A Biblical Perspective
The following article is an extension of our answers to common question series, with this one focusing specifically on the issue of Christ receiving authority or certain things from the Father and how this affects his Deity. An example of what we mean can be found in our response here.
Oftentimes, anti-Trinitarians will bring up references where the Lord Jesus, or the writers of Scripture, speaks of God granting Christ certain functions or prerogatives in order to undermine the Christian belief in the Lord Jesus essential and perfect Godhood.
To illustrate this point more clearly to our readers we present one such passage that is often used against Trinitarians:
"When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him." John 17:1-2
The anti-Trinitarian argues that it is God who gave Christ the ability to grant eternal life to whomever believes, showing that Christ is not God since he doesnt have this power in and of himself. Someone else gave it to him.
As anyone who has read this text carefully already knows, that is not what the Lord Jesus is saying. Christ did not say that the Father gave him the ability to grant eternal life, but that the Father granted the Son the right to exercise his Divine ability, his Divine prerogative, to give life to all who comes to him. In other words, God has willed that Jesus will be the One who raises the dead and give life everlasting so that all will believe in him as their Savior and Lord. Christ makes precisely this point elsewhere in the inspired Gospel:
"For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I WILL RAISE HIM UP on the last day." John 6:38-40
Jesus says that he hasnt come to do his own will, but the will of his Father, implying that Christ is subject to the Fathers authority and can only act in accordance with what his Father desires. Jesus then goes on to tell us what the Fathers will is, namely that all must look to the Son with the Son then raising them up on the Day of Resurrection. Yet for Jesus to be the One raising the dead on the Last Day actually proves that he is (or at least claimed to be) God, since God is the One who resurrects the dead:
"There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol (grave) and raises up." 1 Samuel 2:2, 6
"Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; Death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah" Psalm 49:14-15
What this basically means is that the anti-Trinitarians are grossly misusing and distorting John 17:2 to say something it clearly isnt saying. Once the text is properly understood it actually supports the Christian view of Jesus being fully God.
With this freshly in our minds this is now a good time to begin discussing the eternal generation of the Son, otherwise known as the Sons eternal begetting, and how this ties in with Christ receiving things from the Father. The begetting that we will be discussing is not in regard to Jesus human birth, but before his Incarnation from the blessed virgin Mary. At his Incarnation, the Lord Jesus took on a created human existence but the testimony of the Scriptures is that Jesus did not come into being at his human birth (or his inception nine months earlier). The Holy Bible claims that Jesus is eternal, that he was there before anything was created and that he is the Agent of all creation, the One through whom all created things came into existence. Hence, this paper seeks to clarify the issue of the eternal relationship between the prehuman Jesus and God the Father.
But first a definition and look at early Church history. It was the consistent belief of the early Church writers that the Lord Jesus was eternally begotten, or generated, by the Father without this implying that he was created. The fathers emphatically taught that the Lord was God fully and completely, and therefore uncreated.
The fathers did believe, however, that Jesus was God because the Father had made him such, not by creation, but by generation. In other words, Jesus was Gods Son precisely because he derived his Divine substance and attributes from the Father whom they considered to be the Source, or Fountainhead, of the Godhead. They described the Father as being unbegotten, or unoriginated, which meant that the Father derived his Divine essence from no outside source. The Son, they taught, was begotten or generated which meant that he derived his Divine attributes from the Father.
