“A Son begotten in the express image of the father's person"–A Statement re-examined.

Article By Paul Chung

“A Son begotten in the express image of the father's person"–A Statement Re-examined.

“A complete offering has been made; for "God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,"-- not a son by creation, as were the angels, nor a son by adoption, as is the forgiven sinner, but A SON BEGOTTEN IN THE EXPRESS IMAGE of the Father’s person, and in ALL THE BRIGHTNESS OF HIS MAJESTY AND GLORY, ONE EQUAL WITH GOD IN AUTHORITY, DIGNITY, AND DIVINE PERFECTION.” {ST May 30, 1895 par. 3}

Ellen White wrote the above statement just five years after E. J. Waggoner, a SDA pioneer, wrote this in 1890 in his book, Christ and His Righteousness; notice the striking similarity in the language used:

"It is true that there are many sons of God, but Christ is the “only begotten Son of God,” and therefore the Son of God in a sense in which no other being ever was or ever can be. The angels are sons of God, as was Adam (Job 38:7; Luke 3:38), by creation; Christians are the sons of God by adoption (Rom. 8:14, 15), but Christ is the Son of God by birth. The writer to the Hebrews further shows that the position of the Son of God is not one to which Christ has been elevated but that it is one which He has by right. He says that Moses was faithful in all the house of God, as a servant, “but Christ as a Son over His own house.” Heb. 3:6. And he also states that Christ is the Builder of the house. Verse 3. It is He that builds the temple of the Lord and bears the glory. Zech. 6:12, 13. “ (E. J. Waggoner, 1890, Christ and His Righteousness, pp. 11-13)

Note: E. J. Waggoner was Ellen White's contemporary and she was very much familiar with his writings. In fact, the very statement comes from a book she highly endorsed. Thus, when she wrote the statement, "A SON BEGOTTEN IN THE EXPRESS IMAGE of the Father’s person...", it is most reasonable to assume that her contemporaries understood her as speaking of Christ's pre-incarnate begetting for this was the view of most of her contemporaries. 

Here’s the question: Is the expression, “A SON BEGOTTEN IN THE EXPRESS IMAGE OF THE FATHER’S PERSON” applicable ONLY to Christ’s incarnation?

If He had never been born of a virgin and become the Son of Man, would He still have been the SON BEGOTTEN IN THE EXPRESS IMAGE OF THE FATHER’S PERSON? Or is this expression only a reflection of His humanity as some (Trinitarians ) claim?

Orthodox Trintiarians, in general, believe Christ is God's Son because of eternal generation. Seventh-day Adventist Trintiarian scholars, however, do not believe this and thus they make His pre-incarnate Sonship a metaphor, a prophecy or role-playing by means of decree. The general opinions of most SDA scholars is that the Bible’s references to Jesus as God’s Son are anticipatory and are all in light of His incarnation. In other words, Jesus was not (literally) God’s Son until He came to earth as an incarnate human/divine being. Or "begotten" Son is attributed to Christ's resurrection, the "first begotten of the dead."

But do these explanations consistent with the context of the ST May 30, 1895 par. 3 statement’s usage?

Express Image

Bible says Jesus bears the image of His Father and this idea is supported in the following passages:

“Who being the BRIGHTNESS OF HIS GLORY, and the EXPRESS IMAGE (χαρακτήρ-khä-räk-tā'r) of his person (ὑπόστασις- hü-po'-stä-sēs), and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:”-Hebrew 1:3

“In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, WHO IS THE IMAGE OF GOD, should shine unto them.”- 2 Corinthians 4:4

“WHO IS THE IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” Colossian 1:15-17

What is an image? An image is never the original but always a likeness or duplication of the original, but according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, the term, “express image” refers to “the EXACT expression (the image) of any person or thing, marked likeness, PRECISE REPRODUCTION IN EVERY RESPECT"

Furthermore, it would be incorrect to say that the Father is the image of His Son because the Father is consistently portrayed as the original. In like manner, it would be incorrect to refer to Christ as the true or original God since He is the image of the True God. The Bible consistently portrays the Son as the image of the Father and never the other way around.

Notice again Ellen White’s usage of the phrase, “express image” in the statement under consideration (Emphasis in caps added through out):

It states that Jesus was “A SON BEGOTTEN IN THE EXPRESS IMAGE OF THE FATHER’S PERSON....” But she doesn’t just stop there but added, “AND IN ALL THE BRIGHTNESS OF HIS MAJESTY AND GLORY, ONE EQUAL WITH GOD IN AUTHORITY, DIGNITY, AND DIVINE PERFECTION.” Meaning, the person who was begotten in this statement should manifest “ALL” the ensuing attributes.

Did incarnate Jesus come to earth in “all the brightness of the Father’s majesty and glory?”

We would have to say no. For, if He had, sinners would not have been able to endure His presence.

In fact, Isaiah prophesied that, “he [Christ] hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” ( Isaiah 53:2)

Philippians 2:6-7 “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:"

“CHRIST COULD NOT HAVE COME TO THIS EARTH WITH THE GLORY THAT HE HAD IN THE HEAVENLY COURTS Sinful human beings could not have borne the sight. He veiled His divinity with the garb of humanity, but He did not part with His divinity…. {RH June 15, 1905, par. 12}

“HAD CHRIST COME IN HIS DIVINE FORM, HUMANITY COULD NOT HAVE ENDURED THE SIGHT. The contrast would have been too painful, THE GLORY TOO OVERWHELMING. Humanity could not have endured the presence of one of the pure, bright angels from glory; therefore Christ took not on Him the nature of angels; He came in the likeness of men. {5BC 1131.1}

