Rev. Key is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.
In our treatment of the names of our Savior, we drifted into the consideration of His threefold office as Mediator. Thus we have looked at the name Christ, the Anointed, as His mediatorial work comes to expression in His work as Prophet, Priest, and King.
That leaves us with two other prominent names which we must yet consider. Scripture does reveal still other names of our Mediator, but, other than the names Jesus and Christ, there are but two names that are used frequently in the New Testament Scriptures. I refer to the names Son of God and Lord.
The name Son of God is used some 48 times in Scripture. Still more, Jesus is denoted as the only begotten Son of God.
He is, in other words, a unique Son.
That is certainly the emphasis in the first chapter of John’s gospel account. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4).
This Word is very God. John goes on in verse 14: “And the Word was made 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.” Still more, we read of this same “only begotten” One (v. 18): “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
So this only begotten Son is unique, being the only One who has seen God, living eternally in the very bosom of the Father.
The writer to the Hebrews confirms the same in Hebrews 1, where he refers to and explains certain of the inspired Psalms. He writes in Hebrews 1:5-8: “For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee?” (That is Psalm 2.) “And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?” (That is Psalm 89.) “And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.” (That is what God says concerning His Son, according to Psalm 97.) “And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” (Again, quotations from Psalm 104 and Psalm 45.)
Finally, to mention but one more passage, I John 5:20: “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.”
So the Scripture extols Christ as the unique Son of God.
He is unique, the only begotten Son.
That means there is none other who is begotten of God as a natural son. Christ is not a created being. He did not come into being by virtue of His being born. He is, as the Bible puts it, “the firstborn among many brethren, the firstborn of every creature.” But that reference of Colossians 1, which speaks of Christ as firstborn in the counsel of God, is true only of the Son of God in human nature. And Christ has not only a human, but a divine nature.
So again, the emphasis here is on the truth that Christ is God. In His divine nature He is not born, but begotten. He does not have His origin in the divine conception, nor in the divine counsel. He Himself is the Author of that divine counsel.
Nor is Christ a son by adoption. God has other children, begotten according to His sovereign decree of election in Christ and by the Spirit’s wonder work of regeneration. But they are all children by adoption and by spiritual rebirth. The Son is not adopted. He is the only begotten, without beginning and without end, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last.
According to Hebrews 1:3, He is the express image of God’s person. And therefore He is the eternal Son of God. He is Son by an unchangeable act of the Father within the divine essence, in which the Father is active with all the infinite fullness of His Godhead. Eternally the Father gives life to the Son. And therefore Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is Himself God. He alone is the natural Son of God.
That means also that He possesses in Himself all the divine perfections. Our Savior is almighty, all-wise, all-knowing, everywhere present, eternal, and so on and so forth, the overflowing fountain of all good. And when He became flesh, He did not shed His Godhead. His incarnation, His coming into our flesh, did not mean that He left the bosom of the Father in order to become a mere man. The Suffering Servant of Jehovah is very God.
The Son Himself has perfectly revealed this. The only begotten Son, the unique Son of God, came so close to us that He, as it were, challenged sinful men to deny His Godhead, while at the same time revealing that Godhead in many ways to those who knew Him by faith.
We read it in John 1. He revealed His eternal power and Godhead by creating the world! “All things were made by him and without him was not any thing made that was made.” But then John writes, “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” Though “the heavens declare His glory and the earth sheweth His handiwork,” in the revelation of Jesus Christ, God seems hid!
He lay as a baby in the manger of Bethlehem, helpless and dependent upon Joseph and Mary. He grew up like any other child; except, even then, they could see He was different, unique.
He revealed His Godhead repeatedly, so that there could be no misunderstanding. He spoke with authority second to none. His wonder works, beginning in Cana of Galilee, revealed His eternal Godhead. And not only did He have power to heal and to raise men from the dead, but He had power also to forgive sins! Men could see Him, hear Him, understand Him, even oppose Him. And that is exactly what they did to the very Son of God. How easy it is to deny that He is God at all! That is what they did. “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” They even killed Him because He confessed that He was the Son of the living God.
