God's Son and Our Lord

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 13

Question 33. Why is Christ called the only begotten Son of God, since we are also the children of God? 

Answer. Because Christ alone is the eternal and natural Son of God; but we are children adopted of God, by grace, for His sake. 

Question 34. Wherefore callest thou Him our Lord? 

Answer. Because He hath redeemed us, both soul and body, from all our sins, not with gold or silver, but with His precious blood, and hath delivered us from all the power of the devil; and thus hath made us His own property. 



This Lord's Day continues the treatment of the Savior's names. His personal name, Jesus, tells us why He came to earth—He came to save His people from their sins (
Matt. 1:21). The name "Christ" is not really a name but, rather, a title that tells us he is appointed by God to be our Savior. The two names treated in this Lord's Day are "Only Begotten Son of God" and "our Lord." These two names tell us who Jesus is, first in relation to God, and then in relation to us.

God's Unique Son

There is a connection and a similarity between Jesus as God's Son and our being children of God. In John 1:12we read, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God." All those who believe in Jesus are also God's children. This means that they bear a resemblance to Jesus, their older brother, and to God, their heavenly Father. In I John 3:2we are told, "Now are we the sons of God" and "when he shall appear we shall be like him." 

But there is a difference.

And that difference presents us with a question. How can Jesus be called God's "only begotten" Son, when God has many children? If he is truly the only Son of God, then there cannot be others, can there? And yet, there are many children of God, so many that their number is greater than the stars of heaven and the sand on the seashore. 

The answer, from the Bible, is not so difficult. God has two kinds of children; Jesus is the natural and eternal Son of God, whereas believers are adopted children. Whatever the similarities between Jesus and believers, Jesus is uniquely the "natural" and "eternal" Son of God. 

This means that Christ never became, or becomes, the Son of God, but that He was the Son of God from eternity. When He was born in Bethlehem, He did not become the Son of God. Rather, at that time the one who was always the Son of God, who dwelt eternally in the bosom of the Father (
John 1:18) and whose goings forth are from everlasting (Micah 5:2), came to earth by making Himself Mary's son. At that time He began to be Mary's child, but eternally He was and is the Son of God. In contrast to this, we are temporal creatures who, at some point, begin to be children of God. 

This also means that Jesus, as the natural and eternal Son of God, shares the Divine nature of God. Just as And that difference presents us with a question. How can Jesus be called God's "only begotten" Son, when God has many children? If he is truly the only Son of God, then there cannot be others, can there? And yet, there are many children of God, so many that their number is greater than the stars of heaven and the sand on the seashore. 

The answer, from the Bible, is not so difficult. God has two kinds of children; Jesus is the natural and eternal Son of God, whereas believers are adopted children. Whatever the similarities between Jesus and believers, Jesus is uniquely the "natural" and "eternal" Son of God. 

This means that Christ never became, or becomes, the Son of God, but that He was the Son of God from eternity. When He was born in Bethlehem, He did not become the Son of God. Rather, at that time the one who was always the Son of God, who dwelt eternally in the bosom of the Father (
John 1:18) and whose goings forth are from everlasting (Micah 5:2), came to earth by making Himself Mary's son. At that time He began to be Mary's child, but eternally He was and is the Son of God. In contrast to this, we are temporal creatures who, at some point, begin to be children of God. 

This also means that Jesus, as the natural and eternal Son of God, shares the Divine nature of God. Just as every child that is born shares the being and nature of his father, so Christ has the same being as God. Again there is a difference. Christ is naturally God's Son, whereas we are adopted children. Everyone knows the difference between those two. Moses was the natural son of Amram and Jochebed, and he later became the adopted child of Pharaoh's daughter. Even though this adoption changed his relationship to the king of Egypt, and gave him the right to much wealth and many privileges, he never became an Egyptian but always remained an Israelite. So it is with Christ and us. His being is Divine, God of God (
Col. 1:15-17), whereas we are adopted, and whatever privileges or rights that may give us, we will never ourselves become God. 

When we think about Christ's uniqueness this way, it should create an attitude of worship in us. 
Hebrews 1:6says that when God brings His first begotten into the world He says, "And let all the angels of God worship him." Because of who He is, the eternal Son of God, He is worthy. 

This doctrine is important because our salvation depends on it. If Christ is simply a man, then the Eternal did not come into time and God did not come into the world, and then salvation would be impossible. Man cannot come to God, but God must come to man. The Savior of men must be God Himself, so that He can be suited to be our mediator (see Lord's Day 6).

Our Sovereign Lord

Our Savior is also our Lord. This moves the focus from His relationship to God to His relationship to us. The name Lord refers to Him as our ruler and owner, or our sovereign. 

Christ is the supreme Lord of the entire universe, both as its creator (
John 1:1-2) and as a part of His exaltation (Eph. 1:20-23). But in the Apostles' Creed and the Catechism, believers confess that He is "our Lord" in a unique way. He has purchased us with His blood, and He rules over us by His grace. 

In the original disobedience of Adam and Eve, man willfully placed himself under the power of the Devil, sin, death, and hell. In His death, Christ paid the ransom price for His people, freeing them from the slavery of sin and Satan, and making them His own property. Now He rules them, not with a rod of iron, but by His when we describe them by their conduct and character, we see that they are very often disobedient, rebellious, self-willed, and stubborn children—runaways even. Yet, God claims them as His children. 

Being children who are loved does not mean only provision, but also chastening. In this, too, we see the grace of our Father. This chastening is necessary for God's adopted children, exactly because they are naturally rebellious. When God chastens us, we should take this as a proof of our adoption. "If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons.... For whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth" (
Heb. 12:6-7). 

When we confess that we are the children of God, we are not, first of all, saying something about ourselves. Rather we are confessing the graciousness of the Father in receiving us, and the wonder of redemption in Jesus Christ. 

God's grace is also revealed in the name "Lord." Jesus is our Lord because He redeemed or bought us. From what? From bondage, not only the bondage of Satan, and not only from the death our sin deserves, but also from the bondage and power of our sinful selves. To what? To be His possession, that is, to belong to Him in life and death, to come under His love and care. With what? There is a price He paid. Not the price of money. Money talks, but not when you are talking to God. The price He paid was His own death, the price of His own precious blood. 

Why did He do this? Because He counted the souls of His own, the souls of sinners, more precious than His own life. Don't you see His grace in this?


Questions for Discussion

1. What are the two kinds of sonship? How do they differ? How are they similar?

2. What is unique about the Sonship of Jesus?

3. What does it mean that Jesus is the "only begotten" Son of God? Is this different than saying He is the "only" Son of God?

4. When did Jesus become the Son of God?

5. How are we the sons of God? 

6. Whose children are we by nature? Can you find proof for this in the Bible?

7. Find Scripture passages that show that believers have the right to inherit God's blessings as His true sons.

8. Explain what is meant by the "bondage" of sin and Satan.

9. What does it mean, for your life, that Jesus is your Lord?

10. Show the grace of God in the name "Only Begotten Son of God."

11. Show the grace of God in the name "Lord."