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Don Stewart :: Was Jesus Always the Son of God? (Eternal Generation)

Don Stewart

There is a question as to whether Jesus was always the eternal Son of God or that He became the Son of God only when He came to earth. This is technically called the "eternal generation of the Son."

Two issues are involved:

  1. The relationship between the nature of the Father and the Son.
  2. The relationship between the ways they carry out their respective roles as members of the Trinity.

The Father Handed Over All Things To Jesus

Matthew tells us that God the Father had all things handed over to Jesus.

All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him (Matthew 11:27).

Does this imply that Jesus had always been in a subordinate role to the Father as God the Son? Or does it mean that at a certain time Jesus willingly became subordinate to God the Father?

Did Jesus Become The Son?

Some Bible teacher's believe that Jesus became the Son of God at a certain time in history. There is an Old Testament passage that seems to teach that Jesus became the Son at some point in time.

I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my Son today I have become your Father" (Psalm 2:7).

There are four particular times that are suggested: His coming into the world; His baptism; His resurrection; His ascension.

Did He Become The Son At His Birth?

It is argued that Jesus became the Son of God when He became a human being. At the announcement of His birth the angel said to Mary.

The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35)

Did Jesus Become The Son At His Baptism?

Another view has Jesus becoming God' Son at His baptism. When He was baptized God the Father announced.

And behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased" (Matthew 3:17).

Was It At His Resurrection That Jesus Became The Son?

It is also held that Jesus became the Son of God at His resurrection.

Who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:4).

Did Jesus Become The Son At His Ascension?

A fourth view has Jesus becoming the Son of God at His ascension.

When he had made purification of sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as he has inherited a more excellent name than they (Hebrews 1:3,4).

Did Jesus Become The Son Before He Came To Earth

A fifth view has Jesus as the Son of God before He came to earth - He was always the Son of God. Jesus has always been in a subordinate position as God the Son from all eternity. Although equal to the Father in nature, He has been submissive in His role.

Jesus Is The Eternal God

Jesus has been God from all eternity. Since all three persons are equally and fully God they have existed from all eternity.

So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world (John 17:5, 24).

Since God is also unchanging than God has always existed as a Trinity.

Jesus Took The Role Of A Subordinate

The best evidence from Scripture seems to be that Jesus was the eternal Son of God, always in a subordinate role to the Father. However, this subordinate role says nothing about His character for He is equal to the Father in substance.

Jesus Had A Role In Creation

For example, God the Father spoke, the words that brought the universe into existence while God the Son was the agent who brought them to pass. The Bible says of Jesus.

All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being (John 1:3).

This Is Not The Same As Subordinationism

Saying that the Son was eternally subordinate to the Father is not the same as the heresy known as Subordinationism. This false doctrine says the Son was an inferior being to the Father. Though He was the eternal uncreated Son He was still not equal to the Father in His being or attributes. The early church father Origen held to a form of Subordinationism. When the doctrine of the Trinity was clearly formulated at the council of Nicea, this heresy along with others was rejected.

Therefore the Son was equal in being but subordinate in His role. We know that when He returns He will give all things back to the Father and submit Himself to the Father.

When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).

Summary

There has been a debate in the church as to whether Jesus was the eternal Son of God or that he became the Son of God when he came to the earth. The issue is not his nature for Jesus always has been the eternal God. The question is when did he assume a submissive role with God the Father.

Those who advocate Jesus became the Son of God do not all agree as exactly when this happened. Arguments have been made for his birth, baptism, resurrection and ascension. Some argue that it was sometime before he came to earth. The Scriptures, however, seem to teach that Jesus has always been in a subordinate role to God the Father while still being equal in character. While Jesus character is equal to God the Father his role is one of subordination.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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