Evangelical Christians recently have endeavoured to understand how Christ’s life of obedience to God relates to theology. Has Christ, as God the Son, always submitted to the Father? Or did Christ obey according to his human nature to save the world?
Some argued the former, stating that the Son always functionally submitted to the Father in eternity while always retaining their equality in essence. The argument sometimes bases this relation in human marriage: like wives submit to husbands but remain equal in worth, so the Son eternally submits to the Father but remains equal to God.
Others held to the traditional understanding that the Son submitted to the Father in order to accomplish salvation; in God, no eternal submission exists between Son and Father.
Nowadays, most Christian leaders affirm the traditional view. But it is worth asking the question, How did this disagreement come about? Numerous reasons might be given. But one piece of the puzzle has to do with overlooking key theological tools that the Church has developed to help it know God in Scripture.
If we look back to the past, we discover theological resources that will contribute to our understanding of how Christ’s mission relates God’s essence. While only part of the puzzle, these five theological concepts, rooted in Reformed and early Christianity, help clarify how the Son relates to the Father.