E. C. Hadley.
God is. His essential name in the Old Testament is Jehovah — the "I am that I am," the living, eternal, self-existing, unchangeable One, acting from Himself and according to Himself in all that He does.
Man's intelligence cannot understand it. It is folly to reason about Him. We would have to be God to comprehend Him. But it becomes us as His creatures to accept and hold fast in simple faith what He has been pleased to tell us in His Word about His eternal being.
In His essential being He is inscrutable and invisible to the creature, "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see" (1 Tim. 6:16). Yet it has pleased the Triune God to give us a revelation concerning Himself.
But here lies a difficulty. Human language is suited to express human relationships and things within the sphere of human conceptions and ideas and is therefore deficient to describe adequately the divine being of the eternal God and the uncreated relationship that must exist essentially without beginning or end between the three persons of the Triune God. Whatever expressions God uses to reveal to us these divine things must necessarily be couched in human language that we humans are liable to wrest and distort by reading into them our own human ideas if we at all attempt to reason about what God says about Himself and our pride of reasoning ever inclines us to do so.
But God has come in His sovereign goodness towards us in this our natural weakness. In giving us His divinely inspired statements about Himself He has not at all left us to our own reasoning powers to speculate about what He says; but He has made us partakers of His own divine nature which has a capacity to grasp divine things when revealed, and then He has given us His own Holy Spirit to dwell in us to interpret His Word and to enlighten our renewed understanding as to its true meaning. This is a great boon. But it is only as we lean not on our own understanding and have a submissive will and a teachable heart that He can guide us into all truth (John 7:17; Prov. 3:5, 6; 1 Cor. 2:10, 12, 14; John 16:13).
The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, because they are foolishness unto him. Neither can the child of God receive them by his natural reasoning powers. They are communicated to our intelligence by the energy of the Spirit of God when our understanding has been opened by the Lord to understand the Scriptures, and they must be received by faith. (Luke 24:45; 1 Cor. 2:12-14).
This is where many have failed in their comprehension of divine truth as touching the eternal God and the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son. They try to enter into the meaning of the Scriptural expressions by a process of human reasoning instead of abandoning all confidence in themselves and letting the Spirit communicate in His own power to their souls these divine and precious truths the Triune God has been pleased to give us in His Word concerning Himself.
This reasoning of the human mind about the Godhead has led to different errors by introducing certain elements that have to do with our human relations down here into their reasonings about the Godhead, but which evidently cannot be applied to that eternal, uncreated, unchanging and unchangeable relationship that subsists between the three persons of the Triune God.
The Word of God is decisive as to the eternity of Christ's being, "God was manifest in the flesh," "Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting," "Before Abraham was, I am" (the eternal I am) (1 Tim. 3:16; Micah 5:2; John 8:58).
But soon after the apostles' days the theory of eternal generation was brought out — that is that the Son of God as to His being exists eternally, but as a father is the source of a son he begets, therefore the Son of God exists as a sort of eternal or continual generation from the Father. This human theory, arrived at by introducing an element that has to do with the purely human relationship into their reasonings about the uncreated eternal relationship of the Godhead, actually deprives the Son of His co-equality with the Father and reduces Him to a derivative form owing His existence to the Father.
Today in Christendom there is another widespread error that also is the result of introducing another element of human relations into the divine, uncreated, essential relationship that subsists in and between the persons of the Triune God. They say that the term son implies "graded relations and relative inferiority"; and therefore they reason the term "Son of God" can only apply to Him as Man born of the virgin and can have no application to His pre-incarnate relationship in the deity. This terrible error robs Him of His pre-incarnate relationship as Son well beloved of the Father which is the keystone of the whole New Testament.
First it is not true that sonship even in human relations necessarily implies inferiority. Who would dare to affirm that Abraham was inferior to his father Terah or Moses to his father Amram or David to Jesse?
What then is the meaning of the term Father and Son when applied to the uncreated Godhead? There must be some reason why God chose these terms in speaking of Himself. We should carefully weigh the fact that nowhere in Scripture do we find Christ spoken of as a child of God. (In Acts 4:27, the expression, "Thy holy child Jesus" is not the usual word for child in the Greek and should be translated "servant"). Child would imply immaturity and weakness. It is always Son of God. A son is of the same nature and essence as his father and in the normal relationship, the son is attached to his father and is the object of his father's deep affection and enjoys close intimacy with him. All this then is implied in the term Father and Son when applied to the Godhead-being of the same nature and essence and having deep mutual affection and intimacy.
