Friday, December 6, 2013

The Son of God

Lorenzo di Credi, The Annunciation, ca. 1480-1485

"For to which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?" -- Heb. 1:5


    As we noted in our last blog post, Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. But what exactly does that mean? In what sense can Jesus be called "the Son of God"?
    The question is not an easy one to answer, for we are talking about a relationship that is totally unique. There is nothing like it in heaven or on earth, and there is nothing else to which it can be compared. We find ourselves in the position if trying to scrutinize the nature of the infinite being of God.
    Nevertheless there are a few things that can be said. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in the New Testament is making the point that Jesus occupies a position of preeminence over every created thing. He is superior to both prophets and angels. To support that assertion our author quotes a verse from Psalm 2, which describes the future reign of the Messiah. In the psalm God is pictured as saying to the Messiah, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee" (Ps. 2:7). But what does that mean?
    First of all, it does not mean that Christ was a created being, something less than God. For just a few verses earlier the author of the epistle had just said that Jesus is "the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature" (Heb. 1:3; NASV). It is a little hard to understand exactly what this means, but the way the early church finally came to express it was that the Son was "begotten of the Father as only begotten, that is, from the essence of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not created, of the same essence as the Father . . . " (Nicene Creed). In other words, Christ shared the same essential being as God the Father: He was indeed true God. Our text in Hebrews goes on to say that Christ is "upholding all things by the word of his power." Christ is not a part of created reality; He is a part of what created and sustains reality. He is God.
    But then what does our text mean when it says, quoting the psalm, "this day have I begotten thee"? The answer of the church fathers is that Christ is eternally generated from the essence of the Father. That may be true, but that is probably probing more deeply into the nature of God's being than we are entitled to go. The context in Hebrews, however, points to a specific event, viz., the incarnation: "And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him" (v. 6). And the angel Gabriel told Mary at the annunciation, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Lu. 1:35). Jesus, as the unique God-man, was conceived in Mary's womb, at a specific point in time, and was born in Bethlehem. In that sense He really was "begotten."
    The babe in Bethlehem, then, truly was the Son of God. He came down to earth from the Father in heaven with Whom He had dwelled from all eternity. He came and lived among us as a human being, but He spoke with all the authority of God Himself. This is why we need to be careful heed to what He said.
        "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things
         we have heart, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if
         the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression
         and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; How shall
         we escape, if we neglect so great salvation . . . ." ? -- Heb. 2:1-3

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