The New Testament makes clear that the title “Son of God” is essential to a correct understanding of the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. Notice how Mark begins his Gospel:

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Mark 1:1

The Apostle John concludes his account of the life of Jesus with these words:

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 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.

John 20:30-31

Likewise, the Apostle Paul provides this profound description of the essential truths of the Gospel he preached:

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.

Romans 1:1-4

Some might suggest that this title is not all that significant because there are others in the Bible that are called “son of God”, like Adam (Luke 3:38), angels (Job 1:6; 38:7), and even believers in the Lord Jesus (Galatians 3:26). But the Scriptures insist that the Sonship of the Lord Jesus is unlike any other. Certainly first-century Jewish religious leaders understood that when Jesus said that God was His Father, He was claiming equality with God and they wanted to put Him to death (John 5:16-18). And when He was on trial before the Jewish high priest and the ruling council, they accused Him of blasphemy because He said that He was the Son of God (Matthew 26:63-65).

In a previous article, we demonstrated that in the Bible, the expression “son of…” can be used to speak of biological sonship, but that it can also be used as a figure of speech to describe some defining characteristic of a person. So while Jesus often calls Himself “Son of Man,” the Bible is emphatic that He was not the biological son of a man but was miraculously conceived in the womb of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:31, 34; Matthew 1:18). So the title “Son of Man” is a figure of speech that emphasises His true humanity, while the expression “Son of God” speaks of His true deity, because “God was manifested in the flesh,” (1 Timothy 3:16). As Son of God, He shares characteristics and qualities that belong to God alone. For instance, while the Old Testament insists that God alone is the Creator and does this work by Himself alone (Isaiah 44:24; 45:12), the New Testament says that the Son is the Creator of all things (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). While the Old Testament insists that God alone is the Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25; Judges 11:27), Jesus says that the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment into His hands so that all should honor the Son in the same way they honor the Father (John 5:22-23).

This uniqueness of Jesus’s Sonship is also emphasised by the expression “only begotten Son”:

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.

John 3:16

We must not think of “begotten” in crude, physical terms like ancient mythologies. It is a term that speaks of the Son eternally sharing the Father’s essential essence, but since God is Spirit (John 4:24), this is a spiritual begetting. The significance of this expression has been debated by theologians, but the early church councils concluded that it refers to an eternal relationship of unity and diversity within God’s being. This truth is seen in the opening verses of John’s Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.

John 1:1-2

Here we can see on one hand distinction and relationship (“with God”), while on the other hand we see sameness and equality (“was God”). This does not mean that there was a time when “the Word” was not God but rather that from eternity (“the beginning”) this relationship and this equality of essence existed. As a result, there never was a time when the Father was not the Father and when the Son was not the Son. There is also an important contrast in this passage in John’s Gospel. In verse one, “the Word was God” and in verse fourteen, “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). “Was” refers to a state of being or unchanged existence, while “became” refers to a change that took place. The eternal Word who was always with God and always was God became truly human through His incarnation. As time-bound creatures, we find it hard to conceive of begetting apart from time, but John wants us to understand that when we go back before time began, the Word already was God and already was in relationship with God.

It is important to stress again that His Sonship does not imply that He is somehow less than the Father. As we have seen, the Jews understood that His claim to Sonship was a claim of equality with the Father, and Jesus did not seek to correct that understanding. But is also clear that as Son, His relationship to His Father also includes willing, joyful submission (1 Corinthians 11:3). It was the Father who sent the Son, and the Son always does what pleases the Father (John 4:34; 6:38; 8:29).

Another way in which the New Testament emphasises the uniqueness of Jesus’s Sonship is that in numerous places Jesus is simply called “the Son.” One of the most significant of these passages is Hebrews chapter one. This entire chapter is obviously speaking about Jesus, even though His personal name is not used until Hebrews 2:9. The author of Hebrews is proclaiming the superiority of Jesus Christ to all that God had given in Judaism. For instance, he says that while God had previously spoken through prophets, now He has given His final revelation by speaking by His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2) and follows with an extraordinary description of the glories of His Son:

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 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 at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Hebrews 1:1-3

Likewise, he then goes on to show that His Son is superior to angels by quoting from the Old Testament Scriptures:

For to which of the angels did He ever say:
“You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You”?
And again:
“I will be to Him a Father,
And He shall be to Me a Son”?
6 But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says:
“Let all the angels of God worship Him.”

Hebrews 1:5-6

And while the angels are God’s servants, God clearly calls His Son “God”:

But to the Son He says:
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”

Hebrews 1:8-9

Why is this title of the Lord Jesus so crucial for understanding His identity? Because WHO He is makes WHAT He did of ultimate value. If He was a mere man, His death would simply be that of a tragic martyr. But because of His unique and eternal Sonship, His death on the cross makes it possible for God to justly provide forgiveness for our sins (Romans 3:21-26) and to offer us eternal life through faith in the Lord Jesus.

And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

1 John 5:11-13


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