Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee - These words are quoted from Psalm 2:7, a psalm that seems to refer only to the Messiah; and they are quoted by St. Paul, Acts 13:33, as referring to the resurrection of Christ. And this application of them is confirmed by the same apostle, Romans 1:4, as by his resurrection from the dead he was declared - manifestly proved, to be the Son of God with power; God having put forth his miraculous energy in raising that body from the grave which had truly died, and died a violent death, for Christ was put to death as a malefactor, but by his resurrection his innocence was demonstrated, as God could not work a miracle to raise a wicked man from the dead. As Adam was created by God, and because no natural generation could have any operation in this case, therefore he was called the son of God, Luke 3:38, and could never have seen corruption if he had not sinned, so the human nature of Jesus Christ, formed by the energy of the eternal Spirit in the womb of the virgin, without any human intervention, was for this very reason called the Son of God, Luke 1:35; and because it had not sinned, therefore it could not see corruption, nor was it even mortal, but through a miraculous display of God's infinite love, for the purpose of making a sacrificial atonement for the sin of the world and God, having raised this sacrificed human nature from the dead, declared that same Jesus (who was, as above stated, the Son of God) to be his Son, the promised Messiah; and as coming by the Virgin Mary, the right heir to the throne of David, according to the uniform declaration of all the prophets.
The words, This day have I begotten thee, must refer either to his incarnation, when he was miraculously conceived in the womb of the virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit; or to his resurrection from the dead, when God, by this sovereign display of his almighty energy, declared him to be his Son, vindicated his innocence, and also the purity and innocence of the blessed virgin, who was the mother of this son, and who declared him to be produced in her womb by the power of God. The resurrection of Christ, therefore, to which the words most properly refer, not only gave the fullest proof that he was an innocent and righteous man, but also that he had accomplished the purpose for which he died, and that his conception was miraculous, and his mother a pure and unspotted virgin.
This is a subject of infinite importance to the Christian system, and of the last consequence in reference to the conviction and conversion of the Jews, for whose use this epistle was sent by God. Here is the rock on which they split; they deny this Divine Sonship of Jesus Christ, and their blasphemies against him and his virgin mother are too shocking to be transcribed. The certainty of the resurrection of Jesus refutes their every calumny; proves his miraculous conception; vindicates the blessed virgin; and, in a word, declares him to be the Son of God with power.
This most important use of this saying has passed unnoticed by almost every Christian writer which I have seen; and yet it lies here at the foundation of all the apostle's proofs. If Jesus was not thus the Son of God, the whole Christian system is vain and baseless: but his resurrection demonstrates him to have been the Son of God; therefore every thing built on this foundation is more durable than the foundations of heaven, and as inexpugnable as the throne of the eternal King.
He shall be to me a Son? - As the Jews have ever blasphemed against the Sonship of Christ, it was necessary that the apostle should adduce and make strong all his proofs, and show that this was not a new revelation; that it was that which was chiefly intended in several scriptures of the Old Testament, which, without farther mentioning the places where found, he immediately produces. This place, which is quoted from 2 Samuel 7:14, shows us that the seed which God promised to David, and who was to sit upon his throne, and whose throne should be established for ever, was not Solomon, but Jesus Christ; and indeed he quotes the words so as to intimate that they were so understood by the Jews. See among the observations at the end of the chapter.
For unto which of the angels - The object of this is, to prove that the Son of God, who has spoken to people in these last days, is superior to the angels. As the apostle was writing to those who had been trained in the Jewish religion, and who admitted the authority of the Old Testament, of course he made his appeal to that, and undoubtedly referred for proof to those places which were generally admitted to relate to the Messiah. Abarbanel says, that it was the common opinion of the Jewish doctors that the Messiah would be exalted above Abraham, Moses, and the angels - Stuart. There is a difficulty, as we shall see, in applying the passages which follow to the Messiah - a difficulty which we may find it not easy to explain. Some remarks will be made on the particular passages as we go along. In general it may be observed here:
(1) That it is to be presumed that those passages were in the time of Paul applied to the Messiah. He seems to argue from them as though this was commonly understood, and is at no pains to prove it.
