Another important evidence of eternal generation is the eternal sonship of Christ. The Scriptures clearly teach that the Christ was the Son of God before He came into the world and when He came into the world (John 3:16, 3:17; 10:36; Romans 1:3, 4; 8:3; Gal. 4:4; 1 John 4:9, 10, 14). Son is also the name chosen by the author of the Hebrews to designate the Son when He is speaking of His divine glory (Hebrews 1:2, 5, 8; 5:8; 7:3, 28). So that the point is not missed, a few of these references deserve a closer look.
John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
John 10:36 do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God ‘?
Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law
1 John 4:9-14 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins….We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
Hebrews 1:2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
Each of these texts naturally imply that when He was sent into the world and before He was sent into the world, He was already the Son of God.
Several responses are made to these texts. The first is that these texts are proleptic and call Christ the Son of God only in anticipation of what He would become in His incarnation. In conjunction with this certain texts are cited that are said to imply that he became God’s Son by means of historical events. Here are the texts they often cite.
Psalm 2:7 I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.
Luke 1:35 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.
Romans 1:3-4 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 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
Hebrews 1:5 For to which of the angels did He ever say, “YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”? And again, “I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM AND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME”?
Psalm 2:7 does, indeed, associate the sonship of Christ with His enthronement, but this has in view the way in which He becomes the King of Israel as the Son of David and on the basis of the Davidic Covenant. It does not deny that in another, greater, and eternal sense He was the Son of God.
When Hebrews 1:5 cites Psalm 2:7 it actually combines it with a quote from the Davidic Covenant found in 2 Samuel 7:14. Remarkably, however, and in a way that is a little surprising to us, the author of Hebrews sees this Sonship as reflecting the divine glory of the Christ. This use of the text by the author of Hebrews actually suggests that the historical sonship of the Christ reflects and incarnates an eternal sonship.
Luke 1:35 associates the sonship of Christ with His virgin birth. This cannot mean, however, that the virgin birth is the only reason He is called the Son of God. For one thing, we know that He is also called the Son of God (according to Psalm 2:7) because of His resurrection and enthronement. A look at the Greek of Luke 1:35 suggests the possibility that Luke only means that this is another reason why He will be called the Son of God.
Romans 1:3-4 illustrates the way in which the historical sonship incarnates an eternal sonship. It clearly says that it was the Son of God who was born of the seed of David. It is likely that the word translated declared in the NASB actually should be translated appointed (its more common meaning). Yet the point is not merely that He was appointed the Son of God, but that He was appointed the Son of God with power by His resurrection from the dead. Understood this way, this passage teaches that the resurrection actually bestowed on the one who was already the Son of God the power to be the Savior of Sinners—the Savior Son of God!
The evidence is so clear that Christ is called the Son of God prior to His incarnation and resurrection that some frankly admit this. They, however, empty eternal sonship of much of its significance by the notion that this sonship only asserts the equality of nature between the Son and the Father. It is, of course, true that it does imply this as John 5:18 suggests when it says that He called “God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” What is not so clear is that this is all that being God’s eternal Son implies. In what other contexts would anyone conceive the really peculiar notion that sonship means only equality of nature?
The conclusive answer to both of the above responses to eternal sonship will be given in future blogs as the other biblical evidence for eternal generation is reviewed.
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.