Saturday, August 26, 2017

Eternal Sonship

A few months ago I was speaking on John 1 in the assembly, and spent a few minutes discussing Eternal Sonship. I've heard several comments on the Lord's Sonship in the meetings, many of which are nonsense. I thought it might be helpful for some of the younger folks in the assembly to lay out what Scripture actually says.

This is one of those topics where we have to be very cautious. When we talk about the Person of the Son, we need to understand from the outset that our very best understanding falls short. There's a hymn in the Little Flock that says:

The Father only Thy blest name
Of Son can comprehend.
There's a lot of truth in that statement, and we do well to approach this sort of thing fearfully. Better men than I have run aground here...

The Lord Jesus has several titles that infer sonship:

  • Son (John 5:19–23)
  • Son of God (John 5:25)
  • Son of Man (John 5:27)
  • Son of David (Matthew 1:1)
  • Son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1)
  • Son of His love (Colossians 1:13)
There are others, but this list serves for our purposes.

We understand that an eternal Person can have a non-eternal title. We'd look askance at someone who called Christ "the eternal Son of David." The Person is eternal, the relationship is not. Christ was Son when there was no David. He was Son when there was no Abraham, and He was Son when there was no man.

The question of Eternal Sonship revolves around exactly this question: we agree that Christ is eternal and uncreated: He is God blessed forever (Romans 9:5). But the question remains, is the Father-Son relationship in the Godhead eternal?

Let's pause to be sure we're very clear about this. I've heard preachers talk about Eternal Sonship who seemed to think the question is whether Christ is eternal. Nothing could be farther from the truth! C. A. Coates denied Eternal Sonship, but did not question Christ's essential and eternal Deity:

In reply to your letter I may say, in the first place, that the question raised in regard to the expression "the eternal Son", as applied to our Lord, is not at all a question as to His Deity, or His eternal personality. The dear brethren are all, thank God, perfectly clear as to these great and vital matters of revelation and of faith. The Son was eternally God (John 1:1), and subsisted in the form of God (Philippians 2:6); before Abraham was He was "I am", John 8:58. Whatever inscrutable blessedness and glory and power belongs to the Godhead belongs in the fullest and most absolute way to Christ; He is "over all, God blessed for ever", Romans 9:5.

(Letters of C. A. Coates, pp. 191–195)

Having made that clear, let's consider the Father-Son relationship in the Godhead: There are at least three times where Scripture takes us back into past eternity and names the Father and the Son: John 5, John 17, and Hebrews 1. There may well be others. These three passages convince me of Christ's eternal Sonship. The Lord clearly speaks of His relationship with the Father as Father before the world began.

That being said, C. A. Coates is correct that scripture doesn't use the title "Eternal Son." We try to be very careful to use the words of Scripture, especially with regard to Christ – we should be careful about using a title Scripture doesn't use. We don't want to make a person an offender for a word, but we realize it's extremely easy to fall into error when we touch the Person of Christ.

If we examine what Scripture says about the Father-Son relationship in eternity, we find it consistently uses the title "Son" to refer to Christ. I know a lot of "brethren" who believe that the title "Son of God" is eternal, but I can find no evidence of that in Scripture.

I admit when I hear someone talk about "the Eternal Son of God" I wince a little. As far as I have been able to find, scripture talks about "the Son" in eternity past, it doesn't talk about "the Son of God" in that context. And yes, I have said "the Eternal Son of God" many times.

Scripture connects the title "Son of God" with national Israel (John 1:49), while it connects "Son of Man" with the Gentiles (Daniel 7:13–14). I don't see in Scripture that either title is eternal.

Yes, I do believe in eternal Sonship. No, I don't believe the eternal title is "Son of God".

52 comments:

Robert said...

'As far as I have been able to find, scripture talks about "the Son" in eternity past, it doesn't talk about "the Son of God" in that context.'

Mark - this could well be a long discussion ! As a starting point, could you explain in your statement above who He would be the Son of in eternity past?

''And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosever shalll confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in Him and he in God' 1 John 4:14,15

Susan said...

Good question, Robert.






HandWrittenWord said...

Not for argument, but simply for consideration in the discussion:

And without controversy great is the mystery of Godliness: God was manifest in the flesh. justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
(1 Timothy 3:16)

And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, "Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death."
(Revelation 1:17-18)

Beware lest any man spoil you you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
(Colossians 2:8-9)

HandWrittenWord said...