“Jesus Christ, the Majesty of Heaven, was not discerned in the disguise of humanity. He was the divine teacher sent from God, the glorious treasure given to humanity. He was fairer than the sons of men, but HIS MATCHLESS GLORY WAS HIDDEN under a cover of poverty and suffering. HE VEILED HIS GLORY in order that divinity might touch humanity"(Youth Instructor, August 22, 1895 par. 4)

"The King of glory stooped low to take humanity. Rude and forbidding were His earthly surroundings. HIS GLORY WAS VEILED, THAT THE MAJESTY OF HIS OUTWARD FORM MIGHT NOT BECOME AN OBJECT OF ATTRACTION…"{CSA 5.3}

"Christ’s words and acts while He was on earth were a revelation of divine truth. They gave evidence that He had come direct from the most excellent glory; BUT THE GLORY ITSELF WAS CONCEALED.” {ST December 14, 1904, par. 1}

“Christ made it possible when He LAID ASIDE His royal robes, His royal crown, stepped down from His royal throne, clothed His divinity with humanity that humanity might touch humanity. He could not with His glory and majesty take His position among men. The glory must be LAID ASIDE. {RH January 7, 1902, Art. B, par. 2}

Above statements reveals to us that Jesus, while on earth, was “in the likeness of men”, had a plain appearance, nothing out of the ordinary that would make Him stand out or become attracted by others.

Christ's pre-existent personage

The following statements describe how pre-existent Christ bore the Father’s express image, not just in His character but also in His features (likeness in His physical appearance).

BEFORE Christ came in the likeness of men, HE EXISTED IN THE EXPRESS IMAGE OF HIS FATHER. He thought it not robbery to be equal with God. NEVERTHELESS HE VOLUNTARILY EMPTIED HIMSELF, AND TOOK THE FORM OF A SERVANT. He was the incarnate God, the light of heaven and earth.” {YI December 20, 1900, par. 4}

“I had often been shown the lovely Jesus, THAT HE IS A PERSON. I HAD ASKED HIM IF HIS FATHER WAS A PERSON, AND HAD A FORM LIKE HIMSELF. Said Jesus, ‘I am in the express image of my Father’s person.’ I had often seen that the spiritual view took away the glory of heaven, and that in many minds the throne of David, and the lovely person of Jesus had been burned up by the fire of spiritual interpretation.” {LS80 230.3}

I saw a throne, and on it sat the Father and the Son. I gazed on Jesus’ countenance and admired His lovely person. The Father’s person I could not behold, for a cloud of glorious light covered Him. I ASKED JESUS IF HIS FATHER HAD A FORM LIKE HIMSELF; HE SAID HE HAD, BUT I COULD NOT BEHOLD IT, for said He, “If you should once behold the glory of His person, you would cease to exist.'" (Letter From Sister Harmon, Day-Star, March 14, 1846, par. 7) {EW 54.2}

“From eternity there was a complete unity between the Father and the Son. THEY WERE TWO, YET LITTLE SHORT OF BEING IDENTICAL; two in individuality, yet one in spirit, and heart, and character.” (The Youth Instructor, Dec. 16, 1897 par. 5)

"The Son of God was next in authority to the great Lawgiver. He knew that his life alone could be sufficient to ransom fallen man. He was of as much more value than man as his noble, spotless character, and exalted office as commander of all the heavenly host, were above the work of man. HE WAS IN THE EXPRESS IMAGE OF HIS FATHER, NOT IN FEATURES ALONE, BUT IN PERFECTION OF CHARACTER." (Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2, p. 91)

“BEFORE CHRIST LEFT HEAVEN AND CAME INTO THE WORLD to die, HE WAS TALLER THAN ANY OF THE ANGELS. He was majestic and lovely. But when his ministry commenced, he was but little taller than the common size of men then living upon the earth. HAD HE COME AMONG MEN WITH HIS NOBLE, HEAVENLY FORM, HIS OUTWARD APPEARANCE would have attracted the minds of the people to himself, and he would have been received without the exercise of faith. {2SP 39.2}

“Adam, who stands among the risen throng, is of lofty height and majestic form, in stature but little below the Son of God  {GC 644.3}

Note: After sin the Man Christ Jesus, the new corporate Head of humanity, stands taller than our original head and father (Adam). It would appear that in the sinless realm those who hold headship or leadership roles are taller. The servant of the Lord also mentions each heavenly legion having “a tall commanding angel at their head” {EW 168.1}

“Christ is the express image of His Father’s person, and the angels could see in the Son a perfect representation of God…{Lt55-1903.15}

"The apostle Paul speaks of our Mediator, THE ONLY-BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD, WHO IN A STATE OF GLORY WAS IN THE FORM OF GOD, the Commander of all the heavenly hosts, and who, when He clothed His divinity with humanity, took upon Him the FORM OF A SERVANT." {1SM 243.2}

Original man was created in God's image

Note: Inspiration tell us that "Man was to bear God's image, BOTH IN OUTWARD RESEMBLANCE AND IN CHARACTER. Christ alone is 'the express image' (Hebrews 1:3) of the Father; but man was formed in the likeness of God" (PP 45) and spoke of Adam as having "his mind and body created in GOD'S OWN SIMILITUDE" (YI January 31, 1901).

Eve was not quite as tall as Adam. Her head reached a little above his shoulders.” {1SP 24.2}

Lucifer's personage before the fall:

“Had not the Lord made the covering cherub so beautiful, SO CLOSELY RESEMBLING HIS OWN IMAGE; had not God awarded him special honor; had anything been left undone in the gifts of beauty and power and honor, then Satan might have had some excuse…{GCDB, March 2, 1897 par. 33}

“Evil originated with Lucifer, who rebelled against the government of God. Before his fall he was a covering cherub, distinguished by his excellence. GOD MADE HIM good and beautiful, AS NEAR AS POSSIBLE LIKE HIMSELF….{RH September 24, 1901}

How near is "as near as possible" in terms of God's ability? I would say it is very close wouldn't you? Thus the conclusion follows that if we were able to observe heaven back then and see the pre-incarnate Son of God and Lucifer side by side we might actually be tempted to think they were brothers! Inspiration does tell us that Christ was taller though.