"The Only-Begotton Son"
Then when we get the term only begotten we get the additional thought that He is the only one having this relationship to the Father and as such is the special object of the Father's deep affection and eternal delight. Take the account of Abraham offering up Isaac in Gen. 22, which is clearly intended to be a type of God sparing not His own Son but offering Him up for us all, what do we find especially stressed there, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest" (v. 2; Heb. 11:17).
This we see in the five passages where the term "only begotten" is used.
In John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life;" the Lord would definitely bring out in bright relief the immensity of God's love towards a guilty world in giving His only begotten Son, the One who was from all eternity the object of His deep affection and delight. To say that the term here "only begotten Son" is applicable to Christ as Man only and has no reference to the pre-incarnate relation of the Son to the Father in the eternal Godhead, dims at once the greatness of God's love to a guilty world that is clearly intended to be set forth in all its depth and fullness by the fact that the One He gave for a lost and guilty world is His only begotten Son, the One who dwelt from all eternity in His bosom as the object of His eternal delight. This is also very evident in 1 John 4:9, "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him."
"We joy in our God, and we sing of that love
So sovereign and free, which did His heart move,
When lost our condition, all ruined, undone,
He saw with compassion, and spared not His Son.
"His Son, His delight, His loved One, He gave
The cross to endure, by dying to save:
Sure love so amazing, unmeasured, untold,
Since Him it has given, no good will withhold."
In John 1:14, 18, it is His competency to reveal the Father that is enhanced in virtue of being in His eternal Person the only begotten of the Father, sharing with Him the same nature and essence and dwelling from all eternity in the Father's bosom as the eternal object of His heart's affection and in the intimacy of all that heart contains. Therefore He is fully competent to manifest to all that God is in His character and nature and to reveal His eternal love and purposes towards us.
The only other place is in John 3:18, "He that believeth not is condemned already, because He hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." Here the terrible state and guilt of the unbeliever, hating the light and loving darkness, is brought out emphatically by his refusal to put faith in the name of the only begotten Son of God come in grace as the Father's love gift to a lost world, and he therefore is justly condemned.
The Truth Concerning the Eternal God
Can Only Be Known by Faith
It is the height of folly for man with his finite mind to try to reason and speculate about that which is infinite. Every time he attempts to do so he is sure to fall into some error by introducing some human idea derived from purely human relationships into his reasonings about the uncreated, eternal, unchanging and unchangeable relationship subsisting in the essential Being of the eternal Triune God, which is far above and beyond human relationships and lies away outside the scope of human reasoning powers to speculate about.
Just as "through faith we understand (without trying to reason it out) that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which do appear" (Heb. 11:3) so also through faith we understand upon the authority of God's Word that this uncreated relationship of Father and Son and Holy Spirit subsists from everlasting to everlasting in the eternal Godhead without trying to reason it out. Even more, because of our unshaken faith in His divine Word we resolutely refuse to allow our finite minds to reason or speculate about these divine eternal things, knowing intuitively that our finite minds are utterly incapable to reason about that which is infinite. Yet how grateful we should be to God, our Creator, that He has given us a mind capable of accepting, when enlightened by His Spirit, as divine truth what He has been pleased to reveal in His Word concerning Himself, and to rejoice in this divinely given knowledge with hearts overflowing with praise and adoration and joyful abandon of all our being into His blessed hands, Who has manifested the immensity of His eternal love towards us in sending His only begotten Son into this world His hands had made that we might live through Him.
"Father divine, in grateful love
We bow before Thy face,
While for Thy gift unspeakable
Our souls o'erflow with praise;
Thine only Son, Thy heart's delight
Far back, ere time began,
Thou in Thy boundless love didst give
To die for ruined man.
"Father this mystery of love
Must all our praise excel:
No human, no angelic tongue
Its wondrous depths can tell;
For what were we that Thou on us
Such love shouldst ever pour?
We bow, and, filled with joy and awe,
Father and Son adore."