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son in given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6)

God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,
has in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high,
having become so much better than the angels as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
(Hebrews 1:1-4, alluded to by Mark in the text of his blog)

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
For who has known the mind of the LORD?
Or who has become His counselor?
Or who has first given to Him
and it shall be repaid to him?
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things,
to whom be glory forever. Amen.
(Romans 11:33-36)

Anonymous said...

The Father sent the Son.... the Son of God.

Scripture makes the connection.

Sadly, "CAC" only developed the heresy "FAR"ther

Son of God speaks of co-equal essence. Cf John 10:36. He was, is and always will be Son of God. The Son of God became a man (withou sin). The true and real confession of the Son of God is the test of being truly christian.

Anonymous said...

"More recently the so-called Raven meetings have been divided over the teaching of an American leader who denied the truth of the Eternal Sonship of Christ. This most serious error caused many to take a definite stand against it and led to another separation. But sadly enough by far the greater majority saw nothing wrong in such views and have gone on with the promulgator of them. This puts these meetings entirely off the ground of the early Brethren who considered a true confession of Christ the very first consideration"

HA Ironside. Historic sketch of the brethren movement..

Anonymous said...

But hey I am only, like old Harry, one of the brethren with a lower case b.

Predujices aside, I havent judged the "Bethesda question".... Too long ago, facts not directly accessible to me.

But I hope, for Christ's sake, that no faked unity, should I say uniformity, will deal with this Scripturally.

Direct complicity with CAC is heresy.

Susan said...

Very good Anonymous. I've been looking into the Raven, Taylor, Coats error on this subject.


"It is very important to consider the glory of Jesus as Son of God before His incarnation; for we could not speak of the love of God as we do, if the One He gave us was not His Son. (Collected Writings of J. N. Darby 28:3.)

Anonymous said...

I sincerely hope that some form of clarification and/or retraction will be met with the same abundant grace we sinners have received.

Gerdus said...

I failed to comment using accounts, so was forced to comment anon.

I comment from South Africa.

I have been reading this blog for more than 5 years and have read every post retrospectively since inception.

I have shared some posts with others many times, but sadly the CAC line of thought is just totally taboo for me.

I cannot commend those thoughts.

Have to be consistent too and have a just scale, cannot warn against joyce meyer, osteen etc when they heretically state He became the Son/ceased being the Son and now pull a blind eye on my favourite blog.

clumsy ox said...

Hi Gerdus,

I'm sorry I wasn't very clear in my post. I don't commend C. A. Coates' view on Sonship. I absolutely believe Christ is eternally Son.

The quote by C.A.C. is to clarify his position: he differentiated between eternal Sonship and eternal existence. I have come to realize many "brethren" don't understand the distinction. As a result, they are leading the younger ones down a dangerous path: they will eventually meet someone who holds Coates' view and have no defense against it.

Since I did not make myself clear above, let me clarify here: C. A. Coates was wrong on eternal Sonship. Christ is absolutely eternal Son. C. A. Coates was correct in understanding Christ is God over all, blessed forever. He was correct in understanding that Christ has no beginning nor end. But he was wrong to say Christ became Son. Christ is eternally Son.

I appreciate your patience.

Gerdus said...

Hi Mark,

Appreciate your response.

The CAC view seems similar to the Macarthur view (now recanted).

I understand and appreciate the fact that you try and limit your vocabulary to the words of Scripture.

The late S Lewis Johnson's comment is perhaps applicable in this regard:

We should read the Bible carefully, grammatically, historically, but we ought to pay attention to what it says, the concepts that it is communicating. And here it’s important to be precise, but also to notice the implication and inferences that one reasonably draws from it. “I and my Father are one.” The Athanation creed put it, “We worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity, neither confounding the persons or diving the substance.”

The implication and inferences are that the Son is the Son of God. He cannot be the Son of Another.

But even more than that,without inferences, Hebrews 7:3 seems hard to get around.

Referring to Melchizedek, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, but made like the Son of God...

For me this states, without inferences, that Christ was the Son of God at that time already, even from eternity.

So, "Son of God" is an eternal title.

Hope the comment makes sense..thanks for considering the comments.

Gerdus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert said...