An example of a father who believed this was Origen, as can be seen from his following comments on John 1:1:
We next notice John's use of the article in these sentences. He does not write without care in this respect, nor is he unfamiliar with the niceties of the Greek tongue. In some cases he uses the article, and in some he omits it. He adds the article to the Logos, but to the name of God he adds it sometimes only. He uses the article, when the name of God refers to the uncreated cause of all things, and omits it when the Logos is named God. Does the same difference which we observe between God with the article and God without it prevail also between the Logos with it and without it? We must enquire into this. As the God who is over all is God with the article not without it, so "the Logos" is the source of that reason (Logos) which dwells in every reasonable creature; the reason which is in each creature is not, like the former called par excellence The Logos. Now there are many who are sincerely concerned about religion, and who fall here into great perplexity. They are afraid that they may be proclaiming two Gods, and their fear drives them into doctrines which are false and wicked. Either they deny that the Son has a distinct nature of His own besides that of the Father, and make Him whom they call the Son to be God all but the name, or they deny the divinity of the Son, giving Him a separate existence of His own, and making His sphere of essence fall outside that of the Father, so that they are separable from each other. To such persons we have to say that God on the one hand is Very God (Autotheos, God of Himself); and so the Saviour says in His prayer to the Father, "That they may know Thee the only true God;" but that all beyond the Very God is made God by participation in His divinity, and is not to be called simply God (with the article), but rather God (without article). And thus the first-born of all creation, who is the first to be with God, and to attract to Himself divinity, is a being of more exalted rank than the other gods beside Him, of whom God is the God, as it is written, "The God of gods, the Lord, hath spoken and called the earth." It was by the offices of the first-born that they became gods, for He drew from God in generous measure that they should be made gods, and He communicated it to them according to His own bounty. The true God, then, is "The God," and those who are formed after Him are gods, images, as it were, of Him the prototype. But the archetypal image, again, of all these images is the Word of God, who was in the beginning, and who by being with God IS AT ALL TIMES God, not possessing that of Himself, but by His being with the Father, and not continuing to be God, if we should think of this, except by remaining always in uninterrupted contemplation of the depths of the Father. (Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of John, Book II, 2.; online edition; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Why did the early Christians choose this terminology? What did they mean by it, and, equally important, what did they not mean by using this word? The word "begotten" in the theological sense in which the fathers used it does not explicitly appear in the Holy Bible. None of the quotations given below contains it. It is an illustration in the natural world of an eternal/divine reality. Just like the term "Trinity", it is a theological term that seeks to express a concept so as to do justice to the data we find in the Holy Scriptures. The early Christians chose the term "begotten Son" for Jesus because they wanted to express that Jesus relationship to the Father is one of equality, Jesus is not a created being, not a lower order of being, but equal to the Father just as a human son is equal to his father by his very nature. This term only seeks to communicate the equality of the Father and the Son in their essential nature, it does not imply any sexual activity. There was no "female god" involved. The Son has his source only in the Father without any need of a consort. Humans need a consort to beget. God does not. Humans can only beget in the interaction of male and female. God is above this, he generated or begat out of himself without needing anything or anyone besides himself, nor does the begetting of God need an act of creation at the same time. Human beings are begotten (by their fathers) and created (by God) at the same time. Jesus, in his divine nature, is only begotten, not created. He takes on a created nature only at his Incarnation.
We should not think of the "eternal generation" of the Son as something unnatural or strange. The sun (or any star) is not identical to the light it emits, yet if it did not generate heat and light, we would not call it the sun. The sun as the sun never did exist without its light and heat. It is an integral part of its nature to generate, or to "beget" light and heat. Similarly, God never was alone. He always was Father and Son (as well as Holy Spirit). The eternal generation of the Son is an integral part of the nature of the Godhead. It was not an "afterthought", not a change in Godís very being. There never was a time when the Father was without the Son.
What we want to do here is to examine the biblical basis for such a teaching. We believe that the fathers were thoroughly biblical in their understanding of Jesus relationship to the Father, that he was begotten but not made. It will be the aim of this paper to examine specific texts that strongly support the fact that the fathers were right in believing that Jesus is eternally God, but he was such by virtue of his deriving his Deity from the Father.
The first passage we want to examine in support of this premise is John 5:26 which says:
"For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself."
The Lord Jesus asserts two things. He asserts that just as the Father has life within himself so too does he have life within himself, a claim of coequality and self-sufficiency. To have life within oneself implies that the person is self-existent, self-sufficient and, in this context, the Source of life for others. This can be readily seen from the verses that immediately precede and follow:
"For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear THE VOICE OF THE SON OF GOD, and those who hear will live Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear HIS VOICE and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment." John 5:21, 25, 28-29
Because the Lord Jesus has life within himself, making him both self-existent and the very Fountain of life, he is able to give life to others and raise the dead. He doesnt just raise believers to life, but also resurrects those who will be judged on the Day of Resurrection. We already saw how Jesus made similar claims in John 6:38-40.
