[B14] Jesus Christ The Son of God

As we rejoice in the pardon we have for the guilt of sin; as we hope to be more and more liberated from the power of sin in our lives; as we value the peace of heart which comes from assured fellowship with God in and through Christ; as we rejoice in the continually brightening hope of a richer, fuller, finally perfect life in the fellowship of the saints around the throne of glory, let us not be robbed of our confidence in the truth that Jesus is the very Son of God. This is the ultimate foundation of everything in the Christian life. This is the truth in the true, full appropriation of which alone there can be real life, peace, joy.

Table of Contents

14. Jesus Christ The Son Of God

When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. — [St. Matt. 16:13—18.]

With practical unanimity all the civilized world unites in singing the praises of Jesus Christ. Philosophers and statesmen, scientists and men of letters, warriors and men of affairs have joined in according to Jesus of Nazareth the highest measure of praise. In the face of all this, there is still room for Christ’s own old-time question, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” Indeed, there is most imperative need of this question in the world at large. And more, there is still reason for addressing to Christ’s own professed disciples, to many of the members of the churches, Jesus’ further question:

“Whom say ye that I am?”

Why is this discussion about the person and nature of Christ still necessary? Have not these nineteen hundred years sufficed to settle these questions? So far as the testimony of God’s Word is concerned, they are settled. And so far as we are concerned, they are settled. But there are many who persist in following their own opinions in open defiance of the teaching of God’s Word. Because they insist in promulgating their opinions this discussion is still under way. And, unfortunately, some of those who are most liberal in their praise of the character of Jesus, and of the tasks He attempted, are most determined in their opposition to all the claims which Jesus put forth respecting His own person, and to those facts in His life which go to substantiate these claims, such as His miracles.

The question, “What think ye of Christ? Whose son is He?” is a fundamental one. It has to do with the foundation on which rests the whole plan of salvation. As we answer this question depends whether or not we have a Savior in the Biblical sense of the word.

The answer to Christ’s question, “Whom say ye that I am?” is a twofold one. In the Creed itself it is thus expressed: “I believe … in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.” In the more explicit words of the explanation, we thus answer this question: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from all eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord.” We shall today consider but the first part of the answer to the question, “whom say ye that I am?” which is that

Jesus Christ Is the Son of God

I. What It Means

We will first explain what we mean by the statement that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

It is necessary not only to make the statement that we hold Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, but to explain what we mean by the statement. This necessity arises from the fact that many accept, and themselves use, the terms setting forth the Divinity of Jesus Christ, but put an interpretation on them which annuls their real force. Calling Jesus Christ the Son of God, they explain, when pressed, that they mean that He is the Son of God only in the same sense in which we may all be called the sons of God. Though most of these are willing to credit Jesus with a higher degree of those qualities which make Him a Son of God than can be attributed to any of us. It is not in this sense that we, the Apostles’ Creed, the Bible, use the term “Son of God” as applied to Jesus Christ.

Our sonship is separated from the Sonship of Jesus Christ by an infinite distance. We are sons, He is the Son. We are sons by a new spiritual birth, He is the only begotten, the eternally begotten, Son.

When we speak of Jesus Christ as the Son of God we mean that He is God in the very same sense in which the eternal Father is God, “very God of very God, of one substance with the Father.” We mean that every attribute, every quality which exists in the person of the eternal Father, exists also in Jesus Christ. And this without any alteration or diminution. “I and my Father are one.” There is no subordination of the Son to the Father as to nature, only as to order. The almightiness of the Father is the almightiness of the Son. The wisdom of the Son is the exact counterpart of the wisdom of the Father. As the Father is capable of being everywhere present, so is the Son. Not one whit of the truth, majesty, or glory which inheres in, and is natural to, the Father is abated in the Son. He “is the image of the invisible God.” And “in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” (Col. 1:15; 2:9).

Jesus Christ did not grow into His Godhead. Neither was He, as to His Deity, created, for there never was a time when He was not. He is the eternally begotten Son of the Father. We here touch on mysteries, the outer circle of which only can the mind of man faintly touch, at the full meaning of which mortal words can only hint. These are truths which only the infinite mind of God Himself can fully comprehend. These truths, so far as the facts are concerned, God has very clearly revealed to us in His Word. In the fourth Gospel, the specific purpose of which is to impress upon us the truth “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing we might have life through His name,” the Apostle tells us that in the beginning was the Word, … and the Word (Christ) was God. … All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made." Indeed, creation had its inception in Jesus Christ, and will have its completion in Him. “By Him were all things created.” For Him all things exist. And we come to a true understanding of all created existence only as we find the key to the solution in the person, ministry, and final purpose of Jesus Christ Himself.

