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Comments on The Eternal Sonship of Christ

            I have a book before me on the above subject, that has a sub-heading “A Timely Defense of This Vital Biblical Doctrine”. My intension is to comment on this book and to ascertain if possible why this doctrine is described as vital.

            Included with this book is a note which says: “Please be advised of the fact that several years after the publication of this book John MacArthur publicly announced that he had changed his view from that of denying the eternal Sonship of Christ to that of accepting and advocating His eternal Sonship.” Why he changed his mind I have to date not been able to ascertain. The fact that Bible believing Christians, we may say, flounder around this subject suggests that Scripture has not made the matter clear and by implication the Holy Spirit is not Himself clear; something that is not possible. However, if we consider what the book says we may get some enlightenment.

            The FOREWORD rightly states, quoting Matthew 16:16, that Christ is the Son of the living God, but then goes on to speak of the absolute and eternal deity of our Lord Jesus Christ without giving any clue as to what this statement really means. The writer then goes on to speak of eternal Sonship. Sonship and deity are not the same thing. Deity may refer to nature or supremacy, whereas Sonship is a relationship based on either birth or adoption: it involves an event. Eternal Sonship, if this definition is accepted, is a meaningless statement and in fact does not appear in the Christian Bible. A son once born is always a son though in the resurrection one’s earthly parentage will not be relevant.

            Underlying the thinking as to eternal Sonship is the orthodox idea of a triune God, meaning that God consists of three identical persons each one being one hundred percent God. One will not say more as to this now as the matter is dealt with in detail in the book itself. However, there is a certain difference between God the Father of all and his being Christ’s Father and our Father. The Father points to his relationship with all things (1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:6), whereas Christ’s relation to God as Son is special, as also is our relation to Him as sons (John 5:18; 2 Corinthians 6:18 and Revelation 21:7).

            When we come to the PREFACE the authors make what I would call the usual evangelical statement as to the Bible being the written Word of God, inerrant and absolutely infallible. Certainly the Bible is divinely inspired, that is, God breathed. The Holy Spirit gave the writers the wisdom necessary to write it and what sources to use where necessary (2 Peter 3:15/16). They were also used to record what God said to them or by them. Properly speaking the Scriptures are not infallible, if one accepts that infallible means, cannot make a mistake, because what we have before us is a record which as to the letter cannot do anything. God, Christ and the Holy Spirit, cannot err and therefore their recorded words must be the truth. However, the Bible contains also the words of fallible men and, indeed, Satan which are not always entirely correct (consider Ecclesiastes 7:17 and Genesis 3:5). As to the passage in Ecclesiastes we would have to say that we should not be wicked at all, not simply overmuch wicked. Christ, our model, did no sin 1 Peter 2:21/22. We should be perfect (Matthew 5:48). Certainly God’s Word is inerrant but we have to allow in reading our Bible that copyists have no doubt made mistakes and translators have not always been accurate, or understood exactly the meanings of the words in the original. Further, our own understanding is certainly not always perfect. We must also remember that being divinely inspired it is not just a matter of being inerrant. A book on mathematics may be this, but the Bible contains passages that are beyond man’s mind to conceive such as John 17 for example. However, like most things we can go too far and treat the Bible as if it were a sort of magic book, by doing such things as expecting edification by just opening it at random. Christ Himself did not do that but searched for the place He wanted to speak of, as it says: “He found the place” (Luke 4:17).

            At the bottom of the first page we have the statement that one of the most remarkable truths revealed in the Bible is the triune nature of the godhead - God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The writers do not appear to notice that the expressions God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are not found in Scripture. They are correct in saying that each one has unique glories, though it would be more accurate to say glory (Luke 9:26). However, they effectively state that Christ’s relationship to God as Son never had a beginning so that He is not really God’s Son at all !

            We are given a comparison of Eternal Sonship and Incarnational Sonship on pages 10 and 11. Without comparing each item in the list one would point out the following:

(1) A son is not a son until it is born or adopted. Christ was not adopted, but born. He is the only-begotten Son (John 3:16). Some appear to want to get rid of the force of begotten. However, it appears in Hebrews 1:5 using a different Greek word, so that the normal meaning of the word cannot be got rid of without altering Scripture in our minds. Christ did not just assume the role of son, but was the Son of God - he came forth from God (John 8:42). Or put another way He came forth from the Father (John 16:28), He was the Son of the Father (2 John 3). Note that the Greek word used for come forth is ek, that is, the word for source.

(2) The writers rightly point out that equal with God refers to likeness or sameness of being or perhaps more correctly sameness of nature. Any babe when born has the nature of its parents, but that is different from saying that it has such things as its parents’ knowledge, experience and strength. Christ did not have these latter things when he was a babe in a manger. We get into unreality if we say he did.

(3) As to God the Father see what I have said earlier.

(4) Saying the Son was ever in the Father’s bosom, that is, before He was born into this world is highly questionable. The expression is found in John 1:18 which evidently refers to the place He had on earth as the expression “in the bosom” appears in a passage speaking of Him after he had become flesh; not in verses 1 to 3. The Greek word for in is eis (to) and is also used in the LXX translation of the Hebrew Scriptures for “in her bosom” (Ruth 4:16). Clearly that passage refers to a child that had been born.

(5) What about Christ being Son of man? Was He that before He was born into this world? The case for saying that He was that before He was born is stronger than that for saying He was Son of God then, because Scripture speaks of Him as the Son of man coming down from heaven (John 3:13 and 6:62).

(6) Son is not a title or role that a person assumes, but a relationship based on one’s origin (unless one is adopted, that is, receive sonship, as Christians do). A phoetus is not a son or a daughter until it is born; until then it exists, but as a member of its mother. If this were not so it would be murder to abort a phoetus even to save the life of its mother, because if it were a person it would have the same right to life as its mother. Killing a phoetus is a form of mutilation and should only be done to save the mother’s life (Matthew 18: 8/9). It would be just as wrong to kill the phoetus if it were a person to save the life of its mother as killing the mother to save the life of the phoetus. A baby is not a person (a living soul) until it has breathed (Genesis 2:7). The idea that it is a person from conception is Romish teaching.

(7) A father may have more power than his son as Christ said of his Father: “[My] Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). Further, a son should give his father precedence. A son should honour his father as we have it in the law: “Honour thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20:12; Matthew 15:4). We do not get the reverse: “Honour thy son or daughter”. If we turn to the prophet Malachi we have God saying: “A son honoureth [his] father… if then I be a father, where is mine honour?” (Malachi 1:6). In the case of Christ we know that He honoured his Father as He said: “I honour my Father” (John 8:49).

