Son of God Always: The Doctrine of Eternal Sonship

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Jesus is God and has lived eternally. “Before Abraham was, I am” Jesus said to the Pharisees, who thought He was mentally deranged because He was under 50 years old. And yet, John tells us that “the Word” was “in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1-3).

There are discussions of the eternal subordination of the Son, a concept used to argue for the submission of women in church leadership to men (thus eliminating women in church leadership), and Jesus and God the Father have now been “dragged” into them both. For some, arguing that Jesus was always the Son of God lends credence to the eternal subordination doctrine — and they want nothing to do with it. They’d rather argue that Jesus “became” the Son of God when they took on flesh, rather than say that from eternity, He was “always” the Son of God.

As with every discussion, the Word of God has something to say about the matter. Was Jesus always the Son of God from eternity, or did He “become” the Son of God? Let’s dive into the discussion by way of examination of some key biblical verses.

Old Testament

Isaiah

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

The phrase “unto us a Son is given” tells us that the Son is being given to us, the world. Jesus didn’t become the Son after He was born; rather, as “the Son,” He was being given to the world. The “Child” is being born, which means that Jesus didn’t become flesh until coming to earth, but His Sonship existed before His earthly advent.

Gospel of Luke

Luke 1:31-35

31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:31-35)

“Will be called the Son of the Highest” (v.31) and “will be called the Son of God” (v.35) signal to some that don’t believe in eternal Sonship that Jesus only “became the Son” at a set time — His birth. This “will be called” could be the angel’s way of telling Mary about Jesus’ birth, not that Jesus wasn’t already the Son of God. “Son of God,” in a basic definition, refers to deity and divinity. Jesus has always been divine; He never “became divine,” though He did “become flesh” (John 1:14).

Gospel of John

17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:17)

“His Son” was sent “into the world,” reminding us that Jesus was already the Son of God before He entered into the world. The “Son” was sent “into the world.” It wasn’t just that “God” was sent into the world, but God the Son was sent into the world. The Sonship did not come about as a result of being born, but rather, was the name of the Second Person of the Triune Godhead from eternity: Son of God.

16 For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.”

18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. 25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27 and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. 30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

31 “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. 33 You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. 35 He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light. 36 But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.37 And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. 38 But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. 39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

41 “I do not receive honor from men. 42 But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. 44 How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:16-47)

John 5:17 reminds us that “Until now the Father has been working,” a statement that says that the Father has been working all this time, from eternity. In verse 22, the Father has given judgment to the Son, an action that occurred in Heaven because the plan was for Jesus to come to earth. Jesus’s coming down to earth, as “The Son of Man,” is what allows Him to execute judgment on mankind for its failure to believe in Him and thus, believe in the Father.

John 5:18, a verse we’ve not yet examined, says that, by calling God “His Father,” Jesus was saying that “God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.” To call God His Father was to call Himself God’s Son or the Son of God. The Jews knew what that title meant: that, by calling Himself The Son of God, Jesus was claiming that He was divine, that He was deity. And, of course, to be divine and to be deity implicated that Jesus had existed from eternity, that He wasn’t just the earthly age of thirtysomething years old. To the Jews, calling God His Father and thus, implying His divine Sonship was akin to blasphemy because “He made Himself equal with God.” The Jews were monotheist, believing in one God, and thought that God in two persons, that Father and Son being equally God, was outright blasphemy against God. They didn’t realize that the one God was fully expressed in three persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), which explains why their outrage was done out of a place of ignorance.

In John 5:37, 43, we see that “the Father has sent Me,” a reminder that the divine mission into the world was not crafted after Jesus’ birth on earth but while He was in Heaven. In verse 43, Jesus says “I have come in My Father’s name,” a reminder that, even in Heaven, Jesus submitted to the will of His Father and that the Father was the one who gave orders to the Son. The Father sent Jesus; Jesus submitted to the will of His Father and obeyed. When someone says, “I have traveled from the US to the United Kingdom (UK) on behalf of my corporation,” we know that the person didn’t get the orders after they got to England but rather, had them long before they arrived in the country. The same goes for Jesus: He is speaking and doing what He was given from the Father, and the Father sent Him on His mission while He was in Heaven. He got His orders long before being born in the flesh on earth.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:11-18)

In John 10:15, Jesus tells us that He knows the Father and the Father knows Him, a reminder that Jesus and God the Father have a special, unique relationship in Heaven that only Jesus can tell us about. In verse 17, Jesus says that “My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again,” The Father loves Jesus because Jesus submits to the Father’s will and gives His life for the world. “This command I have received from My Father” (John 10:18) shows that the divine mission was a command from God the Father, that the Father orchestrated it and planned it, not Jesus. Jesus submitted to the plan, but the plan itself was devised and designed by the Father. This is why Jesus says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). God the Father loved the world, God the Father gave Jesus. It was God the Father’s plan from beginning to end; Jesus came in submission to the Father’s will, but God the Father set the events in place. It was a “command” that Jesus received from God the Father, a reminder that Jesus didn’t come out of volunteerism but because of the Father’s command. There was a submission even in Heaven, and Jesus submitted to His Father there. Even among equals, where Jesus is equal to God the Father, there was submission. This heavenly submission by the divine persons reminds us that, while all believers are equal to one another in the Lord, God has set some believers in positions of authority over other individuals. Those in places of authority are to be respected for where God has placed them, and to submit to what one is asked to do by a Deacon, Pastor, Elder, etc., is to submit to God. This is why Paul wrote what he wrote to the Thessalonians:

12 And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)

“Are over you in the Lord and admonish you” (1 Thessalonians 5:12) refers to those who are in positions of church leadership over the congregation and are in a place to rebuke those who are going astray. “Esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake,” Paul says (1 Thess. 5:13), a statement that conveys the idea of the positions in the church being blessed by God, that by virtue of the office, those individuals in leadership should be esteemed.

