Obedient From All Eternity? 1 Corinthians 15:20–28


I will never forget that Sunday. I was about thirteen years old—or maybe a little younger. The Baptist pastor came to the front of the sanctuary, as was normal. The piano had been playing a prelude. It seemed like another ordinary Sunday morning worship service, at least, until it was not. On this particular Sunday there was a church discipline announcement before the service started: one of the deacons had converted to Oneness Pentecostalism, which claims that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not persons but rather manifestations of Jesus. Even as young and theologically naive as I was, I could tell that this was a big deal. I think that was one of the things I can look back on as a time when I began to grow up. Suddenly I realized that not everyone believed what I believed, and false teaching was a real threat. Heresy became experientially real to me in a way it had never been before.

Since then I have learned that nothing is more fundamental to the Christian faith than the Trinity and the person of Christ. Nevertheless, in recent times, despite their centrality to the Christian faith, there has been considerable controversy over these these cardinal doctrines. One need only spend a few days on evangelical or Reformed Twitter to see evidence of the controversy. Many have argued that God the Son is subordinate to God the Father from all eternity. Does the Bible prove their claim, therefore necessitating a change to our doctrine of God? The answer is no. One point of disagreement in these modern debates is the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:20–28, but we will see that a correct interpretation of these verses is in favor of the traditional catholic and Reformed view of the equality of the Triune persons. In fact, this text forms a key part of the biblical argument for Triune equality. Before we can argue for that, however, we must look at what the tradition actually says.

What About Creeds, Confessions, and the Tradition?

The ecumenical creeds are very clear on the equality of Father and Son. The Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds all proclaim that Christ is equal to the Father, and the Nicene adds that Christ’s kingdom is everlasting. When we turn to the Reformed confessions, we find much of the same theology: Christ is presented as the Father’s equal.1 These documents also affirm the reality of Christ’s office as mediator, a point which will be important later.2 Moving to individual Reformed theologians, there is broad agreement in the Reformed tradition on two key points. First, the persons of the Trinity are equal in essence—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equally God, and they equally share in all of the divine attributes and prerogatives (things such as divine knowledge or the right to be worshipped).3 Second, there is rule and authority possessed by the Son as Son and also rule and authority possessed by him in his function as God-man, the Last Adam who is mediator.4 This is the theology of our tradition, but we must remember that they are not our highest standard for faith and doctrine. For that we must turn to Scripture.

Divine Equality and the Bible

Instead of rushing immediately to 1 Corinthians 15:20–28, it is best to spend some time looking at what the Bible as a whole says about the Son and his submission to the Father. After all, no interpretation of a passage of Scripture can be correct if it disagrees with the Bible as a whole. Therefore we need to see other relevant passages from both the Old and New Testaments, and these passages fall under four groups. First, we have the Old Testament Kingship Texts. In Psalm 2 we have a coronation ceremony, where the new ruler is enthroned and receives the inheritance of the whole world.5 Psalm 110 adds to the picture by showing this messianic individual sitting at Yahweh’s right hand until his enemies are made into his footstool, a picture of complete conquest and domination. Finally, Daniel 7:13–14 speaks about the “son of man” who receives this same inheritance, but with an important addition: this figure’s rule is everlasting and his kingdom is indestructible.6 This has an echo in Revelation 1:13–14, which presents Christ as the Son of Man ruling in heaven after his ascension and before his return. These texts show that God will appoint an individual as king over all things, and this individual will receive this kingdom at a certain point within redemptive history. This indicates that the specific authority under question is not itself eternal. In other words, this is not a situation that can be read back into eternity past; it began at a certain time, specifically when Jesus rose, ascended to heaven, and sat down at God’s right hand.

