The Sonship of Christ (Part 2)By Pastor Boffey on Sunday, October 16, 2011.
The Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ I. The importance of understanding the Sonship of Christ is not to be trivialized. God is known through His Son (MAT 11:27; 1JO 5:20) and therefore a correct understanding of the nature of His Sonship is critical to knowing the true God. A. Is Jesus Christ an eternally begotten Son of God in His divine nature, a timely begotten Son of God in His human nature, or both? B. Men are exhorted to believe on the ONLY begotten Son of God. JOH 3:16-18. C. Denial of the person and nature of the Son of God invites a weighty censure. 1JO 2:18, 22-23. II. The Lord Jesus Christ is a dual-natured being, both God and man. A. In His pre-incarnate state, He was the Word. JOH 1:1-3. 1. Note that it is AFTER the incarnation that men beheld Him as the only begotten of the Father. JOH 1:14. 2. Scripture pointedly identifies the Sonship of Jesus Christ with the conception in the virgin's womb. LUK 1:26-35. 3. To be the Son of the Highest (LUK 1:32) is to be the Son of the Father. 2JO 1:3; LUK 6:35 c/w MAT 5:45. B. Sonship by nature comes at the virgin's conception, not before. C. o nly: As a single or solitary thing or fact; no one or nothing more or else than; nothing but; alone; solely, merely, exclusively. 1. The concept of “only” demands a single, exclusive begetting, per JOH 3:16. 2. Therefore, if Christ was begotten in an eternal sense in eternity past and also begotten in a fleshly sense at the incarnation, He would not be the ONLY begotten Son of God but the TWICE begotten Son of God. III. A correct understanding of the Sonship of Jesus Christ serves as a valuable antithesis to paganism. Remember 1JO 5:20-21. A. Baalism. “The Baal, as the head of each worshipping group, is the source of all the gifts of nature; as the god of fertility all the produce of the soil is his, and his adherents bring to him their tribute of firstfruits. He is the presiding genius, patron or cause of all growth and fertility, and baalism, originating, probably, in the observation of the fertilizing effect of rains and streams upon the receptive and reproductive soil, became gross nature-worship. Joined with the baals there are naturally found corresponding female figures known as Ashtaroth, embodiments of Ashtoreth. In accordance with primitive ideas which assume that it is possible to control or aid the powers of nature by the practice of 'sympathetic magic,' the cult of the baals and Ashtaroth was characterized by gross sensuality and licentiousness.” (Encyclopedia Brittanica, Vol.2, 14th Ed., p.834) B. “Sexual passion was regarded as the expression of the divine force, and hence the facts and acts of generation were made the basis and the model of the religious rites, for in these acts, or in the imitation of these sexual acts it was believed that the worshipper came into mystic communion with the divine nature. By partaking of these rites a man was believed to part with his former sins, to form a special union with the deity, and made to partake of the divine, and started in a career in which he could not fail to grow morally better. This divine nature was conceived of as the deity and enthusiastically worshipped.” (Wagner, Martin L., Freemasonry: An Interpretation, p.57) C. “Masons become partakers of the divine nature and come into communion with the divine, The Sonship of Christ Page 1 of 7when they become generators of human life. In the procreative acts they become gods, and enter into cooperation with the divine nature.” (Ibid., p.100) D. “Freemasonry assumes that the human nature is an emanation of the divine nature, and as complex as the divine;....It views sexual passion only as an expression of the divine force, desirous of propagating the divine life, a repetition in the human nature what is conceived of as having occurred in the divine nature.” (Ibid., pp.125-126) E. The pagan notion is that deities beget other deities through procreative acts and that deity is continually engaged in procreation through human sexual passion. 1. This is refuted by the doctrine of Christ as the ONLY begotten Son of God. 2. God directly engaged in the biological reproductive process only ONCE! IV. A correct understanding of the Sonship of Jesus Christ also serves as an antithesis to gnosticism. A. Gnosticism was the most characteristic element of philosophy at the school of Alexandria, Egypt. 