27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:27)

“To come into the world” is distinguished from Jesus being the Son of God. The Son of God was to come into the world, an implication that Jesus was the Son of God before coming into the world.

49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.” (John 12:49-50)

Jesus implies here that the “Father told Me” what to speak while He was in Heaven, before He came to earth. This alone tells us that Jesus was the Son in Heaven. How could He come down with a message from the Father if He wasn’t the Son in Heaven, and the Father didn’t send Him and give Him a message? If Jesus became the Son of God when He was born in the flesh, then how could He have a message from the Father — who wouldn’t have been “The Father” until His birth? “The Father who sent Me gave Me a command” Jesus says in John 11:49, reminding us that Jesus submitted to His Father, even before He came to earth. That alone tells us that He was the Son of God in Heaven, that He submitted to His Father in Heaven, not only on earth, and that He didn’t “become the Son” but was always The Son.

8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”

9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. (John 14:8-11)

Jesus makes a statement here that to see Him is to see the Father, which means that Jesus is an accurate portrayal of what it means to look upon God the Father (He is God’s Son, after all). Jesus says that “the words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority,” which means that the mission of Jesus coming to earth was orchestrated by God the Father — remember, it is a command that Jesus received. With that said, He had to receive the command in Heaven before the mission began, so we know that in Heaven, Jesus was the Son and God the Father was the one who gave the command.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. 28 You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I. (John 14:25-28)

Jesus says “My Father is greater than I” (v.28), an acknowledgment that Jesus, the Son of God, submits to His Father. It’s hard to believe that this submission only takes place on earth (Scripture states without hesitation that the Son submitted to the Father in Heaven; we’ll get into this Bible verse later), considering that Jesus received the command to die for the sins of the world from God the Father. The Helper, the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, will be sent by God the Father: “whom the Father will send in My name” (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit is not being sent in His own name, but in Jesus’ name (Jesus is the Savior of the world who dies for the sins of the world; believers only get the Holy Spirit because they’ve placed their faith in Jesus, the Son of God; since the Father has the Holy Spirit, and the Father sends Jesus, He alone has the power at this point to send the Holy Spirit; Jesus doesn’t give the Holy Spirit until He rises from the dead — at which point, for His obedience, God the Father exalts Him and gives Him the Holy Spirit to breathe on His disciples). The Father will send the Holy Spirit in the name of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Father’s way of exalting His Son. The Father “is greater than I,” Jesus says, but the Father still exalts Jesus by sending the Spirit in the Son’s name.

What we learn about the Spirit in John 14 is that “He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” The Spirit will bring to their remembrance “all things that I said to you,” showing us that the Spirit’s role is to confirm Jesus, not Himself. More about the Holy Spirit will be said in John 16, but for now, it is sufficient to note that the Holy Spirit’s job is to confirm Jesus, not Himself. In the same way that Jesus pointed to the Father and gave the message He received from God the Father, the Spirit is to bring back to the mind of believers what Jesus said when He was on earth. By recalling the words of Jesus in the minds of believers, the Holy Spirit would be constantly showing His submission to Jesus and to the Father. Again, there is mutual submission of the Trinity.

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. (John 15:26)

Jesus identified the Holy Spirit as “whom I shall send to you from the Father,” shows that the Son cannot send the Spirit unless He receives the Spirit from the Father. The Father owns the Spirit, the Son does not (at least at this point). “The Spirit of Truth,” as Jesus calls the Holy Spirit, “proceeds from the Father.” The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, comes from the Father, but does not “proceed” from the Son — at least not yet. Jesus has to pray to God the Father to receive the Spirit so that He can then give the Spirit to believers.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-15)

The “Spirit of truth,” another name for the Holy Spirit, “will not speak on His own authority…He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (v.13-14). In other words, the Spirit’s job is to exalt Jesus, to point to Jesus. In the same way that the Son exalts the Father (and the Father exalts the Son), now the Spirit exalts the Son and the Son, Jesus Christ, exalts the Spirit by telling that “He will guide you into all truth.” The Spirit would stay with believers forever; He wouldn’t depart from them as Jesus departs from them to return to Heaven to prepare a place for believers to live with them.

26 In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; 27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. 28 I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.” (John 16:26-28)

“I came forth from God” (v.27) and “I came forth from the Father” (v.28) are references to the procession of the Son from the Father. The Father is the origin or source of procession in the Trinity, which means that, in some sense, the Father has priority as the source of the Trinity. This priority in the Trinity means that the Father has preeminence.

Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (John 17:1-5)

“Glorify Your Son,” a statement that tells us that God the Father is the one that can glorify Jesus. The Father can glorify Jesus, bring glory to Jesus, so that Jesus can bring glory to God the Father. “You have given Him authority over all flesh” (John 17:2), which tells us that God is the one who gives authority. Again, God the Father has preeminence, even to the point that, Jesus can give eternal life “to as many as You have given Him.” In other words, Jesus gives eternal life to all those the Father has given to Jesus. Remember where Jesus says “All the Father gives to Me will come to Me?” Well, who does the Father give to Jesus? Believers! The Father gives believers to Jesus. The Father and Son can be glorified together (v.5), since they shared glory together before the world was ever created. Again, this tells us that the Father and Son, in eternity past, were both glorified together.

24 “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.25 O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:24-26)

“For You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24) is an expression that shows us the relationship between the Father and the Son has pre-existed the creation of the world, the beginning of time as we know it; that is, in eternity past, the Father and the Son have always had a loving relationship, a familial relationship as “Father” and “Son.” This verse shows us that the relationship of the Father and the Son has predated the world, has predated “let there be light,” has come before the creation of all living things on the earth, including humanity. The love between Jesus and the Father can only be explained by their familial titles. The love of the Father for the Son didn’t just begin when Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. John 17:24 is one of the key verses eternal sonship advocates use against their opponents, with good reason.

Romans

3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4)

“God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh” tells us that God sent Jesus, called the Son of God, in human flesh. This doesn’t tell us that God became the Father’s Son when He put on human flesh, but that, rather, He was already the Son when He took on human flesh. Again, this trumps the idea that eternal sonship is not orthodox doctrine.