Note: Inspiration tells us that Christ "existed in the express image of his Father", "not in features alone, but also in perfection of character" BEFORE he came to earth. This is significant for when Ellen White speaks of Christ being "express image" of the Father" "in ALL the brightness of His majesty" she is referring not just in character but also in his outward appearance.

Question: How is the ST May 30, 1895 par. 3 statement be referring to Christ’s incarnation if Jesus was “little short of being identical” in His features with His Father as a begotten Son and yet on earth He bore a plain appearance? Christ “hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” ( Isaiah 53:2)?

Clearly, when Jesus was born of a virgin, he was not “BEGOTTEN IN THE EXPRESS IMAGE OF THE FATHER’S PERSON, AND IN ***ALL*** THE BRIGHTNESS OF HIS MAJESTY AND GLORY, ONE EQUAL WITH GOD IN AUTHORITY, DIGNITY, AND DIVINE PERFECTION.”

Note: There is an obvious contrast (as you shall see more later) between the Begotten Son in his pre-incarnation compared to His incarnation.

“majesty and glory” was veiled under humanity

Below statements describe the personhood of Christ when He was on earth. 

“CHRIST CAME, BUT NOT IN THE BRIGHTNESS OF HIS DIVINE GLORY. He laid aside his royal robe and kingly crown, clothed his divinity with humanity, and came to live upon the earth as a man among men. HAD HE COME IN THE FULL POWER AND GLORY OF HIS DIVINITY, SINNERS COULD NOT HAVE STOOD IN HIS PRESENCE WITHOUT BEING DESTROYED. He came to meet humanity in its most sinful and corrupt form. Thus divine love was manifested toward erring mortals. {RH September 13, 1906, par. 5}

“BEFORE CHRIST LEFT HEAVEN AND CAME INTO THE WORLD to die, HE WAS TALLER THAN ANY OF THE ANGELS. He was majestic and lovely. But when his ministry commenced, he was but little taller than the common size of men then living upon the earth. HAD HE COME AMONG MEN WITH HIS NOBLE, HEAVENLY FORM, HIS OUTWARD APPEARANCE would have attracted the minds of the people to himself, and he would have been received without the exercise of faith. {2SP 39.2}

“Christ, the Light of the world, VEILED THE DAZZLING SPLENDOR OF HIS DIVINITY and came to live as a man among men, that they might, without being consumed, become acquainted with their Creator. No man has seen God at any time except as He is revealed through Christ.” {CCh 75.4}

“Christ alone was able to represent the Deity. He who had been in the presence of the Father from the beginning, He who was the EXPRESS IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD, was alone sufficient to accomplish this work. No verbal description could reveal God to the world. Through a life of purity, a life of perfect trust and submission to the will of God, a life of humiliation such as even the highest seraph in heaven would have shrunk from, God Himself must be revealed to humanity. In order to do this, our SAVIOUR CLOTHED HIS DIVINITY WITH HUMANITY. He employed the human faculties, for only by adopting these could He be comprehended by humanity. Only humanity could reach humanity. HE LIVED OUT THE CHARACTER OF GOD THROUGH THE HUMAN BODY which God had prepared for Him. He blessed the world by living out in human flesh the life of God, thus showing that He had the power to unite humanity to divinity.” – {1SM 264.2}

“The apostle would call our attention from ourselves to the Author of our salvation. He presents before us HIS TWO NATURES, divine and human. HERE IS THE DESCRIPTION OF THE DIVINE: “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” He was “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person.” {5BC 1126.7} “NOW, OF THE HUMAN: He “was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death.” He voluntarily assumed human nature. It was His own act, and by His own consent. He clothed His divinity with humanity. He was all the while as God, but HE DID NOT APPEAR AS GOD. HE VEILED THE DEMONSTRATIONS OF DEITY, which had commanded the homage, and called forth the admiration, of the universe of God. He was God while upon earth, but HE DIVESTED HIMSELF OF THE FORM OF GOD, AND IN ITS STEAD TOOK THE FORM AND FASHION OF A MAN. He walked the earth as a man. For our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. HE LAID ASIDE HIS GLORY AND HIS MAJESTY. HE WAS GOD, BUT THE GLORIES OF THE FORM OF GOD HE FOR A WHILE RELINQUISHED...” {5BC 1126.8}

“As a personal being, God has revealed Himself in His Son. Jesus, the outshining of the Father’s glory, “and the express image of His person,” Hebrews 1:3, WAS ON EARTH FOUND IN FASHION AS A MAN. As a personal Saviour He came to the world. As a personal Saviour He ascended on high. As a personal Saviour He intercedes in the heavenly courts. Before the throne of God in our behalf ministers “One like unto the Son of man.” Revelation 1:13.” {CCh 75.3}

“Christ came to this world as the expression of the very heart and mind and nature and character of God. He was the brightness of the Father’s glory, the express image of His person. BUT HE LAID ASIDE His royal robe and kingly crown, and STEPPED DOWN from His high command to take the place of a servant.” {MM 19.1}

"Thus the prayer of Christ was answered. He was glorified with the glory WHICH HE HAD with His Father before the world was. But amid this glory, Christ does not lose sight of His toiling, struggling ones upon earth. He has a request to make of His Father. He waves back the heavenly host until He is in the direct presence of Jehovah, and then He presents His petition in behalf of His chosen ones. {ST May 10, 1899, par. 16}

"Christ took upon Himself human nature, A NATURE INFERIOR TO HIS HEAVENLY NATURE.” (The Review and Herald, April 5, 1906). {5BC 1130.6}

What do these statements reveal about Christ’s humanity?