            On page 13 the authors state that the doctrine of the eternal Sonship of Christ is plainly taught in the Word of God. If so, why do many Bible believing Christians think otherwise? These include many persons well versed in the Scriptures; some being persons who weighed the matter over many years such as Mr. C. A. Coates for 30 years (Letters page 201). If the so-called eternal Sonship of Christ is so important why does not Scripture say plainly that Christ was God’s Son from eternity? The fact that it does not implies that either the doctrine is not important or it is not true. If we say that the Holy Spirit forgot to mention it we are certainly undermining the value of the Scriptures and God’s inspiration of them. If we say He did not mention it deliberately we are effectively making him deceive us, a thought that cannot be entertained.

            It will be noticed from what one has said above that I neither hold eternal Sonship nor incarnational Sonship as apparently often understood. This will become more apparent to anyone who reads more of what I say on the subject.

            Chapter 1 THE DEITY OF THE SON deals with Christ’s person rather than his relationship with his Father. In the first paragraph Jesus Christ is said to be God and certain passages are quoted to prove this. Titus 2:13 is quoted. This in full is: “Our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ”. The statement is relative and may be said to be like that in Exodus 7:1 “See, I have made thee God to Pharaoh”. However, in the case of Christ there was reality behind what He is to us. Some might say that two persons are spoken of here, that is, God and Christ. However, we know that God was in Christ so that though personally God and Christ are distinct they are united in what they do (John 14:10). The name “Mighty God” in Isaiah 9:6 no doubt refers to Christ. Micah 5:4/5 helps as to understand the passage in Isaiah. However, we have to be careful as to using a name to prove deity as we think of it, because we could find ourselves using the name Joshua to prove that he was a divine person as Joshua means Jah saves. The passage in 1 John 5:20 speaking of Christ as “the true God” tells us what is set forth in his person as does the statement that follows: “and eternal life”. He is not actually eternal life because life is vitality, not a person. Elsewhere Christ says “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). That passages does not mean that He is those things because resurrection is an event and life, vitality. Rather he is the raiser and life giver. Certainly we have the Word was God. God does not have the article hence it is a statement of the Word’s nature. If it had the article the statement would contradict the previous one that says the Word was with God (literally with the God). We have to be careful that we do not assert that Christ was the God as if we do we make Him God to the exclusion of every other. I do not think that the passage in Romans 9:5 means that Christ is God over all, but rather that He is over all and that God has blessed Him for ever. Consider Psalm 45:2; 2 Samuel 7:29 and 1 Chronicles 17:27.

            Christ is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15, hence we rightly worship Him as Thomas when he said: My Lord and my God” (John 20:27). Any other image of God is something idolatrous. God forbad any image to be made or worshipped. He has presented his Son to us as a living image. Today man often imitates this by effectively worshipping people, such as the ‘Dear Leader’ in North Korea. We are to worship Christ because He is the true image of God.

            On page 18 we are told that Christ possesses all the attributes of deity, that is, holiness, righteousness, eternal existence, unchangeableness, omnipotence (supremacy), omnipresence (being everywhere) and omniscience (all knowingness). One can have no difficulty as to the first four attributes, but the last three are not supported by Scripture. The last three terms are not actually used in Scripture, hence I have put explanatory words in brackets. Revelation 1:8 which is quoted to support omnipotence is actually only a statement as to God and there is no proof that it refers to Christ. Revelation 22:12-13 no doubt refers to God’s coming in the person of his Son somewhat similar to what we get in Hebrews 1:2. Matthew 28:20 speaks of Christ being with us all the days, until the completion of the age. It is not properly speaking omnipresence which is rather what we get said of the Father in Ephesians 4:6 “through all” and takes us back in mind to Psalm 139:7 et seq. As to omniscience Christ’s understanding of men was no doubt perfect. It was a feature of his prophetic ministry as the woman at the well recognised (John 4:19). Similarly Christ’s disciples recognised from what He said in John 16:30 that He had come from God, not that by this they recognised that He was God. The passage that the writer then quotes: “All things that the Father has are mine” (John 16:15) refers to possessions rather than attributes. It corresponds to what the father said to his eldest son in Luke 15:31. Certainly Christ has been given all power (Matthew 28:18), but the fact that He has been given this shows that He had not already got it. Further, Christ has “ascended up above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (Ephesians 4:10). Obviously He was not filling all things before then. Lastly, He did not know all things until they were revealed to Him as we get it in John 5:20 and Revelation 1:1. It would make no sense for God to communicate to Christ what He already knew.

            One needs to be accurate when saying what Scripture teaches. What Scripture actually says as to Christ’s involvement in the creation of the universe is that it was by him that God created, that is, Christ was the instrument God used (Hebrews 1:2). God the Father was the source and Christ was the instrument (1 Corinthians 8:6).

            Is it correct to say that only God can forgive sins? Certain of the scribes thought so (Mark 2:6/7). However, Christ did not say: “I am God and therefore I can forgive sins” but “that ye may know that the Son of man has power (authority) on earth to forgive sins” (verse 10). If we turn to the corresponding passage in Matthew we have the crowds glorifying God who gave such power (authority) to men (Matthew 9:8). Then we have Christ giving his disciples power to remit sins (John 20:23).

            As to asking in prayer, it is clear that the asking is to God the Father, because a prayer addressed to Christ would not be in his name (John 14:14). However, the actual doing of the thing asked for would be the work of Christ. Consider also John 16:23.

            Certainly God will judge men but in the person of Christ (John 5:22 & 27). However they are not the same person as the writers of this book well know.

            The twelve Old Testament passages that the writer identifies to prove that Christ is personally Jehovah do not actually prove that. What we learn from them is that the things predicated of God (Jehovah) are fulfilled in his Son, Jesus Christ. One could also refer to Isaiah 40:11 which has a fulfilment in Mark 10:13-16.

            The passages referred to do not prove that Christ is personally Jehovah any more than Old Testament passages referring to David prove that Christ is personally David. Consider Psalm 16. Peter in Acts 2:25 et seq. makes it clear that what David said of himself was fulfilled in his son Jesus Christ. No doubt this is also true of what is said of David in Ezekiel 34:23/24; 37:24/25. One could refer to other passages such as Jeremiah 30:9. The point is that things predicated of God and things predicated of David are fulfilled in their Son, Jesus Christ. This shows the importance of maintaining that Jesus was really both the Son of God and the Son of David.

            Chapter 2 THE PRE-EXISTENCE OF THE SON is something clearly taught in Scripture and therefore one has no objection to what is said in this chapter as to this.

            However, on page 22 it is said that there were two natures in Christ. This is wrong. Christ was as to his physical and mental faculties (as to all that goes into the grave) a man such as I am. Put another way: all that He obtained from his mother: all that he was according to flesh (2 Corinthians 5:16), was no different essentially from any other man. The difference was in his essential nature which was that of God absolutely so that it could be said: “In him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). He was another order of man - “the heavenly [one]” (1 Corinthians 15:48). He was not only sinless (the negative side - 1 John 3:5), but was full of grace and truth (the positive side - John 1:14). Put another way: He was a man with the nature of God absolutely. He was not two persons in one, that is, He was not God and also a man - body soul and spirit.