1. This school was established by Ptolemy Soter, ruler of Egypt around 306 B.C. 2. From 306 - 30 B.C. when Alexandria was subjugated by the Romans, the intellectual activity centered around scientific and literary things. 3. From 30 B.C. - 642 A.D., when the Arabs destroyed Alexandria, the intellectual activity centered around oriental gnosticism containing Jewish and later, Christian elements. This second period resulted in the religious philosophy of the gnostics and early church fathers. 4. Gnosticism affirms the doctrine of emanations: the supreme being emanated a lesser being which in turn emanated a lesser, etc. B. A classic representative of gnosticism is Philo, who attempted to synthesize Greek philosophy with the Old Testament. His concept of God was that He is without quality. He thought that God could not have direct contact with finite things without violating His purity and loftiness. Therefore, God generated the logos or reason or supreme idea through whom the world was created and who is the mediator between God and the world. This logos is the firstborn son of God. C. Origen (185-254 A.D.). He was educated at Alexandria, Egypt. He taught that the logos was eternal and yet a creature. He taught that the logos is eternally generated. Origen is the author of the Hexapla. 1. Notice how closely this parallels the Jehovah's Witnesses' concept of Jesus Christ. 2. This concept of an eternally generated son of God was adopted by the Nicene Council of 325 A.D. as representative of the Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ. It remains as Catholic dogma and is accepted by many Protestant sects (and some Baptists, too). a. “...eternally begotten of the Father...” (1973 ICET text, 1975 and 1988 ecumenical version) b. “...born of the Father before all ages...” (Latin Rite) c. “...begotten of the Father before all ages...” (Eastern and Greek Orthodox, Antiochian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox) d. “...Begotten of his Father before all worlds...” (Anglican, Lutheran, Orthodox Presbyterian) e. “...eternally begotten of the Father...” (Presbyterian Church U.S.A., Westminster Confession, 1689 London Confession [Baptist], 1742 Philadelphia Confession [Baptist]) 3. Interestingly, the 1655 Midland Confession (Baptist) does not affirm pre-incarnate The Sonship of Christ Page 2 of 7begetting of the Son. D. This gnostic philosophy is refuted by JOH 1:1-3, 14 and ISA 43:10. V. The following represents the position of eternal generation. A. Note these quotations from Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine by M. Sheehan, archbishop of Germia. 1. “It is a fundamental doctrine of our faith, revealed to us by God Himself, but discoverable even by unaided human reason, that God owes His existence to no other; that He is the only being who has within Himself the source and fount of His own existence.” (p.2) 2. “The Church teaches solemnly that in God there are Three Divine Persons, really distinct and equal in all things, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; that the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost is not the Father or the Son; that each of the Divine Persons is one and the selfsame God; that the Three Divine Persons are co-eternal; that the Father comes from none other; that the Son was begotten eternally of the Father; that the Holy Ghost comes eternally from the Father and the Son as from one source; that all the Attributes of the Divine Essence are common to the Three Divine Persons.” (p.10, emphasis mine, TEB). B. Now note these quotations from Systematic Theology by Charles Hodge. 1. “The Nicene Fathers, instead of leaving the matter where the Scriptures leave it, undertake to explain what is meant by sonship, and teach that it means derivation of essence. The First Person of the Trinity is Father, because He communicates the essence of Godhead to the Second Person; and the Second Person is Son, because He derives that essence from the First Person. This is what they mean by Eternal Generation. Concerning which it was taught, - 1. That it was the person, not the essence of the Son that was generated. The essence is self-existent and eternal, but the person of the Son is generated (i.e., He becomes a person) by the communication to Him of the Divine essence.” (p.468, emphasis mine, TEB) 2. “There is, therefore, a distinction between the speculations of the Nicene Fathers, and the decisions of the Nicene Council. The latter have been accepted by the Church universal, but not the former." (p.471) 