Son of God (Part 4) – In Acts and Paul’s Epistles

In this part of our study we will examine the Book of Acts and the Epistles of Paul for every usage of the title ‘Son of God’ applied to Jesus. Once again, our goal is to see if the use of this title ever requires an interpretation beyond that of the Hebraic biblical view of the OT (see Son of God-Part 1). Is there ever an example of it’s use that absolutely requires the Greek metaphysical and Gnostic concept of an eternal Son of God, of one substance with the Father?

Book of Acts

There are two verses in chapter 3, 13 & 26, in the KJV, which have the phrase, with reference to God, “His Son Jesus.” These occurrences are not relevant to our study, for, as can be seen from all modern translations, it should read “His servant Jesus.” The Greek word here is pais, which has two meanings: 1.) a child, male or female, of pre-teen through teen years, i.e. a non-adult child  2.) a servant. That the word should be translated “servant” here is obvious from the fact that Jesus is not a non-adult child at this point (as in Luke 2:43, where the same word appears); and because the word does not mean ‘son’; and because pais is the word used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew ebed = servant, which is used of the Messiah in Isaiah 42:1 and 52:13. Hence Jesus is the servant of Yahweh, not the child of Yahweh.

Acts 8:37 – “And Philip said, ‘If you believe from the whole heart, it is permitted.’ The eunuch answered, ‘I believe the son of God to be Jesus, the Messiah’ ” (literal rendering).

This verse is found in the KJV, ASV, HCSB, and in brackets in the NASV; it is not included in most newer versions, such as the ESV, ISV, NIV and NET. It is not in the earliest, most reliable manuscripts, nor in early versions. Most scholars are of the opinion that it is an interpolation, not part of Luke’s original work. That being so, the words, were they indeed genuine, comport with the Hebraic view, in which son of God = king of Israel = Messiah. Nothing in the words or context demands ‘son of God’ should denote essential deity. After all, if I may be facetious, the Ethiopian eunuch was reading the scroll of Isaiah when Philip approached him, not some work of Plato or Philo.

Acts 9:20 – After Paul’s conversion in Damascus, Luke informs us, “At once he began preaching in the synagogues that this Jesus is the son of God.”

Again, the words are straight-forward. One’s presupposition will determine how he reads the text; if one presupposes ‘son of God’ to mean ‘the eternally begotten Son, of one substance with the Father’, then that is what he will see here. Just understand that nothing in the verse demands that reading; it is only your ‘orthodox’ tradition that demands it. Verse 22 shows the Hebraic view to fit well here, for there we read, “Saul … baffled the Jews living in Damascus, proving that this one (i.e. Jesus) is the Messiah.” Note that Luke does not say that Paul was proving that Jesus is God, but the Messiah. Once again, in line with the OT conception, son of God = Messiah.

Acts 13:32-33 – “We proclaim to you the good news: God, having made the promise to the fathers, has fulfilled it to us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second psalm: ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.’ “

The traditional, ‘orthodox’ interpretation of Psalm 2:7, inherited from the Nicene fathers, understands it to be speaking of an eternal begetting, in spite of the fact that it says “today I have become.” In fact, they said that the word ‘today‘ proves their point. If it had said ‘tomorrow I will become’ or ‘yesterday I became’ this would signify a specific point in time, but ‘today‘ signifies the ever present, hence eternal begetting. But this is dubious exegesis, as is much of early gentile church father’s handling of Scripture. This is clearly eisegesis, reading into this text Greek philosophical concepts which would not have been in the mind of the author of this Psalm.

As I said in Son of God (Part1), Psalm 2 was a coronation psalm, probably written by David (the apostles thought so – see Acts 4:25-26) for the coronation of Solomon. The language is drawn from God’s promise to David found in 1 Chron. 17:11-14. David explains the meaning of the father/son relationship between God and Solomon (as well as all future descendants of David who ascend to the throne) in 1 Chron. 28:5-6: “Yahweh … has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of Yahweh over Israel.” The chronicler further elaborates in 29:23: “So Solomon sat on the throne of Yahweh as king …” In this Hebraic understanding the son of God is simply this –  the one chosen to rule over God’s kingdom on God’s behalf. When God used this language of the Davidic king He was simply using a concept that would have been familiar to the Israelites, that of vassal kings, who would bear the title ‘son of’ the king to whom they were in subjection. This was a common practice in the ancient Near East.

Now, should we believe that Paul, who would certainly have understood Psalm 2 in this context, jettisoned this Hebraic view in favor of a Greek philosophic concept which only came into prominence long after his death. Paul is applying the psalm to Jesus as the last and ideal Davidic king, the one who will rule over God’s kingdom, on His behalf, forever. The context of our passage in Acts shows that Paul understood the resurrection to be the decisive moment of Jesus’ installment as ‘son of God’, his coronation, as it were. This is confirmed in the next passage we will examine.

