Tag Archives: Eternal Subordination

God in three persons

Since the false teaching known as Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) was promulgated by Wayne Grudem in his systematic theology, it has been used to wrongly subjugate women and keep them enslaved. “Equal in being, but subordinate in role.” You can say it over and over, and you can enforce it with threats and intimidation but it still does not make it orthodox or true.

False doctrine always leads to bondage. It is the truth that sets one free. So we need a primer on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

There is one eternal being, which we call God. There is only one. He is eternal, simple, infinite in power and majesty. He is everywhere present, beyond all space and time. He is sovereign and does all his good pleasure. He has attributes that belong to him alone. Immutable, infinite, incomprehensible, simple, independent. There is only one being with those attributes. He is not divided, he is not composed of parts, he is not physical, but spiritual.

When we are describing the nature of God, we use the term “essence” or “being”. There is only one being, only one essence, only one will, only one power, only one authority – it is the authority of God. Scripture nowhere speaks of the wills of God. It is only the will of God. Scripture does not speak of the authorities of God, but the authority and power of God. There are not three almighty beings. There is only one.

Hear, O Israel. The Lord, our God, the Lord is One.

And from the very beginning, this one, true eternal God has revealed himself in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. There are not three gods, or three parts of God. But three “subsistences” if you will. Three separate, distinct persons. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Spirit is God. And yet there are not three gods; but one God.

When it comes to defining exactly what a person is, we come away a bit stumped, since there really is nothing in creation quite like it. We say “persons” so we are not silent. We know that there is an “I” a “you” and a “he” in the Holy Trinity. We know that the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit. They are distinct and in a relationship of love with one another, for God is love.

It is quite beyond our comprehension.

But it is God’s will to reveal himself to mankind. So the second person of the trinity, of the same essence as the Father, took upon himself the very nature of man in the womb of the virgin Mary. There are not two Christs, but one. Jesus of Nazareth. He remains true and eternal God, even while in the womb of Mary, and even in the sepulchre in Jerusalem. How the living and true God shed his blood is contained in the mystery of the incarnation. He who is life was truly dead for three days.

In the one person of Jesus Christ, there are two distinct natures: true man and true God. Everything you can say about man, you can say about Jesus, except for sin. He was weak, hungry, thirsty, poor, ignorant, liable to death and suffering, submissive, obedient. And at the same time, he was also true and eternal God. Everything you can say about God you can say about Jesus of Nazareth: Eternal, sovereign, omnipotent, creator and sustainer of the universe, simple, uncreated, everywhere present.

And these two natures exist in one person, without confusion, without division, without separation, without change.

This is a great mystery that is more fit to be wondered at than explained any further. The all-wise, all knowing God had to learn his alphabet. The God who is life died and shed his blood. He who knew no sin became sin for us. It staggers the mind.

The person, Jesus of Nazareth, was submissive to the Father with all obedience. He kept the covenant of works perfectly in our place. He obeyed perfectly. Our salvation depends upon it.

The problem with ESS is that it takes that submission, that belongs to the incarnate Christ, and moves it into his divine nature, into eternity, apart from the incarnation. This makes the divine nature submissive. That is, not divine at all.

The orthodox speak of a covenant of Redemption in the eternal counsels of the Trinity, but we must understand that without doing injustice to the sovereignty of the Person of Christ. The covenant of Redemption is this. The Father, representing the Triune God, enters into covenant with the Son, representing his people. The Son will take upon himself human nature and suffer and die for the sins of his people. The Father will exalt him and give him a name which is above every name.

This also is a great mystery, and cannot be pried into any more that what is revealed. We know a little about the divine counsels, when the curtain is drawn back at creation and we hear, “Let us make man in our image.”

There was no authority and submission, no melding of diverse wills, no submitting personalities. A simple statement of divine intention.

Any submission in Jesus Christ is attributed to his office as our mediator, the god/man by virtue of the holy conception and birth of Christ in the womb of Mary the virgin.

For further information, please contact me. The creeds of the church are very helpful and clear.

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Eternal Subordination–It’s a salvation issue!

2014-07-03 10.30.43There has been much written lately about the Eternal Subordination of the Son, and much of it is technical. What I want to do in this post is to bring it down to the basics.

Here is the question: Is the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, the Jehovah God of Israel?

The church has always confessed that he is indeed Jehovah God. As Jehovah, He is the proper object of our prayers and sovereign over all things.

Paul explicitly states this truth in Romans 10:9-13

9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.
13 For a”everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

The two parts of Paul’s gospel are these: First, to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and, second, to believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead.

The question is, then, what does it mean to confess that Jesus is Lord? There are two possible interpretations if you take this verse by itself. First, it may mean to confess that Jesus is your master, whose law is to be obeyed. This is a possible meaning of the Greek “Kyrios”. It can mean a master, one who owns you and whose will is to be obeyed.

There is no question that this truth is taught concerning Jesus. But is that what is being taught in this particular verse?

Looking at the context, we see that something much deeper is being taught. Paul’s demonstration from the Old Testament scriptures of the truth he is teaching is found in verse 13: “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

In other words, Paul is teaching that the way that you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord is by calling upon him for salvation, as was foretold by the prophet Joel:

31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.
32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.

