Even though passages likecannot be directly quoted to prove the doctrine of the eternal Fatherhood of the first person of the Holy Trinity, and of eternal generation; and even though they refer also to David, and to the resurrection of Christ, yet there can be no doubt about the fact that in last analysis they do speak of that eternal Fatherhood. The Church is not in error when she quotes these words as proof of the eternal generation of the Son. The fatherhood of God with relation to the “holy child Jesus” has its root and basis in the eternal fatherhood of the first person in relation to the second. This may, first of all, be considered as following from the fact that God by His relation to the creature does not become what He is not eternally in Himself. That would make God dependent on His own creation. He is the absolutely self-sufficient One. He has no need of the creature in any sense. Whatever He is in relation to the creature, He is first and eternally in Himself. This is also true of His fatherhood. He did not become Father through His relation to Christ as the Mediator, nor through His relation to creation in general, nor through His relation to His people in Christ Jesus. He is Father, eternally, perfectly, within His own being, and all other fatherhood of God is only a reflection of His own divine and eternal fatherhood. It is this truth which the Church has sought to maintain and to express, when she spoke of eternal generation.
But this truth is also abundantly evident from other parts of Holy Writ. Thus Scripture calls the second person of the Holy Trinity the Word of God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.”. This term itself, the Word, is significant. With us speech is the expression of what we conceive in our mind. Only, with us speech: (1) Consists of many words; (2) We speak of many things; (3) Our speech is but for a moment; (4) And our speech is not causative, it does not bring forth anything; it expresses what is, it never causes to be what is not. However, with God this is different. For with Him: (1) Is the Word, the one expression of the infinite fullness of all that is in God. God conceives His own glorious, infinite fullness, and that divine conception is expressed in the Word. (2) Is the speech concerning Himself. Of whom shall the eternal, self-sufficient God speak but of Himself? Even creation is God’s manifold speech concerning Himself. But the Son of God is His eternal, infinite Word, which God speaks of Himself and unto Himself. That one, eternal Word is the Word which God addresses to Himself, and which only He can hear and understand. This latter idea is beautifully expressed in the text from John quoted above. For the Word was with God, He was eternally toward God, He is the Word that faces God (pros ton Theon). (3) Is the eternal speech. The Word is spoken within the divine Being, for the Word was God. It is, therefore, spoken eternally and it is the Word exactly by virtue of its being spoken constantly. It is eternally perfect, full, complete, yet never so that it subsists apart from the Speaker. (4) Is the causative Word, the Word that brings forth, that gives subsistence, life. He so speaks that the Word is also God, and, moreover, a subsistence, a hypostasis, a person, Who Himself speaks, creates, lives. . In this term, the Word, therefore, we have an indication of an act that is performed within the divine being, an eternal act, that is always perfect and complete, yet never ceases to be performed, and through which someone receives subsistence as God, and with God. And this is exactly what is meant by the eternal Fatherhood of the first person of the Holy Trinity, generating the Son eternally.
Moreover, the Bible speaks of Christ as the only begotten Son. For “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (mongenous para Patros). For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son (ton Huion ton monogenee), that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”. And it is even very probable that should be read as follows: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten God, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” And in : “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Many other passages might be quoted to prove this unique Sonship of Christ. The devil does not speak of a general and creaturely sonship when he tempts the Christ, and says to Him: “If thou art the Son of God,”’ for on the assumption that this is true he expects Him to be able to command the very stones that they become bread. The hostile Jews Understand very well that when Christ speaks Of Odd as His Father He does so in an altogether unique sense of the Word, for they accuse Him of blasphemy, because He makes Himself equal with God. And the disciples confess Him to be the Son of God in such a way that they plainly witness of His essential divinity: But we are not now speaking of the unique Sonship of the historical Jesus, or of Christ, but of the Fatherhood of the first begotten of the Holy Trinity With relation to the only begotten Son. And for this the terms “the only begotten Son,” and “the only begotten God,” are very significant. For they teach us: (1) That in distinction from all ether sonship there is one Son that is “begotten” by a unique act of the Father. What is it to beget? It is to bring forth a being like unto oneself. Adam was the son of God ( ) by reason of the fact that God begat him, i.e. He created him after His own image: there was a creaturely likeness of God in man. And of Adam we read: ‘‘And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image, and called his