reprinted with permission from the Gospel Advocate
Donnie L. DeBord, M.Div., ThM.
When Scripture describes Jesus as the Son of God, we are not being told that Jesus was created by the Father or that the Father begat the Son in the same way that human children are begotten. There was never a time when the Son was not with the Father (Jn. 1:1). The Son was not created (Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:16). Sonship also does not imply that Jesus is inferior to the Father. Jesus’ sonship implies, rather, that he is equal to the Father (Jn. 5:18). Sonship, therefore, is one of the ways that the Spirit describes the “relation in which the Father stands to the Son, and the Son to the Father” which is “a genuine and intimate relation.”[i] The New Testament makes much of Jesus as the Son of God. The Old Testament, although it does not reveal as much about the Son, prepares its readers for the Son’s entrance.
The Son of God in the Old Testament
Watchful readers of the Old Testament Scriptures are primed for the incarnation, sacrifice, and resurrection of Christ through the prophecies and foreshadows God revealed through the Patriarchs and Israel. The Son is the promised seed of woman would crush the Serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15). The beloved Son of the Heavenly Father will be provided for the sacrifice in place of what any human could offer (Gen. 22). Jesus was the true Son called out of Egypt (Hos. 11:1; cf. Matt. 2:15). Jesus was the Son who was born as God in flesh (Is. 7:14). This promised son, Immanuel, is also the Son upon whose shoulders the government of God rests and whose name is called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Is. 9:6). This Son of God is also the “Son of man” who was presented to “the Ancient of Days” to receive “dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and language should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13-14).
God promised that his Son would be born as a true human in Bethlehem as proof of his humanity (Mic. 5:2). But that same Son who was born in Bethlehem was also the eternal and thus divine One “whose coming forth is from old, from ancient days” (Mic. 5:2). This verifies his simultaneously divine nature and human nature.[ii] It is the Son of God who was “made a little lower than the angels” (human) so that he is also truly the Son of man (Ps. 8:4-5). Stephen Charnock rightly said, “as he had appeared to be the Son of man in the infirmity of the flesh, he might appear to be the Son of God in the glory of his person, that he might appear to be the Son of God and the Son of man in one person.”[iii]
Since Jesus was true God, then he is the fulfillment of the promise to David “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendent after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me” (2 Sam. 7:12, cf. 2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89).
The 2nd Psalm began with the recognition of the “uproar” in which the nations find themselves (Ps. 2:1). However, that temporary uproar was nothing compared to the eternal Triune God whose Son would come and receive the Messianic kingdom. The nations may fight “against the LORD and against His Anointed” (Ps. 2:2), but God was not afraid or upset by their uproar. God, despite temporary and trifling troubles, said, “I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain” (NASBU).
The Anointed King set on God’s holy mountain is God’s Son. Psalm 2:7 says, “I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” Jesus’ Sonship is: declared by the Father as a reason for Jesus’ High Priesthood in Hebrews 5:5-6; announced by the Father at Jesus’ baptism in Matt. 3:17 and at Jesus’ transfiguration in Matt. 17:3; and his Sonship proven by the resurrection—Rom. 1:4; Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5.[iv] The “Sonship” communicates Jesus’ divine nature which is common with the Father and Spirit rather than a beginning in time.
Hebrews 1:5 confirms that Psalm 2:7, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You” refers to the deity of Christ rather than the humanity of the incarnate Lord. This is clear since Psalm 2:7 is used in Hebrews 5:5 to demonstrate the superiority of the Son over the angels. Humanity is inferior, not superior, to the angels. Therefore, if Jesus is superior as Son, this must be a divine characteristic. The “Today” in Psalm 2:7 has traditionally been understood to refer to the eternal relationship between Father and Son rather than anything that was done in history. Perhaps, it is best to agree with the tradition of interpreters that “Today” refers to the eternal relationship between Father and Son and that this relationship was manifested in different ways at key moments in Jesus’ incarnate life.
That “Sonship” is an aspect of Jesus’ deity, can be seen in Psalm 2:11-12, “Worship the LORD with reverence and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” (Ps. 2:11-12). Look at the ways God teaches us that his Son is the Divine King. First, the parallelism between “Worship the LORD” and “Do homage to the Son” shows that the two lines are communicating the same thing—Jesus, the Son of God, should be worshiped. Secondly, the deity of the Son is taught when people are commanded to worship him in 2:12. This Son must be worshiped, to not worship him is to relate to him improperly and bring condemnation on yourself. This is why the readers are told to worship him “lest he become angry with you.” Finally, note how the Son, as God, is a “refuge” and those who “take refuge in him” are “blessed.” God isn’t worried about past, present, or future troubles. He laughs at adversity because his Son reigns. God’s people should not worry any more than their God. The Son still reigns.
From the Old Testament to the New Testament
When attentive Bible readers of the Old Testament transition into the New Testament, they are prepared to look for the divine Son. John began his Gospel, not with the incarnation, but even before the Old Testament was written or time itself was created. John wanted his readers to know that Jesus was eternally equal to (Jn. 1:1) and eternally present with (Jn. 1:2) his Father (Jn 5:18). The Son’s incarnate life is a reflection of what the Son saw in the Father (Jn. 5:19-20). The Son, because he is the Son of God, can give “life to whom he will” (5:21). This power resides within the Son because “as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (5:26). The Son was sent so that through his sacrifice “all who believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). As Paul wrote, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8: 32).
[i] Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 29.16. Augustine went on to explain that what is being communicated in the terms “Father” and “Son” is the relationship between the Father and Son. He wrote, “But in God nothing is said to be according to accident, because in Him nothing is changeable; and yet everything that is said, is not said according to substance. For it is said in relation to something, as the Father in relation to the Son and the Son in relation to the Father, which is not accident; because both the one is always Father, and the other is always Son: yet not “always,” meaning from the time when the Son was born [natus], so that the Father ceases not to be the Father because the Son never ceases to be the Son, but because the Son was always born, and never began to be the Son” (De Trinitate. 5.5.6).
[ii] Without losing any aspect of deity, he added every aspect of humanity to his singular person–1 person with two natures
[iii] Stephen Charnock, The Complete Works of Stephen Charnock, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson; G. Herbert, 1864–1866), 400.
[iv] Notice that the Son was sent to be the Savior. The Spirit was not sent to be the Savior. The eternal life of the Trinity impacts the way in which the plan of redemption is made and accomplished. The relationship between the Father and Son is “foundation upon which the universal kingdom (granted to him) is built” and without this eternal relationship, “he never could have been appointed Mediator and obtain a universal kingdom” (Francis Turretin,
Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James T. Dennison Jr., trans. George Musgrave Giger, vol. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1992–1997), 295.