In my previous post, I wrote a review of The Deep Things of God by Fred Sanders. In this post, I’d like to focus on one particular section of his book that I really benefited from and thought was extremely helpful. It’s in Chapter Four, “The Shape of the Gospel.”
“We need to understand Jesus as the eternal Son who behaves like the Son on earth as he does in heaven and in time as he does in eternity. He was always the co-eternal, co-equal Son of God who always delighted in the presence of the Father, and when he took human nature to save us, he continued to be the co-eternal, co-equal Son of God, still delighting in the presence of the Father” (p. 151).
Sanders points out that when the Word became flesh (John 1:1, 14), his divine nature did not change. Rather, he added a real human nature to his eternal self.
“But here is the crucial thing to notice, the great, open secret at the heart of the gospel of God: when the Word became flesh, the sonship of the second person of the Trinity did not undergo any change either” (p. 151).
When the Son became man, “he lived out in his human life the exact same sonship that makes him who he is from all eternity as the second person of the Trinity, God the Son. So when he said he was the Son of God, and when he behaved like the Son of God, he was being himself in the new situation of the human existence he had been sent into the world to take up” (p. 152).
Sanders quotes the Anglican theologian, Austin Farrer, who pointed out that we might like the straightforward statement, “Jesus is God,” and yet that statement obscures something extremely important, namely, the relationship and distinction between God the Father and God the Son. There is a reason the New Testament is so reserved about calling Jesus “God” and much more frequently affirms that “Jesus is the Son of God.”
Farrer wrote: “What was expressed in human terms here below was not bare deity; it was divine sonship” (quoted by Sanders, p. 152).
Sanders adds: “What the apostles want to show is that Jesus was the Son: he came, lived, taught, acted, died, and rose again as the Son of God .... The temptation to gloss over the fact that Jesus was the Son, in our hurry to get to the fact that he was God, is a temptation to be resisted” (p. 153).
“When the Father sends the Son into salvation history, he is doing something astonishing: he is extending the relationship of divine sonship from its home in the life of God down into human history” (p. 155).
In other words, there is continuity between the pre-incarnate sonship and the incarnate sonship of Christ. This seems to be self-evidently true when you read the Gospels. Consider some passages from the Gospel of John (ESV):
John 6:38: “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
John 7:28-29: “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.”
John 8:28-29: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”
John 8:42: “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here.”
John 16:28: “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”
John 17:1, 4-5: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you ... I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
John 17:24: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”
There is only one center of consciousness, one ego (= “I”) of the Son, as he speaks of his relationship with the Father as a man and as he looks back upon his pre-incarnate life with the Father “before the foundation of the world.” He is one and the same Son.
Jesus is the Son of God!