Jesus knew exactly what His relationship was with God.
When He heard that the Jews had cast out from the temple the man whose sight He had earlier restored, He found him again and said to him
“Dost thou believe on the Son of God? John 9:35
The man answered Jesus by asking “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? John 9:36
The Scriptures record
“And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.” John 9:37
Do we wish to argue with Jesus Himself? He very clearly said that He is the Son of God. This was no figurative claim. It was very real and it was literal. The blind man was told that the one that had healed him was the Son of God. Quite obviously this man who had been blind would only have understood this in a literal sense. In more ways than one, his eyes were now open.
There is another experience of Jesus where He claimed to be the divine Son of God. This was when He heard that His friend Lazarus was sick.
Jesus said to His disciples regarding that sickness
“This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” John 11:4
Again Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of God. He was clearly not using this title to simply denote the intimacy of relationship that He had with His Father.
Throughout His life on earth, Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. This is why the Jews said He was a blasphemer.
Perhaps the best known time is when He said to Nicodemus
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:16-18
Challenged by Satan
Jesus obviously had no problems with His own identity (who He was) but it did concern Satan.
When he came to Jesus, tempting Him to doubt His true identity, he said, “If thou be the Son of God” (see Matthew 4:6).
It was on the point of Sonship that the devil challenged Jesus. Prove who you are he said, prove that you really are the Son of God. This was at the very beginning of the ministry of Jesus. Satan knew that Jesus regarded Himself as the Son of God.
Notice here that Satan said “If thou be the Son of God.
Satan was obviously challenging Jesus to display His powers of divinity. This, according to him, would have proved that He was the Son of God. He was in fact attempting to make Jesus doubt His Father’s testimony. This testimony was that He was the Son of God (Matthew 3:17).
Here can be seen the entire point of Satan’s challenge. He was urging Christ to prove His Sonship, meaning to prove His divinity. If we miss this point we miss everything about the temptation. Obviously the devil never meant these words to be metaphorical (representative of the loving relationship that Jesus had with the Father). This would not make any sense at all.
The testimony of demons
Satan’s fellow angels also knew the identity of Jesus. With their leader they too had heard of the testimony of God the Father (Matthew 3:17).
They said to Jesus
“What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” Matthew 8:29
In His pre-existence, these demons had known Jesus as the divine Son of God. They were the fallen angels. Christ had once been their beloved commander, at least up until the time they had been deceived by Lucifer. Now they were encountering Him in His incarnate state.
The Scriptures also tell us
“And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God.” Mark 3:11
This same type of unclean spirit said to Christ
“What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.” Mark 5:7
They also said of Jesus
“Thou art Christ the Son of God.” Luke 4:41
Even in His incarnation, these demons had no problems identifying Jesus. They realised His true identity. Just like all the others we have noted, they did not use this term “Son of God” in any figurative sense. Certainly they were not using this term simply as an expression of God’s love for the Son or the intimacy of relationship that the Father had with the Son. This would be a totally ridiculous conclusion to draw.
This in turn begs a question. If the demons know and confess that Christ is truly the Son of God, then why do not many Christians know and confess it today?
John the Baptist
John the Baptist had said when in discussion with his own followers (here he was making reference to the baptism of Jesus)
“I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.” John 1:32-33
The one whom God raised up (the voice crying in the wilderness) was to pave the way and herald the first advent of Christ. John claimed that Jesus is the Son of God. There is no reason not to believe that all those who heard John’s claims would only have understood this in a literal sense. John himself had heard the Father’s testimony (Matthew 3:17).
Nathanael’s initial encounter with Christ is a very interesting one.
When Jesus told him that He (Jesus) had seen him under the fig tree he answered
“Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” John 1:49
Nathaniel’s experience was more advanced than was Philip’s. So what had Philip acknowledged concerning Jesus?
The scriptures say
“Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” John 1:44-45
Philip had told Nathanael that he had found the promised Messiah of the Scriptures but Nathanael had gone further in his profession and had recognised Him as “the Son of God”. The messiahship of Jesus (the one whom Moses spoke of in the Scriptures) and His divine Sonship were two different things. Some say that ‘Son of God’ is only a metaphoric term for ‘messiah’. It was not. The Jews did not condemn Jesus for just claiming to be the Messiah but for saying that He was the Son of God.
Martha also said to Jesus (this was at the resurrection of her brother Lazarus)
“Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” John 11:27
The word “Christ” (Gr. ‘christos’) means the anointed one. Like Nathanael, Martha was saying here that she believed that Jesus was not only the anointed one (the promised Messiah – the Christ) but also the “Son of God”.
When the disciples saw Jesus calm the winds on the Sea of Galilee they said to Him
“Of a truth thou art the Son of God”. Matthew 14:33
As we noted above, so we will not comment again here, it was through the direct revelation of the Holy Spirit that God Himself had revealed to the disciples the true identity of Jesus.
