Good question…does Jesus' submission to the Father disprove His deity?


Date: Jan 15, 2002               Summary            Trinity Index


I received this well-argued and thoughtful argument:


Glenn.  Here's a dilemma which the belief in the Trinity must acknowledge.  Virtually all references in which Jesus portrays himself in relation to the Father is always in a submissive role.


   Firstly, Jesus himself is quoted as saying that he does nothing of his own initiative, that he did not come to do his own will, that he was sent (never implying that he was the sender as well), and that what he taught was not his. [see John 6:38, John 7:16, John 8:42]


   Secondly, the family relationship he used to describe his relationship with God was that of Father and Son, Jesus being the son.  This automatically implies a submissive position, especially from the standpoint of the Jews who had a fundamental emphasis on the authority of the Patriarchal head, the father.  In like manner, the father would be implied as having authority over the son, which is contrary to the Trinitarian belief that Jehovah and Jesus are equal in power and authority.  If Jesus wanted to emphasize his equality to God, it would have been better to use the family relationship of brothers, preferably twins, to describe that relationship. 


   Finally, 1 Corinthians 15:24 says: "Next, the end, when he(Jesus) hands over the kingdom to HIS GOD AND FATHER, when he has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power.  For he must rule as king UNTIL GOD has put all enemies under his feet.  As the last enemy, death is to be brought to nothing.  For God 'SUBJECTED ALL THINGS UNDER HIS FEET.'  But when he says that 'all things have been subjected,' it is evident that it is with the EXCEPTION OF THE ONE WHO SUBJECTED ALL THINGS TO HIM (namely God the Father!).  But when all things will have been subjected to him (Jesus), then THE SON HIMSELF WILL SUBJECT HIMSELF TO THE ONE WHO SUBJECTED ALL THINGS TO HIM (namely God the Father!), that God (the Father) may be ALL THINGS TO EVERYONE (including his son JESUS)." [emphasis mine].


This scripture makes it plainly clear that


1. Paul refers to Jesus relationship to YHWH or Jehovah as both his Father AND HIS GOD, therefore making Jesus inferior.


2. All things Jesus rules over was GIVEN temporarily to him by the father, meaning Jesus did not initially have this authority while his father did, something that makes no sense from a Trinitarian perspective.


3. Jesus is described as subjecting HIMSELF to the father, making son inferior to the father, something impossible in a triune godhead where father and son are equals.


   Quite frankly, Glenn, I don't see how any circumstantial evidence you show can refute this basic concept.



Let's go through this piece by piece and 'test' it…




Glenn.  Here's a dilemma which the belief in the Trinity must acknowledge.  Virtually all references in which Jesus portrays himself in relation to the Father is always in a submissive role.


Just a quick terminological note--a 'dilemma' has to have two opposite statements, which are mutually exclusive and exhaustive, for it to be a 'show-stopper' problem. It is not immediately obvious on the surface that "Jesus was consistently submissive to the Father" and "Jesus was as much deity as was the Father" are such a pair of statements. The former looks like a statement of personal orientation, choice, and representation; the latter looks like a statement of nature, characteristics, and being. We will come back to this later, but we need to be clear that the 'contradiction' is not explicit, nor is it as obvious as one might assume, at the surface of this problem.


But on to the data about Jesus' representations of His relationship to the Father.


[At the end of the discussion, we will have to also ask the question of significance--what might these representations imply about Jesus' nature or essence. The questioner here is assuming that a representation of submission implies inferiority of nature, and we will have to test as to whether this would have been the case, (1) given all the strains of messianic prophecy that portrayed the Messiah as prophet, priest, and king; and (2) considering the rather obvious truth that human messengers, sent by human rulers, are not 'less human' or 'having a different nature/essence' than their bosses (except perhaps in the opinion/perspective of certain bosses, of course…sly senior management smile here…).


If we restrict ourselves to the words of Jesus in the gospels (and chapter one of Acts) in which there is an explicit representation of His relationship with the Father, we can see that the 'virtually all' quantification of our question is quite misleading. Some of the passages, of course, are ambiguous concerning this issue, but I will assume for the purpose of analysis here that any verse that portrays Jesus as an agent of the Father (whether using 'submission language' or not) to be in the 'submission category'.


We will also have to note/isolate those 'mixed' passages, in which BOTH parity and submissive elements seem to be present.


We will divide our description of the statements into those that occur inside and outside of John 14-17, since these chapters have the most explicit and abundant amount of discourse by Jesus about His relations with the Father, the Spirit, and believers.


Passages outside of John 14-17:


By this criteria, I find 21 unique passages/statements that can be read as containing a submission motif: Mt 7.21f; Mt 10.32; Mt 12.49 (?); Mt 20.23; Mt 24.36; Mt 26.29(?); Mt 26.39ff; Mt 26.52; Lk 22.29; Lk 23.46 (?); Jn 3.31ff; 5.25; 5:36ff; 5:37;  6.27; 6.43(?);  7.16;  7.28; 8.26; 8.49(?); Jn 12.49. [But note that 5 of these are somewhat questionable as to this assumption.]



And I find 7 passages that have strong parity wording: Mt 16.27; Lk 24.49; Jn 3.17; 5.17ff; 8.17; 10.15; 10:38.



The 'mixed' passages I found are 11:


1.        At that time Jesus answered and said, “I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes. 26 “Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight. 27 “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. (Matt 11.25ff) [notice that the Father reveals and Jesus 'wills to reveal'--parity]


2.        And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Mt 28.18f…the Trinitarian formula is here)


3.        Jesus therefore answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. 20 “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; (Jn 5.19: the complete co-extensiveness of their works argues more for parity/parallelism)


4.        “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23 in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. (Jn 5.22ff) [Co-extensiveness of honor, but still with 'sent']


5.        For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. (Jn 6.38) [This is mixed because the opening phrase 'looks like' a voluntary choice on the part of the Son--cf Phil 2.5-11.]


6.        As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me.  (Jn 6.57: this is slightly mixed because the parallel clauses imply a single shared 'life force' or 'shared essence'--in the case of the believers, though, it is the Holy Spirit)


7.        Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me; for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.  (Jn 8.42) [This is mixed because of the 'proceeds forth from God' clause. This phrase is used here and  in John 13.3, 16.28, 16.30, and 17.8, and in some cases is distinguished from "coming to the world" (as in this verse, in the Greek). It is an odd expression and was used in the early controversies as indication of some kind of 'eternal, internal procession' of the Son within the Father's essence. It could be taken to mean this, and certainly in the context of Jewish monotheism, it cannot mean the giving birth to a lesser God. So, there's enough tantalizing meaning in this clause to consider this 'mixed'. The Holy Spirit, btw, is also said to 'proceed' from the Father, and the general meaning of 'Spirit' as the inner being of someone/Someone (cf. Paul's argument in 1 Cor 1:10-12), would indicate a very 'internal' connection between the Spirit/Father and, based on this shared terminology of 'procession', between the Son/Father. ]


8.        “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” (Jn 10.14) [Here there seems to be no contradiction between Jesus' own initiative and a (presumed) derivative authority.]


9.        'no one shall snatch them out of My hand. 29 “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 “I and the Father are one.” (Jn 10:28) [Whose hand are we  actually in, then?…smile]


10.     Do you say of Him, whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 . (Jn 10.36ff) [The word 'consecrated' or 'sanctified' here seems to be referring, in context, to the consecration of the Temple. Cf. WBC:


"The application of the term hJgivasen (“consecrated”) to Jesus occurs here and in 17:17, 19 only, the latter in the sense of consecration unto death. The concept of Jesus as the one sent by the Father into the world is frequent in the Fourth Gospel; that Jesus is described as “he whom the Father consecrated and sent …” in the context of the festival commemorating the dedication or consecration of the temple is highly significant. It suggests that the meaning of the Festival of the Dedication, like that of the Tabernacles and Passover, finds its ultimate fulfillment in the mission of Jesus."


 In other words, like the Temple, and in keeping with Jesus remarks about His body being a temple/greater than the temple (John 2.19ff and Matt 12.6: "I tell you that one greater than the temple is here."), Jesus body is the very unique dwelling place of God the Father on the earth.



11.     And so they removed the stone. And Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me. 42 “And I knew that Thou hearest Me always; but because of the people standing around I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me.”  (jn 11.41) [The level of intimacy here suggests more parity than dependence, hence I put this in 'mixed']




Passages inside of John 14-17:


Statements with a submission-motif are 17 :


1.        In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. (?)


2.        The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.


3.        And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (?)


4.        the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. (though this is in the context of "We will come and make abode"!)


5.        If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.


6.        but that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do


7.        If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love


8.        all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.


9.        But now I am going to Him who sent Me


10.     for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from the Father. 28 “I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again, and going to the Father.”


11.     even as Thou gavest Him authority over all mankind, that to all whom Thou hast given Him, He may give eternal life.


12.     I manifested Thy name to the men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world; Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to Me,


13.     Now they have come to know that everything Thou hast given Me is from Thee; 8 for the words which Thou gavest Me I have given to them; and they received them, and truly understood that I came forth from Thee, and they believed that Thou didst send Me


14.     Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, the name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are. (?)


15.     “As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. (???)


16.     that the world may know that Thou didst send Me,


17.     Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world (?)



Statements with a parity motif number 20  :


1.        Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.


2.        If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also


3.        Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus *said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father’?


4.        Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?


5.        Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me;


6.        "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;" WITH "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name" AND WITH "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you."


7.        In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. (14.20)


8.        If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him.


9.        Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you


10.     He who hates Me hates My Father also.


11.     but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well.


