"Jesus, the Son of God"


     Much needless controversy has revolved around Jesus being the Son of God. Yet, as we shall see, the scriptures absolutely and without equivocation set forth the fact of Jesus being the Son of God.  Some have sought to dilute the meaning of "Son of God" to the point to where only one with distinction is identified.  Cult members of all flavor acknowledge Jesus being the Son of God, but they are only conceding Jesus' "above average position."  The phrase "Son of God" certainly connotes one "above average" but in the case of Jesus, "Son of God" articulates so much more.  Perhaps no other descriptive phrase applied to Jesus is as revealing as to the nature, Being, and mission of Jesus Christ as, "Son of God."

     The angelic announcement.  When the angel appeared to Mary, she was solicitous bringing forth a son named Jesus (Luke 1: 31-34).  She did not know how this could happen, seeing she was a virgin.  The angel spoke thus:

"35: And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1).

     It is evident from the context surrounding the angel's statement that "Son of God" is not used in some ordinary way.

     The more ordinary use of "Son of God."  Based on the reading of the King James, it was said of the contemporary Jews, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God." (John 1: 12).  The original, however, is "children of God" (tekna theou).  However, Paul in Romans 8: 14 speaks of Christians as being "sons of God" (huioi theou). While it is readily granted that "son(s) of God" is used in various ways and applied to different people, I contend that "the Son of God" is used uniquely pertaining to Jesus.

     Jesus accepted the phrase, "Son of God."  Perhaps one of the most famous questions that Jesus ever asked of man is the question found in the below reading:

"13: When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14: And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15: He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16: And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17: And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 16).

     Yes, Jesus was generally believed to be an extraordinary man, but he was more than just exceptional.  Peter said that Jesus is "the Son of God" (ho huios theou) and Jesus accepted, commended, and verified Peter's statement. Further, it is upon Peter's confession and the truth it contained, Jesus being the Son of God, the foundational rock, that Jesus then promised to build his church (Matt. 16: 18, 19).  The church, then, rests on the Sonship of Jesus.

     Not only did numerous ones who knew Jesus pronounce him to be the Son of God, but God the Father so styled Jesus and so also did the devil, the arch-enemy of Jesus.

     When Jesus was baptized to "fulfill all righteousness," the voice of the Father was thus heard:   "And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3: 17).  Notice how the devil addresses Jesus, "And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread" (Matt. 4: 3, the Greek ei, "if," seems here to be used in the nuance of "since").

     "The Son of God" is with great and singular meaning applied to Jesus. While "son"/"father" denotes relationship and is variously applied in the scriptures, when used of Jesus and His Father, there is unequalled meaning. Consider Jesus' statement:

"22: All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him" (Luke 10).

     Involved in the different aspects and methods of ascertaining word meaning, one important way is to observe how contemporaries understood a word or phrase and then how the user responded to their understanding.  A text of pertinence is John 5 and John 10.  Consider what I mean:

"18: Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God" and, "32: Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? 33: The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God" (John 5: 18, 10: 33).

     In both the immediately above cases, the Jews believed Jesus had been guilty of capital offense, worthy of death.  They based their charge on Jesus referring to himself as the Son.

     The Jews were conversant with the more common usages of "the Son of God," as evidenced in John 10: 34f.  In the context of John 5: 18, Jesus had performed an undeniable miracle.  In the setting of John 10: 33, Jesus declares his sovereignty and his Messiahship.  Understanding this further convinces one of the peculiarity and uniqueness of the expression, "the Son of God," as applied to Christ.  To be the Son of God in this hugely elevated sense means that Jesus has this special relationship with His Father and that He and his Father are "one," that is, of the same nature and substance (cp. John 10: 30).  This is precisely what the Jews of John 10 understand Jesus to mean in referring to God as "his Father."

     The "eternal Sonship" controversy.  The eternal Sonship of Jesus issue continues to this very day.  Some contend that Jesus' Sonship or being the Son of God was begun at the time of his physical birth (Luke 1: 35).  Some say it started at his baptism (Mark 1: 11).  Still others maintain "the Son of God" status commenced at the time of Jesus' resurrection from the dead (Acts 13: 33, cp. Rom. 1: 1-4). Some believe that Jesus' Sonship and his mediatorial reign are connected relative to time commencement.  Since they believe Jesus' reign is yet future, some of the Premillennial persuasion, they do not now view Him as the Son of God (cp. Ps. 2: 6, 7).  I believe it is evident to the logician that many in the eternal Sonship controversy mix terms or fail to realize an important nuance.

     For the sake of clarity, allow me to share with you words of another pertaining to the text of John 5: 17, 18 and John 10: 25-33, texts in which Jesus refers to His Father and the fact that He and the Father are One:

"In that culture, a dignitary's adult son was deemed equal in stature and privilege with his father. The same deference demanded by a king was afforded to his adult son. The son was, after all, of the very same essence as his father, heir to all the father's rights and privileges--and therefore equal in every significant regard. So when Jesus was called 'Son of God,' it was understood categorically by all as a title of deity, making Him equal with God and (more significantly) of the same essence as the Father. That is precisely why the Jewish leaders regarded the title 'Son of God' as high blasphemy" (John MacArthor).