Let us call the second group of passages the New Testament Authority Texts. In Matthew 28:18 the post-resurrection Jesus announces that all authority has been given to him now that he has completed his earthly mission, paralleling what we just saw in Daniel 7:13–14.7 Ephesians 1:20–22 adds that this authority is supreme not only in this age but also in the one to come.8 In Philippians 3:21 we read about Christ’s authority and the transformation of our bodies in language that reminds us of Psalm 8, which itself is a reflection on Genesis 1.9 This indicates that Paul sees Christ as the Last Adam who rules all things, a rule particularly tied to the resurrection of his people’s bodies.10 This degree of authority is reserved for God alone, so Christ must be fully God, equal in power, authority, and dignity.11 The context of his authority is the accomplishment of the Son’s mediatorial work—what he did as the incarnate God-man. This authority was bestowed on the Son as a result of his work.12 Hebrews 2:5–18 is quite clear on this point. For a little while Jesus was made subject to the angels as a man, and as a result his death (the completion of his economic mediatorial task) he earned the right to be crowned with glory and honor.13 If we read this mediatorial authority back into eternity past we must also read the accomplishment of redemption back into eternity past, a problem for anyone who believes that Christ actually purchased our redemption by his deeds on earth. Either Christ won our salvation and earned this kingdom in eternity or in time. One cannot have both.

Third, there are a number of texts in John’s writings that show the Son being sent by the Father.14 John 3:16–17 makes it clear that the mediatorial mission of Christ was the reason he was sent.15 John 17:4–5 adds that the glory Christ received after his death and resurrection was owed to him because of the work he completed in his mediatorial mission. In 1 John 4:9–14 the apostle reiterates that the reason for Christ’s coming was the accomplishment of redemption. Taken with other sending texts in the New Testament, these passages add to the argument that the Son’s “submission” is a function of his mediatorial office, not something that he does as Son from all eternity.16

The final group of texts outlines what appears to be a switch of authority in the Son-Spirit relationship within the books of Luke and Acts. This is especially important when it comes to the earthly ministry of Jesus and his ascension and rule at God’s right hand.17 In most of Luke the Holy Spirit seems to be the dominant person. He was the one who came to the virgin Mary in power at Christ’s miraculous conception, and he empowered Jesus throughout his earthly mission.18 When Jesus was exalted at the Father’s right hand this seems to be reversed, however.19 For example, according to Acts 2:33 Christ now gives the Spirit to his people. To be consistent, those who hold that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father should also hold that the Son was formerly subordinate to the Spirit but now the relation of authority is reversed.

1 Corinthians 15

Now that we have looked at these four groups of texts, we come to one of the most contested passages in this debate: 1 Corinthians 15:20–28. This entire chapter is tied together by one central idea: the resurrection of the body brings believers into the glorified state, which is the goal of Creation itself.20 Adam was made from the earth (v.47), but to enter the age to come in its fullness one must first be made new, or Spiritual (v.44).21

How does 1 Corinthians 15:20–28 fit into the rest of this chapter? Quite simply, Christ’s resurrection marked the beginning of the the age to come. Because of this he has been given his mediatorial kingdom, which will one day lead to the destruction of death.22 According to v.20, the harvest began with Christ and will be completed with believers at the end of the age, and this is what gives them confidence.23 It is Christ as first fruits that sets apart those who are represented in him as the Second Adam.24 This two-Adams reading is affirmed by vv.21–22, which is almost identical to what Paul says in Romans 5:12–21. Therefore this passage cannot be properly understood without seeing both Adam and Christ as federal heads of humanity. We all die because we are in Adam, and believers will be resurrected in glorified bodies because they are in Christ.25 The order in v.23 is important: Christ is already risen with a glorified body, and his people await the same fate at his coming (παρουσίᾳ), a term which was often used to refer to ancient kings or emperors of Rome when they arrived at a certain place.26 Therefore it seems that this is a royal reference—Christ will return as king.

The when of this return is key. In vv.24–28 we see quotations from Psalm 110:1 and Psalm 8:6, both of which have to do with God subjecting the Messiah’s enemies under him.27 Jesus has ruled ever since his resurrection from the dead, ascension, and enthronement, but the end of this rule is also clearly defined.28 As S. M. Baugh explains, “what makes this ‘the end’ is that Christ turns over his messianic kingdom to his God and Father, but he must first destroy every other competing authority which is in rebellion to his own dominion,” including death itself.29 By citing Psalm 110:1, Paul is attributing to Christ both the actions of the messianic figure and the actions of Yahweh. Yahweh has subjected everything to Christ, and Christ has also subjected everything to himself.