            It appears that the writers of this book are essentially purveying the creeds of the Church of Rome which the whole of orthodox Christianity professes - three persons in one God and two natures in Christ. However, when I think of nature I am thinking of what is moral. This must be so when we think of ourselves who are said to be made partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). We are not made partakers of supremacy (Ephesians 4:6), infinite understanding (Psalm 147:5) and universal presence (Psalm 139:7). We, of course, still have our sinful tendencies which have to be put to death (Colossians 3:5). However Christ had none of these (John 14:30).

            As to what dwelt in Christ, we must remember that it was all the fulness of the Godhead rather than all the Godhead. The expression may be difficult to explain but the fulness, to use what another has said, is all that is necessary for the complete expression of God. We ourselves are to be filled [even] to all the fulness of God (Ephesians 3:19). Clearly we are not going to be filled with God - we are not going to be as great as Him.

            Chapter 3 THE INCARNATION OF THE SON is something that is really beyond our comprehension. We may have some apprehension of it but not comprehend it. Put another way we may understand what it means, but not encompass it.

            I believe it unwise to use the statement “God has been manifested in flesh” in the heading of this chapter as the wording may not be correct as some think it should be “He who has been manifested in flesh”.

            However, the passage in John 1:14 does not mean that God became flesh. If it did, it would mean that God ceased to dwell in unapproachable light, would have ceased to be invisible, etc. The section would contradict what is said in verse 18: “No one has seen God at any time“. What the writers are no doubt thinking is that the Second Person of the Trinity, as men speak, became flesh. This is not what the passage actually says. In reality it is the Word that became flesh; the one who was with God. When a father has a son it is clear that the son is a person distinct from his father, though if his father is a man the son is also a man. Similarly with Christ. He is the Son of his Father who was God, and because his Father was God he also was God. This reasoning is effectively used by Christ in John 10:33-36. The Psalm which Christ quotes reads: “I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High” (Psalm 82:6). Being gods hangs on the fact we are God’s children. The same in principle applies to Christ: his divinity hangs on the fact that he is God’s Son, though of course in a much greater way than ourselves as Christ effectively says.

            What is left out of account in the reasoning in this chapter is the mediatorship of Christ. In order to make atonement He had to be distinct from fallen man. He was, as we know, a new order of man and not Himself under death as a penalty. If He had been subject to death as a penalty He could not have been a substitute for those who were, any more than if there were two criminals awaiting execution, one could not take the place of the other. At the same time He needed to be personally distinct from God as if He were not He could not have offered Himself to God (Hebrews 9:14; Ephesians 5:1). God offering Himself to God would have been no offering. God did not die on the cross. The debt due to God had to be paid and Christ God’s Son paid it.

            Much of this chapter I find confusing. Christ was not a God-Man. He was not an aggregation of God and Man. If he was, He would have been greater than His Father who is only God. Neither was he an admixture of God and Man. If He was his person would have been confusion; something that the law proscribed (Leviticus 19:19; 20:15/16). If we think of the ark of the covenant it was not an aggregation of two chests one of wood and one of gold, neither was it made of an admixture of gold and sawdust. Rather it was made of wood (humanity) and then it was overlaid with gold (divinity) within and without. Christ was a Man with the nature of God which is love.

            The chapter tries to force the view that Christ was Son of God from eternity by repetition (it is stated one way or another about six times). This is doing what Dr. Richard Dawkins does when He keeps asserting that evolution is fact.

            Chapter 4 THE DOCTRINE OF ETERNAL SONSHIP declares that the second person of the triune godhead has eternally existed as the Son.

            The text at the head of the chapter reads: “No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, the one ever being (existing in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (John 1:18, literal rendering from the Greek). However, where this literal rendering is found is not stated. My copy of Marshall’s literal English translation of the verse in question is: “God no man has seen never; [the] only begotten God the [one] being in the bosom of the Father, that one declared [?him]”. Marshall’s translation does not have the word ever which is vital to the claim that the passage supports the idea of eternal Sonship. Further, the AV has “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him”. The JND translation is similar: “No one has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared [him]”. More recent translations have: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son (A note says: Other ancient authorities read God) who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known” (RSV). “no-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (NIV). There are two notes to this verse which read: (1) Or the Only Begotten and (2) Some manuscripts but the only (or only begotten) Son. The Roman Catholic Mgr Knox translation has: ”No man has ever seen God; but now his only-begotten Son, who abides in the bosom of the Father, has himself become our interpreter.” Two other translations will suffice to show that the reading given at the head of this chapter is by no means cast iron. (1) The Moffatt Translation: “Nobody has ever seen God, but God has been unfolded by the divine One, the only Son, who lies on the Father’s breast”. There is a note against the word Son and which quotes the Greek. It seems that the translator has tried to accommodate both the word God by saying the divine one as well as the word Son. (2) The New English Bible: “No one has ever seen God; but God’s only Son, he who is nearest to the Father’s heart, he has made him known”. Personally I don’t think the word Son was originally there or God either. The translation would then simply say “only- begotten” as verse 14 (JND) and such passages as Hebrews 11:17 (JND); Genesis 22:22 (JND) and Zechariah 12:10 (JND).

            On page 27 the point that the writers make the crux of the dispute is whether Christ was always Son of God from eternity or whether He became Son of God at his incarnation. This latter type of sonship they speak of as taking up a role, title or function. As to the first conception it must be wrong because Christ, the Son is said to be begotten. The latter conception is also wrong because sonship is a relationship based on birth or adoption. Certainly Christ was not adopted but born. The word son is not properly speaking a title; a role is a part played in life; a title is a name such as Lord, Christ, etc. and a function is really a synonym for role (per Chambers dictionary). Rather, Christ is Son of God because He came forth from God. Before He came forth He was not a Son. Before that He subsisted in the form of God the Father. We cannot know much as to his pre- incarnation existence as the writers effectively admit (page 28). In Scripture God is presented to us as the Father (John 17:1-3; 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Ephesians 4:6). However, when we speak of God we may say that Christ and the Spirit are included for Christ said “I [am] in the Father, and… the Father is in me” (John 14:10) and as to the Spirit consider such passages as Isaiah 40:13. Certainly Christ and God’s Spirit are not parts of God, but though distinct from each other they are complementary to one another, that is, essential to one another. It is a mistake to claim as the creeds do that each one is 100% God. If they were that then the very existence of two of them would be superfluous. In reality without the Holy Spirit God would be dead, just as we would be without a spirit (James 2:26). Further, without Christ there would be no mediator between us and God. If Christ were simply a creature He would not be great enough to perform that function and if He were not a man He would not be lowly enough to come beside us (Hebrews 2:16-18).