The revilers at the cross
Those who reviled Jesus at the cross knew very well who He claimed to be.
They said to Him
“Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Matthew 27::40
They also said of Jesus
“He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.” Matthew 27:43
These revilers knew that Jesus had claimed to be the Son of God. This was their accusation against Him. This is why they said He was a blasphemer and deserved to die. They were obviously not saying these words because of the loving relationship that Jesus claimed to have had with God; neither did they say them in any metaphorical sense. This much again is only reasonably obvious.
A Pagan’s confession
When Jesus died, even a man the Jews regarded as a pagan recognized the true identity of Jesus.
As the Scriptures record
“Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.” Matthew 27:54
Was this Roman soldier saying this in any metaphorical sense? I would hardly think so. He knew exactly why the Jews had wanted Jesus crucified. He knew exactly who it was that they believed Jesus claimed to be. This is why he said “Truly this was the Son of God”.
The purpose of John’s gospel
John wrote his gospel as the 1st century was drawing to a close. As I have said previously, this I believe was to refute the heresies that were then being attempted to be brought into the Christian Church.
John gave his overall purpose for writing his gospel by saying
“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these 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
The disputes that Jesus experienced with the Jews; the words that Jesus spoke to those He encountered (Jews and non-Jews); the miracles documented; the scenes of the death and resurrection of Jesus; were recorded by this beloved disciple to achieve the one end. It was to prove that Jesus was indeed the divine Son of God.
Please take very careful note of what I say next because it is very important.
There are some who say that the term ‘Son of God’ (like the word ‘begotten’) is only with respect to the incarnation, also the miracle birth but if this were true then John made a complete ‘pig’s ear’ of His gospel. I say this because John was led to detail all the signs that show that Jesus is the Son of God (this is the whole point of his gospel) but he makes no reference to the virgin birth or the events at Bethlehem associated with the incarnation.
Obviously, under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, John did not regard the events at Bethlehem as one of the signs that shows that Jesus is the divine Son of God. Again this is only reasonable biblical exegesis.
There are those that say that the words ‘only begotten’, as applied to Christ, are applicable only because of the events of the incarnation but as we can see, this claim would be the result of very poor scholarship.
Nowhere either in the Scriptures is the term ‘monogenes’ (the only one of its kind caused to be) ever found applied to the incarnation. We therefore must not follow the reasoning that begotten has application to the events of Bethlehem and the virgin birth etc. There is no evidence to support or foster such a belief.
Even Mark wrote his gospel by beginning
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” Mark 1:1
Like John the gospel writer, Mark never made any reference to the virgin birth or any of the events surrounding it. Obviously he was not led to believe this as crucial to understanding that Jesus is the divine Son of God.
The personal testimony of the Father
The words that Jesus heard His Father speak at His baptism were very precious to Him. This was when the Saviour heard it said in an audible voice from Heaven
“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Mathew 3:17
What greater testimony could there be than this one? Will we believe it though? Will we take God at His word and believe that Christ really is His Son? We need to remember here that it was a disbelief in God’s word that brought about the first sin in the Garden of Eden.
Not only at the baptism of Jesus was the voice of the Father heard but also at the transfiguration.
The Scriptures record
“While he [Peter] yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” Matthew 17:5
Christ has always been the Son of God. This therefore was not a position to which He eventually achieved (either at the incarnation or at the resurrection or at some other time during His earthly ministry). It was one that He had held from the beginning with God His Father. This is why John began his gospel with the words
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” John 1:1
Literal or figurative?
So how do we know whether something in the Scriptures should be taken literally or figuratively?
I have always maintained that unless something is obviously figurative, like Jesus referring to Himself as the living bread or as a door or even a vine (see John 6:51, John 10:7, John 15:5), it should be taken literally. Obviously trees do not clap their hands (see Isaiah 55:12). In most cases it is not too difficult to differentiate between the literal and the figurative. This is unless we are talking in terms of prophecy and then at times it does become that much more difficult.
We must ask ourselves therefore if the term ‘Son of God’, as we have seen it for ourselves as applied to Christ in the Scriptures, should be taken literally or figuratively. This means that we need to do some ‘sanctified reasoning’ together.
When God said in His own voice that Jesus was His Son, why should those who heard Him not have taken Him literally?
We must also ask the same of Jesus Himself.
He said very clearly that He was the Son of God. Did He not mean it literally? If not, why not?
The reason why I ask this is because it was His personal profession that had caused such a stir amongst the Jews. In fact it was this profession that led Him to be crucified. Jesus would not have caused unnecessary uproar. The Jews obviously believed He meant it literally. This is why they said He had blasphemed and made Himself equal with God. They even said that by calling Himself the Son of God He was making Himself God. This is why they wanted Him put to death. Are we to believe that they misunderstood what Jesus was saying and that He did not correct them? As we have seen, they understood perfectly whom Jesus was claiming to be (see above). This is confirmation that Jesus had it correct, also that the Jews had it correct. The incarnate Christ may not have been God Himself but He was manifesting God in His flesh.