12.     When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father [The Spirit of God/Spirit of Truth/Holy Spirit sent from the Father and Christ is called "Spirit of Christ" and "Spirit of His Son" in later NT passages, cf: Gal 4.4-6; Rom 8.14-16)]


13.     But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak [notice--the Holy Spirit doesn't act 'independently' either, even though He 'proceeds from' or is actually "part of" the Father!… "The sending of the Spirit in many respects corresponds to the sending of the Son (cf. 8:42; 13:3; 17:8" (WBC)]


14.     All things that the Father has are Mine (!)


15.     “Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee,


16.     And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.


17.     And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.


18.     Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, the name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are. (?--the name of 'Almighty YHWH', cf. Philp 2)


19.    that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us


20.     And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one



These passages are intertwined in the tightest ways, too. Compare John 14:9ff:


He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11 “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves.


In this passage, the statement of 'not speaking on my own initiative' is sandwiched in between strong assertions of co-essential unity. In fact--and this is an important clue for our study here--the claim that Jesus' words and works come from the Father (and not from Himself) are used as evidence of their shared life. If Jesus spoke on His own initiative, in other words, there would be reason to doubt His shared life with the Father. Only by asserting complete identity of message between that of Jesus and that of the Father can the inseparable link between the two be believed.


If this understanding is correct, and we will look at this below, this means that every "He sent me" and "I only do as told" and "I speak not from myself" cannot be construed as evidence against the Trinity but actually ends up supporting it somewhat. (But more on this later).


Okay, so what did we come up with in terms of 'counts':


Passages containing submission motifs were 21 plus 17, or 38. Passages containing parity motifs were 7 plus 20, or 27. [Mixed passages were 11]. I submit that 38 (over against 27) could not fairly be called "virtually all"…


Okay, on to the next chunk…



Firstly, Jesus himself is quoted as saying that he does nothing of his own initiative, that he did not come to do his own will, that he was sent (never implying that he was the sender as well), and that what he taught was not his. [see John 6:38, John 7:16, John 8:42]


This actually is irrelevant to our issue, for a couple of reasons.


The first reason is because the import of these types of statements to Jesus' audiences would have been quite different than what is being implied here.


As I pointed out above, these expressions were statements of continuity with the Father, not indications of their discontinuity. These statements assured His audiences that Jesus had NO 'personal agenda', but that His mission and ministry was SOLELY the one they longed for from the Father. He assured them that His words and works were completely trustworthy, because they were uniquely and completely those of the Father. [No human, btw, would ever be able to claim such a relationship with the will of God.]


This can be seen by considering the impact which the opposite statements would have had:


·         "I have come to do MY will, NOT the Father's"

·         "I have come without being sent by the Father--on my own initiative"

·         "My teaching IS my own, and NOT that of the Father"

·         "I have come in my OWN name, not in the name of the Father"


[This last element was sarcastically mention by Jesus in John 5:43: "I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another shall come in his own name, you will receive him."]


The first-century audiences would have only interpreted these statements as statements of a reliable messenger, who preserved the message intact and unadulterated; and/or of a reliable agent, who accomplished fully, precisely, and solely the tasks assigned to him.


"This means that he is intimately connected with the Father, that in some way he expresses what the Father stands for. It is an affirmation of community of purpose, and it roots his mission squarely in the will of God." [Bruce, NICNTT, John, in. loc. 5.43]


"Though he [Jesus] is the unique Son of God (1.49), and may truly be called God (1:1,18;20:28) and take to himself divine titles (e.g. 8:58) and, as in this context, divine rights (5:17), yet is he always submissive to the Father…The Greek text of verses 19-23 (of John 5) is structured around four gar ('for' or 'because') statements. The first introduces the last clause of v. 19. The thought runs like this: It is impossible for the Son to take independent, self-determined action that would set him over against the Father as another God, for all the Son does is both coincident with and co-extensive with all that the Father does. 'Perfect Sonship involves perfect identity of will and action with the Father' (Westcott). It follows that separate, self-determined action would be a denial of his sonship. But if this last clause of v. 19 takes the impossibility of the Son operating independently and grounds it in the perfection of Jesus' sonship, it also constitutes another oblique claim to deity; for the only one who could conceivably do whatever the Father does must be as great as the Father, as divine as the Father." [Carson, John, in. loc. John 5.19]


There were only two choices in that time--from God (good) or from men (bad)--as can be seen in the interchange about the message of John the Baptist:


One day as he was teaching the people in the temple courts and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him.  2 “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?” 3 He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me,  4 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or from men?” 5 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’  6 But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.” 7 So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.” 8 Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”




The second reason is related to this--the roles of the expected Messiah of God were agency and functional roles.


The messianic promises in the OT/Tanaak were focused on God visiting/blessing his people in the form(s) of various "ministerial" agents: prophet, priest, and king. For example, Moses mentioned a "prophet like unto me", the prophets and psalms spoke of an eschatological High priest (e.g., Melchizedek), and the Son of David would carry the title "God's son" (as divine representative on earth).  


The prophet spoke for God, delivering the message "intact and unadulterated". The priest purified the people with unblemished offerings and sacrifices (and taught the people about the heart/will of God), in complete conformity with the revealed will/torah of God (supposedly adding no 'traditions of men'). The Davidic king was to implement God's perfect social will within his people--"fully, precisely, and solely" the will of YHWH. No personal agendas were allowed in these jobs--it was expressly forbidden in several places of the law.


For Jesus to have fulfilled these responsibilities--as redemptive agent of YHWH--would require that His actions as a human Israelite would be no more and no less than the will of God. By far and away the emphasis in the gospels is on Jesus' roles in solidarity with Israel and with humanity. There is very little emphasis in the gospels on His deity (although the facts are clear, the evangelist's do not make a big deal over it), for that was not what He was "all about". He was "about" being God's appointed, commissioned, and supported agent among us.


With this emphasis in mind, to argue from his statements of dependence or submission to His alleged inferiority to the Father would be to take these statements out of their context in the prophetic redemptive history and place them into an alien, foreign ontological discussion. They just would not have been understood in this latter sense, by the first-century audiences.



A third reason is a major one--all of these 'subordinate statements' were consequences of His initial free choice to do so. He was NOT 'coerced' by the Father in any way, to take this step into submission. This is the awesomeness of His love for us--to choose a path of servanthood for our welfare; and the awesomeness of the love of the Father for us--to allow His beloved to make that choice…


The scripture represents this aspect of Christ's choice in a couple of passages, the most famous of which is Philippians 2.5-11.  I quote here from a couple of translations:


Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.  [NRSV]


6In God’s own form existed he,

And shared with God equality,

Deemed nothing needed grasping.

 7Instead, poured out in emptiness,

A servant’s form did he possess,

A mortal man becoming.

In human form he chose to be,

 8And lived in all humility,

Death on a cross obeying. [ISV, which tries to preserve the poetic/hymnic character]


This way of thinking must be adopted by you, which also was the way of thinking adopted by Christ Jesus. 6. Precisely because he was in the form of God he did not consider being equal with God grounds for grasping. 7. On the contrary, he rather poured himself out by taking the form of a slave, by being born in the likeness of human beings, and by being recognized as a man. 8. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient even to the point of accepting death. and that of all things, death on a cross. [WBC]


"Adopt towards one another, in your mutual relations, the same attitude that was found in Christ Jesus. Precisely because he was in the form of God, he did not regard this divine equality as something to be used for his own advantage. Instead, he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and being born like other human beings. And being recognized as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." [O'Brien, New Intl. Greek Test. Commentary]


[Fee, in NICNT, points out the contrast this represented in the context of the gods of Philippi:


"This, then, is what it means for Christ to be "in the 'form' of God"; it means 'to be equal with God,' not in the sense that the two phrases are identical, but that both point to the same reality. Together, therefore, they are among the strongest expressions of Christ's deity in the NT. This means further that 'equality with God' is not that which he desired which was not his, but precisely that which was always his…Second, Paul is thereby trying to set up the starkest possible contrast between Christ's "being in the 'form' of God" and the main clause, "he emptied himself." Equality with God, Paul begins, is something that was inherent to Christ in his pre-existence. Nonetheless, God-likeness, contrary to common understanding, did not mean for Christ to be a  'grasping, seizing' being, as it would for the 'gods' and 'lords' whom the Philippians had previously known; it was not 'something to be seized upon to his own advantage,' which would be the normal expectation of lordly power--and the nadir of selfishness. Rather, his 'equality with God' found its truest expression when 'he emptied himself'."


This passage makes it clear that all of the servant-status of Jesus was a consequence of a freely-chosen act on His part, somewhere "in" eternity past. His choice was made while in full equality and 'form' of God. All subsequent obedience to the Father in no way diminishes this reality--it only highlights the distance His love would go for us…


This idea can be seen in other verses, of course, but 2 Corinthians 8.8-9 specifically contrasts Christ's deliberate self-humiliation with being 'commanded to':


 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.  9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.  [NIV]


I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. [NRSV]


BKC points out why Christ's example is a great exemplar for Paul to use:


"Paul, ever sensitive to the charge that he dominated the churches he founded (cf. 1:24), preferred that their motivation not stem from external commands (e.g., 8:7b). He wanted them to be motivated by their internal devotion (the sincerity of your love) to him and more importantly to the Lord. Could the Corinthians face being compared with the Macedonians in this regard? Or could they face being compared with their Lord, who is supremely worthy of emulation?…Few statements surpass verse 9 as a pithy summary of the gospel (cf. 5:21). From the splendor of heaven Christ came to the squalor of earth. The Incarnation was an incomprehensible renunciation of spiritual and material glory. The One who was rich, who had everything, became poor, making Himself nothing (Phil. 2:7). He assumed mankind’s debt of sin and paid for it with His life (Phil. 2:8). The Corinthians had directly benefited from His generosity (your and you are emphatic). He became what they were (poor) so that they could become what He was and is (rich).


