Vol. 4, No. 9
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Of all the expressions that Jesus used to refer to himself, none more clearly expresses his divinity than "the Son of God." No subject is more grand, nor any relationship more important than that of Jesus to the Father in heaven as expressed in the word "Son."
In a sense all Christians are "sons of God." Paul said, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Romans 8:14, note also vss. 16-17). However, Jesus is the Son of God in a sense in which none of us are, nor can be sons of God. In a conversation between Jesus and a man to whom he had restored eye sight, the Lord inquired, "Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and he it is that talketh with thee" (John 9:35-37).
Not only did Jesus acknowledge himself to be the Son of God (Revelation 2:18), but that relationship is sustained by the power of various testimonials, as we shall see later in this study, which include representatives of the demonic realm. Our text in this contextual study of the account of Mark states, "And the unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God" (Mark 3:11).
Jesus once put the question to the Pharisees, "What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?" (Matthew 22:42). This is a question for all ages. It calls for an honest answer even today. The truth is, the answer admits of only one possibility: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). Unfortunately, there are many false notions regarding him in the arena of religious ideas.
First, some are so bold as to affirm that Jesus Christ never existed. This is a ludicrous claim flying in the face of historic proofs to the contrary. Even if one is not disposed to accept the Bible as a credible witness to the life of Christ, there are many extrabiblical sources of the period which argue the existence of one claiming to be Jesus Christ, and these come from the writings of unbelieving Jews and Gentiles (ie., Pliny, Josephus, Tacitus, Seutonius, etc.).1 That such a person as Jesus Christ lived, no informed person today denies.
Second, some have claimed that Jesus was really a phantom and that he only appeared to be a man. The Docetic Gnostics of the first century argued that if Jesus had been born of Mary he necessarily would have inherited the sin characteristic of the material realm. Rex A. Turner, Sr., said, "Their phantom approach, while being an outright denial of the virgin birth of Christ, was a means of their accounting for the great miracles which Jesus performed and the teaching which he did, without their acknowledging that he was in reality the son of God born of the virgin, Mary."2
Third, some believe that Jesus is a created being. The main proponents of this erroneous view are the Jehovah's Witnesses who teach that since Jesus is called "the firstborn of all creation" (Colossians 1:15; cf., Revelation 3:14), that he must have been created. There is in this notion the suggestion that some people admit the historicity of the Christ of the Bible, but deny that he is eternal and co-existent with the Father in heaven.
In Revelation 3:14, the word "beginning" (Greek, archee) may also be rendered, "The beginner, or author."3 Therefore, the meaning is that Christ was in the beginning and caused all things to begin. The same is true of Colossians 1:15, as the context of verses 16 and 17 clearly shows.
Fourth, some allege that Jesus and the Father are one and the same person in the Godhead. Those of the United Pentecostal Church have won for themselves the designation "Oneness Pentecostal" as a result of this persuasion. The truth is that under the figure of the synecdoche, where a part stands for a whole and a whole for a part, the name God is employed to designate each of the three persons comprising the Godhead, or, may refer to each individually. For example, the Father is called God (John 3:16), the Son is called God (John 1:1) and the Holy Spirit is called God (Acts 5:3-4).
A correct understanding of Jesus Christ requires that he be recognized for whom he claimed to be: the Son of God. This is the case, not because he made the claim, but because the evidence supports it.
The purpose of the apostle John's account was to prove the deity of Christ (John 20:30-31). In fact, the term "Son," as applied to Christ, is designed to show the relationship that from eternity he shares with the Father, and that the relation thus indicated is sameness of nature and equality with God (Philippians 2:6). In John 5:17-27 Jesus shows six ways in which his claim to Sonship shows his equality with the Father!4 He was:
1. Equal in work: "what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (vs. 19).
2. Equal in knowledge: "For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doeth" (vs. 20).
3. Equal in power over death: "For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will" (vs. 21 also vv. 28-29).
4. Equal in judgment: "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:" (vs. 22, 27).
5. Equal in honor: "That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father..." (vs. 23).
6. Equal in reconciliation: Read verses 24-26.
How can we prove that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? First, his preexistence shows that he is eternal (John 1:1-3). Second, the fact that in him dwells "all the fullness of the Godhead bodily," which could never be said of any mere mortal (Colossians 2:9). Third, the fact of his miracles clearly demonstrates that his power is beyond that of any ordinary man (John 3:1-2). Fourth, his triumphant resurrection from the dead declares him to be the Son of God with power (Romans 1:4)!
Many testimonials from Scripture further support the belief that Jesus is whom he claimed to be. The angel Gabriel assured Mary, that, "...that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). When Jesus was immersed by John in the river Jordan the Father spoke from heaven to say, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). John, an eyewitness, wrote, "And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God" (John 1:34). The demons confessed him: "And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God" (Mark 3:11). The wonders and signs recorded in the Gospel accounts "...are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name" (John 20:31). Peter confessed what no man had revealed to him, that is, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). Jesus was "...declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:4). Many more evidences from the Scriptures could be set forth to affirm that Jesus is the Son of God, but these should be sufficient to convince the honest inquirer.
1 For further information see, Alexander Campbell, The Christian Preacher's Companion -or- The Gospel Facts Sustained By The Testimony Of Unbelieving Jews And Pagans (Shreveport, Louisiana: Lambert Book House, n.d.).
2 Rex A. Turner, Sr., Systematic Theology; Another Book On The Fundamentals Of The Faith (Montgomery, Alabama: Alabama Christian School Of Religion, 1989): 160.
3 Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies In The New Testament, Volume III: The Apocalypse (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1973): 469.
4 William S. Cline, "The Son Of God," The Spiritual Sword: "Jesus - What He Called Himself" (July 1987): 29.