Galatians

4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

“God sent forth His Son,” a reminder that Jesus was already “His Son” before being born of a woman. What Jesus became in His birth, in the Incarnation, was “Son of Man.” He was always Son of God, pre-existent, but He became Son of Man by virtue of His birth from the womb of the human woman Mary.

Ephesians

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:3-14)

Ephesians 1:4,5 reveal that believers were “chosen in Him,” in Christ, “before the foundation of the world.” The questions we must ask ourselves are the following: 1) how were we chosen when we were sinners? How could God choose sinners to be saved? God could only save sinners by way of Jesus Christ. Thus, the plan of the incarnation came “before the foundation of the world,” before time began, before light appeared on the face of the earth. Some opponents to eternal sonship would say that Jesus only became the Son in the incarnation, but if that’s true, how then could God the Father have purposed salvation by grace through faith before the foundation of the world? If the plan was set in place before time, upon foreknowledge of all things, then Jesus would have been the Son of God before time, too.

If God so loved the world that He gave Jesus, then God must’ve purposed to love the world before the foundation of the world — which means that God would’ve had to purpose to give “His Son,” Jesus, before the world began or was ever created. If He so loved the world that He gave His Son, then He had to have purposed the plan of salvation to redeem mankind before time began. Ephesians 1:5 said that believers have been “predestined to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ Himself,” the word “predestined” in the Greek referring to predetermination, to decide beforehand or plan beforehand. Thus, before time, God had already purposed in His love to send His Son, Jesus, to die for the sins of the world. If Jesus only “became the Son” on earth, then this means that the idea of sonship is tied to Jesus’ incarnation. And yet, as I’ve said before, the title “Son of Man” refers to Jesus’ humanity, not His deity. He was always Son of God in that He has always been divine, but He only “became” the Son of Man by being born of the virgin Mary. We were elected to salvation “in Christ,” a phrase Paul uses some 11 times in Ephesians 1, to show us that our election is tied to Christ. Jesus is the “Beloved,” and, if we were chosen before time began, then Jesus has been “Beloved” since before time began, back in eternity past. Therefore, the Father and Son have always been in a loving relationship.

Gospel of Matthew

25 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. 26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. 27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. (Matthew 11:25-27)

In verse 27, Jesus says that “all things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal him.” The Father has given all things to the Son, showing the Father’s authority over all. Jesus refers to God the Father as “Lord of heaven and earth” in Matthew 11:25. Once again, God the Son is on a mission given to Him by God the Father. The Father commanded Jesus to fulfill this divine mission to save mankind, and the Father is the one who has given the authority, the message, and even the judgment of humanity.

The idea of “before the foundation of the world” is found in Ephesians 1, John’s Gospel (including John 17 in Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer), as well as the Gospel of Matthew:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ (Matthew 25:31-36)

The kingdom of Heaven has been “prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” a phrase in Matthew 25:34 that points to an eternal work. That is, before time, before the world and humanity were created, God already planned to rescue the world in Jesus Christ. Since Jesus was already designated as Savior before time began, then He had to be Son before time began because the mission, orchestrated by God the Father, was also before time as well. Since God foreknew the sin of man (though He didn’t cause it and is not responsible for it), He did have a plan in mind — which explains why the “seed of the woman,” using the pronoun “he,” would bruise the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15; Romans 16:20).

1 Corinthians

20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27 For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:20-28)

This is an important passage in our study of the Doctrine of Eternal Sonship, because it tells us what has been from eternity past as well as what will be in the future at the end of time. 1 Corinthians 15:24 says “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.” At the end of time, Jesus will deliver the kingdom to God the Father. “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet” is a statement that implies that Jesus is currently reigning as Lord “till” or “until” He has subjected all to God’s rule. And yet, verse 27 reminds us that God the Father is not made subject to Christ: “But when He says ‘all things are put under Him,’ it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted.” Who is the One who put all things under Jesus, God the Son? The answer is “God the Father.” So, while everything will be made subject to God the Son at the end of time, God the Father will never be subjected to God the Son. Never. God the Father is the One who is “excepted.” If God the Father is the exception to the rule, the One who isn’t subject to Christ, then it can be said that God the Father has never been subjected to God the Son — and that God the Son, Jesus, has always been subject to God the Father. This indicates that there has always been a submission of God the Son to God the Father, that God the Father is preeminent above God the Son. The only reason why God the Son would have to hand the kingdom and authority and power back to God the Father is if the Trinity has always been about God the Father and God the Son, if Jesus has always been God the Son in Heaven. The power and authority, as this verse implies, that is given to Jesus is only until all things (God the Father being left out of the “all things”) are subject to Christ and under Christ. When all things are under Christ, then Christ will give them back to the Father so that He can take His rightful place as being the Son of God, not Father God Himself.

28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:28)

This verse, 1 Corinthians 15:28, tells us that “the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” The Son of God, Jesus, will be subject to God the Father, the One who put all things under Christ. In other words, the Father has exalted Jesus on earth, has given Jesus power and authority and a name above every name, we’re told in Philippians 2:

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

The Father has exalted the Son so that, by exalting the Son, the Father is Himself exalted. “At the name of Jesus,” everyone bows and acknowledges God. In the end, God the Father is honored because whoever honors the Son, as Jesus says, God the Father is pleased. In the end, when everything is subject to Christ, when Jesus is acknowledged in everything, the glory of God the Father will be seen in the fact that Jesus will hand the kingdom over to God the Father, the One who gave it to Him to start with. Just as God the Father exalts the Son, the Son will exalt the Father in the end. The only reason why the Son would be subject is if He’s always been subject to the Father, always submissive. The fact that God the Father isn’t subject shows that God the Father and God the Son have never been two persons whose roles have been interchangeable; rather, they’ve always been distinguished as “God the Father” and “God the Son.”