Finally, the Greek word for “submission” (ὑποτάσσω) is used of the Son only one time in the Bible: 1 Corinthians 15:28. We can see in the context of this verse that the purpose for which the Father is subjecting the Son is the consummation, and there is nothing that suggests this has to do with anything other than Christ as mediator.30 The Son is completing his mediatorial task and as a result he will hand over his completed work to the Father, marking the transition from Christ’s kingdom as it now is (when Christ rules in the midst of his enemies), to the eternal kingdom (when his enemies are destroyed and God is all in all).31 The Warrior King’s goal will be achieved and his task as Last Adam completed.32 Death will die in the resurrection, and the spiritual bodies of Christ’s people will then be able to follow him into the consummation.

We can see that many biblical texts present Christ as the Father’s equal in authority and power, and these things will last into the age to come. Indeed, the Bible is clear that Christ will reign for all eternity.33 When Scripture references the transfer or reception of authority from the Father to the Son it is in the context of the Son as mediator, and when Christ hands the kingdom to the Father he is doing it as mediator and announcing the fulfillment of his mediatorial task.34 Therefore this is a subjection of office, with Christ fulfilling his duties as the Last Adam, and not a subjection of God the Son from all eternity.35

What Do We Do With All of This?

If what we saw above is what the ecumenical creeds and Reformed confessions teach, and if this is where the biblical data point, then what do we do with all of this?

I suggest that there are two doctrinal arguments that make the best sense of the biblical data.

The Covenant of Redemption

One historical Reformed doctrine in particular that provides a reason to reject the doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son is the Covenant of Redemption.36 Theologians in the history of the church can and have explained the interactions within the Trinity without using the concept of covenant, but the Covenant of Redemption gives a surer foundation and makes the most sense of what the Bible teaches.37 When it comes to an adequate definition of this covenant, we need look no further than Louis Berkhof: the Covenant of Redemption is “the agreement between the Father and the Son as Head and Redeemer of the elect, and the Son, voluntarily taking the place of those whom the Father had given him.”38 This is able to balance four strands of biblical teaching.

First, it shows that the Son is true God just as the Father is true God.39 Christ prays in John 17:5 that the Father would glorify the Son once again with the glory they both shared before the creation of the world. In the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18 we read that the Son has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Sharing in glory and authority indicate sharing in essence. Indeed, only God is able to possess all glory and all authority.40

Second, Christ’s obedience to the Father is voluntary, not necessary for him as Son.41 In other words, he was not forced into coming to earth and taking on flesh in order to live, die, and rise again for his people. Instead, he did this of his own volition. God the Son redeemed his people as a volunteer, not a hostage who was bound to submit to God the Father from all eternity.

Third, the obedience that Christ offered to the Father had to do with his earthly mission.42 In the Gospel of John alone, Christ explicitly states that he was sent by the Father thirty-one times, and these occurrences are all for the purpose of his mediatorial mission.43 He was sent to redeem a people for God’s great name.

Fourth, it avoids the tendency to imply an authority/submission structure within the Trinity. This is because the mediatorial office and function of the Son is the result of the covenant between Father and Son. In other words, the Son was not eternally subordinate to the Father’s authority, but rather voluntarily covenanted to become subordinate as mediator in order to fulfill his task as the Second Adam (Rom 5:12–19; 1 Cor 15:21–22, 45–49).44 Therefore “when we read about Christ’s work and His interaction with the Father, it takes place within a covenantal context.”45 The divine will is the foundation of redemption, and the persons who share this one undivided will covenanted together to accomplish it.

Fifth, and finally, the Covenant of Redemption avoids the temptation to make the Doctrine of the Trinity nothing else than an extended discussion of Christology.46 The Son covenanted to obey, and this covenant was made between the equal persons of the eternally blessed Trinity. The cross is not a scandal if it was necessary according to the Son’s Sonship, and it is not a scandal if the Son had already obeyed for eternity.47 Instead, it would be par for the course. J. V. Fesko argues for a “better way forward”—understanding the Son’s obedience to the Father within the framework of Deuteronomy’s covenantal context.48 This is the major theme that we often find in New Testament texts that speak of the obedience of Christ (the use of Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 22:15 is one such prominent example).49

