Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | August 25, 2007

Why is Jesus the one and only true Son of God? (Lesson 3 Question 4 Answer)

4.  Why is Jesus the one and only true Son of God?

We continue our examination of verse 14, which states the following:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

As noted above the term that is used to convey that Christ is the one and only true Son of God is μονογενους.  This word is traditionally rendered as “only-begotten” in the King James Version (and NASB), which conveys the uniqueness of Christ.  However, modern translators have shied away from using it since it implies the connotation of being created or made.40 This Greek word is used very rarely in the Scriptures and never in the sense that John uses it in His Gospel and Epistle. 41 The word is used three times by Luke: 1. in 7:12 the widow’s son, “As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her.” 2. in 8:42 Jairus’ daughter “for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.” 3. in 9:38 the demon possessed boy “And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child.”  The author of Hebrews then uses it to refer to the patriarch Isaac in 11:17 “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,” The word is also used in the LXX in Judges 11:34 “Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter.”  With the exception to the Hebrews passage (which is a study in itself), all of these examples are being used to describe an only child.  However, there are many people who are the only child and thus not a very unique status objectively.  Relatively, they are unique to the parents and thus special and significant in their eyes.  The way John uses this word, however conveys the uniqueness of Christ objectively.  He is the only Son of God that there will be, ever. There will be no other Son of God that will be identical to Christ the Lord.

It seems strange that immediately after John finished indicating that we who are born again become the children of God that He goes onto say that there is only one true Son of God.  Is this a contradiction?  No, as we quoted Calvin above, it should not be taken as a contradiction since Christ is the Son of God by nature, we are not.  Our right to become the children of God occurs through adoption.  Adoption is defined by the Confession as follows: “All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number; and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, have his name put upon them, receive the Spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry, Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him, as by a father; yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption; and inherit the promises, as heirs of everlasting salvation.” 42 

As we discussed in Lesson 1, there is only one God who has manifested Himself in the Trinity.  As a result, we can say with certainty that Christ is the one and only Son of God and no one truly deserves that title as the author of Hebrews points out:  For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?”  Nonetheless, He is also said to be the “firstborn among many brethren” who are brothers and sisters through adoption.  An attempted resolution to this difficulty is articulated in the following:  “And if Christ has many brethren (Rom 8:29), he does not cease to be the only begotten by way of eminence (kat’ exochen) because the generation is evidently dissimilar and totally different in kind: not mystical, but natural; not by an expression of qualities, but by a communication of the essence itself.” 43

41 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature/ revised and edited by FW Danker (Chicago:  The University Chicago Press) p 658

42 Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 12 of Adoption (1643)

43 Francis Turretin (1687) Institutes of Elenctic Theology translated by George Musgrave Giger and edited by James T Dennison (Pittsburgh-New Jersey, Vol I P&R Publishing 1992) p 298

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