Muslims believe that God is one, that there are no gods except the God. They may contend that even though Christians claim to be monotheists, they actually believe in more than one God. Since Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God, they therefore err like other people of ancient or modern times who have believed in a plurality of gods or the sons and daughters of God.
So often Muslim-Christian religious discussion breaks on the topic of Jesus' Sonship. The Christian affirms that Jesus is the Son of God; the Muslim denies that Jesus is the Son of God. Both simply agree to disagree, each convinced that he is right and the other is wrong, as they go their separate ways.
But is there another alternative? In suggesting that there is, the following questions are proposed: Has the Christian truly understood what Jesus' Sonship means to the Muslim and why the Muslim rejects it? Has the Muslim truly understood what Jesus Sonship means to the Christian and why the Christian affirms it? On this topic, which for centuries has been notorious for generating more heat than light, could both agree to explain their relative positions more fully and to listen to one another more intently and courteously?
The intention of this essay is to help both Muslims and Christians to penetrate a little deeper into the Biblical concept of Jesus as the Son of God and the significance of this idea for Christians. At the same time, it is hoped that this essay, as it unfolds, demonstrates at least some sensitivity towards a truly Muslim position on this vital topic. Where it needs correction or amplification, gladly let Muslim friends provide it.
Biblical Meaning of "Son"
To understand the Biblical meaning of Jesus as "the Son of God", first we must examine the Biblical use of the word "son". In the Bible, "son" is a term expressing an intimate relationship with someone or something; basically, it indicates origin, but it is also used to express close association or identification with persons or things. Even when indicating origin, this term does not limit oneself to one's father and mother. One may be called the "son" of the following: his father and mother, his family, his tribe, his people, his place of birth (city or country), and the time or circumstance of his birth. The if "father-son" terminology is also used in connection with kings and their vassals or subjects, masters and servants, teachers and disciples, and almost any situation in which someone is subordinate to or dependent on someone else. The basic requirement of the "son" is to honour and obey his "father", but he should also love him and emulate him.
The term "son" is used in many other ways in the Bible, some of which are connected with origin but others of which mainly express some sort of association with or resemblance to persons or things. A large, somehow homogeneous group may be called "sons" (occupational and ethnic groups especially). Sometimes characteristics or qualities themselves are personified and regarded as having "sons" - those who possess that same characteristic or quality. Still also other uses of the term "son" in the Bible reflect the versatile and imaginative use of this term especially in the Hebrew language.
A complete list of the various uses of the term "son" in the Bible would be too long for this essay. A few of its more idiomatic uses are listed below, with their literal meanings and the translations of the Holy Bible, New International Version (or The New English Bible or Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version).
Reference: Expression (as literally in the original text) -- Meaning (as found in the translation)
Genesis 5:32: "son of five hundred years" -- "five hundred years old"
Genesis 15:3: "a son of my house" -- "a servant in my household"
Deuteronomy 25:2: "a son of stripes" -- "deserves to be beaten"
Judges 19:22: "sons of Belial" -- "wicked men"
I Samuel 20:31: "a son of death" -- "he must die"
I Kings 20:35: "sons of the prophets" -- "a company of prophets" (NEB)
II Kings 14:14: "sons of pledging" -- "hostages"
Job 41:28: "son of a bow" -- "arrow" (NEB)
Isaiah 60: 10: "sons of a foreign land" -- "foreigners"
Lamentations 3:13: "sons of a quiver" -- "arrows from his quivers"
Joel 3:6: "sons of the Grecians" -- "the Greeks"
Zechariah 4:14: "sons of oil" -- "anointed"
Matthew 9:15: "sons of the bridegroom" -- "the guests of the bridegroom"
Matthew 12:27: "your sons" -- "your people"
