The Person of Christ - 08 - The Eternal Sonship of Christ

Chapter 8 - The Eternal Sonship of Christ

In The Gospel of John

Norman Crawford

 

Around the beginning of this century there were those who professed to have “new light” regarding the Son-Father relationship in the Godhead. Though they insisted on the truth of the eternal existence of the Word and believed in equality in the Godhead, yet they denied that the Word eternally existed as Son; therefore, there could be no Eternal Son and no Eternal Father.

It would be wonderful to say that this false teaching died with F.E. Raven or James Taylor Sr., but such is not the case. The anonymous writers of “Open Forum” have widely circulated their magazine in the mid-seventies, attempting to revive these teachings. They teach a temporal Sonship and stress inferiority in that Sonship. They state that in becoming Man the Eternal Word gave up equality with God. This is serious error.

 

It will be helpful to state the question plainly. Is the Son of God, as Son, temporal or eternal? To fully understand the magnitude of the error we must state it another way. Is Christ essentially Son, or is it a temporary relationship for the redemption of ruined man? The problem is even greater than this, for if it concerns the existence of the Son, as Son, prior to Bethlehem, then it concerns the existence of the Father, as Father, before the incarnation. To deny an Eternal Son is to deny an Eternal Father (John 14:6-Il).

 

We are very thankful that no problem exists in the minds of most believers. We accept Trinitarian belief, understanding that in the Godhead there is perfect Unity and Equality, yet distinct Persons. It is much better not to refer to First. Second and Third Persons in the Trinity, but those who do so are not giving to the Father a place of superiority over the Son, but are speaking of the order of their revelation to man. There is no prescribed order in which the names appear in the New Testament.

 

The examination of the teaching of Eternal Sonship in the Gospel of John is more for our hearts than our heads. It is holy ground and we should tread it with unshod feet. The Apostle John settles the question for us in four ways.

 

THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE SON TO THE ETERNAL WORD

 

John 1:1 contains some of the highest truth in all the Divine Record. As we have often seen, Christ is (1) In His Being Eternal (2) In His person Distinct (3) In His nature He is Deity. The middle clause of this verse teaches two great truths: He Who became flesh (v.14) had His own distinct personality in the Godhead, and the Word was “with God” in eternal relationship. Verse 14 says that “The Word became flesh and tabernacled amongst us”. His glory was as “of an only begotten from (para, from beside) a father Now verse 18 makes the relationship of this Son to the Father identical to the relationship between God and the Word in v.1 He is “the One, being in the bosom of the Father”. To limit this to time we are denying the unity of the passage and the plain meaning of the present tense of the verb “to be” as it is used in Holy Scripture regarding Divine Persons (Phil. 2:6, Rev. 1:19). We believe the Father had a bosom before Bethlehem, and this verse describes a timeless, eternal and unbroken intimacy that was continued even in the days of His flesh.

 

THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE SON TO THE FATHER.

 

In this wondrous Gospel John speaks of the Son of God thirty-one times. Only the Lord Jesus is called “The Son of God” with the article and in the singular in all the pages of Scripture. This is an important point in dealing with the cults of our day.

 

There is not a statement in the Bible to support the thought that at any time the Lord Jesus became the Son of God. The “This day have I begotten Thee” statements of Psalm 2:7, Acts 13:33, Heb. 1:5 and Heb. 5:5 are linked to His official Glories and require His resurrection. Neither is there any place that suggests there was a time when God became the Father. God is unchanging and unchangeable in His essential Being, Nature and Character (Mal. 3:6). We are amazed to think anyone could suggest that the Father, Who has been lead forth into full revelation by the Son, was unknown to the Son as the Father before Bethlehem.

 

The preposition eis in John 1:18 implies more than the preposition en could convey. It means that He was not only in the bosom of the Father in essential union, but was able to respond fully to all the love of that intimate position. This love of the Father to the Son is a great theme of this Gospel (John 3:35, 5:20, 10:17, 15:10, 17:26). The protagonists of the temporal Sonship theory have tried to tell us that when the Lord Jesus said “As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you” this is limited to His Manhood. Such a theory is impossible to maintain in the face of the words “Father. Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world” (17:24

 

The “Oneness” passages in John are vital to our subject. The Son’s statement in John 10:30, “I and My Father are One” caused the Jews to take up stones to kill Him, for they said “Thou being a man, makest thyself God”. Again when He said, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (5:17), the “Jews sought the more to kill Him because He said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God”. The Jews’ belief in One God made this reasoning inescapable.

What does the Oneness involve? A careful reading of John 17:11, 21 and 22 make it clear that it is the Oneness of the Son with the Father in an essential Union always enjoyed by Each, nbroken and unbreakable. We find it impossible to accept this as a temporary relationship.

 

THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE SON TO THE SENDING INTO THE WORLD

 

If we can show that Christ was the Son prior to creation, or at creation, or at any time prior to Bethlehem then we have established His Sonship as Eternal. In many verses the Father is identified as the One Who sent the Son (John 3:16, 31-36, 4:34, 5:24, 30 etc). Coming to these verses without presuppositions and accepting them as they are written can only mean the Father and Son were together in Heaven and the Father sent the Son from His side. How else can John 16:28 be understood: I came forth from (ek, out of) the Father, and am come into the world; again, I leave the world and go to the Father”. It has been contended that “out of” here is origin and not relationship. However, the words that precede this statement settle that question very simply, “I came forth from (para, from beside) God” (v.27).

 

If the Lord Jesus is the Son only from Bethlehem, then the sending as the Son must have taken place after His birth. This is a problem that is insurmountable. If Christ is not the

Eternal Son then at what point in His life was He sent? Therefore, we believe His sending was before His birth and He is eternal in His Sonship.

 

We should look at one more verse before leaving this section. John 10:36 contains all the truth we have been examining. In it the Lord Jesus is called the Son of God and God is called the Father. There are two acts of the Father described and the order is most important. First He sanctified (consecrated or set apart) the Son, secondly He sent Him into the world. The plain sense is that it was as the Son He was sanctified and as the Son He was sent, and this is prior to His coming into the world. The Lord Jesus was the Son of God prior to Bethlehem.

 

THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE SON TO ETERNITY

 

There is a clear ringing note that sounds throughout the Gospel of John. The Lord Jesus is the Son of God. In conscious awareness of His Sonship He moves through the pages of this Gospel of Belief. The dignity of His eternal relationship to the Father is seen in His seven sign miracles, in His discourses and debates and even in the shame and dishonour that men heaped upon Him. In regal majesty He wore the thorns and went forth bearing His cross in all the dignity of His glory as the Son. John tells us that He was subject to the Father’s will but never that He was inferior. Subjection was voluntary and in Him did not involve inferiority. (John 5:19-27).]

 

Though the Father sent the Son, yet the Son came as an act of His own will and in love laid down His life for His own (15:13-14, 10:17-18). There are two wondrous facts in this that reach back into eternity (1) He received a commandment to lay down His life (2) He had authority to do so. If we deny this then we are saying He came into the world without a declared purpose, and the plan of God for redemption did not involve Him until some time after His birth.

 

We believe the Scripture plainly tells of the Son with the Father, at His side, ever loved, ever delighting His Father’s heart, ever responding to the intimate love of the Father’s bosom, the unique Son (only-begotten) none to compare with Him. It is this to which our hearts have responded: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son”.

 

“The Father gives His only Son

The Lord of Glory dies,

For us the guilty and undone,

A spotless sacrifice”