Christ - The Eternal Son

That Christ is Son of God no one who believes in Scripture can for a moment
deny or question. But the moment we come to consider how and in what sense
He is the Son of God, we begin not merely to encounter the strife of tongues
with which unbelief has ever assailed His glorious Person, but to experience
also the mystery of it, which faith itself most thoroughly confesses. Nor only
this, but we find from Scripture this title of His as Son of God to be twofold—His
title in Deity and His title in humanity; and we have got to ask ourselves
its import in both ways, and to consider in what sense each scripture is speaking,
if we would rightly understand what is revealed concerning Him.

This responsibility, it is plain, God puts upon us, and from it we must not
seek escape,—that of understanding the word of God. People seek refuge
from it in what they think simplicity, but which often is mere vacancy of thought.
They believe the statements: they think it wise not to look too closely into
them. They are so afraid of error that they dare not inquire as to the truth;
but the truth itself is the only bulwark against error. “Thy words were
found,” says the prophet, “and I did eat them; and Thy
words were unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” (Jer. 15:16.)
The strong expression intimates the kind of reception that the word of God
requires,—to be laid hold of, broken up, analyzed, not the outside of
it but all that is in it assimilated and made our own. Thus is it that it nourishes
us, and we grow by it, and it becomes indeed the “joy and rejoicing of
the heart.”

We cannot but remember that the Lord uses the same striking figure in reference
to Himself. He is the bread of life: His flesh is meat indeed; and His blood
is drink indeed. What a deceit of Satan has it not been to persuade the people
of God that this is just the literal taking of the Lord’s Supper, or
what is involved in it,—turning into partaking of an ordinance (even
though they may qualify this by insisting on the necessity of faith) that which
is the entering into and appropriating of Christ in His fulness for us. Here
there is no death for us, but only life, and the strengthening and perfecting
of the life which divine love has communicated to us.

For this we must seek to know, and ever better, the truth as to Christ. We
could not know Him at all but by revelation: it is by revelation we must still
go on to know Him. Texts are the thoughts of God in which He is enshrined for
us,—the ministry of the Spirit of God (though not independent of His
direct personal energy) to make Christ practically our own. Let us then search
Scripture fervently and perseveringly, better to know the knowledge in which
eternal life is; and may there be given to us with deepening knowledge a deepening
joy in Him which shall be fuller communion with the Father, and power to reflect
the brightness that we gaze upon.

Adam was by creation a son of God; and, though the fall has marred the likeness,
yet the apostle could quote approvingly to the Athenians a “prophet of
their own” that “we are His offspring.” (Acts 17:28, 29.)
We are this, not merely because created by Him,—for He is not the Father
of the beast,—but as possessors of a spiritual nature which fits us for
companionship with Him who is Spirit. If “He maketh His angels spirits,” they
too are spoken of as “sons of God.” (Heb. 1:7; Job 38:7.)

But “that holy Thing” born of Mary, the new Adam of a new creation,
is affirmed to be “the Son of God” as not conceived in the ordinary
way of nature, but by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:35). And
as Adam, while the father of his race, was yet from the divine side but the “First-born
among many brethren,” so too is Christ among those “born of the
Spirit” and thus “sons of God” upon a higher plane than that
of nature. The “last Adam,” while, as this means, the Head of a
race also, is yet the “First-born among many brethren.” (Rom. 8:29.)

This is not our theme at present, and I do not further dwell upon it here,
except to observe that this is all the title “Son of God” implies
when given to Christ, for some who earnestly protest against its being applied
to Him as a divine Person. [1] They urge that “Sonship” implies
derivation and thus inferiority to the Father; and confounding the passages
which speak of Him as begotten in time (Ps. 2:7) with those which we must presently
consider, maintain that He is only “Son” in His official character.

But one direct text of Scripture outweighs all possible arguments; here surely
if anywhere, where we know nothing but by revelation. And it is given as proof
of the greatness of divine love, in one of the most familiar texts to all of
us, that “God so loved the world, that He gave His Only-begotten
Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John
3:16). This by the Lord Himself; while the apostle who records it, preaches
upon it in his epistle: “Herein was manifested the love of God towards
us, because God sent His Only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live
through Him. Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and
sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9, 10).

The depth of this love is shown then in this, that the Father sent His Son
into the world for us: it is perfectly plain then that Christ was the Son before
He came into the world. The appeal to our hearts is simple, who know in ourselves,
though fallen, something of what a father’s love is. And if we look back
to the time when God was pleased to show forth in Abraham’s case something
of the reality of sacrifice, we feel it as a trial beyond nature when we hear
the measured words, every word an agony, “Take now thy son,—thine only
son,—Isaac,—whom thou lovest; and go into the land of Moriah, and
offer him up there a burnt offering upon one of the mountains I will tell thee
of” (Gen. 22:2).

