Redemption and Eternal Sonship

V. W. J. H. Lawrence

An Examination—

regarding the manner in which the denial of the Eternal Divine Sonship of Christ undermines both His work of redemption and His sufferings as Man on the Cross:—

Redemption is the exercise of a prior right, an already existing claim, on the object redeemed or to be redeemed;—a prior right in the exercise of which authority is vested in the redeemer, whether God or Man. The principle of this, then, can be seen beautifully exemplified in the book of Ruth, and Jeremiah 32:6-15. There was one in each case, with a right to redeem. He possessed an inherent claim on the inheritance, and if and when that inheritance passed under liability of any kind whatsoever, and it lay in the orbit of his power to redeem, then the right was his also. Another might have the prior claim, and waive it, as in Ruth; or one might have the right to redeem, and not the power; another might have the wealth or power to redeem, and not the right or claim upon the inheritance. Jeremiah 32 calls for the closest study: it is a most precious setting-forth of Jehovah's claims; first—in relation to His people, and land, and sanctuary, second—in relation to the whole earth.

Now man as a creature has passed under liability, and the whole creation with him. Sin and death and Satan's power form the liability, though the glory of God constitutes that eternal Reality in regard of which the liability stood. And man was as powerless to meet that glory as to deliver his soul from the thraldom of sin. But as I do not write to unfold the truth of redemption—in itself—I must not go further; I have written enough to show the depth and force of this great and vital principle of the ways of God.

It was necessary therefore, that One to whom the right of this redemption belonged should come forth—were He able—to redeem His inheritance. Now as Scripture does not present Divine truth in the same way as men might present a doctrine, we do not find all the facts in one place; but we do find all the facts relative to redemption, though presented differently in different places. But God has been graciously pleased to so set forth the glory of redemption, that we could be in no doubt of its accomplishment. Because God is fully and perfectly glorified, both in His nature and in all His attributes; the power of sin, the judgment of our sins, the power of death, and Satan, fully met and set aside; every claim of God in respect to the sinner has been perfectly satisfied, and His throne and its justice maintained, without passing by one sin, or diminishing one iota of His glory. What a work it is; and all of God, through Christ, yea, all of grace, pure, rich, free grace, unutterably free, the plenitude of the unbounded liberality of the heart of God to the wretched, the helpless, and the lost; the revelation of His own righteousness to a race of doomed sinners, who had none by nature, and could attain to none by the law. Such is the history of God's redemption in Jesus Christ our Lord. The whole matter is only apprehended by, and its blessing secured for, the individual, by the exercise of a living faith in the soul. This is the theme of the Gospel, and the subject-matter of Paul's Epistle to the Romans.

Now it will be evident to the simplest believer that, in the foregoing remarks, we have presented one aspect of this matter, and it is summed up by Paul in Romans 3:24: "Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Blessed fact! But when we turn to Colossians and Ephesians what do we read: "Who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love; in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins,. …" Colossians 1:13-14. And again: "To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He has made us accepted in the Beloved; in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." Eph. 1:6-7. No one could read these Scriptures, especially Colossians 1, without being deeply and Divinely impressed by the Glory of Christ in His blessed relationship to the Father. All our blessings, all this wondrous outflow of love and grace, free and sovereign, is from the Father as its eternal Source. I need not labour this, Eph. 1:2-3 are conclusive; and in Colossians 1, the Apostle gives thanks to the Father, and says it is He who has made us meet. So we sing and rightly:— "Father, spring and source of blessing." Evidently, then, the One in whom redemption subsists is the "Beloved" of the Father, the "Son of His love." Wondrous and glorious truth!