Luke 10:6: "a son of peace" -- "a man of peace"
Luke 16:8: "the sons of this age" -- "the people of this world"; "the sons of lights" -- "the people of the light"
John 17:12: "the son of destruction" -- "the one doomed to destruction"
Acts 13:26: "sons of the family of Abraham" -- "you who come of the stock of Abraham" (NEB)
Galatians 3:7: "those who believe are children of Abraham"
Ephesians 2:2: "the sons of disobedience" -- "those who are disobedient"
The above are only a few of the many uses of the term "son(s)" in the Holy Bible. The most common uses, which are usually translated literally, have been omitted. However, one such group might be illustrated here: personal, yet non-physical, Father-son" relationships:
I Samuel 3:6 Eli Samuel
I Samuel 24:16 Saul David
I Samuel 25:8 Nabal David
Proverbs 1:8, etc. Solomon the reader
II Kings 2: 12 Elijah Elisha
II Kings 8:9 Elisha King Ben-Hadad
II Kings 5:13 Naaman his servants
Judges 18:19 the priest the people
Genesis 4:20f. first musician all musicians, etc
Matthew 9:2 Jesus the paralytic
I Timothy 1:2, etc. Paul Timothy
Titus 1:4 Paul Titus
Philemon 10 Paul Philemon
I Peter 5: 13 Peter Mark
Other languages also use the term "son" in a variety of ways. Thus, in the Arabic language of the Qur'an "son" need not mean only a direct male issue or descendant. A familiar example is ibnu's sabil ("son of the road"), which means "a traveller". Another example with which many are familiar is "the son of Satan" a vivid descriptive for any mischief-maker (cf. also Acts 13:10). Obviously Satan does not have a wife in order to have a son! The name implies that the mischief maker is like Satan, an embodiment of Satan, a "Satan with us". Worthy of remembrance is also the Arabic term ummu'l kitab (literally "the mother of the book") the heavenly Scripture from which all Scripture with us on earth is derived, as if each Scripture were her child.
In the light of the above, let us turn to well known verses of the Qur'an: "He is Allah, the One.... He begetteth not nor was begotten...." (Pickthall, The Meaning of the Glorious Koran, surah 112:1-4). This surah clearly states that God has no son and that no son can be God. Why? "How can He have a child, when there is for Him no consort?..." (surah 6:102). As these and other verses suggest, even to imagine that God would have a wife and sexual intercourse with her would be absolute folly. But do these Quranic verses actually address the Biblical meaning of Jesus' Sonship? Does the Bible affirm that God has a wife and through procreation a son, whose name is Jesus? Our response to these questions will become more intelligible after we consider in greater depth the Biblical meaning of "son of God".
Biblical Meaning of "Son of God"
The term "son of God" too is used in a variety of ways in the Holy Bible. As creator, God is the "Father" of Adam and of all mankind (Luke 3:38; Isaiah 64:8; Malachi 2:10; etc.). However, a more specific "Father-son" relationship is achieved by the gracious choice of the Father and the faithful obedience and service of the son, not by creation and certainly not by procreation. In this sense, the following are some of those referred to as "son(s) of God" in the Bible:
1. The people chosen by God (Exodus 4:22f.; Jeremiah 31:9,20; Hosea 11:1; Romans 8:14; II Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 3:26; Hebrews 2:10; Revelation 21:7)
2. Heavenly beings (Job 1:6)
3. Kings and rulers (II Samuel 7:14; Psalm 2:7; 82:6; 89:26f.)
4. Pious, godly individuals (Matthew 5:9; Luke 6:35)
If the meaning of the term "Son of God" in the case of Jesus would be limited to the same significance that it has in these cases above, even the Muslims might agree with its use. In fact, some Sufis speak of God as "Father" and humanity as "God's children". Other Muslims, of course, might question this terminology, preferring the use of "servant" instead of "son". Still, the fact remains that God being Father and humanity being His children, apart from any sexual connotation, is an idea compatible with the thinking of some Muslims.
To equate the Sonship of Jesus with the sonship of the above mentioned beings, however, would be denying the plain truth of the Holy Bible and the very essence of the Christian faith. Jesus is more than one of God's chosen people, more than one of His heavenly messengers, more than one who rules on God's behalf on earth, more than one who pleases God, although He is all of those also.