The Mediatorial Kingdom

The second historical Reformed doctrine that helps us make sense of the biblical data is the idea of Christ’s mediatorial kingship—the Father is ruling through the God-man. Historically this concept has been included in what is known as the twofold kingdom. This is a better explanation for the “submission” in 1 Corinthians 15 than the one provided by those who argue that the Son has been subordinate from all eternity. The essential kingdom is what the Son rules (alongside the Father and Holy Spirit) because he is God of the entire creation.50 The Second Person of the Trinity would still be the ruler of the heavens and earth even had he not become incarnate and redeemed his people. We also read many places in the Bible where the Father gives a kingdom to the incarnate Christ, however.51 This is because the God-man completed the work of redemption and was raised and enthroned as a reward, which is his mediatorial kingdom. Making a distinction here allows us to affirm Christ’s full participation in the divine essence and the prerogatives that accompany it (such as glory and authority), as well as the giving and returning of a kingdom and authority between the Father and incarnate Son.

In light of the reality of the Covenant of Redemption and Christ’s mediatorial kingdom, we must always differentiate between ontology and economical function when it comes to the Trinity.52 That is a technical way of saying that we must not assume that what God does in history tells us exactly what God is in himself. We may not simply assume that what we see God doing in history exhausts who he is, nor may we assume that God is who he is only in relation to us. We do not want to thrust salvation back into the divine essence or even the eternal trinitarian relations between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, because if we make a mistake in our doctrine of God, then all other doctrines suffer. After all, theology is the study of God, and we only study other things (like creation, salvation, etc.) as they relate to God. If the foundation is cracked, the house cannot stand for long.

Now What?

How does this affect us in our worship and Christian life? If we believe all of this, then what difference does it make for us? As I see it, this debate has at least three major implications.53

First, it is a debate about the God whom we worship, and so it has any number of implications for our piety and practice. Nothing could be more important than thinking rightly about our Creator and Savior. Specifically, is Christ worthy of the same worship as the Father?54 The evidence says yes, he is, therefore we must worship our Savior as true God. Does Christ deserve the same worship and adoration as the Father (and the Spirit)? When we answer our Lord’s call to worship and sing praises to him, do we sing to all three persons equally? A million times yes, since Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are true God, deserving of all worship, glory, and honor. For another example, we and our covenant children are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Does the Father have priority of place here, or are all three persons of the Trinity active? We should affirm the latter.

Second, this debate clarifies whether Christ came to save his people voluntarily or necessarily. In other words, did Christ come for his people because he loved them or because he was necessarily obedient to his superior, the Father?55 We see that the former option is best once we take into account all of the data. As one writer summarizes, “Orthodox Trinitarian theology and Christology are the precondition for the gospel’s true intelligibility.”56 In other words, we cannot be truly “Christ-centered” or “gospel-centered” if we continually waffle on the doctrines of God and Christ, and turning Christ into a hostage on the cross is a terrible thing to do. Christ came to save his elect because he loved them, even though we are often tempted to reverse this and think that he loves us only because he saves us. Praise him because he willingly came to suffer for us!

Finally, this discussion, at least implicitly, has to do with the use of creeds and confessions in our churches and lives. Are we as modern Christians reading the Scriptures on our own or are we reading them with our brothers and sisters across the world and throughout the ages?57If the latter is true (and it is), then the Christians who came before us have things to teach us. Although the antiquity of a doctrine does not automatically make it right, it should get our attention. We all bring preconceived notions and expectations to God’s Word. Therefore we should seek to learn from those who came before us, especially as they have agreed about the major doctrines of the faith in ecumenical creeds and confessions. The Holy Spirit is not just at work in our own time and place.58


The notion of the Son as eternally equal to the Father in divinity, authority, and glory makes the most sense out of our Christian lives: we worship Christ as equal to the Father, all persons of the Trinity are active in our lives, and Christ came to save his people voluntarily. Christian, please accept nothing less than this, because this is what God’s own Word teaches.

©Christopher Smith. All Rights Reserved.


1 The Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 50; The Belgic Confession of Faith, Articles 8, 10, and 19; The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 2.

2 The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 8; The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question and Answer 102; The Westminster Larger Catechism, Question and Answer 191.

