Ques. 33. Why is Christ called the only begotten-son of God, since we are also the children of God?
Ans. Because Christ alone is the eternal and natural Son of God; but we are children adopted of God, by grace, for his sake.
Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 13.
Amazing confession! Jesus Christ, God’s Son!
With the church of all ages we confess in our Apostolic Creed that Jesus is the Son of God. After declaring that we believe in God, our Father, the ‘Almighty Creator, we confess our faith in Jesus, Who is the Christ. Concerning this Jesus we make the confession that He is God’s only begotten Son, We echo the song of the church of the shadows, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be calledWonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace”. (Isaiah 9:6). We hear Nathanael say, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel” (John 1:49). We delight in Peter’s confession as mouthpiece for the disciples, “We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:69). With Thomas we bow before Him in worship saying, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
Anyone who denies this fundamental truth undermines the entire Word of God. Take away Christ’s divinity and you have no virgin-birth, no signs and wonders, no preaching of our Lord. All His testimony would only prove Him to be the biggest deceiver that ever lived. Without this we have no cross; no resurrection, no Lord of Glory in the heavens, no return of Christ with the clouds, no final glory. In fact, we would have no God, for Jesus is God. Our faith would be worse than vain. The matter is as serious as that. “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (I John 2:22). On the contrary, this is the triumph of the faith of the believer. For “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).
The Only Begotten Son of God. There are other references to sons of God in Scripture. Adam is called the son of God. Angels are referred to as sons of God. Also believers are called sons of God. Yet, in distinction from any other sons of God, Jesus is the only begotten, the eternal and natural Son.
He is begotten: The Creator has given, us an earthly picture to help us understand this eternal reality. An earthly father begets a son through his wife. Without the father a woman could not possibly conceive and give birth to a child. The child that is born bears the resemblance of both the father and the mother. A father rejoices to see his likeness in his child, so that with a sense of joy he says, “my son,” or “my daughter.” The eternal reality pictured here is the generation of the Son by the Father. This is without the medium of a woman, as is the case with us. This is also not an act of a moment, but is an eternal generation. The Father continuously gives life to the Son, and the Son continuously draws His life from the Father. The Son bears the very image and likeness: of the Father, so that the Father turns to the Son in love, saying, “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee.”
He is the eternal Son. As hard as it is for us to conceive of eternity, so hard it is to understand this eternal generation of the Son. Many questions arise in our minds that remain shrouded in the mystery of the Godhead. Yet we know that the Father is eternal, and the Son is also eternal. There is no beginning for the Father nor for the Son, nor is there end of days for either one of them. The Father is never without the Son; the Son is never, without the Father. In the Holy Spirit, Father and Son meet and live an intimate life of everlasting fellowship as the covenant God.
He is the natural Son. The second person possesses, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, all the divine perfections. The Son is almighty, omnipresent, omniscient, and all-wise. He is holy and righteous. He is love, grace, and truth. He is, in one word, fully and completely God. He lives the divine life in perfect harmony with the Father and the Spirit. With the Father and the Spirit He foreknows and decrees all things. With them He creates, upholds, and directs His creation to its predestined goal. As one of the persons of the triune God He redeems the world for the sake of the elect. The wicked are destroyed like dead branches of a tree, or like the chaff in a field of wheat, but the organism of God’s world is redeemed and brought to glory.
Amazing truth! Glorious reality! Blessed confession!
Scripture speaks of Christ as the Firstborn of every creature, even among many brethren. The firstborn in the old dispensation opened the way for other children to follow. When the father died the firstborn became the head of the family and of the tribe. Therefore the firstborn received a double portion of the father’s inheritance. This was a type of Christ Who is appointed of God as the Firstborn to bring many sons into glory. He receives the birthright blessing from the Father as a reward on His accomplished work on the cross to share that blessing with His brethren, that they may live and reign with Him eternally.