Mark I repeat my question, if you believe He is eternally Son but do not believe He is the eternal Son of God, whose Son is He?
Matthew 16: 15 “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am’? (the title was used when speaking to Jewish disciples - it Is not true to say that it is only linked to Gentiles). Peter’s reply came through divine revelation: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’.
If we could go back in time and ask Peter, ‘when you made that statement did you mean that God is living from the time of the birth of the Son of man, or did you mean the God who lives eternally’, what answer would we expect Peter to give?
It is also not true that the title Son of God is only linked with Israel nationally. The significance of Nathaniel’s confession is against the background of Jewish denial of the title Son of God to Christ. When He was tried before the religious court, the accusation was: He made Himself the Son of God. When brought before the civil count, the accusation was made: He said he is the King of the Jews. In both courts he was condemned as an imposter. Nathaniel in John 1 is a picture of Israel in a future day (Israelites without guile) who will confess that Christ is the Son of God and the King of Israel, thereby reversing the verdict of the two courts.
Why were the Jews so vehemently against the use of the title Son of God? If He only claimed to be the Son of God from His birth onwards, intelligent Jews would have dismissed Him out of hand. The full explanation of the Jewish objection to His use of the title Son of God is brought out in John 10:28-37
'And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish; neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, for a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him'.

Their objection to the title was – ‘thou being a man makest thyself God’. I ask the same question as before, did those Jews believe in an eternal God? When Christ said, ‘I am the Son of God’, was He claiming the title from His birth or from eternity?

The statement of Gerdus: ‘The implication and inferences are that the Son is the Son of God. He cannot be the Son of Another’ needs to be pondered and accepted by us all. For ‘God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son’. The life was manifested when Christ came to earth but eternal life was in the Son of God.

1 John 5:10-13 ‘He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God’.

Anonymous said...

This is another anonymous ... CG from UK.

Part of the difficulty in this conversation (on what is also my favourite blog!) is in the dangers involved in doing theology by concordance. The absence of a word isn't the absence of a thing, e.g. the word 'trinity.' The danger of the approach we're discussing is that (in the OT) it proposes a Father without a Son, and a Son without a Father. Or am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

Me again ... CG from UK.

We might also be in danger of confusing ourselves by the habit of using titles of the incarnate Son of God (e.g. 'Christ') to describe the second person of the Godhead in the period before the incarnation. This is very rarely done in Scripture, for good reason. So (with respect, Mark!) I'd hesitate to say 'Christ was Son when there was no David ... Christ is eternal and uncreated'. I'd prefer to say that the Son is eternal and uncreated. The Son becomes flesh, and the divine and human nature are joined together, 'without conversion, composition or confusion,' in the person of Jesus Christ, the incarnate mediator.





Anonymous said...

CG from UK ...

These are the only occasions I can think of when a NT writer refers to the Son before the incarnation by a title of the incarnate mediator:

Jesus (ESV) / Lord (JND) - Jude 5
Christ - Heb 11:26

Help me if I am missing some others!

clumsy ox said...

I promise I will do my best to address all the comments eventually, but I'm a really slow thinker, and can't keep up with the pace of the comment thread here!

Susan quoted from Darby's comments on Hebrews 1:5. Here's the paragraph in full, with my emphasis in bold:


Verse 5. "Thou art my Son: to-day have I begotten thee." Scripture speaks of Jesus as Son in two different aspects: as Son of God, born in the world, and Son according to the eternal relationship. This verse refers to the first of these: Jesus is seen here not in His glory as essentially divine, but in His glory as born Son. Nevertheless it is very important to consider the glory of Jesus as Son of God before His incarnation; for we could not speak of the love of God as we do, if the One He gave us was not His Son. (JND, Collected Writings, Volume 28, p. 3; http://stempublishing.com/authors/darby/EXPOSIT/28001E.html#a1)


Really, that's all I was trying to say in my (too long) post. (Thanks, Susan!)

Here's my point in bringing this up: I have remembered the Lord with many brethren who are very afraid of falling into the errors of Eternal Sonship that CAC et al fell into. When we fixate too much on one error, we easily fall into another. Scripture speaks of Christ as "Son", as "Son of God", as "Son of Man", etc. If, when we read "Son" we add "of God" in our minds, then we're effectively skipping over that title.

In John 5, Christ speaks of Himself as "Son", "Son of God", and "Son of Man". He distinguishes those titles very carefully. For example, in John 5 the Son of God gives life by calling the dead out of the tomb. In John 6 the Son of Man gives life by offering His body as food and His blood as drink.

