The identity of Jesus as the Son of God is foundational to the Christian faith. (See Matthew 16:15–18; John 20:31.) Today, many think this title means Jesus is a second divine person, but it actually means He is God revealed in human identity.
Conception by the Spirit of God
At its most basic, the phrase “son of” means the one to whom it applies originates from someone else, whether literally or figuratively. Both the angels and Adam were the sons of God by creation (Job 1:6; 38:7; Luke 3:38). Believers are sons or children of God by adoption into God’s spiritual family (Romans 8:14–16).
As applied to Jesus, the title “Son of God” is both literal and figurative. No human was the biological father of Jesus; He was begotten by the spiritual action of God and born of a virgin mother (Matthew 1:18, 20). Here is a biblical definition of the title “Son of God”: “And the angel answered and said to her [Mary], ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy Only who is to be born will be called the Son of God’” (Luke 1:35, NKJV). Jesus is the Son of God not because He is the incarnation of an eternal second divine person whose name is Son but because God caused the child’s conception. Jesus is the Son of God for the same reason that any other man is the son of his father—because of begetting, although in the case of Jesus it was a spiritual, supernatural work.
God Manifested in Flesh
Jesus is both divine and human at the same time. Since God is one and the Godhead cannot be divided (Deuteronomy 6:4), it is evident that Jesus is actually God Himself manifested in the flesh (John 20:28; I Timothy 3:16). This truth becomes more apparent as we investigate the figurative aspect of the title “Son of God.” The phrase “son of” is often used to describe someone’s nature or character, because by heredity and nurture a son receives attributes from his father. Bible examples are “sons of thunder” and “son of consolation” (Mark 3:17; Acts 4:36). To be a “son of God” means to bear the nature, character, and likeness of God. For angels or ordinary humans, the phrase signifies only an imperfect resemblance, for no one is absolutely like God in every way, and no one is God’s equal (Isaiah 46:5, 9).
For Jesus, however, the Bible uses the title “Son of God” in a special way. He is “the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). The Greek word monogenes here means “only, unique, one of a kind.” Thus the NIV translates, “God’s one and only Son.” Jesus is the Son of God in a way that no one else is. His Sonship is different in kind. He does not merely resemble God in some limited ways, but He is equal to God in every way (Philippians 2:6). Indeed, the Son is “the image of the invisible God,” “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:2–3).
Jesus exhibited the unlimited power, authority, love, wisdom, holiness, and glory that characterize God alone. He displayed divine power over nature, sin, sickness, the devil, and death. All God’s fullness dwells in Him (Colossians 2:9). As the unique Son of God, Jesus bears the perfect and exact nature, character, and likeness of God in flesh. Since no one can be God’s equal and yet be different from God, this statement actually means that Jesus is God incarnate, the human personification of the one God.
Significance for Us
When we confess that Jesus is the Son of God, we confess that He was begotten of a virgin by God’s Spirit, bears the very nature of God in flesh, and is indeed God manifested in flesh. Moreover, the title is inextricably connected to the purpose for which God came into this world as a human: to redeem us from sin (Matthew 20:28). Only as a human could Jesus be our kinsman redeemer and our substitutionary sacrifice. Only as a human could He shed blood for our sins, die in our place, and thereby pay the penalty for our sins. But only as God does He have power to forgive our sins and be our Savior (Isaiah 45:21; Mark 2:5–12). Both His true deity and His true humanity are essential to our salvation, and the title “Son of God” encompasses both aspects.
Of all people, we should proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God. Let us sing with Bishop G. T. Haywood, an outstanding Oneness Pentecostal pioneer of the early twentieth century:
O sweet Wonder! O sweet Wonder!
Jesus the Son of God.
How I adore Thee! O how I love Thee!
Jesus the Son of God.
Excerpted from David K. Bernard, The Oneness View of Jesus Christ.