Now it is a vital fact that the redemption is in Christ Jesus, in the Beloved, in the Son of His love, it is not only through Him, but in Him. All its glory, its power, and its blessedness, subsist in Him; all is vested in Him. He is righteousness; though He has accomplished it. Every blessing of the heart of God is established in the Son as available to man through faith. Redemption is the expression of God's love. God has exercised His rights over men in redemption, but His rights are the property of His love. The claims of God over men are those of their Creator, but they reveal His unbounded love. The love of God lies beyond and behind His work in creation. Creation is what God has done; but love is what He is; it is His nature, and all that He has purposed, and all His activities, are the expression of, and are in accord with, that Nature. Nothing but infinite Divine love, perfectly and absolutely sovereign, all-sufficient in itself, yet going out of itself to satisfy in objects of mercy every desire proper to its eternal blessedness—nothing but such love—I say—could ever accomplish this eternal redemption and reconciliation for our souls. If the consideration and contemplation of this, its realisation in the depths of the soul, will not bow the heart of man in the presence of this unbounded outflow of the heart of God; I know of nothing that will.

But in whom is this fulness available to my soul? Where do I know, as I can know it nowhere else, the heart of God which would come out of His own cloudless, blissful, sinless eternity, to seek and save, to redeem, to bring back to Himself, a poor, darkened, sin-soiled, guilty thing such as I am? In the Beloved of that heart, in the Son of that Father's love. Stupendous reality; fact of infinite glory; yea, a glory that only serves to magnify the grace that can rise up to it, the grace that can take a guilty sinner from the very darkest depths of his moral degradation, and set him in association with the Son of God in that glory become his own proper home! Yet men see nothing in the grace of God! And all this glory is revealed in the Son, the knowledge and revelation of this love in Himself also, the supreme eternal Object of that which is the source of all. No wonder J. N. Darby said—"The Father's love, the source of all," he knew it as few have done in this poor world, yet knew it as every saint is privileged to know it—"in the Beloved." This brings us to the Father's heart, and lifts us up above creation and all the outward manifestations of His power and divinity.

And the Divine basis of this redemption is the precious shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. As Peter says: "redeemed … but with the precious blood of Christ;" and Paul: "Ye were reconciled to God by the death of his Son;" "in whom we have redemption through His blood." The atoning sufferings and the redeeming sacrifice of the blessed incarnate Son of God constitute the only possible foundation of this eternal redemption. It is the Beloved of the Father who has been down under the judgment of God, into death itself. For seeing there is a full and perfect redemption, there must be of necessity also the price of that redemption. No redemption is without cost: and the greater the work, the more far-reaching its effects; the deeper the moral questions at issue; so must the cost of this redemption be the more increased. It is beyond all knowledge save that of the Father, to comprehend the cost of our redemption: the Father and the Beloved Son have borne that cost in all its greatness, and in all its untold sacrifice and suffering. So John writes: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son," and "The Father sent the Son the Saviour of the world." No human unbelief, or hardness of heart; no rationalistic infidelity; no careless indifference of man's proud, wilful hatred of the pure grace of God; can ever set aside or diminish this infinite Divine sacrifice, this cost of our redemption.

But I return to the deep blessedness of the love and purpose that counselled all these things. And in so doing, I dwell on the Father's love, and on the obedience and devotedness of the Son. Divine revelation, just because it is a revelation, and is perfect too, gives us the secret of this work of unbounded love. It takes us back in spirit into an eternal past; real, infinitely real; Divinely blessed, sinless, glorious; full of cloudless light and splendour; yet dwelt in, blessed because of the perfect blessedness of the Father and the Son; yea, dwelt in by Themselves with the Holy Spirit, and surrounded with blissful myriads of intelligent creatures;* yet ALONE in what is the very life and basis of Their bliss—even Their love. Divine counsel predestinated holy myriads to know and enjoy that love, as being the subjects of its highest thoughts and greatest operations, in conformity to its own moral nature for ever.
{*There is no scriptural reason for 'intelligent creatures' existing before the creation. Ed.}