Jesus as the Unique Son of God
What, then, is the evidence for this tremendous claim? Is it because Jesus, though a man born of a woman, was yet born of a virgin? Some Christians, it is true, might conclude that because Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, therefore He is the Son of God. Likewise, some Muslims, while denying that Jesus is the Son of God, might consider the virgin birth of Jesus to be the basis for Christian belief that Jesus is the Son of God. Biblically speaking, however, Jesus' Sonship does not rest upon His being born of the virgin Mary. On the contrary, as we shall later see more clearly, His virgin birth rests upon His Sonship. Before Mary ever was, the Son of God is. Jesus does not become the Son of God, but the Son of God becomes Jesus. Thus Jesus, as the Son, speaks to the Father about "the glory I had with You before the world began" (John 17:5; cf. Colossians 1:13-20), long before Mary ever was. This eternal Son of God entered into the limitations of time and space by the power of God working through the virgin Mary and was born as a man, called Jesus, in Bethlehem some nineteen centuries ago.
Similarly, Jesus is not the Son of God because of His mighty works and wonderful words. On the contrary, He does His mighty works and speaks His wonderful words because He is the Son of God.
True, both the manner of Jesus' birth and the nature of His works lend evidence for His Sonship. But neither, alone or together, provides the origin or basis for His Sonship. The distinction is important.
Indeed, His works witness to His Sonship. A "son" must be obedient to his "father", doing his will and works, being like him (cf. John 8:37-47). Jesus Himself pointed to His works as evidence of the fact that He is the Son of God: "If I am not acting as my Father would, do not believe me. But if I am, accept the evidence of my deeds, even if you do not believe me, so that you may recognise and know that the Father is in me, and I in the Father" (John 10:37f.). Jesus did the works of God, His Father, acting as God would.
In addition to the evidence of His works, Jesus had other proof that He is the Son of God. At important times in His life, He was called the Son of God by the Father Himself and by others:
1. The Annunciation: The angel Gabriel told the virgin Mary that her son would be called "the Son of God". (Luke 1:32,35)
2. The Baptism: God's voice from heaven proclaimed: This is my Son, whom I love." (Matthew 3:17, etc.)
3. The Transfiguration: God's voice once again proclaimed: "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him." (Mark 9:7, etc.)
4. The Crucifixion: The Roman centurion and his men confessed at the time of Jesus' crucifixion: "Surely he was the Son of God!" (Matthew 27:54)
5. The Resurrection: St. Paul writes that Jesus' resurrection from the dead declared Him to be "the Son of God". (Romans 1 :4)
Others in addition to God Himself, His angel, and the Roman soldier proclaimed that Jesus is the Son of God. Madmen and even unclean spirits confessed to Jesus: "You are the Son of God." (Mark 3:11; cf. 5:7; Matthew 8:29; Luke 4:41; 8:28) . Jesus' disciples also confessed that He is "the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16; cf. 14:33). Jesus, as a true Son, preferred to give glory to His Father, but He too would not deny His Sonship (Matthew 26:63f.; Mark 14:62; John 10:36). Of interest in the first two of these passages (and others) is the close association between the terms "Messiah" and "Son of God".
It is also interesting to note how closely Jesus' Sonship is associated with His suffering (Romans 5:10; 8:32; Galatians 2:20; Hebrews 5:8; 6:6) . When Jesus was famished after a long fast, the tempter said to Him: "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread" (Matthew 4:3, etc.). When Jesus was in agony on the cross, the passersby mocked Him and said: "Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!" (Matthew 27:40). These speakers forgot that Jesus is the Son of God. God, who seeks and serves and even suffers to save those whom He loves, the people of the world. He is not the son of some earthly king, who must show his might and save his pride by appearing to be victorious in the eyes of the world, according to the world's standards. It was just because He is the Son of the God of love that He would not use His power for selfish purposes but perfectly fulfilled the will of His Father, who chose to reveal Himself and His love to all men through His suffering Servant/Son.