3. “..., while it is admitted that the terms Father and Son are used to give us some idea of the mutual relation of the First and Second persons of the Trinity, yet they do not definitely determine what that relation is. It may by equality and likeness. Among men Father and Son belong to the same order of beings. The one is not inferior in nature, although he may be in rank, to the other. And the son is like his father. In the same manner in the Holy Trinity the Second Person is said to be the...Word or Revealer of the Father, so that he who hears the Son hears the Father, he who hath seen the one has seen the other. Or the relation may be that of affection. The reciprocal love of father and son is peculiar. It is, so to speak, necessary; it is unchangeable, it is unfathomable; it leads, or has led, to every kind and degree of self-sacrifice. It is not necessary to assume in reference to the Trinity that these relations are all that the relative terms Father and Son are intended to reveal. These may be included, but much more may be implied which we are not now able to comprehend. All that is contended for is, that we are not shut up to the admission that derivation of essence is essential to sonship.” (p.470) a. Note how drastically this “circle-speak” presentation contrasts the preaching The Sonship of Christ Page 3 of 7of Christ and Paul. MAT 7:28-29; 2CO 3:12. b. “Corruption in doctrine works best when it is unfettered by any explicit statement of that doctrine. Error loves ambiguities. It does not desire to state its position clearly, either because it has no distinct position to state, or if stated, it would stand convicted of iniquities in the eyes of all honest and God fearing men.” (Wagner, Martin L., Freemasonry, An Interpretation, p.539) 4. “When we consider the incomprehensible nature of the Godhead, the mysterious character of the doctrine of the Trinity, the exceeding complexity and difficulty of the problem which the Church had to solve in presenting the doctrine that there are three persons and one God, in such a manner as to meet the requirements of Scripture and the convictions of believers, and yet avoid all contradiction, we can hardly fail to refer to the Church creeds on this subject, which have for ages secured assent and consent, not to inspiration, strictly speaking, but to the special guidance of the Holy Spirit.” (Systematic Theology, p.478) a. Here Dr. Hodge reveals a serious flaw in his approach to doctrinal conclusions, namely, catering to “...the convictions of believers.” b. The minister of God who follows this pattern violates the pattern of Paul. GAL 1:10; ROM 3:4. C. The Nicene Creed: “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things, both visible and invisible; and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Only begotten of the Father, that is to say, of the substance of the Father, God of God and Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom were all things made...” D. Baptists are not immune to Nicene infection. The following is a quotation from History of the Church of God by Elders C.B. and Sylvester Hassell: “It remains, then, that He was the only begotten Son of God by eternal generation, inconceivable and mysterious.... Question 4. - If He was the Son of God by generation in the divine nature, how could He be co-equal and co-eternal with the Father? Answer. - When we conceive of the Father and the Son, there is a priority in the order of nature, but not in the order of time. As God's eternal decrees, the mind and the thought, the sun and the light; though these be prior and successive among themselves in the order of nature, yet not in point of time. The instant the sun existed, light did exist also, proceeding from it, or, as it were, generated by it. So the instant there is a Father, there must be a Son; and as the Father exists a Father from eternity, so does the Son a Son.” (pp.561-562, emphasis mine, TEB) 1. priority: The condition or quality of being earlier or previous in time, or of preceding something else. 2. The appeal to the simultaneity of the sun and light breaks down under the facts of GEN 1:3-5, 14-19. 