God the Son, Jesus, would never have to surrender the kingdom back into the hands of God the Father if the Father didn’t have some preeminence above Jesus.

Hebrews

Hebrews 1

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

5 For to which of the angels did He ever say:

“You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You”?

And again:

“I will be to Him a Father,

And He shall be to Me a Son”?

6 But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says:

“Let all the angels of God worship Him.”

7 And of the angels He says:

“Who makes His angels spirits

And His ministers a flame of fire.”

8 But to the Son He says:

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;

A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.

9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;

Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You

With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”

10 And:

“You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth,

And the heavens are the work of Your hands.

11 They will perish, but You remain;

And they will all grow old like a garment;

12 Like a cloak You will fold them up,

And they will be changed.

But You are the same,

And Your years will not fail.”

13 But to which of the angels has He ever said:

“Sit at My right hand,

Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”?

14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?

In Hebrews 1, we see Paul distinguish between the angels and Jesus, reminding us that Jesus isn’t an angel; He isn’t on the same plane as the angels, but rather, is above them. In Hebrews 1:2, we read that Jesus, God the Son, is the one “through whom also He made the worlds.” God the Son is the Creator of the world. The word “worlds” in Hebrews 1:2 is not the word for “world” that we’d find in John 3:16 for example (the word for “world” in John 3:16 is kosmos), but rather, the Greek word aionas, referring to “ages,” periods of time, the different eras of history. God the Son, thus, is God, the Creator of all there is, so Jesus isn’t “less God” than God the Father despite His subjection to the Father.

And yet, the Father makes it clear that Jesus is God the Son:

5 For to which of the angels did He ever say:

“You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You”?

And again:

“I will be to Him a Father,

And He shall be to Me a Son”? (Hebrews 1:5)

These words, quoted in Hebrews 1:5, are taken from two passages of Scripture: the first part of verse 5, pertaining to “begotten” Son, are from Psalm 2, while the second part, the Father/Son distinction, comes from 2 Samuel 7.

Let’s look at Psalm 2 first:

Why do the nations rage,

And the people plot a vain thing?

2 The kings of the earth set themselves,

And the rulers take counsel together,

Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,

3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces

And cast away Their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;

The Lord shall hold them in derision.

5 Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,

And distress them in His deep displeasure:

6 “Yet I have set My King

On My holy hill of Zion.”

7 “I will declare the decree:

The Lord has said to Me,

‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.

8 Ask of Me, and I will give You

The nations for Your inheritance,

And the ends of the earth for Your possession.

9 You shall break them with a rod of iron;

You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”

10 Now therefore, be wise, O kings;

Be instructed, you judges of the earth.

11 Serve the Lord with fear,

And rejoice with trembling.

12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,

And you perish in the way,

When His wrath is kindled but a little.

Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. (Psalm 2:1-12)

Psalm 2 speaks of “the Lord and His Anointed” in verse 2, a reference to Jesus Christ because “Christ” means “anointed.” So Psalm 2 is a Messianic Psalm referring to God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. That will become more evident as we pour through Psalm 2. In verse 7, the Lord says to Christ, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten you,” a reminder that the Anointed One, the Christ, is “begotten.” The Scriptures tell us that Jesus is the One Psalm 2:7 is referring to:

30 But God raised Him from the dead. 31 He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. 32 And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. 33 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm:

‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.’ (Acts 13:30-33)

In Acts 13, Jesus is referred to as the Son, and the Father as the one that has “begotten” Him. God the Father acknowledges Jesus as His Son at His baptism:

9 It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. 11 Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11)

21 When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. 22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22)

God the Father validates Jesus as His Son, but as we can see, this validation was said back in Psalms, hundreds of years (if not a millennium or so before) Jesus came to earth in the Incarnation. What this means is that the Lord Jesus was already the Son of God before being born of the virgin Mary. In Psalm 2:12, the writer says to “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,” which indicates that the nations should “kiss the Son,” an action that shows their respect of the Son, their adoration of the Son; if they don’t honor, adore, and reverence the Son, “He,” God the Father, will be angry. Jesus, God’s Son, is the Father’s Anointed, and those who do not honor the Son do not honor the Father — which makes the Father angry and leads to His wrath on them. The reference to “Son” is the reference to the “Anointed” at the beginning of the Psalm, Jesus Christ. This Psalm, written long before the Incarnation, shows us that the Trinity, with each of their names, already existed as such: God the Father was already The Father, God the Son was already The Son, and God the Holy Spirit was already The Spirit of the Lord. These three distinct persons didn’t “become” anything they weren’t already. Jesus was already God the Son, before His advent on earth. Those who argue that Jesus “became” the Son of God will have a hard time facing the words of Psalm 2.

Now, let’s go back to Hebrews 1. We’ve covered the first part of verse 5 that pertains to begetting the Son. The second part of verse 5, however, pertains to the Father/Son distinction. This section comes from 2 Samuel 7:

12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. 15 But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.”’” (2 Samuel 7:12-15)

In the immediate context of 2 Samuel 7, God is talking to David about the seed to come after him, that is, his son Solomon. And yet, Paul takes this verse and incorporates it to talk about God the Father and His begotten Son, Jesus. Paul does this to say that the Lord has never called an angel “Son,” showing that Jesus is above the angels. Those who want to venerate or worship the angels would do well to pay attention to the words of Hebrews 1 because the angels are lower than Jesus, and Jesus is above or superior to the angels. The angels are not eternal, having been created at a certain point, while Jesus, like God the Father, has always existed — even before the Incarnation. “In the beginning was the Word,” we read in John 1:1. The idea that God would be a Father to Him, Jesus, shows us that the Father/Son distinction has always been the case. We just saw in Psalm 2 that God the Father talks to the Son, Jesus, saying, “I will give you the nations as your inheritance” (paraphrase). God the Father is talking to the Son with these words, and these words are not said on earth — so we know that the Father and the Son talked in Heaven, that they were distinct with their familial titles before the Incarnation.