3 John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion in The Library of Christian Classics, Volume XXI, ed. John T. McNeill. Trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), 1.13.16; Theodore Beza, Propositions and Principles of Diuinitie Propounded and Disputed in the Vniuersitie of Geneua, by Certaine Students of Diuinitie There, Vnder M. Theod. Beza, and M. Anthonie Faius. Translated into English (1591), ed. John Penry (Charleston: BiblioLife, 2010), I.II.10; William Perkins, “Exposition of the symbol or creed of the apostles.” In The Works of William Perkins, Volume 5, ed. Ryan Hurd (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2017), 109; te Velde, Dolf, ed., Synopsis of a Purer Theology, Latin Text and English Translation, Volume 1: Disputations 1–23. Trans. Riemer A. Faber. (Boston: Brill, 2015), 205; Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3 Volumes, ed. James T. Dennison Jr. Trans. George Musgrave Giger (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1992–97), 1:283; Johannes Wollebius, “Compendium Theologiae Christianae.” In Reformed Dogmatics: Seventeenth-Century Reformed Theology Through the Writings of Wollebius, Voetius, and Turretin, ed. John W. Beardslee (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977), 45; Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, ed. Edward N. Gross (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988), 402–04; B.B. Warfield, The Lord of Glory: A Study of the Designations of Our Lord in the New Testament with Especial Reference to His Deity (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1950), 92–93; Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1958), 88.

4 Calvin, Institutes, 2.15.5; Perkins, “Exposition,” 111; Hank van den Belt, ed., Synopsis of a Purer Theology, Latin Text and English Translation, Volume 2: Disputations 24–42. Trans. Riemer A. Faber (Boston: Brill, 2016), 127–28; William Ames, The Marrow of Theology, Translated from the Third Latin Edition, 1629, ed. and trans. John D. Eusden (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997),  I.XIX.21; I.XLI.34; Turretin, Institutes, 2:492–93; Wollebius, “Compendium,” 98; Hodge, Systematic Theology, Abridged Edition, 405; Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ, ed. John Bolt. Trans. John Friend (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), 247; Warfield, The Lord of Glory, 233–38; Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 410–11; See also Jonathon Beeke, Duplex Regnum Christi: Christ’s Twofold Kingdom in Reformed Theology (Boston: Brill, 2020); For a fine sketch of the historical trajectory of catholic and Reformed formulations of the Trinity and eternal subordination, see Kevin Giles, Jesus and the Father: Modern Evangelicals Reinvent the Doctrine of the Trinity (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 129–71; Keith E. Johnson “Trinitarian Agency and the Eternal Subordination of the Son: An Augustinian Perspective.” Themelios 36.1 (2011): 7–25.

5 Samuel Terrien, The Psalms: Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary, The Eerdmans Critical Commentary, ed. David Noel Freedman and Astrid B. Beck (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 83–84, 85; John Goldingay, Psalms, Volume 1: Psalms 1–41, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, ed. Tremper Longman III (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), 100.

6 Brandon D. Crowe, The Last Adam: A Theology of the Obedient Life of Jesus in the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017), 38–43.

7 Knox Chamblin, Matthew, A Mentor Commentary, Volume 2: Chapters 14–28 (Ross-shire: Mentor Imprint, 2010), 1487.

8 “This is the only place in Paul’s letters where ‘this age’ and ‘the one to come’ occur together.” Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 281; cf. Baugh, Ephesians, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, ed. H. Wayne House (Bellingham: Lexham Press, 2016), 127.

9 Matthew S. Harmon, Philippians: A Mentor Commentary (Ross-shire: Mentor Imprint, 2015), 388.

10 Harmon, Philippians, 389–90.

11 See Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, NICNT, ed. Gordon D. Fee (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 383–84.

12 Is 52:13; 53:12; Jn 17:1–5; Phil 2:5–11; Heb 5:8–10.

13 Heb 2:9; See also Heb 1:3; 5:7–10; 7:26; Rom 1:3–4; Phil 2:8–11.

14 See Jn 5:30, 38; 6:29, 38–39, 44; 7:16, 18, 28–29, 33; 8:16, 18, 26, 29, 42; 9:4; 10:36; 12:44–45, 49; 13:16; 14:24; 15:21; 16:5; 17:3, 18, 23, 25; 20:21; For a fine outline of the sending texts in John see Adesola Akala, “Sonship, Sending, and Subordination in the Gospel of John.” In Michael F. Bird and Scott Harower, eds, Trinity Without Hierarchy: Reclaiming Nicene Orthodoxy in Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2019), 23–35.