(2) it is to be presumed that those to whom he wrote would at once admit this to be so. If this were not so, we cannot suppose that he would regard this mode of reasoning as at all efficacious, or adapted to convince those to whom he wrote.
(3) he did not apprehend that the application which he made of these texts would be called in question by the countrymen of those to whom he wrote. It is to be presumed, therefore, that the application was made in accordance with the received opinions, and the common interpretation.
(4) Paul had been instructed in early life in the doctrines of the Jewish religion, and made fully acquainted with all their principles of interpretation. It is to be presumed, therefore, that he made these quotations in accordance with the prevalent belief, and with principles which were well understood and admitted.
(5) every age and people have their own modes of reasoning. They may differ from others, and others may regard them as unsound, and yet to that age and people they are satisfactory and conclusive. The ancient philosophers employed modes of reasoning which would not strike us as the most forcible, and which perhaps we should not regard as tenable. So it is with the Chinese, the Hindus, the Muslims now. So it was with the writers of the dark ages who lived under the influence of the scholastic philosophy. They argue from admitted principles in their country and time - just as we do in ours. Their reasoning was as satisfactory to them as ours is to us.
(6) in a writer of any particular age we are to expect to find the prevailing mode of reasoning, and appeals to the usual arguments on any subject. We are not to look for methods of argument founded on the inductive philosophy in the writings of the schoolmen, or in the writings of the Chinese or the Hindus. It would be unreasonable to expect it. We are to expect that they will be found to reason in accordance with the customs of their time; to appeal to such arguments as were commonly alleged; and if they are reasoning with an adversary, “to make use of the points which he concedes,” and to urge them as suited to convince “him.” And this is not wrong. It may strike him with more force than it does us; it may be that we can see that is not the most solid mode of reasoning, but still it may not be in itself an improper method. That the writers of the New Testament should have used that mode of reasoning sometimes, is no more surprising than that we find writers in China reasoning from acknowledged principles, and in the usual manner there, or than that people in our own land reason on the principles of the inductive philosophy. These remarks may not explain all the difficulties in regard to the proof-texts adduced by Paul in this chapter, but they may remove some of them, and may so prepare the way that we may be able to dispose of them all as we advance. In the passage which is quoted in this verse, there is not much difficulty in regard to the propriety of its being thus used. The difficulty lies in the subsequent quotations in the chapter.
Said he at any time - He never used language respecting the angels like what he employs respecting his Son. He never applied to any one of them the name Son. “Thou art my Son.” The name “sons of God,” is applied in the Scriptures to saints, and may have been given to the angels. But the argument here is, that the name, my “Son” has never been given to any one of them particularly and by eminence. In a large general sense, they are the sons of God, or the children of God, but the name is given to the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, in a special sense, implying a unique relation to him, and a special dominion over all things. This passage is quoted from Psalm 2:1-12; - a Psalm that is usually believed to pertain particularly to the Messiah, and one of the few Psalms that have undisputed reference to him; see notes on Acts 4:25; Acts 13:33.
This day - see notes on Acts 13:33, where this passage is applied to the resurrection of Christ from the dead: proving that the phrase “this day” does not refer to the doctrine of eternal generation, but to the resurrection of the Redeemer - “the first-begotten of the dead:” Revelation 1:5. Thus, Theodoret says of the phrase “this day,” “it does not express his eternal generation, but what is connected with time.” The argument of the apostle here does not turn on the time when this was said, but on the fact that this was said to him and not to any one of the angels, and this argument will have equal force whether the phrase be understood as referring to the fact of his resurrection, or to his previous existence. The structure and scope of the second Psalm refers to his exaltation after the kings of the earth set themselves against him, and endeavored to cast off His government from them. In spite of that, and subsequent to that, he would set his king, which they had rejected, on his holy hill of Zion; see Psalm 2:2-6.
