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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: What Everyone Needs to Know about Jesus

Don Stewart :: Was Jesus Called the Son of God?

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Was Jesus Called the Son of God?

What Everyone Needs to Know about Jesus – Question 12

Jesus of Nazareth was a human being. Scripture makes it clear that He had all the traits of a genuine human. However, He was much more than this. Indeed, in the New Testament, this man Jesus is referred to as “the Son of God.” His identity as the Son of God was recognized by God the Father, angels, as well as human beings.

We can make the following observations about the various people and groups which recognized Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God.

1. The Testimony of the Angel Gabriel to Jesus’ Identity as Son of God

To begin with we find the angels recognizing this fact. When announcing the upcoming birth of the child Jesus to Mary, the angel Gabriel said the child would be God’s Son. Luke records his words to Mary as follows:

The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” (Luke 1:35 NRSV)

Note that Jesus is to be called the “Son of God” according to the angel Gabriel. In other words, this is His title.

2. God the Father Recognized Jesus as His Son as He Began His Ministry

As Jesus began His public ministry we find that God the Father also acknowledged Jesus as His Son:

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17 NIV)

We also find this to be true in another historical situation. At Jesus’ transfiguration the Father verbally acknowledged the Son before the prophets Moses and Elijah as well as Jesus’ disciples Peter, James, and John. The Bible says,

He [Peter] was still speaking when a bright cloud overshadowed them. Then a voice came out of the cloud and said, “This is my Son, whom I love and with whom I am pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5 God’s Word)

Here Jesus is called the “Beloved Son” of the “Loved Son” by God the Father.

God the Father recognized Jesus as the Son of God, or God the Son. We read the following in the Book of Acts:

God made a promise to our ancestors. And we are here to tell you the good news that he has kept this promise to us. It is just as the second Psalm says about Jesus, “You are my son because today I have become your Father.” (Acts 13:32-33 CEV)

Therefore, the Father specifically called Jesus “My son.”

The writer to the Hebrews makes the same point. He says that when Jesus came into our world the Father called Jesus “His Son.” It is stated in this manner:

For God never said to any angel what he said to Jesus: “You are my Son. Today I have become your Father. And again God said, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son.” (Hebrews 1:5 NLT)

This is a quotation from the Book of Psalms. Therefore, we have another reference of the Father recognizing the Son.

It is thus clear from the New Testament that God the Father identified Jesus as God the Son.

3. The Confession of Peter Recognized Jesus as the Son of God

Not only did God the Father and angels recognize Jesus as the Son, we find that humans did also. When Jesus asked His disciples whom they thought He was, Simon Peter, speaking for the group, testified that Jesus was the “Son of the living God.” We read,

Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16 NRSV)

Simon Peter, therefore, recognized the true identity of Jesus of Nazareth. He was indeed the Son of God.

4. The Statements of Jesus as to His Identity as God’s Son

Not only did others recognize Jesus as God’s Son, Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of God. John records Him saying the following:

Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. (John 5:25 NRSV)

It is His voice, the voice of the Son of God, which will raise the dead.

In another place, John again records Jesus acknowledging that He is God the Son. At the death of His friend Lazarus we read the following:

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4 NIV)

According to Jesus, Lazarus death was for the purpose of glorifying God the Son.

Later, John records that Jesus said it again. In another confrontation with the religious leaders John records Jesus saying these words:

Can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son?’ (John 10:36 NRSV)

It is clear that Jesus believed Himself to be the Son of God.

Jesus Acknowledged His Identity under Oath

Jesus’ understanding of His identity becomes even clearer at His trial. At Jesus’ trial, while under oath, He admitted to being the Son of God. We read what happened:

But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God that you tell us whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus replied, “Yes, it is as you say. And in the future you will see me, the Son of Man, sitting at God’s right hand in the place of power and coming back on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:63, 64 NLT)

This removes all doubt as to what Jesus believed about His identity.

The charge that was brought to Pontius Pilate by the religious rulers is that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. We read,

The Jewish leaders replied, “By our laws he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.” (John 19:7 NLT)

The religious leaders understood that Jesus was claiming equality with God. Indeed, this is one of the reasons as to why they wanted Him put to death. They considered His claim to be blasphemy. Of course, it would have been blasphemy if it was not true. However, Jesus’ claims about Himself were indeed true.