In the old dispensation God was still at a distance from His people. It is true that He appeared to them either by direct speech or through the Angel of Jehovah. He brought His Word to them through angels, or through visions and dreams, or through prophets. God came to dwell with His people in the tabernacle and in the temple in the Most Holy Place behind the veil. Yet there was a barrier, a wall of separation between the living God and His church simply because the Christ had not yet come. Now God is come very near to us. The Son of God took on our human nature from the virgin Mary. The person of the Son dwelt among us as both God and man. This makes the mystery of our salvation all the more amazing. God formed His own human nature in the womb of the virgin. God lay in a barn. God walked among us in all our weaknesses as one of us. God showed His power in signs and wonders as the man Jesus. God spoke our language in such a plain and simple way that children enjoyed listening to Him. God was hated, spit upon, reviled, accused and condemned as a malefactor not worthy to live among men. God surrendered Himself into the hands of sinners to be nailed on the cross, suffered torments of hell under His own wrath, shed His blood as an atonement for the sins of His people. God arose in the man Jesus, took our flesh into heaven, and was exalted in Jesus to the position of power and glory at His right hand. As if all that were a small thing, God came in the Spirit on Pentecost to take up His abode in the hearts of His saints, who thereby become temples of the Most High God. God in Christ will appear again, so that every eye will see Him, also: those who crucified and rejected Him. He will take His people unto Himself, so that the tabernacle of; God will be with man. God will dwell with them and be their God and they will be His people forever. There is no other name under heaven whereby we can be saved.
This deserves all our emphasis. The truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, is often denied. It is often ignored. Ignoring this truth may be even more dangerous than an outright denial. Often we hear hymns sung about a kind, loving, gentle Jesus. Children are taught to pray to Jesus. The impression is left that Jesus is readily approachable, but God is a harsh and stern Being Who might frighten a child. Let us maintain with all our might, Jesus Christ is God, for He is God’s only begotten Son, in Whom is all our salvation.
Behold and tremble, for we stand on holy ground!
Our Catechism discusses the Sonship of Christ in connection with our sonship. On the one hand, it shows the vast difference between Christ’s sonship and ours. Christ is the natural Son, we are sons by adoption. Christ is the eternal Son; although our adoption is from eternity, we are made sons in time. On the other hand, it shows how intimately our sonship is related to Christ’s. For it is only because Christ is the eternal Son of God that we can be made sons in His image and likeness. Moreover, we have the right to adoption by the sacrifice of God’s dear Son on the cross, Who makes us sons by His Spirit in our hearts.
We are called sons of God. Actually we have no right to this exalted privilege. By our natural birth we bear the guilt of the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve. We belong to a human race that is sold under sin, which increases the guilt of sin by its sinful transgression of God’s law and willful rebellion from day to day, even until the measure of iniquity is full and God destroys them in righteous judgment. But in sovereign good pleasure God has eternally separated us from this present evil world and adopted us to be His sons with the right to eternal life. Christ sealed that eternal adoption with His own life blood on the cross. He took away our curse and merited for us the right to a place in God’s family forever. Christ was delivered over unto death for our transgressions; He was raised for our justification. He is now the exalted Lord in heaven, Who sends His Spirit into our hearts as the Spirit of adoption, assuring us that we are sons of God and heirs of eternal life. We are heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, now to suffer with Him for a while, that we may be glorified with Him forever. Soon we shall stand before the great white throne, where Christ Himself will assure us of our eternal adoption, of our right to enter into Father’s House, of our appointed place at Father’s table, to praise and glorify His boundless grace. Saved! Saved by the blood of God’s eternal Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Even that does not fully express the great wonder of our sonship. God does what no human parent can do when he adopts a child. God not only assures us that we are adopted as sons in His House, but He also makes us sons. Eternally God regards us, not as we are in ourselves, but as we are in Christ Jesus. We were one with Christ when He suffered as an atonement for our sins on the cross. We were so completely one with Him, that when He stretched out His arms to be nailed to the cross, we did just that in Him. When He suffered torments oft hell, we suffered those torments for our sins in Him. When He died, we died. When He arose, we arose. So that when He went to sit at the right hand of God in the highest heavens, we went to sit with Him there. By His Spirit Christ implants His resurrection life in our hearts, and thus transforms us into His likeness in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, so that we know God, love Him, and serve Him in love. Now we are sons. We know not fully what we shall be. But this we know, we will be like Him in His glory, beholding Him face to face in Christ Jesus to the praise of the glory of His grace, world without end!