In Hebrews 1:8-12, we see the Father talk to the Son as God and exalt Him:

8 But to the Son He says:

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;

A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.

9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;

Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You

With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”

10 And:

“You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth,

And the heavens are the work of Your hands.

11 They will perish, but You remain;

And they will all grow old like a garment;

12 Like a cloak You will fold them up,

And they will be changed.

But You are the same,

And Your years will not fail.” (Hebrews 1:8-12)

Here we see God the Father recognize the Son as God, speaking of the Son’s eternality and His Kingdom. Remember? As 1 Corinthians 15:28 says, the Son will reign until all things are under His feet, at which point He’ll give the kingdom back to God the Father. The Son, Jesus, laid the foundation of the earth, reminding us that Jesus was there with God the Father in creation, making all that exists. Genesis 1:26 finds God saying “Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness.” The capped words there, “Us,” and “Our” (twice), are living proof that the Trinity was already consisting of distinct persons because, if there were no distinct persons, then there would have only been one person who said, “I will make man.” If there are no distinct names for the Triune Persons, then there is no “Tri” nature to the Trinity. The “nity” of the word “Trinity” points to the unity of the “Tri,” the unity of the three persons that make up the Godhead.

Of the verses in Hebrews 1:8-12, there’s one that should stand out to you, verse 12, where it says “But You are the same.” While the heavens and the earth will change, Jesus will remain the same. Hebrews 13:8 says “Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, today, and forever,” and this is the same idea behind Hebrews 1:12: that is, that God the Son has always been God the Son; He didn’t become the Son when He came down to earth, but rather, He became human so that He could die for our sins. As we’ve seen in the prophetic book of Daniel, however, “Son of Man” is a title that the Lord already gave by inspiration to Daniel thousands of years before the birth of Christ, so these titles pre-dating the Incarnation are a testimony to their existence before Jesus ever comes to earth. Jesus didn’t “become” these titles because these titles already applied to Him before the advent.

The end of Hebrews 1 is yet another Old Testament quote with God the Father talking to God the Son:

13 But to which of the angels has He ever said:

“Sit at My right hand,

Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”? (Hebrews 1:13)

Hebrews 1:13 is a reference from Psalm 110:

The Lord said to my Lord,

“Sit at My right hand,

Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”

2 The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion.

Rule in the midst of Your enemies!

3 Your people shall be volunteers

In the day of Your power;

In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning,

You have the dew of Your youth.

4 The Lord has sworn

And will not relent,

“You are a priest forever

According to the order of Melchizedek.”

5 The Lord is at Your right hand;

He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath.

6 He shall judge among the nations,

He shall fill the places with dead bodies,

He shall execute the heads of many countries.

7 He shall drink of the brook by the wayside;

Therefore He shall lift up the head. (Psalm 110:1-7)

“The Lord said to My Lord” shows that we’re talking about two persons who are both called “Lord.” “The Lord” is a reference to God the Father, who tells “My Lord,” Jesus, to “sit at My right hand.” We know that Jesus, when He ascended back to Heaven, sat at the right hand of God the Father:

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, (Hebrews 8:1)

11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. (Hebrews 10:11-13)

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

The right hand of the throne of God is a place of power, but Jesus is subject to the commands of God the Father, even having risen and having the Name that saves.

The Father’s command to Jesus to sit at His right hand shows that the Father gives commands, Jesus obeys. In Psalm 110:4, God the Father makes God the Son, Jesus, a priest:

4 The Lord has sworn

And will not relent,

“You are a priest forever

According to the order of Melchizedek.”

“The Lord” tells “My Lord” in the context of Psalm 110 that “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Jesus, then, is a priest forever, but He is only made a priest because God the Father makes God the Son, Jesus, a priest. In other words, God the Father installs Jesus as priest, even though Jesus is from the tribe of Judah and not the tribe of Levi, from whom come Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and other priests in Israel’s history. Hebrews 5 says the same:

For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. 3 Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins. 4 And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.

5 So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him:

“You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.”

6 As He also says in another place:

“You are a priest forever

According to the order of Melchizedek”; (Hebrews 5:1-6)

Hebrews 5:4-5 tells us that Jesus is like the Israelite priests in that He didn’t declare Himself to be Priest; rather, like the Israelite priests, the Levites, Jesus was also called and installed by God. And Jesus is installed in Psalm 110, hundreds of years before Jesus ever came to earth. This tells us that the plan was already set in motion before Jesus’ advent, that the Father/Son distinction already existed. The plan was set in motion from before time began, so Jesus had to be The Son and the Lord God “The Father” before time began in order to explain Jesus’ submission to the will of the Father before time began.

Paul devotes some significant length of time in Hebrews to Jesus and Melchizedek, who Melchizedek was and how Jesus could serve as a priest. He isn’t just a priest, but High Priest.

Psalm 110, used in Hebrews 1, is also a Messianic Psalm and refers to God the Son, Jesus Christ. These passages used tell us that God the Father and God the Son already had the Father/Son relationship in Heaven, long before Jesus ever came to earth and took on flesh.

Hebrews 10

5 Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:

“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,

But a body You have prepared for Me.

6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin

You had no pleasure.

7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—

In the volume of the book it is written of Me—

To do Your will, O God.’”

8 Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), 9 then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. 10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:5-10)

What we see here in Hebrews 10 is that Jesus submits to the will of the Father in Heaven. Though He may say these things when He enters into the world, the Father prepared a body for Jesus before He left Heaven (“but a body You have prepared for Me,” verse 5). Jesus comes into the world and says in so many words, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God”. If Jesus hadn’t agreed to do the Father’s will in Heaven, He would have never come to earth. The agreement took place between the Father and Son before the world was ever created.