Plurality in Unity
The unity of the Godhead is declared repeatedly in Scripture. "Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah" (Deut. 6:4, J. N. D. Trans.). "One Jehovah, and His name one" (Zech. 14:9, J. N. D. Trans.). "I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside Me," "I am God and there is none else" (Isa. 45:5; Isa. 46:9). Yet that there is plurality in this divine unity of the Godhead is equally revealed from the first verse of the Bible on. In the Hebrew the Name for God is in the plural and the verb in the singular. "In the beginning God (plural) created (singular)" thus showing plurality in unity. And in Gen. 1:26 we read, "And God said, Let us make man in our image." Here clearly plurality is revealed, each distinct in personality so that they can address one another, "Let us make man," and yet having one likeness and working together in concert to carry out one purpose, neither acting without the other.
In comparing Gen. 1:2 with Prov. 8:27-30 and Heb. 1:2 this comes out all the more clearly in connection with creation and the reforming of the earth for man. "And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." "When He prepared the heavens, I was there: when He set a compass upon the face of the depth: when He established the clouds above: when He strengthened the fountains of the deep: when He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment: when He appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by Him as one brought up with Him (or, as His artificer, see margin of J. N. D.'s Trans.): and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him." "God...hath...spoken unto us by (in the Person of) His Son...by whom He also made the worlds."
Plurality in unity is here clearly revealed, each Person having a distinct personality and a distinct part and sphere of action in all that the Triune God does, yet not independent of, but in essential relationship one to the other.
For example, the Father sends the Son. This was a distinct act on the part of the Father. Yet the Son acts in His own proper Person in coming into the world. "I proceeded forth and came from God"; "I came down from heaven"; "I am come into the world" (John 8:42; John 6:38; John 16:28). He did not however act apart from the Father but in full harmony and coordination with the Father's will and purpose in sending Him. "Neither came I of Myself, but He sent Me." "I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will but the will of Him that sent Me" (John 8:42; John 6:38).
So also when it comes to the Son assuming the form of a man, we find each of the three persons of the Godhead active in it. Christ speaking to God the Father says, "A body hast Thou prepared Me" (Heb. 10:5). In Matthew 1:20 we read that He was conceived of the Holy Spirit. Here we have God the Father and the Holy Spirit both acting in harmonious accord, in the forming of this holy humanity of our Lord. But the Son is also seen in His own proper action in taking up manhood into union with His Person. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same." "He emptied Himself taking a bondman's form, taking His place in the likeness of men" (Heb. 2:14; Phil. 2:7, J. N. D. Trans.). And so in all the activity of the Triune God.
Being One in nature, substance and essential being, they love necessarily the same things and so have the same thoughts, will and purpose about everything, though each having His distinct part in activity and relationship in all that the Triune God does, but always working together in complete unison carrying out one common purpose and will. Thus of Christ, the incarnate Son, we read: "For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." "Believest Thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of Myself: but the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works." "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." "And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee." "I cast out devils by the Spirit of God." "Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God" (Col. 2:9, John 14:10; John 5:17; Luke 4:14; Matt. 12:28; Heb. 9:14). Each Person of the Godhead takes part in what He, the incarnate Son, does. (John 1:14; 1 John 5:20; 1 John 3:8).
In manhood He kept the place that He had voluntarily taken according to the divine purposes as dependent man doing all by the power of the Spirit, and yet the Father was in Him as the source of His words and deeds. But it was He, the eternal Son who was there in person in the form of a man. He was there in all of the divine power of His eternal being that created and upholds the universe. And He could say of those works of which the Father in Him was the source and the Spirit the power, "I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do." (John 17:4).
It is a divine mystery where human reasoning is sure to stray if it tries to speculate or figure it out, but which faith rejoices to believe and finds therein the spring of eternal delight.
So if the Son takes a place of apparent subordination to the Father and the Spirit takes a place of apparent subordination to the Son, yet it is apparent only, for in fact, each is willingly doing His own part in conjunction and concert with the other two in carrying out one common purpose and will. All three are coequal in deity, essential in being and nature, but distinct in personality and in eternal unchanging relationship to the other and each having His own part and activity which He willingly does in carrying out one divine plan and purpose. Understand it we cannot, speculate on it we dare not, believe it we must, or else we make the divinely inspired Word of God a lie.
The Truth of the Eternal Sonship of Christ
Is a Vital Truth of Scripture.