The question concerning the essential oneness of Jesus Christ with eternal God is not one of mere theoretical interest. It has a decisive bearing on practically all the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion. If He was not the Son of God there is nothing of revealed religion which stands. Being the Son of God He speaks with an absolute authority. His promises are true, we build upon them with certainty. Our approach to Him, our fellowship with Him, is altogether different from what it would be if He was only in some very high sense God’s representative. Indeed, in no true, full sense could Jesus Christ be our Savior if He was not truly God. The Church rests wholly on this foundation. Grafted into Him as the Divine head and body, we are members of His Kingdom. On the truth of Christ’s essential Godhead rests the efficacy of the Sacraments. These are statements of such far-reaching importance that they should be accepted only on the ground of adequate evidence.

II. The Proofs

Let us, then, consider the proofs on which we base our belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Are there any clear, positive proofs in substantiation of the far-reaching statements we have been making concerning the Divinity of Jesus Christ? We would be very ignorant, or very wicked, or both, if we made such statements without abundant proof of the clearest and most undeniable character. There can be no shadow of doubt respecting this truth on the part of anyone who reverently accepts the teachings of God’s Word. There is no other truth of Revelation more fully, more clearly, or more emphatically taught than this, that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God; or taught in such a rich variety of forms. Indeed, in the light of God’s Word, of history, and of Christian experience, to proceed to adduce the proofs of Christ’s Divinity is much like proving that the sun in the source of light and heat.

Even the Old Testament abundantly proves the Godhead of Jesus Christ. This venerable record, the revelation of God’s nature and works, would lose altogether its distinctive character if from it were stricken all the teaching concerning the person and work of the coming Messiah. And the burden of its teaching is that He was to be One sent from God, a greater than man, the Son of God, God Himself. For instance, in that well known passage in Isaiah nine, the Messiah is called the Mighty God. And the word used is never employed but to indicate the innermost essence of the ineffable Deity Himself.

Furthermore, all the forms and sacrifices of the Old Testament dispensation have been so accurately, so minutely fulfilled in Christ Jesus, and this, remember, after the lapse of more than a thousand years after their institution, that they can be explained only on the ground that He is the Divine fulfillment of a divinely devised plan. In other words, during all the centuries of Old Testament service the Son of God, whom we know in history as Jesus Christ, was the living heart of it all.

In the New Testament the distinctive names of God are applied, without any qualifications, to Jesus. By the angel fresh from the courts of heaven He is announced to be “Christ the Lord.” St. Paul, who at first fiercely opposed Christ’s claims to be the Son of God, came to know, and, by inspiration, declared Jesus to be “God over all, blessed forevermore.” St. John, whose inspired vision penetrated farthest into the mystery of Divinity, proclaims that Jesus is true God, and that in Him alone is eternal life. And the eternal Father Himself, once and again, spoke down directly from heaven, declaring: “This is my beloved Son.” But what need that we adduce further statements of this character? Time would fail us to recall all the passages of Holy Writ in which Jesus Christ is called God.

Not one whit less positive or convincing, as to the Divinity of Christ, are the statements of Scripture setting forth the fact that He possesses, in full degree, all the qualities which inhere in God the Father, and make up His Godhead. “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.” “In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” He is declared to be everywhere present with His people and will be so till the end of days. He healed the sick, raised the dead, and performed all other kinds of miracles by His own power. He has the right and power to forgive sins. He foretold the future, not a few of which prophecies have been already so circumstantially fulfilled as to prove irrefutably that only God could have spoken them. The right of universal judgment belongs to Jesus Christ. He is the arbiter of the destinies of men and angels. And all honor is to be given to Christ, not only by the children of men, but by the hosts of heaven.

This is by no means an exhaustive catalogue of Christ’s divine attributes, or of the prerogatives He exercises in view of them. But it is enough. Nothing is wanting to prove Him Divine, very God, of the same essence as the Father. But we need not be alarmed by such an array of infinite powers. The Son of God is as infinite in His love and mercy as He is in truth and holiness.

These Divine attributes are ascribed to Christ not only by God the Father Himself, in person, and through His inspired penman; but they are claimed by Christ Himself, again and again. As we have shown, men everywhere have ascribed to Jesus a preeminent degree of the virtues. This is true even of those who have denied Him essential Godship. What a strange, contradictory procedure! If Jesus Christ was not truly God, then not only would all Scripture be untrustworthy; but Jesus Himself was the most unreliable, untrustworthy being that ever walked the earth. If Jesus Christ was not truly God, He was guilty of the greatest blasphemy ever uttered.