3. When Scripture speaks of the generation of Jesus Christ, it points not to some mysterious relationship and movement within the Divine Godhead in eternity past, but to His fleshly descent from Abraham. MAT 1:1. VI. A word study after the pattern of NEH 8:7-8 is helpful. A. father: One by whom a child is or has been begotten, a male parent, the nearest male ancestor. B. parent: A person who has begotten or borne a child; a father or mother. C. child: As correlative to parent. The offspring, male or female, of human parents; a son The Sonship of Christ Page 4 of 7or daughter. D. son: A male child or person in relation to either or to both of his parents. E. beget: 1. To get, to acquire. 2. To procreate, to generate: usually said of the father, but sometimes of both parents. F. conceive: To conceive seed or offspring. Of a female: to receive (seed) in the womb; to become pregnant with (young). G. Refer these definitions to JOH 1:14; LUK 1:31-35. VII. To emphasize that Sonship refers to the conception of the human nature of Christ, O.T. references to the Son of God in a Trinitarian sense are prophetic, looking forward to the incarnation. A. 2SA 7:12-14 c/w HEB 1:5-6. A prophecy of the future Messiah. B. 1CH 17:13. Same as above. C. 1CH 22:8-10. This is a direct reference to Solomon. D. 1CH 28:6. Same as above. E. PSA 2:7 c/w ACT 13:29-34. A prophecy of the future Messiah. F. PSA 2:12 c/w vs. 8-12 w/ EPH 1:19-22. Prophecy of the Messianic reign which followed the resurrection of the Incarnate Son of God. G. ISA 7:13-14. Isaiah prophesies of God's Son in a future sense, the Incarnation. H. ISA 9:6-7. Same as above. I. HOS 11:1 c/w MAT 2:13-15. Obviously fulfilled in the Incarnate Son of God. VIII. Old Testament references to the Fatherhood of God in a Trinitarian sense are likewise prophetic, anticipating the incarnation. A. 2SA 7:14. Obviously prophetic of Jesus. B. 1CH 17:13. Same as above. C. 1CH 22:10. The reference is to Solomon. D. 1CH 28:6. Same as above. E. PSA 89:26. Obviously a prophecy of Jesus Christ. See MAR 15:34; JOH 20:17. F. ISA 9:6. An obvious prophecy of Jesus Christ. IX. The following are objections raised by Eternal Sonship Advocates (ESA's). A. JOH 5:17-18. The ESA will say that if sonship makes Jesus Christ equal with God, it must therefore be referring to the divine nature, for it is in the divine nature that there is equality. 1. However, remember that the Lord Jesus Christ is a composite Being. The Divine Word took into union with Himself human flesh (JOH 1:1-3, 14). To speak of the Son of God in the terms of His humanity is inclusive of His Deity. 2. Further, remember that Isaiah had prophesied that that complex Being would be called God. ISA 7:14; 9:6. B. JOH 3:17; 1JO 4:9; MAT 21:37. The ESA will argue that since God sent His Son into the world, He must have already been the Son of God or He could not have thus been sent. 1. The same logic, though, would also prove that the disciples existed as disciples before they were conceived. JOH 17:18. 2. Likewise with John the Baptist. JOH 1:6. 3. Scripture also teaches that “...God sent forth His Son, MADE OF A WOMAN...” (GAL 4:4). a. Notice first of all that the Son which God sent forth was a “made” Son. If the Sonship of Christ refers to His eternal nature, then what does the Nicene The Sonship of Christ Page 5 of 7Creed mean where it says that the Son was “...begotten, not made...”? b. If the ESA arguments for the sending forth of the Son prove that He was a Son in eternity past, then who was the woman that He was made of in eternity past: Isis, Astarte, a pre-incarnate Mary or the queen of heaven perhaps? c. Note that the text does NOT say “God sent forth His Son TO BE made of a woman.” 4. It is an accepted practice in language to use the terms which identify a person at one point in time when referring to that person at a time when the circumstances described by those terms were not in effect. a. Example: “My father was born in 1909.” This is a valid statement and in no wise does it prove that he was my father in 1909. b. Example: “My mother entered school at age 5.” No news on whether she had to get a babysitter! c. Example: Stephen says that God appeared unto Abraham in Mesopotamia (ACT 7:2) yet he was not yet Abraham, but Abram (GEN 17:4). d. Example: JOB 19:25. Job refers here to a future relevant name descriptive of God. God was Job's Redeemer by covenant only in Job's day; not in actual fact. C. JOH 16:28; HEB 1:2; ROM 8:29. The ESA argues that these verses which speak of things prior to the Incarnation prove that the Son must have existed as the Son in eternity past. 1. However, the same logic would also have to conclude that Jesus existed as a man from eternity past. JOH 1:30; 3:13; 6:62. 