Have I begotten thee - See this place explained in the notes on Acts 13:33. It must, from the necessity of the case, be understood figuratively; and must mean, substantially, “I have constituted, or appointed thee.” If it refers to his resurrection, it means that that resurrection was a kind of “begetting” to life, or, a beginning of life; see Revelation 1:5.
And yet though Paul Acts 13:33 has applied it to the resurrection of the Redeemer, and though the name “Son of God” is applied to him on account of his resurrection (see notes on Romans 1:4), yet I confess this does not seem to me to come up to “all” that the writer here intended. The phrase,” The Son of God,” I suppose, properly denotes that the Lord Jesus sustained a relation to God, designated by that name, corresponding to the relations which he sustained to man, designated by the name “the Son of man.” The one implied that he had a special relation to God, as the other implied that he had a special relation to man. This is indisputable. But on what particular account the name was given him, or how he was manifested to be the Son of God, has been the great question. Whether the name refers to the mode of his existence before the incarnation, and to his “being begotten from eternity,” or to the incarnation and the resurrection, has long been a point on which people have been divided in opinion.
The natural idea conveyed by the title “the Son of God” is, that he sustained a relation to God which implied more than was human or angelic; and this is certainly the drift of the argument of the apostle here. I do not see, however, that he refers to the doctrine of “eternal generation,” or that he means to teach that. His point is, that God had declared and treated him as “a Son” - as superior to the angels and to human beings, and that this was shown in what had been said of him in the Old Testament. This would be equally clear, whether there is reference to the doctrine of eternal generation or not. The sense is, “he is more than human.” He is more than angelic. He has been addressed and treated as a Son - which none of the angels have. They are regarded simply as ministering spirits. They sustain subordinate stations, and are treated accordingly. He, on the contrary, is the brightness of the divine glory.
He is treated and addressed as a Son. In his original existence this was so. In his incarnation this was so. When on earth this was so; and in his resurrection, ascension, and session at the right hand of God, he was treated in all respects “as a Son” - as superior to all servants, and to all ministering spirits.” The exact reference, then, of the phrase “this day have I begotten thee,” in the Psalm, is to the act of “constituting” him in a public manner the Son of God - and refers to God‘s setting him as king on the “holy hill of Zion” - or making him king over the church and the world as Messiah; and this was done, eminently, as Paul shows Psalm 95:7; Hebrews 4:7. The order of the second Psalm, too, certainly does prove that the “begetting” took place after the opposition which the kings and rulers made to Christ, and not prior to it. Accordingly, the text is quoted elsewhere in reference to the resurrection of Christ, Romans 1:4; Acts 13:33. Besides, the chief design of the apostle in the place is not so much to show why Christ is called the Son of God, as simply to direct attention to the fact that he has this name, on the possession of which the whole argument is founded. He inherits a name which is never given to angels, and that of itself is proof of his superiority to them, whether we suppose the ground of the title to lie in his previous existence, or, with our author, in his incarnate Deity. But on this question, it must be admitted, that the passage determines nothing.
All this is substantially allowed by Owen, than whom a more stanch supporter of the doctrine of eternal Sonship cannot be named. “The apostle, in this place,” says he, “does not treat of the eternal generation of the Son, but of His exaltation and pre-eminence above angels. The word also, היום haayowmconstantly in the Scripture, denotes some signal time, one day, or more. And that expression, ‹this day have I begotten thee,‘ following immediately upon that other typical one, ‹I have set my King upon my holy hill of Zion,‘ seems to be of the same import, and in like manner to be interpreted.” On the general doctrine of the Sonship, the author has stated his views both here and elsewhere. That it is eternal or has its origin in the previous existence of Christ, he will not allow. It is given to the second person of the Trinity because he became God incarnate, so that but for the incarnation and the economy of redemption, he would not have had this name. But the eternal Sonship of Christ rests on a body of evidence, that will not soon or easily be set aside. See that evidence adduced in a supplementary Note under Romans 1:4. Meanwhile we would simply ask the reader, if it do not raise our idea of the love of God, in the mission of Christ, to suppose that he held the dear relation of Son previous to His coming - that being the Son, he was sent to prove what a sacrifice the Father could make, in yielding up one so near, and so dear. But this astonishing evidence of love, if not destroyed, is greatly weakened, by the supposition that there was no Sonship until the sending of Christ. See also supplementary note under Hebrews 1:3.)