1 John

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3)

John says in 1 John that “the life was manifested” (v.2) and “that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us” (v.2), words that remind us the life in question is Jesus Christ. Notice that the life “was with the Father and was manifested to us.” Jesus Christ was with God the Father and was then made known to humanity. Nowhere in this passage does it say that Jesus, the Son, was created on earth. Rather, to make manifest means that something exists but is hidden or absent. “The life” was “with the Father” before coming to earth, so Jesus was God’s Son before coming to earth.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. (1 John 4:1-3)

“Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” doesn’t sound as if Jesus didn’t become the Son of God until He took on flesh. The Son of God was always the Son of God, even before His name “Jesus” is announced by an angel to Joseph. He isn’t called Jesus before He comes to earth, but He was always the Son of God in Heaven.

9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:9-11)

God the Father sent His Son to be our Savior, but He was already God the Son in Heaven, already the only begotten Son. He didn’t become the Son by taking on flesh; rather, He became the propitiation for our sins by doing so. And yet, even before He came down to fulfill the mission, He had to agree to it. Again, God the Son always existed in Heaven; He was always obedient to the Father, always at the Father’s right hand, always submissive to the Father, always bringing glory to the Father. Even in being equal with God, He was always willing to do the will of His Father. In 1 John 4:14, God the Father sent Jesus to be the Savior of the world.

Conclusion

This study of the Doctrine of Eternal Sonship says that Jesus has always been the Son of God, even in Heaven, not that He became the Son of God by coming to earth. It’s been said that there are evangelicals and conservative Christians who are on both sides of the debate, but to err on the side of Jesus “becoming” God’s Son in the Incarnation is to overlook the multitude of passages on the subject. First, we know that Jesus was in the beginning with God the Father, as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created the world. The “Us” used throughout certain passages in Genesis, in everything from the creation of the world, to the Tower of Babel, to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and so on, conveys the idea of a distinction of persons, a plurality of persons. To say otherwise is to conflate the three persons into just “one” person, to adopt the heretical doctrine of modalism (that God is one person, expressed in three modes) that says that there is one God but He “projects” Himself to be three persons. We know this isn’t the case because, even in the Old Testament, when God sends “The Angel of His Presence,” a member of the Triune Godhead, to lead His people, God Himself remains on the throne. And notice in the New Testament that, even when Jesus is confirmed as the Son, the Father’s voice booms from Heaven (we never see God the Father face to face) and the Spirit descends as a dove (we don’t get to see the Holy Spirit face-to-face as a person, either). God the Son is the one who shows us what the Father is truly like, for “if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father,” Jesus says in John 14:9.

Psalm 2 tells us of the Son, as opposed to “The Lord,” with “Lord” being a reference to two persons, one of whom is told to “sit at My right hand.” The “Son” is mentioned in the same passage the King, and the King’s wrath is poured out on those who do not “Kiss the Son,” who do not bow before the Son. Psalm 110 is all about the King handing the throne to “My Lord,” giving Him the nations as His inheritance. This language is used in the Book of Revelation as well.

If Jesus “became” God the Son in the Incarnation, then we would expect to find this language clearly. And yet, we don’t: even in the Old Testament, Jesus, “the Anointed” as Psalm 2 says, the Christ, is called “Son,” and God who commands Him is called “Father.” Two places in which God is called Father are both located in the prophetic book of Malachi:

“A son honors his father,

And a servant his master.

If then I am the Father,

Where is My honor?

And if I am a Master,

Where is My reverence?

Says the Lord of hosts

To you priests who despise My name.

Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ (Malachi 1:6)

10 Have we not all one Father?

Has not one God created us?

Why do we deal treacherously with one another

By profaning the covenant of the fathers? (Malachi 2:10)

Now, in both verses from Malachi, we see Malachi the prophet referring to God as “Father,” but if He’s the Father of Israel, then would He not have been the Father of God the Son from the beginning? This language wouldn’t exist if God didn’t have a Son as He had “sons and daughters” in the nation of Israel. The mentions of “Father” and “Son” and “Spirit of the Lord” in the Old Testament, prior to the Incarnation (see the Doctrine of the Trinity in the Old Testament), tell us that these three persons of the Triune Godhead held their titles (“Father, Son, Holy Spirit”) long before the Incarnation and the divine mission to earth.

But some say, “Well, why did God the Father confirm Jesus on earth after His baptism?” There’s a good answer to this: God the Father did it so that those standing around, humanity, would know that Jesus is God’s Son, not to confirm that Jesus had “become” God’s Son on earth. Jesus never had to complete any mission to be God’s Son. He was always God’s Son. Those who claim the idea that Jesus “became” God’s Son are forgetting that, first, “Son of God” is a title that refers to the divine. In other words, only deity can claim the title. If Jesus became God the Son when He came to earth, then this implies that He wasn’t divine in Heaven — which is a problem because He becomes inferior to the angels. And yet, as Paul says in Hebrews, Jesus is superior to the angels, and in Philippians, the Apostle says that Jesus was equal with God (Philippians 2:6) in Heaven. If He was equal with God in Heaven, then, at the very least, He had to be a “Son of God” if not “The Son of God.” Of course, I believe Jesus was already The Son of God, the Second member of the Triune Godhead and Trinity in Heaven.

If Jesus was not God the Son in Heaven, then how could He continually refer to receiving the command from His Father, being told what to say by His Father, and not coming on His own authority but that of His Father? How could Jesus have a body prepared for Him by God the Father if He didn’t agree to the mission? Remember, Jesus tells us in the Gospels that He laid down His life, that no one forced Him to lay down His life but that He volunteered giving His life. In Hebrews 10:7,9, Jesus surrenders to the will of God the Father.

There are also the references to “before the foundation of the world.” In Matthew 25:34, Jesus has prepared a place for the righteous from before the foundation of the world, meaning that God the Father and Son had to purpose the salvation plan before anyone could be saved (foreknowing that man would fall into sin). In John 17:24, Jesus says that God the Father loved Him before the foundation of the world, showing that the familial love between Father and Son occurred before Jesus ever took on flesh and was born in a manger. In Ephesians 1:4, we see that God the Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, telling us that the Lord chose to save the world in Jesus, God the Son. He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son before the foundation of the world (John 3:16).