We can realize a little what this meant for Abraham. Should the glory of Deity
hide from us somewhat or emphasize the appeal of that love in which “God
spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all”? Could it make
no difference to be told that “Son” is here no title of relationship;
that it does not mean all and much more than it meant for Abraham?

Does not “His own Son” look as if it were meant to negative
this, and to assure us that nothing less than real relationship could be intended?

But the apostle adds that it was “His only-begotten Son” whom
He sent forth; and if the title “Firstborn” shows that He has “brethren,” that
of Only-begotten as decisively excludes them. He was this before He
came forth,—eternally the Son, and thus divinely: of course, without
fellows. The “Only-begotten” shows that He was Son by
nature; and we must not leave out any part of that by which the Spirit of God
has chosen to set Him forth.[2] Here the stranger
the term looks as relating to the blessed Lord, the more closely must we adhere
to what is certainly scripture. Here our thoughts can only follow, and not
lead: we are safe under the guidance of the Spirit of God,—safe nowhere

Moreover the apostle John is the only inspired writer applying this term to
the Lord, and he is known by all as the one whose special theme is
His divinity. He introduces it also in the very place in which he speaks of
the glory of God which has been now unveiled for us in Christ: “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” (John 1:14).
This is the common version; but the expressions are really stronger than these
words convey. The word “dwelt” is really “tabernacled,” thus
carrying us back to that tabernacle or tent in which of old God had gone with
His people. The tabernacle now is that “flesh” or humanity of Christ,
in which the Word, who is God, was pleased to dwell among us. Thus the glory
is divine glory; but with Israel of old it was veiled,—it is now unveiled: “we beheld His
glory.” What was it like? It was “glory as of an Only-begotten
with a Father”—“from with,” literally: it was just
that character of glory, as of an Only-begotten come from the place which yet
He never left, of perfect nearness in relationship and love to God as Father.

This in its effect for us the eighteenth verse expresses: “the Only-begotten
Son who is”—literally, “the One being” or “abiding”—“in
the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (told Him out). The unchanging
intimacy of the eternal relationship is here that which qualifies Him as the
perfect Revealer of God; according to what He was before made known to us to
be—“the Word made flesh.”

Thus we have the sweetest and most competent Witness of God that can be,—ourselves
put in the place of children to the Father, that we may be fit to receive such
a communication. There is thus made for us a little heaven within, as for the
earth the firmament of the second day, through which the glorious Heaven beyond
may shine in upon us. Not from afar off, nor in cold luster, but with the warmth
with which our Sun, the Ruler of the day, blesses and gladdens us. Love which
is Light: such is the revelation. How could we do without those precious words “Son” and “Father,” back
of all dispensations, all economic display, to show what is the nature of God
in itself eternally,—the absolute verity of that which has now been revealed?

He is not “love” for an occasion, however great may be the occasion.
Nor is the Son become Son for display, however glorious. The Father had no
beginning as the Father; nor the Son therefore as the Son. If otherwise, then
after all we have not a revelation of eternity, nor of God as He is, but only
as He is pleased to become—a very different thing. Thank God,
it is not so. We know how God dwelt in love eternally: we have the Object of
that love made known to us; we are made to know, not eternal silence in the
House which now has such glorious music for returned prodigals, but a communion
into which we are now admitted, and are privileged in our measure to become

Nay, the very relationship taken up on earth, as First-born of the heavenly
family, is but, as now we can see, the representation of the eternal relationship
upon an earthly plane, where the “many brethren” may realize and
rejoice in it. The eternal reality embodies itself in time, and is made, as
far as possible, visible to us. The reaching forth of divine love to us—its
eagerness to have us enter into it, how it is seen in all this.

We shall not here dwell longer upon it; but when we fully receive the blessed
truth of “the Word made flesh,” we shall find from this
humanity of His itself divine light break forth for us,—“that Eternal
Life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us,” and “the
Life the Light of men.”

[1] For example, Adam
Clarke and Albert Barnes, the commentators.

[2] It has been said that μονογενhς, “only-begotten” is
the word used by the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew jachid or “only
one,” (in Psa. 22:20; 35:17, ) “darling” in the common version.
But this cannot rule as to the inspired Greek of the New Testament, which is
precise and accurate, as the Septuagint is often far from being; and least
of all can it do so in what relates to the Person of the Son of God.