This entry is part 1 of 9 in the series: Eternal Submission of the Son
- Grudem: the case for eternal submission of the Son
- Eternal submission: Liam Goligher says “No”
- Eternal subordination not a novel doctrine
- Some theses on the Father and the Son
- Eternal Submission of the Son: the main issues
- Subordinationism: what is it?
- Trinity: unity AND diversity
- Aimee Byrd: confused, or what?
- Is the Son eternally subject to the Father?
Wayne Grudem states that
there are no differences in deity, attributes, or essential nature between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each person is fully God and has all the attributes of God. The only distinctions between the members of the Trinity are in the ways they relate to each other and to the creation. In those relationships they carry out roles that are appropriate to each person.
(Systematic Theology, 1st ed., p251; 2nd ed., p300. Original emphasis)
For Grudem, then, there is an economic, but not an ontological, subordination within the Trinity.
All are agreed that the Son subjected himself to the Father during the days of his flesh.
We can agree with Giles on this point:
Virtually all Christians agree that in the incarnation the Son subordinated himself to the Father. He functionally assumed the role of a servant.
(Discovering Biblical Equality)
A classic text is Philippians 2:5-11, which teaches that Christ, though equal with God, voluntarily humbled himself, taking on the role of a servant, before being exalted to his position as Lord. This would be uncontroversial, except that Giles and others insist that this exhausts revealed truth on the matter, and excludes any notion of eternal subjection.
But Grudem argues from Scripture specifically for the eternal subordination of the Son along the following lines:
- The eternal names Father and Son indicate differences in the relationship.
- The Father chose us in the Son “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4; cf. Rom. 8:29; 2 Tim. 1:9; Rev. 13:8), indicating an eternal action in which the Father is the person who initiates or leads in choosing who will be saved.
- The Father “created the world” (Heb. 1:2) through the Son, for “all things were made through him” (John 1:3).
- The Father “gave his only Son” (John 3:16) and “sent forth his Son” into the world (Gal. 4:4), which means that before Christ took on a human nature he willingly obeyed the direction of the Father, who sent him into the world.
- The doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son indicates that the Son is eternally “from” the Father, which indicates that the Father has always had some kind of priority in the relationship.
- While Jesus was on earth, he said, “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38), and “I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (John 8:29).
- Shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus said, “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28).
- Now that Jesus has ascended into heaven, he “is interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34; cf. Heb. 7:25), which means he is bringing requests before the Father on our behalf.
- After Christ’s ascension, he received authority from the Father to pour out the Holy Spirit on the church (Acts 2:32–33).
- Jesus received revelation from the Father to give to John the predictions of the future in the book of Revelation…(Rev. 1:1).
- He now sits “at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3), and being seated at the right hand is a position of secondary authority, subordinate to the king.
- He has received from the Father the authority to execute final judgment (John 5:26–27; cf. Acts 10:42).
- After the final judgment, he will deliver the kingdom to God the Father, and then for all eternity “the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).
- Grudem cites D. A. Carson as noting the teaching of Scripture on the subordination of the Spirit to the Father (and to the Son), a relationship that cannot be explained in terms of incarnation, because the Spirit has no human nature.
(Systematic Theology, 2nd ed., p302f, somewhat abridged)