We understand that it is the same Eternal Person, but we also see that Scripture distinguishes these titles. The JND quote above brings this out: "Scripture speaks of Jesus as Son in two different aspects". We ought to be careful not to ignore one side of the truth because of our zeal for the other.

Perhaps I just should have posted that quote by JND on Hebrews 1:5. It says all I was trying to say, but much more succinctly.

Rodger Goertzen said...

A good point.

HandWrittenWord said...

From the comment above by "Anonymous -- CG from UK":


Part of the difficulty in this conversation (on what is also my favourite blog!) is in the dangers involved in doing theology by concordance. The absence of a word isn't the absence of a thing, e.g. the word 'trinity.'


Very well said. Sir! (If you are a woman, then "Very well said, Ma'am!")

I also count myself among those for whom Mark's blog is the favourite.

clumsy ox said...

I agree your wording is better than mine.

I agree, too, that I'm a bit fanatical about "concordance-based theology". It's likely a result of some painful experiences, but here I am talking about being so afraid of one error that we fall into another... and I'm reacting in the very same way!

Robert said...

Mark

You quote in support of your post the words of JND: Verse 5. "Thou art my Son: to-day have I begotten thee." Scripture speaks of Jesus as Son in two different aspects: as Son of God, born in the world, and Son according to the eternal relationship."

Can I just point out that nowhere in Hebrews 1 is the title Son of God used! I submit that no distinction between Son and Son of God can be made in that chapter. And I don't regard myself as falling into error by saying that!

Anonymous said...

Folks, I think that if our concern is only to use Bible language as it is used in the Bible, we can't suspect each other of serious error. So, Mark/JND observes that "Son of God" is only used in the NT to refer to the incarnate Son; and this while clearly affirming that the one who became incarnate was Son from eternity. I haven't done the spadework to know whether "Son of God" does only refer to the incarnate Son in each of its NT usages; but if that is the case, then there is no harm in pointing that out, when it is clear that the context of making that observation is a conviction that the second person of the Godhead (we won't find that expression in Scripture!) - that is, God the Son (we won't find that either!) - is Son from eternity to his Father from eternity.

Yet even if the NT only uses 'Son of God' to refer to the incarnate mediator, Jesus Christ, JND is not wrong to encourage us to 'consider the glory of Jesus as Son of God before His incarnation'.

As always, Mark pushes us to read the Bible more carefully than we do - or at least, I do!

CG in UK

Susan said...

Christ is and always has been the Son of God. Son of God is more than a title -It is who Christ is - an essential part of His Person

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.” Hebrews 13:18


clumsy ox said...

Robert,

That's a good point. Both titles do appear in John 5... do you see a distinction between "Son of God" and "Son" in John 5?

Do you consider "Son of God" to be a title used differently in different contexts? or do think Darby's quote is entirely wrong?

Not looking for a fight, asking an honest question.

-mark

Robert said...

Mark

Can I put my full answer on hold until tomorrow? Our different time zones mean it is 00.40 here and I have an early start for work.

In brief, I believe that Susan is correct to point out that Son and Son of God are not titles but names. I believe Darby was correct in pointing out that Psalm 2 indicates a new phase in the experience of the Father and the Son. The Son had never lived on earth before His birth. What must it have meant to His Father to look on His Son in the arm and of Mary!? I don't believe Darby was warranted in making a distinction between Son of God and Son in Hebrews 1 - maybe Coates developed this thought!

Yes, in John 5 I see only a distinction in emphasis and context which I will explain tomorrow, God willing. In the meantime, I much prefer Kelly's explanation of Hebrews 1:

"The first scripture quoted is from Psalm 2:7: "My Son art thou: - I this day have begotten thee." Never was such a word addressed to an angel. It applies only to Christ. But how? The apostle John loves to expatiate on His eternal Sonship. Again, elsewhere in the epistles of Paul He is often shown as Son of God in resurrection (Rom. 1:4, Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:18), as of course also when He returns from heaven (1 Thess. 1:10). How is He regarded here? As Son of God born in time: so we see Him in Luke 1:32 and yet more definitely in verse 35. The assumption of flesh in no way lowered His Sonship: Son of God eternally, He was still and no less Son of God when born of the Virgin, as He is in resurrection and evermore in glory; He only, and in virtue of divine right acknowledged of God, and to Jesus solely by the word magnified above all Jehovah's name."

clumsy ox said...