And the apostle's understanding of this free-choice can also be seen in the Galatians passage: "the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me…" (2.20)



A final reason is one of the more moving and transforming truths of the gospel. Jesus lived a life of submission to the Father and of service to people as the ultimate exemplar for us as to how we should live.


This should already be obvious from the Philp 2 passage--"let this attitude be in you which was in Christ Jesus", but it is pervasive in the New Testament. From the 'it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher' to the foot-washing 'I have left you an example to follow', His life was the model for all of us. "Walk as He did", "love one another as I have loved you", "ask your heavenly Father", and on and on--He modeled what authentic, life-bearing humanity was to be…


And it might also be suggested that this outward-looking goodness-heart is intrinsic to the essence of God, for the illustration Jesus gives of His final exaltation at the end of history has an unheard-of image in it:


“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning,  36 like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.  37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. [Luke 12.35f]


"Although a few philosophers argued that slaves were the moral equals of their masters, and one well-to-do Roman is known to have eaten on the same level as his freed slaves, masters’ serving slaves was unheard-of. Such an image would offend the well-to-do but would be a powerful symbol of how Jesus would treat those who remained faithful to the end. [REF:BBC, in loc.]


And practically speaking, if He had come down and only lived 'like an authority God'--in terrifying magnificence and perhaps distancing power--we might not have learned much about how to live and how to love. We would not have learned that meekness and gentleness were the true values, nor that it was more 'blessed to give than to receive'. We might not have learned the freedom and celebration of a life lived daily with a living Father. We would not have known the possibilities of bearing up under intense sufferings and abject betrayals--without our hearts dying in the process. We might never have learned that forgiveness is sometimes the loving way to make peace, and that loving one's enemies was the best hope to change them…


And if He had ever uttered once something like "This is my Father's will, but I am doing it because I personally agree with it, too"--I shudder to think at all the rationalizations for sub-Christian behavior which would have likely eventuated from such an 'my approval is required too, God' ethic…we Christians already live that way too much, and with a scriptural proof-text like that--???!!!…


Theologically and theoretically speaking, the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus could have happened up in heaven, or at His birth, or completely in private (if some of the OT/Tanaak prophesies had not been made to set it up in this public way), but the drama of redemption was played out in detail and in blood and in tears and in anguish and in marginalization and in humiliation and in rejection and in submission before our very eyes. In the very means of saving us, He showed us how to live…"take up your cross and follow me"…"greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for his friend"…'he bore our sorrows'…'for the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many'…'nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done'


When He kept saying "He who has seen me has seen the Father", it was supposed to reveal to us the heart of God…a heart that pursues in love, that seeks the best, that respects choices, that honors wishes, that desires joy and peace on earth and in hearts…



Also, we should remember that 'sending' doesn't itself imply anything about 'nature' (only something about a functional relationship). Let me make two points about this:


One. I can hire myself to you as a messenger for a day (voluntarily granting you authority), but on the very next day you could hire yourself to me as a handyman (voluntarily granting me some authority). But this doesn’t mean much in terms of 'inferiority of nature'.


Carson makes this point in his discussion (Commentary on John, Eerdmans) of John 14.28, where Jesus says "the Father is greater than I":


"In the clause before us, The Father is greater than I cannot be taken to mean that Jesus is not God, or that he is a lesser God: the historical context of Jewish monotheism forbids the latter, and the immediate literary context renders the former irrelevant. If the writer of this commentary were to say, 'Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second is greater than I', no-one would take this to mean that she is more of human being than I. The greater than category cannot legitimately be presumed to refer to ontology, apart from the controls imposed by context. The Queen is greater than I in wealth, authority, majesty, influence, renown and doubtless many more ways: only the surrounding discussion could clarify just what type of greatness may be in view…"


Voluntary submission does not make one 'ontologically subordinate' per se…When Jesus assumed the garb of the lowest of household servants and washed the feet of the disciples, was this 'involuntary'? In Romans 15.8, Paul says that " For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs"--was Jesus thus 'inferior' to the Jews?


Remember that Jesus said that the 'greatest' was to be 'the servant of all'…We are back to the example of Jesus again, but this should be enough to indicate the non-correlation of 'submission' and 'inferiority'.


Two. As I noted earlier, the 'sent' nature of Jesus is mirrored by the 'sent' nature of the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is unquestionably 'part of the divine essence' and it is said to be 'sent' by the Father, and said to be sent by the Son. Does this in any way make inferiority-assertions about the Spirit of God? Of course not--this is the language of operations, of actions, of historical tasks and roles. One simply cannot move from 'sending' to 'inferiority of nature' in biblical texts. [We will discuss 'authority' later--for there are distinctions in authority than can be drawn from servant/master status, even if you cannot draw distinction in nature from them.]


So, I don’t think the 'submission' texts can be used to create a dilemma for the trinity at all.


On to the next piece…



Secondly, the family relationship he used to describe his relationship with God was that of Father and Son, Jesus being the son.  This automatically implies a submissive position, especially from the standpoint of the Jews who had a fundamental emphasis on the authority of the Patriarchal head, the father.  In like manner, the father would be implied as having authority over the son, which is contrary to the trinitarian belief that Jehovah and Jesus are equal in power and authority.  If Jesus wanted to emphasize his equality to God, it would have been better to use the family relationship of brothers, preferably twins, to describe that relationship.


There are several points I need make here.


First of all, we need to distinguish between two different (biblical) senses of the phrase "Son of God".


There are many different connotations of this phrase in the New Testament:


"This is arguably the most significant Christological title in the NT. “Son of God” or its equivalents (“the Son,” “my Son,” etc.) occur more than 124 times in the NT, and may be the foremost Christological category in each of the Gospels. The NT characteristically describes Jesus’ relationship to God in terms of divine sonship. The concept itself carries a variety of meanings, including commissioning to special work, obedience, intimate fellowship, knowledge, likeness and the receiving of blessings and gifts. [NT:DictJG, s.v. "Son of God"]


We will focus on two of these--the 'commissioning to special work' and the 'likeness' ones…


One. The most prevalent use of the phrase (in the Bible) is to describe appointed rulers, something like a vice-regent of God, supposedly reflecting the Father's value, wishes, and perspectives. These 'sons of God' (bene elohim) in the OT/Tanaach comprised angels (who had some level of authority over the cosmos), Adam (who had authority over the earth), and the Davidic monarchs (who had authority over God's people Israel, and eventually, to be extended to over the gentiles).


I have more discussion (plus audio) on this subject in my section on The Work of Christ--Triumph over the Powers, but let me excerpt some of the text from that syllabus here:


Ruling-Sonship (bene-elohim ship) normally carried five core concepts:


1.        being a potential heir and successor (although there were often multiple ‘contenders’)

2.        being a faithful advocate and worker for the parent’s will/interests (especially as messenger)

3.        having some authority/responsibility over the administration of the estate (e.g., Kings’ sons were stationed in various regions of a kingdom)

4.        “looking like the original” (e.g., family resemblance to the parent).

5.        Being a co-ruler, yet theoretically subordinate, with the Original/Father, sometimes (e.g.,  Jehoash/Jeroboam II in Israel; Ahaz/Hezekiah in Judah).



This concept/term of bene-elohim shows up in a number of cases in Scripture:


1.        The angels are called this (cf. Job 1,2)

2.        Adam was called a ‘son of God’ by Luke (in the genealogy of Jesus).

3.        Jesus was always called ‘THE Son of God’.

4.        Believers in the NT are called ‘sons of God’ (we are supposed to 'rule and reign' with Him someday).

5.        The Israelite monarch was called God’s Son (e.g., David, Solomon), since they were supposed to rule under/for God

6.        Pagan pre-flood kings, claiming to be divine (and perhaps energized by evil angel/spirits), were called this in Genesis 6.

7.        The nation Israel is called “my son” in Hosea (“out of Egypt I called my son”), supposed to rule over the nations (as righteous king-priests) eventually.


This meaning of 'son of God' specifically referred to the derivative authority, in the same way we saw in the messianic titles/roles. The authority, power, enabling, and heart-direction were supposed to come from God. The closer the heart of the ruler to the heart of God, the closer 'heaven would be on earth' in that reign. To the extent the heart of the ruler was different from the heart of the Great God, to that extent the reign would be 'also ran' caliber, degrading often into the destructive. David was the best-case ruler, since he was a man "after God's own heart"--even though his life was filled with failures of ethics and will.


Accordingly, this meaning only "works" for its audience when the 'source of authority' is clear, and when it is clearly God.


[It is interesting to note, however, that in the cases of the co-rulers in the divided monarchy, they are actually equals, even though one is the physical son of the other. This certainly calls to mind the 'two thrones' image in Daniel.]


Two. The second usage of this phrase actually is a more narrow conception, dealing with the unique relationship Jesus claimed to have with the Father, but grounding the 'appropriateness' of the application of the former meaning of the phrase to Him.


The former meaning--the ruling/authority one--was only 'accurate' when the character and the perspectives of the two (Original/Derivative) were identical. Adam demonstrated that his character was not in synch with God's, and he lost his rulership. The angelic powers have demonstrated their failure to rule according to God's good and kind heart, and they have been displaced. Each dynastic king failed and was succeeded by another (even though one of them was promised to rule eternally…smile). The pagan pre-flood kings were so unlike-God, the Flood was sent to eradicate them and the effects of their leadership influence on others. OT Israel failed so miserably that instead of becoming the 'head', they became the 'tail' of the nations (according to God's admonition in Deut 28.13 and 44).


