and associated with man. He is the “daysman that can lay his hand upon us both,” Job 9. – Darby, J.N. Notes from Lectures on Hebrews.
  2. But it is of all moment for the truth and His own personal dignity, to remember that His Sonship when incarnate as well as in resurrection is based on His eternal relationship as Son, the great theme of the apostle John, without which the other two could not have been. Here too many Christians have fallen short. – Kelly, W. Notes on the Epistle to the Hebrews.
  3. Another example is Peter’s confession. In Matt. 16:16, Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”. It was as a man on earth that the Sonship of Christ is confirmed. His Sonship did not cease to be, even in incarnation.
  4. His Person giving Him absolute supremacy. — Hocking, William John. The Son of His Love. Ch. 16
  5. Murray, John. Eternal Sonship. Princeton Theological Seminary.
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