Robert,

I'm the last person to be getting upset about waiting for an answer. I've been quite slow to respond on this thread: partly because I need time to think things through, partly because I need to be commenting in a spirit of self-judgment and true repentance, which doesn't lead to hasty replies! And partly because here in Seattle it's just now 5:00 PM. Today's been a working day for me, despite the constant distraction of a flurry of emails in my inbox.

But since the workday is now done, I'd like to make a few comments:


Everyone (including Robert),

Please understand that I'm not looking for a fight. I am genuinely willing to be proven wrong. However (and this is big), if I just give in to avoid a fight, there won't be real conviction there. I was wrong to refer to Christ as "the Man from Heaven" a few months back, and it was comments on the blog that convinced me. I'm entirely willing to be proven wrong again.

I've lost count of the times I've been wrong.

I have in the past given in to avoid a fight, and the only long-term effect is a position held out of pure dogma, with no real conviction. Almost invariably I have ended up reverting to my original position.


I've had a huge flurry of email today about this post, people are reading this who aren't commenting, and some agree with me. Others do not. One person sent me a huge email that's really more of an essay with a signature: it's really good, and I'm thinking it over. It has almost convinced me I'm wrong. The gist of the essay (I greatly oversimplify here) is that just as the Father sent the Son into the world, so God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin. That's a really good point.


Someone else sent me excerpts from James McBroom's article: http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/mcbroom/Beauty_of_the_Lord.html He carefully distinguishes between "Son of God" and "Son", but also points out (in another paper: http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/mcbroom/Incarnation_of_the_Son.html) that Hebrews 7:1-3 is really evidence that "Son of God" is an eternal title. I find that argument compelling as well.


I see Gerdus mentioned Hebrews 7:1–3 earlier, and I somehow managed to miss it. Sorry, Gerdus. I do find that a very compelling point.


Another good point brought up by email (I hope I'm not misrepresenting) is that "Son of God" is used in more than one sense in Scripture. There's the sense JND was talking about in his commentary in Hebrews (the Son of God born in the world), but there's another sense – also in Scripture – where "Son of God" really reaches back into eternity.

I think this is the point that I most want to see addressed. Is JND actually wrong in the paragraph I copied earlier? – it's entirely possible he is – or is there more than one sense in which "Son of God" is used? Perhaps Hebrews 7:1–3 uses "Son of God" in a way that John 1 or John 5 does not?


To answer Robert's first question, when Scripture refers to "the Son" as such, I am entirely reluctant to add "of" to that. When Scripture refers to Him as "Son" with no "of", we shouldn't try and add an "of" there. I'm not sure I'm making my point very clearly...


Finally, I appreciate everyone's patience with the comments. And your prayers too, of course.

-mark

Joshua said...

Dear bro Mark,
I have been edified by many of your posts, but this post I find it to be plainly wrong.

I think you have misunderstood the JND quote. In the JND quote, the differentiation is not between the name Son of God & Son, but between the spheres ‘ in the world ’ & ‘eternal’. And JND is very right in his distinction.

The distinction you have made is not something new. In fact this was one first deviations that FER brought out which later resulted in the full blown denial of Our Lord’s Eternal Sonship by JT & his associates.

FER wrote in 1895,

“Now, “Son of God” I understand to be the title of Christ incarnate; I should hardly use “Son of God” as referring to His eternal Person, for which “the Son” is usually employed . . .”
(Ministry by F. E. Raven, New Series 1:52, 1970 ed. ).
http://www.mcclean.me.uk/mse/fer/fer1.htm#46

William Kelly denouncing this devious distinction wrote,
“The alleged difference between “the Son” and “the Son of God” is rash and wrong, being even refuted by the text itself. That “Son of God” is (in Ps. 2 and elsewhere as John 1:49, as well as Luke 1:35) said of Christ as the King of Israel is true; yet the generalization made in page 109 is a dangerous falsehood, as is made certain by such texts as 1 John 3:8, 4:10, 11, 5:5, 9, 10, 20. But if one desire a single distinct disproof of its folly, one could not have a more decisive one than 1 John 5:12: “He that hath the SON hath life; he that hath not the SON OF GOD hath not life.” In this case the emphasis is rather the opposite way, as every spiritual mind must feel”
(W.Kelly, FER Heterodox on Life Eternal p.36)
http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/kelly/7subjcts/lifetern.html

Joshua.

Gerdus said...