The NT accounts of the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness show the Adversary trying to cause Jesus to fail, and so disqualify Himself from being this ruling Son as well. If Jesus had ever acted from a 'personal agenda', He would have been disqualified from ruling as the 'Son of God'. Any deviance from the good-hearted directives and policies of the Father would have resulted in failure for Him and the continued subjugation and oppression of ourselves.


But here is where the intimate relationship between the Father and the 'unique' Son makes all the difference in the world. One who literally shared the very 'essence' of God, whose heart beat the same, who wept over the same things, and celebrated the same joys--such a One,  "heart-Son of God" could perhaps be "installed" by the Father into the office of "ruler-Son of God" over creation and do the job perfectly! And with such a One, we humans could finally rest our hearts in assurance that someday, all the enemies of beauty and love and community and trust and innocence would be removed (even those aspects of our own character that were destructive could be evaporated!)--and we could live in joy and celebration in a "new heavens and new earth, wherein dwells righteousness".


The New Testament consistently portrays Jesus as this absolutely unique Son of God. The connection between the Father and the Son is portrayed as being radically-close. The Son is the very divine Logos/Word of God (John 1), and to see this Word-in-flesh is to see the very Father--"revelatory without remainder"… Hebrews 1 calls the Son the "express representation/imprint of God's character"…Paul speaks of "knowing the glory of God in the face of Christ", and that Jesus contained "all the fullness of God". This last image of Paul's alludes to either the Temple imagery, in which God indwelt the Temple (cf. John 2.19ff; 1.14) or to "theological deity" per se: " The Old Testament speaks of God’s choosing a place for his name to dwell, and delighting to dwell among his people, to dwell in Zion and so forth. 'Fullness' may refer to God’s wisdom or glory filling the world (as in the Old Testament and Jewish tradition), or to the fullness of God’s presence or attributes (as in Philo and other Jewish sources)." [REF:BBC, Col 1.19]


"The foregoing implies a further emphasis in Jesus’ speech involving his divine sonship: it is exclusive. Jesus is Son of God in a unique sense. In his capacity as Son of God Jesus has the power to bring his followers into an experience of divine sonship, but Jesus consistently distinguishes between the sonship of disciples and his own sonship. He speaks of “my Father” and “your Father,” but never “our Father” (the “our” of the Lord’s Prayer [Mt 6:9] is what the disciples are to say)…All of this implies that the divine sonship of Jesus is unique; he is Son of God in a sense not true of anyone else, even believers. John calls attention to this uniqueness by designating Jesus the “only” (monogeneµs) Son (Jn 1:14, 18; 3:16) and by constantly employing the absolute forms “the Father” and “the Son.” [NT:DictJG, s.v. "Son of God"; note--this uniqueness of relationship also informs the differences in our 'indwellings': the mutual inter-dwelling of the Father/Son is as qualitatively different from the inter-dwelling of God/believers as are the respective 'sonship' relations.]


In this sense of "son", Christ is pre-existent (John links the Word/Logos with the Son in John 1.1-18), and the creator of all other 'ruler-sons' of God (e.g, angels, Adam, etc).


Now, up to the time of Jesus, the usage of 'son of God' would have been exclusively in the first, 'official' category, in which God would appoint or install or 'adopt' a person into a position of sonship-authority. There would not typically have been any intimations of closeness, intimacy, genetic 'likeness' or relationship. [In the case of David, however, there is some indication that this was part of God's choice.] The adoptee would have been expected to 'emulate' that likeness and to act as if the likeness were 'real' (hence the use of familial imagery).


But with Jesus, the familial element leaps to the front:


"The early Christian confession of Jesus as Son of God is in fundamental agreement with Jesus’ manner of addressing God (Aram. 'abba4', Father; Mk. 14:36; Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15…). It is something new when Jesus addresses God as “My Father”; this mode of address in prayer derives from the language of the family circle; it does not occur in the charismatic circles in Judaism (contrast Ta‘an. 23b: “a Father who can give rain”). [NIDNTT, s.v. 'son of god']


And it is this inside-the-family sonship that gives the OTHER ruler-sonship its awesome significance--especially when that ruler, as the Servant of the Lord, is supposed to die for the sins of the world…



"Although the term ['son of God'] is infrequent [in Paul] compared with other Christological titles, M. Hengel has demonstrated that Paul kept it for use at the climax of theological statements and that he used it to demonstrate the close bond between Jesus and God in virtue of which Jesus is the mediator of salvation. Thus it is the Son who is the theme of the gospel (Rom. 1:3, 9), and it is by means of this title that Paul emphasizes the supreme value of the death of the One who stood closest to God as the means of reconciling men with God (Rom. 5:10; 8:32; Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:13 f.). The same idea is used to express the closeness of Jesus to God and appears when Jesus is described as being in the form or image of God and as his Firstborn. It should be noted that for Paul Jesus was God’s Son during his earthly life, and that it was as God’s Son that he died. Consequently, he did not cease to be divine in his earthly existence, and his self-emptying cannot mean that he gave up his divine nature to assume human nature. [NIDNTT, s.v. 'son of god']


But once we step from the 'anyone can play' sonship into the 'family members only' sonship, we come right into the issue (and mystery) of the relationship between the family-Father and the family-Son.



Secondly, the image of 'son' in that culture was more varied than your statement suggests, and the notion of authority might not be present in a given context at all.


Sonship might imply many things in that culture: subordination, heirship, resemblance to the father, shared values, unique 'insider' relationship with the father. In any given context, sonship might refer to only one of these elements (e.g. heirship) without any connotation of another element (e.g. resemblance). For example, in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, the son of the king is only noted for his heirship, not his subordinate authority(!), nor his resemblance, nor his shared values.


On the other hand, Jesus refers often to His opponents' hatred for both Himself and His Father--the resemblance is emphasized--and His own references to His subordination are legion (as you have noted).


But with Jesus, we note quite a high number of references to (a) likeness/resemblance [e.g., the 'see Me, see the Father' passages];  (b) "quasi-essential" unity [e.g., the reciprocal in-dwelling passages]; and (c) intimate relationship:


"Third, as Son of God Jesus enjoys intimate fellowship with the Father. John describes this intimacy in spatial terms: “in the bosom of the Father” (Jn 1:18). Specifically, this relationship involves (1) “knowing” the Father and his will (Jn 4:22–23; 6:45–47; 8:55; 15:15); (2) sharing in all that the Father has (Jn 16:15); and (3) enjoying special access and influence with the Father (Jn 14:13–16). [NT:DictJG, s.v. "son of God"]



Therefore, in any given usage of the phrase 'son of God', one would need to see what the literary context would indicate was the meaning/nuance thereof. For example, in the Gospel of John, some of Jesus' statements of His sonship (and/or unity with the Father) were taken by his opponents explicitly as 'equality statements':


For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. (5.18) ["The Sabbath controversy was enough to cause them to hate Jesus, but the implication of His claim that God is His own Father was impossible for them to accept. To them, God has no equals. Jesus’ claim, in their thinking, was a monstrous blasphemy. To be equal with God suggested, they thought, two gods and therefore polytheism. To make oneself “equal with God” was a claim of arrogant independence. In the Talmud four persons were branded as haughty because they made themselves equal to God: pagan rulers Hiram, Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, and the Jewish King Joash., BKC, in.loc.]


I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews took up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” 33 The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God. (10.30ff)


But notice that the locals obviously understood some of His claims to sonship to be claims to full parity with the Father, and NOT claims to subordination (as might be assumed from the question here):


"His hearers might think of the relation between Israel and God, but Jesus’ wording about his unity with the Father is too explicit for that: instead he echoes the basic confession of Judaism that God is one (Deut 6:4). For Jesus to be one with the Father (albeit distinct from him) is tantamount to a claim to deity…as in the other instances, Jesus’ opponents understand his claim to deity, even if they do not catch all the ramifications. [REF:BBC, John 10.30ff]


What this means for our study is that the claim to sonship does NOT automatically call up the notion of subordination at all; in some cases dealing with a unique sonship, it obviously brought up the notion of equality! But Jesus used the image in various ways, maintaining His explicit continuity with the Father's benevolent will for His people, and yet sometimes emphasizing the continuity of the inner life of the Father and the Son…



Thirdly, you seem to be operating with a slightly deficient view of 'trinitarianism'.


Classical trinitarianism doesn't actually speak about 'equal authority' between the persons of the godhead. [It does, however, as you mention, assert "equal power."].


The classical statements of this are in the early creeds, but notice there is no mention of 'authority relations':


Nicene/325: We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten (gennhqevnta), not made, being of one substance (oJmoouvsion, consubstantialem) with the Father. By whom all things were made, both which be in heaven and in earth. Who for us men and for our salvation came down [from heaven] and was incarnate and was made man. He suffered and the third day he rose again, and ascended into heaven. And he shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead. And [we believe] in the Holy Ghost. And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of God was not (h[n pote o\{te oujk h\n), or that before he was begotten he was not, or that he was made of things that were not, or that he is of a different substance or essence [from the Father] or that he is a creature, or subject to change or conversion —all that so say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them.


