Prayer: Our Father in heaven, thank You for sending us Your most priceless treasure, the gift of Your Son. Teach us to value Him as You do. Give us understanding. Amen.
John 1:14, 18: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
This is mystery indeed: God becoming human; the eternal, everlasting One, begotten. How can One who was eternally in the beginning with God be begotten, have a beginning? And how can God of very God, the second person of the Trinity, be “subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all”? (I Corinthians 15:28) How can the Creator be the “firstborn over all creation”? (Colossians 1:15) This is the unfathomable, incomprehensible mystery of the incarnation. God has become Man. The Eternal has a birthday.
The concept “Son of God” did not begin with the New Testament. It is mentioned several times in the Old Testament and in rather surprising ways. In Isaiah 9:6-7, verses heard every Christmas around the world through the music of Handel’s Messiah, God promises a Son would be born; His names: Mighty God, Everlasting Father. A small, helpless infant called Mighty God. A Son called Everlasting Father. Mystery incarnate. Trinity.
Isaiah 7:14, another very familiar Christmas verse, prophesied that a virgin would conceive and bear a Son; and He would be called Immanuel, which means “God with us.” A virgin bearing a Son? How could this be? Only through the direct intervention of the Divine Hand of God. The Spirit of the Most High would overshadow her, the angel told Mary; and He would be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Trinity working together.
Another reference to the Son of God pops up, arresting the reader’s attention, in Proverbs 30:4. The writer asks four rhetorical questions which can only be answered with “God the Creator.” But the verse concludes with this question: “And what is His Son’s name?” God has a Son. And the Son’s name can also answer all those questions that only the Creator God can do. They are One.
Psalm 2, one of the prophetic Messianic Psalms, gives a very clear statement in verse 7 about this Father-Son relationship. According to S. Herbert Bess, professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Grace Theological Seminary, Psalm 2:7 in the Hebrew construction should be read in the declarative sense. God is declaring Christ’s kingship (Psalm 2:6), His sonship (vs. 7), and His inheritance rights (vs. 8). In Acts 13:33, Paul quotes this verse as finding its fulfillment at Jesus’ resurrection! Romans 1:3 states that the humanity of Jesus is proven by the fact that He was born of the seed of David; verse 4 goes on to state that the deity of Jesus is proven by His resurrection: Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” The resurrection was the declaration and proof positive that Jesus is the Son of God!
Sonship in the Old Testament (and indeed, even in our own vernacular) is used in various ways. “Firstborn son” is used to show a favored position, to declare who would receive the father’s inheritance. There were several younger sons, such as Jacob, who were given firstborn status. “Only begotten son” is used to convey exclusive legal rights to the father’s inheritance. Isaac was not Abraham’s only son, yet he is called that and retained exclusive rights to his father’s inheritance. The statement in Psalm 2:7, “Today I have begotten You,” does not refer to a beginning or even the conception of Jesus, as we have seen from Acts 13:33, but is rather a legal declaration by God of Christ’s exclusive rights to the Father’s inheritance: the nations (vs. 8). The Son of God, whose sonship has been publicly declared by means of the resurrection, is constituted the proper heir to the nations of this world.
Sonship is also used to denote a person’s character or nature. The Old Testament refers to “a son of valor” and sons of foolishness, etc. The New Testament tells us that Barnabas means “son of consolation or encouragement”; Jesus named James and John “sons of thunder”, etc. This reference to sonship tells who the person was. More than once when Jesus spoke of Himself as the Son of the Father, the Jewish religious leaders interpreted that to mean that He has declaring Himself to be God, the same in character and nature. Jesus was claiming the qualities of God. He was not expressing origin as in having a beginning, but origin as of Source, explaining where He had come from, who He was, and what relationship He had with the Father.
The Jews sought to kill Jesus not only because in their estimation He broke the Sabbath, but also because He said “that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). They tried to stone Him for the same declaration (John 10:59), and at last they did have Him crucified, using blasphemy as the main accusation (John 19:7). Calling Himself the Son of God was the same as calling Himself God. The Jewish leaders were very clear about that. Again, quoting S. Herbert Bess: “They understood him perfectly well. They knew that when Jesus said he was the Son of God he was claiming to be of the nature of God and equal with God.”
The Nicene Council in clarifying the doctrine of eternal generation adopted the statement that "the Son is begotten out of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not created, consubstantial with the Father.”
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.
But, C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity explains it in this way:
We don't use the words begetting or begotten much in modern English, but everyone still knows what they mean. To beget is to become the father of, [whereas] to create is to make. And the difference is this: When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set—or he may make something more like himself than a wireless set: say, a statue. If he is a clever enough carver he may make a statue which is very like a man indeed. But, of course, it is not a real man; it only looks like one. It cannot breathe or think. It is not alive.
Now that is the first thing to get clear. What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God, just as what man creates is not man.
Other Related Scriptures:
Luke 1:30-35: Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”
John 1:32-34: And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”
John 1:49a: Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God!”
John 3:16-18: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:35-36: The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
John 20:30-31: And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
Discuss the character qualities Jesus had that reveal the character of God. The book of John includes only 7 miracles that Jesus performed though John admits that Jesus did many other miracles (20:30 & 21:25). Why do you think John selected these particular miracles? What does each one reveal about Jesus’ supernatural power? Here are the references for each of the miracles: 2:1-12, 4:46-54, 5:1-15, 6:1-14, 6:15-21, 9:1-7, 11:1-44. (Notice the details given in each one and see if you can come up with 7 different aspects Jesus is Lord over.) Take time to worship Jesus in prayer for these things.
For a fuller explanation of the usage of the name “Son of God,” read this web article by S. Herbert Bess: http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/sonship/sonshpa1.pdf