  • “CHRIST CAME, BUT NOT IN THE BRIGHTNESS OF HIS DIVINE GLORY
  • Jesus, as a man, “had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2)
  • “Before Christ came in the likeness of men, He existed in the express image of His Father.”
  • He divested Himself of the FORM of God, and in its stead took the form and fashion of a man.
  • He laid aside His glory and His majesty. He was God, but the glories of the form of God He for a while relinquished.
  • Christ was born in the likeness of men; in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3). -Father gave up His Son who, in his pre-incarnation, WAS “made in the express image of his person”
  • “He lived out the express image of the CHARACTER OF GOD but through the human body”
  • His human nature was inferior to His Heavenly nature.

What this tells us is that while Jesus lived out the CHARACTER of God (express image of the Father’s character), His earthly personage did not fully manifest “ALL the brightness of his majesty and glory, one equal with God in authority, dignity, and divine perfection.”

Was Jesus “EQUAL WITH GOD IN AUTHORITY” on earth?

“HE STEPPED DOWN FROM THE THRONE OF HONOR, LAID OFF HIS ROYAL ROBE AND HIS ROYAL CROWN, GAVE BACK INTO HIS FATHER’S HAND THE SCEPTER, and veiling divinity with humanity, humbled himself, and came to a world all seared and marred with the curse. “For your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” Although he was the Majesty of heaven, he bore the cross of shame. {YI May 27, 1897, par. 3}

Note: When the Son stepped down from the throne of heaven, He actually handed the scepter back into the hand of God (which, by the way, shows you where He first got it from but that’s another study) Thus what is happening here, in this giving back of the scepter into the Father’s hand, is that the Son temporarily gave up His rights and status that previously belonged to Him.

Again the following quote clarifies:

“When Jesus was awakened to meet the storm, He was in perfect peace. There was no trace of fear in word or look, for no fear was in His heart. BUT HE RESTED NOT IN THE POSSESSION OF ALMIGHTY POWER. It was not as the “Master of earth and sea and sky” that He reposed in quiet. THAT POWER HE HAD LAID DOWN, and He says, “I can of Mine own self do nothing.” John 5:30. He trusted in the Father’s might. It was in faith—faith in God’s love and care—that Jesus rested, and the power of that word which stilled the storm was the power of God.” (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 336)

This shows how Man Christ Jesus did not have equal authority with the Father during His time here on earth. That power He had voluntarily laid down. He was not manifesting His full glory which he fully had prior to His virgin birth.

"Father,” He says, “I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am.” And then the Father declares, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” The heavenly host prostrate themselves before Him, and raise their song of triumph and joy. Glory encircles the King of heaven, and was beheld by all the heavenly intelligences. No words can describe the scene which took place as THE SON OF GOD WAS PUBLICLY REINSTATED IN THE PLACE OF HONOR AND GLORY WHICH HE VOLUNTARILY LEFT WHEN HE BECAME A MAN. {ST May 10, 1899, par. 17}

Note: Thus, the expression, but A SON BEGOTTEN ... in ALL THE BRIGHTNESS OF HIS MAJESTY AND GLORY, ONE EQUAL WITH GOD IN AUTHORITY...” cannot refer to Christ's incarnation.

Son in a New Sense

“The more we think about Christ’s becoming a babe here on earth, the more wonderful it appears. How can it be that the helpless babe in Bethlehem’s manger is STILL THE DIVINE SON OF GOD? Though we cannot understand it, we can believe that He who made the worlds, for our sakes became a helpless babe. Though higher than any of the angels, though as great as the Father on the throne of heaven, He became one with us. In Him God and man became one, and it is in this fact that we find the hope of our fallen race.“ (Selected Messages 3:127, 128). {LHU 75.5}

Note: To be STILL the divine Son of God means He was already the Son of God before taking on humanity.

"Christ brought men and women power to overcome. He came to this world in human form, to live a man amongst men. He assumed the liabilities of human nature, to be proved and tried. In His humanity He was a partaker of the divine nature. IN HIS INCARNATION HE GAINED IN A NEW SENSE THE TITLE OF THE SON OF GOD. Said the angel to Mary, 'The power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God' (Luke 1:35). While the Son of a human being, HE BECAME THE SON OF GOD IN A NEW SENSE. Thus He stood in our world--the Son of God, yet allied by birth to the human race." (Signs of the Times, August 2, 1905) {5BC 1114.10}

Note: Unless Christ was already a Son before He came to our world, He could not be a Son ‘in a new sense’.

Begotten vs. Creation comparing 2 statements

1) “As God He could not be tempted: but as a man He could be tempted, and that strongly, and could yield to the temptations… HIS HUMAN NATURE WAS CREATED; IT DID NOT EVEN POSSESS THE ANGELIC POWERS. It was human, IDENTICAL WITH OUR OWN.” {6MR 111.1} 

2) “A complete offering has been made; for "God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,"-- not a son by creation, as were the angels, nor a son by adoption, as is the forgiven sinner, but A SON BEGOTTEN IN THE EXPRESS IMAGE of the Father’s person, and in ALL THE BRIGHTNESS OF HIS MAJESTY AND GLORY, ONE EQUAL WITH GOD IN AUTHORITY, DIGNITY, AND DIVINE PERFECTION.” {ST May 30, 1895 par. 3}

Some questions to consider:
A couple of questions to consider by our trinitarian brothers:

1. Why would Ellen White insist that Christ was “not a son by creation” but “a son begotten” if “creation” and ”begotten carry essentially the same meaning as some (trinitarian brothers) claim?

2. Why would Ellen White say Christ’s “human nature was created”(1) and yet she insists Christ was “not a son by creation” but begotten (2), if she is referring to Christ’s incarnation in both statements?

