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1 Corinthians 11:3 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:57 mins 38 secs

Authority: Doctrine of the Sonship of Christ


1 Corinthians 11:3 NASB "But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ." This issue in this verse is authority. This is indicated by the use of the word KEPHALE [kefalh] which is translated "head." The word has two meanings. The first is the literal head that sits on top of your neck and the other meaning, the metaphorical meaning, came to mean authority or leadership. This is further emphasized in verse 10: "Therefore the woman ought to have {a symbol of} authority on her head, because of the angels." There is a lot of speculation as to what that last clause means but what it refers to is that authority is the foundational issue in the angelic conflict. It was the angel Lucifer who rebelled against God in eternity past and led a revolt against Him amongst the angels. The issue was authority, In the garden of Eden the issue was, again, authority; whether Adam and Isha would obey God and follow His authority even in the midst of the temptation that was offered. So in salvation and in sanctification the issue is recovering our orientation to the authority of God in every area of life, and this involves all areas of social life, including marriage; that there are role distinctions.

This is not something that was introduced after the fall. The real problem here has to do with understanding this relationship between Christ as the second person of the Trinity and God the Father, that there is clearly an authority relationship here indicated by the terminology of headship, and that the Father is the authority over Christ. We know from every passage of Scripture that teaches about the deity of Christ that He is undiminished deity. There is no inequality between Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, and God the Father, the first person of the Trinity. When we come to this passage, though, the issue that is often raised is: Does that headship begin in time at the incarnation when the second person of the Trinity takes on true humanity; does it begin at some time in eternity past in relationship to the plan of salvation; or does it relate in some way to Jesus Christ's role as the one who executes the plan of the Godhead in terms of human history? These are three options that are given. If any of these three options are taken then Christ's authority is something that is secondary, it is not related to the very nature of the Godhead. If Christ is under the headship or the authority of God the Father from eternity past, and as the second person of the Trinity if Jesus Christ is always and forever under the authority of God the Father, this doesn't mean that he is less equal than God the Father but that authority is something that is inherent in the very structure of reality because it is inherent in the Godhead itself.

These are two important distinctions that are made. If we take the first option, that somehow the headship of God the Father over Christ is limited to the plan of salvation or human history and the incarnation, then it has serious implications. Because then the argument would be that once the believer is truly sanctified this aspect of authority relationship, the authority of the male over the female becomes secondary and it is used to rationalize away the meaning of these passages. So we have to look at the Scriptures to understand this relationship between the second person of the Trinity and the first person of the Trinity to see of this authority relationship is eternal or if it is something that is simply related to the plan of God. This relates to the meaning of the term "Son of God."

There are two options given to the meaning of the term "Son of God." One is that this is a title that is related in some sense to His incarnation. It may be applied to the birth of Christ, it may be applied to the inauguration of His ministry under John the Baptist when God announced: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." That same announcement is made again at the Mount of Transfiguration. It is also applied to the resurrection and then it is applied in the future in the kingdom. Now this is one of the important things we have to realize. The term "Son of God" is applied at each of these points in the New Testament—to the conquest, when He comes back as the reigning King of kings and Lord of lords; it is applied in Hebrews chapter one to the resurrection of Christ; it is announced by God the Father at the Mount of Transfiguration when He is transformed into His divine glory that flashes forth and is witnessed by Peter, James and John; at His inauguration with John the Baptist, again God the Father announces: "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased." Is that the starting point? Or when Gabriel announces to Mary that she is going to give birth to a savior and he will be called the Son of the Most High? Are these the staring point of is being the Son of God or is He as He has always been, the Son of God? In other words, does he become the Son of God or has he always been the Son of God?

One important things to note: If He becomes the Son of God, if there wasn't a time when he wasn't the Son, He was just the second person in the Trinity, then there was a time when the Father wasn't the Father. Are these terms inherent or are they simply functional descriptions that come about in history? If they are inherent then what they demonstrate is that the term Son of God shows that Jesus Christ is eternally in an authority relationship with God the Father. And the point is to show that in the Trinity itself there is perfect equality of relationship but there is an authority relationship and each has distinct roles to fulfil, not simply in relationship to human history but because of the very nature of the Trinity itself.