They admitted that He was a wonderful man, a good man, that He spoke with authority. And they still admit it. They will even grant you that He was a man entitled to the name “Son of God,” even the greatest son of God, although there are many other sons of God. But just as in Jesus’ earthly life, so now, those who are caught in the bondage of unbelief deny that He is God. Not only the cults do, but much of the so-called Christian church does.
There are all kinds of heresies, some of which are very subtle, which deny the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and which, when embraced, deny all possibility of salvation.
The errors of some would not even require our attention, if only they would speak in plain language and declare clearly that Jesus is not God. But those who want to instill the poison of their false doctrine into the minds of us and our children never proclaim their heresies openly. Rather, they try to hide the real meaning of their views by speaking in the same terms as the church.
When the Jehovah’s Witnesses (so-called) come to your door and strike up a conversation, and you ask them, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God,” they say, “Oh yes!” And they try to deceive you and make you believe that they are fellow Christians, and that there are many aspects of their religion that make it more desirable than yours.
It is only when you ask them, “Do you believe then that Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, is God in the flesh,” that their heresy will be exposed and they will ardently deny the deity of Christ. Then you must call them to repentance and tell them that without confessing Christ as God in the flesh, they are lost.
That denial of the Son of God is also found with the Mormons or Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS people, as they are often called), as well as other cults.
But the same denial of Christ’s Godhead has permeated a large part of the nominal Christian church today. Much of the modern church is built upon a philosophical Christ. Its proud, hopeless structure is built not upon the only begotten Son of God, but upon a man whose example of goodness and nobility and love for all is set before all men, that all might reach deep within and make themselves like him.
For the most part, that is the perspective of the modern church today, which has no Savior and therefore finds in common all kinds of social causes and religious activism. Without the Son of God as God in the flesh, the unifying confession of the church (Matt. 16:18) is lost, and churches are coming closer and closer together in error, bringing about the amalgamation which will be the religious aspect of Antichrist.
The faith and hope of the church cannot possibly rest in a mere man! When you and I confess with God’s church, “I believe in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God,” the object of our faith is always God, who reveals Himself through the Son as the God of our salvation. Deny that unique character of the Son, deny that He is God, and you end up with the hopeless confession, “I believe in man.” That is the proud philosophy of unbelief.
Our confession of the Son of God is an important confession.
Its emphasis in Scripture makes clear that it is very important and necessary for the church to maintain this confession and to insist that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God.
If we do not maintain the confession that Jesus is the only begotten Son of the living God and very God Himself, we have lost the Savior!
We have confessed that Jesus, the Christ, is our chief Prophet. As such He reveals unto us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our salvation. But that is possible only if He is the Son of God. God must speak. As the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 1:1,2: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.”
Christ cannot be our chief Prophet if He is not the Son of God. That is why they who deny the deity of Christ, also inevitably deny the authority of His Word. Then the Word, the Bible, has no authority. If Jesus is a mere man, His Word is also the word of a mere man. And men are liars. Deny that Jesus is the unique Son of God, and there is no standard of truth anymore. All men are right. All men worship the same god.
And that is exactly where the modern church is today, and where most churches are going. Beware! That is exactly why to a great extent the difference between the church and the world has been wiped out—to the point where the devil himself can hardly tell the difference anymore between his children and the so-called children of God. That is why the antichristian world power is developing so rapidly, taking all men under its giant wingspan.
But we believe in the only begotten Son. Christ revealed Himself as the Son of God from the moment He began to speak. He alone can be our chief Prophet, because He is the Son of God in the unique sense.
Christ is also our only high priest, who by the one sacrifice of His body has redeemed us and makes continual intercession with the Father for us. To believe in Him is salvation for you. But deny that Jesus is the Son of God, and you empty the cross of all its power. Deny that He is the unique Son of God, and the One who died on that middle cross of the three is no different from the others. His blood has no more value than the blood of the malefactors.
Deny that Christ is the Son of God, and you have no salvation!
It is that serious! For redemption is the bringing of satisfaction to God to satisfy His justice. Only the infinite Son could satisfy for the sins committed against the infinite majesty of God. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.
We must confess Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God.
That is the confession upon which the church of Christ is built in all ages.
Only upon that confession can we claim inheritance as the children of God. For in Christ, the eternal and natural Son of God, there is salvation by adoption for us who were no children.
So John writes those solemn but beautiful words in I John 5:12,13: “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”