Even a casual reading of the verses cited above would show that the use of the term "Son of God" with reference to Jesus is different in both quality and extent from the other uses mentioned previously. Others were graciously chosen by God as His adopted sons; the Son is in the Father eternally. Others obeyed the Father, though imperfectly; Jesus the Son obeyed Him perfectly, without sin (Hebrews 4:15) . Sons should be like their father, but only Jesus was perfect like Him in His goodness, giving Himself completely for Him and His people. The Father has entrusted all judgement to the Son alone, "that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father" (John 5:22,23). Only the Son gives life as the Father gives life (John 5:21). For was the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself" (John 5:26). The Son is obedient to the Father, with the will of the Father becoming concretized in the way of the Son; but the Father also listens and gives heed to the Son (John 11:41-44). Thus there is a sharing of power, authority, knowledge, glory, and kingship which indicates a relationship of equality and mutuality between the Two who are One. About what people, what angel, what king, what pious man could it be said: "In these last days God has spoken to us by the Son whom He has appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word"? (Hebrews 1:2f.)
Many of the uses of the term "son" in the Holy Bible and in various languages can give clues to the significance of the term "Son of God" with reference to Jesus, but in the end its use, directly applied to Jesus, remains as unique as the relationship it expresses is unique. Jesus said: "I and the Father are one." (John 10:30)
Explaining the Meaning of Jesus as Son of God
How then, can Muslims (and Christians?) be helped to understand Jesus and the true significance of His name "Son of God"?
In the first place, it is significant that the Holy Injil does not portray Jesus indiscriminately proclaiming that He is the Son of God - and, for that matter, that He is the Messiah (Christ). Nor need we, especially when we know the term to be offensive to those with whom we converse. When we use it, we should explain it.
The Jews, in fact, were familiar with the title "Son of God", as they were familiar with the title "Messiah". There is evidence, though outside of the Bible, that they spoke about the Torah as the "daughter of God", meaning "the revelation of God", without sacrificing their monotheistic convictions. They did, however, object when Jesus called Himself "the Messiah" and "the Son of God", considering His confession of Himself to be blasphemy and worthy of crucifixion (John 5:18; cf. 10:33). It, therefore, is hardly surprising that Jesus Himself used this term discreetly.
Secondly, it should be made clear that Jesus was a man, a servant and a prophet, just as Muslims have always insisted and just as the Holy Injil claims the Son of God to have become. When the disciples of Jesus first met Jesus, they understood Him to be a man. How could they have understood otherwise? They had heard how Satan tempted Him. They saw Him hungry and weary. They knew Him in need of companionship and prayer. They saw Him weep. They heard Him in prayer and saw Him in action surrendering His will to the Father's will, claiming the Father's will to be His bread. His words: "The Father is greater than I" were intelligible to them. How else should they have understood? Or we, had we been with Him on earth?
Only after the disciples' association with Jesus had deepened, after they heard His words and witnessed His deeds, did they and others begin to wonder and ask questions about Him: "Who is this man?" "From where does He come?" They saw Him feed the multitudes, heal the sick, control nature, raise the dead. They heard Him forgive sins, they heard Him speak in an extraordinary manner about His purpose in coming, about His relation with the Temple, the Law and the prophets, about the love of God and His personal relationship with God. Even then, there were those who misinterpreted Him and His works, willfully or otherwise.
The disciples' understanding of both Jesus and His ministry was a gradual and at times a painful process. What He required of them to understand Him was not simply keen intellect but firm trust in God and obedience to His will, readiness for self-examination, repentance, and a change of mind and heart in the light of God's holiness and His holy Law, an openness to receive what He said about Himself, what He had done, what He was about to do, and the purpose of it all. True, Peter confessed Jesus to be the Messiah and Son of God, but immediately proceeded to contradict Jesus by denying that Jesus must suffer and die (Matthew 16:21,22), as if he had sharper insight into the will and ways of God than Jesus (John 12:1-7)! Women seemed to understand better (Mark 14:1-9). In brief, to understand Jesus is not simply to verbally confess Him, to admire and to applaud Him; it is to follow and obey Him.
In fact, the Holy Injil clearly and consistently indicates that Jesus' disciples did not fathom the deeper significance of His Sonship or His ministry until He had risen from the dead! Then their change in mind and heart was dramatic. Does this offer the Christian a clue for his witness? While to legislate techniques for presenting Jesus to the Muslim or anyone may be dubious, is there here a ' procedural pattern on which Christians might meditate, even imitate?
