13. — The Son, Himself God and Jehovah, as God's Spokesman

In Scripture, the name of Son sets forth both personal relationship and special representation. For instance, in John's writings, the Sonship of Christ especially connotes His personal relationship to the Father, Whose love rested upon Him before the foundation of the world (John 17:24). In Hebrews, the Sonship of Christ is especially associated with His perfect revelation and representation of God to men, and also with His perfect administration of divine government.

The Son is the One in and by Whom God has now spoken, Whose sceptre is a sceptre of equity, and Whose throne is for ever and ever (Heb. 1:2, 8).

The Sonship of God's Spokesman is therefore the keynote of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and this relationship imparts an infinite value to His past sacrificial offering and His present priestly service. For this reason Christianity is shown to excel and supersede the Levitical system, ordained through angels as it was, in the hand of a mediator, Moses (Gal. 3:19). Christ, because of His inherent dignity as Son, is the Mediator of a better covenant which is established on the footing of better promises (Heb. 8:6).

First Son, then Spokesman

All the superstructure of Christ's mediatorial service, as expounded in the Epistle to the Hebrews, is founded upon the truth of His Sonship. Accordingly, the Deity of the Son is elaborately demonstrated in the forefront of the Epistle. However great had been the former messengers of God, and whatever variety was in their communications, they all are now surpassed by the advent of the Son. "God having spoken in many parts and in many ways formerly to the fathers in the prophets, at the end of these days has spoken to us in [the person of the] Son" (Heb. 1:1, 2).*

{*Appendix D — Jesus Christ is called Son, but not Child of God

(placed here for convenience)

Jesus is never called teknon but whyos. It would be derogatory to, and a denial of, His eternal glory to speak of Him as God's teknon (child).* But He is Son (whyos) in more senses than one.

[*In the phrase, "Thy Holy Child" (Acts 4:27, 30, A.V.), pais not teknon occurs in the original, and therefore "Servant" is a more correct translation than "Child."]

He is Son of God as born in time and viewed on earth in His predicted association with Israel as their Messiah and King (Psalm 2). He is determined Son of God in power by resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4).

And what is more important than all, and the basis of all, He is Son of God, Only-begotten Son in the Father's bosom, entirely apart from the time of His manifestation or the results of His work of redemption, Son of the Father in His own nature and personal relationship in that eternal subsistence which is essential to the Godhead and characteristic of it. For this last we have to consult the Gospel and Epistles of John.

Nothing therefore can be more correct than the language of all the inspired writers; nothing more feeble than its appreciation by theological writers even with the facts and words before their eyes. But the source of their failure is quite intelligible: a sense of Christ's glory as inadequate as of the derived privileges of the Christian. W.K.}

Now we see that directly the Son is mentioned (vers. 1, 2) in company with the prophets of olden time, the Spirit proclaims the all-surpassing personal glories of the Son that there may be no confusion of rank in the minds of any of the saints. As on the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elias, the law and the prophets, both vanish that Jesus may be seen alone in His unapproachable personal glory, of which the Father's voice out of the cloud witnesses, so in this first chapter the Spirit witnesses that the Son is God and Jehovah, and is infinitely superior to the angels of heaven and the prophets of Israel, the Creator being necessarily far above the most exalted of His creatures.

The Son Who now is God's Speaker is Himself declared to be the One Whom the Spirit of God in Psalm 45 addressed as God (Ps. 45:8) "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." In like manner, the Spirit had, "as to the Son," said in Psalm 102, "Thou, Lord (Jehovah), in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth and the heavens are the works of Thine hands" (Ps. 102:10).

The names and functions of the Godhead are here attributed by the Holy Spirit to God's Spokesman. "Son" denotes His personal relationship to the One Who sent Him, while "Spokesman" denotes His relationship to those to whom He came and spoke. He was deputed of God to be Spokesman, but not to be Son, for He was the Son in His own Person and nature before all worlds. He was first Son, then Spokesman.

Of old, in a subsidiary way, Aaron was deputed by Jehovah to be the "spokesman" of Moses to the people of Israel (Ex. 4:14-16). He was to be to Moses "instead of a mouth," and Moses was to be to him "instead of God." Aaron was formally appointed to the office of an intermediary between Moses and the people, and was therefore Moses' spokesman. But his original personal relationship to Moses was that of brother, and Jehovah described him as "Aaron the Levite thy brother." Aaron was first brother, then spokesman.

This historical incident from Exodus may therefore be used to illustrate the truth of Hebrews 1. Aaron was the voice of Moses to Pharaoh (Ex. 7:1, 2). Moreover, the family relationship between the two men consolidated this special service of communicating the commands of Jehovah to the king of Egypt. Aaron was first the brother of Moses, and then his spokesman. Christ was first Son, and then God's Spokesman.