We will now turn to Matt. 28:19. Jesus in giving instructions to His disciples, says, "Baptizing them in the Name (not names) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Here we have the Triune God revealed under one Name but this one name embracing three persons in divine relationship to one another as Father, Son and Holy Ghost. This divine uncreated relationship, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is characteristic of the three in one and is essential to the eternal subsistence of the Triune God. The Father is and ever was and ever will be the Father in His essential being in the Godhead and so the Spirit is and ever was and ever will be that person designated as the Spirit, co-equal with the Father in deity but always and eternally in His person the Spirit. He cannot exchange His place and personal relationship as the Spirit with that of the Father nor can the Father exchange His place and personal relationship as Father with that of the Spirit in that eternal unchanging subsistence of the Godhead and this is also true of the Son. This is not cold logic nor human reasoning but holding in simple faith, without doubting or disputing, the plain and uniform revelation of the holy Scriptures. "I am the LORD, I change not;" "I am that I am" (Mal. 3:6; Ex. 3:14). Unchangeableness is characteristic of the Godhead The Godhead is what it is and unchangeably so. The Son has taken up manhood into His being so that there is a change in outward display and form but He has never ceased to be that He ever was and ever will be in His essential being in the Godhead, the Son.
This truth of the eternal Sonship is the basic truth underlying the full revelation of the Triune God in the New Testament. It is because He is the eternal Son co-equal in deity and one in nature and essence with His Father, ever dwelling in the bosom of His Father, knowing the full depth and extent of all His feelings, thoughts and purposes, that He could and did manifest the Triune God. "God manifest in the flesh, If He had been in any point inferior, or if there had been the least thought in the Father's heart or of the Spirit's that He did not know and fully share with them, He could not have manifested the Triune God.
This truth of the eternal relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is vital. To have three beings coequal in deity without relationship would be three Gods, not one Triune God.
In Becoming Man He Did Not Give Up His Eternal Deity nor His Eternal Relationship In the Godhead
We will look at some scriptures confirming this vital truth that He was Son in Deity before incarnation. But before doing so, it is well to look a moment at Phil. 2:6, 7, "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men." J. N. Darby's translation reads, "Who, subsisting in the form of God . . . but emptied Himself, taking a bondman's form, taking His place in the likeness of men." W. Kelly translates it, "Emptied Himself, taking a bondman's form, being come in men's likeness." The emptying of Himself has to do only with the form He had. Emptying Himself of the outward majesty and glory of the Creator, having authority and never under command, He takes a servant's form and takes His place in the likeness of men to serve God and man in His obedience unto death. In doing this He in nowise gave up His essential deity or any quality or attribute of it nor did He divest Himself of His eternal and unchanging relationship in the Godhead. This He could not do. He could not empty Himself of what He was essentially in His being, but only of — the outward form. So we read, "Of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever." (Rom. 9:5).
He Who Was Son in Deity Takes up Perfect Manhood into Union with His Person
He took up perfect manhood into union with His Person. His incarnation did not in the least detract from His eternal deity nor from His eternal relationship in the Godhead, but only gave to His humanity His infinite perfection. So in manhood He was Son as He ever was in that eternal, unchanging and unchangeable relationship which He had with the Father in the Godhead.
"The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." "The Son of God is come." "The Son of God was manifested" (John 1:15; 1 John 5:20; John 3:8).
The plain and simple force of such scriptures is that He was Son, the only begotten of the Father before He came in flesh, before He was manifested. It was the eternal Son that was manifested by coming into this world in the form of a man. He did not become Son by becoming man, but the Son became man in order to manifest Himself and undo the works of the devil and give us a full revelation of what God is in His moral nature and character so that we might know Him. He was God (the Son) manifested in flesh, so that in manhood as in deity He was ever the only begotten Son in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18).
We will look at some more scriptures confirming this blessed truth of His eternal Sonship.
In John 17 we see Him standing in the midst of His disciples in the likeness of men. He lifts up His eyes to heaven and speaks to the Father. His words reveal His deep inner consciousness of the unchanging eternal relationship He had as Son with the Father before the world was. "Father...glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee.... And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was." (Verses 1, 5).