2. Post-Incarnation terms are simply being used in texts like these to describe the preIncarnate nature of the Divine side of the dual-natured God-man, Christ Jesus. D. HEB 7:1-3. ESA's will argue that Melchisedec was made like the Son of God, having no “beginning of days.” If there were no Son of God thus existing at that time, how could Melchisedec have been made like Him? 1. Paul also declared that the Son was made like Melchisedec. HEB 6:20; 7:17, 21. 2. If the phrase “having neither beginning of days nor end of life” applies to the Son of God, justifying Eternal Sonship, then the phrase “without father, without mother” must also apply, thereby undermining both Eternal and Incarnate Sonship. 3. Remember that the Lord Jesus Christ is a complex being, both God and man. JOH 1:1-3, 14. 4. Melchisedec was NOT made in eternity past like the Son of God was begotten in eternity past. 5. There is another sense in which Melchisedec was “made like unto the Son of God.” Melchisedec was made a priest LIKE the Son of God is NOW made a priest: continually. 6. HEB 7 is dedicated to the superiority of Christ's priesthood over that of Levi's by showing the priority of Melchisedec's order which Christ NOW enjoys by the oath of God, the many similarities between Christ's and Melchisedec's priesthood, and how they both contrast the weaker Levitical priesthood. a. Both were uniquely made priests by God not based on Moses' law. b. Neither depended on a priestly pedigree from Levi. c. Both were/are king-priests, which Levitical priests were not. d. Neither would transfer their priesthood to a descendant like Levitical priests The Sonship of Christ Page 6 of 7did. e. Neither would lose their priesthood, as could happen to Levitical priests. See 1SAM 2:27-36 for example. f. Both were/are greater than Levitical priests or Abraham. g. Both would have priesthoods that would endure as long as (and only as long as) they would live. E. DAN 3:24-25. The ESA will argue that this clearly proves that there was a Son of God before the Incarnation. 1. However, Nebuchadnezzar, consistent with occult pagan theology which maintains that all invisible, supernatural agencies are the offspring of Divinity, was evidently using that term to describe an angel. v. 28. 2. Before one gives too much credence to Nebuchadnezzar's statement, it should be noted that his thinking was obviously infected with pagan, polytheistic notions. DAN 4:8 c/w MAT 14:2. F. COL 1:15-16. The ESA will argue that since pre-incarnate activity of creation is here attributed to God's “firstborn,” there must have been a begotten Son of God at that time. 1. But if this is referring to the divine nature of the Second Person of the Godhead, note that He is “...the firstborn of every CREATURE.” In other words, the Word is a created deity, just as Jehovah's Witnesses teach. 2. The same logic would prove that the Word also existed as the Man and the Messiah from eternity past. EPH 3:9; 1TI 1:15; 2TI 1:9; HEB 2:9. 3. Christ being “the firstborn of every creature” must refer to His human nature. a. Some will say this cannot be true because Christ's was not the first human nature ever born. b. However, the Biblical doctrine of the firstborn is that the honor of preeminence rightly afforded the firstborn may be given to another which in fact was not born first. EXO 4:22; GEN 48:13-19 c/w JER 31:9; 1CH 5:1. c. Adam, by transgression, lost the preeminence of the firstborn (and note that Adam was not actually born, but created). Jesus Christ (Who was actually born), by righteousness, received it. COL 1:18; ROM 8:29. d. Christ was/is the firstborn of every creature of the resurrection unto life, being the “...firstborn from the dead...” (COL 1:18), the “...first begotten of the dead...” (REV 1:5), the “...firstfruits of them that slept” (1CO 15:20), the first man to resurrect from physical death to die no more. ROM 6:9. G. PRO 30:4. This is hardly a proof text that God had a son prior to the Incarnation. If anything, it is a challenge similar to what God made to Job in JOB 38-41 which in essence demands, “What man can claim to have done or do what only God has done or can do? Tell me his name and his son's name, too.” It is a rhetorical challenge. X. 1JO 5:5, 10. Those who believe that the flesh and blood God-man is the Son of God, yea, the ONLY begotten Son of God, are true overcomers. Those who do not thus believe reject God's revelation and declare Him a liar. XI. IJO 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.” The Sonship of Christ Page 7 of 7 The Sonship of Christ Page 8 of 7