Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Thoughts on Divine Sonship

Understanding, at least in some measure, the person of the Lord Jesus Christ is a challenge that stretches the minds of those who pursue him. One of the things that can increase the difficulty is working from what we know on earth about human relationships and then seeking to apply it to the relationships that exist within the triune God. Take for example the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. We will have trouble digesting the biblical data about this sublime relationship if do not remember what Donald Macleod tells us when he writes, "it is divine sonship, not the human, which is archetypal" (The Person of Christ, 135). In other words, what we know of father-son relationships is patterned after the ultimate Father-Son relationship and not the other way around. Something similar is said about the tabernacle in Hebrews 8:5 where the writer says that the priests serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. The heavenly reality is archetypal and the earthly sanctuary was merely a representation of that reality given for our benefit.

Going back to the relationship between God the Father and God the Son, Macleod goes on to write:

"This implies that we must take our concept of sonship from the divine, not the human, and that, for example, the priority of Father to Son is no more an essential of sonship than is generation by physical copulation. In fact, the priority of father to son is a defect in the human relationship, compared to the divine. Divine fatherhood is complete and perfect because it is eternal; and because here alone is there total consubstantiality, absolute equality and perfect correspondence. The fulness of the Father and the image of the Father exist in the divine Son in a way that is impossible in the human relationship; just as the bond between them surpasses in love, intimacy and interaction anything that men can attain to."

I think this is very helpful. So many of our questions about, say, how God the Father can be eternally unbegotten and God the Son eternally begotten assume human father-son relationships as the standard of comparison. In grappling with these great mysteries we must remember that we are trying to grasp the infinite with our finite minds. Thankfully there are some analogies and correlations but when all is said and done we need to go barefoot because like Moses of old at the burning bush, we are standing on holy ground. The triune God of the Bible is glorious indeed. If the created realm contains so many things that we do not understand and other things that are enormously complex and beautiful, how much more should we expect the Creator God to be one that defies our thorough analysis and comprehension even though we will have the privilege of growing in our love and knowledge of him for all eternity. And how glorious is our Savior of whom it is said: "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (Colossians 3:9).

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