name Seth,” This, then, is the idea of generation. It is an act of love whereby one as it were reproduces himself in another, begets an individual like unto himself, in his own image. Now there is an infinite difference between God’s act of begetting or generation and that of man. Fatherhood among men cannot function alone: it requires motherhood; but the Fatherhood of the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is perfect in itself: the Father begets or generates the Son of Himself. With us the act of generation is but for a moment, and the son we beget does not receive his continued subsistence by a continued act of generation on our part. But God is eternally Father: He generates the Son by an act of infinite love from everlasting to everlasting. Not for one moment does the first person of the Holy Trinity cease to be Father. With us the likeness of the being which we give subsistence through generation is very imperfect, and very much in part. But the likeness produced through God’s act of eternal generation is complete and absolutely perfect. For, finally, with us generation means not only that we produce another person, but that person is also a separate being; but with God the act of generation takes place within the divine Being, and the person of the Son is essentially one with the Father, and never separated from Him. He is in the bosom of the Father. He is the only begotten God! And (2) that in the act of the generation of this only begotten Son the whole infinite Being of God is active, the first person is Father in the whole divine nature with all its infinite perfections: God is wholly Father, just as He is wholly Son, and wholly Spirit; yet so that God the Father is never God the Son, nor God the Spirit.
In the same direction point all those passages that speak of Christ as the image, the express image of his person, the brightness of his glory. In the introductory verses of the epistle to the Hebrews this is especially clear and emphatic: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last times spoken unto us by His Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory (apaugasma tees doxees), and the express image of his person (charakteer tees hupostaseoos autou), and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.” It is true that even these words must be read and explained with discrimination. They do not merely speak of the glory of the eternal Son of the Father; they also speak of the unique glory of the Mediator in His human nature. For, to be sure, it was in His human nature that He purged our sins, that He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high, and that He was so much better than the angels as He obtained a more excellent name than they. But all this has its root and eternal background in the glory of the eternal Son of God. For only of the divine 43on it could be said that He upholds all things by the word of His power, that by Him the worlds are made, and that all the angels of God must worship Him. Especially this last is significant, not only because worship is a divine prerogative, God only may be worshipped, but also because these words really identify this Son with God. They are quotations from, and , as they are translated in the Septuagint. We need not enter into the somewhat difficult question in how far they may be considered literal quotations. The point is, that the Old Testament passages refer to God; and what is there predicated of God is here applied directly to the Son.
Now, this Son is called: “the brightness of his glory,” and “the express image of his person.” It is especially these terms that are of significance for the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God, and of eternal generation. The Son is the brightness of the glory of God. Now, the glory of God is the radiance of all His infinite virtues. God is good. He is infinitely good. He is the implication of all infinite perfections. Of this perfection, and that, too, exactly because it is infinite, the radiance is called glory. Of this glory, and hence of all the divine perfections, Christ is said to be the “brightness.” The original word used here is apaugasma. The word may mean either the emitting of light or brightness, as the rays of the sun are the brightness of the sun, or it may signify the reflection caused by that emitted light, effulgence or refulgence, radiance or reflection. The latter is probably the correct interpretation of the term. For our present purpose it makes no difference, however, which of these two meanings is accepted as the correct one, for in both instances it suggests the act of eternal generation. With respect to the Son the term expresses: (1) the idea of distinct personal subsistence: the Son subsists as the reflection of the Father’s glory; (2) the idea of perfect and complete resemblance: the Son is the reflection of the glory of God, all the divine perfections are reflected in Him; and (3) the idea constant derivation, for the reflection is caused by the constant emittance of the light it reflects. But especially his later notion signifies with respect to the Father, that from Him proceeds this constant radiance that is reflected in the Son. Just as the light radiates constantly from the sun, and reflects itself in many objects, so the glory of God radiates eternally from the Father and causes the perfect and infinite reflection which is the Son. The Son, therefore, with relation to the Father, is Light of Light, and the shining forth of that Light within the divine essence that gives subsistence to the reflection in the person of the Son is called eternal generation.
