The Eternal Sonship of Christ (2)
Des Moines, Iowa, November 20, 1894.
My dear J
... What you say of Mr. M is just about what I expected. It is independency-outside all, but wanting freedom to go among all, and no thought of being amenable to the government of God's house. That is the reason why "exclusivism" is disliked. Not that he would say so, perhaps, but that can be seen at the bottom. And then a wide scope is desired for the use of "my gift." Still I do not doubt Mr. M's piety if he has not changed in this respect. But his position is not obedience. There is a path of obedience for God's children in which they can meet together according to the Word, without being a sect in God's estimate, and when thus gathered, the Lord is in the midst and His authority must be owned....
I think I see where your difficulty is as to the use of the term "only begotten." It is in connecting the thought of "begetting" with the word "begotten." But I believe this misses the force of the word altogether. "Only begotten" must not be confounded either with "have... begotten" or "first begotten." "Have... begotten" is connected with time and an actual begetting. "First begotten" is His title in relation to the creature, and when as such He is brought into the world all the angels are called to worship Him. This shows His pre-eminence in that connection. Both these terms are in Heb. 1. John alone uses the term "only begotten" (John 1:14,18;3:16,18, and 1 John 4:9) as applied to the Person of the Son. This of itself is significant, as he in a special way goes back of time, and shows what was the glory of the Person of the Son in absolute deity. Others dwell on His official glories and relative titles, but John develops His personal and eternal glories. Even "Son of man which is in heaven" is His divine glory-glory that flows not from His being "Son of man," but from what He is as God-it is His Person but as divine, and so in heaven though bodily on earth.
If you take John 1:14, is it a time glory that faith beheld - a glory that began by His becoming flesh? Does not this take us away altogether from John's purpose, which is to declare the divine glory of His Person? John's object is to exalt His Person, not by occupying us with Him as Messiah, but with what He was before He came as such. He was "made flesh." This, of course, was time. But faith saw something more. In the One "tabernacling," faith saw a glory that was before the tabernacle, shining through it, as it were - "glory as of an only begotten with a father." I cannot think this was His being "begotten" as in Psa. 2.
In the use of the term "only begotten" John brings out two things-first, the glory of the Son; second God's love in giving His Son. He was not only a "Son" with the Father, but an "only begotten Son"; not only "the Son" "in the bosom of the Father," but "the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father." There is no thought of "begetting" in it at all, any more than when we say "the Son." It is the unique character of the relationship, as filling up the delight of the Father's heart. Then in John 3:16, and 1 John 4:9 there is the unfolding the greatness of God's love. He so loved the world that He gave-not only His Son, but-His "only begotten Son." Connect "only begotten" here with time, and the force of it is lost altogether.
I remember only one place outside John's writings where the term is used-Heb. 11. Abraham offered up his "only begotten." Even here it is no question of Isaac's having been "begotten" by Abraham. It is not the point. He was indeed begotten, but Ishmael was too - one just as much as the other, but Ishmael was not an "only begotten," Isaac was. He had a unique place in the heart of Abraham.
To refer to John 1:14 again-suppose it had been said, "We beheld His glory, the glory as of a son with a father," this would have been relationship; but when "only begotten" is added, it shows that He is alone in this. Or, if we say "the Son which is in the bosom of the Father" there would be no question as to its being His eternal relationship in that blessed position. But if we add "only begotten" would it reduce it to a time relationship? Would not this destroy the whole force and beauty of the passage? But when it is seen that where the term "only begotten" is used, it is never said He was begotten as such - that begetting is not the point - and that the term is used to express a relationship, which was His alone - an Only One - an Only Son - it enhances the Son's glory, and the Father's love in giving Him, and all is simple and beautiful.
It seems clear to me, and most precious, too, but I do not know that I can make others see it in the same way. I have no shadow of doubt on my mind as to it... It is an interesting subject, but one that must be looked at with care, and holy fear. Mere reason will go for nothing in handling it. We have the Spirit to give us the force of the Scriptures. And that we have through grace. I have put my thoughts down on paper because it is sometimes easier to weigh what is written than what is said by word of mouth....
From: Selected Ministry of A. H. Rule Volume 2
[see also: Letter no 1 ]
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