Eternal Subordination of the Son and the ESV Study Bible Notes

Given the recent debate over ESS/EFS/ERAS, I thought it would be worthwhile to demonstrate the influence this teaching has had in possibly unexpected places.

In 2008, Crossway published the ESV Study Bible. Dr. Wayne Grudem was the General Editor, and Dr. Bruce Ware was one of the 95 contributors to the project. When I began researching into ESS doctrine being taught by Drs. Grudem and Ware, I looked at some passages in my ESV Study Bible to see how they were explained. Given the recent debate over ESS/EFS/ERAS, I thought it would be worthwhile to demonstrate the influence this teaching has had in possibly unexpected places. The following are quotes from the ESV Study Bible study notes on various Bible passages.

 

Over at Mortification of Spin, Todd Pruitt has highlighted a handful of quotes from Dr. Bruce Ware’s book, Father Son and Holy Spirit: Relationships Roles and Relevance. These quotes show very clearly how troubling and how far from orthodoxy the teaching on Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) is:

“God the Father receives the ultimate and supreme glory, for the Father sent the Son to accomplish redemption in his humiliation, and the Father exalted the Son to his place over all creation; in all these things, the Father alone stands supreme over all – including supreme over his very Son. All praise of the Son ultimately and rightly redounds to the glory of the Father. It is the Father, then who is supreme in the Godhead – in the triune relationships of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and supreme over all of the very creation over which the Son reigns as its Lord.” – p. 50

“The Father is supreme over all, and in particular, he is supreme within the Godhead as the highest in authority and the one deserving of ultimate praise.” – p. 51

“…though the Father is supreme, he often provides and works through his Son and Spirit to accomplish his work and fulfill his will. I am amazed when I consider here the humility of the Father. For, though the Father is supreme, though he has in the trinitarian order the place of highest authority, the place of highest honor, yet he chooses to do his work in many cases through the Son and through the Spirit rather than unilaterally.” – p. 55

“In many ways, what we see here of the Father choosing not to work unilaterally but to accomplish his work through the Son, or through the Spirit, extends into his relationship to us. Does God need us to do his work? Does God need us to help others grow in Christ? Does God need us to proclaim the gospel so that others hear the good news and are saved? The answer is an emphatic no. He doesn’t need any of us to do any of this. Being the omnipotent and sovereign Ruler over all, he would merely have to speak, and whatever he willed would be done…. No, the humbling fact is that God doesn’t need any of those whom he calls into his service.” – p. 57

“It is not as though the Father is unable to work unilaterally, but rather, he chooses to involve the Son and the Spirit.” – p. 57

In 2008, Crossway published the ESV Study Bible. Dr. Wayne Grudem was the General Editor, and Dr. Bruce Ware was one of the 95 contributors to the project. When I began researching into ESS doctrine being taught by Drs. Grudem and Ware, I looked at some passages in my ESV Study Bible to see how they were explained. I used several of them in my posts on ESS:Continuing Down This Path, Complementarians Lose and Does the Son Eternally Submit to the Authority of the Father?

Given the recent debate over ESS/EFS/ERAS, I thought it would be worthwhile to demonstrate the influence this teaching has had in possibly unexpected places. The following are quotes from the ESV Study Bible study notes on various Bible passages. The page numbers are from the ebook version. The Scripture passages are all from the ESV translation.

Matthew 11:27: All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

All things have been handed over to me by the Father. This reveals the profound divine self-consciousness of Jesus, as well as the supreme authority of the Father within the Trinity, by which he has delegated authority over “all things” to the Son. “All things” probably refers to everything needed with respect to the carrying out of Christ’s ministry of redemption, including the revelation of salvation to those to whom he chooses to reveal the Father.(6026, emphasis added)

Matthew 28:18: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

In his risen state, Jesus exercises absolute authority throughout heaven and earth, which shows his deity. His authority has been given by the Father, which indicates that he remains subject to the Father. (6113, emphasis added)

Mark 10: 40: but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared

is not mine to grant Though Jesus is fully God, yet there are differences of authority within the Trinity and the Son throughout Scripture is always subject to the authority and direction of the Father, who will ultimately determine who exactly receives such positions of honor. Jesus both defers authority to his heavenly Father and implies that he will himself be exalted. (6259-6260, emphasis added)

John 1:3: All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Made through him follows the consistent pattern of Scripture in saying that God the Father carried out his creative works through the activity of the Son. (6738, emphasis added)

John 3:35: The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.

The Father … has given all things into his hand indicates supreme authority for the Father in the counsels of the Trinity, and a delegated authority over the whole created universe for the Son, as is indicated also in many other NT passages. Yet at the same time, the Father, Son and Spirit are fully God in the unity of a single divine being.(6754-6755, emphasis added)

John 5:18-19: This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Jesus’ claim that the Son can do nothing of his own accord, taken with vv. 17-18, affirms two themes: (1) Jesus is equal to God, i.e. he is fully divine; (2) the Father and the Son have different functions and roles, and the Son is subject to the Father in everything he does, yet this does not deny their fundamental equality. (6769, emphasis added)

John 12:49: For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.

Not … on my own authority indicates again that supreme authority in the Trinity belongs to the Father, and delegated authority to the Son, though they are equal in deity.(6809, emphasis added)

John 14:28: You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

In saying that the Father is greater than I, Jesus means that the Father as the one who sends and commands is “greater” (in authority or leadership) than the Son. However, this does not mean that Jesus is inferior in his being and essence to the Father. (6816-6817, emphasis added)

Acts 1:7: He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.

the Father has fixed by his own authority. Ultimate authority in determining the events of history is consistently ascribed to God the Father among the persons of the Trinity.(7012, emphasis added)

Acts 2:33: Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

The interactive and differentiated relationship among the persons of the Trinity is clearly evident in this verse. Thus God the Father first gave the promise that the Holy Spirit would come in a greater, more powerful way to accomplish his work in people’s lives (as indicated in Peter’s quote from Joel 2 in Acts 2:17-19). Then, when Christ’s work on earth was accomplished, Christ was exalted to the second highest position of authority in the universe, namely, at the right hand of God, with ruling power delegated to him by God the Father. Then Christ received authority from the Father to send out the Holy Spirit in this new fullness. (7020-7021, emphasis mine)

Ephesians 1:4: even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

He chose us in him means that the Father chose Christians in the Son (Christ), and this took place in eternity past, before the foundation of the world. This indicates that for all eternity the Father has had the role of leading and directing among the persons of the Trinity, even though Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in deity and attributes.(7579, emphasis added)

1 Corinthians 11:3: But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

The head of Christ is God indicates that within the Trinity the Father has a role of authority or leadership with respect to the Son, though they are equal in deity and attributes. (7366, emphasis added)

1 Corinthians 15:24-28: When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

the Son … will also be subjected. Jesus is one with God the Father and equal to the Father in deity yet functionally subordinate to him, and this verse shows that his subjection to the Father will continue for all eternity. (7385-7386, emphasis added)

Rachel Miller is News Editor for the Aquila Report. She is also a homeschooling mother of 3 boys and member of a PCA church. This article first appeared on her blog, A Daughter of the Reformation, and is used with permission.