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Catechism Class: Lord’s Day 13A Q33 God’s Only Begotten Son


Catechism Class: Lord’s Day 13 Q33

God’s Only Begotten Son

Read: John 3:16

Lord’s Day 13, Q33, Why is He called God’s “only begotten Son,” since we also are the children of God? A: Because Christ alone is the eternal, natural Son of God, but we are children of God by adoption, through grace, for His sake.

How can you explain the eternal Sonship of Christ in a way that a child can understand? Actually the catechist does a fairly good job of that for us, and he does it by contrasting our sonship (for we have already seen that God is our Father) with the Sonship of Christ. He asks how we can say that Jesus is God’s only begotten son, when we too are sons of God. And the answer, of course, lies in the meaning of the word ‘begotten’.

Here’s what the The Nicene Creed says about Jesus:

We believe … in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven,…

The important lines in this creed are “one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God,” “begotten of the Father before all worlds”, “begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made;”. This is a perfect summary of the person of Christ, his uniqueness, his sonship, his eternal existence, a refutation of a Unitarian opinion of the birth of Christ, his deity and Godhood.

Back then to our catechism, and our instructor makes three important points about the nature of Christ’s Sonship. He teaches us that:

Jesus is ETERNALLY THE SON. Because Christ alone is the ETERNAL, natural Son of God, There never was a time when He wasn’t God’s Son, and there never will be such a time. Theologians speak of him as ‘eternally begotten of the Father.’ Micah prophesied the coming of Jesus, Micah 5:2 The Jews were enraged when Jesus made an astonishing claim in John 8:58   They knew for sure that when he claimed to be around even before the days of Abraham, he was claiming equality with God the father in every respect, – he was claiming to be God! John 5:18 The Jews knew that only God was eternal, and Jesus taught that HE was eternal, from everlasting as Micah as prophesied. In his pre-incarnate life He is the Logos, the second person of the Trinity, who is of the same essence as the Father and the Holy Spirit. (John 1:14 ) Not only is Jesus eternally the Son, but …

He is God’s NATURAL SON. Because Christ alone is the eternal, NATURAL Son of God. There are two types of children, those who are born into a family naturally and those who are chosen and adopted into that same family. They are just as loved and respected and have all the rights of the natural children, but they were not born into it by a natural birth. Romans 8:16  So if we are not God’s children when we are born, whose children are we? We are the children of Adam, who is our common ancestor, and because Adam sinned, we are by nature children of our father the devil. John 8:44 Paul later starkly stated the eternal consequences of that, in Ephesians 2:3 In order for us to be brought into Gods family, we have to be adopted. So Jesus is God’s NATURAL SON, and we are ADOPTED CHILDREN.

NO-ONE ELSE BUT JESUS holds this position as God’s ONLY Son. Because Christ ALONE is the eternal, natural Son of God, Jesus is unique. He is God’s ONE AND ONLY son.

John MacArthur, wrote, “The Greek word translated “only begotten” is monogenes. The thrust of its meaning has to do with Christ’s utter uniqueness. Literally, it may be rendered “one of a kind”—and yet it also clearly signifies that He is of the very same essence as the Father. This, I believe, is the very heart of what is meant by the expression “only begotten.” *


Finally, if Jesus is eternal, why is the word ‘begotten’ included in those Bible verses and in the creeds?  Isn’t that a bit confusing, and wouldn’t monogenes be better just translated as ‘One and Only Son’ as in some of the modern versions? Why use a confusing word like ‘begotten’ – after all, when we think of the meaning of the word begotten we automatically think of a birth.   So ‘Abraham begat Isaac, and so on.’

That’s where our mistake lies.  We are thinking of God in human terms.  Theologians call this ‘anthropomorphism’ – making God in OUR image, thinking that his fatherhood his just like ours.  But it is important to remember that God is NOT like us, he is eternal, and we are not.  Our fatherhood is a pale and very broken reflection of the fatherhood of God, whereas God’s fatherhood is perfect, and eternal.  So there is another, and perhaps more significant meaning to the word than merely the human understanding of the procreation of offspring. Look at Genesis 1:11-12  Genesis 1:21-24  

Genesis 1:11-12.  And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:21-24 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. 23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. 24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

King James Version

The important words to underline are the words ‘bring forth… according to its kind.’ God has so designed creation that each creature begets offspring AFTER IT’S KIND.’ In other words, the offspring bears the exact likeness, a perfect representation of its parent. The son has the same essence as the father. Jesus is the exact representation of his natural Father, God. Let’s return to those pivotal Christological verses in Hebrews 1:1-3 When we talk of Christ as being ‘eternally begotten of the Father’ we are not referring to his ‘origin’ – we are underscoring the absolute unity, the oneness of substance, essence, between Father and Son. MacArthur again writes,

“In other words, such expressions aren’t intended to evoke the idea of procreation; they are meant to convey the truth about the essential oneness shared by the Members of the Trinity.”

Now that we have learned what ‘Only BEGOTTEN SON means’ – that knowledge may actually challenge us when we choose a Bible version! If you are in the market for a new Bible, and you intend going down to your local Christian Bookshop to choose a suitable edition, let me give you a little bit of simple guidance. Look at John 3:16. If the volume you have in your hand does not say, “only begotten Son” in that verse, put it back on the shelf. Look for a Bible version that renders that verse as “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, …”

So let’s sum up. Christ’s Sonship is totally different from our sonship. He is God’s natural Son, we are ADOPTED into God’s family. Jesus is God’s only begotten Son, eternally begotten of the father, of the same substance as the Father, coequal and co eternal. He is the eternal, natural Son of God, we, although we are sons, are not natural sons, we are adopted into God’s family. And we’ll look at that in our next lesson.

Bob McEvoy September 2021

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