Note: At the time of His incarnation the Son of God actually became a creature of dust just like us! He took on real human substance! And He did this in order to actually become the new Adam! Now the first Adam was a created son of God but he fell. Therefore the only begotten Son of God became a created Son Himself; He took part of the same nature as the Bible teaches and statement #1 clearly affirms it. Therefore, in light of these facts, it wouldn't make much sense to say that Christ was "not a son by creation" (as was Adam) if the statement #2 is referring to Christ's incarnation.

3. If begotten Son is only in light of Christ incarnation, and if the nature of Christ's incarnation was such that "IT DID NOT EVEN POSSESS THE ANGELIC POWERS" then how is it that Christ was “made” (“begotten” γεννάω gennaō) SO MUCH BETTER than the angels and obtained a more excellent name? See Heb 1:4 below

Heb 1:4 “Being made (“begotten” γεννάω gennaō) SO MUCH BETTER than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

Literal or Symbolic?

Sons by creation = Literal

Sons by adoption = Literal

Son Begotten = Symbolic?

Note: Consistency demands that Begotten not be spiritualized away, as it is being contrasted to 2 other literal things.

Son of God vs Son of Man

Consider this quote friends:

"In Christ were united THE DIVINE and THE HUMAN—THE CREATOR and THE CREATURE. THE NATURE OF GOD, whose law had been transgressed, and THE NATURE OF ADAM, the transgressor, meet in Jesus—THE SON OF GOD, and THE SON OF MAN... EGW, Manuscript 141, 1901.

Did you catch it? Read closely! How was "the nature of Adam" met in Jesus? We all know the answer don't we? Through Him being "the Son of man." Now we all know how this happened. He was begotten via a miracle through the virgin Mary. So how then was "the nature of God" met in Him? Though Him being what? Read the quote! The Son of Whom? The Son of God! Is it beyond credulity to understand that He is the Son of God's substance? Thus truly God in infinity but not personality. And when was He the Son of God? Is this not His pre-incarnate nature? Was He not known, even by the angels before sin arose, as the only begotten Son of God? What are the honest answers to these questions? Surely you know!

But didn't Christ had all the attributes of express image of the Father while on earth?

Take a look at the following statements that indicate that Christ while on earth possessed the express image of the Father:

“Looking upon Christ IN THE FLESH, we look upon God in humanity, and SEE IN HIM THE BRIGHTNESS OF DIVINE GLORY, THE EXPRESS IMAGE OF GOD THE FATHER.” (Selected Messages 3:127, 128). {LHU 75.5}

"Jesus, the EXPRESS IMAGE OF THE FATHER'S PERSON, the effulgence of His glory; the self-denying Redeemer, throughout His pilgrimage of love on earth, was a living representation of the character of the law of God. In His life it is made manifest that heaven-born love, Christlike principles, underlie the laws of eternal rectitude. { MB 49.2}

"The ****world’s Redeemer*** was equal with God. His authority was as the authority of God. He declared that He had no existence separate from the Father. The authority by which He spoke, and wrought miracles, WAS EXPRESSLY HIS OWN, yet He assures us that He and the Father are one.... { 5BC 1142.2 } 

"Far higher than any of the angels, equal with the Father in dignity and glory, and yet wearing the garb of humanity! Divinity and humanity were mysteriously combined, and man and God became one. It is in this union that we find the hope of our fallen race. Looking upon Christ in humanity, we look upon God, and see in Him the brightness of His glory, the express image of His person.—The Signs of the Times, July 30, 1896. { 7ABC 443.4}

"This Saviour WAS the brightness of His Father’s glory and the express image of His person. He possessed DIVINE MAJESTY, PERFECTION, AND EXCELLENCE. HE WAS EQUAL WITH GOD. “It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell.” “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 AS A MAN, HE HUMBLED HIMSELF, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” { 2T 200.1} 

"The WORLD'S REDEEMER WAS EQUAL WITH GOD. His authority was as the authority of God. He declared that He had no existence separate from the Father. The authority by which He spoke, and wrought miracles, WAS EXPRESSLY HIS OWN, yet He assures us that He and the Father are one.... { 5BC 1142.2 } 

"Far higher than any of the angels, EQUAL WITH THE FATHER IN DIGNITY AND GLORY, AND YET WEARING THE GARB OF HUMANITY! Divinity and humanity were mysteriously combined, and man and God became one. It is in this union that we find the hope of our fallen race. Looking upon Christ in humanity, we look upon God, and see in Him the brightness of His glory, the express image of His person.—The Signs of the Times, July 30, 1896. { 7ABC 443.4}

"This Saviour WAS the brightness of His Father’s glory and the express image of His person. He possessed DIVINE MAJESTY, PERFECTION, AND EXCELLENCE. HE WAS EQUAL WITH GOD. “It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell.” “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 AS A MAN, HE HUMBLED HIMSELF, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” { 2T 200.1} 

Note: When she mentions “in the flesh” we “SEE IN HIM [Christ] THE BRIGHTNESS OF DIVINE GLORY, THE EXPRESS IMAGE OF GOD THE FATHER.” She is clearly referring to the character of God as noted earlier. This is not to be confused with the whole personage of Christ including His appearance. 

Notice the following statement:

“Man was to bear God’s image, BOTH IN OUTWARD RESEMBLANCE AND IN CHARACTER. Christ ALONE is “the express image” (Hebrews 1:3) of the Father; but man was formed in the likeness of God. His nature was in harmony with the will of God. His mind was capable of comprehending divine things. His affections were pure; his appetites and passions were under the control of reason. He was holy and happy in bearing the image of God and in perfect obedience to His will.” {PP 45.2}{EP 17.1}

Note: When we speak of Christ being the express image of the Father, it can refer to either His character or outward appearance or both. Sister white states that Christ alone is the express image of the Father both in character and likeness. In the statement above, she is contrasting the outward appearance of Christ's "express image" compare to how man was "formed" in the "likeness of God." and declares, "Christ ALONE is the express image of the Father; meaning Christ ALONE expresses the Father's person, both outwardly and in character, in a way that is different than any other creation. Please note that Christ did maintain his "express image" while on earth in character but he was not born with "ALL THE BRIGHTNESS OF HIS MAJESTY AND GLORY, ONE EQUAL WITH GOD IN AUTHORITY, DIGNITY, AND DIVINE PERFECTION.”

