"Come out of her My people" -- Jesus Christ
THE ETERNAL SONSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST
Question: "What is the doctrine of eternal Sonship and is it Biblical?"
Answer: The doctrine of Eternal Sonship simply affirms that Jesus Christ has eternally existed as the Son. In other words there was never a time when He was not the Son of God and there has always been a Father/Son relationship within the Godhead. This doctrine recognizes that the idea of Sonship is not merely a title or role that Christ assumed at some specific point in history, but that it is the essential identity of the second person of the Godhead. According to this doctrine, Christ is and always has been the Son of God.
Yes the eternal Sonship is Biblical and is a view that is widely held among Christians and has been throughout church history.
Throughout Church history the doctrine of eternal Sonship has been widely held, with most Christians believing that Jesus existed as God’s eternal Son before creation. It is affirmed in the Nicene Creed (325 A.D.) which states:
“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, and born of the Father before all ages. Light of light, true God of true God. Begotten not made, consubstantial to the Father, by whom all things were made."
It was also later reaffirmed in the fifth century in the Athanasian Creed.
There is considerable Biblical evidence to support the eternal Sonship of Christ.
First of all there are many passages that clearly identify that it was “the Son” who created all things (Colossians 1:13-16; Hebrews 1:2) therefore plainly teaching that Christ was the Son of God at the time of creation. When one considers these passages it seems clear that the most normal and natural meaning of the passages is that at the time of creation Jesus was the Son of God, thus supporting the doctrine of eternal Sonship.
Second, there are numerous verses that speak of God the Father sending the Son into the world to redeem sinful man. (John 20:21; Galatians 4:4; 1 John 4:14; 1 John 4:10) and giving His Son as a sacrifice for sin (John 3:16). Clearly implied in all the passages that deal with the Father sending/giving the Son is the fact that He was the Son before He was sent into the world. This is even more clearly seen in Galatians 4:4-6 where the term “sent forth” is used both of the Son and the Spirit. Just as the Holy Spirit did not become the Holy Spirit when it was sent to empower the believers at Pentecost, neither did the Son become the Son at the moment of His incarnation. Clearly the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, All three, have existed for all eternity and their names reveal Who they are not simply what their title or function is.
Third, 1 John 3:8 speaks of the appearance or manifestation of the Son of God: “the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” The verb “to make manifest” or “appeared” means to make visible or to bring to light something that was previously hidden. The idea communicated in this verse is not that the second person of the trinity became the Son of God but is that the already existing Son of God was made manifest or appeared in order to fulfill God’s predetermined purpose. This idea is also seen in other verses such as John 11:27 and 1 John 5:20.
Fourth, Hebrews 13:8 teaches that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.” This verse again seems to support the doctrine of eternal Sonship. The fact that Jesus’ divine nature is unchanging would seem to indicate that He was always the Son of God because that is an essential part of His Person. At the incarnation Jesus took on human flesh but His divine nature did not change, nor did His relationship with the Father. This same truth is also implied in John 20:31 where we see John’s purpose in writing his gospel was so that we might “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” It does not say that He became the Son of God but that He is the Son of God. The fact that Jesus was and is the Son of God is essential aspect of Who He is and His work in redemption.
Finally, one of the strongest evidences for the eternal Sonship of Christ is the triune Godhead and the eternal relationship that exists between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Particularly important is the unique Father/Son relationship that can only be understood from the aspect of Christ’s eternal Sonship. This relationship is key to understanding the full measure of God’s love for those whom He redeems through the blood of Christ. The fact that God the Father, took His Son, the very Son He loved from before the foundation of the world and sent Him to be a sacrifice for our sins is an amazing act of grace and love that can only be understood from the doctrine of eternal Sonship.
One verse that speaks of the eternal relationship between the Father and Son is John 16:28. "I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again, and going to the Father."
Implied in this verse is again the fact that the Father/Son relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ is one that always has and always will exist. At His incarnation the Son “came from the Father” in the same sense as upon His resurrection He returned “to the Father.” Implied in this verse is the fact that if Jesus was the Son after the resurrection then He was also the Son prior to His incarnation. Other verses that support the eternal Sonship of Christ would include John 17:5; John 17:24 which speak of the Father’s love for the Son from “before the foundation of the world.”
After one considers the many arguments for the doctrine of eternal Sonship it should become clear that this is indeed a Biblical doctrine that finds much support in Scriptures. However that is not to imply that arguments cannot be made against the doctrine as well or that all Christians will agree to this doctrine. While it has been the view of the majority of Christian commentators throughout history there have been a few prominent Christians on the other side of the issue as well.
Those that deny the doctrine of eternal Sonship would instead hold to a view that is often referred to as the Incarnational Sonship which teaches that while Christ preexisted He was not always the Son of God. Those that hold this view believe that Christ became the Son of God at some point in history, with the most common view being that Christ became the Son at His incarnation.
Those that hold this view see the Sonship of Christ as not being an essential part of Who He is, but instead see it a simply being a role or a title or function that Christ assumed at His incarnation. They also teach that the Father became the Father at the time of the incarnation. Thus they deny that Christ is a literal Son and they deny that the Father is truly a Father. Throughout history there has been a few conservative Christians who have denied the doctrine of eternal Sonship. One example would be John MacArthur. It is important to note however that several years ago John MacArthur changed his position on this doctrine and he now affirms the doctrine of eternal Sonship.
Some of the problems with the Incarnational Sonship of Christ is that this teaching confuses or destroys the internal relationships that exist within the Godhead, because if the Son was not begotten eternally by the Father then neither did the Spirit eternally proceed from the Father, through the Son. Also if there is no Son prior to the incarnation then there is no Father either and yet throughout the Old Testament we see God being referred to as the Father of Israel. Instead of having a triune Godhead eternally existing with three distinct names; Father, Son and Holy Spirit those that hold to the doctrine of incarnational Sonship end up with a nameless “Trinity” prior to the incarnation and we would be forced to say that God has chosen not to reveal Himself as He truly is, but only as He was to become.
In other words instead of actually revealing who He is, God instead chose to reveal Himself by the “Titles” He would assume or the “roles” that He would take on and not Whom He really is. This is dangerously close to modalism and could easily lead to false teachings about the nature of God. One of the weakness of the doctrine of incarnational Sonship is that the basic fundamental relationships that exist between the members of the Godhead are confused and diminished. Taken to its logical conclusion those that deny the eternal Sonship of Christ reduce the Godhead from the relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit to simply Number one, Number Two and Number Three persons—with the numbers themselves being an arbitrary designation destroying the God given order and relationship that exists between the Persons..
This is no doubt a working of the spirit of anti-christ within Christendom today; created by Satan to still the victory from Christianity.
How is denying the eternal Sonship of Christ dangerous?
The “Son of God” is the essential profession of whom Christ is. One can hold to the ‘Divinity’ of Christ and even to his eternal nature, and yet fall sadly short of the lone confession that brings salvation:
John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
The title “Second Person of the Godhead” or “God the Son” are confessions that the Apostles never sought for nor ever heard; and are not the confessions that causes one to overcome the world. Christ and the Apostles required the confession that Christ is indeed the Son of God.
1 John 5:5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
Acts 8:36-37 ...the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Those who deny the eternal Sonship of Christ teach the very doctrine of anti-christ, by essentially denying that God is truly the Father of Christ.
1 John 2:22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.