Peter writes of the Son of God existing before His earthly manifestation:

17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:17-21)

1 Peter 1:20, “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,” refers to Christ (in verse 19). It tells us that God the Son, Jesus, existed and was foreordained to die before the world began, but that He was manifested, revealed, for the sake of humanity. In other words, the emphasis here by the Apostle Peter is to remind us that Christ’s appearing on earth doesn’t mean that He only existed from His earthly birth; rather, God the Son or the Son of God was pre-existent before time, before humanity, before Genesis 1:1 ever occurred.

The pre-existent nature of Jesus Christ is designed to tell us that, if His essence is eternal and pre-existent, then the Person we know Him as, God’s Son, was also pre-existent and referred to Him before time began. If we say that “the Son of God” didn’t have His title before the world began, then we’re making God contingent upon the world.

Those who want to keep “Son of God” as a title for the Incarnation are those who, unbeknownst to them, would prefer to endorse the heretical doctrine of Adoptionism, a view that says Jesus became God at His baptism. Now, the view of Conditional Sonship (Jesus becomes “Son of God” in the Incarnation) isn’t the same thing because those who hold to conditional sonship believe that Jesus is God prior to the Incarnation, but they don’t: if “Son of God” is reserved for the Incarnation, and the term refers to the divine, then Jesus doesn’t “become divine” until the Incarnation in this mindset. In reality, it’s practically no different than Adoptionism. If Jesus isn’t divine before the Incarnation, then what is He?

But there’s another way of thinking about this that poses problems for the Conditional Sonship View: those who hold to Conditional Sonship are also arguing that God couldn’t give Him to the world until the Incarnation. Now, Jesus does come down into time, but we must account for His planning to send Jesus, His plan and mission to save the world in Christ, and the fact that Jesus always said that “the Father has sent Me” throughout His teachings in the Gospels. How can He be sent on His mission to die for the world if He isn’t the Son of God? After all, God the Father could only give Jesus because Jesus is His Son, and He so loved the world that He gave His Son. If Jesus was not His Son, then who did God give to the world? Did He give His best if He didn’t give His only Son?

The Doctrine of Eternal Sonship has led to some propagating the Doctrine of Eternal Subordination of the Son, but these two doctrines are different in their espousals. First, the Doctrine of Eternal Subordination says that Jesus will forever be “beneath” the Father. The problem with subordination is that you can’t have such a situation within the Perfect Trinity. All three members of the Trinity are equal; you can’t have degrees of perfection within Perfect Trinity. When it comes to God, there’s no such thing as “Most God,” “more God,” and “less God,” when referring to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Either all three are fully and equally God, or there’s only one Person as God — and the rest are just 1) modes or 2) not Gods at all. The Doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that God is “One God in three Persons,” with the equality of essence preventing Christians from falling into the doctrinal trap of polytheism (many gods). Their equality is what preserves their diversity. One cannot take the diversity of the Trinity and elevate it above their unity without troubling consequences.

When it comes down to it, yes, there is a Doctrine of Eternal Sonship. Jesus will forever be the Son, God the Father will forever be The Father, and The Holy Spirit will forever be called “Holy Spirit.” These names are personal names of God, and God has given them to us so that we would know Him by name(s). If one tampers with one of the Trinity members, he or she tampers with them all because what you do to one must be done to the others. If Jesus “becomes” God the Son at the Incarnation, then the Father only “becomes” the Father at the Incarnation — and the Spirit “becomes” the Spirit at the Incarnation. What this means is that their references in the Old Testament become anachronistic (out of time) at worst and predictive and prophetic at best. And if these three persons only gain their names at the Incarnation, then how can we distinguish God’s three Persons in their distinct roles throughout Scripture?

The use of “Son,” “Father,” and “Holy Spirit,” “Spirit of God,” or “Spirit of the Lord” are there to show that the Trinity consists of distinct persons. Just as there are a diversity of gifts within the Body of Christ but one body, so are there a diversity of Persons in the Trinity but still, only one God. Orthodox Christians today (not referring to Greek Orthodox but Christians all over the world who want to adhere to sound doctrine) identify the Trinity by its unity, that all three are still One God, not using their diversity of roles to create a hierarchy of Gods with God the Father at the top, God the Son in the middle, and God the Holy Spirit at the bottom. There is no tension in the Trinity, no clash or conflict between these Three Persons, no fights, anger, or wrath among them. Their association is peaceful, and they are of one accord. They are mutually submissive to one another, each exalting the other two Persons at every turn.

Christians struggle to hold the distinct roles of the Trinity members and their equal essence in tandem with one another, respecting both the essence and roles without limiting or minimizing either, and it’s okay that we understand our struggle with that. We are talking about God, after all, a God who is distinctly “other” than we are, a God who has only come to earth in Jesus; God the Father has been seen by no man, and Jesus is as close to God the Father as humanity has ever gotten. And yet, as finite as we are, and as Infinite in understanding as God is, we must do our best to be diligent to represent Him accurately.

With that said, we cannot claim that “Jesus becomes God’s Son at the Incarnation” without serious consequences. If Jesus is only God’s Son at the Incarnation, then what about before? Was He not God’s Son before? If He wasn’t God’s Son, then why take orders from God the Father? Why take on the body that God the Father prepared for Him if He wasn’t God’s Son? Why would God the Father declare Him to be His Son at the Incarnation when Scripture says that God the Father loved Jesus before the foundation of the world? Ephesians 1 refers to Jesus as “the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6), so believers, being chosen in Christ before time, were also beloved because of our future union with Christ. For, as Romans 8 tells us,

29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)

We are beloved because Jesus was Beloved as the Son of God, and God loved the world before the world was ever created — which is why He planned to send Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice, the propitiation, for the sins of the entire world.