Just a little while before He had told them, "I came forth from the Father and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father" (John 16:28) There could be no Father if there was no Son. And here we see the relationship of Father and Son was there before He came into the world. In coming forth from the Father and coming into the world He, the Son, took His place in the likeness of men. It is this great fact of what He is in His eternal person the Son, that gave value to all He did as dependent Man. And it is just this great fact that He was God's own Son eternally, that brings out in all its brightness and depth the love of the Father in sending Him that we might live through Him. Take away the truth of His eternal Sonship and you take away the measure by which we know the fullness of the Father's love to us, and the great incentive we have for adoring Him.
"What was it, blessed God,
Led Thee to give Thy Son
To yield Thy well-beloved
For us by sin undone?
'Twas love unbounded led Thee thus
To give Thy well-beloved for us.
"What love to Thee we owe,
Our God, for all Thy grace?
Our hearts may well o'erflow
In everlasting praise
Make us, O God, to praise Thee thus
For all Thy boundless love to us."
The Father Manifests His Love In Sending His Son that We Might live Through Him
"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him" (1 John 4:9). Here clearly He was the only begotten before He was sent "into the world." It is just this great fact that makes God's love shine out in its fullness in sending Him.
"There all the saints of every clime shall meet,
And each with all shall all the ransomed greet,
But oh, the height of bliss, our Lord, shall be
To owe it all, and share it all, with Thee."
We have also Rom. 8:3 and Gal. 4:4, "God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh (of Christ made sin for us)" and "God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law." He was God's Son in His pre-incarnate relation with God when sent. Born of a woman in the likeness of flesh (of men) is the form He assumed in coming. To affirm that He only became Son in being born of a woman not only violates the language used, but what is worse robs these passages of their clear evident intention to emphasize the immensity of the love and grace of God the Father in sending His own Son, who was from all eternity the object of His deepest affection and delight and one with Him in nature and essence, to bear the judgment of sin in our stead. It is just this that gives force to what the Apostle goes on to point out in Romans 8, "If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8:31, 32. See also Rom. 8:38, 39).
God Creates the Worlds by His Son
Heb. 1:2 is another passage that ought to settle fully any mind that is subject to Scripture as to Christ's eternal Sonship. "God...hath in these last days spoken unto us by (or in the person of) His Son by whom also He made the worlds." God created the worlds by His Son. He was in that relationship as Son at the time He created the worlds. Who could question this clear implication of this passage? Col. 1:13-17 also says the same thing. "For by Him (the Son, see verse 13) were all things created."
Other passages could be cited, but these are ample to convince any person who is ready to accept in simple faith God's own divine statements without doubting or reasoning.
The Son of God in Manhood
One more passage may be examined with profit. "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). This name is not a new one given Him but His eternal one confirmed. It is not said "shall be the Son of God" as this would indicate that He was Son only as man born of the virgin and was not therefore Son in pre-incarnation. But the passage says, "shall be called the Son of God." That name which was His from all eternity "the Son," He carries over into manhood so that even as to His holy human nature conceived by the Holy Spirit He is called Son of God. Thus He is the Son of God in manhood as He is and always was and always will be in deity.
The Son, in Taking up Manhood into His Being, Voluntarily Took the Place of Submission and Dependence
He took up humanity into union with deity in His Person; yet His incarnation did not in the least detract from His deity nor His eternal relationship as Son to the Father but only gave to His humanity His infinite perfection. Each of His two natures retained its own proper character without any confusion. His human nature as well as His divine nature possessed each their excellent characteristics and both united to form His glorious Person as incarnate Son. Scripture never divides the Person nor confounds the natures. They are united in His Person by a unique and inscrutable bond. He is the God-man He is God in all that God is and He is Man in all that man is, apart from sin. Such is the Son of God come in flesh — the God-man — that He might manifest the Godhead in the flesh and by His obedience unto death, even the death of the cross, might redeem us unto God.
As the incarnate Son He ever kept and will keep eternally (1 Cor. 15:28) that place of a perfect Man in complete dependence, entire submission and implicit obedience to His Father's will and yet in it all He ever acts in His own Person as Son from eternity, who voluntarily took His place in manhood (being one with the Father in His will and purpose in it) that He might manifest unto us the Father and accomplish His will and the desire of His heart in our redemption to the praise of the glory of His grace. As incarnate Son He continually displays absolute submission to the will of the Father, yet this sacred service was and is equally the exercise of His own will, which was and always is uniform with that of His Father both in His deity and His perfect manhood.
Not Inferior to the Father in the dignity of His Person
"My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17). They work together in perfect accord, each having His respective part in carrying out one unique divine plan.
