How is it that we call Jesus the Son of God?
In spite of the fact that it is a fundamental tenet of Christianity, we (ironically perhaps) cannot fully comprehend it. What we do comprehend, however, is simply amazing! Think for a moment about the fact that God begot Jesus, and you’ll see what I mean. Even more so: Consider the timing.
He was never called “Son” before His birth
That term, “Son of God” was never applied to Jesus before His time on earth. John mentioned Jesus’ time in eternity before coming to earth, and so did Paul. John called Him “The Word” (John 1:1, etc.) and Paul simply used the pronoun, “Who” referring to His name (Philippians 2:6).
Why is He called God’s Son? The simple answer is found in the birth of Jesus. The Spirit of God “overshadowed” Mary, and she produced a Son (Luke 1:35). And that is the reason He is called the Son of God.
Paul tells us that Jesus gave up the splendor of Heaven, His status as God over all, and became flesh in order to save us.
God is good at the “Impossible”
The logical explanation of this event cannot be fathomed. That’s not to cast doubt on what happened, but simply to say we cannot comprehend it, only believe it. It’s true, of this there is no doubt, but explaining how God took on flesh? Where would you begin?
How is it possible for an Infinite Being to be born into flesh? I don’t know. But God did it.
We might end here and see many reasons to praise God–not only because of His incredible wisdom and ability, but more so for His love and graciousness to become one of us. We humans have been talking about it in fascination for some 2000 years!
But there’s even more to consider.
There is a prophecy of Jesus found in Psalm 2 that the Apostles and Prophets applied to Jesus. The whole psalm depicts Jesus, but specifically one verse reveals volumes.
“I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, ‘You are My Son; today I have begotten You'” (Psalm 2:7).
The timing of the fulfillment
The incredible part of this prophecy lies in the timing of its fulfillment. Three passages in the New Testament discuss this fulfillment. Pay close attention to the timing.
God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU’ (Acts 13:33)
For to which of the angels did He ever say: “YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”?…(Hebrews 1:5a)
“So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: ‘YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU'” (Hebrews 5:5).
Did you catch it? I missed it for years.
Clarifying the passages
- In Acts 13:33, the context is a sermon Paul preached in Antioch of Pisidia. He brought up the prophecy to prove that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
- The first passage in Hebrews is actually a question about angels, implying that God had never called THEM sons, but He did say it about Jesus.
- The last passage (Hebrews 5:5) tells us that God is the One who made Jesus High Priest by begetting Jesus.
Now you may see the timing more clearly!
The second passage (Hebrews 1:5) does not indicate the timing, but the other two distinctly state that this prophecy was fulfilled after Jesus DIED and was resurrected.
Read them again.
“God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm…”
Paul directly connected the fulfillment of the prophecy to the time of the resurrection of Jesus. Now consider Hebrews 5:5.
“So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him…”
Was Jesus High Priest from birth? He was not allowed to be one, according to the Law. He was born in the tribe of Judah, not Levi. No, Jesus became High Priest after His death. And this is when the prophecy was applied to Him and fulfilled.
The only time the Bible says Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 2:7 was after His resurrection.
Putting the pieces together
Does that mean He was not the Son of God before that? No. He was the Son of God. God Himself called Him that in Matthew 3:17.
How do we understand this situation then? What’s the point?
Well, what do YOU think this means?
I’ll let you decide that and comment on it, but here are a few ideas to toss around.
- When we die to sin in baptism (Romans 6:1-7) this is also what Jesus calls a “New Birth” (John 3:3-5). So our point of “death” is when we are “begotten” of God (see also 1 Peter 1:23).
- When we find out a woman is pregnant, we celebrate it because a new being has come into existence! But then, why do we go and celebrate again at the birth? We don’t normally use the term, “beget”, but it applies to Dad at conception, so why is Dad congratulated at the birth too?
- God uses the processes of this world to make something of us so that at our death, we are more than we are at our birth.
The mysteries of the Godhead are too complex for us to grasp completely. I believe that will be a major part of what Heaven–basking in and striving to fully comprehend the beauty, majesty, and complexity of our God. What a wonderful way to “spend” eternity! But what we do see can teach us many things about Him, and even about ourselves since we are made in His image.
I’d love to hear your thought about the timing mentioned here. How does it affect us? What can we learn about God or ourselves from it?