Nicene-Constantinopolitan/381: I believe in one God the Father Almighty; Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance (essence) with the Father; by whom all things were made; who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end…And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceedeth from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified…"


Chalcedon/451: Following the five holy Ecumenical Councils and the holy and approved Fathers, with one voice defining that our Lord Jesus Christ must be confessed to be very God and very man, one of the holy and consubstantial and life-giving Trinity, perfect in Deity and perfect in humanity, very God and very man, of a reasonable soul and human body subsisting; consubstantial with the Father as touching his Godhead and consubstantial with us as touching his manhood; in all things like unto us, sin only excepted; begotten of his Father before all ages according to his Godhead, but in these last days for us men and for our salvation made man of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary, strictly and properly the Mother of God according to the flesh; one and the same Christ our Lord the only-begotten Son of two natures un-confusedly, unchangeably, inseparably indivisibly to be recognized, the peculiarities of neither nature being lost by the union but rather the proprieties of each nature being preserved, concurring in one Person and in one subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons but one and the same only-begotten Son of God, the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, according as the Prophets of old have taught us and as our Lord Jesus Christ himself hath instructed us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers hath delivered to us;


Trinitarianism actually affirms the shared essence of the Three Persons, and draws few 'hard' conclusions from that (other than the obvious worship and glory attributes). It is appropriate to understand the shared-essence to imply shared capability (e.g., power, omniscience), but these are relative to things outside the Trinity--i.e., the creation. The relationships within the Trinity are not described in any detail in these creeds, although theologians have discussed this for centuries and centuries. But, at the end of the day, there is no 'official position' on intra-God relationships (other than the vague 'proceeding' and 'begetting, not making' aspects). Authority, of course, is not mentioned in the creeds at all.


Take for example, a much later description of this in the Reformed faith (Reformed Dogmatics, Heppe, p111f), in which considerable 'diversity' is 'allowed' within the inter-relationships:


"Accordingly the three personae are equal to each other (1) so far as each of them has the same nature of God as each of the other two--they are homoousioi to each other; (2) so far as each of them possesses the same divine majesty as each of the other two, so that the Father holds no advantage over the other two persons; and (3) so far as each of the three persons exists in the nature of each of the other two. On the other hand the three persons are distinct in name; in the order of their being, in the mode of their action, in their external effects; which indeed proceed from the entire Trinity, in which nevertheless the separate persons are active in a different way; and finally in the special attributes which belong to each person."


True trinitarianism knows not to be too 'prescriptive' of what can and what cannot 'exist' within the unfathomable God(!), and it classically allows for a wide range of 'configurations' of both how the Persons relate within the being of God and relate separately with historical action.


We noted earlier that scripture indicates that the Son made a free choice to agree to the plan of redemption via submission and humiliation. Again, the Reformed divines describe the binding nature of this eternal pact on BOTH the Father and the Son (Heppe, 379):


"The pact thus rests essentially upon free mutuality…while in respect of authority and power to make a pact…this one was plainly mutual, not only because of mutual terms but also because of the equal power and will of Father and Son…At the same time, in virtue of the unity and unchangeability of the Trinitarian will of God, once the Son had taken on the sponsio he could as little renounce it again, as the Father could ever again reject the Son's guarantee after He had accepted it…"


The 'external works' that are described in the classic doctrinal statements of all mainstream Christian communities have historical elements to them, allowing for 'change of state'--e.g., the incarnation of the second Person of the Trinity and His subordination to the Father during redemptive history.


Accordingly, there is (1) no actual data in scripture that teaches that the Son was 'subordinate' to the Father before time began, and there is (2) evidence that His subordination to the Father was a mutual choice/pact, that began when the plan of redemption began moving forward in history. Accordingly, we don't really have enough data about the 'authority relations' in the pre-temporal or essential Trinity to believe a 'problem' exists.



Fourth, the New Testament writings do not "rely" on the "Son of God" image to communicate the deity of our Lord.


The "Son of God" terminology only become a church 'favorite' expression well after the NT was completed. Of course, it is used in the New Testament to implicate the divinity of Jesus, but the didactic/teaching sections of the NT use a wider variety of expressions, probably to make sure we don't miss it (smile). And the relationship between the Father and the Son--oddly enough--is more often portrayed in terms of resemblance, in keeping with the teaching of Jesus.


The other articles I wrote in the trinity series goes through those, of course, but just off the top of my head I would mention:


1. The pre-incarnate Son is described as the LOGOS, 'word'--an expression denoting reasoning, explication, internal-connection with the Father. [Almost like the 'mind of God, manifested']


2. The pre-incarnate Son in Hebrews 1 is called the "the exact imprint of God’s very being" (NRSV), a communication and representation-without-remainder notion.


3.  Both John and Hebrews call Jesus the 'glory of the Father', alluding to the Shekinah glory of the OT/Tanaak, which was the very presence of God in the tabernacle/temple (not just manifestation, btw, but real presence of YHWH somehow)


4. Paul refers to Jesus'  "being in the very form of God" and having "equality with God". [a rather explicit 'denial' of pre-decision subordination, btw…the whole argument of self-denial only works if this action of Christ's was a free choice…]


5. Paul actually calls Christ  "God" in Romans 9.5, as does John in his gospel and probably his epistle (6.20)…As does Hebrews…And, according to Phil 2.5-11, so does YHWH!--when God gives the successful Son the 'name which is above every other name', this is generally understood to be GOD's OWN NAME, and for God to call a non-god by this name would be either 'blasphemy' or at least 'heresy'--if said Son were not full-parity-deity…


6. Paul uses the pre-existent Wisdom motif (of the OT) also in places, connecting Jesus with God's very mind. [Remember, the Holy Spirit is also portrayed as an 'internal element' within God.]


“Christ … the Wisdom of God.” Furthermore, it seems likely that the sapiential ideas we find in 1 Corinthians 1:24, 30 and 8:6 blossomed into Paul’s concept of the cosmic Christ—not only Lord over land and universe but also involved in its creation. The full flower of this Christological wisdom thinking came to expression in the hymn in Colossians 1:15–20 where Christ is said to be the “image of the invisible God,” the “firstborn” of creation, and the means and goal of creation. Here the qualities that Judaism could attribute to Wisdom are transferred to Christ, as illustrated by a text such as Wisdom of Solomon 7:25–26: "For she is the breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her. For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness". (NRSV)… While Paul adopted and adapted this understanding of Wisdom to his own ends, the implications of its use are important—the apostle ascribed divine attributes to Jesus Christ. [NT:DictPL]



Notice how none of these formulations involve subordination of sender/sent, but rather deal with resemblance, internal-personal-structure, manifestation.


To put this another way, we might formulate some rhetorical questions, which are essentially unintelligible under 'subordination' relations:


·         Is the Father's own intelligibility "subordinate" to Him?

·         Is the Father's own image or form "subordinate" to Him?

·         Is the Father's own wisdom "subordinate" to Him?

·         Is the Father's own intrinsic glory "subordinate" to Him?

·         [Is the Father's own internal Spirit "subordinate" to Him? Cf. 1 Cor 2: The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.  11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.


[It might also be noted here that we could rephrase the above questions substituting 'inferiority' for 'subordinate' and seeing the related conclusion that 'inferiority/superiority' categories are irrelevant to these images of Christ/Father also.]


Now my point here is this: Since all the other images of the in-Trinity Christ are about His being (1) an integral part within the Father, and (2) an inseparable manifestation of the Father's character, doesn't this suggest/support the idea that the Sonship image of the Trinitarian Son is about the same things--the revelation of the character of the Father and the inseparable 'within-ness' of His relationship to the Father?


Odds are it does…which brings us to…



Fifth, the image of Sonship is the only familial image that could be used to communicate both the revelation/resemblance truth and the 'within-ness' truth of the Trinity. All other images would communicate only a subset of these.


Given that "son" does not have to communicate "subordination" or any/all of the other aspects of paternal relations, and that it can be, and is used, to focus on elements of resemblance, how well can it 'work' in communicating both revelation/resemblance and 'within-ness'?


Well, the resemblance/revelation aspect is obvious--we have already noted that. The very basis of the functional sonships (i.e., tasks and appointments) was the supposed resemblance of the character of the son to the character of the father, so this aspect is pretty well attested.


But what about 'within-ness'? Is there any reason to believe that Father-Son relationships could 'model' that, or communicate that aspect of their relationship?


Actually, there is…There are a couple of strands of biblical and Jewish thought that specifically argue this exact point, and in some cases, pre-suppose that a son can be considered to be 'within' a father (or at least within an ancestor).




1. The argument of Hebrews 7:


Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!  5 Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, their brothers—even though their brothers are descended from Abraham.  6 This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.  7 And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater.  8 In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living.  9 One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham,  10 because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.


"Here it indicates the writer clearly recognized his statement that Levi had paid a tithe to Melchizedek was not literally true, because at the moment in primal history when Abraham met Melchizedek Levi was as yet unborn. Nevertheless, the statement that Levi had himself paid the tithe was true in an important sense, indicated by the expression diÆ ÆAbraavm, “through Abraham,” which immediately follows. The corporate solidarity that bound Israel to the patriarch implied that Levi was fully represented in Abraham’s action. Therefore, Levi’s status relative to Melchizedek was affected by Abraham’s relationship to that personage. Consequently, the superiority of Melchizedek over the Levitical priesthood is not merely theoretical but has a basis in history. [WBC, in loc.]


2. The event in Gen 25.21ff, another case of such 'corporate solidarity', in which a descendent is implied to be within the ancestor (in some sense):


Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, "Why is this happening to me?" So she went to inquire of the LORD.


The LORD said to her,

  "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated;

  one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger."



3. The Jewish concept of corporate solidarity (at least in a familial sense) is pervasive in the OT/Tanaak. The promises given and covenants made historically to Abraham were made to him and "to his seed". That 'seed'--still "present in" Abraham at the time of the covenant making, later looked back to that historical event as the covenant made with them--even though they were only 'in the loins of their father Abraham'.



