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The Eternal Sonship of Christ

Updated on June 11, 2013
"Behold my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" Matthew 3:17
"Behold my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" Matthew 3:17

Have you ever heard the term "eternally begotten of the Father?" It is a strange little term that has been found in Christian doctrinal statements through out the history of the Church. For example it is found in both the Nicene Creed and the Westminster Confession of Faith. Two highly respected doctrinal works.

Take a look:

West Minster Confession of Faith 1646 AD
The Holy Trinity, Paragraph 3: In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Nicene Creed 325 AD:
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;

This obscure little term is attempting to communicating who Jesus is. He is the Eternal Son of God. In short this means that he was God's Son before He became flesh, and is still God's Son today 2000 years after his resurrection. He was, is, and will be God's Son for eternity.

Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV): Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

I recognize that these creeds and confessions, in and of themselves, are not holy scripture. They are based on scripture. They are attempts by Christian Scholars to understand, or reason through, what they have read in Holy Scriptures.

I would like to take a look at a few of these verses. To help anyone who is wondering how those early scholars may have come to their conclusions. Like them, I am convinced that Jesus existed in his pre-flesh form as the Son of God. That He is the ONLY begotten of the Father. Everything else was created.

In Form, God

Lets start by establishing that Jesus existed separately in a distinct form before he became flesh.

Philippians 2:5-7: Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.

Verse 6 is explaining that before Jesus became flesh he was "in form" God. We know we are talking about his pre-flesh form because in verse 7 we are told he changes by taking on the form of a bondservant by coming in the likeness of man. His form changed, he was no longer in His pre-flesh form.

We know that there is only one God. Not two or three god's working in harmony. So this verse can't be suggesting that Jesus was a separate and equal god. Clearly this verse is a glimpse into the Trinity.

Trinitarians teach that there is only one God. That in the unity of the Godhead there be three separate persons of one substance and power: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Three distinct persons yet one God. Kind of like an egg is made up of three parts; the shell, the egg white, and the yoke, but all three parts make up one egg. God the father, God the son, and God the Holy Spirit are united a whole they are one, They are not three separate god's. Nor is God simply changing titles or hats. He is three in one. Mathematically we would express it this way 1+1+1=1

Philippians 2:6 shows Jesus and God as one God, yet separate in persons. The verse plainly says Jesus's pre-flesh form was equal with God. By declaring equality, it is suggesting a distinction. If one is equal to someone else, we must acknowledge at least two separate beings in which we are comparing. In addition, It is telling us that He is God for only God can be equal to God. Any other explanation puts this verse at odds with Isaiah 40:25 and Isaiah 46:9 (Shown above) and would no longer qualify as holy script.

Further, verse 6 & 7 is stating that Jesus did not see relinquishing his equality with God as robbery when he became flesh. From that truth, we can deduce that God did not see Jesus's equality as robbery before he was flesh. This distinction is very important for you see, God does not share his Glory

Isaiah 42:8 (NKJV): I am the LORD, that is My name;And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images.

John 17:5: And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

When Jesus prayed in John 17:5 to have his former Glory restored, Jesus was declaring his equality with God, for sharing God's glory suggests equality with God. So we must conclude that there is either two separate God's being seen or we are looking at God the Father and God the son. One God two separate persons

Again, if one is equal to someone, we must acknowledge at least two separate persons in which we are comparing.

It is my understanding that Philippians 2:5-7 and John 17:5 establishes that God existed in two separate persons in eternity past and while he was here in the flesh.

The Word Was God

Now take a look at John 1:1-5 and 14

John 1:1-5 (NKJV): In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He (Jesus) was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it

John 1:14: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Here, John is declaring that God's Word is equal to God. In fact, he points out that everything that was made, was made, by The Word. We have only to skip over to Genesis 1 & 2 to see that God spoke everything into existence. We know from Psalms 138:2 That God magnifies his word even above his own name.

Psalm 138:2 (NKJV): I will worship toward Your holy temple,
And praise Your name for Your loving kindness and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word above all your name

This is an incredible admission, for there is none greater than God. He would never magnify anything above himself. This helps us understand why John declares that the Word was God. For any other explanation would be contradictory to God's sovereignty

John's wording is very interesting for he distinguishes between God and The Word. His phrasing tells us that God's Word was alive, living in and of itself. That it was autonomous. Notice that the W in Word is capitalized. Making it clear that it is "The Word" not "a word" This is showing Divinity". John has made it clear that God and his word are separate and yet, they are one. In the mind of the Jews, God and His Word was one in the same. But John went a bit further in his teaching by pointing out that not only is the Word God, he declares that the Word became flesh. Jesus is the incarnate Word of God.