Summary

Jesus was not begotten in God’s full glory or majesty as a Man Christ; it was veiled. Yes, Jesus was born with the express image of the Father's character but not in "ALL THE BRIGHTNESS OF HIS MAJESTY AND GLORY," Nor did He have the equal authority with the Father while on earth.

However, Sister White says, “but a SON BEGOTTEN in the express image of the Father's person, and IN ***ALL*** THE BRIGHTNESS OF HIS MAJESTY AND GLORY, ONE EQUAL WITH GOD IN AUTHORITY, dignity, and divine perfection.”

Thus, in ST May 30, 1895 par. 3 statement, Ellen White is clearly referring to pre-incarnate Jesus being begotten in the very express image of God in the fullest sense.

Real Issue

Here is the real issue. the view of "begotten" sonship if understood as ontological sonship rests upon a real, solid, literal, sonship, whereas the view of the "anticipatory/convenant only sonship, floats, suspended upon **arbitrary** chosen "roles." There is no explanation as to why the Father became Father and why the Son became the Son; no reasonable explanations as to why Christ, being an independent, ingenerate God being, without a real ontological-filial relationship, is the very express image of His Father. Whereas it makes perfect sense why an ontological son would have a spitting image of his Father and why a real Father can command preeminence over his son even though they are ontological equals. To me this the latter just makes more sense to my simple mind. 

The view of the "only a covenant/anticipatory son" if followed to its ultimate conclusion, is that the plan of salvation devolves to a theatrical exercise. There is no real "Father" and "Son", these are just roles entered into to eventually bring about salvation only in the event of sin occurring. This conclusion is inescapable in an "anticipation Son" view without an ontological, eternal Father-Son relationship as its foundation. The Son came to earth to reveal the Father but if Father is not his real father then who is he or what is he before he decided to take on the roll of a "father"??? And is this a role He will continue to assume even after the "covenant relationship" expires? Or does it expire? It just leaves more questions than answers...

There's an even more disturbing conclusion that this leads to... Under this idea, Christ chose to enter into the role of a "Son". He did this in anticipation of a plan of salvation for if/when sin arose. Sin arose with Lucifer who was jealous of Christ's role as the "Son". If you read the first chapters of Patriarchs and Prophets, Spirit of Prophecy, Volume 1 or Story of Redemption or any of the other places Ellen White talks of this apostasy in heaven, she speaks of Lucifer being jealous specifically of Christ's "position". So Christ, role-playing the part of "Son" for the purposes of eventual salvation from eventual sin, was in doing so become catalyst for the very sin that required the plan of salvation in the first place! I don't see any way around this reasoning.

To my mind, if a Person Who took the role of "Father" and a Person Who took the role of "Son" had no discernable difference before taking these roles, why create the grounds for questioning in the first place? Why create a potential for jealousy? If They just appeared together everywhere as exactly the same with exactly the same authority and rank there would have been no room for questioning at all?


Statements by SDA Pioneers

Below statements by SDA pioneers clearly show that they understood the difference between "creation" and "begotten" and distinguished them as such.

“TO BE THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD MUST BE UNDERSTOOD IN A DIFFERENT SENSE THAN TO BE A SON BY CREATION; for in that sense all the creatures he has made are sons…His being the only begotten of the Father supposes that NONE EXCEPT HIM WERE THUS BEGOTTEN; hence he is, in truth and verity the only begotten Son of God; and as such he must be Divine; that is, be a partaker of the Divine nature. This term expresses his highest, and most exalted nature…BUT ALL THE WORKS OF CREATION ARE ASCRIBED TO HIM as the “first born of every creature;’ hence the birth spoken of, MUST HAVE BEEN PREVIOUS TO THE EXISTENCE OF THE FIRST CREATURE IN HEAVEN OR IN EARTH…This gives “the only begotten of the Father” (see verse 14) intelligent existence BEFORE THE FIRST ACT OF CREATIVE POWER was put forth, and proves that it is his Divine nature here spoken of; ” (J.M. Stephenson Review and Herald Nov 14, 1854)

"According to this, Jesus Christ is begotten of God IN A SENSE THAT NO OTHER BEING IS; else he could not be his only begotten Son. Angels are called sons of God, and so are righteous men; but CHRIST IS HIS SON IN A HIGHER SENSE, IN A CLOSER RELATION, than either of these. God made men and angels out of materials already created. He is the author of their existence, their Creator, hence their Father. But JESUS CHRIST WAS BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER’S OWN SUBSTANCE. HE WAS NOT CREATED OUT OF MATERIAL AS THE ANGELS AND OTHER CREATURES WERE. He is truly and emphatically the "Son of God," the same as I am the son of my father. This will appear more plain as we proceed" (D.M. Canright, RH June 18, 1867)

Note the similarity between Canright’s language here in 1867 and EGW’s language in the 1895 quote shared above. Canright continued on in this article to say the following:

“If he was the “beginning” of God’s creation, he must be a created being. This interpretation may be correct, YET IT IS MY OPINION THAT IT IS NOT. 1. It is the only text in the Bible from which this idea can be drawn. 2. IT SEEMS TO CONTRADICT MANY OTHER TEXTS WHICH MOST DEFINITELY STATE THAT CHRIST HIMSELF CREATED ALL THINGS. 3. If he is a created being, he cannot be worthy of worship of other created beings. 4. I SEE NOT HOW HE COULD BE THE “ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD” IF HE WAS CREATED BY GOD THE SAME AS OTHER CREATURES …At least THERE IS NO SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE IN THE TEXT TO PROVE THAT CHRIST IS A CREATED BEING” (Ibid)