If Jesus is only the Son of God at the Incarnation, then believers are saying that Jesus’ deity is incomplete without the Incarnation. This isn’t true. Jesus was complete, perfect, lacking nothing, but He had to take on flesh to come to earth to die as a man in the place of humanity. While human flesh was essential to His mission, it didn’t add anything to Jesus because, as God’s Son, as Perfect God, He didn’t need, want, or lack anything.

The language of eternity, such as “before the foundation of the world” and “before time began,” is strong enough to suggest that God the Father and Jesus, God the Son, had the same familial relationship we read about when Jesus comes to earth. These phrases can’t be explained if we focus on the Incarnation alone and claim that Jesus “becomes” God’s Son at His earthly birth. Adam didn’t “become God’s son” at birth because, according to Scripture, Adam was created by God (never born). If Adam was created by God and was God’s son when he was created, then surely Jesus, who was deity from eternity, wouldn’t be thought of in inferior terms as compared to Adam.

The mere presence of the Trinity in the Old Testament in three Persons is enough to oppose the view of Conditional Sonship. Contrary to such a view, Scripture upholds Jesus being the eternal Son from eternity past. From age to age, Jesus has always been The Son of God. Even before taking on human flesh in the Incarnation, Jesus was the Son of God, and had His Father’s glory and His Father’s love. Even before taking on human flesh, Jesus was equal with God the Father and worshipped and adored by angels. Even before the Incarnation, God the Father so loved the world that He chose to give His only begotten Son.

Now, some would go so far as to say, “but what about Jesus being begotten?” Well, we can’t look at “begotten” when referring to Jesus as we would humanity. When a human is “begotten,” we mean that a man and a woman had sexual intercourse and procreated a human child. That child is “begotten,” as can be witnessed in Jesus’ genealogies in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38, by the intercourse of a man and a woman. In Jesus’ case, though, He was merely “born of a woman,” not begotten through the union of two human beings, as is the normal case today for human procreation:

4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

He was not conceived through the sexual intercourse of a human man and human woman, but instead was conceived by the Holy Spirit, who implanted Jesus in Mary’s womb. How then, did God the Father “begat” Jesus? It wasn’t through human sexual procreative means. Adam was called “the son of God” apart from birth in Luke 1; Jesus, being greater than Adam and being called “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45), can be “the Son of God” apart from birth — and I believe He is.

There are good people who disagree with my position above, people who believe that we can’t call Jesus “God’s Son” unless we examine the Incarnation and make it the definitive point of the life of the Son of God. And these individuals do love the Lord and want to please Him with their minds as much as I do. And yet, I disagree with them not to be contrary, but because I believe that the title “Son of God” refers to Jesus’ deity, that we can’t go around and tie His deity to His humanity that tightly to such an extent that it appears as though Jesus wasn’t even divine until His incarnation. That leads to an implicit view of the heretical doctrine of Adoptionism, but, in Jesus’ case, makes Him practically God without a unique name or attributes until His earthly birth.

We need to understand that Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, that God’s love for the world hasn’t changed, that His plan to send Jesus existed before time, that the love of the Father and Son has always existed, and that the Son always shared the glory of the Father from eternity past. And when we understand that God has not changed, that God is who He’s always been, God in three Persons, we’re ready to embrace the Doctrine of Eternal Sonship.

Some deny Eternal Sonship because they fear what it means: the idea that Jesus is “less God” than God the Father is, but this is simply untrue and a false fear. So many attempt to place Jesus beneath the Father for certain reasons, such as complementarians who use the Father and the Son to make a case for women forever being subordinate to men in the church. Others use it to make the case that God in Three Persons is a concept with no real, logical existence because you can’t have one God but three persons; they believe that you can only have one Person in order to have one God. But all of these reasons that motivate one affirming a Conditional Sonship View are in and of themselves, flawed views. When it comes to God, we can’t tell God how to represent or reveal Himself; that is a matter of divine sovereignty and is God’s prerogative, not our own. When it comes to using this against women in the church, it’s flawed for one reason: the husband/wife relationship is not modeled after the Father and Son, but rather, after Christ and His marriage and love for the Church:

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33)

The relationship of husband and wife mimics that of Christ and the Church, the Bridegroom and the Bride, not the Father and the Son. This is why the Father/Son analogy is irrelevant with regard to the husband and the wife. In the relationship of Christ and the Church, the Church is not equal to Christ; She is not designed to be Jesus’ equal. With regard to God the Father and God the Son, both Persons are equal in power and essence. The Church is to submit to Christ because Christ is the Head of the Church, but the Father and Son analogy doesn’t apply for Christ and the Church because the Father and Son are not “married” in the same way that Christ and the Church are. Thus, the wife is not the “Son,” and the husband is not the “Father.” You can’t take husband and wife, two different genders, and connect the dots to an analogy where “Father” and “Son” are both masculine. It makes little sense whatsoever.

The Doctrine of Eternal Sonship is at odds with the eternal subordination of the Son and the proper view of men and women in church leadership because it wreaks of secularism, of the worldly mindset that is only concerned with power, authority, and being “over” people, dictating to them and telling them what to do. The person occupied with power, status, and position is always looking over their shoulder to see how far ahead of others they are, or to request that they be “above” everyone else. The person occupied with always being over or above others is the person that is consumed with power, who has made power his or her “God.” And yet, Jesus told us that we’re not to be consumed with power as the world is consumed with it:

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.

21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?”

She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”

22 But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

They said to Him, “We are able.”

23 So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”

24 And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:20-25)

Jesus tells the disciples in Matthew 20 that they are not to covet power and authority as the world does: “the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant” (vv.25-26). In other words, whereas the world is consumed with power, believers are not to be consumed with power. Rather, they are to lead by serving, by living as a servant, not as a lord who throws their weight around and dictates to others.

The Doctrine of Eternal Sonship is designed to protect the Person of Jesus Christ and the Triune Godhead, but it has been used and mangled in all directions to refer to things for which it was never intended. May we restore this cherished Doctrine to its proper place — and may complementarians learn how to apply doctrine rightly: “15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

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