The second thing to note from Jesus words is that his self-existence is the result of the Father having given him this prerogative, which makes the Father the Source of the Sons self-sufficiency. Lest the readers wrongly assume that Jesus words imply that at some point in his existence he didnt have this quality but only received it later on, note what the prologue to this very Gospel says:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. ALL THINGS were made through him, and without him WAS NOT any thing made THAT WAS MADE. In him was life, and the life was the light of men And the Word BECAME FLESH and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:1-4, 14
Jesus in his prehuman existence as the Word, wrote John, was there before anything was created. According to John, Jesus was existing in eternity with God and as God in essence, being the very One through whom all created things came into being. For Jesus to have created everything that came into existence emphatically shows that he was there even before all creation and is therefore uncreated and eternal. John wasnt the only one who believed or taught this, Paul did as well:
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For BY (in) him ALL THINGS were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authoritiesALL THINGS were created THROUGH him and FOR HIM. And he is BEFORE ALL THINGS, and IN HIM all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent." Colossians 1:15-18
Paul says that God created all things through Christ with Christ being the One sustaining everything. The inspired Apostle also states that the Lord Jesus existed before all created things. He even says that creation exists for the Lord Jesus, which serves to identify the latter as Yahweh God:
"I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created FOR MY GLORY, whom I formed and made." Isaiah 43:6-7
"The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed FOR MYSELF that they might declare my praise." Isaiah 43:20-21
The Hebrew Bible says that Yahweh created all things for himself, for his own glory, whereas Paul says that everything was created in, through, and FOR Christ.
Paul goes so far as to say, in perfect agreement with John, that Jesus is fully God in essence:
"For IN HIM the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily," Colossians 2:9 RSV
Jesus has the FULLNESS (not some) of the Deity (or that which makes God what he is), dwelling in him bodily!
If there was any doubt that John pictured Christ as an eternal Being and the Agent of all creation, then what we are about to quote from his epistle should eradicate it:
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life -- the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you THE ETERNAL LIFE, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us -- that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." 1 John 1:1-3
John identifies Jesus as the Eternal Life who was with the Father with whom they had fellowship and saw. Jesus being the Eternal Life means that he is the very Source of life itself and therefore uncreated. Otherwise, if Jesus was created then this implies that there was no life at some point which would refute Johns assertion. After all, how can something be created which is clearly said to be eternal?
Besides, John says that it is the true God who is the Eternal Life:
"And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God AND ETERNAL LIFE." 1 John 5:20
The true God being called the Eternal Life expressly shows that whoever is the Eternal Life cannot be a creature; otherwise this would mean that God himself is a creature. And yet Jesus is identified as the Eternal Life thereby proving that he cannot be created.
The reason why this is all significant is because of what John said in John 1:4:
"In him was life, and the life was the light of men." RSV
In light of its immediate context which we already looked at, this text is saying that even before creation the Word already had life within himself. In other words, John is proclaiming that the Word had self-existence and existed as the Source of Life in eternity even before anything had ever been created.
What this basically means is that John 5:26 where Jesus says the Father granted the Son to have this self-existence does not mean that Christ didnt always have this quality or attribute. According to John, Jesus already had it in eternity. In light of the statements of the prologue, we are forced to understand Jesus to be saying that God gave him this attribute not in the sense that the latter didnt always have it, but in the sense that the Father is the Source of Deity as well as the entire essential Divine attributes, and as such he was the One from whom the Son draws his self-existence. Christ is essentially saying that he is fully God, he is eternally what he is, by virtue of being eternally united to this Source of Deity, the Father.
To put it another way, the Father is the Father because he is the one single Source of eternal Deity whereas the Son is the Son because he derives and draws His Deity from this one, underived Fountainhead of Divinity. Or, to put it in the words of the Creeds (specifically the Nicene Creed), Jesus is "eternally begotten of the Father (begotten of the Father before the ages)," "begotten, not made, of one Being (substance) with the Father."