The Servants and the Son in Christ's Parable

In the main feature of the Holy Spirit's opening address (Heb. 1), there is a correspondence between one of the Lord's parables spoken to the Jewish leaders and the Epistle written to the Jewish believers. In both the parable and the Epistle extreme emphasis is laid upon the coming of the Son. The authority and glory of God's New Testament message takes its unique character from the personal glory of the Messenger. How, indeed, could it be otherwise than unparalleled when Jehovah Himself became His own Messenger?

The Lord when challenged by the high priest confessed Himself to be the Christ, the Son of the Blessed (Mark 14:61), but He had very shortly before that occasion, while teaching in the temple-courts, spoken to the Jews of His Sonship.

During the last week of His ministry in Jerusalem, our Lord illustrated His own rejection and death by the parable of the wicked husbandmen and their ill-treatment first of the servants and then of the son sent to them by the owner of the vineyard (Matt. 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19). This parable formed part of the Lord's final appealing testimony to the chief priests and elders of the people. It contained a solemn warning, too, for it showed that they (the builders) would refuse the Stone Jehovah laid in Zion, but that He, to their confusion and utter destruction, would make that despised Stone the exalted Cornerstone (Luke 20:16-19).

In this brief pictorial summary of God's dealings with Israel as a nation set apart, sheltered, and cultivated to bear fruit that should be a joy to Him (Isa. 5), the Lord so worded the parable that we may observe the marked fundamental distinction, as well as the general resemblance, between the servants and the son sent to receive the fruits of the vineyard.

There is resemblance, in that both servants and son were "sent," that is, they were both accredited messengers of the owner. In the manner of their reception there is a further resemblance, for both were shockingly handled and murdered by the husbandmen.

But the wide distinction between the servants and the son lay, not in the office, but in the person of the latter. While both were delegates as to office, the one sent "last of all" was the son, his "one son, his well-beloved" (Mark). The son was one whom the husbandmen were to "reverence," a respect not due to servants (Rev. 22:8, 9). By reason of his filial dignity as the only son, he had an unequalled personal standing. He was the "heir," as the husbandmen recognized, and put him to death on that very account. They said, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on the inheritance."

How vividly our Lord portrayed in this parable the awful sin of the Jews in crucifying the Son of God and putting Him to open shame (Heb. 6:6)!

Crucifying the Son of God

This parable, therefore, was a testimony of the terrible sin of the Jews against the Son, rendered by Him in the ears of its responsible perpetrators on the very eve of its accomplishment. In the past the children of Israel had sinned against the many servants of God by whom He had spoken to them, but now they were about to lay violent hands upon the Son of God. That evil generation was guilty in respect of all the righteous blood shed upon the earth from Abel to Zacharias, the son of Barachias (Matt. 23:34, 35) but now as a climax they were about to deny and slay Him Who was pre-eminently the Holy and Righteous One (Acts 3:14, 15).

For those former outrages upon God's servants, the sword of His just retribution remained sheathed, but when the Jews should have committed the more determined and deadly sin against the Son, that sword would awake, and the rebellious husbandmen should not escape. Because they cast the Son and Heir out of the vineyard and slew Him, thus treading under foot the Son of God (cp. Heb. 10:29) , Jerusalem is even now trodden under foot by the Gentiles (Luke 21:24) , while in the future the terrible unsparing vintage judgments, now held in abeyance, will fall upon the guilty people from the hand of God (Rev. 14).

Not only as their King, but as the Son, the Jews refused their Messiah. When Pilate was disposed to release Him, they insisted upon His crucifixion, saying, "We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God" (John 19:7). In thus denying before the Gentiles the Son, they denied the Father also, even as the Son Himself said of them, "Now have they both seen and hated both Me and My Father" (John 15:21).

The Son is called Well-beloved, not the Servants

According to the terms used in the parable, the son, though commissioned for service in the vineyard like the servants, was in an entirely different category from them. They were bond-slaves (douloi) , but a son is not a servant (doulos) in status; he is heir and "lord of all" (Gal. 4:1, 7). The son by his relationship belonged to the innermost and most dignified circle of the family, to which the servants could offer no title. Therefore, in coming into the vineyard as son, he came with full proprietary rights, not only to the fruits, but to the vineyard itself. His claims were just, and were presented in his own absolute right, as well as in that of the father. According to the truth conveyed by the parable, the Servant-Son of God appeared in the midst of the husbandmen as "the Just One," of Whom they became "the betrayers and murderers," as Stephen said (Acts 7:52).