4. This point is related to the biblical usage of the word 'seed'. The main word for this (zera) is sometimes translated 'descendents', even though the word denotes 'seed' (e.g., Lev 15:16, 32; 22:4; Num 5:28). This 'seed' is physiologically  internal, yet is mostly translated as 'descendents'--the link is very tight. This, of course, ties the within-ness notion to the heirship concept very tightly.



5. There is a final strand of thought in the OT/Tanaak that actually links the motifs of 'resemblance' and 'within-ness': the notion that a son is and shows the 'strength' of the father. Let's list a couple of verses illustrating this:


·         “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength,  (Gen 49.3; Reuben is both 'might' and 'sign of strength')


·         “But he shall acknowledge the first-born, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; (Deut 21.17; note--lit. 'first' or 'beginning', as above)


·         He struck all the firstborn in Egypt, the first  issue of their strength in the tents of Ham (Ps 78.51; lit  'beginning of strength'; 'issue' is supplied by the translators of the NRSV)


·         He struck down all the firstborn in their land, the first issue of all their strength.  (Ps 105.36; lit. "beginning of strength'; 'issue' is supplied by the translators of the NRSV)


The father's own strength (internal) is manifested in the firstborn children--the child/son is said to be both the father's "power" and the "first manifestation of that power"…This is remarkably close to our position here, and even recalls some of Paul's thought--"Christ the wisdom of God and the power of God".


6. One additional piece of data might be found in John 1.18, in which the "only-begotten God" is said to be "existing in the bosom of the Father". The 'existing' is a present participle, generally indicating that the action is continuous, but it is the phrase 'bosom of the Father' that is striking.


Although this phrase could be alluding to the 'highest heaven, even above the bosom of Abraham', commentators normally take their cue from the exclusivity of the Son's knowledge of the Father to explain this in terms of intimacy, as when John reclines on the 'bosom' of Jesus at the Last Supper, but there may be more to it here, as applied to God and as it is lacking the 'reclining' verb.


In the OT, it could be used of family and tender relations:


"A variety of abstract, figurative ideas are expressed by this term. Family intimacy may be emphasized (Deut 28:54; Mic 7:5). Tender care or concern may be expressed as in the poor man’s care for his only sheep (II Sam 12:3), the widow’s care for her sick son (I Kgs 17:19), and God’s carrying his people in his arms in his bosom (Isa 40:11) [TWOT]


"Bosom" is the word for 'chest, breast' and is frequently used to indicate the center of affections (similar to 'heart'). In the OT it frequently was an intensive word:


The “bosom,” like other physical terms (e.g. “bones,” “kidneys,” and “heart”) may serve as an emphatic, intimate term for the person himself. Judgment “into the bosom” marks the object of judgment with special intimacy (Isa 65:6; cf. Jer 32:18, NASB) Anger lodging in the bosom of fools (Eccl 7:9), fire in the “bosom” (Prov 6:27), and prayer returning to the bosom of the one who prays (Ps 35:13; KJV, ASV) are other typical examples  of this motif (cf. also Ps 89:50 [H 51]; Job 19:27, lit. “my kidneys in my bosom are finished”) [TWOT, s.v. heq]


If used in a metaphorical sense--as in Isaiah 40.11 where God carries His people in His arms in His bosom--it focuses on intimacy, affection, and closeness. The Rabbi's can say "Before the world was made the Torah was written and lay in the bosom of God" (‘Abot R. Nat. 31.8b, recording R. Eliazer ben Jose of Galilee). A less-metaphorical sense (but perhaps still anthropomorphic) would be that noted above--"an emphatic, intimate term for the person himself", in which the phrase becomes a very definite 'within-ness' expression!


But if it is NOT being used metaphorically or anthropomorphically here--and the imagery of John's Prologue would suggest that it isn’t--this would refer to the very 'insides' of God, the very 'essence' of the Father. [The actual word 'kolpos', means 'hollow', and is used of bays and 'secret places'. This might suggest the same notion--that the Son was 'inside' the Father, and specifically inside His very heart and life.]





Brief Excursus-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


It might be interesting to note here the parallel between the Shekinah Glory in the tabernacle/temple, and the presence of God in the human person Jesus.


The New Testament refers/alludes to the image of  God dwelling "tabernacle-style" in Jesus in several places (e.g., John 1.1-14, John 2.19ff; Matt 12.6; and the many passages dealing with Jesus as the glory of God the Father). Jesus is likewise called the 'power' of God  and the 'glory of God' often.


"When God revealed his glory to Moses in Exodus 33–34, his glory was “abounding in covenant love and covenant faithfulness” (Ex 34:6), which could also be translated “full of grace and truth.” Like Moses of old (see 2 Cor 3:6–18), the disciples saw God’s glory, now revealed in Jesus. As the Gospel unfolds, Jesus’ glory is revealed in his signs (e.g., Jn 2:11) but especially in the cross, his ultimate act of love (12:23–33). The Jewish people were expecting God to reveal his glory in something like a cosmic spectacle of fireworks; but for the first coming, Jesus reveals the same side of God’s character that was emphasized to Moses: his covenant love. “Dwelt” (KJV, NASB) here is literally “tabernacled,” which means that as God tabernacled with his people in the wilderness, so had the Word tabernacled among his people in Jesus. [REF:BBC, in loc.]



The OT Shekinah glory was likewise the very presence of God in the physical temple/tabernacle:


"Attitudes toward the Temple at Jerusalem varied considerably from time to time and from group to group within intertestamental Judaism. In many respects the theology of the Temple within this period continued along the lines already developed in the First Temple period. Thus, the Temple was considered to be the very dwelling place of God, in a way shared by no other place on earth. Even the prophets who had grave reservations about the cultic practices going on in their own time believed that the Temple was nevertheless God’s dwelling among humankind. Ezekiel, for example, who says that he saw the glory of God depart the Temple because of defiling practices (Ezek 8-10), also says that God will return to live forever in a new Temple (Ezek 43:1-12). [NT:DictJG, s.v. "temple"]


The OT also maintains, of course, that God simultaneously dwelt in heaven (i.e., God didn't move down to earth and vacate heaven).


The Shekinah--in connection with our discourse on the Son/Father relations--was called the 'strength' of God(!), even when it went into captivity:






Would we consider the YHWH that dwelt in the temple to be 'a lesser YHWH' than the One in heaven? Would we consider the YHWH in the temple to be 'subordinate' to the YHWH in heaven?  Would we consider the YHWH-in-the-temple to be inferior to YHWH-in-heaven because it/he was 'sent down'? Would we consider the YHWH-in-the-temple to be created by and posterior to YHWH-in-heaven? These questions are nonsensical, in the same way the rhetorical questions we listed above were (e.g. "Is the Father's own wisdom 'subordinate' to Him?").


The linkage between the two 'YHWH-centers' (?) is too tight, and parallel closely what we have seen about the relation between the Son and the Father. Just as the YHWH-in-temple was the 'strength and glory' of the YHWH-in-heaven, so too was the Son-in-the-divine-essence the 'strength and glory' of the Father-in-the-divine-essence. No subordination, no 'lesser Father' or 'lesser God', no polytheism, no inferiority, no priority. Just intimacy, resemblance, shared deity.


If we are forced to honestly admit the theological/metaphysical reality of two 'centers of divine action' in  the OT temple/heaven case--without being accused of heresy and paganism--then we have no a priori theological/metaphysical warrant to dismiss the two 'centers of divine action' in the case of the Son/Father.


Of course, we have NO IDEA how the metaphysics of the temple/heaven "linkage" actually was "implemented", but that cannot stop us from affirming the fact that it is clearly taught as such. Similarly, we have NO IDEA (well, perhaps a little from the son-as-internal motif) of how the Son/Father linkage 'works' within the Trinity, but that cannot stop us from affirming its truth--especially given the immense amount of biblical evidence in support of it.


End Excursus----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Okay, what we have found out in analyzing the various aspects of the sonship image is that it does a good job, biblically speaking, of communicating both resemblance/revelation and within-ness (especially with the additional connotation of heirship).


So, how well would the other proposed familial image of 'brother, preferably twins' do in comparison?


If we take the preferable case of 'twins', it obviously does a great job of resemblance, especially if the twins are identical.


But we just as obviously fail miserably at the issue of within-ness. In no biblical or extra biblical texts are there any hints that brothers can be considered 'within' one another, like 'seed/descendent' can be considered to be 'in' an ancestor. In no sense is one brother ever said to be the 'strength' or 'glory' of another. And in no sense is a brother/twin said to 'reveal' the other. Here we would clearly be understood as espousing polytheism, and not even a 'hierarchical' one at that! [Although the firstborn brother was sometimes considered as having 'authority' over the others, especially if they still shared the household.] We would NOT have the biblical data to support the 'metaphysical unity' of the brothers, as we do in the case of the son/father image.


So, brothers or twins are not even as good as the son/father relationships (as found in biblical material), but actually, it apparently didn't matter--the Sonship declarations Jesus made (along with some other apparent claims to deity) were already understand as claims to equality, remember? John specifically points out that one group of Jews equated Jesus' claims to Sonship with claims to 'equality' with God. So, apparently, this assumption of "Sonship implies inequality" was not true to the historical context in which Jesus' claims were uttered. I suspect, though, that it was in His claims to exclusive, unique, and representative Sonship which communicated this 'equality claim' to his opponents. And this, of course, is exactly what I have been trying to demonstrate from biblical materials above.