Thirdly, it is often necessary to explain what the term "Son of God" in reference to Jesus does not mean. As already noted above, nowhere does the Holy Injil suggest that God takes Mary as a wife, that He procreates, and that Jesus therefore is the Son of God by virtue of His birth to Mary. God is no male deity! The Injil, like the Qur'an, speaks of Jesus as the son of the virgin Mary. In Arabic Jesus is called ibnu'llah not waladu'llah. Nor does the Injil sacrifice the fundamental Biblical affirmation that God is one. Nor does it suggest that somehow for Christians Jesus, as the Son of God, is another god associated with God, or that somehow Jesus, as the Son of God, is the second or third of three gods, or that somehow Jesus is elevated from His original position of man and servant to the status of the Son of God and then made to supplant the true God. In no way does the Holy Injil's affirmation of Jesus' Sonship transform Biblical monotheism into a subtle form of polytheism. God is one! And Jesus, the Son of God, confirms that God is one! Only after Muslims and Christians have established this common ground, can they proceed to discussion about who the one God is, what He does for mankind, what He expects from mankind, and how God is one while Jesus is the Son of God.
Fourthly, Christian belief in Jesus as the Son of God simply echoes the constant, insistent and consistent affirmation throughout the Injil that He is the Son of God. Contrary to what some Muslims suggest, normally with no evidence, Christians, including St. Saul, did not invent this title. For Christians to deny the Sonship of Jesus would mean that they should expunge all references in the Holy Injil to this title. If Christians were to do this, then they would be truly guilty of corrupting their Scriptures, just as many Muslims (but not the Qur'an) have felt Christians to have done. The Qur'an tells Christians that they are to judge according to the Injil (surah 5:46,47). It contains no reference to a corrupted or abrogated Injil.
Fifthly, and closely related to the previous points, Christians should encourage Muslims to read the Holy Injil with an open mind and heart and to compare both the Quranic and Biblical portrayals of Jesus' Sonship. Even if the Muslim rejects the Biblical portrayal of Jesus' Sonship after having seriously studied it, he should at least have understood the meaning of Jesus' Sonship as the Bible portrays it. Would the Muslim, after understanding the Biblical meaning of Jesus' Sonship, then entertain the possibility that the Quranic and Biblical portrayals of Jesus as the Son of God differ from each other, that the Qur'an rejects a concept of Jesus' Sonship which the Bible never affirms and could never affirm because it is really alien to the Biblical concept? Yet the Bible affirms Jesus to be the Son of God - in the Biblical sense of this term!
A frame of reference more congenial to the Islamic portrayal of Jesus may further help Muslims in understanding Jesus as the Son of God. Among the many names used of Jesus in the Qur'an, three especially can help elucidate the Christian understanding of His Sonship:
1. 'Abdu'llah -- "Servant of God" (surah 19:30)
2. Rasulu'llah -- "Apostle (messenger) of God" (surah 4:157)
3. Kalimatu'llah --"word of God" (surah 4:171)
1. The prime duty of a son is to honour and obey his father, to serve him freely and fully. The ideas of being a servant and a son are very closely related in the Holy Bible. The Christian Church has always regarded the great Servant Songs in the book of the prophet Isaiah as referring to Jesus the Messiah (Isaiah 42:1-4; 52:13-53:12, etc.). This Servant is called "my chosen One" by God. "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord" is upon Him (Isaiah 61:1). He heals the sick and helps the oppressed. He even suffers and bears the guilt of others and is vindicated by God. The early Christians used the same word found in the Servant Songs and referred to Jesus as God's "holy Servant" (Acts 4:27,30). This Son indeed served the Father, not out of compulsion but because of His unity with the Father and out of love. Which servant serves better than a son? In Jesus, the son and servant are fused!