15 Herman Ridderbos, The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary. Trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 139.

16 See Rom. 8:3, 32; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 1:1–4.

17 For more on this see Scott Harrower, Trinitarian Self and Salvation: An Evangelical Engagement with Rahner’s Rule (Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2012), 126–154.

18 Lk. 1:35; 2:27; 3:21–22; 4:1, 14, 18; 10:21; Ac 10:38.

19 Lk 3:16; Ac 1:2, 5, 8; 2:33, 38; 5:32; 7:55; 11:16; 16:7.

20 Ben Witherington III, Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 291; Richard B. Gaffin Jr., The Centrality of the Resurrection: A Study in Paul’s Soteriology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978) 33; See also Ac 17:33; 2 Tim 2:18; S.M. Baugh, The Majesty on High: Introduction to the Kingdom of God in the New Testament (Scotts Valley: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017), 50; Harmon. Philippians, 385. Due to lack of space this essay will not interact with 1 Cor 3:22–23 and 11:3, other than to note that there are good reasons to take Christ’s “subordination” in these texts as functions of his office as mediator, not his existence as eternal Son. See Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 155, 505.

21 In 1 Cor 15:50 the Greek word ἀφθαρσίαν gets at this concept: “the state of not being subject to decay/dissolution/interruption.” (BDAG); See also 2 Cor 5:1–5; Baugh, Majesty on High, 63.

22 Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 759.

23 Gaffin, Jr., The Centrality of the Resurrection, 34–36; See also Ex 23:16, 19; Lev 2:14; 23:9–21; Num 18:12; Deut 21:15–17.

24 Crowe, The Last Adam, 52; See also Rom 11:16.

25 Crowe, The Last Adam, 32.

26 Baugh, Majesty on High, 52.

27 Brandon D. Crowe, Why Did Jesus Live a Perfect Life? The Necessity of Christ’s Obedience for Our Salvation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2021), 131.

28 Baugh, Majesty on High, 55; Witherington, Conflict and Community, 304; Crowe, The Last Adam, 203; Anthony C. Thiselton, First Corinthians: A Shorter Exegetical and Pastoral Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 270; Matt 28:18; Eph 1:20–22; Heb 1:3.

29 Baugh, Majesty on High, 55; Witherington, Conflict and Community, 305; See also 1 Cor 15:53–55; Rom 6:9; 2 Tim 1:10; Heb 2:14; Rev 1:18; 20:14.

30 Gilbert Bilezikian, “Hermeneutical Bungee-Jumping: Subordination in the Godhead,” JETS 40/1 (March 1997), 60; Butner Jr., “Eternal Functional Subordination,” 145; See also Fee, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 759–60.

31 Ps 2:9; 110:1–2.

32 Baugh, Majesty on High, 52; See also Rom 5:17–19; 8:18–23.

33 Eph 1:21; Col 2:9–15; 1 Tim 6:14–16; Heb 1:8; 1 Pet 4:11; 5:11; Rev 1:6; 5:13; 22:1–5.

34 Ps 2; 110; Dan 7:13–14; Matt 28:18; Jn 3:16–17; 17:4–5; 1 Cor 15:22–28; Eph 1:20–22; Phil 2:5–11; 3:21.

35 See Crowe, The Last Adam, 23–32;For a helpful look at the idea of Jesus as obedient Son after the likes of Israel, see Brandon D. Crowe, The Obedient Son: Deuteronomy and Christology in the Gospel of Matthew (Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2012)

36 For three excellent summaries of the Covenant of Redemption from biblical, theological, and historical perspectives, see J. V. Fesko, The Covenant of Redemption: Origins, Development, and Reception (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015); Gary M. Richard “The Covenant of Redemption.” In Guy Prentiss Waters, J. Nicholas Reid, and John R. Muether, eds., Covenant Theology: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Perspectives (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), 43–62; B. Hoon Woo, The Promise of the Trinity: The Covenant of Redemption in the Theologies of Witsius, Owen, Dickson, Goodwin, and Cocceius, Reformed Historical Theology, Volume 48, ed. Herman J. Selderhuis (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2018).