One Concluding Un-Theological Postscript here. Most of the ancient Fathers held to some fuzzy and imprecise conception of the Father 'begetting' the Son, in "eternity past". This was not understood to be God creating a person, and subsequently "grafting" said Person onto the Father's own 'essence'. They were doing the best they could with the omni-eternity (in both directions) of the Son, and trying to stay true to the explicit 'not created' statements of scripture. Trying to 'grasp' this fully is futile; the best we can do in my opinion is (a) specify any propositions that we are NOT ALLOWED to say from scripture (via negativa, essentially); and (b) assert the truthfulness, but reduced-precision level, of some of the images God gives us in the biblical text.


The Father/Son image, for example, communicates the concepts we explored above: resemblance, intimacy, mutual love, within-ness. We cannot, however, push this image too far, and , for example, ask questions about 'genes', and 'ages' and 'differences' and 'adolescence' etc. The images can be used with the qualification and nuances given in Scripture, but it may be quite speculative to infer other, non-biblical conclusions from this image. We must not be guilty of over-precision and of pushing the language into doing work it was not meant to do [different even than 'going on holiday'…].


For example, it seems obvious to me that to be an Eternal Father requires a co-Eternal Son (duh!), and that the Father is just as dependent on the Son to allow Him to be called 'Father' as the Son is dependent on the Father for Him to be called "Son". [I remind my kids on Father's Day every year that THEY made me a 'Father', not myself!] 


The Father wouldn’t be a "Father" before the 'begetting' of the Son, and this is part of why any 'begetting' is perhaps best thought of as a relation and not an act/event. In the "odd" temporality of God, this almost has to be the case ("he said, with the due modesty required in making statements about such metaphysical mystery…"). …For a contemporary example, our bus driver on my tour to Israel last year was named Abu-Yusef, meaning 'father of Yusef'. Yusef was his first-born son. Being the slow thinker that I am, it took me a whole day before I realized the problem here and I asked him what his name was before Yusef was born! (Since he couldn't have been named 'Abu Yusef' at his own birth, unless he had a VERY egomaniacal father named Yusef…smile). He replied "Achmad"…I got it…


But although my 'logic' seems obvious to me, it is only reasonable to actually 'use this' argument (in this case) if there is some biblical or historical background evidence to support such an approach. In this particular case, we do--the case of Abram.


The patriarch Abraham was born under a different name--Abram--and was called by this name by God until the conception of the promised heir (Isaac). His original name did NOT call him 'father' at all, since he wasn't one(!), but referred rather to his father or to God:


"Assuming a west-Semitic interpretation, Ab-ram may mean “he is exalted as to his father,” i.e., he is of noble birth, or, more probably, “the father [i.e., God] is exalted.” [WBC, at Gen 11.26]


But at the approximate time (plus or minus a couple of months?) of the conception (not birth) of Isaac, God changes his name in Genesis 17 to "Abraham"--"Father of multitudes". He becomes a father only when his promised son is conceived (but not born yet). This would offer some support for my 'logic' above, but without something like this, my reasoning would need to be 'discounted' a bit (not 'discarded', per se, since the lack of biblical exemplars does NOT automatically mean a plausible argument should be rejected out of hand).


So, I have to conclude that the Sonship image is still the best one for the mystery of the Trinity, and that the inequality/inferiority/subordination 'problem' simply doesn't exist in the biblical model.


On to the last major chunk…




Finally, 1 Corinthians 15:24 says:


"Next, the end, when he(Jesus) hands over the kingdom to HIS GOD AND FATHER, when he has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power.  For he must rule as king UNTIL GOD has put all enemies under his feet.  As the last enemy, death is to be brought to nothing.  For God 'SUBJECTED ALL THINGS UNDER HIS FEET.'  But when he says that 'all things have been subjected,' it is evident that it is with the EXCEPTION OF THE ONE WHO SUBJECTED ALL THINGS TO HIM (namely God the Father!).  But when all things will have been subjected to him (Jesus), then THE SON HIMSELF WILL SUBJECT HIMSELF TO THE ONE WHO SUBJECTED ALL THINGS TO HIM (namely God the Father!), that God (the Father) may be ALL THINGS TO EVERYONE (including his son JESUS)." [emphasis mine].


This scripture makes it plainly clear that


1. Paul refers to Jesus relationship to YHWH or Jehovah as both his Father AND HIS GOD, therefore making Jesus inferior.


2. All things Jesus rules over was GIVEN temporarily to him by the father, meaning Jesus did not initially have this authority while his father did, something that makes no sense from a Trinitarian perspective.


3. Jesus is described as subjecting HIMSELF to the father, making son inferior to the father, something impossible in a triune godhead where father and son are equals.



Actually, there's not much in this passage dealing with in-Trinity relations; it's all about in-time, redemptive history (after the Son-in-Trinity has chosen to become the Servant).  But let me comment on your three points:


Point 1. There's nothing 'odd' about Jesus the Messiah calling God 'God' at all. Not only is it historically and theologically inconceivable that He would deny that, we also have passages where God (within the literary structure, and not just through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) calls Jesus "God", too (e.g., Phil 2 and Heb 1.8). Jesus regularly refers to His Father as "God" before His followers and His audiences--this is no big deal--but we still can see the uniqueness elements in some of those. The 'oddest' one is in John 20.17:


Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” 


Jesus seems to differentiate the quality of the relationships in this odd circumlocution:


"The distinction between the only Son of the Father and the sons who by the Spirit share his sonship is naturally assumed. [WBC]


"The unique features of his sonship are of course presupposed: the expressions my Father and your Father and my God and your God assume distance between Jesus and his followers, even as they establish links." [Carson, John]


I should also note, for accuracy here, that the passage you cite doesn't actually have the "HIS" in the text at all (not that this would matter, given the above point). In the Greek it only says "to THE God and Father". Compare the modern English translations, most of which translate the phrase simply as "God the Father":


·         Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father (NRSV)

·         then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father (NASV)

·         Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father (NIV)

·         Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father  (ISV)


There's just no way to move from this to "Jesus is inferior"…



Point 2. Three comments here:


One. As I mentioned, the subordination images here are functional, dealing with messianic (human) roles, and in-history, and do not reflect on pre-history Trinitarian theology. Commentators generally agree on this:


"As in 3:22-23 and 11:3, the language of the subordination of the Son to the Father is functional, referring to his 'work' of redemption, not ontological referring to his being as such. The unity of God lies behind all such language." [Fee, NICNT, in. loc.]


"It strikes us strangely that Paul designates the Saviour as the Son while hitherto he referred to Him as 'Christ'. This is done that we might realize that Paul actually has in view that Christ who is the Son of God. The apostle does not imply that the Son will be subjected to the Father. He keeps referring to Christ's work as Mediator…but he designates the Mediator by His highest name. The Bible contains little about the subjection of the Mediator to the Father after the former's work is done. We might put it this way, that the Mediator will lay down His office at the feet of the Father, when He has finished His work as such. This interpretation does not conflict with the teaching concerning Christ's eternal kingship (II Pet 1:11). In our context Paul writes about that particular dominion of Christ that will terminate, since it serves to protect His people on earth and to conquer the ungodly. This dominion will end at the absolute end of history." [Grosheide]


"The Son has been entrusted with a mission on behalf of his Father, whose sovereignty has been challenged, and at least to some extent usurped by rebellious powers. It is for him to reclaim this sovereignty by overcoming the powers, overthrowing his enemies, and recovering the submission of creation as a whole. This mission he will in due course execute, death being the last adversary to hold out, and when it is completed he will hand the government of the universe back to his Father…There is an element of subordinationism here, which is inevitably bound up with Christ's representative fulfillment of Ps. Viii. According to this Psalm, man exercises his appointed lordship over the rest of creation in his being 'a little lower than God'. This is in harmony with the creation narrative (Gen. I. 28). It is when man strives to rise above his appointed place and put himself on God's level that he falls below it and loses his dominion. In the obedient service of the representative man Jesus Christ, man's dominion is being restored, but its security lies only in the unvarying submission of Jesus the Son to his Father." [Barrett]


Accordingly, in-trinity relations are simply not in view here.


[FYI: Grosheide's comment about 'little…after the work is done' is accurate, but the "little" I know of--pictured in Revelation 21/22--seems to suggest a more 'peer' relation. For example, they are not distinguished at all in key images:


·         And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple. 23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. (21.22f; notice the singulars--esp. that of the temple and source of light)


·         And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb (22.1; notice the singular 'throne')


·         And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him (22.3; notice the singular 'throne' and 'serve Him')


The data we have is 'little', to be sure, but all of that 'little' seems to support a return-to-glorious-parity…]



Two. This passage actually has an element that contradicts your point.


The closing verse--"When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him". Oddly enough, this statement points out that the Son currently is NOT 'subject' to the Father, for it places this 'subjection' at some future point--when the enemies are all subdued. The Father is not subjected to the Son during this time (according to the passage), but if the Son will subject Himself later, this rather clearly shows that even the Redemptive post-resurrection Son is currently not 'under the subjection' of the Father, in some major sense.


This understanding is not a problem for someone who understands the passage to be referring to the in-history, redemptive-work arena, but could be a considerable problem to someone arguing that the Son was eternally-subordinate (and therefore inferior) to the Father….(smile)



Three. Actually, we do have an indication that the Son DID have this authority (or at least, shared this authority with the Father, and was not therefore 'subordinate') in his pre-incarnate state. [He would have relinquished it, in the act of taking on the form of a servant, phil 2, to regain it again at the Ascension.]