“That this very person, who was BORN BEFORE EVERY CREATURE, is the same as afterward appeared unto men upon this earth, in the land of Palestine, the beloved apostle John demonstrates beyond all possible doubt. (J. G. Matteson Review and Herald, April 10, 1866)

Note: Here Matteson articulates his view that Christ was “born before EVERY creature.” This makes Christ Himself something other than a creature. In another article from that same decade he taught:

“3. Christ is THE ONLY LITERAL SON OF GOD. "The only begotten of the Father. He is God because he is the Son of God; not by virtue of his resurrection. If Christ is THE ONLY BEGOTTEN OF FATHER, then we cannot be begotten of the Father in a literal sense. It can only be in a secondary sense of the word... (J. G. Matteson, Review and Herald, October 12th 1869, ‘Children of God’)

Even Uriah Smith, who had previously asserted that Christ was a created being in 1859, 1865 and 1878 started to change his tune in the 1880s. Quoting him now:

""Moreover, he is "the beginning of the creation of God." Some understand by this language that Christ was the first created being, dating his existence far back before any other created being or thing, next to the self-existent and eternal God. BUT THE LANGUAGE DOES NOT NECESSARILY IMPLY THIS; for the words, "the beginning of the creation," may simply signify that the work of creation, strictly speaking, was begun by him. And it is expressly declared that "without him was not anything made that was made." Others, however, take the word ἀρχή to mean the agent or efficient cause, which is one of the definitions of the word, understanding that Christ, is the agent through whom God has created all things, but that THE SON CAME INTO EXISTENCE IN A DIFFERENT MANNER, AS HE IS CALLED “THE ONLY BEGOTTEN” OF THE FATHER. IT WOULD SEEM UTTERLY INAPPROPRIATE TO APPLY THIS EXPRESSION TO ANY BEING CREATED IN THE ORDINARY SENSE OF THAT TERM." (1881 Uriah Smith Thoughts, Critical and Practical on the Book of Revelation, pg 73, 74)

Note: In a later edition of this same book Uriah Smith calls the idea that Christ was a created being an “error” and asserts that:

“The Scriptures NOWHERE SPEAK OF CHRIST AS A CREATED BEING, BUT ON THE CONTRARY PLAINLY STATE HE WAS BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER.” (1897 Uriah Smith, Daniel and Revelation, p. 430)

"Will you please favor me with those scriptures which plainly say that Christ is a created being?

Answer: "YOU ARE MISTAKEN IN SUPPOSING THAT S.D. ADVENTISTS TEACH THAT CHRIST WAS EVER CREATED. THEY BELIEVE, ON THE CONTRARY, THAT HE WAS “BEGOTTEN” OF THE FATHER, AND THAT HE CAN PROPERLY BE CALLED GOD AND WORSHIPED AS SUCH.”(W.H. Little John Question No. 96, Review and Herald, April 17, 1883, The commentary, Scripture questions, 'Answers by W. H. Littlejohn)

"It is for the well-being and happiness of God’s creatures that some of his intelligences should receive “gifts” and “powers” which others do not. Upon Christ, THE ONLY BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER (ALL OTHER BEINGS WERE CREATED BY CHRIST) was bestowed creative, life-giving, and law-making power. In these he was made equal with the eternal Father. Upon no other being were bestowed such gifts. With this power Christ not only created all things, but he up-holds all life in this and every shining world. We read of him, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins; who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” Colossians 1:14-17. {GCDB February 2-4, 1893, p. 99.11}

“Elder Porter then said that IN SPEAKING OF CHRIST HE SHOULD NOT HAVE SAID CREATED, BUT “BEGOTTEN.” Begotten is the exact language of the Scripture. The new birth which we must experience to become the children of God is a new creation. We are born of the Spirit of God. This is beyond our comprehension. NEITHER CAN WE TELL HOW CHRIST WAS BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER. This is one of the “deep things of God.” {General Conference and Daily Bulletin February 2-4, 1893, p. 120.5}

“HE WAS BEGOTTEN, NOT CREATED. HE IS OF THE SUBSTANCE OF THE FATHER, SO THAT IN HIS VERY NATURE HE IS GOD; and since this is so “it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell.” (E. J. Waggoner, The Signs of the Times, April 8, 1889)

"It is true that there are many sons of God; but CHRIST IS THE “ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD,” AND THEREFORE THE SON OF GOD IN A SENSE IN WHICH NO OTHER BEING EVER WAS OR EVER CAN BE. The ANGELS ARE SONS OF GOD, as was Adam (Job 38:7; Luke 3:38), BY CREATION; CHRISTIANS ARE SONS OF GOD BY ADOPTION God Rom. 8:14, 15); but CHRIST IS THE SON OF GOD BY BIRTH. (E. J. Waggoner "Christ and His Righteousness pg 12, 1890)

Again please note the similarity in language between Waggoner’s 1890 quote here and EGW’s 1895 quote up at the top. Here is yet another quote from Waggoner.

“CHRIST WAS BEGOTTEN, NOT CREATED; Satan was created, not begotten. As THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON Christ could enter fully into the councils of God. Because he could not do this as Christ did, envy sprang up in the heart of Satan, and he began to determine, I will exalt myself. He began to stir up rebellion, to say, God is arbitrary, and he began also to get his sympathisers. “We are in slavery, and I have a better plan of government. Choose me as leader, exalt me, and then I will exalt you.” Do you not see the same principle that has been in the world ever since the fall? You exalt me and I will exalt you,-perhaps. {E.J. Waggoner Bible Echo and Signs of the Times February 17, 1896, p. 52.12}

“THE ANGELS, therefore, ARE CREATED BEINGS, necessarily of a lower order than their Creator. CHRIST IS THE ONLY BEING BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER.” (James Edson White [Son of Ellen White], Past Present and Future, p. 52).

