(4) Father and Son

For Christians, the name Jesus sometimes replaces the name of Yahweh (e.g. Romans 10:9-13). But more often, Jesus is bracketed with the Father, sharing in the authority and majesty of God (e.g. Acts 7:55,56; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 5:5).

When the apostles described God as ‘the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’, they did not mean that Jesus began to exist when conceived in Mary’s womb. For Jesus Himself had said that He had shared God’s glory even before the creation of the world (John 17:5). Nor were they implying that there was another divine entity somewhere who was his Mother. The term ‘Son of God’ is not an explanation of Christ’s origin – as if He were the product of some celestial liaison, like the ancient Greek gods – but a description of his status. The single word ‘son’ encapsulates His sharing of God’s essential nature (i.e. His deity), His very close (indeed uniquely close) relationship of love and submission to God, and His position (‘second-in-command’, or ‘crown prince’) in the cosmological order of things.

Jesus is described (in older Bible translations) as the ‘only-begotten’ Son of God (John 1:18; 3:18), not because He was the product of conception and birth but because He is God’s Son by nature – whereas we are sons of God by adoption (John 1:12,13). What then did Paul mean when he wrote, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15) He did not mean that Jesus was a created being (like an angel); if he had, he would have continued, ‘For he was the first to be created…’ instead of, “For in Him all things were created…”

Creation is distinct from fatherhood; what God ‘begets’ is God (just as horses ‘beget’ horses and humans ‘beget’ humans), whereas what God creates (angels, planets, people, etc) is not God. The ‘only-begotten’ Son, then, has the same divine nature as the Father; He must be God to the same extent that the Father is. They are thus equal in status but, just as in any well-ordered family, the Son submits willingly to the Father. “The Father is greater than I” (John 14:30) because the Father is supreme. “The head of Christ is God” (I Corinthians 11:3) expresses the same truth; Paul cannot have meant that Christ is a ‘lesser being’ than God, unless he also intended to say that a woman is a ‘lesser being’ than a man!

The other important aspect of the word ‘only-begotten’ is what it implies about the closeness of the relationship between the Father and the Son. (This is why modern versions generally translate it as ‘one and only’) The Father loves the Son (John 3:35) as intensely as a human father loves his only son (Genesis 22:2), and the Son loves the Father in return (John 14:31). They are so close, indeed, that they are almost inseparable: they think and act as one (John 10:30). “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19) And just as the Son does nothing apart from the Father, so the Father does nothing apart from the Son. He created the world through the Son (Colossians 1:16), communicates with us through the Son (Hebrews 1:2), gives His Spirit through the Son (Acts 2:33), rules through the Son (I Corinthians 15:24-28; Ephesians 1:20-22), and will judge through the Son (John 5:27). From our point of view, we know the Father through the Son (Luke 10:22; John 14:6), we pray to Him through the Son (John 16:23; Ephesians 2:18), and we worship Him through the Son (Philippians 2:11). In fact, it is impossible either to really know or to really worship God without Jesus (I John 2:23); they come ‘as a package’.

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