Here is another passage which we believe supports the eternal begetting of the Son:
"As the living Father sent me, and I live BECAUSE OF THE FATHER, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live BECAUSE OF ME. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever." John 6:57-58
Again, because Jesus derives his Deity from the Father he is therefore completely dependant upon the latter. At the same time because Jesus is fully God he is the very Life of all his followers and the One who completely sustains them.
Another text which touches on the eternal generation, or begetting, of the Son is the following:
"He is THE RADIANCE of the glory of God and the EXACT IMPRINT (charakter) of his nature (hupostaseos), and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high," Hebrews 1:3
Because of how vitally central and important this passage is in understanding the Lord Jesus exact relationship with the Father we include two additional translations:
"He is the sole expression of the glory of God [the Light-being, the out-raying or radiance of the divine], and He is the PERFECT IMPRINT and very image of [God's] nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power. When He had by offering Himself accomplished our cleansing of sins and riddance of guilt, He sat down at the right hand of the divine Majesty on high," Amplified Bible
"The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." NIV
There are several points which we can glean from this very crucial text. The first point is that Jesus is the very exact imprint, the very exact copy, the perfect reflection of Gods own substance, nature, essence etc. That is the meaning of the Geek word charakter, that Jesus is the precise and perfect imprint left by the Original or the Source. The author of Hebrews is basically saying that the Father is the underived Source of all Deity with the Son being the perfect duplicate of that Deity. If Gods substance is eternal, then Christ must be eternal also since he is the exact imprint. If Gods substance is infinite, then Christ must also be infinite seeing that he is the exact copy of it.
This verse teaches both that the Lord Jesus is eternally God and that he is such because of his eternal union and reflection of the Fathers very own Being.
There can be no denying that this is precisely what the inspired writer intended to convey to his readers. The only way for Jesus to be the very exact representation of Gods own essence is if he is fully and eternally God. After all, a finite temporal creature can never be the exact imprint of Gods eternal and infinite Being, since it takes one who is fully God to be such.
In fact, the Hebrew Bible emphatically says that there is no one, specifically no heavenly being, who is like God or could do the things that God can do:
"For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him? O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O LORD, with your faithfulness all around you?" Psalm 86:8-10
"Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones! For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him? O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O LORD, with your faithfulness all around you?" Psalm 89:5-8
Not only does the NT teach that Jesus is exactly like God, but it also quotes Christ as saying that he can do everything that God can do:
"So Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise." John 5:19
It is therefore not surprising to discover that the entire theme of Hebrews 1 is to contrast the Lord Jesus with Gods angels by showing how vastly superior Christ is to them. In the words of the Nicene Creed, the author presents Christ "as very (true) God of/from very (true) God," whereas he shows that the angels are nothing more than finite beings created to serve God and his elect (cf. 1:5-14).
Before we move on to our next point we must add the fact that the Holy Bible says God is absolutely one, which means that his essence, his nature, his substance is also one. Therefore, Jesus being the exact imprint or duplicate of Gods substance doesnt mean that there are two distinct essences or substances shared by two distinct Persons. Rather, Jesus is the exact representation of Gods Being by sharing in the very same essence and substance of God. In other words, Jesus eternally shares and partakes in Gods very own substance and thereby perfectly reflects it to others. Putting it in another way, there are two distinct Persons (in fact there are three, the Holy Spirit being the third) who fully share the same eternal essence and substance perfectly and completely.
The second fact to note from Hebrews 1:3 is that Jesus is called the very radiance of Gods glory, which is simply another way of saying that the Father is the Source of the Sons Deity and Divine attributes. The language is clearly building on the analogy of the sun and its radiance, that which is radiated by the sun to us. Just as the sun is the source of the radiance which is reflected to us, the Father likewise is the Source of the Sons Divine life and essence. And just as the radiance of the sun has the same essence and nature of the source from which it emanates, the Son likewise has the very same essence and nature of the Divine Source from which he was begotten.
