The Apostles Creed 6: His Only Begotten Son

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What we know as orthodoxy is of course taught in the Bible. But that does not mean that every orthodox truth is found everywhere in the Bible, or that every verse that is used to defend an orthodox truth is being used appropriately. This means we should look at familiar passages carefully, making sure that they line up with themselves, and not just what we think about them.

The Text:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord.  He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the virgin, Mary.  He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into Hades.  On the third day He rose again from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Summary of the Text:

“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). It is a commonplace among us that Jesus was the “Son of God.” But the Bible talks about this in different ways, and so should we. One word in Greek is translated by our two words—monogenes is rendered as only begotten. Looking at the context, John uses this as a technical phrase, with a precise theological definition. That definition is the same as what is used in the Creed.

This verse may be summed up in this way. God loves and we live. The bridge between these two realities is the only begotten Son. By this phrase we are referring to the unique status and nature of Jesus of Nazareth. Our confession is this—He is the Son of God by virtue of the divine nature that was united with our human nature

Only Begotten:

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). These are all references to the Incarnation of the Son of God. They are references to Immanuel, God with us.


It would be absurd to ask you all to grasp in the course of one sermon what it took the whole Church three centuries to formulate. But we are part of that same Church, and so let me summarize what our confession is. We confess that our Savior, the Lord Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, is one person. He is one unified, well-integrated person, but He has two natures. These two natures are connected in what is called the “hypostatic union.” (Hypostases was the Greek word for person.) So there was a “one person” union that possessed two natures that were not commingled. And the result was not schizophrenia.

That which is predicated of one nature may be predicated of the person. That which is predicated of the other nature may be predicated of the person. But that which is predicated of one nature cannot be predicated of the other nature. This is quite important as we shall see.

So then, human nature has a particular height or hair color and so we can say that Jesus of Nazareth was (say) 5 foot 11, or had black hair. And the divine nature is infinite, and so we can say that Jesus of Nazareth possessed that attribute. But we cannot (and must not) say that infinitude is 5 foot 11.

How and Why:

Jesus had a true mother. He was born in the ordinary way, with the one exception being the fact that His mother was a virgin when He was born. He had a maternal grandmother and grandfather, and a lineage that went back to Adam. He was true man. But He had no biological human father.

“And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

If original sin is passed down to us from our human fathers (covenantally, not genetically), then this accounts for how Jesus could be sinlessly perfect. He did not inherit sin from His mother because no one inherits innate sin from their mothers.

Other Senses:

But it is not the case that any references to the “Son of God” are necessarily talking about something as remarkable as the hypostatic union. Let me give you an example. “Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God” (Luke 3:38). There was no hypostatic union in Adam, and yet he is described as a “son of God.” And remember that celestial beings can be called “sons of God” without being partakers of the Godhead.

What Manner of Love:

We return to the earlier point that God loves and we therefore live. But remember the bridge between the two is the perfect God/man, offered up in sacrifice. This is seen in a type, when Abraham takes Isaac to Moriah (where Jesus was crucified) in order to prophetically foretell our coming salvation. “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son” (Heb. 11:17).

Because Jesus is the Son of God, it is possible for our status as sons of God to be restored. Remember that Adam was a son of God but that through the Crash, he and we became sons of the devil. How can we be restored? This includes a heart transplant, but there is something far more remarkable going on. This is a Father transplant.

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (1 John 3:1).

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Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
6 years ago

no one inherits innate sin from their mothers

Such an explorable topic

Should we be thinking of our own innate sin primarily as covenantally acquired and fed?
Do say Jesus is not covenantally related to us?
Did He escape the positive and negative aspects of covenantal relationship with us?

Perhaps His sinfulness was not the result of how His humanity came about, but rather How it was transformed by virtue of His Godness?

6 years ago
Reply to  Eric Stampher

Jesus became (covenantally) sin for us, so that we could become (covenantally) the children of God.

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
6 years ago
Reply to  wisdumb

“(covenantally)” in this manner of speaking sounds hesitant and laking much umph, hedging your bets.

If I told my wife that I’d (covenantally) be her husband, she’d wack me one.
How ’bout I (really) be her husband instead.

How ’bout God (really) becomes human? >> and thereby (really) becomes as guilty as all the rest of us?
But then he (really) overcomes the sin and (really) transmits the sinlessness into our nature?!

Jack Bradley
Jack Bradley
6 years ago

Douglas, excellent sermon this morning on the person of Christ. I do want to take some issue with your precipitate dismissal of Mary as “the mother of God.” “Mary, mother of God” has to be carefully qualified, but we dare not dismiss it, however reasonable it might seem to do so in light of the history of the term. Calvin didn’t like the expression at all, because it had led to the idolatrous Mariolatry of Roman Catholicism, where Mary practically remains a fourth member of the Trinity. But “Mother of God” (theotokos) is not itself problematic, so long as we… Read more »

Jeff Moss
Jeff Moss
6 years ago
Reply to  Jack Bradley

Amen, Jack. Thank you for bearing witness to an important truth of our faith. If Mary is not the Mother of God (Theotokos), then Jesus is not God and we cannot be saved.

John Hanna
John Hanna
6 years ago
Reply to  Jack Bradley

Well stated Jack, and consistent with Acts 20:28, which refers to “the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood.”