Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Inbox: Subordination in Eternity Past

Forgive the “eternity past” reference in the title, please. Eternity is eternity. Calling it “past” or “future” is an accommodation to a linear existence taking place within time, at least so far as our senses permit us to determine, a state of being that seems highly unlikely to accurately describe that which characterizes God.

Tertius is causing trouble again. I’m paraphrasing here, but he’s asking, in connection with this post
“Can you show from Scripture whether the roles within the Godhead (specifically the submission of the Son to the Father evident during his life on earth and subsequent glorification) were characteristic of the relationship between Father and Son in [eternity past, as we have agreed to refer to it, for the sake of distinguishing it from the eternity we have to look forward to].”
When faced with a theological dilemma of this weight, I know where to turn for help. My mother tosses her hat in the ring:
“How about, ‘Then I said, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book”.’ ”
Good one, Mom. It’s the Lord Jesus speaking “when [he] came into the world”, but it clearly assumes a time and decision prior to the incarnation when he accepted the mission of bringing pleasure to God in a way that all the prescriptive duties and sacrifices of the Law had utterly failed to accomplish. He speaks while coming into the world but the decision to “do your will” must necessarily precede that — again, assuming time means anything to God.

Hebrews also has the Lord Jesus saying, again with respect to his coming into the world, “a body you have prepared (or ‘ordained’) for me”, implying that the Father has been doing the arranging and the Son willingly accepts the arrangements that have been made.

But are we able to observe submission or subordination of the Son to the Father before that? I think we can, if not by explicit declaration, then certainly by inference from the roles Father and Son assume in creation. In Genesis 1:1, we read:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
but in John, we read:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
So all the way back at Creation, we read of Christ that “all things were made through him”. He is the agent through which God accomplished his purposes from the very beginning. God purposes and Christ acts on his behalf. It is in that sense that he is God’s Word. If God is revealed, it is through his Son who acts as his proxy, if I may use the term reverently. Back to John again:
“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”
It does sound as if the Lord Jesus assumed a subordinate role to the Father in eternity past (as long as subordination is understood to be unrelated to intrinsic worth).

[For a discussion of the distinction to be observed between the role assumed voluntarily by the Son and his intrinsic worth or value in relation to the Father, please consider the earlier post, which deals with the issue in more detail.]

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