As one online Bible commentary wonderfully puts it:
Let's give an analogy realizing that it will be imperfect and can even distort the truth of the radiance of His glory if pressed too far. Jesus relates to God the way the rays of sunlight relate to the sun. There is no time that the sun exists without the beams of radiance. They cannot be separated. If you put a solar-activated calculator in the sunlight, numbers appear on the face of the calculator. These are energized by the sun's radiance, but they are not what the sun is. The rays of the sun however are an extension of the sun. We see the sun by means of seeing the rays of the sun. So too we see God the Father by seeing Jesus for they are one God. (Precept Austin; source; underline emphasis ours)
To further clarify this point please notice what the blessed Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
"In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:4-6
Paul is saying that the light that shines forth from God is that which the Lord Jesus embodies in his very own Person. Christ is the Light which shines forth from God and illuminates believers. In fact, the inspired Scriptures teach that Jesus is the very Light of creation:
"The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world." John 1:9
"Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12
"We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." John 9:4-5
"So Jesus said to them, The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light. When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness." John 12:35-36, 46
At the same time we are told that it is Yahweh, specifically the Father, who is the Light of all:
"This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." 1 John 1:5
"The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended." Isaiah 60:19-20
"For you are my lamp, O LORD, and my God lightens my darkness." 2 Samuel 22:29
The same Scriptures then speak of both the Father and the Son being the single Source of the Light of creation:
"And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its LIGHT will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day--and there will be no night there." Revelation 21:23-25
Note that the text speaks of light, not lights, which emanates from both God and the Lamb. When we combine all these biblical texts together we come to the conclusion that Jesus is that very Light which emanates, or proceeds, from the Source of all Light, the Father, and illuminates all creation. As the Nicene Creed puts it, Jesus is "very (true) Light of/from very (true) Light." Once again, what this basically means is that the Father is the eternal Source of Deity, with the Son (as well as the Holy Spirit) deriving his Deity from this Source by his eternal union and participation with the Father. As the Apocryphal book of Wisdom puts it in regard to the Divine Wisdom:
"For wisdom is more mobile than any motion; because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things. For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her. For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness. Though she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets; for God loves nothing so much as the man who lives with wisdom. For she is more beautiful than the sun, and excels every constellation of the stars. Compared with the light she is found to be superior, for it is succeeded by the night, but against wisdom evil does not prevail." Wisdom 7:24-30
Wisdom is a reflection of eternal light, which means that she is eternal. After all, eternal light has an eternal reflection! In light of the above description it is little wonder that the NT writers identify Jesus with Gods Wisdom (Matthew 23:34; Luke 11:49; 1 Corinthians 1:24, 30). They realized that what was said of Wisdom applied to Jesus all the more, since he is truly the Divine Wisdom and Word incarnate.
The text in Hebrews also says that the Lord Jesus is the One sustaining all creation, with verse 2 claiming that Christ was the Agent of creation. To reiterate this point that Jesus is the Creator and Sustainer of all things, the inspired author goes on to quote the Father as praising his Son for being the unchanging Lord who created and sustains everything:
"But of the Son he says, You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end." Hebrews 1:8a, 10-12
What makes this truly astonishing is that the writer has quoted an OT text which is referring to Yahweh as Creator and Sustainer and applied it to Christ!
"O my God, I say, take me not away in the midst of my days-- you whose years endure throughout all generations! Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end." Psalm 102:24-27
What the inspired author is asserting is that Jesus is the very Yahweh who is spoken of in this Psalm. In other words, Jesus is actually Yahweh God Almighty according to this writer! This basically establishes our exegesis of verse 3 regarding Jesus being the very exact imprint, the perfect duplicate, of Gods eternal and infinite substance which is simply another way of saying that Jesus is the eternal and infinite God. And since Yahweh alone is this eternal and infinite God Jesus must therefore be Yahweh himself (yet not the Father who is also Yahweh God).
