I’m excited to share the first of three posts by Melissa King for this week’s Word Nerd Wednesday post on what it means for us that Jesus is the Son of God.
The Son of God
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”1 John 4:9
Greek: ho huios tou Theou
Translated from the Greek as “the son (or child) of the God.” Most Bible translations ignore the Greek definitive article “the” before both nouns. In English translations we see “God” capitalized symbolizing the reference to the only God. This definitive article is like the demonstrative pronouns “that” or “this” in English, so in a sense it is closer to “the Son of that God” or “the Son of this God.” It cannot mean “the son of a god” but only “the son of the God” implying there is only one God.
God here is from the Greek “Theos” which means “god” or “diety.” So, another way to translate the phrase could be “child of God” or “Child of Diety.” Jesus himself used the article “the” before God to distinguish the God of the Judeans from all other “gods” of the era.
Jesus Christ the Son of God
Interestingly, Christ never refers to himself as the Son of God in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), although many others refer to him with this phrase or title. The first time we see this phrase used to address Jesus in the New Testament is out of the mouth of the tempter, the Devil, in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:3) In fact, the two most common groups to use this title are the unclean spirits that he casts out (Matthew 8:29; Mark 3:11; Luke 4:41), and his accusers who seek to mock and kill him (Matthew 26:63; 27:40,43).
Of course, the disciples were another group who testified and witnessed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. After Jesus walked on the water and the sea was calmed, his disciples worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:33) When Jesus met Nathanael and told him he saw him before Philip called him under the fig tree, Nathanael proclaimed:
“Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”John 1:49
After Lazarus had died and Jesus had come, and Martha had gone out to meet him, He told her he was the resurrection and the life and asked He if she believed, she proclaimed to Him:
“Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”John 11:27
There are almost 20 other references to Jesus as the Son of God in the Epistles and other books of the New Testament, written by his disciples.
Jesus Calls Himself the Son of God
Only in the Gospel of John do we ever see Christ using this phrase to describe himself. However, John tells his readers in 20:31 that the purpose of writing is to testify that Jesus was the Christ and the Son of God. So, we shouldn’t be surprised to see this phrase in his Gospel. If you can think of the synoptic gospels primarily as Christ’s public teaching and John’s gospel as his private teaching to his apostles, this makes some sense.
The Son of God phrase was used only once in the Old Testament. In Daniel 3:25 it is used to describe the fourth figure seen with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar. Although this is Nebuchadnezzar speaking, he said, “the fourth is like a son of god.” Later he decreed that the God of Israel be worshipped. Was this Jesus in the furnace with them? Even the king of the nation persecuting Israel saw him and believed.
Our Relationship to the Son of God
Though there are other references in the Bible where all believers are referred to as sons of God, Christ’s role as the Son of God is a special one because he alone came from God. It is not a unique term, but his claim on it is different and special. We see this in the highly quoted verse John 3:16. Although he did not use the exact phrase Son of God, he says God gave his “only” son, or “only begotten” son. Here his uniqueness is emphasized. While we are all children of God, there is by definition only one unique “Son of God.”
Jesus speaks often of his special relationship with the Father. He wants us to know who sent him, where he comes from, who gave him authority, where he is going. And if we believe, he wants us to know that we will have life eternal with him and the Father.
How does knowing Jesus as the Son of God affect your belief in him? Does the picture of this earthly relationship help you to understand more of who he is and why he came? Meditate this week on Jesus as the Son of God and let his divine nature influence your worship of him. For:
“…we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”1 John 5:20
Melissa King is a homeschooling mother of five and Army wife of 15 years. She is now settled permanently with her family in Louisville, Kentucky since her husband went from Active Duty to the Reserves. Their Homeis their greatest ministry through foster care. Though she has a degree in Art Education and is the Director of her local Classical Conversations campus, her most rewarding job is that of wife and mother. In those rare moments when she is not teaching, cleaning, or cooking she enjoys painting, reading, and knitting. She enjoys various mediums of arts and crafts and the occasional inspired post on her blog, Abiding Hearts at Home. She has an immense passion for Bible Study, especially women’s ministries such as Protestant Women of the Chapel (PWOC) and Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), both of which have given her the opportunity to serve as a leader and facilitator. She has written an inductive Bible Study on Psalm 119 that she hopes to publish someday.