"The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things that Himself doeth" (John 5:19, 20), and "I can of Mine own self do nothing" (Verse 30). Some say this could not apply to the Lord as eternal Son but only to Him as Man. But this is bringing in human reasoning. We must not confuse the dignity of His person with the place He has voluntarily taken in carrying out the divine purposes. The Son is seen in this chapter as coequal with the Father, quickening whom He will and judging all, but He is not acting independently of the Father nor is the Father acting independently of Him. The Father shows Him all He does and the Son does nothing without His Father. There is complete equality and oneness in purpose and thought in carrying out one common plan. The Son has voluntarily taken the form of a servant for accomplishing the divine purposes of the Godhead with which He is fully one. But this does not render Him in anywise inferior to His Father by doing so. We must not confuse the dignity of His Person with that place He has taken in full communion and oneness of thought and purpose with the Godhead in carrying out the divine purposes.
The Holy Spirit also now takes a place in the present dispensation that appears to be subordinated, He "proceedeth from the Father" and is "sent" by the Father and the Son. And having come, He does not speak of Himself but whatsoever He hears He speaks. His mission is to "glorify Christ" in receiving the things that are His and showing them unto us. (See John 15:26; John 16:13, 14). All such expressions as these appear to give a place of subordination to the Spirit as others appear to do to the Son but it is in appearance only and in respect to the place they have taken and the part they play in carrying out the divine purposes and not in anywise as to the dignity of their Persons. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are coequal in deity and all are one in thought, will and purpose though each has His respective part and sphere of action in the carrying out of the divine purposes.
A human example might help to see this more clearly. Three brothers undertake a manufacturing business as coequal partners and they sit down together and plan it out. By common consent, one is to take the general management of the business, the other takes the direction of the work in the plant and the third takes charge of the sales department. The general manager might appear to some to be in a place of superiority and the other two in the place of inferiority. But it is not so in reality. They are all coequal working together in full accord to carry out one common plan and purpose. The general manager would never think of his brother who is directing the work in the plant as his inferior. No part of the business is in reality inferior where what each does is essential to the success of the whole and all are working with that one purpose in view-the success of the business. So in this divine plan that the Triune God has purposed for the display of the Godhead glory and our redemption we cannot think of any part in it as being inferior where all the details are linked in one perfect whole. Though each Person of the Godhead has His respective part to do in carrying out of the whole, yet all is of co-equal importance.
The Son in carrying out His part took "His place in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:7 J. N. D. Trans.) but He did not in anywise surrender His coequality in deity nor the dignity of His Person in doing so. And as we see Him here in that perfect dependence and obedience that became the place He had taken, let us beware of thinking it was subjection by reason of inferiority. Indeed it is His unique glory that while there in that place of complete dependence He was as ever "over all, God blessed for ever" (Rom. 9:5). "Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work" (John 4:34). He had voluntarily undertaken that work with all that it entailed, including incarnation, and the cross, and was carrying it out with full delight of heart. It was His meat. He was absolutely one with the Father's will in it all. If He had been in the slightest degree inferior in His personal dignity to the Father in the Godhead, He could not have accomplished that work to the glory of the Triune God nor have manifested God here in the flesh It was His absolute coequality with His Father that gave its infinite value to all He did as the incarnate Son.
The Use of the Name God as Applied to the Three Persons of the Trinity
In Scripture the name God is often used as embracing all three persons of the Trinity especially in the Old Testament. But in the New Testament the Father alone is often addressed as God, while the Spirit and the Son are not addressed as God in this way. For example, "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:6). This is not because of superiority in the Godhead, but rather because in the working out of the divine purposes the Son has taken His place as a servant and the obedient Man, and the Spirit takes the place as sent by the Father and the Son to glorify the Son. So in the place they have taken in the working out of the divine counsels they could not be called simply God in the way the Father is; though the Son is God and the Spirit is God, both coequal with the Father in deity.