            One would mention here that when Christ said: “I and the Father are one.“ (John 10:30) He did not mean that He and his Father were identical, but rather that they complemented one another as Paul and Apollus (1 Corinthians 3:6-8, particularly verse 8)

            It appears that the writers are looking for evidence that Christ existed as the Son before He was born into this world. They are not looking into Scripture to ascertain what is taught there as to Christ’s Sonship.

            On page 28 it is said that because Christ came forth from the Father that He must have been Son before He came forth. It does not follow. I was not a son until I was born and neither was Christ. His being Son is connected with His birth in Luke 1:35. Actually God sent Christ into the world after his baptism as Scripture says: “Him whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world” (John 10:36). Christ was sanctified when the Holy Spirit came upon Him at his baptism, rather than in heaven. He was not sent from heaven to earth. The Holy Spirit was sent from heaven, but not Christ, according to Scripture (1 Peter 1:12).

            Several Old Testament prophetic passages are referred to which speak of one coming who would be God’s Son, but afford no proof that He was a Son until He was born into this world. The passage in Daniel referred to (chapter 3:25) affords no proof that the fourth person was the Son of God. The verse speaks of four men and Christ was not a man before He was incarnated. More importantly Nebuchadnezzar speaks of the fourth man as being God’s angel (verse 28). This would indicate that the one who was there was one of the sons of God spoken of in Job 1:6 and 38:7. (See for confirmation Luke 20:36).

            Relying on statements that the Son created things before He was born into this world is not really proof that He was the Son then. There was of course no change in his person when he was born. I might refer to my wife when she was a child, but this would not prove she was my wife then. The Son of God was spoken of as Christ Jesus when in the form of God, but this does not mean that He was the Christ or Jesus then. He was not named Jesus until He was born (Matthew 1:21 & 25) and He was not the Christ before He was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38). Christ (Messiah) means the anointed. He was the Christ in prospect as Psalm 2:6 says, but He was not actually the Christ until He had been anointed. The Son of man came down from heaven (John 3:13; 6:62), but He was not actually that until He was born unless we are going to deprive the words Son of man of all reality.

            Lastly, we have John 17:5 and 24 referred to. The writer inserts the words ‘the Son’ and ‘the Father’ into the passage though neither expression actually appears in the verses quoted. Certainly Christ existed before He was born into this world, but as to the nature of that existence we know little. It is not I believe without significance that it has been shown without reasonable doubt that there are and have been persons who when young can recollect a past life. It is called reincarnation. Of course Christ was not reincarnated properly speaking as he had not been a man on earth before He was incarnated. However, God does not leave Himself without witness that such a thing is possible. In Christ’s day the idea of reincarnation we are told was prevalent and this is perhaps why the disciples said what they did about the blind man (John 9:2). I agree the matter is controversial, but one would make the point that a person would not have had the same parents in a former existence as in a later one. Similarly we cannot assume that Christ had exactly the same relationship with God before the world was as He did when here on earth.

            It could be argued that though Christ was not actually God’s Son until He was born into this world, there could have been a relationship with his Father that was characteristically that of a Father and a Son. I have considered the matter myself, based on John 1:14 particularly. However Scripture does not clearly say there was and I have no wish to add to Scripture in any way (Note Proverbs 30:6). Further, we do not want to imply by our pronouncements that Scripture is incomplete in any way

            Chapter 5 THE DENIAL OF ETERNAL SONSHIP. It is stated in this chapter that the doctrine of the eternal Sonship of Christ is a vital one, though so far as I have read no real reason is given why it is vital. The truth is that He is Son of God because He came forth from God. I am a son as a result of an event (birth). I cannot have always been a son because in that case there would never have been an event to cause me to be a son. Scripture never speaks of a special kind of Sonship in the case of Christ of which we no nothing. One would mention here that eternal generation is a meaningless expression. If one tries to understand what it means the mind goes into a spin. The writers of this book do not hold the doctrine of eternal generation, though the creed put forth at the Council of Ephesus (431) includes the words: “He was begotten before the ages from the Father, as God”. I do not think the writers of the book under review hold this, though I suspect the idea of “God from God” (see the carol: O come all ye faithful”) was what caused John 1:18 to be made to read “the only-begotten God” in some early documents.

            I hold that Christ always had the nature of God absolutely and that this is what the Word was God means (God here does not have the article). But at the same time I recognise that Christ has his own glory (distinction), so that such things as omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience do not apply essentially to Him. This is evident from Scripture. He said “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28) and also He changed his position when He became flesh (John 1:14) and he learned things from his Father (Revelation 1:1 and John 5:20). Further, purpose, foreknowledge and predestination are things predicated of God the Father, not Christ (Romans 8:28/29; Ephesians 1:1-14). Counsel is God’s (Acts 2:23). Christ did not determine that He would be crucified. If we claim all  the Father’s glory for the Son and then add to that all the glory He is given as man we effectively in our minds make Him greater than his Father who only has Godhead glory. That can’t be right and it is certainly not Scriptural.

            Chapter 6 THE DEFENSE OF ETERNAL SONSHIP. The writers refer us again to John 1:18 and the Father’s bosom. We have to consider carefully what the Scripture means by this. Is it the idea contained in Ruth 4:16 to which I have already made reference or to passages such as Luke 16:22/23 and John 13:23? These last passages use the word en (in) rather than eis (into) as in John 1:18 and Ruth 4:16 (LXX). One does not want to quibble over words, but we should enquire what is meant by “in the bosom of the Father”, otherwise we may be just using our imagination. Certainly nearness is implied, whether physical or spiritual nearness. Certainly Christ was not physically in the Father’s bosom when He was on earth and neither should we think of such a thing before Christ was incarnated (clothed in flesh). However, the more important point is to consider when Christ was begotten. Claiming that He was Son from eternity is effectively a denial that He was begotten at all. The orthodox creeds speak of Christ as “begotten not made” and “begotten from the Father before all ages”. I doubt that the writers of the book I am considering hold this view as they do not refer to it. When then was Christ begotten ?

            As to Christ creating things one has already pointed out that because Scripture speaks of the Son doing it, it is not proof that He was the Son when He did it. 1 Corinthians 8:6 states that it is one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom [are] all things. That also must include the creation. Was Christ the Lord Jesus then? Are we to carry back in our minds before the worlds were made the thought of Christ’s Lordship? Was He Jesus or the Christ then?

