Transforming Power; The Work of God on Behalf of Man
Weekly Devotional 12-28-20 / The Only Begotten Son of God
What does it mean that Jesus is God’s only begotten son and the importance of that uniqueness? The phrase “only begotten Son” occurs in John 3:16, which reads in the New King James Version as, ” For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The phrase “only begotten” translates the Greek word “monogenes.” This word is variously translated into English as “only,” “one and only,” and “only begotten.” It is this last phrase, “only begotten” used in the KJV, NASB and the NKJV, that causes problems. False teachers have latched onto this phrase to try and prove their false teaching that Jesus Christ is not God, i.e., that Jesus is not equal in essence to God as the Second Person of the Trinity. They see the word “begotten” and say that Jesus is a created being because only someone who had a beginning in time can be “begotten.” What this fails to note is that “begotten” is an English translation of a Greek word. As such, we must look at the original meaning of the Greek word, not transfer English meanings into the text.
“So what does monogenes mean? According to the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BAGD, 3rd Edition), monogenes has two primary definitions. The first definition is ‘pertaining to being the only one of its kind within a specific relationship.’ This is its meaning in Hebrews 11:17, when the writer refers to Isaac as Abraham’s “only begotten son” (KJV). Abraham had more than one son, but Isaac was the only son he had by Sarah who was the only son of the covenant. Therefore, it is the uniqueness of Isaac among the other sons that allows for the use of only begotten (monogenes) in that context. The second definition is ‘pertaining to being the only one of its kind or class, unique in kind.’ This is the meaning that is implied in John 3:16 (see also John 1:14, 18; 3:18; 1 John 4:9). John was primarily concerned with demonstrating that Jesus is the Son of God (John 20:31). He uses monogenes to highlight Jesus as uniquely God’s Son—sharing the same divine nature as God—as opposed to believers who are God’s sons and daughters by adoption (Ephesians 1:5). Jesus is God’s ‘one and only’ Son.
The bottom line is that terms such as ‘Father’ and ‘Son,’ descriptive of God and Jesus, are human terms that help us understand the relationship between the different Persons of the Trinity. If you can understand the relationship between a human father and a human son, then you can understand, in part, the relationship between the First and Second Persons of the Trinity. The analogy breaks down if you try to take it too far and teach, as some pseudo-Christian cults (such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses), that Jesus was literally ‘begotten’ as in ‘produced’ or ‘created’ by God the Father.
[The above is not an origination of ‘Transforming Power; The Work of God on Behalf of Man” but copied and reprinted by permission of “gotquestions.org”]
As we consider that Jesus was God’s only begotten son, we should consider His uniqueness. Jesus was God in the flesh (John 1:14). This could not be said of any other person. We read from Matthew 1:18, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” God the Son, the third person of the trinity, became the Son of God. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (See John 1:1-14). God the Son took upon Himself human flesh yet was not tainted by the nature of man. Taking on human flesh did not disavow His being God. As Spirit He had always been God, when taking upon human flesh He was God, and from His incarnation He has been and will always be God. This uniqueness was necessary because Adam having become a sinner passed his sinful nature to his offspring, male and female. No one descended from Adam could qualify as man’s redeemer. His acquired sinful nature has been seminally passed to every person, excluding none.
We read from Romans 5:12-21: “12Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned– 13(For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.15But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. 16And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) 18Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. 20Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Jesus, the only begotten Son, defined by the meaning of the Greek Word “monogenes” could not be of the seed of Adam and be the sinless entity who could sacrifice Himself for man’s redemption. This took the sacrifice of the only innocent, Jesus, God’s only begotten Son. What a wonder!
stevelampman.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Lian Muan Kim
Koinonia Baptist Seminary – Yangon, Myanmar