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Mark McCulley
Judge by the Gospel


Hebrews 1:3

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Sometimes we do well simply to avoid heresy. I hope to do so in considering the relationship of the Father to the Son. I even hope to avoid all the controversy about the Sonship of Jesus before the incarnation. But I do want to think of the subordination of the Son to the Father, and even ask whether it is possible to speak of a submission of the Father to the Son.

When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all. (I Corinthians 15:28)

As I cannot think of a time when God was three “persons” but not Father, Son, and Spirit, I cannot conceive that God “all in all” might mean no more Father and Son. But what I can or cannot conceive matters little. Does the Son, being the glory of the Father, mean the Son has always been and will always be subordinate to the Father? Of course I am not speaking of ontology,  of  “essence,” or “worth to be worshipped,” or any such thing.  I am asking about role and function, and it gets practical if I ask if we  ever pray to the Son in the name of the Father. Do we even ever pray to the Son?

As my wife is my ‘brightness” (and those who know my wife AND ME will be quick to agree), I would desire that I too could be the “brightness” of my wife.  But is the Son the brightness of the Father so that the Father is NOT the brightness of the Son?  Surely we can make a distinction between the brightness and the glory, or between  “the only true God” and “Jesus Christ sent” (John 17:3), without denying the equality of the Son with the Father, but will that distinction always involve a role for the Son of subordination?

We can say that the Son is “the image” of the Father's person without denying that the Son is a “person.” We find similar language in I Cor 1:24  (the Son is ‘the power of God and the wisdom of God”) and in Colossians 1:15 (the Son is “the image of the invisible God”).  The Son is the brightness and the image of the Father, but this does not mean that the Son is only the "effect” and the Father the “cause.”

I don’t think the Father and Son relationship is about cause and effect. The glory is the brightness, and the brightness is the glory! The Son was not merely an instrument of the Father: the Son himself  “upholds all things by the word of his power.”

The Son himself is the Glory living with us:
Immanuel (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23).

To live in the new covenant is to have the Glory living in us. In other words, the Son lives in us!

But the Son is now (permanently, I think) incarnate. The Son still is and will always be “the express image of" the Father.  The Son also is not only the image but also created human in the image of God. The Son shows us both the glory of God and the glory of humanity. One way the Son does this is by being Helper, by being a servant who washes the feet of  human creatures. Thus the Son shows us how to be human. Thus the Son shows that the glory, even of God, is to save and serve human creatures! Thus the Son shows us there is no competition between the interests of God and the interests of human creatures. It is we, in our sin, who imagine a conflict between God’s pleasure and our pleasure.

Human creatures will never become God. But the Son has become a human creature. And the Son has not become human, but the Son HAS become incarnate. The Son has become the God-human. God is immortal and cannot die. But the Son has not only died but has been raised from the dead and now sits on the “right hand of majesty on high.”  The lamb sits on the throne, but the Father is at the center and the Son is at the right hand. So the Son teaches us not to be anxious or to compete to be at the center: nothing else matters except God being at the center and on the throne!

I think we all know there is a glory which the Son has now which is not SIMPLY  “the glory that I had in your presence before” (John 17:5).  In John 13:31, we hear the Son say not only that God has been glorified in the Son of Man, but also that “the Son of Man has been glorified.”  There is a glory for “having accomplished the work,” (John 17:4,5). Presumably the Son sat at “the right hand of the majesty” before the work, but the Son sits now at the right hand with the (additional?)  JOY which is His because he endured the cross and despised the shame (Heb. 12:2).

Who is to condemn? it is Christ Jesus, who died, who was raised, who is at the right hand....(Romans 8:34)

Who is sufficient to write of these things? But when I try to stop, I don't.

Isaiah 53:10-12:
he shall see his offspring
and shall prolong his days
he shall see light
he shall find satisfaction...
I will allot him a portion with the great...

In Philippians 2, when every tongue confesses that the Son is Lord, the Father will get the glory.

But I am reluctant to say that the Father will ever be "all in all" without the Son.  The body of the Son (us! the ecclesia) is the "fullness of him who fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:23).

Permanent incarnation, permanent subordination: I will be glad to hear your reactions at the end of the week.

May we pray to the Son?

In what sense would we ever say that the Father submits to the Son?

The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus; (Acts 3:13)

When will we learn that our glory is the glory of another?

When will we learn the glory of "being lifted up" on a cross?  (John 12:32)

Mark McCulley

Copyright © 2000 by Mark McCulley. All rights reserved.