The Names of Jesus: Son of God

Luke 1:26-35 

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:26-35)

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (John 1:18)

It wasn’t the first time anyone had called a god “Father.” The ancient Greek author Homer wrote of “Father Zeus,” and Alexander the Great was hailed as “Son of Zeus.” In Greek thought, though, their deities were called father in the sense of George Washington being called, “father of our country.” And famous people were called “sons of God” in the way states will claim politicians as “favorite son candidates.”

Even in the OT, Yahweh was designated “father” to Israel. Yet the use of this term is neither frequent nor personal. God was considered “Father” in the sense that he was the creator of all. But when Jesus spoke of God as “Father,” and took the term “Son of God” for himself, they were in a unique way, that set him apart from other men in that he shared a oneness with God that was impossible for ordinary men. It was both unique and, as we shall see, potentially offensive.

When Jesus uses these terms they don’t speak so much of the biology of his existence, but of the reason for which the Father sent his one and only Son, so that “whoever believes him will not perish, but have eternal life.” It is less about his miraculous birth than his gracious work of saving sinners. Jesus alone could bear the name of God without reflecting dishonor upon it. He alone could be heaven’s representative among humankind. Because he was the Son of God.

From our western perspective, the word “son” describes our source of existence and its obligations and advantages. But these are not the primary force in eastern or Hebrew thought. To refer to someone as “son of x” was essentially to describe that person’s nature. Thus in Scripture, some are called “sons of darkness,” and others “sons of light.” One is a “child of the devil” and another a “son of encouragement.” When we look at the sinless, miracle-working, redemptive life of Jesus, it is his nature which is reflected in the title “Son of God.” He is Immanuel: “God among us.”

Don’t misunderstand – Jesus was not a created being who owes his origin and existence to God the Father. He is no mere human being adopted for some purpose by God. He has been with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit from eternity past. There is nothing inferior or subservient implied in the term “Son.” Jesus is fully equal to them in all the attributes of deity. As a part of that language of Father and Son, we understand nearness and intimacy and relationship. You hear that especially in Jesus’ prayer to the Father, in which he prays “…that all of them may be one Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”

The Hebrews writer tells us: In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”?

Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”?
And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”
In speaking of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire.”
But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” (Heb. 1:1-9)

So, please don’t be confused by the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the New Age Gnostics who deny the deity of Christ; who claim Jesus was created by God and may be a divine human, but is ultimately only human, and in the sense that he is a god so will we become gods. If we deny Jesus’ deity – his unique identity as the eternal and sovereign God of creation, we rob the cross of its power and make Jesus little more than a good man. Jesus told the Jews: “If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:24)

In clear and unmistakable words Jesus claimed to be God:
“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (Jn 14:9)
“I and the Father are one.” (Jn 10:30)

He claimed a unique and singular relationship with the Father that put him at odds with the people around him. In John’s Gospel, in two specific confrontations, his claiming God as Father was regarded as irreverent and blasphemous: So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:16-18)

The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. I and the Father are one”… Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (John 10:24-25,30-33)

They quickly picked up on the fact that he was not speaking in general or nationalistic terms when he called God “Father.” Neither was he claiming to be a pious man who lived in devotion to the Lord. His emphatic personal claim to God as “my Father” that reached a crescendo in the bold affirmation, “I and the Father are one” was different from any those people had heard before. But there is no question that they understood the implications of his words – they said that by “calling God his own Father, he made himself equal to God.” And when they went to stone him it was “for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” They knew exactly what he was saying, they simply could not wrap their minds around the possibility that it could be true.

Jesus is the cornerstone of God’s redemptive work. Whether you accept him or reject him does not change his nature or role. If we decide to reject his claim, that does not diminish his role one bit. If we question his identity, that does not lessen his glory one lumen. God vindicated him by raising him up and exalting him to the highest place. In Paul’s words, Jesus “was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4).

But what if we should accept his claim and receive him? The prologue to John’s Gospel reminds us that God gives us a choice about what we will do with Jesus: “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.” (John 1:11-13)

Listen to the climax of the story of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8: When Philip shared the good news of Jesus with the Ethiopian eunuch, …they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” And Philip said, If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 8:36-37) Believing that Jesus is the Son of God isn’t just a doctrinal point of discussion, it is the very foundation of our salvation.

Jesus is the Son of God in a sense that no other can ever be. He and the Father and the Spirit are one in deity. In his very nature, he is God from eternity past through eternity future. Yet he has made it possible for us to participate in his status as children of God. We cannot share in the divine essence, but we can experience the divine transformation and the personal relationship. Here is what Paul wrote on this point: But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:4-7)

Because of this relationship that Jesus invites us to share, we have a status with God that begs to be shouted from the rooftops – “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

Some of you have gone through the very difficult and expensive process of adopting children. If we all had to go through the same scrutiny and meet the same qualifications just to become parents, there’d be a lot fewer births. But know this – no one has ever gone to the lengths God has gone to make you his child. Paul writes that God has adopted you as sons and made you his own. You are so precious to him that he paid the dearest cost, went through the most agonizing process to bring you home as his own child.

It is an incredible promise that God makes: In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.” (Hebrews 2:10-13)

Because Jesus is the Son of God, his death on the cross means that you are saved from your sins and given the gift of eternal life. But also, because Jesus is the Son of God, you have been invited into an incredible and unique relationship with the Father as his sons and daughters.