Saturday, August 26, 2017

Eternal Sonship

I should have been a lot more careful with me wording on this post. To be honest, my wording was largely because I wasn't very careful in my thinking. Let me just make this disclaimer: Jesus Christ did not become the Son of God. I've kept the post as-is (excepting this paragraph) so the comments make sense.

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".

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Self-Improvement a Snare

A buddy of mine told me to read "Self-Improvement a Snare" by J. B. Stoney (New Ministry, Vol. 8, pp. 397–402). I did, and I'm passing it on.

Thus the question is, not as to whether you are improved or not, but whether you are in Adam or in Christ; if in Christ you can say, I have "crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts", (Galatians 5:24) and you not only know that He lives in you, and that thus you are governed by a new Person, but as you behold His glory - the very beginning of the gospel - you are transformed into His image, and you are the expression of Him here, whether in your individual circumstances, or in the circle of His interests. (p. 401)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Image of God

There is a connection between Exodus 20:4–5 and Colossians 1:15. The children of Israel were commanded to have no images to worship. An image eventually becomes an idol. Indeed, when God specifically commanded Moses to make an image (Numbers 21:8–9), it became an idol to them (2 Kings 18:4).

But God has specifically given us one Image to worship: Christ, who is the image of the invisible God.

In fact, when we consider John 3:14, we learn that the brass serpent was actually a type of the Son of Man lifted up. The children of Israel were committing idolatry when they worshiped the serpent that was lifted up for them, but God Himself invites us to worship the Son of Man who was lifted up for us. It is explicitly the Father's will that we should honor the Son as we honor the Father (John 5:23).

Isn't that cool? God knows we have a tendency to worship images, and He has given us an image to worship.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Complete Man

And Joseph died, a hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him; and he was put in a coffin in Egypt (Genesis 50:26)
Jesus therefore, when he saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled, and said, Where have ye put him? (John 11:33–34)

I was struck by the wording of Genesis 50, that when Joseph died they put him in a coffin. Were I to have written Genesis 50, I likely would have said they put his body in a coffin. But the Word of God doesn't say that.

In John 11, when the Lord Jesus came to Bethany after the death of Lazarus, He asked, "Where have ye put him?" Again, we might expect He would ask, "Where have you put his body?" but that's not at all what He asked. He asked, "Where have you put him?"

It is unfortunate, but it is nevertheless true that we frequently allow one truth to block our view of another. It is true that the Epistles (especially Paul's epistles) call us to walk in new creation. But it is no less true that God has created us body, soul, and spirit. We have belong to a world that none of us have actually seen: we wait for a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13). At the same time, we're not going to get there without physical bodies. We are groaning, waiting for the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23). Philippians 3:21 says it best, we're waiting for the Son of God from heaven, who will change our mortal bodies to be like His.

2 Corinthians 5:1–8 bring this into sharp focus. We're groaning while we await "our house from heaven": we want to be free of these fallen bodies, but we're not really wanting to be incorporeal spirits – we don't want to be unclothed – what we want is to have our bodies redeemed.

God has created us to be both physical and spiritual beings. We're not complete without our bodies. The scripture testifies to this fact every time it talks about "him" being buried. Being absent from the body is being present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23–24), but that doesn't change the fact that our hope is to be made like Christ, and our bodies will be changed to be like His (Philippians 3:20–21).

It's a striking thought that those who are now with the Lord are still awaiting resurrection. I can't see any other way to understand 1 Thessalonians 4:15–18.

We notice 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 describes the Lord Himself the same way as Joseph and Lazarus – "He was buried" (1 Corinthians 15:4). John's Gospel uses language more like what we might expect: John 19:38–40 talks about "the body of Jesus". But notice the final verse in the chapter ends with "on account of the preparation of the Jews, because the tomb was near, they laid Jesus" (John 19:42).

The language of 1 Corinthians 15:4 and John 19:42 insists that the Son of God is a Man. There are a lot of heresies out there about the incarnation, but the truth is the Son of God became a Man. And He is still a Man. The Second Man is coming from Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:47). I am sure this is what Exodus 21:2–6 is describing: the Son of God has become the Son of Man, and He isn't willing to go free. He will judge as the Son of Man (John 5:26–27) in the last day.

I find it easy to slip into a sort of Gnosticism, probably because I spend a lot of time thinking about our life here in fallen bodies. But the truth of Scripture is not that we are waiting to be free of our bodies, it's that we're waiting for the Son of God to come and change them. For some that will involve resurrection, others will be changed without dying (1 Corinthians 15:51). But in either case, we are called to glorify God in our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). We're not called to a non-physical spirituality, but an intensely physical one. I find it easy to lose sight of that.