JESUS THE "SON" OF GOD
NOTE: Many of the themes in this article were taken from John Gilchrist's "The Christian Witness to the Muslim".
Jesus called Himself the "Son of God" throughout the Gospels, (John 3:16-18), and the disciples also identified Him as the Son of God in their writings, (Rom 1:3).
Further, Jesus identified Himself as God revealed in the flesh, (John 8:58), and His disciples identified Him as God, (John 1:1, Phil 2:5-11). How could Jesus be The Son of God, and God at the same time? What does this term - "Son of God" mean? And if Jesus is the Son, in what way is Jesus God's Son? Did God have physical relations with Mary and get her pregnant?
Many Muslims do not understand what this term, according to Christian theology, actually means. They have asked me these or similar questions. This paper focuses on what the term "Son of God" signifies in Christian theology with respect to Muslim understanding.
MUSLIMS AND THE SON OF GOD
Muhammad, the founder of Islam, misunderstood what the term "Son of God" meant with respect to Christianity. He thought of it only in terms of sexual reproduction, i.e. that God fathered a child through sexual intercourse with Mary. Therefore he spoke out against it.
Christians also reject that God had physical intercourse with Mary, but we understand Christ being God's Son as an analogical term. We believe that the eternal Son of God, one with the Father from all eternity, united to Him in one Spirit, "became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14), and took "the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:7). We believe in the incarnation of the Son of God.
Muhammad did hear the Christians proclaim Jesus the Messiah as God's Son, but understanding or not, he specifically denied that Jesus was the Son of God. He said in the Quran,
Sura 2:116 - "They say: "God has begotten a son". Glory be to Him. No, to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth: everything renders worship to Him."
Sura 9:30 - "The Christians say the Messiah is the Son of God, that is a saying from their mouths."
Muhammad was unable to distinguish between the Christian belief in Jesus as the Son of God and the Arab Pagan belief in idols as offspring of God, i.e., Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, and Manat, (these were idols worshipped around Mecca as daughters of the supreme God - or Allah). Muhammad misunderstood that Christians in no way consider Jesus - the Son of God, in the same way the Arab Pagans understood their idols.
Muhammad's misconception of the Sonship of Christ is another proof that the Quran was not revealed to him by God, but rather it was built upon Muhammad's own concepts and ideology.
Because of Muhammad's misunderstanding, Islam places limits on God's power. In view of this, a Christian writer commented that "to assert that God has no Son because He has no wife is like saying that God is not living because He does not draw breath." Daniel, "Islam and the West, p.182.
WHAT THE TERM "SON OF GOD" SIGNIFIES
The expression "Son of God", is an analogical term. It indicates origin, a close association, or identification. In Christian theology it describes the relationship of two persons of the triune God. It expresses an intimate relationship between two persons: God the Father, and God the Son - Jesus the Messiah.
Here are several scriptures illustrating this facet of their relationship:
John 17:5 - "And now Father, glorify me in Your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began."
Here Jesus stated that He was with the Father before the world began.
Colossians 1:13-20 "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him and through him to reconcile to himself all things whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."
Here, we see the term "Son of God", brought to light: "the image of the invisible God".
Hebrews 1:1-3 "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son whom He 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. After he had provided purification for sins he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven."
Again, we see the relationship between the Father and the Son disclosed, "the exact representation of His being".
John 1:1-3, 10, 14, 18 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him, nothing was made that has been made......(10) He was in the world and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him....(14) The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father full of grace and truth......(18) No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side has made Him known."
John 14:8, 10 "Don't you know me Phillip, 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?"
Jesus plainly told Phillip, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father".
From these verses we see that in Christ, the invisible God is revealed. Jesus was with the Father before the world began. Christ, as God the Son, is the Creator of all things. God in all His fullness, dwelt in Christ, reconciling the world. We see that Christ, as the Son of God - God's representation, is God manifest and revealed to the world. Angels, prophets, and things can reveal to us something about God. But God alone can reveal God. It takes God to reveal Himself to mankind. What better way for the eternal revealer to be revealed to mankind on earth than by clothing His self-expresion in human form?
