Is Jesus the Son Subject to God?

Question from a Site Viewer
I have a question about I Corinthians 15:20-28. The passage I would like comment on is the last part of that selection:

Then comes the end, when he [Christ] hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. That last enemy to be destroyed is death. For ‘God has put all things in subjection under his feet.’ But when it says, ‘All things are put in subjection,’ it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.

I read that Christ will rule until he has destroyed every ruler and every power and put all his enemies under his feet–including death. And then he will hand it all over to the Father. I am a little theologically challenged when I read, ” . . . then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.” This sounds as if there will come a time when the Son will no longer be co-equal with God the Father. The Son will be subjected to the Father–a position of less power, glory, and authority, so that God may be all in all. Comment?

Also, Jesus says somewhere, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” He was speaking to the disciples, I believe. My contention is that those men did not see the Father through the Son. Their eyes (and therefore their understanding) stopped at the physical form of the man before them. His statement would have been confusing to them. It is only by faith that we can see the Father through the Son, and those men didn’t need faith at that time–Jesus was standing in front of them. One needs faith only to see the unseen. This goes along with my idea that few Christians see God through Jesus Christ.

Tim’s Answer
You raise a very good question and one fraught with potential difficulties. The commentators seem sometime to stretch in order to avoid the plain sense of the verse. However, some of the commentators, at least to me, seem to have it right, that is to say, they agree with my interpretation. You understand the way I think.

First, let me give you my translation of the verse, which is not much different then what you quoted: “And when all things are subjected to Him, then even the Son Himself will be subject to the One who subjected all things to Him, for the purpose that God will be all in all.” The “when” forecasts a future condition and not a present reality. Not all things are subjected yet to the Son. Principally, the main unsubjected subject is man. But when all things are subjected to Him, and it will happen, then it is the end of the age. At that point, the Son will be subject to the Father (something that is a present reality as Jesus aptly pointed out when He was on earth–he always did the will of the Father). I believe since the date of Psalm 2:7’s occurence, the Son has been subject to the Father. I believe before that occurence, the second person of the Trinity was not subject to the Father, did not have the economic title or position of “Son,” and was rather a full, co-equal both in person and in position with the Father (who also did not have the title or position of “Father”) and the Holy Spirit. The decree announced by God created the title and position of Sonship and Fatherhood within the eternal Trinity.

It is that relational aspect, I believe, that is in view in 1 Corinthians 15:28. Above, I said that the Son would be subject to the Father, which statement I believe to be true. However, that statement is presently true. So my question of the text is, “Is the text stating no more than what is presently true?” I think the answer must be “no,” since the text seems to say that it is talking about something that is not presently true but will happen in the future.

If my reading of the text is true; that is, the text is looking for something that will only be true in the future, then I conclude that Paul must be speaking of something more than mere submission to the Father. I think he is. Paul, does not use the term “Father,” but rather uses the term “the One subjecting to Him all things.” There are two ways of viewing this line. It could be that the Father is the One who is subjecting all things to the Son (one merely needs to go back to verse 24 to see that the Father is in view in this text). The other possibility is to read the passage as the entire Godhead is the One who is subjecting all things to the Son. I follow the latter reading. In verse 27, Paul states that the One who is subjecting all things to the Son (apparently the same One is referenced in verse 28) is the only One excepted from being subjected. I ask the question, is it the Father or the Godhead. If we say “the Father,” then we make the Holy Spirit subject to the Son. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son according to John. (John 14:16-17; 15:26) (I know the church divided on this issue, but to me Scripture is clear on the point). I do not find support for stating that the Spirit is subject to the Son. If the Godhead is in view in verse 27, then I suspect it is the Godhead who is in view in verse 28.

That is, I think it was the united counsel (I speak in terms of men because how could God be less than united since He is one) of the Trinity that brought about the economic subjection of the Son to the Father. I think it is the united counsel of the Trinity that subjects all things to the Son. I think at that point the Son (the God-man) will Himself be made subject to the Godhead. (I think at the present time He is subject only to the Father) I think the purpose of this (there is a purpose clause at the end) is so that God will be all in all. In the end, there will only be God, wholly indivisible and uniquely Triune. The second person of the Trinity will no longer be the subordinate “Son,” but the co-equal God in terms of His economic function (of course, in His essential person, He has never ceased from being co-equal God, but in function He took on humanity). I find it interesting that in the book of Revelation, the word “Son” is not used to describe the second person of the Trinity after Revelation 14:14. He continues to be called the “Lamb,” but the subordination title “Son” is not used in the eternal state. In the end, there will be God, all in all.

I am guided to this conclusion further by a parallel use of of the term “all in all” contained in Col. 3:11. Paul wrote both of these statements in close time proximity–citing similar people in both epistles that were sent from Rome to a common area of modern day Turkey. In Col. 3:11, Paul uses the phrase, but this time expressly states that Christ is the One who is all in all.

What then about Paul’s use of the term “Father” in verse 24? My interpretation is that Paul is stating in verse 24 that at the end the Son will deliver up the kingdom to the Father, the last recorded future act of economic dependency within the Trinity. When Christ does this, then the Son Himself will be subjected to the Godhead, for the purpose that in the end, there will be only God.

Thus, in conclusion, I believe that Paul is stating that at the end of time, the Son will be made subject to the Godhead, so that in the end the Godhead (including the second person of the Trinity) will be all in all. There will no longer be Father and Son, but God and God; or in the words of John, God and the Lamb. Such is my view. I view the other interpretation to be somewhat strained. While it may make some logical sense to view the “one subjecting” in verse 28 to be the same as the Father in verse 24, since both personages seem to have things happening to them (receiving the kingdom in verse 24 and receiving the subjection of the Son in verse 28), the problem arises with the unanswered question (in what way is the future subjection of the Son to the Father a new thing?) If the Son presently is subject to the Father, a point seemingly made over and over in Scripture (1 Cor. 11:3; Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 3:2; 1 Pet. 2:5; 1 Jn. 2:1), then why the big deal about this future subjection? Unless that question is answered, any interpretation seems strained to me, as that point seems to drive the passage. By stating that it is the Godhead to whom the Son is subjected, one sees something different than the mere delivery of the kingdom; namely, the end of the economic relationship of Father and Son within the Trinity.

I understand this is a lengthy analysis of one little verse. It is an intriguing verse and hints for me at some of the great mysteries of God Himself.

tim

3 thoughts on “Is Jesus the Son Subject to God?

  1. Omobhude Johnson

    My believe of this verse is, after the all that have been saved, christ will reverse back to his fatherly role as creator and his being adjucate and mediator to men will cease.

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  2. Robert

    Clear as mud? The efforts at which Trinitarians will go to rationalize a clearly non-Trinitarian verse is amazing. This verse is as simple as it reads. The Son (Jesus) will be subject (subordinate) to the Father. Although no one will fully understand every passage in the bible, you cannot explain away very simple verses because it doesn’t fit your personal theological model. Keep researching as you are doing and ask God to show you the way

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  3. Rabiem

    Robert it is evident throughout scripture and beyond the shadow of a doubt that Jesus is one with the father. So all theologically challenging scripture must be interperted on the basis of what has already been revealed and not the other way around. Meaning, the passages that are seemingly obscure cannot annul the supeceding and glaring truth that we aleady have. So in a nutshell I agree with Jim’s exposition.

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