And because Jesus is Gods eternal Son and the Object of his infinite love he has been appointed Heir and Ruler over all the things which the Father created through him as an expression of the Fathers love towards his Beloved:
"All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Matthew 11:27
"He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, They will respect my son. But those tenants said to one another, This is THE HEIR. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours." Mark 12:6-7
"The Father LOVES the Son and has given all things into his hand." John 3:35
"Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God," John 13:3
"All that the Father has IS MINE; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you." John 16:15
"All mine are yours, and yours ARE MINE, and I am glorified in them." John 17:10
Once these passages are understood in this light then they really pose no problems to the clear, consistent biblical teaching that Jesus is fully God, and therefore uncreated. These verses simply reiterate the fact that Christ is what he is and has what he has by virtue of his eternal union with the Father who gave them to him.
The final text we want to present in support of our thesis is a passage from the Old Testament. It is in reference to the Angel of Yahweh (whom we believe is actually the pre-Incarnate Christ) and his relationship to Yahweh. The prophet Moses records God as telling him that:
"Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for MY NAME is in him. But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out," Exodus 23:20-23
Notice two particular things regarding this specific Angel. First, God says that this Angel will not forgive Israel's rebellion which implies that he has the ability to either forgive or refuse to pardon transgressions. The forgiveness of sins is exclusively a Divine prerogative which indicates that this Angel is God. Secondly, God explains why the Angel has this prerogative; because his own name is in him. In the Bible, name represents a person's essence, nature, characteristics and/or authority, which basically means that this Angel embodies God's very own nature, his very own essence. The text doesn't say that God gave him his name, but that the Angel already has it within him.
More importantly, the passage says that it is God's own name which the Angel embodies, meaning that the Angel is bearing God's own essence and nature. Putting it simply, the Angel, like Jesus, isn't the Source of Deity but derives his Divine essence from the One who is the Source. And the Angel isn't just like Jesus, he actually is the Lord Jesus in his pre-Incarnate existence.
For the evidence demonstrating that this particular Angel is actually the Lord Jesus before his Incarnation please consult this article.
Now that we have come to the conclusion of our main discussion it is time to summarize all the points we have made.
We saw that the NT clearly presents Jesus Christ as fully God, eternal, immutable, the Creator and Sustainer of all creation, as well as being the very exact imprint of Gods own essence. At the same time these NT documents state that it is the Father who is the Source from which Jesus draws all of his essential Divine qualities, that Jesus is God by virtue of his eternal union and participation within the Fathers own substance and Being.
The Father is the Fountainhead of Deity, the One from whom the Divine life and attributes emanate. The Sons Divine essence is one which has been conferred upon him by the Father, being an eternal partaker of the Fathers own underived Deity. We emphasize eternal since the NT is emphatic that Christ has always been God and is therefore uncreated, that there has been no point in which Christ did not have the Divine essence fully and perfectly. Therefore, this drawing, this conferment of the Divine essence is an eternal act; that Christ has always been God since he has always been in relationship with the Father and therefore always partaking of the Divine Being.
This is what the early fathers meant that Jesus was eternally begotten, not made, i.e. they believed that Christ was God by virtue of the Father being the Source of his Divine life without this implying that the Son was created.
In light of the foregoing, we can fully appreciate and better understand passages which speak of the Father giving Christ certain things. These passages are simply conveying the fact that Christ is what he is by virtue of being Gods Son who draws from his Fathers very own Being all that he has and is.
Hence, passages such as Matthew 11:27 and Hebrews 1:2 which speak of Christ receiving all things and being appointed Heir of all things demonstrate his intimate relationship with God, that Christ owns everything that the Father has since he is his beloved Son. Putting it in another way, all that God owns belongs to Christ because he is the Son and therefore the Heir.
In other words, the Triune God created all things for the Lord Jesus since the Father decreed that everything that he willed to exist would belong to the Son as an expression of the Fatherís infinite love for him. Thus, the Fatherís decision to give all things to the Son was something that was decided upon and which took place before creation, in eternity, just as the following passage indicates:
"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." Hebrews 1:1-2 NASB
God appointed Christ as Heir of everything and also created the universe through him which shows that this appointment was something already decided upon in eternity.
All scriptural quotations taken from the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Holy Bible, unless noted otherwise.
Articles by Sam Shamoun
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