In the working out of the divine counsels we see that God, the Father, is looked upon as the author and source of all things, the One who chooses, predestinates, calls and justifies and works all things after the counsel of His own will. (See 1 Cor. 8:6; Eph. 1:3-11; 2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 8:28-33, etc.). The Son is looked upon as the workman or artificer by whom all things are made and upheld, the One in, by and through whom all the counsels of the Triune God are realized and made secure and the work of redemption is accomplished, and the One who, in coming in the flesh, manifests and declares and reveals God to man. (See 1 Cor. 8:6; Eph. 1:2 Tim. 1:9; John 1:18; 1 Tim. 1:16; Phil. 3:21, etc.). The Spirit of God is looked upon as the One who works directly in power upon and in the creature or created things. (Ps. 104:3; Judges 14:5, 6; Eph. 3:16; 2 Cor. 4:4, 10, 12-14; Rom. 8:4-16, 26, etc.).
The Son Took up Manhood into Inseparable Union with His Person
It is well to note another point. Some would seek to distinguish in the Lord's actions and words that which is manhood and that which is deity. But this is indeed slippery ground. It leads inevitably into attributing a dual personality to our Lord, the one manhood the other deity kept distinct in separate compartments, so to speak, in His being. But this is purely human reasoning contrary to the way Scripture presents our Lord's Person.
Scripture never divides His Person into two parts, one human and one divine, but reveals Him as having taken up perfect humanity into union with His eternal deity so that they are united in one unique, inscrutable and indissoluble bond in His Person. While Scripture never confounds the two natures it never divides the Person. Even what He does in manhood is still the action of Himself, the eternal Son, who has of His own self, and without giving up His personality as eternal Son, "taking a bondman's form, taking His place in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:7, J. N. D. Trans.). It is He the eternal Son that is there as Man. It is this fact of His Person as the eternal Son of God, having taken His place as Man, that gives the infinite perfection of His unique Person to all that He does as incarnate Son. It is this indissoluble union of perfect manhood with eternal deity in His unique Person that constantly comes out in all that He does as God (the Son) manifest in flesh.
"No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." "What and it ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before?" (John 3:13; 6:62).
He unites in such complete union perfect manhood and eternal omnipresent deity that He can speak while calling Himself the Son of man, as having come down from heaven or ascending up (He, the Son of man) to where He was before or even say of Himself, while He was bodily present here on earth, "The Son of man is in heaven."
"I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:51). He speaks of Himself as the living bread come down from heaven and yet in the same sentence says that He, the One who came down from heaven, will give His flesh as bread for the life of the world. While the two natures, manhood and eternal deity, are clearly seen here in His Person yet it is impossible to separate them in His actions.
"Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree." "The Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." "Upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (1 Peter 2:24; Gal 2:20; Heb. 1:3). It was Himself, the omnipotent One, Who upholds all things by the word of His power, that gave Himself in sacrifice for our sins. He, the eternal Son, bare our sins in His own body on the tree — not the Man as man nor yet Deity as deity, though perfect manhood and full deity were there united in His Person. It was the Person who had taken up manhood into union with Himself that purges our sins by the sacrifice of Himself. Manhood and deity are both there clearly, but we cannot separate them in His actions or words.
And so we gaze upon that Man, sitting weary from His journey, on Jacob's well, asking for a drink of water in John 4 and we exclaim with Thomas, "My Lord and My God!" Who would want to rob Him of His Godhead glory, the glory of His grace, as we see Him there come to give those living waters to a weary sin-sick soul in the thirst of His own soul to bring her to share with Him His own everlasting joy?
We cannot reason these things out. They are beyond the reach of human reason to speculate about. But we can receive them in simple faith as glorious facts on the unquestionable authority of His divinely inspired Word, and worship and adore. Such worship and the devoted service that flows from it will expand our hearts and enrich our lives, but to speculate about His inscrutable person will shrivel up our souls and sap all true communion with God in His thoughts and delights in His Son.
"No man knoweth the Son (in the sense of understanding the union of perfect manhood and eternal deity in His Person) but the Father." But how blessed it is to believe it simply on the authority of God's Word. For here we have the revelation of God's eternal love to our souls and the sure foundation of eternal bliss together with Him. Almighty God, some dreaded potentate with invincible power, who, if we dared to resist Him, could crush us as a moth, and we, ignorant of His inner thoughts concerning us, would not know what He might do next — what terror this could be for our souls. But, oh, what joy, what eternal bliss, God is no longer for us an unknown and unknowable something. He has been manifest in the flesh in the Person of His eternal, only begotten Son full of grace and truth and of His fulness have we all received, and grace for grace.
"But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess. 2:13, 14).
E. C. Hadley.