What does "Son  of" mean? When we think of "son of" we think of physical generation and something that is finite, offspring or descendant of. But this phrase also has the meaning of "the order of." The meaning is not limited to physical offspring. For example, in 1 Kings 20:35: KJV "And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said unto his neighbour in the word of the LORD…" This man is talking about the fact that his father is a prophet. It is talking about him being in the order of the prophets. He belongs to the prophets. It is saying something about the organization to which he is a part. He is of the order of the prophets. The same type of phrase is used again in Nehemiah 12:28 NASB "So the sons of the singers were assembled from the district around Jerusalem, and from the villages of the Netophathites." The sons of the singers is not talking about men whose fathers were singers, it is talking about a designated group, they were the order of the singers. So when we look at the phrase "Son of God" it has this idea—the order of God or the order of deity, a claim to full undiminished deity. In Jewish usage the term "son of" indicates equality and identity of essence or nature—for example, if you were in the sons of the prophets they were all prophets, they all shared of the same office, the same ability—and did not imply essential or ontological subordination or inequality. Furthermore, the term "son of" indicates the essential character of someone. This was a standard Hebrew idiom. Acts 4:36 NASB "Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement)." That says something about Barnabas's character. He was someone who was very encouraging in the life of people. Furthermore, James and John were called the sons of thunder because that characterized their volatile, strong natures. Then in Galatians 3:7 NASB "Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham." This is not talking about physical descendants of Abraham, it is talking about the genuine spiritual sons of Abraham and who are characterized by Abraham's faith. Ephesians 2:2 NASB "in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience." This is talking about all unbelievers, they are characterized by disobedience because they are unregenerate, they have a sin nature which they operate on and which is always oriented towards independence and rebelliousness. John 17:12 NASB "While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled." This is a reference to Judas Iscariot. So the term does not mean descendant, it does not mean generation, it has to do with the essential character or classification of an individual.

The phrase "Son of God" had a strong meaning of kingship. This phrased doesn't just pop up in the New Testament, it has a history behind it from the Old Testament so we have to understand the Old Testament context if we are going to understand this term. Son of God relates, as we will, see to divine royalty. So it is not simply a phrase that indicates the deity of Christ but it also indicates His royalty. The first time we run across the phrase "son of" in terms of the son of David is in the passage related to the Davidic covenant in 2 Samuel 7:14ff. There God is speaking to David in relationship to his heir to be known later as the greater son of David. ""I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity [ref. to Solomon], I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, [15] but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him [the greater son of David], as I took {it} away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. [16] our house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever." So sonship here begins to take on a technical sense of royalty to the descendant of the king and the dynasty of David. This idea of sonship, then, and kingship is then behind the imagery of the Son in Psalm 2. Psalm 2 is a prophecy about the conquest of the Messianic King over all the nations. It is not fulfilled until Jesus Christ returns at the second coming to establish Himself as King of kings and Lord of lords over all the nations.

Psalm 2:1 NASB "Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing?" This is a characterization of what is taking place at the end of the Tribulation. The earth is in rebellion against God, the nations are in revolt against God and they are experiencing incredible judgments of God. The continue, in spite of all of these horrific disciplinary actions by God upon the earth, to raise their fists in rebellion against God. [2] "The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD [Yahweh] and against His Anointed [Mashiach] …" So here is a picture of the two persons of the Trinity. "… saying, [3] Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!" The essence of sin is vocalizing their rebellion against God. God's mandates are considered to be restrictions like prison chains, so they want to throw off the authority of God. The response from heaven: [4] "He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. [5] Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying, [6] But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain." Even though it is a past tense verb it is what is called a prophetic perfect because it is so certain to take place it is spoken as having already occurred. So the picture here, starting in verse 6 is a picture of the coronation of the King. What we have in the New Testament is the arrival of the King, the birth of the King, the announcement of the King, and the offer of the King during the first advent. When Jesus Christ came He offered the kingdom, He did not inaugurate the kingdom. [7] The announcement: "I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD [Yahweh]…" So the one speaking here is different from the one speaking in verse 6 where the "me" is God the Father speaking. He is the one who installed "My King"; it is not the King that is speaking in v.6, it is God the Father. Verse 7 is a quote from Meshiach: "I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD [Yahweh]: He said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.'" So the decree in v. 7 is a statement from Yahweh directed to Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, and the content of that decree is: "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You."