Further, love is an element revealed in this parable, as well as the Son's rightful authority. The father sent his "beloved" son (Luke 20:13). But the father's love for that son had no softening effect upon the husbandmen. They, however, discerned the identity of the son, saying, "This is the heir"; and reasoning about the heirship (Luke 20:14) , they conspired to slay him on that account. If they thought at all that he was the father's "well-beloved" (Mark 12:6), that thought did but inflame their anger towards him (John 5:18).

Historically, we learn from the Gospels that it was no matter of interest or knowledge to the unbelieving Jews among whom the Lord ministered that the Father loved the Son Whom He had sent to them. But how ineffable was that love between Themselves! By that intimate bond of reciprocal love ever existing in the Godhead, the Son when manifested on earth was everything to the Father, and the Father was all things to the Son.

Why then, we may ask, should Jehovah now made known as the Father send His only Son, His well-beloved, to the vineyard, when in past days His bondslaves had gone there only at the expense of their honour and their lives? Ah, the sending of the Son of His love proved the patience of God the Father with the refractory husbandmen, and also His earnest desire that when they saw His Son they might "reverence" Him and behave themselves righteously in respect of the vineyard with which He had entrusted them. Alas, how it proved also the inveteracy of the evil in the hearts of the husbandmen!

First Son, then Servant

The love, then, of God the Father was in exercise towards the Son, though not towards the servants who preceded Him in coming to the vineyard. He was the well-beloved Son, not they. But when did this love of the Father for the Son first arise? The thought is incredible that there ever was a moment when the love of God the Father did not flow out to the Son. "I am Jehovah, I change not" (Mal. 3:6).

Did the One Who was sent "last of all" to the vineyard on a servant's errand begin to be the Son of the Father at the moment when He entered the vineyard as Servant to do the will of Him Who sent Him? Did the love of God the Father for the Son begin at His incarnation? Or rather, since "God is love," is not Their mutual love a necessary activity of Their nature and relationship in the Deity, and therefore without beginning or ending? Scripture teaches that this uncaused spontaneity is the distinguishing character of divine love, placing it in the utmost contrast with all human love.

Clearly, in His parable, our Lord spoke of love and filial relationship making this contrast between the Son and the servants. The fact of His Sonship, which previously existed, enhanced His embassy beyond all comparison. No greater ambassador than "God in Christ" could be sent to man.

For the execution of this mission, then, the Son was pleased to become a Servant. He was, therefore, the Son before He took upon Himself "the form of a servant" (doulos). He was the Son from all eternity, but He became the Servant in the fullness of the time. Because of this humiliation, there never could be such a Servant as He, blessed be His holy name for ever and ever.

Our Lord in this parable lays stress upon the fact that the Son was such before He was sent: "Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send My beloved Son" (Luke 20:13). The words show that, looking on to the future, the Owner planned to send One Whom He could, before sending, describe as "My beloved Son."* So that the One Who was deputed to take up the "mediatorial office" so soon as "the fullness of the time was come" (Gal. 4:4) was God's beloved Son. He was first the Son, then the Servant.

{*There seems to be prophetical allusion to this love in the Godhead in the terms of affection, "My well-beloved" and "My beloved," used at the beginning of Jehovah's song about His vineyard (Isa. 5:1-7): "Now will I sing to My well-beloved a song of My beloved touching His vineyard. My well-beloved hath a vineyard. . . ." Jehovah sings the song (ver. 1) , and the vineyard, the house of Israel, belongs to Him (ver. 7), and to His beloved also (ver. 1). The title, "well-beloved" (y'deed), points to the Messiah and is embodied in Jehovah's name for Solomon (Jedidiah), the "beloved of his God" (2 Sam. 12:25 Neh. 13:26), type of Him Who was the true Heir of Jehovah's vineyard (Mark 12:6, 7).

The other term, "My beloved" (dohd), in Isa. 5:1 seems also to apply to the Messiah. The word occurs frequently (about thirty times) in the Song of Solomon, but nowhere else in the Old Testament, with the exalted meaning of divine love. There is, therefore, a close link between Jehovah's song of the vineyard in Isaiah and the Lord's parable of the vineyard in the Gospels.}

The Son and the Angels

We now turn again to Hebrews 1. The Sonship of the Messiah, which truth, as we have seen, is taught parabolically in the Gospels, is also affirmed doctrinally at the outset of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and is there accompanied by a wealth of testimony selected by the Holy Spirit from His own written records in the Old Testament concerning the Saviour Who was to come. In the parable, the Son is seen to be superior to God's servants on earth, and in the Epistle to God's angels in heaven.

