What is the meaning that Jesus is the Son of God?
The reason that Jesus is called the son of God has its roots in the Old Testament Scriptures. We will examine some passages from the Old Testament and some in the New Testament. These passages should provide a clear understanding of the phrase “son of God.” We will ignore the use of the phrase in the Old Testament apocrypha and pseudepigrapha.
Meaning of “Son of God” Is Rooted In The Old Testament
“Son of God” should not be confused with “sons of God.” In the Old Testament “Sons of God” refers to angels (Genesis 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7). The first time God refers to His Son occurs in Psalm 2:6-7.
But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.
I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD:
He said to Me, “You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.” Psalm 2:6-7 (NASB)
In Psalm 2:6-7 God or Yahweh refers to My King and My Son. Anyone reading the Old Testament would be puzzled by this statement if they had started reading the Bible beginning with Genesis. If they were reading the Jewish version of the Old Testament called the Tanakh, Psalm 2:6-7 would occur after the verses presented below from the Old Testament (Psalm 45:6-7; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; Micah 5:2) and the reader would have a better understanding of its meaning.
Psalm 2:6-7 is a prophecy of the coming Messiah. The ancient rabbis also believed this referred to the Messiah. The Messiah is called “My King” and it is revealed that in some sense the Messiah is Yahweh’s son.
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of joy above Your fellows. Psalm 45:6-7 (NASB)
These two verses expand on Psalm 2:6-7 and reveal that “My King” is God. The most important statement in verse 7 is “God, Your God has anointed You.” This statement alerts us that God cannot be easily understood. Psalm 2:6-7 referred to the Messiah as My son and My King and now He is also God.
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 (NASB)
Isaiah 7:14 refers to an unusual birth. How can a child be born when the human mother is a virgin? For an explanation of the virgin birth, you can visit “The Gift The Virgin Birth of Christ.” From this verse we learn that God will give us a sign. The sign is a virgin has a child. Those who desire to change the meaning to a young woman having a child miss the “sign.” Young women have babies every day. That is not a sign; but a virgin giving birth is a sign. The next critical statement is that His name is Immanuel. Matthew 1:23 explains the meaning of this word. It means “God with us.” That means this child will be God. No statement is made that the child is the son of God, but that is the implication.
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7 (NASB)
Then in Isaiah 9:6-7 we discover another passage about the child who will be born. The child has many wonderful names. He is the Messiah who is called the “Mighty God” and “Eternal Father.” Consistently, this son or child is referred to as God.
But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.
Therefore He will give them up until the time
When she who is in labor has borne a child.
Then the remainder of His brethren
Will return to the sons of Israel.
And He will arise and shepherd His flock
In the strength of the LORD,
In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God.
And they will remain,
Because at that time He will be great
To the ends of the earth. Micah 5:2-4 (NASB)
Micah 5:2 pulls everything together. Verse 2 and 3 reveal that a child will be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah. Verse 2 and verse 4 state that He will be a ruler of Israel and verse 2 states that He will be eternal. He will be God. While the passage does not say it, we can conclude that this is the son of God since Psalm 2:7 called the Messiah, “My Son.”
The theme of these Old Testament passages is that the Messiah would be human and deity. A child would be born and He would be God. But why is He called the son of God?
Meaning of “Son of God” In The New Testament
In the New Testament the “Son of God” should not be confused with “children of God” or “sons of God.” “Children of God” and “sons of God” refer to Christians, except in Acts 17:29. The phrase “sons of God” are never used of angels in the New Testament. It is used of angels only in the Old Testament.
“Son of God” is used only of Christ in the New Testament. The first it happens is in Luke 1:35.
“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:32-35 (NASB)
Before Jesus Christ was born, the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that her male child would be the “Son of the Most High” and be called the “Son of God.” He would rule over Israel forever and would be virgin born. Like a giant knot that ties a group of ropes together, this verse ties all of the Old Testament passages that we have studied together. Mary’s child would be the Messiah, the Son of God and He was God. The phrase Son of God had a messianic meaning but it also referred to deity.
Jesus was the son of God in the sense that the Father directed He be born of the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, one meaning of the term Son of God is that He would be virgin born by the Holy Spirit at the direction of the Father. The term referred to how He would be born in human flesh.
John 10:31-33, 36
The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”
. . . do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, “You are blaspheming,” because I said, “I am the Son of God”? John 10:31-33, 36 (NASB)
In John 10:36 the second meaning of the term “Son of God” is given. This meaning is the main one we find in the New Testament. In this verse Jesus, Himself, defines the term. He rebukes the Pharisees who were accusing Him of blasphemy because He said He was the “Son of God.”
Verses 31-33 clearly reveal that the Pharisees understand the term “Son of God” to mean God. They understood that Jesus was claiming to be God. Visit the Q&A Why is Jesus called the Son of God?, Did Jesus ever say that He was the Son of God? and “What does Son of Man and Son of God mean?”
The meaning of the term Son of God has its roots in the Old Testament. The Son of God was the coming Messiah. He was called My Son in Psalm 2:7. In Psalm 45:6-7 He was God who would rule forever. He was the child who would be born of a virgin in Isaiah 7:14 and called “God with us.” He was the child who would rule as king and was called the Mighty God and Eternal Father in Isaiah 9:6. He was the child who would be born in Bethlehem, yet He was from days of long ago. He was the eternal God. The Messiah would be ruler and God. Jesus was and is the eternal Son of God. The term Son of God emphasizes that Jesus is God.
Suggested Links:What Is The Apocrypha? Should It Be In The Bible?
The Gift The Virgin Birth of Christ
Did Jesus ever say that He was the Son of God?
What does Son of Man and Son of God mean?