We have to do some study here to understand what is happening in this particular verse. The first thing we have to do is look at the meaning of the word "begotten." The New Testament word that is used here is more instructive than the Hebrew word. The Hebrew word is some form of yahad which has to do with giving birth. The Greek word is MONGENES [monogenhj], a compound word: mono = only; genes = generation, or kind. We use the word genus when we talk about a certain category of species, and that is the same etymological root here, and it has the idea of one of a kind, something that is unique. It is not talking about birth per se. So when we read in John 3:16 NASB "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son," it is His unique Son, a one-of-a-kind Son, not uniquely-born Son because as we will see the term only-begotten has to do with the fact that Jesus Christ is said to be eternally begotten. This is how it was stated sp precisely in the early creeds of the church—the Nicene Creed, the Council of Ephesus, and finally in the Chalcedonian Creed.

1)  The term monogenhj in the New Testament is used nine times. It is used of the widow's son, her only son, in Luke 7:2; of Jairus's only daughter in Luke 8:42; in reference to another only child in Luke 9:38; in Hebrews 11:14 it is used to refer to Isaac as the unique son of Abraham, the only son of Abraham. Five times it refers to Jesus Christ: John 1:14, 18; 3:`16, 18; 1 John 4:9.

2)  In the Old Testament it is used nine times in translating the Hebrew word Yahad, and each time it refers to an only child, and twice it refers to Isaac as he unique son of Abraham. What about Ishmael? Under ancient Near-Eastern law the son born of the slave woman did not have the same rights as the son of the wife, so there is the distinction there.

3)  The conclusion from an analysis of the use of this word is that the expression only-begotten refers not only to the only child but it also refers to the status of the child, that this is a distinct one-of-a-kind child. We see that with Isaac. When we talk of Jesus as the only-begotten of God we are not talking about His physical birth or incarnation, we are talking about His unique relationship to God the Father that goes throughout all of eternity.

When we come to Psalm 2:7 we have the Hebrew word yalad which is the qal stem is: "Today I have begotten You." This verb in the Hebrew is one of those words where the form can either be in the qal stem or in the hiphil stem. The qal stem basically indicates a declarative statement; the hiphil stem indicates a causative statement. They are not necessarily in contrast to one another because in many cases the hiphil stem also has a declarative meaning, it just tacks a causative and declarative statement together. What that means is that in Psalm 2:7 yalad, should be understood there as a hiphil and not a qal, and that would mean that it would be translated: "Today I have declared thy sonship [uniqueness]." It is not a reference to the time which He is begotten. "Today" indicates the time of the coronation. That was not the time that Jesus Christ was begotten of the Father. He is also said to be declared the begotten of the Father, as we have seen, at the Mount of Transfiguration, at His inauguration, and also at His birth. So it can't means at this particular time when this is announced at the end of the Tribulation that that is when He is begotten. So it is better to understand this as a hiphil: "Today I have declared your sonship." That makes better sense in the passage for six reasons;

a)  there is a synonymous parallelism in the text itself, and in Hebrew poetry they don't rhyme words, they rhyme ideas. If you have two stanzas in a verse the first stanza may be married in the second stanza, and that is called synonymous parallelism. If the two stanzas stand opposite of each other, that is called antonymic parallelism. Sometimes the second line expands the first line, and that is called emblematic parallelism. Here we have synonymous parallelism and the first line talks about the decree of the Lord and the second line indicates the content of that decree. It is parallel: 'You are My Son' is parallel to 'Today I have begotten You.' So the second clause there is parallel to 'You are My Son,' the declaration. Furthermore, this is seen in context, v. 6, as referring to the coronation and installation of the King on Mount Zion. It indicates that this is a declaration of His Sonship.

b)  The decree here is not a reference back to the eternal decree of God in eternity past but to the declaration in context. What is His decree? "Today I have begotten You." This is not a reference to the divine decrees.

c)  This day, today, refers to the day of the declaration and coronation of the King, which does not occur until the second coming.

d)  This verse is quoted in the New Testament in Acts 13:33-34 in reference to the resurrection of Christ. That does not mean that is when he is crowned but it is when He is resurrected He is declared at that time provisionally that He is the King. That is when he has victory over death. It is not talking about the incarnation in Acts 13, but the resurrection.

Psalm 2:8 NASB "'Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the {very} ends of the earth as Your possession." This verse suggests that the focus here is on the inheritance of the Son. First their had to be a formal recognition of Sonship before the heir could be announced. So vv. 6, 7 indicates the formal recognition of the Son; verse 8 then moves on to announcing His inheritance. And this is not fulfilled until Revelation chapter five where the scroll is the title deed to planet earth. So when we look at this phraseology, "Today I have begotten You," it is the day the Son receives the crown. Here we have the Sonship related to the coronation of the King, and this does not refer to the beginning of the incarnation but to the time when He comes in His glory to subdue the earth.