Somewhat different is the notion expressed by the words: “the express image of his person.” It is probably better to translate: “the express image of his essence.” The word hypostasis assumed the meaning of person, or subsistence in the language of the Church in later ages, but it is at least doubtful whether it had this connotation in the usage of the apostles. The meaning, therefore, is that Christ is the express image of the Being of God. The word used for “express image” is charakteer, an impress made in wax. And although this term does not suggest as beautifully as that of “the reflected brightness of his glory,” the act of eternal generation on the part of the Father, yet it expresses: (1) that the Son is the full and exact image of the Father; (2) that He derives His personal subsistence as the image of God within the divine Essence from the Father, Who makes the impress. God, therefore, is the eternal Father, apart from any relation to the creature, and from everlasting to everlasting He beholds His own image and reflection in the person of the Son.
In this connection we cannot refrain from calling attention to one more passage of Scripture. We mean that profound and glorious description of the immense contrast between the eternal and essential glory of the God in divine nature, and the deep and exhaustive humiliation of that same Son in human nature, which is found in: “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” We now have to do only with the first part: “Who being in the form of God.” But how could one, dealing with this passage at all, refrain from remarking upon the tremendous contrast that is here pictured, the amazing humiliation that is here described, the utter self-negation of a perfect obedience that is here mentioned. Being in the form of God! O, in order to visualize a little of the awful self-humiliation of Christ described in these verses, we must not carry any time element into this particular expression, as if Christ once was in the form of God, and then, at His incarnation discarded that form. No, Christ is, eternally subsists in the form of God in the divine nature, and He did not cease to be in that form of God at the moment of His incarnation, even though then He also appeared in the form of man. He is, according to the divine nature in the form of God, when as a little babe He lies in Bethlehem’s manger, when He walks about in the form of a servant, when He is seen in the likeness of man, when He is abused, mocked, maltreated, spit upon, captured, scourged, condemned, crucified. Being in the form of God in the divine nature, eternally being in the bosom of the Father, He emptied Himself completely in the human nature, and became obedient unto the death of the cross! He is in the form of God. That form of God expresses approximately the same as the apaugasma, the reflection, and the charakteer, the express image, of . It is the Being reflected. It is the form that presupposes the Being, that is the expression of the Being. As Being and Form belong together, as the one is the expression of the other, so the Father and the Son belong together, as two subsistences in the same essence. The Father is He that eternally forms, the Son is He that eternally is formed. Yet, although the Father forms eternally, yet the act of formation is eternally perfect and complete. And although the Son is eternally formed, yet the form of the Son is eternally finished by the eternal act of the Father’s formation. God is the eternal, the infinitely perfect Father in Himself with relation to the eternal, only begotten God!
Finally, we must call attention to: “For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” Also these words have reference to an eternal act of the Father with relation to the Son within the divine essence. It is true that some have denied this, and explain the words as if they had reference to God’s giving life to the Mediator in His human nature. They point especially to the following verse, which speaks of the Father’s having given Christ, and that, too, as the Son of man, authority to execute judgment. But, although it may be granted that vs. 27 refers to Christ in His human nature, this cannot possibly be adduced as a ground to interpret vs. 26 as also referring to “the Son of man.” The two verses yield a very natural sense when vs. 26 is understood as referring to the act of the Father whereby He eternally gives life to the Son, while vs. 27 is explained as referring to God’s gift of authority to execute judgment bestowed upon Christ in the flesh. The one is the eternal background of the other. What decides, however, in favor of the explanation that in vs. 26 there is mention, not of bestowing creaturely life upon the human nature of Christ, but of imparting divine life to the Son of God, is the expression: “to have life in Himself.” The creature has life, but never in himself. God only has life in Himself, for He is life. The text, therefore, speaks of a bestowal of life by the Father upon the Son, the result of which is that the Son is equal with the Father, has life in Himself, i.e. in the divine essence.
And so, everywhere, and in many ways, Scripture reveals to us that God is an eternal Father with relation to the Son. The Father is the begetter, the Son the begotten; the Father is the radiating light of glory, the Son is the light reflected; the Father is God forming, the Son is God formed; the Father is God expresser, the Son is the Impress; the Father is God effulgent, the Son is God refulgent. The Father is the eternal subject, the speaker, the Son is the eternal predicate, the Word of God! And God is the all sufficient one in Himself, that has no need of the creature even to rejoice in His glorious and eternal Fatherhood. He loves the Son forever!