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,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
The previous article presented the Christian belief that the one God exists in three persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This article will focus on what is meant by "Son of God."
The most serious criticism of the term "Son of God" comes from teachers of Islam. They interpret the concept as teaching that God had sexual relations with a woman to produce a literal child. This is not what Christians believe, but the Quran has several passages that say this is the position of Christianity.
What "Son of God" does NOT mean.
- It does not mean that God is physical and produces physical children. This seems obvious to those with a background of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and some streams of Hinduism. As we have seen, however, some teachers of Islam have taught that this is what Christians believe.
- It does not imply that He was created by the Father.
- It is not a title that the human Jesus earned when He was born or when He obeyed the Father at the cross. He is the eternal Son of God.
- He is not the "Son of God" in the same way that human beings are considered to be "children of God." The Son was not created by the Father nor did he have a conversion experience.
What "Son of God" does mean?
- This second person of the Trinity is Himself God. Being called the Son of God means that He is not a mere human or an angel, but has the very nature of God in His being. He was the Son of God before He became man, so He was always in this relationship with God. Jesus also referred to himself as the "Son of Man" (a term taken from the book of Ezekiel) to declare His humanity as well. However, "Son of Man" is never used to describe the Son of God when He did not exist in human form.
- It describes a relationship between two persons within the Trinity. This relationship is important theologically, but also serves as an example to us. The Son made Himself a servant to the Father to accomplish the will of God. By rights, He did not have to, but because He did, we have salvation. If He could make Himself a servant, then why should we consider ourselves too good to do the same?
- Though the term does not describe the Son coming into the world by human birth, it does help to illustrate what happened when the Son became human.
How can the Son and the Father be the same?
Today there are groups who claim to be Christian who deny that Jesus is God. They often ask the question, "How can the Son of God also be God? The Father and the Son cannot be the same person." This takes us back to the discussion of the Trinity in the previous article. The Father and the Son are not the same person. There is only one God, but He exists in three persons. It has already been stated that this belief challenges our limited human understanding, but, because the Bible teaches it to be true, we believe it by faith. Though we will never fully understand it, we can trust in it.
Bob Caldwell, PhD, is Theologian-in-Residence at Network 211.