The Divinity of Christ, part 11
The doctrine of the eternal Sonship—true or false?
We continue with our series concerning the divinity of Christ. In our early blogs this year on this topic we presented the historical background on the controversy over the deity of Christ. We saw that it first erupted in a big way back about the year A.D. 318 with a man named Arius, hence it is called “the Arian Controversy.”
In subsequent blogs we began to set forth some of the biblical proofs for the deity of Christ. You might recall that we referred to the axiom in algebra which says that if a = c and b = c, then a = b. We then employed that principle to show that if Jesus Christ in the New Testament possessed the same characteristic attributes of deity as God in the Old Testament—characteristics which are only applicable to deity, then that constitutes proof of the deity of Christ.
Just to refresh your memory, here are just a few of the ways in which we saw the equivalency of God and Jesus: as Israel’s Rock and Stone, as the Holy One of Israel, as the Shepherd who seeks out His flock, as Immanuel, God with us; as the bridegroom of Israel, as the omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent one. In Isaiah 9:6 we saw that the prophesied Savior would be called “the Mighty God” and “the everlasting Father.”
We saw how the Word was with God at the beginning and the Word was God and the Word became flesh. In other words, the Word became the Son. The Son was not eternal—despite what many well-meaning theologians and ministers teach. Rather, the Word, the Logos, of John chapter one, was eternal.
In my studies since last time, I was reading in my hard-copy Bible, which is the KJV with study notes by Jerry Falwell and about a dozen other fundamentalist-evangelical scholars. For clarity’s sake, so that you do not conclude that I am some great fan or follower of our late brother Falwell, I did not buy his KJ Study Bible for its study notes.
Instead, I bought it as my primary reading and study Bible because it was the only KJ Version that I could find which had readable type size, center column references and especially because it has very wide margins for my own notes.
Anyhow, I was reading it recently and God drew my attention to a verse which had a study note implying that this was the proof text for the doctrine of the eternal Sonship. So I want us to turn to Psalm 2, verse 7, and let’s examine it as Bereans and see if these things be so.
Psalm 2:7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
The only additional proof cited for the eternal Sonship doctrine is three places in the New Testament where this passage is quoted. Can someone enlighten me how this verse shows that the Son of God existed from eternity past?
It seems to me that David was inspired to utter this prophecy about a descendant of his in the flesh who, about a thousand years later, would be begotten by the Most High God in the womb of the virgin Mary on a certain day and be born into this world.
Clearly, it does not suggest that the Son was begotten on the day that David composed this psalm, and this verse certainly does not suggest—let alone prove—that the Son was “constantly being begotten” from eternity past, as some of the confused Nicene fathers suggested. (Some refer to it as the doctrine of “eternal generation.”
Let us turn now to John, chapter 8. You will recall that last time, we concluded by mentioning the objection that some put forth, that since Jesus said to Philip in
John 14:9… he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; …
that this somehow is akin to the analogy of one of your friends remarking to you: “Look at little Johnny over there next to his daddy. Doesn’t he take after his dad a lot? He really favors his dad, doesn’t he? Why, if you’ve seen little Johnny, you’ve seen his father.”
Is that really the idea that Jesus is trying to convey to Philip? I don’t think so. And yet, some one who favors that interpretation will point us to a similar passage in John 8 where Jesus is having a confrontation with unbelieving Jews in the treasury of the temple, and we pick up the exchange in verse 19.
John 8:19 Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.
We have to admit the similarity, but is our opponents’ interpretation correct? Well, let’s continue in verse 22 and we will find that there is a proof of the deity of Christ hidden in this passage just beneath the surface in our English translations.
John 8:22 Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come.
23 And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.
24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
What do you notice about the words that I emphasized? Is there a word in italics there? Yes, which means that it was inserted by the translators for clarity. But what if we omit it, then what would it suggest to us? It is a reference to when God revealed Himself to Moses by this name in the desert.