May I draw the attention of you all to something really wonderful. In all these comments and reactions, of Robert, Susan, HWW, CG in the UK, Joshua (great comments from all) - there has been a spontaneous display of some form of unity.

Consider that we are different in countries, different time zones,and yet everyone agreed on this most essential point, by the work of the Spirit.

Most, I assume have never met in person, yet the comments make it appear that we all sat in the same class, and we did, because we have the same Teacher.

And the comments and interactions also complement each other, like a hand supporting a finger.

I think it is wonderful and ultimately surpasses human initiative.

Gerdus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert said...

Mark
For me, as William Kelly remarked in his comments on Hebrews 1, the champion of the truth of eternal Sonship is the apostle John. A reading of 1 John 5 brings me to that conclusion. One quotation will serve as an example of John’s view:

“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

To answer your question on John 5, I need to remark on John’s gospel as a whole. The gospel commences and ends with a testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ:

Testimony of John the baptist: ‘And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God’. John 1:34

Testimony of John the apostle: ‘But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name’. John 20:31

I submit to you that the name Son of God is used when public testimony is in view, and is emphasised when the testimony is doubted, denied or rejected.

However, the gospel also begins and ends with two statements about the relationship of the Father and the Son:

“No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” John 1:18

“Jesus said unto her, touch me not ; for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father , and your Father, and to my God , and your God. John 20:17

These are statements of relationship and intimacy. The Father and the Son make it known in John’s gospel that men and women of Adam’s race can become children of God! And on becoming members of the Father’s family, they are able to appreciate family secrets that the world cannot understand.

Therefore, it is my belief, that the distinction John makes between the Son of God and the Son has not to do with the eternity of the Person of Christ but has to do with the context of who is being addressed. Where the public testimony is being doubted or denied, invariably the audience are reminded they are dealing with the Son of God. Where believers are being addressed, they are brought into the nearness of the relationship between the Son and the Father and so the name Son is used. If you take a concordance and look at the references to Son of God and Son in John’s gospel, you will notice immediately that there is no mention made of the Son of God from chapter 13 to 17. That is because the world is excluded from the Lord’s teaching.

To support my contention that Son of God is used whenever the public testimony is doubted or denied, I would refer to: John 1:49; John 3:17,18; John 5:25; John 6:69; John 9:35; John 10:36; John 11:4

I come to the distinction made between, Son, Son of God and Son of man in John chapter 5. From verse 19-25, after the Jews objected to His claim that He is equal with God, He speaks to them about the relationship between the Father and the Son. The appeal is made: ‘all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.’ However when He begins to speak about the future resurrection of the dead, He speaks about himself as the Son in v.21 and as the Son of God in v. 25. I submit that v.21 refers to the resurrection of believers and v. 25 anticipates that there will be those among the dead have rejected Him, those who died in unbelief and so He speaks of himself as the Son of God. This usage of divine names by John is not unique to chapter 5. The same thought is found in John 3:17,18 and, as Jacob has pointed out, in 1 John 5:11-13.

The use of Son of man in John 5: 27 emphasises the fairness of future judgement. Men could object that the Father or the Son can have no understanding of life on earth but judgement is given to the Son of man who was born into the world, who grew up in it, who was thirsty, hungry and wept in it and was ‘in all points tempted like as we are yet apart from sin’.

Susan said...

Excellent response Robert! Thank you.
Robert's question from the very beginning of this discussion - "Whose Son is He?" was also asked by Christ Himself: "What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?" (Matthew 22:42)

In Matthew 16:16 Peter answered the Lord's question in Matthew 16:15, "But whom say ye that I am?" Peter confesses, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."

HandWrittenWord said...

From the comments of Gerdus above:

"Most, I assume have never met in person, yet the comments make it appear that we all sat in the same class, and we did, because we have the same Teacher.
And the comments and interactions also complement each other, like a hand supporting a finger.
I think it is wonderful and ultimately surpasses human initiative."

I also think it wonderful. And if human initiative is not surpassed, then all we accomplish here is a spinning of words out of the natural mind which "receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God..." (see 2 Corinthians 2:14).

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)

In this the surpassing of human initiative occurs.


But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
And the fruits of righteousness are sown in peace of them that make peace.
(James 3:17-18)

Let us consider the words of Him who is the Son of God, the very Word of God incarnate:

It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:63)


As Robert aptly quoted above:

“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

And the very next verse, with which John concludes his magnificent epistle:

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
(1 John 5:21)

Susan said...

