Stuart Olyott Writes:
Son of God
In considering this title ‘Son of God’ which is used of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 19:7), we must realize that the word ‘son’ is not used in any of the ways we have so far described. He is not the Son of his Father in the sense that he had a beginning. Nor is the phrase merely an exalted title, like that applied to earthly rulers. Nor is it simply a device to remind us that he became a Man by supernatural means, and not by ordinary generation—though of course it does remind us of that (see Luke 1:35). Nor is it a quaint way of saying that he was nearer to God than anyone else. Its use is altogether different. The first person of the Trinity is called ‘Father’ to show to us what is his eternal relationship with the Son. The second person of the Trinity is called ‘Son’ to show us what relationship he in turn has to the first person. ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ are everyday titles. But they help to convey to our poor minds something of the relationship which these two persons eternally enjoy between themselves.
The terms suggest and imply that the Son is what he is, because of the Father. But they do not imply that the Father is what he is because of the Son. The same idea is suggested by the phrase ‘the only begotten’ which the Scriptures so o en use. He is ‘the only begotten of the Father’ (John 1:14); ‘the only begotten Son’ (John 1:18; 3:16); and ‘the only begotten Son of God’ (John 3:18). The Son owes his generation to the Father, but the same cannot be said the other way round. On two other occasions the term ‘Firstborn’ is used—a term which simply underlines that he was before all creation (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:6). The relationship between the Father and the Son is obviously unique. None the less the Scripture is prepared to help our mortal minds to understand, by speaking of it in terms of generation and birth. It is also said that the Son is the express image of God the Father, and the brightness of his glory (Hebrews 1:3). It would be impossible for him to be what he is without the Father. But God the Father is never said to be the express image of God the Son.
Begotten, not created
We are not suggesting that the Father created the Son. The Athanasian Creed is right to declare that ‘The Son is from the Father alone, neither made, nor created, but begotten.’The Lord Jesus Christ is not a creature. We saw in chapter 4 that he is God, as the Father is God. Both are God; both are God equally; both are God eternally; and both are God in the same sense. Nor are we saying that God the Father chose to do something, or that something which had not happened came to happen. We are talking about something which takes place naturally in the Godhead, and has always done so—something which is happening now, and has happened eternally. If this were not the case, there would be some change in the Godhead, and that is impossible. Besides, it would contradict the plain biblical teaching that Christ’s ‘goings forth are from of old, from everlasting’ (Micah 5:2; see Matthew 2:6 and John 7:42).
God the Father does not make God the Son to be God. He is God in his own right. And yet without God the Father, there would be no person in the Godhead who is God the Son. The Son is what he is because of the Father. Within the Godhead there is something going on which is similar to thinking and speaking. e Son is the expression of the Father. It is for this reason that he is said to be ‘the Word’, who is with God, and is God, from the beginning (John 1:1–2). is is what the Son is. He could not be this, without God the Father. The Father could not find expression, without God the Son. is is the relationship which the first and second persons of the Trinity have to each other.
Putting this in more technical language, we may again quote Louis Berkhof: ‘The following definition may be given of the generation of the Son: it is that eternal and necessary act of the first person in the Trinity, whereby He, within the divine Being, is the ground of a second personal subsistence like His own, and puts this second person in possession of the whole divine essence, without any division, alienation or change’ (Systematic Theology, p. 94).