On the last night of Jesus’ ministry before the crucifixion, Jesus Christ told his disciples something about his obedience to God the Father as follows in John 14:28-31: “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” In this short passage, we see Jesus Christ state that God the Father is greater than He is, and also that He obeyed what God the Father had commanded Him. That this is not just an isolated comment can be understood when we compare it with Hebrews 5:5-11, which reads: “So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” As He also says in another place: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek”; who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.” There are some who may object to the idea that Christ was commanded, as if commandments themselves were coercive in themselves. Yet we know that Jesus Christ was no rebel, and that He was perfectly obedient to all of Our Father’s commandments, thus demonstrating His fitness to serve as our advocate on His behalf.
What I would like to discuss today, though, is the question of whether this superiority of the Father to the Son is something that only began at the incarnation, or whether it was the case beforehand. Is there enough discussion in the Bible to demonstrate a difference in rank (although an equality in kind) between God the Father and the preincarnate Christ? Indeed, there is. Let us lay out some of the verses that distinguish between the Father and the Son in the Hebrew scriptures. Three come to mind very readily from the writings. Proverbs 30:4 reads: “Who has ascended into heaven, or descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has bound the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son’s name, if you know?” We know the answer to these questions, since we are aware of God the Father and Jesus Christ His son. Notice, though, that Agur sees God not as a binitarian Godhead or as a Trinitarian one, but as a Father and Son, a relationship where there is subordination.
Nor is this an isolated phenomenon. When we look at God the Father and Jesus Christ portrayed in Daniel 7, we see God the Father portrayed as the ancient of days in verses 9-10 as an old man: ““I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.” And Jesus Christ is portrayed as the Son of Man in verses 13 and 14: ““I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.” Let us note, though, that it is the Ancient of Days who is giving the Son of Man the everlasting dominion of all peoples, nations, and languages.
And it is precisely this same picture we see in Psalm 110, which reads in its entirety: “The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! Your people shall be volunteers in the day of Your power; in the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth. The Lord has sworn and will not relent, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations, He shall fill the places with dead bodies, He shall execute the heads of many countries. He shall drink of the brook by the wayside; therefore He shall lift up the head.” Here again we see Jesus Christ sitting at the right hand of God, obedient to Him, even being commanded to sit at the Father’s right hand until all of God’s enemies are made into Jesus’ footstool.
What does all of this mean? It is impossible to entirely distinguish God the Father and Jesus Christ when using titles or names throughout the entire scriptures, because both are called b the same titles and the same names. Yet because God the Father cannot dwell in the presence of sinners, and can only deal with believers because He imputes the righteousness of Jesus Christ to us, it was the Son who has always been tasked with dealing with human beings, and so we have a variety of descriptions of appearances of God on earth where we are confident that we are dealing with Jesus Christ in preincarnate form. Sometimes He is considered as a messenger of God, or a commander of the armies of the Lord, and sometimes He acts coy about His identity and His name when He is asked. But from the beginning Jesus Christ was subordinate to God the Father. Revelation 13:8 reminds us that the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world, because it was His place to die for the sins of mankind and also serve as our advocate before His Father and ours. And as Jesus Christ has always been entirely obedient to God’s laws and ways, He is the perfect example for us, given that we are not so perfectly obedient on our own, all the more so because He does not obey out of coercion, but out of perfect love for the God with whom He has been working for eternity to accomplish His plans. If that be coercion, how can we hope that any authority on any level and in any institution could be anything other than coercive?