Friday, April 9, 2021

The Only Begotten Son (Hebrews 1:1-9)

"For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are My Son; today I have begotten You”? Or again, “I will be His Father, and He will be My Son”? (Hebrews 1:5).

In the early church, numerous heresies arose to challenge the deity of Jesus Christ. As the church responded, she eventually came to formulate the biblical teaching about the second person of the Trinity in this manner: The Son is eternally begotten by the Father. He is equal to the Father, but He is called a Son, and the Bible speaks of His being begotten. God exists in eternity, so there was never a “time” when the Son did not exist. Begetting is not an event in time but simply a condition in eternity. The Son is eternally mature and equal to the Father and also eternally begotten by the Father—and this is a mystery to us because we cannot imagine a timeless state.

The church pointed to statements like Hebrews 1:5 for support. Hebrews 1:5 does not refer, however, to the eternal sonship of Christ (though it can be seen to imply that doctrine). Rather, being begotten as a Son of God is a messianic idea. When a man was anointed as king, he was said to be adopted and begotten by that nation’s god. The same idea, in its pure form, exists in the Old Testament in the Davidic kingship. Thus, when Psalm 2 says that God has begotten the Davidic son-king on this day, it means the day that the son was crowned king. In the context of Hebrews 1:3, which says that Jesus sat down at the right hand of God, it seems that it is Christ’s ascension and session as King of kings that is meant by the day of His being begotten.

Hebrews 1:6 says that when God brought Jesus into the world, at His incarnation, He commanded the angels to worship Him (as everyone knows from the Christmas story). Thus, there is a sense in which Christ was begotten by the Father in the womb of Mary at His incarnation. Also, at His baptism the Father declared Jesus to be His Son. But the fullness of that messianic sonship arrived when Jesus was crowned in heaven at His ascension.

Other kings were adopted by God and thus begotten by Him in the sense of being His sons. The eternal Son, however, created the world and is the radiance of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:2–3), and thus is begotten by God without being adopted. This points us to the concept of the eternally begotten Son, the only begotten Son.

We’re in pretty deep theological waters in these early verses of Hebrews. Read Hebrews 5:11–14 for clarity and evaluate yourself. Then reread today’s lesson and contemplate God’s truth. Don’t expect to understand everything, however, because there is mystery here.