Hebrews 1.3 has a curious phrase: "he sustains all things by his powerful word". This actually seems to be a statement of governance, as the WBC points out:


although sustaining the universe by his powerful word.” The description of the Son in his pre-existence is followed logically by a clause descriptive of his relationship to the creation. The new clause ascribes to the Son the providential government of all created existence, which is the function of God himself. As the pre-creational Wisdom of God, the Son not only embodies God’s glory but also reveals this to the universe as he sustains all things and bears them to their appointed end by his omnipotent word. The ascription of cosmic dimensions to the work of the Son was prompted by the total estimate which the writer had formed of his transcendent dignity. One who revealed God as fully and ultimately as did the Son must share in the divine government of the world (cf. Williamson, Philo, 95–103).”



Point 3: We don’t really need to discuss this bullet, since it is covered in our discussions of (1) the in-history nature of this subject (i.e., non-essential); and (2) the irrelevance of 'subjection' to 'inferiority'.


But again, let's note that the messianic (human) figure was supposed to be made "a little lower than the angels" as a human. And, indeed, it was because of this human nature that (a) redemption is possible; and (b) judgment was 'transferred' to Jesus.


(a) Redemption is constantly ascribed to the 'human dimension' of our Lord. From declarations of him 'bearing our sins in His own body on the tree' to the argument in Hebrews about the 'faithful high priest who can understand our weaknesses', the New Testament is replete with statements linking our redemption to the work of the Incarnate Lord.


(b) Likewise, the judgment that was given by the Father to the Lord Jesus was done so because of his humanity--so that our judgment might be in the hands of a peer, who has lived in our world, under our pressures, and still was One of love and integrity:


And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. (John 5.27; note: NOT 'son of GOD' here)


because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead (Act 17.31)


So Carson, on John 5.27:


"Jesus is the apocalyptic Son of Man who receives from the Ancient of Days the prerogatives of Deity, a kingdom that entails total dominion. At the same time he belongs to humanity and has walked where humans walked. It is the combination of these features that make him uniquely qualified to judge."


We should hardly be surprised to find these elements, therefore, in such passages as I Cor 15 which describe the process and success of the Suffering Servant of God.



On to the last comment…





Quite frankly, Glenn, I don't see how any circumstantial evidence you show can refute this basic concept.



By now, hopefully, you can see that this is not merely 'circumstantial evidence' at all!…Let's review in the Summary






  1. There is no explicit or obvious dilemma created by the submission of Jesus to the Father.
  2. We found that the claim that "virtually all" of Jesus' references referred to submission to be clearly false.
  3. The parity and submission statements are often intertwined, as if the submission were a very voluntary act.
  4. Jesus is sometimes represented as the New Temple, in which God dwells.
  5. The 'not my initiative' language is used to authenticate His teachings, and is irrelevant to discussions of His deity.
  6. In fact, most (if not all) of the submission language was about Jesus' continuity with the Father, not any supposed discontinuity.
  7. If Jesus had worded these submission statements in the opposite way, His mission would have been invalidated.
  8. The very fact that the acts done in the submission were fully co-extensive with everything being done by the Father indicates a unity that is difficult to conceive in any terms other than parity and absolute unity.
  9. Submission language was also the expected language about the Messiah, in all his various roles: prophet, priest, king, Servant of YHWH, etc. This creates the redemptive-history context for the 'submission' language, instead of some ontological/metaphysical one.
  10. The submission/subordination of the Son-on-Earth was very, very real, but it was likewise very, very voluntary--it was the Son's free choice in love that eventuated in His humiliation, incarnation, and submission. He wasn't commanded by the Father to choose submission; He choose to submit to the Father's commands.
  11. His life on earth was also meant to serve as a model for believers to follow, and the only appropriate life for pre-mortem believers to follow is the way of submission to the Lord…"take up your cross and follow me". The importance of this servant-model cannot be underestimated.
  12. The 'sending of a messenger' does not imply anything whatsoever about the 'natures' of the sender and the messenger.
  13. The parallel between the sending of the Son and the sending of the Spirit of God illustrates that 'subordination' and 'inferiority' are inappropriate categories for these.
  14. The phrase "Son of God" had a few different meanings in the bible, the main one of which was of human rulers, supposed to rule in God's stead and in conformity to God's heart. These roles were only beneficial to the universe if said ruler were completely subordinate to God, in that office.
  15. A second meaning of "son of God" can be seen in the words of Jesus--that of absolutely unique, exclusive, incredibility intimate, and total resemblance 'sonship'. This is not an 'official' title, but a 'familial' term.
  16. The field of meaning around 'sonship' in that culture was quite broad, but in no way was 'authority' present or emphasized in all its senses or uses.
  17. As used by Jesus, his 'sonship' more often referred to his resemblance, unity with, and manifestation of the Father, than of any 'subordination'.
  18. In fact, these claims were construed by his audiences PRECISELY as statements of 'equality' (and not 'subordination').
  19. Classical trinitarianism doesn't actually specify anything about within-Trinity authority relationships, anyway.
  20. Classical trinitarianism does teach that the Son was free to choose (i.e., had authority to choose) submission for the earthly redemptive mission.
  21. The biblical witness to Christ's essential deity is much, much broader than simple use of the phrase 'Son of God', and asking questions of 'submission' of those images (e.g., wisdom, spirit, intelligibility, glory) make no sense whatsoever. Accordingly, it might not make any real sense to discuss the 'subordination' of the Son, in the pre-history, eternal state either.
  22. In fact, the sonship image is the best image (familial or otherwise) to portray the resemblance aspects of the Son/Father and the within-ness aspects of the Son/Father (as witnessed to by biblical usage).
  23. The biblical usage indicates that a son was considered to be both internal to the Father (his strength) and a manifestation of the Father (the sign of that strength).
  24. The parallel between the Shekinah Glory and the Incarnate Son demonstrate a similar linkage between 'essence' and 'manifestation' and show that questions of metaphysics simply are beyond us and that categories of 'inferiority' are simply inappropriate to the issue.
  25. Alternate images available to use, such as 'brothers' or 'twins', would fail to communicate the 'within-ness' relation, not to mention fail to convey the 'official roles' associated with the term "Son" (i.e., ruler).
  26. The logical/theological argument that "for the Father to have always been the Father, would require the Son to have always been the Son" is seen to be reasonable, and to have some biblical backing. In this case, the Father is just as dependent on the Son (to "make" Him a Father) as would be the Son on the Father.
  27. The 1 Corinthians passage is essentially irrelevant to the question of the in-Trinity relationships between the Father and the Son, since it deals with historical events in the redemptive drama and the functional relationships unique/specific to that drama.
  28. There is nothing 'odd' about Jesus calling the Father "God" at all, even though He does seem to draw distinctions between HIS type of sonship and the sonship of His disciples (the uniqueness thing again). [It should be noted, though, that Jesus more often refers to God as "Father" when addressing Him.]
  29. The I Corinthians 15 passage actually has a text that points out the Son is NOT subjected to the Father during this redemptive mopping-up operation (as was the case apparently BEFORE His choice of servanthood).




Accordingly, I cannot see the problem here at all, and on the contrary, the self-subjection of the Son to the will of the Father, to the service of those 'below Him', and to the welfare of sinners, enemies, and apathetics--might be one of the strongest arguments for His partaking essentially of the good-heart of God the Father…for I personally don't know anybody else with a heart as fiercely loyal, as consistently loving, as unflinchingly gentle, with such unassailable integrity (without the moral elitism and self-righteousness that this sometimes creates in us), as unwaveringly kind, as focused on the welfare and blessing of others as this one--the Good Shepherd, the Suffering Servant, the Whatever-it-costs-Him Redeemer…


I can only repeat here the words of Bickersteth, whose 19th century prose evidenced a knowledge of the awesomeness of this beyond my still-too-young and still-too-dull experience (BTT:93):


"Now our whole souls are filled with one thought--the condescension of God. Now we shall not be stumbled at passages which speak of the exceeding humiliation to which he stooped. As we assign no limit to the height of his glory, we shall assign none to the depths of his grace. Yea, so far from taking offense at the inferiority of the position which he assumed, the very lowliness of his incarnation and very degradation of the death he died, will kindle in us a brighter and more burning gratitude, when we remember that though rich it was for your sakes he became poor; and that for us, his wayward and wandering sheep, the chief Shepherd offered up himself as the Lamb of God, laying down his life of his own accord, and taking it up again to die no more.


The core of the humiliation was, of course, becoming human and experiencing life as a creature might (BTT:93):


"The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." There is a majestic condescension in these few words that nothing can equal. He was made man. "By himself, by his friends and disciples, by his enemies and persecutors, Jesus Christ was spoken of, as a proper human being. His childhood was adorned with filial affection, and the discharge of filial duty. His intellectual powers, like those of other children, were progressive. In his earliest years, he embraced with eagerness the means of improvement. He had large experience of human suffering. His lot was one of severe labour, poverty, weariness, hunger, and thirst. He affected no austerity of manners, nor did he enjoin it upon his followers. While he mingled in the common sociability and the innocent festivities of life, he sustained a weight of inward anguish which no mortal could know. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He looked forward to the accumulation of suffering which he knew would attend his last hours, with feelings on the rack of agony, with a heart exceedingly sorrowful even unto death, but with a meek and resigned resolution, a tender and trembling constancy, unspeakably superior in moral grandeur to the stern bravery of the proudest hero. In his last hours, with a bitterness of soul more excruciating than any bodily sufferings, he cried, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" while yet, he promised heaven to a penitent fellow-sufferer, and died in an act of devotional confidence, triumphing that his work was finished.



He who didn’t consider equality with God something to be "exploited" or to be 'clutched convulsively' (Barth)…


 I can see this heart of His, through His work and words, but I have experienced it over almost three decades --and I can only dream and yearn and pray to become a heart like that…


Hope this helps,

Glenn Miller


The Christian ThinkTank...[] (Reference Abbreviations)