WHEN DID JESUS BECOME THE SON OF GOD?
For two thousand years, Christians have always believed that Jesus is the Eternal Son of God. This truth is enshrined in the Nicene Creed: "I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father". This is the faith of our Fathers, the true Christian Faith.
Our Eastern brethren and many of our separated Protestant brethren share this belief with us.
However, a few Evangelicals today deny this great truth. They still believe in the Trinity, but try to argue that the Eternal Word, the Second Person of the Godhead, was not always the "Son" of the First Person. Some say that Jesus only became the Son of God at the Incarnation, at the same time Mary became His Mother. Others go so far as to claim that Jesus did not become the Son of God until His Resurrection!
These Evangelicals may even call the belief that Jesus is eternally begotten a "heresy"! Imagine calling an ancient Christian teaching contained in the Nicene Creed "heresy"!
This article will show that Jesus' eternal Sonship is not only orthodox doctrine but completely Biblical (as is all Christian orthodoxy, of course!). First it will refute the more extreme claim that Jesus only became the Son of God at His Resurrection. Then it will show from the Bible that His Divine Sonship extends even into Eternity.
A Doctrine Based on One Verse!
Those who think that Jesus did not become God's Son until He rose from the dead base this belief on a single verse of Scripture: Acts 13:33. This verse reads "This (God) has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, 'Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee.'" They interpret this passage to mean that God begets Jesus on the day of the Resurrection, not before.
This is a gross misinterpretation of this passage. Saint Peter is only saying that Jesus is the Son of God spoken of in Psalm 2:7, and that God has raised His Son from the dead. The "day" spoken of here is not the day of His Resurrection, but the Day of Eternity. To God, Eternity is like an endless Day, with no night, no passage of time. Jesus is begotten of God in the everlasting "Today" in which God eternally lives: "Today, in Eternity, I have eternally begotten you".
Was Jesus the Son of God before His Resurrection?
The rest of the Bible clearly and definitively teaches that Jesus was the Son of God before His Resurrection. All throughout His earthly life, Jesus keeps calling God His "Father", and Himself God's "Son". What could possibly be clearer than that? It is astounding that some Evangelicals have missed it!
Here are some examples:
Perhaps I have belabored the point, but I just wanted to show part of the massive, overwhelming Scriptural witness to Jesus' Sonship before His Resurrection. It is astounding how some people can completely ignore the clear teaching of so many Bible verses and build an entire doctrine on a misinterpretation of a single verse!
- After Our Lady and St. Joseph found the boy Jesus in the temple, He asked them "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2:49). At the age of twelve, Jesus calls God His Father (more than two decades before His Resurrection!). If God is His Father, then Jesus is God's Son!
- At Jesus' Baptism, God the Father proclaims "This is my beloved Son" (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). Not "This will be my beloved Son after His death and resurrection", but "This is my beloved Son".
- In John 1:34; Saint John the Baptizer testifies that Jesus "is the Son of God" (again, not "will be", but is now!)
- In Matthew 11:25-27, Jesus calls God His Father and Himself God's Son during His ministry, and long before the Resurrection: "All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." (vs 27)
- In Matthew 14:33, His disciples worship Him, saying "Truly, you are the Son of God". Were they wrong? Not at all!
- In Matthew 16:16, Saint Peter proclaims "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". Jesus commends him, saying that His "Father in Heaven" revealed this to the apostle. Peter calls Jesus the Son of God, Jesus calls God His Father; what could possibly be clearer?
- In Matthew 17:5, The Father again calls Jesus His "beloved Son" at the Transfiguration. Jesus has still not died or risen yet!
- In John 10:36; Jesus says "I am the Son of God". Not "I will become the Son of God", but "I am the Son of God". Jesus knows Who He is; He cannot lie or make a mistake!
- In John 11:27, Martha says to Him "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world". Jesus does not correct her; she has spoken the truth.
- In John 17:1, Jesus prays "Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee". He is not asking the Father to make Him His Son, but to glorify the One Who is already His Son. And note that, once again, Jesus calls Him Father.
- Romans 8:32 says that God did not spare His own Son from death; Jesus was clearly God's Son before He died.
- In Mark 14:61-62, the Sanhedrin asks Him if He is "the Son of the Blessed (ie God)" and Jesus says "I am". Not "I will be three days from now", but "I AM".
- In Mark 15:39; the centurian watches Jesus die and exclaims "Truly this man was the Son of God!".
What About the Eternal Sonship?
So Jesus was clearly the Son of God during His earthly life, before His Resurrection. But what about before His earthly life? Was Jesus always God's Son, or only after the Incarnation?
In Isaiah 9:6, we read the prophetic words: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given". This messianic prophecy informs us that the coming Messiah will not just be a child born into the world, but a "son given" to the world. "To us a son is given" means that God gives us His Son; He gives us one who is already a Son. So Jesus is the Son of God before His Incarnation!
The New Testament confirms this:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He does not change, for He is God (Malachi 3:6). If Jesus went from not being God's Son to being God's Son, this would be quite a change. It would be a change in the very Godhead; in the eternal relationship between the First and Second Persons of the Trinity!
- "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son" (John 3:16). This favorite verse of Evangelicals tells us that the One Whom God "gave" to the world was "His only begotten Son". Jesus was already the begotten Son of God when the Father gave Him to us in the Incarnation!
- The next verse adds: "For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (John 3:17). This clearly states that Jesus was the Son of God when He was sent "into the world", ie. the Incarnation!
- "But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law" (Galatians 4:4). Jesus was God's Son when He was "sent forth" from the Father to be born of woman. Christ did not become God's Son at His human birth, He already was God's Son!
- "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him" (I John 4:9). Again, Jesus is God's only Son before being sent into the world.
- The next verse reiterates this point: "In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins" (I John 4:10)
- And yet again, four verses later: "And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world" (I John 4:14).
Scripture calls Jesus the "only begotten of the Father" (John 1:14), and even the "only-begotten God" (vs. 18). Since God does not change (Malachi 3:6), this must be an eternal reality. What sets the Second Person of the Trinity apart from the First Person is that the Second Person is the Begotten One, while the First is Unbegotten, the eternal Begetter of the Son. If He is the eternal Father, He must have an eternal Son!
So the title of this article is really a trick question. Jesus never "became" the Son of God: He always was the Son of God! The Eternal Sonship of Christ is not a "heresy"; it is biblical, orthodox, Christian truth.
See the Catholic Answers tract on The Eternal Sonship of Christ for proof from early Christian writers that the Church has always taught that Christ is eternally begotten of the Father!
Tell A Friend About This Site!
| Back: "Another Jesus"? | Next: Is Jesus Omnipresent? | Apologetics Index | Site Index | Home Page |