37 J. V. Fesko, The Trinity and the Covenant of Redemption (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2016), 176.

38 Berkof, Systematic Theology, 271.

39 Jn 5:18; See also Fesko, Trinity and the Covenant of Redemption, 191.

40 1 Chron 29:11; Ps 8:1; Ps 57:5; 108:5; 113:4; Is 42:8; Dan 7:14; Matt 24:30; 25:31; Rom 11:36; Jude 25; Rev 4:11; 5:13.

41 Bilezikian, “Hermeneutical Bungee-Jumping,” 59; Fesko, Trinity and Covenant of Redemption, 145; 190; Lk 22:29; Ps 40:7–9; Heb 10:5–7.

42 Jn 17:4; cf. Fesko, Trinity and the Covenant of Redemption, 177.

43 Jn 5:30, 38; 6:29, 38–39, 44; 7:16, 18, 28–29, 33; 8:16, 18, 26, 29, 42; 9:4; 10:36; 12:44–45, 49; 13:16; 14:24; 15:21; 16:5; 17:3, 18, 23, 25; 20:21; See Fesko, Trinity and Covenant of Redemption, 170.

44 See Bruce A. Ware, The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), 98; Bruce A. Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationship, Roles, and Relevance (Wheaton: Crossway, 2005), 2; 46; 71; Bruce A. Ware, One God in Three Persons: Unity of Essence, Distinction of Persons, Implications for Life (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015), 237; Bruce A. Ware, “Equal in Essence, Distinct in Roles: Eternal Functional Authority and Submission among the Essentially Equal Divine Persons of the Godhead.” In Dennis W. Jowers and H. Wayne House, eds, The New Evangelical Subordinationism? Perspectives on the Equality of God the Father and God the Son (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Pub, 2012), 28; Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 249–52; Stephen D. Kovach and Peter R. Schemm, Jr., “A Defense of the Doctrine of the Eternal Subordination of the Son.” JETS 42/3 (September 1999): 461–476; John V. Dahms, “The Subordination of the Son.” JETS 37/3 (September 1994): 351–364; Michael J. Ovey, Your Will Be Done: Exploring Eternal Subordination, Divine Monarchy, and Divine Humility, Latimer Studies 83 (London: The Latimer Trust: 2016).

45 Fesko, Trinity and the Covenant of Redemption, 173, 177.

46 See Fesko, Trinity and the Covenant of Redemption, 190.

47 1 Cor 1:23; Gal 5:11.

48 Fesko, Trinity and Covenant of Redemption, 191.

49 Fesko, Trinity and Covenant of Redemption, 188.

50 Ps 95:3; Jer 10:10; Jn 17:5.

51 Ps 2:6; 45:6–7; 72:8–11; 89:3–4; 110:1; Is 9:6; 11:1–5; Jer 23:5–6; Dan 2:44; Zech 9:9–10; Matt 28:18; Lk 1:32; 22:29; Eph 1:20–22; Phil 2:9–11; Col 2:15; Heb 2:7–8.

52 See Scott R. Swain and Michael Allen, “The Obedience of the Eternal Son: Catholic Trinitarianism and Reformed Christology.” In Oliver D. Crisp and Fred Sanders, eds, Christology: Ancient and Modern (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), 74–94.

53 For the sake of space, this essay will not interact with complementarian or egalitarian issues related to eternal subordination.

54 See Matthew Barrett, Simply Trinity: The Unmanipulated Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2021), 257–58.

55 If Christ came necessarily, then we must reckon with a number of texts that clearly present God as working exclusively according to his will and for his own glory: Ps 135:6; Is 43:7; 46:9–10; 48:9–11; Dan 4:35; 1 Cor 10:31; Rom 11:36; Eph 1:9, 11; 1 Pet 4:11; Rev 4:11; 21:23.

56 Roberts, “‘Arid Scholars’ vs. The Bible?,” 121.

57 See Barrett, Simply Trinity, 255–57.

58 This does not mean that the creeds and confessions are on par with Scripture, but it does mean that we must only change or amend them if we have very clear biblical reasons for so doing.



  1. Dr. Clark,

    Thank you for posting Part 1 of Christopher Smith’s paper displaying ‘the right way’ to read and study Scripture. Using all Scripture to understand one verse destroys my confusion.

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