AMEN AND AMEN, HWW (Sir or is it Ma'am? just wondering if I'm the only female)!!!

Thank you Mark for this place of genuine Christian fellowship!

HandWrittenWord said...

Susan -

I certainly concur in your gratitude to Mark

And it's "Sir" in this case, so you may be the only female! But, speaking for myself, you are totally welcome and bring refreshing insights.

Susan said...

Thank you kind Sir! I was very concerned about that and that's why in the beginning I was just "S".....

HandWrittenWord said...

In my remark above --

...the natural mind which "receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God..." (see 2 Corinthians 2:14)...

Obviously I meant 1st Corinthians 2:14. Interestingly enough, 2nd Corinthians 2:14 reads:

Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place. (2 Corinthians 2:14)

That also describes a surpassing of human initiative!

Robert said...

I did not realise that Blog has a character limit. To follow up my post yesterday, I thought it would be useful to balance what I have pointed out in John's gospel. When the name Son is used it denotes intimacy and relationship. When Son of God is used it denotes testimony and authority. To balance out, I am going to post quotations from Mathew, Mark and Luke. I may have to separate it into three pots, so please bear with me. I trust you will see that what I am saying is borne out in the quotations.

Robert said...

Matthew 2:15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

Matthew 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Matthew 4:3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

Matthew 8:29 And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?

Matthew 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Matthew 27:40 And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

Matthew 27:43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.

Matthew 27:54 Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.

Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

Robert said...

Mark 1:11 And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Mark 3:11 And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God.

Mark 5:7 And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.

Mark 9:7 And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.

Mark 12:6 Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my Son.

Mark 14:61 But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?

Mark 15:39 And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.

Robert said...

Luke 8:28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not.

Luke 9:35 And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.

Luke 10:22 All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.

Luke 22:70 Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am.

Robert said...

Pauls epistles:

Romans 1:4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

Romans 1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;

Romans 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

Romans 8:19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

1 Corinthians 1:9God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

2 Corinthians 1:19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea.

Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Galatians 4:4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

Galatians 4:6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

Galatians 4:7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Ephesians 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

Hebrews 1:8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

Hebrews 6:6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

Hebrews 7:3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.

Hebrews 10:29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

Susan said...

Very insightful!

Robert said...

The writings of John:

1 John 1:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
1 John 2:22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.

1 John 2:23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.

1 John 2:24 Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.

1 John 3:1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

1 John 3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.

1 John 4:9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

1 John 4:10 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 4:14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.

1 John 4:15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

1 John 5:5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

1 John 5:9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.

1 John 5:10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.

1 John 5:11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

1 John 5:12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

1 John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

1 John 5:20 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.

2 John 1:3 Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

2 John 1:9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
Revelation 1:13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

Revelation 2:18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;

Revelation 5:9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

Robert said...

Apologies for one or two that are not relevant to the discussion in the list of John's writings.

clumsy ox said...

John 1 introduces the Word: He was “with God” (He is a distinct Person), and He was “God”. In the first couple verses of John 1, it’s not “Father”, but “God”. We understand that Christ is eternally God and eternally with God.

John 5, John 17, and Hebrews 1 all describe the Father/Son relationship in eternity past using the names “Father” and “Son”. We understand that Christ is eternally Son.

Scripture repeatedly refers to Christ as “Son of God”. Here’s where things get complicated… Scripture uses “Son of God” to refer to the Son’s eternal nature (Hebrews 7:1–3). It uses “Son of God” to refer to the Father/Son relationship that exists from eternity past (1 John 4:9). We don’t believe the Son ever became the Son of God.

But Scripture doesn’t use “Son” and “Son of God” interchangeably. “Son” carries the idea of eternal relationship in the Godhead, where “Son of God” carries the idea of testimony to the creation. Christ is referred to as both “only-begotten Son” (John 1:18) and “only-begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). Interestingly, the “only-begotten Son” is in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18), while the “only-begotten Son of God” was sent into the world (1 John 4:9).

I can only find the name “Son of the Father” once in Scripture, in 2 John 3.