            Numerous verses refer to God the Father sending his Son, but in none of them is it said He sent Him from heaven, any more than were the disciples sent out from heaven (John 20:21). Further, it may well be noticed that in Philippians 2:7 nothing is said about Him being sent or being obedient. He became obedient when he was already here in figure as a man as it says in verse 8. Obedience applied to Christ when He was on earth, which was when He learned it (Hebrews 5:8). However, if we carry the idea of Christ’s Sonship back into pre-incarnate existence, then we must logically carry back obedience into pre-incarnate existence for it necessarily attaches to Sonship. Consider Luke 15 particularly verse 29. Then what about Matthew 21:28-30. Perhaps more importantly, Proverbs says a lot about a son heeding his father’s words. Consider chapter 1 verse 8 and chapter 2 verse 1. Did this sort of instruction apply to Christ as Son of God before He was born into this world ? If we say it did not, we practically deny that He was a Son in any real sense before He was born into this world.

            God sending his Son, giving Him and not sparing Him, was when He was here on earth rather than at a time (if one may use the expression) before He was born. On page 46 the statement is made that the Word was in the beginning. Strictly this is from the beginning in 1 John 1:1 and many think that this is not the beginning as in John 1:1 but the beginning of Christ’s sojourn on earth.

            On pages 47/48 Melchizedek is referred to as having neither father nor mother. It is not that he did not have a father or mother but that nothing is said about it: “the witness is that he lives” (Hebrews 7:8). We have to be careful how we use this passage for Christ is said to have a Father, that is God, and a mother, Mary.

            Chapter 7 THE MEANING OF THE TERM “SON OF GOD”. Three points are made here.

(1) A son is a separate person from his father, thus Christ is a separate person from God his Father. We may quote John 1:1 to support this: “The Word was with God”.

(2) A son is the heir, not the servant of his father. Certainly Christ is the heir of God (Hebrews 1:2 and Romans 8:17), but He is rightly subject to his Father saying: “Not as I will, but as thou [wilt]” (Matthew 26:39). In the end He will be placed in subjection to his Father (1 Corinthians 15:28). Apart from this passage Scripture is specific. “Christ [is] God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:23) and “Christ’s head (is) God” (1 Corinthians 11:3). None of these statements can rightly be reversed. By that one means one cannot say: “God’s head is Christ“.

(3) A son has the same nature as his father. Christ has God’s nature absolutely: “The Word was God” (John 1:1) though we may be partakers of it (2 Peter 1:4).

            One would make certain further comments on (2) above. The writer’s conclusion on page 52 is that “subservience to one’s father is not associated with the biblical idea of sonship”. This is not correct. The elder son in the parable in Luke 15 claimed to have been obedient to his father (verse 29), though at that juncture he was not obeying his father. A mass of scriptures could be adduced to support the thought that a son should do his father’s bidding and not the other way round (1 Timothy 3:4; Genesis 28:7). David failed in this matter (1 Kings 1:6).

            Certainly a son has the same nature as his father. However, this does not mean that Christ inherited man’s fallen nature. As to Christ’s essential nature it was divine, though all his physical and mental faculties were those of a man - all that goes into the grave. He did not have two natures in a moral sense, because He was a man out of heaven. It may be said that He was a man with the nature of God. However we must not start claiming for Christ all that we attribute to God. If we do we make in our minds a mess of Scripture. There are many things that God has given Christ. He did not give Him things that He already had. If we say He did we deprive much of Scripture of all reality. Consider John 3:35; 5:19-27.

            Much more that the writer says could be commented on here, but I think one would have to repeat much of what I have written elsewhere.

            Chapter 8 THE MEANING OF PSALM 2:7. The writer on page 57 quotes from Acts 13:33 (AV) which has the word again after “raised up” a word which was not in the original and is superfluous (Newberry). However, it has no significant bearing on the matter being considered.

            As to Christ’s being raised up, the natural reading would refer to his being given a prominent position such as the Pharaoh had in Exodus 9:16, quoted in Romans 9:17. Properly speaking Christ did not become prominent until the Holy Spirit had come upon Him and He had started his preaching and teaching ministry. Writers who I respect, consider that verse 33 is speaking of Christ’s raising up in Israel and verse 34 to his being raised from the dead. However, what Paul is speaking about in the surrounding verses is Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Certainly Christ was the firstborn from among the dead as is stated in Colossians 1:18. It is therefore a question as to whether Psalm 2:7 is referring to his birth into this world or to his resurrection. I tend to think that it refers to his birth into this world as He was certainly God’s Son then (Luke 1:32), but I stand to be corrected if there is convincing evidence to the contrary.

            On page 60 we have it said: “The Hebrew word that is translated “begotten” in Psalm 2:7 does not always mean “beget” in the sense of conception”. There is a difference between conception and birth. Conception precedes birth so that we have it said: “the woman conceived, and bore a son” (Exodus 2:2). Until a child is born it is not a person distinct from its mother. It is only when it is born that it has a separate existence from its mother. It starts that separate existence when it takes its first breath (Genesis 2:7). It then becomes a living soul. It will be noticed that conception and child bearing is, so far as I know, always connected with a woman. So far as a man is concerned we get the thought of begetting (e.g. Genesis 5:3). No doubt, for this reason the apostle John speaks of Christ as being begotten and not as being conceived. Christ as to his essential being came out of God (John 8:42 and 16:28) and consequently God was his Father.

            The writer (page 63) appears to hold that Romans 1:4 is speaking of Christ’s own resurrection (which is what I for many years understood it referred to). However, there is a problem, as the note in the JND Bible says that the resurrection is of dead persons, which would point to Christ’s power to raise the dead.

            Chapter 9 DEALING WITH PROBLEMS AND OBJECTIONS. Starting this chapter with a highly critical paragraph about anyone who has doubts about the orthodox teaching as to the Sonship of Christ is somewhat unfair. Many who have doubts about it are not sceptics as to the teaching of Scripture but have, after sober consideration, come to the conclusion that the traditional teaching on the subject is at least defective, if not wrong.

            As to 2 Samuel 7:14 which tells us that Christ’s Sonship was future when the pronouncement as to it was made one would have to say that it is not unreasonable to accept the truth presented, especially as the same statement appears in 1 Chronicles 17:13 and is quoted when speaking of Christ in Hebrews 1:5. God was always the Father (Ephesians 4:6) but not Christ’s Father until Christ was born. The passage quoted says: “I will be to him for father”, not “I always was his father”. Note: Hebrews 1 makes a lot of what Scripture does not say, so the absence of positive Scriptural statements is important.

            Certainly Christ was spoken of as the Son of God when he was on earth, so that we have: “Truly this man was Son of God” (Mark 15:39). As to the Spirit of God He was always the Spirit and is spoken of in the Old Testament, but Christ was not except prophetically and typically. Being the Spirit is what He is. It is not a relationship based on source. One rather doubts, incidentally that “eternal spirit” in Hebrews 9:14 is actually referring to the Spirit of God. Rather it is in contrast to “the flesh” (verse 13) which returns to the dust. The human spirit is eternal - not from eternity, but continues to exist after death (Luke 23:46). The interpretation really turns on the meaning of ‘by’ in the sentence. Consider JND note to verse 11.