Note the contrast between the angels who are “created beings” and Christ who is “the only begotten begotten of the Father.”

Again in 1909 R. Hare asserted:

“This is indeed a divine trio, but THE CHRIST OF THAT TRINITY WAS NOT A CREATED BEING such as His angels – HE WAS THE “ONLY BEGOTTEN” OF THE FATHER, and He came to the earth as the one with the Father FROM THE "DAYS OF ETERNITY" Micah 5:2 (margin). His goings forth were of old, and He came full of “grace and truth” to reveal God to man. John 1:14, 17 ("The Trinity" Australian Union Conference Record July 19, 1909)

“Adam was A SON OF GOD BY CREATION (Luke 3:38), being made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). He was in fellowship with the life of the Creator. Through sin, he became "alienated from the life of God" (Eph. 4:18), and lost his place as a son of God. ONLY ONE WHO STOOD IN THE RELATION OF DIVINE SON COULD RESTORE MAN TO HIS PLACE AS A SON (Gal. 4:4, 5), and bestow upon him the privilege of being once more in the true sense a child of God. Our hope of salvation from sin, and restoration to permanent fellowship with God, finds a sure foundation in the fact that God sent HIS ONLY-BEGOTTEN SON to be our Saviour.” (SS Lesson Quarterly, 1st quarter 1921, Our Personal Saviour Jesus Christ, page 18, 19, lesson 6 for February 5th 1921, ‘The Son of God’)

"Since CHRIST IS BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER, he must therefore be of the same substance as the Father; hence he must have the same divine attributes that God has, AND THEREFORE HE IS GOD." (O, A. Johnson, Bible Doctrines, page 34, Lesson IX, 'God the Father' 1917)

“As the absolute Son, He, who 'in the beginning was with God, and was God,' WAS BEGOTTEN BEFORE TIMES ETERNAL; as the Son, who was the-God-man, He was begotten by the resurrection from the dead. So shall we be 'sons of God, being sons, of the resurrection.' Luke 20:26." (W.W. Prescott Signs of the Times, Jan 8, 1929)

He also made it equally clear, in the 1919 minutes, that He rejected the idea that this begotten Son was a created being.

“We believed a long time ago that Christ was a created being, IN SPITE OF WHAT SCRIPTURE SAYS. (W.W. Prescott, 1919 mintues 07/06/1919 pg 62)

"...ANY IDEA THAT THE SON IS PART OF THE CREATION ITSELF IS UTTERLY FOREIGN TO PAUL’S CONCEPTION. See Colossians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Philippians 2:6-8. Moffatt makes the expression, "the first-born of all creation,' plainer by translating the Greek: "born first before all the creation;" and with this Goodspeed is in substantial agreement.

"THE WORD “BORN” IS USED BECAUSE, IN CONTRASTING THE CREATOR* WITH HIS CREATION, IT POSTULATES THE NATURE OF THE LORD’S ORIGIN. HE WAS NOT CREATED AS WERE CREATURES, BUT WAS BORN OUT OF GOD AS GOD; AND SO IS OF THE SAME NATURE AS THE FATHER. Just as a human son is born human by nature because his father is human, so the divine Son of God is by nature "born" God because His Father is God" ("William G. Wirth "The 'Signs" Question Corner" Signs of the Times, August 5th, 1930)

“In our text in Hebrews we find revealed our Lord's unique relation to God, the Father, and also His unique mode of derivation from the Father. In another place Paul calls Jesus, "His own Son (Rom. 8: 8)," THUS SEPARATING HIM FROM ALL CREATED INTELLIGENCES BY AN INFINITE GULF.” (G. F. Enoch [editor], Eastern Tidings, June 1st 1934, ‘This day have I begotten thee’)

"CUMULATIVE EVIDENCE that the Son existed with the Father before creation is abundant in the Scriptures. In the few passages we have studied here, we find that Christ was with the Father "before the world was," "from, the days of eternity," "before the foundation of the world," "before all things." HE WAS THEREFORE NO PART OF CREATION, BUT WAS "BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER" IN THE DAYS OF ETERNITY, AND WAS VERY GOD HIMSELF. (Sabbath School Lesson Study, 4th quarter 1936, Lesson 4, October 24th, 1936, pg 12 "The Godhead")

“THE terms "Son of God" and "God the Son" are equivalent expressions in the mind of Jesus. HIS SONSHIP RESTED UPON A DIFFERENT BASIS FROM OURS. We are "sons of God," being the product of His creation and redemption. HE WAS NEITHER CREATED NOR REDEEMED, but His Sonship comes by virtue of His derived power and attributes. This thought has been well expressed by another in the following quotation:— “Raymond Bullas, Australian Signs of the Times, 25th March 1935, ‘The Authority of Apostolic Teaching - Truth or tradition?)


Additional statements:

“We have only one perfect photograph of God, and this is Jesus Christ (Ms 70, 1899)

“The Eternal Father, the unchangeable one, GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, tore from his bosom Him WHO WAS MADE IN THE EXPRESS IMAGE OF HIS PERSON, AND SENT HIM DOWN TO EARTH to reveal how greatly he loved mankind." (Ellen G. White, Review & Herald 9th July 1895 ‘The Duty of the Minister and the People’)

“But while God's Word speaks of the humanity of Christ when upon this earth, it also speaks decidedly regarding his preexistence. The Word EXISTED AS A DIVINE BEING, EVEN AS THE ETERNAL SON OF GOD, in union and oneness with his Father.” (The Review and Herald, April 5, 1906)

Note: “Eternal Son of God” is not Man Christ