2. An apostle or messenger is "one sent" by God to proclaim His message. Jesus also is called an "apostle" in the Holy Injil (Hebrews 3:1). In the Gospel account according to John, the Son is very often spoken of as "the sent One", and the two terms are almost synonymous. The other Gospel accounts use this terminology also, and the terms "Father" and "the sending One" are virtually synonymous too (Matthew 10:40; Mark 9:37: Luke 9:48). There have been many apostles who were sent by God. But the Apostle/Son was not only sent by God; He was also sent from God. He came forth from above, from God Himself (John 8:23,42) and so He is called "Immanu-el", "God with us". (Matthew 1:23)
Jesus' parable of the absent landlord is very instructive in the whole matter of His Sonship. The landlord's servants were unable to collect the rent for the vineyard he had planted and fully equipped and then let out to tenants. Finally, the landlord decided to send his son as his personal representative. The tenants killed him, thinking that thereby they had achieved victory and could take possession of the estate for themselves, but in the end they lost everything. (Matthew 21:33-43, etc.)
Plainly enough, the landlord and the son of the landlord in this parable represent the Father and the Son respectively. Whatever else the parable teaches, it clearly distinguishes between "the sent ones" and "the sent One," the prophets and the Son, and the ultimate destiny of "the sent One." Indeed, this parable is strange and unusual! Yet it is no stranger or more unusual than the Person and event to which the parable points.
Thus, it is clear for what purpose the Son has been sent by and from the Father: to reveal Him, to carry out His plan of salvation for mankind, to serve as His "personal" representative, and to expend Himself in the process (John 3:16f.; Romans 8:3,29; Galatians 4:4-7). In carrying out God's saving will, the unique Son was to acquire many "brothers", who, by following Him, also became God's "sons" by His gracious adoption. Those who follow the obedient Servant/Son sent from the Father are also God's obedient servants/sons, true "muslims" (as the followers of Jesus are called in the Qur'an - surah 3:52; 5:111). Son/Servant/sent One/Saviour: all these are closely connected in the Holy Bible.
3. For Muslims, as for Christians, the Word of God is eternal, even as God is eternal. It is through His Word that God acts, creating and sustaining the universe and revealing His will. If one should refer to the Word of God among Muslims, they would naturally think of the Qur'an. However, many of them know that Jesus also is called "the word (Word?) of God" in the Qur'an. Even though they regard Jesus as only a prophet, could not their idea about His being "the word of God" be filled with the Biblical significance of the same expression? Some will say, "No!" Others have found this a very useful means for explaining Jesus' relationship with the Father, including the concept of Sonship. As He is God's eternal Word, so He is God's eternal Son (John 1:14) . It may also help remove the deep-rooted misunderstandings about this relationship, leading Muslims to understand that Christians believe in only one God, that they do not set up the Son as another God, nor do they displace God by the Son, nor do they make a man into God.
Even among people we depend much on one's word to know what a person wants and does, and what he is like. Through his word a man makes himself known, bringing out what is within him. We trust Abdullah because we trust Abdullah's word. We trust Abdullah's word because we trust Abdullah. We distinguish between Abdullah and his word and we equate Abdullah and his word. Both are true.
In a much different, higher and glorious way, the Word which proceeds from God gives expression to God's will and to His acts, and also reveals what He is like in a comprehensible way. Thus the Holy Injil says:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men .... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.... No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known." (RSV, John 1:1-4,14,18)
"This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him" (Mark 9:7)
"... in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son." (Hebrews 1:2)
[1.] i.e., so intimately is He related to the Father. Should one recall that both the Qur'an and the Bible speak of "the hand of God", "the face of God", etc.?
[2.] "He has made Him known": literally, from the original Greek language of the Holy Injil, "He has exegised (interpreted, explained) Him". It is as if God had revealed His concealed heart through His enfleshed Word.
If a Muslim can accept that the Word of God, which is eternal as God Himself is eternal, can enter into the limitations of time and space and become available in book form, could he not also comprehend that this same Word might be made manifest as a human being? If on earth the uncreated Word of God in its created form of a book can be described as both uncreated and created, then cannot the uncreated Word of God in its created form of a human being be described as both uncreated and created, if the one God should so will it? That God has so willed is the testimony of the Holy Injil: God's eternal self-expression, His Word, His Son, has entered human form as Jesus the Messiah.