JESUS AS THE WORD OF GOD
Muslims believe that the Quran - their Word of God - is eternal. The Quran also calls Jesus the Word of God. Since Muslims believe that the Quran is eternal, yet is able to enter into the limitations of time and space, and become available in book form, could not Jesus as the Word of God, be made manifest in human form? If on earth, Muslims believe that the uncreated Word of God - i.e., the Quran - is found as a book making it both uncreated and created, then cannot the uncreated Word of God be revealed as a human, if God willed it? That God has willed this is revealed in the testimony of the Gospels - God's eternal self-expression, His Word, His Son, has entered human form as Jesus the Messiah.
God the Father and God the Son are both God, but they are different persons. They are equal in essence, indeed of one essence, yet one is subject to the other's authority. The human analogy goes no further than this - an earthly father and his son are both human to the full, yet the second must bow to the authority of the first. Jesus is subject to the Father's authority. When He came to earth He came as the Father's ambassador to redeem men from sin and, being found in human form, took His subjection to the Father's authority to the point of a son to a father's relationship.
As the Son of God, Christ, the second person of the Trinity, possesses the same essence as the Father, yet is subject to the Father as an earthly son is subject to his father. Jesus is not the Son of God because of His mighty works and miracles, but He did those works because He is the Son of God.
The prime duty of a son is to honor and obey his father, to serve him freely and fully. The ideas of being a servant and a son are found throughout the Bible. Jesus as God the Son, served God the Father not out of compulsion but because of His unity with the Father, served out of love.
MUSLIM ARGUMENTS AGAINST JESUS BEING THE SON OF GOD
Muslims frequently ask that if Jesus were really God's Son, or God in the flesh, why didn't Jesus know the date of the hour of judgment? Ref. Matthew 24:36.
"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only."
Or if Jesus were God in the flesh, why did He say,
"The Son can don nothing of his own accord but only what the sees the Father doing,.....The Father is greater than I,.... I can do nothing on my own authority." John 5:19, 14:28, 5:30.
Muslims will ask rhetorical questions such as, "Wouldn't God know the last hour of Judgment?" Or, "If Jesus were God, why did He say, "the Father is greater than I"?"
The answer lies in what Christ's Sonship on earth entails. The passage that best addresses it is Philippians 2:5-8. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death on the cross."
Here Christ emptied Himself. The Sonship of Christ is revealed in this: He was revealed as God in the flesh, and yet submitted to God the Father. He was limited as a man, and He glorified God the Father. The analogical term "Son" best describes Christ's relationship with God the Father.
Christ's exalted relationship is even seen in the very verse Muslims choose to attack His Sonship... In Mark 13:32 Christ says, "But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." Here, Jesus places Himself above men, and above the angels. Jesus describes Himself alone in a category in relation to God.
Likewise, Christ when saying that He does nothing of His own accord, states that "whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise." Christ establishes His Sonship and puts Himself in perfect harmony with God. Even Muhammad is declared in the Quran as a sinner in Sura 48:2, but Christ walked in perfect harmony with the Father.
As Muhammad failed to understand what "Son of God" signified, so today, many Muslims continue to misunderstand. The term "Son of God" does not mean that God had intercourse with Mary, or created sons for Himself, but that Jesus, as God, is the image of God, made manifest to men. As Muslims believe that the Quran is eternal, uncreated, and is the Word of God found in physical book form, they should be able to understand that Jesus is eternal, uncreated, and is the Living Word of God in physical living form.
Jesus manifested his eternal abiding glory to John - as opposed to the veiled form of a humble servant he had while he walked this earth - while John was imprisoned on the isle of Patmos, revealing himself as what he truly was and will forever be, God Almighty -
Revelation 1:8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.
Revelation 22:13, 16. "I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.".....(16) I Jesus have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches.
Jesus is the Son of God. This means that He is God, revealed to man. The term "Son of God" is an analogy, describing the relationship between two persons of God. Christ is the image of God to mankind. God - omnipotent, revealed Himself to mankind, in Christ.
Jesus is Lord. Amen, come Lord Jesus.
Rev A: 11-4-98
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