By Hoyt Houchen
Jesus inquired of his disciples: “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” (Matt. 16:13) The disciples responded with some existing views: “Some say John the Baptist; some Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets” (v. 14). Different views of Jesus are also prevalent now.
The nature of Christ (his person and work) has been the subject of controversy for centuries, and is continually debated. Webster defines “nature” as “the inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing: Essence.”‘
Some Past and Present Views
The Ebionites (a sect of Jews who lived in the early centuries A.D.) denied the divine nature of Christ. They accepted Jesus as a prophet and the supreme lawgiver, but they denied his deity. They regarded him as being merely a man.
Arius (256-336 A.D.) denied the deity of Christ. In fact, he and his followers, like modern day “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” believed that Jesus was created by God the Father, thus making him inferior to the Father.
Through the centuries, modernists have denied that Jesus was supernatural. They have denied his deity, his miracles and his vicarious suffering. Some contend that he was the greatest man who ever lived; but that he was only a man, and no more than a man. But Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. If he were not what he claimed to be, how could he be classified as a good man? A good man would not deceive.
Presently, some assert that when Jesus came to earth he gave up all supernatural power that Jesus performed miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit. If this be true, Jesus was not above his apostles, for the power they had was also given to them by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).
Some admit that while on earth Jesus was God in the flesh, but that he voluntarily gave up his divine powers. Imagine, if you can, deity without divinity!
The battle lines are drawn as to the nature of our Lord while he sojourned upon the earth. As one writer expressed it: “The greatest battle of our age is the one now being fought by two invisible armies, as they struggle to dominate the minds of men. The one army we may rightly call supernaturalism; the other, with equal accuracy, we shall designate naturalism.’* Thus, the nature of Christ is not to be regarded as an irrelevant issue, but rather one that is to be encountered face to face. Was Jesus only a man upon earth, or was he more than a man? How we regard Jesus could well determine the destiny of our souls. It is therefore a most important issue. This article focuses upon Jesus the Son of God.
The Title: Son of God
It was foretold that Jesus was to be called the Son of God. The angel Gabriel was sent by God to Nazareth where he said to the virgin Mary: “And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shalt be called the Son of the Most High” (Lk. 1:31,32). God referred to him as his “beloved Son” at his baptism and the transfiguration (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). Jesus is also referred to as the “only begotten” Son of God (Jn. 1:14; 3:16,18; etc.). The Greek word for “begotten is monogenes, a word of much dispute. This word, like logos, has special meaning in John’s gospel. It is “only begotten” and is so defined by the translators of the King James and American Standard versions and numerous exegetes. Liddell and Scott give as their first definition: “only begotten.”3 Jesus was more than a son, or “only son,” he was “the only begotten Son of God,” distinguished from an ordinary son.
Jesus claimed to be the “Son of God.” The expression “Son of Man” is only used by Jesus of himself. He refers to himself by this expression more than any other. How-ever, he also applied the title “Son of God” to himself (Mk. 14:61,62; Jn. 9:35; 10:36).
Others declared Jesus to be the Son of God. Peter affirmed to Jesus: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Jesus commended Peter for that great confession. It was upon this eternal truth that Jesus promised to build his church (v. 18).
As John was approaching the end of his gospel, he wrote: “Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book but these are written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing ye may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:30,31).
What Is Involved In Sonship
The deeds performed by the Son attest to his relationship with his Father. Please note some of the power and work of Jesus our Lord: (1) He can give life (Jn. 5:21). (2) Judgment is committed to the Son (v. 22). (3) The Son is to be honored as is his Father (v. 23). (4) The Father and the Son are one (Jn. 10:30). (5) The Son is in the Father and the Father is in the Son (Jn. 10:38). The title “the Son of God” reflects the relationship of Jesus to his Father by fulfilling his work as the divine Messiah, who had been foretold in the Old Testament.
Christ referred to God as his Father over one hundred times in the gospels. Jesus sustained a close, personal relationship with his Father. The use of the Aramaic word abba (Mk. 14:36) is a very personal, intimate word for God.4 A significant statement regarding the relationship of Jesus with his Father is found in Matthew 11:27: “All things have been delivered to me of my Father: and no one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son “willeth to reveal him” (see also Lk. 10:22). This is exclusive Sonship. No one else could claim this distinct relationship save Jesus himself.
He Was Deity
Two Greek words deserve our attention: theotes (Col. 2:9), translated “Godhead” and theiotes (Rom. 1:20), translated “divinity” (ASV). Some make a distinction between the two words while others do not. Arndt and Gingrich, for instance, define theotes: “deity, divinity.”5 But the fact remains: Jesus was both deity and divinity.
John declared: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God” (Jn. 1:1). This word (Gr. logos) is said by Vine to be: “the personal manifestation, not a part of the divine nature, but of the whole Deity.”6 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. . .” (v. 14). Thus Jesus became incarnate, and becoming such, he was not less God than he had been before. He remained God. The word dwelt among us. Literally, he “tabernacled” among us (Gr. skeenoo). How did he become incarnate? He was born of a virgin. Jesus said: “But a body didst thou prepare for me. . .” (Heb. 10:5). Mary did not give birth to the me, or God, who is eternal. She was the mother of the human body of Jesus, but not the mother of God, as the Catholics claim.
Jesus had the power to forgive sins (Mk. 2:5,7). Since no one but God could forgive sins; and Christ did forgive sins; therefore, he was God.
The infant Jesus was worshipped by the wise men (Matt. 2:1,2,11). The word “worship” (Gr. proskuneo) is applied to Jesus “who is to be revered and worshipped as Messianic King and Divine helper…”‘
When Cornelius fell down at the feet of Peter and worshipped him, Peter raised him up saying: “Stand up; I myself also am a man” (my emphasis). But at no time did Jesus ever refuse to be worshipped. Why? Because he was more than a man.
He Was Divine
When Jesus “emptied” himself (Phil. 2:7). He was not divested of, nor did he voluntarily give up, his divine power. The key word in the passage (Phil. 2:1-8) is humility. Nothing of his nature changed when he came to earth. “He divested himself, not of his divine nature, for this is impossible, but of the glories, the prerogatives of Deity. This he did by taking upon him the form of a servant.”8 His role changed, but not his nature. A parallel is found in 2 Corinthians 8:9.
Our finite minds cannot comprehend all that is involved in the nature of Christ, but we can honor and praise him as the Son of God. The Eunuch confessed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God before he was baptized (Acts 8:37). Jesus Christ is the Son of God! May we always treasure this great truth in our hearts, and may we never be guilty of trodding the precious Son of God under our feet (Heb. 10:29). Let us confess him with our lips and by our lives.
1. Webster’s Ninth Collegiate Dictionary, p. 789.
2. Wilbur M. Smith, The Supernaturalness of Christ, p. vii.
3. Liddell and Scott, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 945.
4. Arlie J. Hoover, Dear Agnos, p. 171
5. Arndt and Gingrich, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 359.
6. W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary, Vol. 4, p. 230.
7. Arndt and Gingrich, Op. cit., 724.
8. J.B. Lightfoot, Epistle to the Philippians, p. 112. G1
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII No.23, p. 3-5
December 1, 1994