“And again, I will be to him a Father.” This passage is evidently quoted from 2 Samuel 7:14. A sentiment similar to this is found in Psalm 89:20-27. As these words were originally spoken, they referred to Solomon. They occur in a promise to David that he should not fail to have an heir to sit on his throne, or that his throne should be perpetual. The promise was particularly designed to comfort him in view of the fact that God would not suffer him to build the temple because his hands had been defiled with blood. To console him in reference to that, God promises him far greater honor than that would be. He promises that the house should be built by one of his own family, and that his family and kingdom should be established forever. That in this series of promises the “Messiah” was included as a descendant of David, was the common opinion of the Jews, of the early Christians, and has been of the great body of interpreters.
It was certainly from such passages as this, that the Jews derived the notion which prevailed so universally in the time of the Saviour that the Messiah was to be the son or the descendant of David; see Matthew 22:42-45; Matthew 9:27; Matthew 15:22; Matthew 20:30-31; Mark 10:47-48; Luke 18:38-39; Matthew 12:23; Matthew 21:9; John 7:42; Romans 1:3; Revelation 5:5; Revelation 22:16. That opinion was universal. No one doubted it; and it must have been common for the Jews to apply such texts as this to the Messiah. Paul would not have done it in this instance unless it had been usual. Nor was it improper. If the Messiah was to be a descendant of David, then it was natural to apply these promises in regard to his posterity in an eminent and special sense to the Messiah. They were a part of the promises which included him, and which terminated in him. The promise, therefore, which is here made is, that God would be to him, in a special sense, a Father, and he should be a Son. It does not, as I suppose, pertain originally exclusively to the Messiah, but included him as a descendant of David. To him it would be applicable in an eminent sense; and if applicable to him at all, it proved all that the passage here is adduced to prove - that the name “Son” is given to the Messiah - a “name” not given to angels.
That is just the point on which the argument turns. What is implied in the bestowment of that name is another point on which the apostle discourses in the other parts of the argument. I have no doubt, therefore, that while these words originally might have been applicable to Solomon, or to any of the other descendants of David who succeeded him on the throne, yet they at last terminated, and were designed to terminate in the Messiah - to whom pre-eminently God would be a Father; compare the introduction to Isaiah, section 7, iii. (3), and the notes on Isaiah 7:16.
(The promise, doubtless, had a special reference to the Messiah. Nay, we may safely assert, that the chief reference was to him, for in the case of typical persons and things what they adumbrate is principally to be regarded. So here, though the original application of the passage be to Solomon, the type of Christ, yet it finds its great and ultimate application in the person of the glorious antitype. However strange this double application may seem to us, it is quite in accordance with the whole system of things under the Jewish dispensation. Almost everything connected with it was constructed on this typical principle. This the apostles understood so well, that they were never stumbled by it, and what is remarkable, and of the last importance on this subject, “never for a moment drawn from the ultimate and chief design of a promise or prophecy” by its primary reference to the type. They saw Christ in it, and made the application solely to him, passing over entirely the literal sense, and seizing at once the ultimate and superior import. The very passage in question 2 Samuel 7:11-17, is thus directly applied not only here, but throughout the New Testament; Luke 1:32-33; Acts 2:30, Acts 2:37; Acts 13:22-23. Now certainly the apostles are the best judges in matters of this kind. Their authority, in regard to the sense of passages quoted by them from the Old Testament, is just as great as in the case of the original matter of the New Testament. That Christ was indeed principally intended is further evident from the fact, that “when the kingdom had passed from the house of David,” succeeding prophets repeat the promise in Jeremiah 33:14, Jeremiah 33:26. Now connecting this fact with the direct assertion of the writer of the New Testament above referred to, every doubt must be removed.