Jesus as the Son of God: God's Self-Revelation on Earth
We all know that God is the creator of all creation. We know that he continually points mankind to manifold signs in creation and in history which, in turn, point mankind beyond these signs to God Most High Himself as mankind's creator and judge. We know that periodically He has intervened in creation's history through prophets and apostles and the Scriptures. He has mediated through them, whereby He has offered mankind a pattern for life. Probably we all also agree that he bears witness to Himself through human conscience. In all these ways God reveals to us something about Himself so that we can know something about Him. But does He reveal Himself? Can we know Him?
The response to these crucial questions is found in the astounding claims of Jesus:
"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." (Matthew 11 :27)
"Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?" (John 14:9,10)
Angels, persons and things can reveal to us something about God. But God alone can reveal God! It takes God to reveal Himself to mankind . It takes God to reveal Himself to mankind under created circumstances congenial to human understanding. What better way for the eternal revealer to be revealed to mankind on earth than by clothing His self-expression in human flesh!
In Jesus, His eternal Son, the revealer becomes also the revealed for us. This is why the Holy Bible speaks of Jesus as God manifested in the flesh. In turn, the revealed Son becomes the revealer of the Father among mankind. "Trust in God; trust also in me," says Jesus (John 14:1). In inviting His hearers to trust Him, Jesus is not subtly deflecting trust away from God; rather He is simply affirming that God, forever Most High, is revealing Himself through Jesus by His presence in Jesus.
God, the revealer and the revealed. We would agree that God creates the world, appoints prophets, sends Scriptures and provides laws for human guidance. But can He Himself enter His own creation to be with us? Would this not be unworthy of Him? Would He not demean Himself thereby? Would not His entry into the world conflict with His sovereignty, cloud the brightness of His glory, and make Him less than greater?
God indeed is greater. To Him alone belong the kingdom, the power, and the glory. He alone is sovereign. But, we may ask, what is the nature of God's sovereignty? And how does God Himself manifest the nature of His sovereignty so that humanity too can begin to understand the nature of His sovereignty? Stated otherwise, are we to understand God's sovereignty simply as the sovereignty of any earthly potentate magnified to its ultimate degree? Does God Himself manifest His sovereignty over His creation by remaining aloof from it? Does He safeguard His sovereignty by insulating Himself in celestial serenity, far removed from the suffering and sin of this dying world? Or is it possible that our understanding of God's sovereignty conflicts with His own understanding of His sovereignty; that His thoughts are not our thoughts and our ways are not His ways, even as God has declared through His prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 55:8)? Is it possible that God not only answers but even anticipates the yearning of this prophet: "Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down...!"? (Isaiah 64:1)
According to the Bible, God is love. In Biblical perspective, by entering into this world, God does not demean Himself; rather He exalts Himself. By His visitation on earth, He does not cloud His glory; rather, He magnifies it among mankind. By His presence among us, He does not become the lesser; rather, He becomes the greater for our greater praise. By being not only above us but with us in Jesus Immanuel, He not only acts in conformity with Himself; even more, He is being Himself and He is being what He will be.
Finally, let us briefly summarize the Biblical meaning of Jesus as the Son of God, bearing in mind that 1. "the Lord our God, the Lord is one" (Deuteronomy 6:4) and 2. the Holy Injil itself must be read to grasp the fuller meaning of Jesus' Sonship through His servanthood:
1. The unique Son of God is of the Father eternally; by Him God created and sustains the universe. As God's self-expression He is truly God.
2. Because God loved us, the unique Son of God entered time and space, was born of the Virgin Mary and was called Jesus the Messiah. As God's self-expression on earth in the form of man He is also truly human.
3. The Son shares the attributes of the Father; He is like Him in powerful works and loving self-giving.
4. The Son has been sent by/from the Father as His representative to carry out His work of revelation and salvation.
5. The Son is the Father's personal message, God expressing Himself and His love in a way that can be seen and heard and comprehended by humanity.
6. The Son serves the Father perfectly; the Father is also responsive to the will of the Son.
7. The Father and the Son are One in a unique relationship of complete mutuality between Master and Servant, sending One and sent One, revealed One and revealing One.
8. Those who believe in the unique Servant/Son sent by God, God's personal Good News" ("Evangel" or "Injil"), and who follow Him, can become His "brothers and "sisters"; they can become adopted, obedient children of God.
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