Yet the creature's sin and ruin came in between that purpose and its accomplishment,—foreknown—and redemption foreknown too; yea, the Lamb foreknown before the world's foundation. Thus, the very depth of our degradation only magnifies the love that could pursue its object through all. And in the Son of the Father's love, the Beloved of that Father , the only begotten Son ever-existing in the Father's bosom, in that One—such an One—loved by the Father before the world's foundation—has the full and mighty cost of redemption been borne, in the Son become Man to accomplish it. Thus does the grace of our redemption flow out necessarily from the love and purpose of the Father, God our Father, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And redemption itself rests upon this as its basis. If we possess not the Father and the Son in Their own blessedness in that eternity that is past, then we possess no reason or ground for our redemption. For redemption is not of necessity, but of love. We cannot affirm an obligation upon God, apart from our knowledge of His eternal purpose. Yet God has taken up our case, for His own glory and pleasure; and He has blessed us, taking us into favour in the Beloved because of the Beloved's sake. "Thine they were, and thou gavest them me." Is it possible to conceive of ought more blessed than this?

And whence do we derive our knowledge of these things? From the revelation of them in the Word. I write nothing new; oh! that my brethren might realise it! I write nothing new: I only repeat the great doctrines of our faith; the joy into which grace has brought us, the Father's joy, and the joy of Christ, His Son. Testimony has been borne already to these truths. I find them in John, I see them in the prayer of the Son to the Father in the seventeenth chapter; I find them in Ephesians, in Colossians, in Hebrews. I find no disparity, no discord anywhere. If John records chapter seventeen, Paul tells us of the purposes of that love, Peter that, redemption was planned before the world's foundation. John 17:24, Eph. 1:4, Hebrews 10:7, 1 Peter 1:19-20; all form one vast whole, a unity of infinite glory, a splendour that passes all our thoughts; yet a revelation of Divine and everlasting love, the love and glory of the Godhead—known now in boundless grace to our souls. And redemption, because of its righteous basis, can alone constitute the ground of our portion in these blessed and wondrous things.

But take away the truth of the Eternal Divine Sonship of Jesus; and you deny to the Father His own and only Son, Son in His bosom, Son of His love, Object of His glory, yea, the Sharer of that glory, and Object of that love. For it is impossible to deny that the glory and love of the Father were the portion of the Son, for so He has Himself permitted us to know, in His prayer to the Father. The Father was there in that eternal past; His glory and love filled His house and home; for, though God is one, He is not alone in His Unity, for He has revealed to us those relations that dwell eternally within that Unity. Blessed be His Name for this! Redemption, then, being the outflow of the Father's Love in "the Beloved," known to my soul in the Beloved of His heart,—become Man to win mine, and be the Object of my poor little heart also,—loses all its blessedness if my soul knows not the Father and the Son in that eternal past. The denial of Eternal Sonship is the denial of a real redemption, for I know not the Redeemer—if He be not the Beloved of the Father and the Son of His love. We know the Father in and by the Son. Redemption is in that Son, and in no other. True it is that our Lord Jesus Christ, the anointed Man of God's will and pleasure, has accomplished all this work, but the only Christ I know, the only Lord Jesus I own, (or the Church universal either), is the Beloved of the Father. Why is Jesus, Jesus to us? Because He is the Son. A Christ, a Lord Jesus, who is not the Father's only Son, my soul knows not; nor do I want to know. The revelation of the Father's love and glory is the height of our heavenly calling: it is the portion of the Saint, as Paul writes to the Colossians, chap. 1. It is the Father who has made us meet to share the portion of the saints in light. Examine all the Apostle writes there; ponder it in the light of his prayer to the Father in Eph. 3; then take the whole body of truth he expounds, the whole system of eternal purpose, and view it in the light and splendour that radiates from every sentence in the seventeenth of John. What an unfolding, what a glorious manifestation it is? A revelation, yea, in very deed, a revelation,—the Father, and His love, glory, and pleasure; His will, purpose, and affections; known through, by, and in the Son! And the Son has become Man to bring all this near to us, yea, to go into death for us, to suffer, bleed, and die, to accomplish this great redemption for our souls. And all is revealed in the Word to us.

"Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." Prov. 30:6. I make no apologies for ought I have set forth in the foregoing remarks. They contain nothing but what the Word itself reveals. There our souls have found these blessed realities of our God and Father: there He has disclosed them to us; in that Word He has rendered a full and perfect witness to Him who is His own Son. (See 1 John 5:10). And he who receives not that witness has made God a liar. Solemn fact, indeed! Yet J . N. Darby, G. V. Wigram, J. B. Stoney, and how many more throughout the Church's history have found these same truths in this same Divine Word. We add nothing to it, when we proclaim from it the truth of the Father and the Son. But when that truth is known to the soul, it floods the whole vast circle of truth, the entire system of God's purposes and ways, with a supreme effulgence. All becomes plain; for we are assured of the glory of our redemption in the Father's counsels, and the blessedness of it in His love, whilst its accomplishment is to us the personal glory of the Beloved, in whom we possess it, and shines with the devotedness and obedience of His blessed heart as Man in this lower world.

Before closing these few remarks I add one word on Hebrews. In chapter 1:2-3, we find the eternal Son, the One in whom God has spoken, yet appointed Heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds. Here, then, is the intrinsic greatness of the Creator-Son. For it is the Son to whom creation is ascribed in its actual operation; and He too upholds all things by the word of His power. Yet it is this same Son who is the Heir. Nothing could be more simple, yet more Divinely real. Christianity is a system, an economy, of infinite Divine realities, great and wondrous facts; not theories that any astute reasoner can bend to his liking or distort to support his latest ideas; but unyielding facts; immense, subsisting facts; that neither time nor eternity can alter or affect in any way. The Son, too, makes purgation for sins, He obtains eternal redemption. The Son is the Heir to this vast inheritance, and as such He has the inalienable right to redeem it when it has passed under liability. He has redeemed it just because He is the Son and hence the Heir. As another has said: 'He redeemed as Son what He created as Son.' So in Heb. 9:14, it is by the eternal Spirit He offers Himself without spot to God; and in verse 15 He is the Mediator of the new covenant for the redemption of transgressions under the first, that the called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. So it is by His own blood He has obtained eternal redemption. But if He be not the Son, all this falls to the ground, for He has then no rights over the creation or the creature. The rights must inhere in the Person of the Redeemer, and be His essential glory, apart from His place as Man in that creation. He enters creation; but it is the Creator who enters it. He is heir of all things in eternal counsel or His inheritance is nothing. He inherits what He has created; but His power to inherit, His title to His inheritance, is inherent in His Sonship. The Son inherits because He is the Son; but He creates to manifest His glory; and this gives Him all the title to redeem His own inheritance and His own creation. Nothing could be more wonderful or more blessed. The history of it lies in the Epistle.

I pass on now to write a brief word on the Sufferings of Christ. It would be impossible, were I able for it, in the course of such a paper as this, to unfold all those sufferings; but I write of those called—Atoning sufferings, and rightly so; yet what is established in principle for one character of sufferings stands firm and sure for every other character of suffering. Thus we read in Hebrews 5:8, "Though He were Son, yet learned he obedience by the things that he suffered." He suffered as the righteous One, the only perfect just One, at the hands of men. He suffered the whole body of reproach of the apostate nation. He could say prophetically in the Psalm: "Reproach has broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none." Ps. 69:20. Read the "sorrow" Psalms of the Books of Psalms, and dwell on all His sufferings. How He felt all man's reproach and bitterness, his hatred of perfect good in Himself, and his despising of God's grace and loving-kindness. For His love they gave Him hatred; they hated Him without a cause. Just ponder what it must have meant to Jesus to be told: "Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a demon?" And again: "Now we know that thou hast a demon." John 8:48, 52. Yet however deeply His blessed heart felt all this, and could weep over the rebellious City; yea, too, could feel with and for His own in all their sorrows, entering as a blessed perfect Man into the sorrow that sin had brought to pass, knowing its power in a nature of infinite holiness and thus eternally opposed to what brought it to pass, yet, I say, it pales before the sufferings of the Cross, when His holy soul bears all God's judgment against sin.