The conclusion from all of this is that the term "son" comes out of a background in the ancient Near East of the heir to the king ruling and subduing the earth. As time went by after the Davidic covenant it became clear that Solomon did not match up, Rehoboam certainly failed, Joash, Asaph, all of the kings of Israel failed to measure up to the promise of God, so there was no ideal king who could fill these shoes. Two psalms were written that showed this.

Psalm 45 looks forward to the ideal king: v.6 "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom." This verse is picked up in Hebrews chapter one by the writer of Hebrews to indicate the eternality of the throne of the Messiah. But remember, it does not begin until the second coming. Psalm 45:7 NASB "You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows." The King that is coming is no longer viewed as simply a human king but is addressed in v. 6 as God and referred to in v. 7 as in a unique relationship to God. So the question is who can be the ideal king. All of the descendants of David have failed, only God Himself could fulfil this role of being the perfect King.

How does this work itself out? Psalm 110:1 NASB "The LORD [Yahweh] says to my Lord: 'Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.'" In this particular passage that David is writing we have to ask the question: Did David have any higher human authority? No, the only higher authority than David was God. So David's Lord, the ADONAI there, has to refer to someone who is complete deity. This is a reference to that mysterious king figure in Psalm 45 who is also seen as being fully God. This is the one who is told: "Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet." The point is that by looking at Psalm 45 and Psalm 110 what we see is that these two themes of sonship and kingship are interrelated. When Jesus comes into history in he incarnation and he picks up the term Son of God it is not a term that was invented at that time, it indicates His incarnation and the beginning of His life. It is a term that is loaded with meaning. He is saying: "I am a King, I am David's son, and I am deity." He is claiming to be God's ordained King over all of the creation.

"Son of God" has a strong meaning for kingship and it is specifically tied to the Messianic King, the son of David. Then, when we connect this to Daniel 7 we see that it also is tied to the phrase Son of Man. Son of Man emphasizes His humanity; son of David indicates His royalty in relationship to Israel; Son of God indicates His eternal deity. So these three titles are interrelated and interconnected and all refer to the same person.

So now the question: When did Jesus become the Son of God? As we have seen, the options that people go to are the incarnation, the public presentation by John the Baptist, or later at His coronation. However, as we have seen, the term Son of God relates to Christ's essential deity and not to generation. It has to do with an eternal title: that He is for all eternity the Son of God. There never was a time when the second person of the Trinity was not the Son of God. For example, we are told that the Father sent Him. Was the Father the Father when he sent Him? Of course he was. When he sent Him it was before the incarnation. So of the Father was the Father before the incarnation then the Son was the Son before the incarnation. So Jesus Christ, then, is said to be the eternal Son of God is passages such as Galatians 4:4; Romans 8:3; Colossians 1:13-17. The eternal Son of God becomes the Son of God in relationship to His humanity at the incarnation, but the term Son of God relates primarily to His deity, not to His humanity. Son of Man indicates His humanity. The term Son of Man indicates His role in salvation but the term Son of God describes His relationship to the Father throughout all eternity. So throughout all eternity the Son of God is fully God. The Son of God is equal to the Father, yet the Son of God is also subordinate to God the Father in terms of the authority structure within the Trinity.

The conclusion is that when we come to 1 Corinthians 11:3 and we see that the head of Christ is God, that tells us that throughout all of eternity there is an authority structure within the Trinity and God the Son is under the authority of God the Father. This means that authority is not something that God placed into human society in order to deal with problems from sin, but that authority was present before the fall, there was an inherent authority structure in God's created order when he created the man first and then created the woman from the side of man. This is reflected even in the eternal relationship of the Godhead.

One of the problems that people have with authority is they think that authority itself is wrong because it is abused. The reason it is abused and distorted is because those who are in authority are fallen creatures and sinners. But whenever we violate authority, even when that authority is wrong or we think it is wrong, it is a victory for Satan in the angelic conflict. This is why the Scriptures make the point both here and in 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Peter 2 that the woman is to recognized the authority of her husband because of the angels, because this has a testimony in the angelic conflict. It has to do with role distinction and it doesn't have to do with essence.