This pre-eminence in the heaven of heavens belongs to the Son in virtue of His own Person and Name, quite apart from what is due to Him in virtue of His mediatorial work. It is mentioned that He has made purification for sins (ver. 3), but it is not stated here that in consequence of that purgation God has exalted Him to His right hand, as announced elsewhere.

In this passage, the Son takes His exalted place of pre-eminence in virtue of His own right. In Eph. 1:17-23, God, the Father of glory, sets Him down at His right hand, but here the Son in His own glory sets Himself down in the place of supreme Majesty, far removed above all angelic beings. He, "having made [by Himself] the purification of sins, set Himself down on the right hand of the Greatness on high, taking a place by so much better than the angels, as He inherits a name more excellent than they" (vers. 3, 4). His "more excellent" name of Son entitles Him to this peerless rank, and this name is His by personal right — by inheritance.

Is it asked, How far is the Son above the angels? What is the degree of His pre-eminence? How much "better" than they? The answer is, By so much as the glory of the name of the Son exceeds that of angels. So far in His nature as God is above the creatures of His hand, so far in His nature is the Son Who made the worlds above the angels. And this exalted dignity is declared to be due to Him because of His "more excellent" name and apart from His work of atonement, the worth of which is immeasurable too.

Moreover, the apostle proceeds to show from the scriptures that God said to the Son what He never said to angels. God witnessed to His Sonship both as a never-changing fact from all eternity, and also as equally true in the amazing stoop of incarnation. Speaking to Him, Jehovah said, "Thou art My Son;" and, speaking of Him, Jehovah said, "He shall be to Me a Son" (ver. 5). The first quotation is expressed in the abstract, timeless present: "Thou art . . ." acknowledging the Son in the eternal Godhead. The second quotation relates to the Son incarnate, and the Gospel narratives show how amply this promise was fulfilled to Him during the days of His dependence: "I will be to Him for Father, and He shall be to Me for Son." No angel knew such relationship as this.

Further, angels themselves never are to be worshipped, but even they, whatever their high celestial dignity, must worship God's Spokesman. This homage the angels are commanded to render to the incarnate Son, the Firstborn, whenever He is brought into this habitable world (ver. 6). Angels will be sent to testify to man in the future (see Revelation, passim), as they were in past times (see O. Test., passim), and as indeed, even now, they are sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14). But, however great their heavenly rank, when the Son is made a little lower than they for the suffering of death (Heb. 2:7, 9) , they must still worship Him, the Son of man, as the Eternal Son, Whose Deity they know.

What Witness to the Eternal Sonship is given in Hebrews 1?

The chapter shows conclusively that the Nazarene despised and crucified by the Jews was the Son of God. In Him God had now spoken fully and finally, because, being Son, He was abundantly competent to represent God in authority and government. And this competency, which is essentially involved in Sonship, is shown to be His intrinsically. Being Son absolutely, He carried that relation of Son in power and grace with Him for His mediatorial work.

(1) The eternity of the Sonship is shown by His creation of the worlds (Heb. 1:2). He made the worlds or aions, that is, all the time-phases and the space-phases of the universe (John 1:3; Col. 1:16), fulfilling God's will thereby. The work of creation was wrought through or by (dia) Him Who is called Son. In His pre-incarnate Deity, therefore, the Son acted as God's efficient co-operating Agent in making the worlds.

Since the Holy Spirit attributes creatorial activity to the Son, His existence must have preceded that of the universe which He called into being. The Son Who made purification for sins had previously made the worlds, and in both transactions He wrought mediately, in the former before incarnation, and in the latter after incarnation.

(2) The eternity of the Sonship is involved in His inherent ability to reveal God (Heb. 1:3). This ability is associated with His "Being," that is, His eternal continuous existence: being the effulgence of God's glory and the very impress or expression of God's substance or essential nature, as well as upholding the universe by the word of His power.

These glories of the Son arise from His own proper nature, and are therefore associated with the eternity of His Being, and they cannot be restricted to His incarnate condition. In the Godhead the Son is the outshining of God's glory and the expression of His substance, as truly as in manhood. What stupendous import the apprehension of this truth adds to the words, "God . . . has spoken to us in [the person of the] Son"!

(3) The eternity of the Sonship is taught by the fact that the Son is personally addressed as God and as Jehovah (Heb. 1:8-12). These names are applied prophetically to the Son in His kingdom (Ps. 45), and in His affliction and humiliation (Ps. 102), but their application to Him in those circumstances proves that these names are His by inherent right, and were not acquired at His incarnation. For if the Son was at all entitled to the name, God, and to the name, Jehovah, He was so entitled from all eternity. The divine Name is not transferable: "I am Jehovah, that is My Name; and My glory will I not give to another" (Isa. 42:8).