Sunday, February 21, 2010

What Does It Mean to Be the Son of God?

What does it mean to say Jesus is the Son of God? This is a fairly common phrase and refers to many different persons. For example angels are sometimes called sons of God. Job 1:6 says, "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them" (cf. Psalm 29:1; 82:6). Also the nation Israel was called God's son. God tells Moses in Exodus 4:22, "You shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the Lord: Israel is my first-born son and I say to you, Let my son go that he may serve me.'" And of course Christians are called sons of God: "All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God" (Romans 8:14). Or even more close to our text, Jesus says in Luke 6:35, "Love your enemies and do well and lend expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High."
This broad and diverse use of the term "son of God" shows the need for a very careful reading of Scripture. One of the demands of careful reading is that we not insist that words or phrases always mean the same thing. The same word or the same phrase can mean many different things. When you speak or write, what you want is for people to ask what you mean by your words, not what someone else may mean by them. And not only that, you want people to decide what you mean by your words now, not what you meant by them five years ago. Well, it's just the same with biblical writers. We must not assume that what Luke means by a word or phrase is the same as what Moses meant by that same word or phrase. Nor should we assume that "Son of the Most High" in Luke 1 means the same as "sons of the Most High" in Luke 6.
The principle to follow, in order to be fair to a writer, is: try to use the sentences closest at hand in deciding what a word or phrase means; and then use the more distant analogies, if there is some clue that the same issue is at stake in both places.

Now if we follow this principle in Luke 1 we find two things:

1) There is an Old Testament analogy to Jesus' sonship, and yet.

2) His sonship is unique in the whole world.


Post a Comment