The Person of Christ (2): His Underived Eternal Sonship (1)

Having introduced the subject last month, we now begin to consider the glorious Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this opening study, we will look together at Who He is: His essential, eternal being; that which is true of Him even if there never was time, or space, or human history.

He is presented in the Bible as the Son of God; this is a unique relationship. That titles such as “Son of God,” “Son of the living God,” “the Son,” “His Son,” “His only begotten Son,” and “His own Son” are used of Him is indisputable. To supply a list of Scripture references for these titles would use up most of the word count for this article. But what is their significance?

The answer is that they point to a unique relationship. There are others referred to in the Bible as “sons of God.” For example, we (believers in Him) are called this (Rom 8:14, 19). But this term is always in the plural when used of us, or of any other beings. Never is the title “son of God” used of anyone other than Himself. The fact that Adam is called “the son of God” in Luke 3:38 is no exception. In versions (such as the KJV) that italicize words that have been added by the translators, the words “the son” are in italics, showing that they were not there in the original. The singular title, “Son of God,” belongs solely to the Lord Jesus Christ.

One reference that highlights this distinction is the message of the Lord Jesus to Mary in John 20:17: “Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.” He does not say, “I ascend unto our Father.” God is His Father, and God is our Father too, but in a different way. His Sonship is unique; altogether different from ours. By spelling out the message to the disciples in that way, the exclusive nature of His Sonship is highlighted.

An interesting comparison with the so-called “Lord’s Prayer” emphasizes the point. He tells His disciples (Luke 11:2): “When ye pray, say, Our Father …” That He Himself is not included in those praying is abundantly clear, not only from the fact that He is telling them how to pray, but also because the prayer includes the request for the sins of the persons praying to be forgiven (v4), something He would never have to do. Often He refers to “My Father;” never does He use the term “our Father” when including Himself with anyone else. His Sonship is an exclusive relationship.

The beauty of this relationship is set before us in many verses, but surely one of the most sublime is that presented in John 1:18: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” The phrase “only begotten,” monogenes, does not refer to the act of begetting, but to the uniqueness of the relationship. Reference to the use of this word even in relation to normal human beings makes this clear. It is used of the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:12), Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:42), and the demon-possessed boy (Luke 9:38). In each case, the point being made is that the person is an “only child.” It is not the birth of the child that is the issue, but the uniqueness of the relationship. The same word is used of Isaac in Hebrews 11:17: “He that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.” Isaac was not Abraham’s only son, nor was he the first to be born. Thus it is not Isaac’s birth that is in view, but his unique status. Likewise, and supremely, when the term “only begotten Son” is used of our Lord Jesus in John 1:18 (and when used elsewhere, most famously in John 3:16), His unique position as the Son is brought before us.

In John 1:18, the uniqueness of His Sonship is further emphasized in the phrase “which is in the bosom of the Father.” This denotes the closeness, the intimacy and the affection that exists between the Father and the Son. This is a unique phrase, used of Him alone.

Moreover, John tells us in the same verse that “He [the Son] hath declared Him [the Father].” This is in light of the first phrase of the verse: “No man hath seen God at any time.” God, in His essence, is invisible. How then can human beings see God? The answer is in the Son, and in Him alone. He is “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15); He is “the express image of His person” (Heb 1:3). Thus He could say, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). This was certainly true when He was here on earth, but it was also true before He came. Isaiah says, “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne” (Isa 6:1). In John 12:41, it is explained for us that it was the Lord Jesus Whom Isaiah saw.

Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God; uniquely so. He stands in relation to the Father as none other does, and He alone declares, shows forth, expresses, reveals fully, Who God is – His Person and His character.