Exodus 3: 14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
We notice that “I AM THAT I AM” can be shortened to simply the name, “I AM.”
John 8:28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
Let’s drop down to verse 56. Jesus and the unbelieving Jews continue going back and forth until Jesus makes it crystal clear to them with this statement.
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
No inserted words here, are there? The implication is very obvious. In all three of these powerful “I am” verses, Jesus is clearly identifying himself as the very same Being as Yahweh, Elohim, El Elyon, El Shaddai, the great I AM! To be sure, there are distinctions to be made between those various names or titles of God, but make no mistake, there is only one God and Jesus was identifying Himself as that one God.
This claim did not go over the heads of these unbelieving Jews. To call yourself God and not be God was blasphemy of the highest order. The unbelieving Jews were correct about that. And the punishment for this blasphemy was the death penalty by stoning. Therefore, since these Jews did not believe Jesus when He claimed to be the great I AM, what did they do?
59 Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
These unbelieving Jews clearly understood that He was claiming deity; why do some people today not see it? Let’s move on to Matthew 22. If Jesus claimed He—as the I AM—was older than Abraham, then He would certainly be older than King David also. In Matthew 22, we find Jesus throws the Pharisees a biblical challenge.
Matthew 22:41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,
42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David.
43 He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying,
44 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?
45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?
46 And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.
To understand this passage properly, we need to do two things. First, we need to turn to the Old Testament passage that Jesus was referring to here, so please turn to Psalm 110.
Psalm 110:1 <A Psalm of David.> The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
Alright, does everyone now get it? No, we really don’t. We really aren’t helped much by that verse. It’s the exact thing we just read in Matthew. The reason we don’t fully understand it is because we get confused by the several uses of the word “lord” there.
In my lectures and blogs, I have frequently noted that any place in the KJV, and many of the modern English translation as well, whenever we see the word “LORD” in all capital letters, it indicates that it is a place where the sacred name has been removed and the word “LORD” has been substituted by the translators.
In a few cases, it is also the word GOD in all capital letters which substitutes for the holy name. So now let’s re-read this verse with the holy name back in place and we will see the meaning more clearly now.
Psalm 110:1 [David is speaking here and he says:] The LORD said unto my Lord,
Let’s pause there. We notice that the first “LORD” should be “Yahweh,” but the second use of the word “Lord” is not in all caps, so we read it correctly as: “Yahweh said unto my lord.” Now we can return to Matthew 22, verse 43, in order to identify who the person is who is referred to as lord in lower case letters. Jesus challenges the Pharisees.
42 Saying, What think ye of Christ [or Messiah]? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David.
43 He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord,
Alright, pause there. You see, “in spirit,” under divine inspiration, David is recording a conversation, if you will, between Yahweh and the Messiah, that is, between God the father and His only begotten Son who, of course, at the time of David, had not yet been begotten.
But that did not prevent the Holy Spirit from inspiring David to record this conversation in verse 44, where in essence, the Father says: “Sit at my right hand, Son, until I make your enemies your footstool.” We will return to this in a moment, but let’s finish with verse 45 now.
45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?
The Pharisees were stumped. They could not explain how that could be. Can we? With 20-20 hindsight, with 20 centuries of Christianity behind us, can we explain how if David called Him Lord, how is He His Son?
Sure we can. It is utterly simple to us—if we believe that Jesus is God. We all understand that the Messiah was born of the line of King David and He was therefore the Son of David.
But this business about calling him “Lord” is another matter. You see, David never did and never would refer to Moses as Lord. He never did and never would refer to Abraham as Lord. Or Isaac, or Jacob or any of the greatest men preceding him as Lord.
But he would refer to the coming Messiah as his Lord. Why? Because he was under divine inspiration and because I think David understood that the Messiah would not be merely a human deliverer such as Moses was, but that the Messiah would also be divine. Therefore, David referred to him as his Lord.
(To be continued.)