            Regarding Luke 1:35 it is clear that Christ was called the Son of God because that is what He was. Put another way, He had come forth from God as the writer says quoting John 16:28. Similarly He was the Son of man because He was brought forth by his mother (Matthew 1:25). The difference between the two cases is that his existence in the form of God, did not have a beginning. It was from eternity (Micah 5:2). However, his existence in Mary’s womb began when He was conceived.

            As to Old Testament references to God’s Son one would point out that they refer to David or Solomon, David’s son, as in Psalm 2, though in their fulness they look on to Christ who was of the seed of David. It is, no doubt, because there was a tendency to water down Christ’s Sonship that John speaks of Him as the only-begotten Son of God. The word for begotten is monogenes, which even an English reader can see means single generation (mono means single and genes points to origins as in Genesis, generation, etc.). This can be confirmed by looking at any dictionary.

            Proverbs 30:4 raises a question as to the name of the creator and his son. No answer is given, but we really get the answer in the New Testament.

            God is presented as having sons in the Old Testament (Job 1:6 and 38:7). No doubt they were angels (compare Daniel 3 verses 25 and 28). As to Genesis 1:26 this presents God speaking before his heavenly court as in Isaiah 6:8. To make these passages refer to a trinity is really forcing Scripture to support a preconceived view. The same applies to Psalm 110:1. Isaiah 48:16 speaks of God, his Spirit and a sent one. The question is who is the sent one - the prophet or some other man? (see Acts 8:34). I echo here the words of the Ethiopian eunuch. Isaiah 61:1 is clearly fulfilled in Luke 4:21 as Christ says. As to Isaiah 63:9/10 there is clearly nothing about a Son of God though persons may debate as to who the Angel was. Stephen in Acts 7:30 & 35 makes it clear that it was an angel that was in the burning bush. Proverbs 8:22/23 is speaking of Wisdom. We don’t want to put into the passage more than is there and use it to assert that Wisdom (presented as a woman - see Proverbs 8:1 and 9:1) is the Son of God.

            I do not think that we can speak of Christ’s Sonship as something that existed in the mind of God as part of his purpose. Certainly we are told that Christ was God’s elect, (consider Isaiah 42:1 and Matthew 12:18) but nothing about his being Son or becoming Son. Christ, though he was God’s Son, did take the place of a servant (bondman) as is made clear in John 13:4 et seq. and Philippians 2:7.

            As to Hebrews 1:4/5 the writer says this refers to Christ’s exaltation. This looks plausible, but the passage quoted, that is, Psalm 2:7 reads: “Thou art my Son; I this day have begotten thee.” The simple statement: ”Thou art my Son” would only prove that He was that at the time the statement was made though it would not rule out the fact that He was Son before then. However, the rest of the sentence specifically states that He was begotten that day and therefore was not Son before then. If the statement was made when Christ was exalted then He was not Son before then though the writer makes it clear that there is hard evidence that Christ was Son of God at least from the time He was born into this world. Note the word begotten was used and not adopted, or wording meaning that.

            There is no idea that Christ was in nature inferior to God, but He recognised that God was his head as I have already pointed out. If that relationship did not exist before the foundation of the world then neither did Sonship in any real sense of the word. A person who was co-equal with God cannot be in the relationship of a Son with a Father. It would rather be a relationship of equal partners. Needless to say Scripture knows nothing of such a relationship. Christ Himself said that his Father was greater than Himself (John 14:28). I would add that, if it is considered heresy to say this, we would effectively be treating Christ as a heretic.

            The last section of this chapter tells us that only begotten means “one of a kind, unique”. No proof is given that this is what it means. Certainly only = unique, but begotten appears in almost all translations. Actually the place of begotten in John 1:18 is more secure than the word Son as I have already demonstrated. Certainly eternal generation is meaningless. Whatever may be said as to Christ being begotten in resurrection He was certainly begotten when born into this world. The idea of being begotten more than once, that is, again, is said of Christians (see 1 Peter 1:3), but one would hesitate to apply such thoughts to Christ.

            Chapter 10 THE NECESSITY AND IMPORTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE. That the truth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God Christians are unlikely to dispute, but that Son of God means Son of God from eternity, that is, there is no time when He was begotten (born) they may well dispute. The quotation from John 6:69 on page 78 is almost certainly incorrect. The wording “We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (AV) is really: “We have believed and known that thou art the holy one of God” (JND). It looks as if the AV wording arose because someone (translators or copyists) wanted to make the wording agree with Matthew 16:16. Often when the Spirit is involved wording is fresh and not merely orthodox. Consider Acts 8:37 which is now omitted in translations such as JND’s.

            As to Servetus one would mention that his theological writings have recently been translated from Latin into English and are available from booksellers. The writings are not an easy read and one can sometimes attach to his words whatever meaning we want to. Some say he was an Arian, some a pantheist, etc. but strictly He was sui generis (of his own kind). What Servetus said when being burned to the stake was: “Jesus Christ, thou Son of the eternal God, have mercy on me!” He did not say the eternal Son of God which is what his traducers wanted him to say. Why should anyone be expected to say something that is not found in Scripture? The wording he used “Eternal God” is found in Scripture (Genesis 21:33). To burn a man to the stake because He uses Scripture terminology and not some terminology invented by theologians condemns the executioners. It may be mentioned here that the Catholics burned Servetus in effigy. He was odious to both Catholics and Protestants. His burning became a watershed. The Reformation made no real advance after that in the truth until relatively recent years. The whole of orthodox Christendom became mired in what is largely Romanist teaching (The Athanasian Creed, etc.). In saying the above it should not be assumed that I agree with every word Servetus wrote, or that his teaching or the English translation of it is without fault.

            Certainly we should test all things by the Word of God, so that when we read or hear things said that are not in accord with what we have been accustomed to think we should not reject such new thoughts out of hand, but see whether they are supported by Scripture (Acts 17:11).

            Certainly we need to have a thoroughly Biblical Christology. However, we must remember that when speaking of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit we are dealing with what is largely beyond our natural mind to compass and therefore we are in danger of forcing the truth into a mould that we can compass so that what we have got are effectively golden calves. It is to be noted that at the Reformation the idolatrous practices of Rome (images and the like) were largely given up by Protestant Christendom, but the Creeds of the Church of Rome were not. It is somewhat like the extirpation of Baal by Jehu who, however, did not get rid of the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan (2 Kings 10:28/29). Servetus thought of the golden calves as an idea obtained when the children of Israel were in Egypt (Treatise Concerning the Supernatural Regeneration and the Kingdom of the Antichrist pages 131/132).