Some say that the phrase ‘Son of God’ is only representative of the love that the Son has for the Father and vice versa etc. This does not make any sense at all. Why should this have brought about such a violent reaction from the Jews? Why would that make them want to kill Him?
What about the demons and even the devil himself, also those that mocked Him at the cross? They all called Jesus the Son of God. In fact this is why His accusers said He deserved to die. They said that by these claims He was claiming to be equal with God. Obviously none of these were using this term to show the love that the Father and Son have for each other. They obviously believed Christ meant it literally. To believe that the demons and even the devil himself used the term Son of God to show the love between God and Christ is to reason to the point of absolute absurdity.
Some are saying that it was the Bible writers who had selected such terms as Father and Son. This is to reason incorrectly. They did not choose them at all.
The words ‘Father’ and Son’ were the words that others had used when referring to Christ. Putting this in another way, the Bible writers were simply recording what others had actually said. They were not just choosing words for themselves. This was when the Father called Jesus His Son, the Son called God His Father and the demons called Jesus the Son of God etc. It was also when Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of God, as did the disciples and others.
The terms ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ therefore were not words selected by the Bible writers to describe the loving relationship between these two, but were the actual words that others used when referring to God and Christ. This included the words that God and Christ had actually spoken. This is obviously very important to realise.
When everything is taken into account, we must ask if the term Son of God is to be taken literally or figuratively. I believe the answer to be obvious. By the weight of evidence that we find in the Scriptures, also if we are to remain honest in our deliberations, we must take it literally. Jesus really is the Son of God and God really is His Father.
Apart from the places we have already noted, there are many more verses of Scripture where Jesus is referred to as the Son of God. Whilst there are too many to include here, suffice to note that some are Acts 9:20, Romans 1:4, 2 Corinthians 1:19, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 4:13, Hebrews 4:14, 6:6, 7:3, 10:29 and Revelation 2:18. This is besides where John in his first letter says nine times that Christ is the Son of God.
Perhaps two of the latter we need to quote here. They are obviously very important. John wrote these when heresies were in abundance concerning Christ.
The first says
“Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:5
As we noted above (Peter’s confession), this is the essence of the Christian faith. It is the belief that Jesus is the divine Son of God. According to the Word of God, this is the faith that overcomes.
John also wrote
“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.” 1 John 5:10
The testimony of the Scripture through and through is that Christ is truly the Son of God. This is the witness that all those who belong to God have in him or her self.
Before summarising this presentation, I would quote you one more experience from Scripture. This was Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch.
The Scriptures tell us that this disciple was led by the Spirit to the Ethiopian’s chariot. He asked the Ethiopian if he understood what he was reading (Isaiah chapter 53) but the reply he received was that he could not understand without someone to help him. The Ethiopian asked Philip as to whom it was that this passage of Scripture was referring and Philip began to preach to him concerning Christ.
The Scriptures then tell us
“And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Acts 8:36-38
This was the confession of early Christianity. It was that which the apostle Paul preached in the synagogues immediately following His miraculous conversion (Acts 9:20). It was and still is today, that Jesus is indeed “the Son of God”.
Today we are faced with the temptation to believe that Christ is not really the Son of God. By specious reasoning, some of today’s theologians, even Seventh-day Adventist theologians, are saying that He is not a true Son. This is no different than the temptation that Jesus faced when He was here on earth.
In summary, it must never be said that Christ is the Son of God only in a metaphorical (figurative) sense. The evidence is totally overwhelming that His pre-existent Sonship should be taken literally. If we do not take it literally, then I truly believe that we shall be at variance with both the testimony of the Scriptures and the personal testimony of Jesus Himself.
One more question to ponder upon.
On the sixth day of the creation week, the Scriptures tell us
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26
The question to ponder is, who was God talking to here? It could only have been His Son.
As the Scriptures tell us
“For by him [God’s dear Son] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:” Colossians 1:16
There is no doubt that God created this world through His Son – His only begotten Son.
It was through Him also that He provided salvation for every person that has been born into this world.
As the Scriptures say
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
This verse has its application to everyone of all races of mankind. It is a universal invitation.
As the Scriptures also tell us
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17
God bless you as you consider this invitation.
In closing I would ask that if you know of others who may be interested in this study then please pass it on.
As you consider this request, please remember that before Jesus returned to His Father in Heaven He did say to His followers
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” John 8:32
He also admonished each one of us to
“Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give” Matthew 10:8
Whilst not everyone has been given the gift of healing or the gift of casting out devils, we have all been given the ability to freely share with others what God has freely shared with us. If therefore you know of someone whom you believe may benefit from this study then please consider passing it on.
Written By: Terry Hill