But we need no other proof of all that is claimed for Christ than Christ Himself. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. We know that He is the Son of God, and that not because of the results of Hebrew and Greek syntax. Grammarians did not make Jesus Christ to be the Son of God. We have not reached such lofty heights by such tedious and uncertain paths. We know that Jesus Christ is God because God’s Word says so. But we know it also because He has done, and is still daily doing, what only God can do. We know that Jesus is God because He has touched, and quickened, and healed our poor, dead hearts, which no one but God could touch and heal. We know that He is the Son of God because the stream which issues from His cleft side suffices to wash away the soul-stain which all the rivers of earth would not suffice to cleanse. We know that He is the Son of God because He is living in our hearts, and speaking to our souls.

The character and work of Jesus Christ settle forever the question of His Divinity. There is a transcendency in His life; an infinite, undefinable element in His character which refuses to be brought within the limits of mere human thought. Jesus Christ is Himself the greatest of miracles, for whose existence and manner of life there is no rational solution till we come to recognize that in Him dwells all the fullness of Godhead bodily. And when our hearts have felt the thrill of His touch, when there has been an incoming of the virtue which ever proceeds in richest measure from Him, when the life of which He is the inexhaustible fountain has become the source of a new life in us, then can we truly say, I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Then also we can, and will, cry out to Him, “My Lord, and my God.”

III. The Promises

In concluding, let us consider the promises given to those who hold this faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

This faith is itself God-given. Jesus says of Peter’s confession: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” Human philosophy, history, and literature do not suffice to convince men that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Indeed, these agencies, when men rely too much on them, become hindrances instead of helps. Only those can truly know this truth who submit themselves to be taught of God.

Only those who have been thus taught, only those who do truly believe that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God, are blessed. Without this men may be rich and cultured. They may enjoy the things which minister to their creature well-being, or their aesthetic tastes. But only those can be really blessed of God who accept Jesus Christ as His dear Son. Till this is the case they can have no real Savior. Without a Divine, atoning Savior they can have no forgiveness of sins, and are without that perfect righteousness which makes men acceptable in God’s sight.

Jesus Christ says, “on this rock,” that is on the confession that He is the Son of God, “I will build my Church.” Those who deny this truth do not belong to the Church of Christ. They might be as numerous as the sand on the seashore, they might be most admirably organized, they might be actively engaged in many excellent kinds of benevolent work; but if they do not stand on this cornerstone of God’s own laying, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, they cannot be recognized as members of the Christian Church. It is only when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as well as the Son of man, enters into a man’s life that his heart is purged, a new life begotten, and true peace and joy ensues.

On this God-laid foundation of a Divine Christ has been reared the greatest, and the most beneficent institution the world has ever seen, — the Christian Church. Despised by many, sneered at, fought with every conceivable weapon, the Church of Christ has gone on, these nineteen hundred years, enlarging its borders, leaving its impress for good on all other institutions, giving men new visions as to character and usefulness, and fitting them for the perfect life into which this is to develop.

As ever before, so the Church of God now has many enemies. Some are without, bold and aggressive; some are professed friends, but kiss only to betray; but in spite of all, open enemies and professed friends, who strike in secret, the Church stands, and will continue to stand, and do her work, till she has finished her God-given task. The Master Himself has spoken it, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Let us not be faint-hearted, but believing.

As we rejoice in the pardon we have for the guilt of sin; as we hope to be more and more liberated from the power of sin in our lives; as we value the peace of heart which comes from assured fellowship with God in and through Christ; as we rejoice in the continually brightening hope of a richer, fuller, finally perfect life in the fellowship of the saints around the throne of glory, let us not be robbed of our confidence in the truth that Jesus is the very Son of God. This is the ultimate foundation of everything in the Christian life. This is the truth in the true, full appropriation of which alone there can be real life, peace, joy.

By God's grace, each week LutheranLibrary.org will present a new message on the basics of the Evangelical Christian Faith. Our guide is the Small Catechism, as expounded by Traditional Pastor Robert Golladay. May this series bless and inspire you.

Luther’s Small Catechism: Series B – The Apostles’ Creed

Publication Information

  • Author: “Golladay, Robert Emory”
  • Title: “The Apostles’ Creed”
  • Originally Published: 1917 by Lutheran Book Concern, Columbus, Ohio.
  • Lutheran Library Edition: 2020
  • Copyright: CC BY 4.0