            I agree that we should expose erroneous teaching, but at the same time we should balance exposure with positive truth. There is the overthrowing (2 Corinthians 10:5) but there is also the building up (2 Corinthians 10:8 and 13:10).

            Certainly warning is an essential part of Christian teaching. We need to be warned (Ecclesiastes 12:12) and there is much about warning in Ezekiel as a concordance will show. At the same time we need to encourage Christians and not dishearten them with continually harping on negative subjects (2 Corinthians 1:3/4; Colossians 3:21).

            Personally I would not like to sign any doctrinal statement which was not simply a reproduction of passages of Scripture and even then one is likely to have doubt whether the statement was comprehensive enough.

            The apostle John in his second and third epistles balances the matter of truth and love. If we truly love persons we would not want to see them walking in error. John speaks of love in truth (2 John verse 1 and 3 John verse 1). Consider also 2 John verse 6.

            That we should insist on clear Scriptural truth is right, though the interpretation of types and figures should not be equated with evil teaching, neither should we be insisting on some doctrinal thinking that is not found clearly in Scripture. Why did the apostles not tell us in plain language that Christ was Son of God from eternity if that was the truth?

            The writers assert dogmatically that Christ was God’s Son before the foundation of the world when Scripture does not specifically say so. When He was begotten they do not tell us and try to explain away the begetting as has already been shown.

            When Scripture speaks of Jesus, Christ, Son of God and Son of man it is identifying the person they are speaking about and it is dangerous to assume that they mean that He was those things before He was born here on earth. Was He the Son of man before He was born into this world? He came down from heaven (John 3:13 & 6:62) and was also seen in Old Testament days (Consider Ezekiel 1:26 and Daniel 7:13), but the Son of God never was, as has already been shown.

            The next section introduces theological terms such as the second person of the Trinity. The expression is not in Scripture and is built on what we get in Matthew 28:19, though in other places in Scripture the order is different; in 2 Corinthians 13:14, for example. That the writers of this book seem quite happy with orthodox theological terminology does not give one confidence that they are honestly seeking to learn what Scripture teaches as to God, Christ and the Holy Spirit.

            Whatever some persons who hold incarnational Sonship may think, I would say that I do not hold the view that Sonship is merely a role, title, office, function, or name that Christ assumed. Rather, I hold that it is a relationship based on birth. In Christ’s case Scripture it is clear that his Sonship was based on birth; hence we have all the passages speaking of him being born, begotten and such like words. Thus we have it said that He is the Firstborn among many Brethren. His Brethren receive sonship (are adopted) but Christ has it by birth.

            I do not hold that there is any inferiority in Christ’s nature (what He is morally - not his human physique and faculties) to that of God, but that does not mean that He is identical to God in all respects. It does not mean that He has automatically all the power, knowledge, place and such like things that God has, though God may and has given Him power, knowledge and place (Matthew 28:18; Revelation 1:1; Ephesians 4:10). John 5:17/18 is speaking of Christ’s nature, his being the same as God in the same way that I am the same as my parents. The Jews would not have thought that He was equal with God in any other way. Their knowledge of sonship would have been based on what they had themselves experienced.

            God was always the Father (Malachi 2:10 - what is creatorial), but it is not until we come to the New Testament that we get the truly spiritual thought of God’s Fatherhood as Christ said in John 20:17. We don’t want to confuse the thought that we are God’s offspring (Acts 17: 28/29) with sonship as we have it in the New Testament. No doubt, there is a sense that Israel was God’s son. God made it clear that He wanted his service (Exodus 4:22/23), but the present blessing of sonship is far greater than what Israel had.

            We do not want to use our imagination when we speak of what existed before the foundation of the world. Are we to think of God as if He was a trinity of persons with different names? We know virtually nothing about eternity, whether past or future. We don’t want to bring God in our minds down to a human level. God is presented in Scripture as the Father and Christ Jesus is said to have subsisted in his form, and the Spirit is his Spirit. Scripture never states that God is a trinity of persons, but Christ and the Spirit are distinguished from God in the New Testament, though clearly they have part in what we think of as deity. The subject is a large one.

            Following on from what is said above our limited understanding is liable to make us think that before the world’s foundation there were three persons existing in solitary state from eternity and then for some reason they decided to create the world and man upon it. Such a view makes no real sense. Relationships that then existed, if they did, are beyond our ken. We are just given a glimpse behind the veil, if one may use the expression, in John 17. All we can learn from that are two things (1) that Christ had his own peculiar glory (distinction) then, that is, He was not just a replica of God, and (2) that he was loved by God.

            Scripture does not say anything about one triune God existing in three persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That idea came out of the back of the head of prelates of the Church of Rome in the dark ages and the whole of orthodox Christendom is still leavened with it. We need to learn what Scripture actually tells us on the subject and not what we think it tells us.

            The idea that the persons of the Trinity are interchangeable is wrong. Christ is the mediator of God and men (1 Timothy 2:5). He is a man, though not a member of Adam‘s fallen race, but another order of man; one out of heaven (JND -1 Corinthians 15:47) - not the Lord from heaven as the AV has it. If He had been a member of Adam’s fallen race, He would have been subject to death Himself so could not be a substitute for others. At the same time, although having the nature of God in its fulness (Colossians 2:9), He had to be personally distinct from God in order that He could offer Himself spotless to God (Hebrews 9:14). Christ had not only to be the mediator in order to deal with the sin question, but also bridge the gap between the creator who dwells in unapproachable light and his creature man (Job 9:32/33).

            I do not think it fair to say that Christ saying He was Son of God was the same as saying He was God. Saying I am the son of someone is not the same as saying I am that person. The Word is a person distinct from [the] God (John 1:1) as well as being God (without the article). Any other interpretation makes the two statements neutralise one another. Saying with God means with the Father and the Spirit is an explanation with no Scriptural basis whatsoever, and is really no better than the Jehovah’s Witnesses explanation that the Word was God means the Word was [a] god. We may note here that the disciples said that, from what Christ had told them, they believed that He had come from God - not that He was God (John 16:30/31).

            I do not accept that Christ’s Sonship is simply a role or title but something based on the fact that He came out from God. He was there in the form of God but when we speak of Him as the only-begotten Son of God we think of Him on earth. Son implies a father, of implies a source, begotten implies birth. If this is heresy then the writers of Scripture were heretics and none of us believe that.