Gerdus sent me this quote by H. A. Ironside:
"But there are definite Scriptures that make it very evident that He was God the Son, one with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, three Persons in the unity of the Godhead, ere He stooped in grace to link humanity with His Deity and thus became the Son of God in a new sense, as Man upon earth, having no human father"
http://www.plymouthbrethren.org/article/10136

Notice H. A. I. talks about His becoming “the Son of God in a new sense”. I’d be careful saying something like that…

There are a few other points worth considering:
1. There is a tendency to use “Father” and “God” interchangeably. There is some basis for this (John 8:54), but I’d be curious to know if people have a problem with using “Father” in Matthew 27:46 ("My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”)

2. “Son of…” carries the implication that there are other possible fathers. “Son of Robert” implies it’s possible to be the son of someone else. When Scripture refers to the Son as “Son of God”, there is an implicit assertion that His Father is God, in contrast to other fathers. Notice H. A. I.’s quotation above, pointing out that “Son of God” implies no human father.

3. Notice I’m not here saying Christ is not eternally Son of God. I’m saying Scripture doesn’t refer to Him as Son of God when it contemplates eternity past. If someone has a verse, I’d love to see it.

4. Someone pointed out that “God sent His Son” in Romans 8:3, which implies the Son is Son of God before incarnation. This is an excellent point, but Galatians 4:4 asserts positively this was done “in the fulness of time”, not in eternity. Still, it destroys the idea that “Son of God” is a title given in incarnation.

5. I’ve been wanting someone (besides H. A. I. above) to mention that “Son of God” is used to mean both nature and relationship. I’m not a huge fan of Ironside’s wording, but it does get to the point I’ve been trying to make since the original post.

I’ll say explicitly here that my original post has some really bad wording, which is almost certainly because I was being extremely careless in my thinking. I’ve decided to leave it as-is to make sense of the comment thread, but I’ll be happy to edit if people think that would be better. Honestly, I’m sure I’ve said that the Son became the Son of God. What I meant was pretty much what H. A. I. said in the quote above, but after some of the conversations over the last week... I wouldn’t say that now.

-mark

HandWrittenWord said...

Mark said:

"...I’d be curious to know if people have a problem with using “Father” in Matthew 27:46 ("My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”)

Consider:

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
(Hebrews 2:9-10)


I would suggest, at least at the moment of His cry, "My God, My God...", as a significant component of His "tasting death for every man", that He, at that very moment, lost conscious awareness of His continual communion with the Father, and thus did not address Him (the Father) as such.

Ironically, for those present at the time with ears to hear, He quoted the first verse of Psalm 22, which prophesies both the suffering and triumphant Messiah. As part of the triumphant element, Psalm 22.22 is quoted in verse 12 of Hebrews 2:

I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church ("congregation" in Psalm 22) will I sing praise unto Thee. (Hebrews 2:12)


Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing Him to be the gardener, saith unto Him, Sir, if thou have borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away.
Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself and saith unto Him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and unto my God and your God.
(John 20:15-17)


Susan said...

It's been very quiet here.......

Gerdus said...

Hi Mark,

Thank you for the clarification and the willingness to rethink some points.

For me you have adressed the most essential point, namely that the Son did not become the Son of God at some point (and the points ito full deity and the eternal relations within the Godhead that flow out of this).

I respect your humility in rethinking through the issues.

We all cannot the comprehend the fullness and wonder of the Lord Jesus. Not to excuse essential things, but to always bow the knee in dependence, so as to learn and worship with a sense of awe and humility.

It is perhaps best to leave the post and comments so that the context can be understood, but to add a one liner disclaimer for clarification at the top of the original post. Just for consideration.

Take care brother, and thanks again.

Gerdus said...

Hi Mark,

Thank you for the clarification and the willingness to rethink some points.

For me you have adressed the most essential point, namely that the Son did not become the Son of God at some point (and the points ito full deity and the eternal relations within the Godhead that flow out of this).

I respect your humility in rethinking through the issues.

We all cannot the comprehend the fullness and wonder of the Lord Jesus. Not to excuse essential things, but to always bow the knee in dependence, so as to learn and worship with a sense of awe and humility.

It is perhaps best to leave the post and comments so that the context can be understood, but to add a one liner disclaimer for clarification at the top of the original post. Just for consideration.

Take care brother, and thanks again.

Susan said...

We grow spiritually in wisdom, knowledge, understanding and discernment by maturing as a Believer through time (gradually, not all at once) in the Scriptures.

HandWrittenWord said...

Well said, Susan.

Gerdus said, "We all cannot comprehend the fullness and wonder of the Lord Jesus."
Indeed! None of us can in this life.

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.
But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him,
not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:7-14)