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

Don Stewart :: If Others Are Called "the Son of God" in Scripture, in What Sense Is Jesus Different?

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If Others Are Called “the Son of God” in Scripture, in What Sense Is Jesus Different?

What Everyone Needs to Know about Jesus – Question 14

Jesus Christ is called the “Son of God.” This title for Him was acknowledged before His birth by the angel Gabriel. God the Father also publically acknowledged Jesus as His beloved Son. However we also find in Scripture human beings, as well as angels, being called “sons of God.” Indeed, Adam is called the “son of God” in Luke’s genealogy. The nation Israel, in the Old Testament, is called God’s son. Angels, in the Book of Job are also given this title.

Jesus said those who are the peacemakers shall be called the “sons of God.” Finally, Jesus also taught that those who believed in Him will be called the “sons of God.”

If human beings, and angels, can be called, “sons of God,” then, in what sense, if any, is Jesus different? What makes Him so special?

Jesus Possesses the Same Nature as God

The answer is that Jesus was the unique “Son of God” in that He possesses the same nature as God. Adam was the “son of God” in the sense that He was created directly by God. Indeed, he did not have a human father or mother. Angels are the “sons of God” in the sense that they were created by God. Israel was symbolically called God’s son as were the peacemakers. Believers are “sons of God” or “children of God” by faith in Christ.

Therefore, the sonship attributed to them is different than the sonship which is attributed to Jesus.

Humans Becomes Children of God

John wrote about how people become “sons of God.” It is by believing in Jesus. He said,

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God. (John 1:12 NRSV)

Thus, humans can become “sons of God” or “children of God” in the sense of being part of God’s family. This occurs when a person places their faith in Christ.

Jesus, however, is “the” Son of God. He is different from all others for the following reasons.

1. Jesus Has Been God’s Son for All Eternity

First, we find that Jesus has been God the Son for all eternity. The Bible explains Jesus’ relationship with God the Father in the first chapter of John. It reads,

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (John 1:18 NIV)

Jesus is called God the One and Only. He has always existed as God. Indeed, there was never a time when He came into existence. This, of course, is not true with respect to humans and angels. They were created at a certain point in time.

While Jesus, God the Son, has been God for all eternity, He came to earth two thousand years ago. In doing so He became an actual human being. In Luke’s gospel we read the words of the angel Gabriel as he addressed Mary. He announced that she would conceive a Son, Jesus. In explaining the nature of that Son we find that He will be both human and divine.

We read the following explanation in Luke:

He will be a great man and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. Your son will be king of Jacob’s people forever, and his kingdom will never end.” Mary asked the angel, “How can this be? I’ve never had sexual intercourse.” The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come to you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy child developing inside you will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:32-35 God’s Word)

Notice that the angel Gabriel says that the child will develop in the womb. He will be human. However, He will also have the title “Son of God” because He is God who becomes a human being.

2. Jesus Is Not the Not Literal Offspring of God

Thus, the title “Son of God” does not indicate Jesus was the literal offspring of His Father. As we just mentioned, the Bible speaks of Jesus as having existed as God from all eternity. John also wrote,

In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. (John 1:1 KJV)

He did not have a beginning as you or I have had. Therefore He is not a “son” in the sense of a literal offspring. He existed before He was born as a babe in Bethlehem.

3. The Word Son Can Mean “Possessing the Nature Of”

Why then do we find the word son used of Jesus? Doesn’t this have the idea of a literal offspring? Not always. The Bible often uses the word “son” to mean, “possessing the nature of,” or, “on the order of.” For example we read in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 2:1, 2 NKJV)

The “sons of disobedience” are those who by nature are disobedient. Indeed, they are not a literal offspring of disobedience!

In the Old Testament, we read of the “sons of the prophets.” The Bible says,

One of the sons of the prophets said to his fellow prophet by the word of the LORD, “Strike me!” But the man refused to strike him. (1 Kings 20:35 HCSB)

These were not the literal offspring of the prophets but rather those who of the same order as the prophets.

In addition, the sons of the prophets were not inferior to the prophets but were rather equal to them. Thus, we find that this word translated as “sons” can mean something other than a literal offspring.

4. Jesus Has the Same Nature as God

As we discovered, the word translated “son” in Scripture can mean “possessing the nature of.” In the same way, we find that Jesus possesses the same nature as the God of the Bible. The Scripture has the following to say about His identity:

For in Christ the fullness of God lives in a human body. (Colossians 2:9 NLT)

Jesus Christ possesses the same nature as God because He is God.

In his first letter, the Apostle John wrote that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the true God. He put it this way:

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20 NRSV)

Therefore He is the Son in the sense that He possesses the same nature as God, or is of the same order of being as God.

Summary – Question 14
If Others Are Called “the Son of God” in Scripture, in What Sense Is Jesus Different?

Jesus Christ is called the Son of God” in Scripture. Indeed, God the Father, the angel Gabriel, His own disciples, the Apostle Paul, and even the demons acknowledge Him with this title. However, the term “son of God” is also used of Adam, angels, the nation Israel, peacemakers, and Christians.

Thus, in what sense is Jesus different from them?

The answer is found in the way the Bible uses the term “son.” We find that it often uses this word “son” in the sense of “possessing the nature of.” Jesus is the “Son” of God in this sense. He possesses the nature of God.

Thus, the title “Son” does not, in any way, suggest the Son is inferior to the Father or that He is the literal offspring of God the Father. Indeed, it is not used of Jesus in the way we use the term “son.” In fact, the Bible emphasizes that Jesus has been God for all eternity.

When the word “son” is used of humans and angels it is in a different sense. Adam was the direct creation of God. In this sense he was His “son.” Israel was God’s child in the sense that the Lord birthed the nation to be His unique people in this world. Angels are “sons of God” in the sense that they are God’s creation. They were made to do His bidding. New Testament believers are “sons of God” because we become part of His family through faith in Christ.

Thus, in each of these instances, a “son of God” is used a different sense than of Jesus. He is “the” unique Son of God.Consequently, we should not confuse this special title which belongs to Him alone with a similar designation which speaks of angels and humans.

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