The Eternal Sonship of Christ

1)The Doctrine of Eternal Sonship


The doctrine of eternal Sonship declares that the Second Person of the triune Godhead has eternally existed as the Son. His Sonship had no beginning. There was never a time when He was not the Son of God. There has always been a Father/Son relationship in the Godhead. Sonship is not merely a title or role or function that Christ assumed at some point in history, but it involves the essential identity of the Second Person of the Godhead. He is and has always been the true, proper, actual Son of God.

2)The Denial of Eternal Sonship

Those who deny eternal Sonship teach that Christ became the Son at some point in history—at His incarnation, at His baptism, at His resurrection or at His exaltation. Most who deny eternal Sonship say that He became the Son at His birth (at the incarnation), and that prior to Bethlehem He was not the Son of God. They do not deny His deity or His eternality, but they deny His eternal Sonship. Some teach that the term “Son of God” means “subservient to God, less than God, inferior to God.” They believe that Christ's Sonship is external, extrinsic, and extraneous to the real, true, proper, and essential essence of who Jesus Christ really is. Thus they teach that Sonship was merely a role or a title or a function that Christ assumed at the incarnation. They also teach that the Father became the Father at the time of the incarnation.

Those who teach this view would include Ralph Wardlaw, Adam Clarke, Albert Barnes, Jimmy Swaggart, Finis J. Dake (Dake's Annotated Reference Bible), Walter Martin (author of Kingdom of the Cults). Popular Bible teacher John MacArthur, Jr. for many years denied the doctrine of the eternal Sonship of Christ, but he has changed his position and now embraces this doctrine.

3)The Defense of Eternal Sonship

(Biblical Evidence Showing That Christ Was the Son of God Even Prior to Bethlehem):


a)        The Bible clearly teaches that it was “the Son” who created all things, thus strongly implying that Christ was the Son of God at the time of creation (Col. 1:13,16; Heb. 1:2).


b)        The Bible teaches that the Son has eternally existed in the bosom of the Father. John 1:18 translated literally from the Greek says this: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, THE ONE EVER BEING (existing) IN THE BOSOM OF THE FATHER, He hath declared Him.”

c)        The many passages which speak of the Father SENDING the Son all imply that Christ existed as the Son prior to His mission (1 John 4:10,14; John 20:21; Gal. 4:4; etc.).


d)        The parable of the vineyard owner (Mark 12:1-12) points to Christ as being the Son prior to His coming into the world. In the parable, the son of the vineyard owner was the son long before he was sent on his mission.


e)        God gave His Son (John 3:16), implying that Christ was God's Son before He was given. God the Father did not give One who would become His Son, but He gave One who already was His Son.

f)         Christ had a relationship to the Father prior to the incarnation. John 16:28 teaches that Christ came forth from the Father, strongly implying that there was a Father/Son relationship before He came into this world. John 17:5,24 also indicates that there was a Father/Son relationship in the Godhead even before the creation of the world.


g)        The One who existed as the Son of God became the Son of David at the time of the incarnation (Rom. 1:3-4). The incarnation is when God became a man, it is not when God became the Son. He was God's Son from all eternity.

h)        Even in the Old Testament period we find evidence that God indeed had a Son, such as Proverbs 30:4 and Psalm 2:7-12 (compare also Daniel 3:25; Isaiah 9:6).


i)         Melchisedec was a type of the Son of God because He was “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life” (Heb. 7:3). As to His humanity Christ did have a mother, a genealogy, beginning of days, an end of His life (He died!), etc. His divine Sonship, however, has nothing to do with human parents, human lineage, human birth, or time measurements. It is an eternal Sonship.

4) The Meaning of the Term “Son of God.”

The important significance of this word is basically threefold:


a)        A son is a separate person from his father (see the clear distinction between the Father and Son as seen in John 5:19-22 and John 6:38-39).


b)        A son is the heir, not the servant, of his father. In contrast to his father’s servants, a son is his father's heir (see Matthew 21:33-39; Luke 15:11-32; Gal. 4:7; Heb. 3:5-6) In Hebrews 1:2-14 Christ is set forth as Son and Heir, whereas the angels are called servants (ministers). Thus subservience to one’s father is not associated with the Biblical idea of Sonship, and the term “Son of God” does not mean “subservient to God.”


c)        A son has the same nature as his father. To say that the Son of God has the same nature as God the Father is to say that Son is God (absolute deity). He is God (absolute deity) just as the Father is. The Jews knew that when Jesus said he was the Son of God He was claiming to have the same nature as God and to be equal with God (see John 5:17-18; John 10:33,36; Matthew 26:63-66). Since the expression “Son of God” indicates absolute deity and since Christ has always been deity, we can conclude that Christ has always been the Son of God. A person who claims that Christ became the Son of God at the incarnation and therefore was not the Son of God before His incarnation, should also deny the pre-incarnate deity of Christ in order to be consistent.

5) The Meaning of Psalm 2:7.


Psalm 2:7 does not militate against the eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ. It does not refer to a time when Christ became the Son of God through a begetting act of God. Instead it refers to the day of Jesus’ resurrection when God brought Him forth from the womb of the earth and thereby publicly decreed that He is who He always was—the Son of God (see Acts 13:33 and Romans 1:3-4). The declaring of God's decree in Psalm 2:7 will take place at the close of the great tribulation and will be Jesus’ way of asserting that He is the legitimate ruler of the world who has the right and authority to take over the earth.

Recommended for further study:


Zeller, George Zeller, and Showers, Renald E. The Eternal Sonship of Christ--A Timely Defense of this Vital Biblical Doctrine. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1993 (128 pages). To order this book, send $8.00 (shipping included) to The Middletown Bible Church, 349 East Street, Middletown, CT 06457.


Also recommended: 


Eternal Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ by J.C.Philpot (Old Paths Gospel Press, P.O. Box 318, Choteau, MT 59422).


The Son of God by J.G.Bellett (Bible Truth Publishers, 59 Industrial Rd., Addison, IL 60101).


The Son of His Love--Papers on Eternal Sonship by W.J.Hocking (Believer's Bookshelf, P.O. Box 261, Sunbury, PA 17801).


The Divine Sonship of Christ  by W.E.Vine (Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, Inc., 2527 Girard Ave, N., Minneaplis, MN 55411).

Other literature on related topics:

The Deity of Christ

The Teaching of John MacArthur (over 100 pages), $5.50. [If you just want his teachings on Christ’s Sonship, 28 pages, $1.50]. This is not available from the Website but can be ordered from the Middletown Bible Church (see address above).

Why the Middletown Bible Church Left the IFCA [PDF Version]


                                                                                                -George Zeller

The Middletown Bible Church
349 East Street
Middletown, CT 06457
(860) 346-0907

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