The Nature of the Son
By Paul Ferguson
Follow this verse carefully:
“The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; THEREFORE that Holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the SON of God.” Luke 1:35
This plainly tells us that the reason why Jesus was the Son of God is because He was begotten of God in the womb of Mary.
We feel that this is the correct distinction to make between the Father and the Son: the Father is the divinity which was not incarnated as contrasted to the visible image of God which was. (Of course, in relation to the rest of humanity the divinity in Christ was just as much the father of mankind as the divinity outside of Him, if we are to believe God is the same all over.
We do not believe that there has ever been a son as old as his father. If He were a son, He must have had a beginning. I believe that in formulating doctrine God uses words that have a clear meaning to us. The very word “son” indicates beginning, gereration, and inferiority of relation.
Jesus, the Son, was begotten of God at a particular time in history and was not always begotten as the doctrine of “eternal son-ship teaches. In accordance with this the Bible limits this begetting to a certain day. Hebrews 1:5 says, “This day have I begotten thee.” (This is a direct quotation from the second Psalm.)
“This day” in the verse refers to the day Jesus was born at Bethlehem of Judea, even though this verse was written hundreds of years before it took place, God prophetically let the Psalmist listen in on something that would not be said for another thousand years. The fact that the early church considered this verse to be prophetic is shown by Acts 13:31.
“The promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled unto us their children as it is written, “Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee.” (Acts 13:31) The apostle here is telling us that Ps. 2:6 is a prophetic promise which was fulfilled in New Testament times with the birth of Jesus.
Now, if He was begotten two thousand years ago, as the Bible says He was; it does not take an intelligent person long to discover that He was not a son before he was begotten unless He was begotten twice. We believe the term “son” refers to the visible part of God’s substance which became flesh and dwelt among us. He was not called son, except prophetically, before this time.
We do not deny the personality of the Son. We merely wish to specify why He is called “son and what His true relationship to the Father is. There is something different about the Son of God. He is far different from any other manifestation of God in the history of the world. God came down as a man before the birth of the Messiah, but never were these manifestations called “son”. The mere fact that God turned a portion of Himself into a man would not this man was His son. This would be only God in another form.
The incarnation was more than God being made flesh; it was the mingling of God with man in the womb of Mary. God made flesh, the part of the Son furnished by God, united with the “seed of David”. Thus God “took on” the seed of David just like we would put on a coat. But this did not mean that what resulted was not fully God, any more than the fact that I put on a coat means that I am no longer a human but a raccoon or a rabbit (depending on the coat). Neither, however, does it mean the Son of God was not completely human because He was still God made flesh: both God and man.
It is difficult to find an illustration that adequately fits the incarnation. The reason is that nothing like this has ever happened from the foundation of the earth. Such an event is completely beyond the realm of human experience. Many things about the incarnation we may never understand.
In human birth what we are is determined by genes which are located on little bands called chromosomes. Each of us gets a set of chromosomes from our father and a set from our mother. There is nothing to lead us to believe things were any different with the birth of Jesus.
Jesus, the Son, received a set of chromosomes from God, the Father. The single cell which encases these tiny bands which would help determine His characteristics had been the glorious image through which God ruled the universe. This cell (the smallest unit of life) united with another single cell in the womb of Mary, and thus, the Son of man was conceived.
The chromosomes in this second cell had been furnished by each of Mary’s parents, who in turn received them from their parents and so on down the line all the way back to Adam. Thus, a little bit of the entire human race resided in the body of Jesus.
The thought that the God of the universe could condense His visible image to the size of a single cell is staggering, but this conclusion is inescapable. Saying that Mary took no part in the forming of the infant Jesus makes her a mere incubator and does injustice to the word of God. The explanation that both natures were united into one being is the only possible way Jesus could have:
“Took on the seed of David” Heb. 2:9-16 been “the offspring of David” Rev. 22:16, Acts 2:30
been “made of the seed of David” Rom. 1:3, Acts 13:23, II Tim. 2:8
It is inescapable that Mary made a very definite contribution to the earthly tabernacle of our Lord, or these things could never have been said about Christ. Humanity mingled with the divine nature in the womb of Mary; and the result was a man in every sense of the word; yet the divinity in Him could speak out and say, “I am God” and be true in every sense of the word.
As a man He wept (Lu. 19:41), He hungered (Matt. 4:2), He thirsted (John 4:7), He slept (Matt. 8:24) and was weary (St. John 4:6). Most important of all He even had a human consciousness separate from God. Thus the human nature could commune with the Divine nature as well as any other man. If it could not, Jesus would not have been a complete man, and thus could not have redeemed us. This fact has been a great source of confusion to theologians in trying to interpret the Godhead. It has caused people to think there are two personalities in the Godhead. No wonder Paul speaks of all this as a great mystery. (I Tim)
Calcedonian Creed (451 A. D.)
“we teach with one voice that the Son (of God) and our Lord Jesus Christ is to be confessed as one and the same person, that He is perfect in manhood, very God and very man, a reasonable soul and (human) body. “This one and the same Jesus Christ the only begotten son (of God) be confessed in two natures, unconfusedly, immutably, indivisibly, inseparably (united) and that without distinction of natures being taken away by such union, but rather the peculiar property of each nature being preserved and being united in One Person and Hypostasis, not separated or divided into persons, but one and the same Son and Only Begotten, God the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Augsburg Confession (Lutheran): “there are two natures, the divine and the human inseparably joined together in the unity of one person: one Christ, true God and true man”
Westminster Confession (Presbyterian): “two whole perfect and distinct natures, the Godhead and Manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion.
39 Articles of the Church of England: t”wo whole and perfect natures that is to say, the Godhead and manhood were joined together in one person never to be divided whereof is one Christ, very God and very man.”
25 Articles of Methodism: repeats as in 39 articles above.
This article “The Nature of the Son” by Paul Ferguson is excerpted from his book, God in Christ Jesus, 1981.