     Sonship in the sense of the same nature, in the case of Jesus and the Father meaning deity, Jesus has always been the "Son of God" (John 1: 1-14). Again, this is how the Jews who often heard Jesus understood "Son of God" as applied to Jesus.  How do we, then, account for the other apparent time commencement references in scripture?  It is my understanding that "Son of God" as applied to the relationship between Jesus and His Father does have some special "incarnation references and associations."  First, Jesus is so declared, as we have seen, pertaining to his physical birth (Luke 1: 35), his baptism (Mark 1: 11), and resurrection (Rom. 1: 1-4).  Such references do not mean, I am convinced, that the angel, the Father, and Paul meant to say that Jesus' Sonship in the sense of John 5 and 10 began at the referenced event.  If understood in this sense, these statements would be incongruous and incapable of harmony.  Such events merely demonstrated the fact of his already existent Sonship or deity. 

     As a Son, though, in the incarnation circumstance, Jesus demonstrated acquiescence to His Father (John 8: 28, 29).   "Son" as used in the incarnation circumstance began at Jesus' birth and shall continue until Jesus delivers the Kingdom to the Father.  At that time, the concept of "Son," again, in this special incarnation sense, will cease that, "God may be all in all" (I Cor. 15: 24-28).

     Consider the consequences of both acknowledging and, conversely, denying Jesus’ Sonship.  First, those who believe in the Father's Son have eternal life (John 3: 16). Those who do not believe in Jesus' Sonship have condemnation (John 3: 18). The belief that Jesus is the Son of God was a test of salvation (cp. Acts 8: 37, KJV). Consider the teaching of John:

"4: For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5: Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" (I John 5, see the addendum.)

     Moreover, to deny "the Son" is to not have the Father (I John 2: 23).  The anti-christ denies the "Son" and the "Father" (I John 2: 22).  The "record" for which John is famous is, ".that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son" (I John 5: 11).  Those without "the Son" have no life (I John 5: 12).  It is the Son to whom the Father has committed all final judgment (John 5: 22).

     The only begotten of God.   "Only begotten" is from the Greek monogenes. This word is used nine times in the Greek New Testament. The word is a compound word, mono, meaning only, and gennesis, meaning birth. "Only begotten" (monogenes) is used five times by John, three by Luke, and once by the writer of Hebrews. Luke used the word to describe the widow's son, "only son of his mother" (Luke. 7: 12, see 8: 42, 9: 38). The writer of Hebrews said Abraham "offered up his only begotten son" (Heb. 11: 17).  Jesus' Sonship was understood as indicative of deity (John 10: 36, 38). Monogenes is used of Jesus' Sonship. Jesus is the "only begotten Son" (I John 4: 9). "Single of its kind," comments Thayer, "…used of Christ, denotes the only Son of God or who in the sense in which he himself is the Son of God has no brethren…he is of nature or essentially Son of God, and so in a very different sense from that in which men are made by him children of God" (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, pgs. 417, 418). Beloved, God's people are adopted "sons of God," Jesus is the only Son of God by nature (cp. Rom. 8: 14-16).

     As God's monogenes, Jesus enjoyed unique glory (John 1: 14). The only begotten declared God (John 1: 18). Jesus being of the same essential nature as the Father could reveal God as no other could (John 14: 8-11). The only begotten is the ultimate expression of God's love (John 3: 16, I John 4: 9). Moreover, we must believe in the only begotten Son of God (John 3: 18, 16).

     Paul preached the Son of God.  In view of the meaning of "the Son of God," it should be no surprise that great emphasis was placed on Jesus' Sonship. Observe the case of Saul that when he became a Christian, he did the following:

"19: And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. 20: And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God" (Acts 9).

     Concerned reader, I cringe when I hear a Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, or Muslim say that they believe Jesus is the Son of God.  They do not, not in the biblical sense.  It is totally dishonest for them and other cult members to mislead people.  Jesus was God as the Logos in the pre-incarnate state, while in the flesh, and when resurrected (John 1: 1-3; Col. 2: 9; Rom. 1: 1-4).  In fact, Jesus was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the grave (Rom. 1: 4).

     It was shortly after Jesus' crucifixion and all the miraculous happenings that the Roman centurion and others said:

"54: Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God" (Matt. 27).

    To believe Jesus is the Son of God should not be lip service.  As God in the flesh who physically died for all men (Jesus was both God and man, Heb. 1: 8, I Tim. 2: 5), we should eagerly acquiesce to His will in humble obedience (cp. Luke 6: 46, Col. 2: 9).

Addendum:  The test of "overcoming the world" is belief that Jesus is the Son of God.  "Son of God" is here used as a synecdoche, part for the whole. Such a use and test of believing Jesus to be the Son of God is indicative of how necessary and fundamental such a belief is.