Well might He say: "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour." John 12:27. So also in the Psalm 22:11. "Be not far from me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help." He, the One who knew no sin, is to be made sin for us. He enters into all that judgment, God 's own full judgment against sin and against our sins, as the only One adequate to sustain it,—the only One who could measure perfectly what God was in His nature as against all sin and evil, and bear the condemnation of that sin and evil in a nature as intrinsically and as eternally holy as that of God who was judging. This, then, is the very basis of redemption,—the atoning sufferings in which the judgment of God against sin was once and for ever consummated; and those sufferings are what they are to God and to the redeemed soul, because they are the sufferings of the Incarnate Son of God.

It is not enough to know that Christ suffered for sins: He did so suffer. But what the redeemed heart craves is to know WHO it was that suffered. It is the personal glory and excellence of the Son, the Beloved of the Father, which gives all their unction to these unspeakable sufferings of our blessed Lord. Do we take them as a matter of course? Or are our poor hearts filled and subdued with awe and adoration and love on account of them? It is a fact, that no one who has ever felt the power of those sufferings over them, has ever doubted the Divine glory of that Divine Sufferer. Nothing subdues the heart like the worshipping contemplation of those holy sufferings of Jesus, the Son. God's glory lay behind all those sufferings. The only Son of the Father is willing to suffer that the Father may be glorified, and His love revealed, and His will accomplished. Yes! that is what souls do not realise—that the Father's will and love and glory lay behind all the sufferings of Christ the Son. And thus those atoning sufferings and that redeeming sacrifice of Christ reveal to us the Father's heart. Eternal witness of eternal love; never will those sufferings be forgotten! Conformed to the image of God's Son, in the Father's presence eternally, redeemed myriads will adore Him who so suffered for them, the Son of the Father's love. The Personal excellence of Jesus as the Son of the Father gives all its glory to His sufferings; and His sufferings are what they are to our hearts, because we know that no one less than Christ the Son has so suffered for us.

Thus that wondrous word which breaks the silence of the eternal past—"Lo, I come … to do thy will, O God."—has its Divine answer in the sufferings of Christ. He who uttered those words—concerning whom they were recorded in the volume of the book—is the One who came. He said He would come, and He came. He said He would do that will—and He has done it. Blessed be His Name for it! And we know that it was the Son who uttered those words, the Creator-Son; and He is the Redeemer-Son; and it was none else that suffered all the woe and judgment of Calvary's Cross. Such is the very meaning of those sufferings, the reality of that sacrifice. If my soul knows not Jesus as the Son of the Father, who ever dwelt in His bosom, and was the eternal, all-sufficient Object of His eternal love, then I do not understand His sufferings, I cannot realise what this redemption means. Why is the sacrifice of Christ what it is, if He is not THE SON? How does He come with this perfect right to redeem, if He be not THE SON? Who is it that establishes these stupendous claims over men, unless He is THE SON?

The Godhead Sonship—the Eternal Divine Sonship—of our blessed Lord and Saviour is the alone and perfect answer to every question that can arise regarding His Person and the fact of a real revelation of the Father in Himself, and hence, the purpose of God, the counsels of the Father's heart, the love that in an eternal past gave the Church to Christ, and the whole Divine system of our dearly-bought redemption, and the entire body of Christ's sufferings; all—I say—becomes plain in the light of the glory of this Son. No human sonship—no son born in time—could fill out these realms of infinite glory, or give its own Divine character to the scene of God's eternal rest. A so-called "son of God," who is such only on account of his miraculous birth into this world, is unknown to Scripture: it is a figment of the imagination of man, the child of his disobedient mind.

The preciousness of the blood of the Lamb, all the deep, deep value of the sufferings of Christ, the eternal efficacy of His atoning work, all possesses its Divine character and its infinite moral glory, because He is the Son.

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