Summary: In the Apostles’ Creed we say that we believe that Jesus is God’s only Son. When we recite that statement we affirm that Jesus is God’s Son, that he is the only begotten of the Father, and that he is divine.
As we continue our series in The Apostles’ Creed I would like to examine today what it means to believe in Jesus Christ as God’s only Son. Please listen as I recite the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
When I share the gospel with a person I sometimes ask the question, “Who do you think Jesus is?”
Invariably, the answer I receive is something like, “Jesus is God’s son.”
“Yes, that’s true,” I reply, “but then so am I. The Bible says that I am God’s son too (cf. Galatians 3:26).”
Usually my response will cause the person to react with a puzzled look on his face. I can see him thinking to himself, “This guy has a serious identity problem!”
Then after a while I tell him, “While the Bible says that I am a son of God, only Jesus is the Son of God. In other words, Jesus is God the Son. And there is a world of difference between the two.”
Today, we come to that part in the Apostles’ Creed which identifies Jesus as God’s only Son. What does that mean? What does it mean when we affirm our faith in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son?
I. Jesus Is God’s Son
First, Jesus is God’s Son.
The term “Son of God” is used in different ways in the Old Testament.
The term “Son of God” is also applied to the promised king of the house of David (2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 89:27), to angels (Job 1:6; 38:7; Psalm 29:1), and to pious people in general (Genesis 6:2; Psalm 73:15; Proverbs 14:26).
In the New Testament Jesus appropriated the term “Son of God,” and his disciples—and even demons—occasionally ascribed it to him or addressed him by it (Matthew 14:33; cf. also 4:3; 8:29).
And so, the term “Son” or “Son of God” is used in a number of different senses. This is particularly so when used in reference to Jesus.
Let us now observe just a few ways in which Jesus is God’s Son.
A. Jesus Is God’s Son in a Trinitarian Sense
First, Jesus is God’s Son in a Trinitarian sense.
The term “Son of God” serves to designate Jesus as the Second Person of the Trinity.
This is the most profound sense in which the term is used. In all probability Jesus himself invariably employed the term in that particular sense.
Jesus clearly used the term in this way in Matthew 11:27, when he said to the crowds: “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (cf. Matthew 14:28-33; 16:16; 21:33-46; 22:41-46; 26:63; and parallels).
Jesus understood himself to be the Second Person of the Trinity.
B. Jesus Is God’s Son in an Official Sense
Second, Jesus is God’s Son in an official sense.
In this sense the term “Son” is descriptive of the office of Jesus.
Jesus is frequently called the “Son of God” as God’s heir or representative. The demons evidently used the term in this way in Matthew 8:29, when they said to him: “What do you want with us, Son of God? . . . Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (cf. Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32).
In this instance the demons recognized that God has been sent by the Father to serve his will in this world. And they refer to him in his official capacity as the Son of God.
C. Jesus Is God’s Son in a Nativistic Sense
And third, Jesus is God’s Son in a nativistic sense.
What do I mean when I say that Jesus is God’s Son in a “nativistic” sense? Nativism has to do with belonging to an indigenous group or culture.
And so, the term “Son of God” is given to Jesus in view of the fact that he owed his birth to the paternity of God. He was begotten, according to his human nature, by the supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit, and is in that sense the Son of God.