Like Philippians 2:5-7, I believe that John 1:1-5 and 14 establish that Jesus is God in the flesh. He existed as God in a separate and distinct form or person before he became flesh.

Jesus Is The Only Begotten of The Father

Now lets take a look at his Sonship.

John 3:16 (NKJV): For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

We know that Jesus was born of a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit. No one else can make this claim. So it is reasonable to conclude that because Jesus is the only one to be conceived and born in this fashion, that the term "only begotten son of God" refers to his virgin birth. The problem with this is it would also suggest that Jesus' Sonship started when he became flesh.

Scripture make it clear that Jesus was the Son of God prior to his incarnation. Take a look at the following scriptures:

Daniel 3:25 (NKJV): “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

We are seeing Jesus in his pre-flesh form.

Galatians 4:4 (NKJV): But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,

1 John 4:10 (NKJV): In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1 John 4:1 (NKJV): And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.

Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV): Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Jesus is the "Son of God" yesterday, today, and forever,

OK, now lets come to grips with the words "Only" and "Begotten. We know that Jesus is not the only son of God, for we have scriptures that tells us that all who are in Christ are sons of God.

Romans 8:14 (NKJV)
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

Galatians 3:26 (NKJV): For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

John 1:12-13 (NKJV)

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

The difference between His Sonship and ours is, we are adopted. Jesus is the only begotten of the father,

Ephesians 1:4-5 (NKJV)

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

Jesus is unique. He is unlike the rest of everything. He was not made. He is the only one who is God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God. He is the only one who is of one being with the father. He is the only one who existed before he was born. He is the only one who was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God

Lets take another look at the Nicene Creed:

Nicene Creed 325 AD

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;

The term "only begotten" is not only speaking of His earthly birth. It is also speaking of his eternal essence, His eternal Sonship. It is communicating that Jesus was God of God, not made or a part of creation. He is the Creator. We must acknowledge that Jesus existed as the Word of God and as God's Son with God before creation.

I wrestled with the word begotten. Because is suggests a beginning. However, in time, I saw the value of it. There is no better word to describe his being. Begotten is a picture of source. It helps us understand who and what Jesus is made of. He is God from God Light from Light. Indeed, He is begotten not made. When used in reference to his eternal Sonship, The word is defining his position and essence, not his birth.

The authors of the Nicene Creed and the Westminster confession looked at the scriptures that made it clear that Jesus existed in form as God but was pictured as being separate from God Before and aftert his birth. That he revealed himself to us as God's Son and openly referred to God as the Father. They understood that he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. They also understood that He existed in eternity past as the Son of God. All these truths made them scratched their heads. The only explanation possible was the eternal Sonship of Christ. Jesus is the only begotten of the Father.

They then needed to differentiate between our sonship and Christ's. So they used the word "eternally" in their creeds and confessions to communicate that His has no beginning.

When the Holy Spirit revealed to us who Jesus was, these terms were the best we had. We looked at the scripture, the revelations, the prophecies, and experiences and asked who is this? How do we describe what we see? I think they did a good Job considering the majesty and grandeur of the one they were attempting to describe. In reality, He is beyond our ability to properly put into words.

Isaiah 46:9 (NKJV)

Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me,

Isaiah 40:25 (NKJV)

To whom then will you liken Me,(or compare me) Or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One.

We must be careful when we attempt to describe God. He is unique in every way. There is none and nothing, that is like him.

In closing, It is clear to me that Jesus existed separately from God in eternity past simultaneously as the Word of God and as the Son of God. That He is eternally begotten of the Father and is His only begotten Son. He is the creator of everything. Jesus revealed Himself as the Son of God and He referred to God as His Father.

But even so, we must be cautious, for as surely as we live and breath, Jesus is more than our understanding of the word begotten, He is more than our understanding of Sonship, He is more than The Word. He is more than our ability to define. He is everything, he is our all in all. He is The Great I Am.

Your Brother In Christ

ABR

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