To make this simple, Paul quotes Joel 2:31-32 to bear witness to the gospel. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord – as is written in Joel 2 – you will be saved.

The word that Paul uses is Kyrios (Lord, master, ruler, owner). But the word that Joel uses is YHWH (Jehovah), which is the personal name of Israel’s covenant God, the creator of heaven and earth, sovereign God and the only object of our prayers, and the only redeemer. “Kyrios” can refer to a husband, an owner of slaves, a landlord, much like our word “lord”; but YHWH can only refer to the one true God.

When the Old Testament was translated into Greek, the Hebrew YHWH was translated by the word Kyrios (lord), much like our modern English Bibles. This follows the Jewish custom of preserving the sacred name of God. Whenever a Jew would come upon the word “YHWH” they would pronounce it “Adonai”, meaning “lord”. This custom continues to our day, whatever language one speaks.

But the Hebrew text itself in Joel 2 doesn’t say “lord”; it says YHWH. In our English versions every letter of LORD is in caps, indicating that it translates the Hebrew YHWH. This is important to our interpretation of this text.

So then the question of interpretation is this. Is Paul saying that salvation is calling Jesus our owner and master? Or is it calling Jesus YHWH, the creator and sustainer of the universe?

And by quoting Joel, Paul removes all doubt. Salvation depends upon calling upon Jesus the son of Mary, who also is YHWH the eternal second person of the divine trinity, to save us.

This calling must be done with the mouth and believed in the heart. When we call upon Jesus we are calling upon Jehovah God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

This is simply a sample passage of many. Throughout scripture, Jesus of Nazareth is identified as YHWH, the God of Israel. The heart of the Christian faith is that Jesus, who walked among men, who suffered and bled and died, who rose from the dead, is one and the same Jehovah God, who spoke to Israel from Mt. Sinai, who is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Since this is true, the following passages also apply to the person of Jesus Christ.

25 To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.
27 Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?
28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength (Isa 40:25-29 KJV)

 

18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. (Isa 45:18 KJV)

 

9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: (Isa 46:9-10 KJV)

 

13 Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?
14 With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?
(Isa 40:13-14 KJV)

 

11 My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass.
12 But thou, O LORD, shalt endure for ever; and thy remembrance unto all generations.
(Psa 102:11-12 KJV)

 

14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you (Exo 3:14 KJV)

 

8 Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.
9 Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works.
10 Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD.
(1Ch 16:8-10 KJV)

 

3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. (Psa 18:3 KJV)

How many more do we need? If Jesus is Jehovah, then he is taught of no one, submits to no one, does all his good pleasure, is the only source of our salvation, is the only name worthy to be praised, owes his origin to no one and is worthy of praise, glory, honor and blessing forever and ever.

If this is not the case, if Jesus is NOT Jehovah, then we are horrible blasphemers every time we sing praise to Him.

If he IS Jehovah, then he submits to no one.

Compare this, then, to current teachers of ESS – the Eternal Subordination of the Son:

The Father, then, is rightly the primary object of Christian prayer, since he is the one who, as designer and architect of all things, has highest authority and position over all things. The Son, for his part, accomplishes the atoning work by which alone he may bring those who believe in him to the Father (2 Cor 5:18-20; 1 Pet 3:18). The Son, then, is not primarily the object of the Christian’s prayers but rather the one through whom his prayers are brought to the Father. (Bruce Ware)

Though all three members of the Trinity are equal in power and in all other attributes, the Father has a greater authority. He has a leadership role among all the members of the Trinity that the Son and the Holy Spirit do not have. (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1994) p 459

In this chapter, I will attempt to show that this “temporary submission” view is incorrect. In contrast to that view, I will examine the meaning of the names “Father” and “Son” as well as 31 passages of Scripture that give evidence that God the Father has eternally had a role of leadership, initiation, and primary authority among the members of the Trinity, and that the Son has eternally been subject to the Father’s authority. (There are also good reasons to hold that the Holy Spirit has eternally been subject to the authority of the Father and of the Son, but it is not the focus of this essay.) (Wayne Grudem)

And rather than back down when confronted with the charge of anti-nicean trinitarianism (read “heresy”) they continue to teach this and dig themselves into deeper and deeper holes. Salvation is at stake. This is not simply a difference of opinion among Christians. This is the heart of the Christian faith.

You cannot say that Jesus has all the same attributes as the Father and ascribe to him an eternal subordination role. Either he is sovereign, or he is not. If he is Jehovah, he is sovereign. If he is sovereign, then he submits to no one, by definition.

This is the foundation of the faith, according to the scripture and the confession of the church. Anything else is another gospel. Let’s call it what it is. Damnable heresy. That isn’t me. That’s the bible. If Jesus is not the object of our prayers, according to Ware, then he is not God. You can quibble over the meanings of ontological and economical all you want, but the point is still there. Jesus is God or he is not. If he is God, he is the One we pray to. If he is not, then say so and be done with it.

But don’t call yourself a Christian.

There is much more to be said. But you, gentle reader, study this issue from the scriptures. Salvation is at stake. It is not a minor thing. If one is to be saved, according to Paul, one must confess with his mouth that Jesus is one and the same Jehovah, Covenant God of Israel.

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