5. The Demons Recognize Jesus as the Son of God

The Bible says that it was not only the friends of Jesus who recognized His identity as the Son of God. There is another testimony from those who did not believe in Him. Indeed, the demons also recognized Jesus as the Son of God. We read in Matthew

They began screaming at him, “Why are you bothering us, Son of God? You have no right to torture us before God’s appointed time!” (Matthew 8:29 NLT)

They too, knew who Jesus was.

6. The Roman Centurion at Jesus’ Cross Recognized His Identity

We also find humans, who were not followers of Jesus, recognizing who He was. While Jesus was dying on the cross the Roman centurion in charge of His crucifixion acknowledged Jesus’ identity. Matthew writes,

When the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they were terrified and said, “This man really was God’s Son!” (Matthew 27:54 HCSB)

This Roman solider could see that Jesus was more than a mere man. Consequently at Jesus’ death this man publicly stated that Christ was God’s Son.

Thus, we find during His public ministry there was the testimony of those who believed in Him as well as those who did not as to His identity as the Son of God.

7. John Said Jesus Is the Son of God the Father

After, Jesus’ ascension into heaven, we read again of this truth. Indeed, Jesus is the Son of God the Father according to the Apostle John. He stated,

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, in truth and love. (2 John 3 NRSV)

Jesus is the Son of God the Father.

8. The Acknowledgment of the Apostle Paul

We also find that the Apostle Paul acknowledged Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. He wrote the following words to church in the city of Rome:

From Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle and appointed to spread the Good News of God. (God had already promised this Good News through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures. This Good News is about his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In his human nature he was a descendant of David. In his spiritual, holy nature he was declared the Son of God. This was shown in a powerful way when he came back to life. (Romans 1:1-4 God’s Word)

Here Paul emphasizes that Jesus was shown or declared to be the “Son of God” in a powerful way when He came back from the dead.

Therefore, it is the united testimony of the New Testament that Jesus is the Son of God.

Summary – Question 12
Was Jesus Called the Son of God?

While Jesus of Nazareth was fully human the New Testament also says that He is the Son of God. There are many different lines of testimony to this recorded for us.

To begin with, the angel Gabriel, at the announcement of His conception made it clear that the child Jesus was God’s Son. Therefore, before He was even conceived He was acknowledged as God the Son.

God the Father acknowledged Jesus as the Son as soon as He began His public ministry. At Jesus’ baptism the voice of God the Father was heard to designate Him as the Beloved Son of the Father.

During Jesus’ public ministry the Father again publicly acknowledged the Son at His Transfiguration. That the Father recognized the Son is also recorded for us in the Book of Acts as well as the letter to the Hebrews.

Human beings also recognized Jesus as the Son. When Jesus asked His disciples whom they thought He was, Simon Peter, speaking for the group, acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God. This confession of Peter was acknowledged by Jesus. He truly is the Son of God.

This brings us to our next point. Jesus Himself testified to His identity as the Son of God. The four gospels, on a number of occasions, record Him claiming to be God the Son. Therefore, we have Jesus own testimony as to His identity. Furthermore, at His trial before the religious rulers, Jesus acknowledged under oath that He was the Son of God.

Interestingly, we also have the testimony of those who were not believers in Jesus as to His identity as the Son of God. During His earthly ministry, the demons publicly acknowledged Jesus. They knew who He was.

At the time of His death on the cross, the Roman centurion publicly stated that the man whom He was watching being crucified was actually the Son of God. Thus, we have the testimony of His identify from those which did not believe in Him.

After Jesus ascended into heaven the acknowledgments continued. We find that the Apostle John in his second letter testified that Jesus was the Father’s Son. In the writings of the Apostle Paul there is the same truth taught. Indeed, Paul stressed that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power by His resurrection from the dead.

In sum, there is united testimony in the New Testament with respect to Jesus identity. He is God the Son. Of this, there is no doubt.

Why Was Jesus Called the Word of God? ← Prior Section
Are Others in Scripture, Apart from Jesus, Called the Son of God or Sons of God? Next Section →
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