APPENDIX A - THE TERM “SON OF GOD” IN THE LIGHT OF OLD TESTAMENT IDIOM This appendix lists a good many cases where the term son is not used in the usual sense of a male child with parents. However, we know that Christ had parents, both a Father (God) and a Mother (Mary). Christ spoke of his Father as we do of a natural parent (Luke 2:49). However, He called his mother Woman (John 19:26), probably to give no one cause to think that Mary was the Mother of God. Scripture is clear that Christ was a real Son and not a Son in an idiomatic sense. Thus we have it said that God was his own Father (John 5:18) and that he was God’s own Son (Romans 8:3). Further, the alternative rendering of Psalm 2 verse 7 suggested on page 107 is not given in any translation that I have consulted and therefore must be questionable. Further, it appears that to get away from the idea of birth in connection with the Son of God we have to explain away a lot of passages which speak of him as being born (firstborn, etc.). The whole object of the appendix is really disclosed at the end. It is that Jesus is the uncreated, ungenerated, co-eternal, co-equal Son of God the Father. All one would say as to this is that this doctrine makes Christ greater than his Father when we add to his divine glory all that he has as man, unless of course we say that all the glory He has been given as man has no value. Far be the thought.

APPENDIX B - THE TESTIMONY OF MEN In this appendix the testimony of 17 men regarding the Sonship of Christ is given (no women incidentally). All are very positive that Christ was Son of God before his incarnation. However only 4 of those quoted refer to Scripture passages to support what they are saying as follows:

Charles Hodge (page 113) one quote (Romans 1:3-4)

Benjamin B. Warfield (page 114) three quotes (Mark 14:61-63; John 10:31-39; Romans 8:3)

John Murray (page 115) one quote (Romans 1:3-4)

E. Schuyler English (page 117) one quote (Hebrews 13:8)

Romans 1:3-4 is quoted by two of the above, but in neither passage is anything said about eternal Sonship, whether from or to eternity. Sonship is a relationship entered into either by birth or adoption. It is not a nature though a son has the nature of its father. This is so in the case of other uses of son as listed on pages 100/101, as we would say: like father/ like son. Mark 14:61-63 is quoted, from which it is clear that Christ is the Son of God, but nothing to suggest that He was Son of God from eternity. John 10:31-39 is quoted, but again nothing is said about Christ having been God’s Son from eternity. Romans 8:3 is quoted which, as the writer states, shows the uniqueness of Christ’s Sonship. We certainly don’t want to water it down to the level of the creatorial thought that we are offspring of God, or to the level of angels or even to that of Christian privilege (his brethren). Consider Acts 17:28/29; Job 1:6 and Romans 8:29. Lastly Hebrews 13:8 is quoted. This passage makes it clear that there is no change in Christ’s person though I would not like to dogmatise whether “yesterday” refers to a past eternity, Christ’s life on earth or the literal yesterday. Actually, as I have demonstrated in my own books, there has never been any change in Christ’s essential being. Note, however, the passage quoted speaks of Jesus Christ (his relationship to God of Son is not mentioned) and I don’t suppose the writer quoting this passage meant to infer that the one he was speaking about was Jesus Christ from eternity. The use of Christ’s name and office is simply to identify the Person he was writing about.

            The last person quoted really gives away the real reason for the view that Christ was Son of God from eternity, that is: “The consensus of the great theologians of the church and the great councils”. I would say that I have no confidence in them. In any case the leaders in the 16th century Protestant Reformation rejected the 7th council that supported the making of images and had reserves about the previous two councils (5th & 6th) (The Lion Concise Book of Christian thought by Tony lane - page 63). The so-called Nicene creed was, as Michael Servetus said, a reaction against Arianism. The whole of orthodox Christendom is still leavened with it. Scripture does not talk about the first and second Persons in the Godhead. Lastly one would point out that the oft quoted Scripture to support the equality of Christ with the Father in the Godhead (John 5:18) actually says: “equal with God”, not “equal with the Father in the Godhead”. If we take what the Jews said as it stands, we have a statement that the Son was a Person distinct from God.

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FURTHER COMMENTS It is useful to consider what Christ was when here on earth. One would note the following:-

(1) As to outward appearance He was not distinguishable from any other man else why was Judas paid for singling Him out from his disciples (Matthew 26: 14-16; & 48) and why did Mary mistake him for a gardener? (John 20:14/15) He obviously did not go about with a halo round his head.

(2) He never sinned as the dying thief said: “This [man] has done nothing amiss” (Luke 23:41)

(3) He was full of grace and truth (John 1:14). “All… wondered at the words of grace which were coming out of his mouth” (Luke 4:22) and “Never man spoke thus, as this man [speaks]” (John 7:46)

(4) He, as the Son of God had a relationship with his Father that was distinctive, so that as a child of twelve He could say: “Did ye not know that I ought to be [occupied] in my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49).

(5) He was conscious of having been with God before He came into this world (John 6:62 and 17:5 & 24). He did not begin his existence at his birth into this world (Micah 5:2).

  (6) He had power to perform miracles when the Holy Spirit had come upon Him (Acts 10:38).

(7) Being a Prophet (Luke 24:19; Acts 3:22) He had discernment and knowledge that others did not have (John 4:19; Mark 2:8).

(8) He had the nature of his Father (God), so that in Him we can see the Father (John 14:9).

Maybe others can find further distinctive features of Christ when He was here on earth. This could be a profitable study. However, we need to be careful that we do not extrapolate and effectively add to what Scripture actually says (Proverbs 30:6).

            It may be asked: “What is the underlying reason for the problems we have as to the Person of Christ”. The answer I believe is that while we are effectively hanging on to the creeds of the Church of Rome as to God, Christ and the Holy Spirit many can see that they are not compatible with what we are told in the Bible about the Trinity. Applying the ideas of omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence to Christ when he was here on earth leads to gross unreality. However, if we maintain He had these features before the incarnation, but not while here on earth we have somehow to reconcile the two apparently conflicting ideas. The two thoughts are reconciled by inventing a scheme (not found in Scripture) of arrangements, called the economy of grace, according to which Christ and the Holy Spirit took places subordinate to the Father with the object of effecting his purposes. Others rejecting the idea of the economy effectively carry the idea of subordinate places back before the incarnation or deny that there has ever been any subordination, though subordination is clearly taught in Scripture - “The Father has sent the Son” (1 John 4:14) for example.

            It is important not to make a selective use of texts to support a point of view and ignore those that don’t fit. To get a balanced view we need to consider all relevant passages of Scripture. The subjects considered are dealt with in detail in my books on the Trinity which are available free to interested persons and volumes I and II can in fact be read on my website, Bible Exposition. Unless otherwise stated, my quotations are from the J. N. Darby Bible. Words in square brackets above are in the J. N. Darby Bible used to show that the words are introduced to complete the sense in English. Words in curved brackets I have introduced to, hopefully, add clarity.

            I am at present reading Michael Servetus books which are often difficult to understand (they are not an easy read) and his meaning is not always clear so that there is a danger of making what he says mean what we want him to mean. This may result in taking his words to mean something we consider error or alternatively give them a meaning that we consider to be the truth. The translators of his works have added many annotations. His writings can be obtained from The Mellen Press. They are not cheap!

June 2011