Following from last month we see that the title ‘Son of God’ reinforces the deity of Jesus, but it also tells us of his Sonship, and about his (and our) relationship to the Father. In John 1:48-49 Nathaniel is impressed by Jesus’ knowledge of his past. This divine ability impressed Nathaniel enough that he calls Jesus ‘Son of God.’ In Matthew 4 Satan tries to tempt Jesus by challenging the divine aspect of his nature and does so while each time calling him ‘Son of God.’
Then in Matthew 8:29, the demons respond to Jesus’ presence and to his deity as they call him ‘Son of God.’ When Jesus hears of the sickness of Lazarus and knows of his own ability to raise Lazarus from the dead he makes the claim in the context of referring to the glory it will bring to him as the ‘Son of God.’ This is the claim of Peter when asked who he said Jesus was, and it is the very reason John gives for writing his gospel; that people may know that Jesus is the ‘Son of God.’
It is helpful to notice here that, while our western idea of fatherhood often implies subordination, superiority, and dependence in the relationship, the Semitic idea (including the Hebrew idea) implies likeness and sameness of nature. We see this in someone being identified with a phrase like “Joshua son of Samuel” Therefore to say Jesus is the Son of God is to say that he participates in deity. A son of a human is a human, a son of a horse is a horse, a son of a camel is a camel, and the Son of God is God. In this sense, the phrase ‘Son of God’ could not be used by any creature. We are talking here of a unique relationship between God the Father and God the Son.
Jesus is in a sense the natural Son of God. By faith, we may be called sons of God but we are God’s children by God’s grace alone. Jesus is the Son of God by right due to his nature. We are sons of God by adoption. We do not participate in deity. We are not ‘little Gods.’ By faith, the Spirit of God dwells in his people but we do not become Gods: we are the creatures. We may be called children of God but this is not so by right, nor is it possessed automatically. It comes by faith. “But as many as received Him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).
This means it is inappropriate to speak of the universal Fatherhood of God or the universal brotherhood of man. We are all creatures created in God’s image, and we are all neighbors in this world, but only those who receive Jesus are children, and then adopted as compared to Jesus’ natural relation to the Father. It is those who are being led by the Spirit of God who are to be called sons of God Paul tells us in Romans 8:14. This is why Paul says in Ephesians 1:5 that, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.”
Jesus may be called the ‘Son of God’ because he is, by nature, God. We may be called ‘sons of God’ because of who Jesus is and our relationship to him. The One who is the ‘Son of God’ was born on Christmas and entered this world because he wants you to be adopted by the Father. He wants you as a joint-heir.