It will be alleged, however, that while the direct application to the Messiah, of this and other prophecies, is obvious and authoritative, it is yet desirable, and they who deny inspiration will insist on it as essential, to prove that there is at least nothing in the original places, whence the citations are made, inconsistent with such application. Such proof seems to be especially requisite here; for immediately after the words, “I will be his Father and he shall be my Son,” there follows: “if he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men,” 2 Samuel 7:14; which last sentence, it is affirmed, cannot, in any sense, be applicable to the Messiah. It has been said in reply, that though such language cannot be applied to Christ “personally,” it may yet refer to him as the “covenant head” of his people. Though there be no iniquity in him, “such fallings and transgressions as disannul not the covenant, often fall out on their part for whom he undertaketh therein.” In accordance with this view, it has been observed by Mr. Pierce, and others after him, that the Hebrew relative pronoun אשׁר 'ashershould be translated “whosoever;” in which case, the sense is, whosoever of his “children,” that is, the Messiah‘s, shall commit iniquity, etc. And to this effect indeed is the alteration of the words in Psalm 89, where the original covenant is repeated, “if his children forsake my law - then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.”
Perhaps, however, the better solution of the difficulty is what at once admits, that the words in question cannot apply to the antitype but to the type only. It is a mistake to suppose, that in a typical passage every thing must necessarily have its antitypical reference. The reader will find some excellent and apposite remarks on this subject in Dr. Owen‘s commentary on the place. “No type,” says that judicious writer, “was in all things a type of Christ, but only in that particular wherein he was designed of God so to be. David was a type of Christ, but not in all things that he was and did. In his conquests of the enemies of the church, in his throne and kingdom, he was so; but in his private actions, whether as a man, or as a king, or captain, he was not so. Nay, not all things spoken of him that was a type, even in those respects wherein he was a type, are spoken of him as a type, or have any respect unto the thing signified, but some of them may belong to him in his personal capacity only. And the reason is, that he who was a type by God‘s institution, might morally fail in the performance of his duty, even then and in those things wherein he was a type. And this wholly removes the difficulty connected with the words ‹if he sin against me;‘ for those words relating to the moral duty of Solomon, in that wherein he was a type of Christ, namely, the rule and administration of his kingdom, may not at all belong to Christ, who was prefigured by God‘s institution of things, and not in any moral deportment in the observance of them.”
These observations seem to contain the true principles of explication in this and similar cases. The solution of Prof. Stuart is not materially different. “Did not God,” says he, “engage, that David should have successors on his ‹earthly‘ throne, and also that he ‹should‘ have a son who would sit on a ‹spiritual‘ throne, and have a kingdom of which David‘s own was but a mere type? Admitting this, our difficulty is diminished if not removed. “The iniquity committed is predicated of that part of David‘s seed, who might commit it,” that is, his successors on the ‹national‘ throne, while the more exalted condition predicated of his successor, belongs to Him to whom was given a kingdom over all.”)
Christ took with Him to the heavenly courts His glorified humanity. To those who receive Him He gives power to become the sons of God, that at last God may receive them as His, to dwell with Him throughout eternity. If during this life they are loyal to God, they will at last “see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads.” Revelation 22:4. And what is the happiness of heaven but to see God? What greater joy could come to the sinner saved by the grace of Christ than to look upon the face of God and know Him as Father? MH 421.1
The Scriptures clearly indicate the relation between God and Christ, and they bring to view as clearly the personality and individuality of each. MH 421.2
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son; ... who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, 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; being made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said He at any time. MH 421.3Read in context »
The Scriptures clearly indicate the relation between God and Christ, and they bring to view as clearly the personality and individuality of each. 8T 268.1
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, 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; being made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee? And again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son?” Hebrews 1:1-5. 8T 268.2Read in context »
Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he said, And let all the angels of God worship him. Hebrews 1:4-6. LHU 34.1Read in context »