An August 2012 conference at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary resulted in a book of essays entitled The Beauty and Glory of the Father. The first essay in the collection, “The Father’s Love for His Son” by Bartel Elshout contends:
The Holy Spirit gives us a glimpse into the infinite depth of the Father’s heart — a heart that is eternally moved in love for His eternally begotten and beloved Son. This is the fountain from which all theology flows. Nothing so precisely defines who the Father is as the fact that He loves His Son with the totality and fullness of His divine person. (3)
The remainder of the essay sets out to demonstrate and develop that thesis. He sets out a series of minor theses respecting the Trinity in eternity, creation, fall, redemption, and the eschaton.
The presentation is precise and scholarly without being pedantic. While the work entails rigor of thought, it does not present any difficulties which an attentive adult could not master. While never quite poetic, it is beautiful in its clarity and object.
Elshout presents his case with careful logic, drawing out implications which are not immediately obvious — but which once demonstrated can be affirmed. This is the primary strength of the essay.
For example, as he works through the manner in which creation demonstrates the Father’s love for His Son, Elshout contends:
The Father’s love for His Son, the love that moved Him to create the entire univere for His Son, also moved Him to create Adam in the image of His Son. (7).
I was not immediately sure that one could say that Adam, who was certainly created in the image and likeness of God was particularly created in the image of the Son. Elshout recognized the difficulty and so presents a careful case.
First, he looks to Romans 8:28-29. The first verse is the much abused text that all things work together for good — which fails to recognize that “good” is defined in verse 29:
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
“In other words, the ultimate goal of redemption is the conformity of fallen human beings to the image of the Father’s well-beloved Son” (7). He confirms the proposition by referencing 1 John 3:1-2:
1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
From this proposition, Elshout draws an inference: “If the goal of the Father’s redemptive work is to conform men and women to the image of His Son, this must have been His original goal in creating man” (7). This is the greatest leap of the argument.
To support this jump, he argues that the goals of creation & redemption are the same. First, he looks to the purpose of creation. He reasons, “If the goal of the Father’s redemptive work is to conform men and women to the image of His Son, this must have been His original goal in creating man.” (7)
What is the purpose of creation: “thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev. 4:11, KJV). [The Greek text has “καὶ διὰ τὸ θέλημά σου ἦσαν καὶ ἐκτίσθησαν”; thelema, will/decision. Here is an example of how English words have shifted meaning over the past 400 years. In 1611, “pleasure” would be something in accordance with one’s will.]
All things exist according to the pleasure, the will of God and continue so. At this point, I believe Elshout would have strengthened his argument by a reference to Ephesians 1:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
The fact of redemption in the Son is solely a matter of the Father’s will [Greek: κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ, according to the pleasure of his will, thelematos.] Elshout certainly seems to presume this passage in his argument.
We know that the purpose of redemption is conforming rebellious, straying human beings to the image of the Son. This is done according to the good pleasure of God’s will. Moreover, creation itself is an act of the very same will. Indeed, the process of redemption and sanction is conformity to the Creator:
9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices
10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Colossians 3:9-10
At this point, Elshout’s observes something which I found fascinating. Skipping a portion of his argument, Elshout draws out an implication of Adam being created in the image of the Son. First, the Son himself discloses the Father (John 1:18). Thus, to look upon the Son is to know the disclosure of the Father.
This leads to the realization:
We may therefore conclude that, before the Fall, Adam and Eve delighted themselves in the very same Son of God in whom the Father eternally delights Himself. Being the bearers of the image of His Son, loving and worshipping Him, Adam adn Eve were the recipients of the love the Father has for His Son. The Father beheld the reflection of His eternal Son, and loved them with the same love with which He loved His Son. …In summary, the Father created man for His Son and in His image in order that man might know and love his Son and live for His glory. (8)
This brief notice concerns only two pages of the 16 page essay. The entire piece is well worth one’s consideration.