Paul’s Epistles

Romans 1:3-4 ” … regarding his Son, the one being born of the seed of David, according to the flesh; the one having been appointed Son of God in power, according to a spirit of sanctification, as a consequence of resurrection out from the dead – Jesus Christ, our Lord.

As asserted above, if Paul had the Hebraic perspective, and we have no reason to doubt he did, then he would not be here presenting the idea of an eternally begotten son who has taken on a human nature and so is both God and man. For this is what, from the traditional view of this text, he is supposed to be telling us. The NIV, in a blatant display of translation bias, tells us ” … as to his human nature was a descendant of David …” This is meant to imply the orthodox tradition of the two natures of Christ; as to his human nature he was a descendant of David, but as to his divine nature he was the Son of God. Again, eisegesis seems to be the rule in ‘orthodox’ Christology. The phrase “according to the flesh” does not imply that Jesus has another nature any more than the exact same Greek phrase, kata sarx, in Romans 9:3, means that Paul has another nature or, as in Gal. 4:23, that Ishmael had a dual nature. The phrase, in these contexts, simply means “by virtue of natural descent.” Paul is simply stating what every Jew would have understood, that the status of ‘son of God’, i.e. the one chosen to rule for God over His kingdom, belonged only to the offspring of David { see 2 Chron. 13:4-8; Ps.18:50; 89:19-37}.

Almost every translation I checked says at v.4 that Jesus was “declared the Son of God in power … .” The Greek word is horizo, which has the basic meaning of ‘to mark off by boundaries’, and so is translated to determine, appoint, or ordain {see Acts 2:23; 10:42; 17:31}. The translation ‘declared‘ does not accurately represent the Greek nor would it fit any of the other seven uses of this word in the NT. None of the versions that translated horizo as ‘declared’ at Rom. 1:4, did likewise in any of it’s seven other occurrences. This makes me suspicious that we are dealing with another example of translation bias. Since the Orthodox belief is that Jesus was the Son of God in eternity past, surely Paul cannot be saying that Jesus was appointed Son of God by the resurrection, but he must mean he was simply declared to be what he always was. But the word clearly does not mean declared. Jesus, although in the predetermined plan of God was son of God from the moment of his birth, being the one chosen for that role, did not enter into the fullness of the power necessary for him to carry out that role, until his resurrection. Our text says that he was “appointed son of God in (or with) power … as a consequence of resurrection … .” If Jesus were one in substance and essential nature with the Father shouldn’t he have already possessed the power needed to rule. The sphere of  power into which he entered, upon being raised up from the dead, was something he did not possess before, except by promise. After his resurrection Jesus said,

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Matt. 28:18

Paul, speaking of the resurrected Messiah, said that Jesus,

the last Adam (became) a life-giving spirit.   1 Cor. 15:45

One important way that Jesus has been perfected and fitted for his role by the resurrection, is that he now possesses “the power of an indestructible life” {see Heb. 7:16; Rom.6:9; Rev.1:17-18}. Having been made an immortal man he is able now to reign over God’s kingdom forever, something no other son of David before him could do.

Concerning the prepositional phrase kata pneuma hagiosynes, which I have translated as “according to a spirit of sanctification,” we once again find a bias among the translations. Every version I checked has the definite article before pneuma and most of them capitalize it, thus arriving at “according to the Spirit of holiness.” But of course, there is no distinction between capital and small letters in the Greek (it is the arbitrary decision of the translator), and there is no definite article before ‘spirit’ in this passage in the Greek. Therefore, the proper translation is a spirit rather than the Spirit.” The same construction in the Greek can be seen at Rom.11:8 and 2 Tim. 1:7.  It seems like the translators of these versions want  the reader to see this as referring to either the Holy Spirit or the spirit of Jesus. Yet it should be clear that what Paul is not saying is that Jesus was “declared the Son of God according to his divine nature.” Again, I suggest “according to” or “by virtue of a spirit of sanctification“, to be understood as speaking of the dominating disposition of sanctification which characterized Jesus’ life. Jesus’ whole life was set apart to the Father to do His will and to accomplish the work which the Father sent him to do {see Luke 2:49; 22:42; John 4:34; 6:38; 8:29; 10:36: 17:4,9; Phil.2:6-8; Heb.5:7-8; 10:7}.

Romans 1:9“God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness … “

From the OT, Hebraic perspective this simply means ” … the good news of His anointed one, the Messiah.”

Romans 5:10“For if, being enemies, we were reconciled to God by means of the death of His son, much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved by his life (i.e. his resurrection).

This son of David, chosen by God and predestined to rule (and so designated ‘His son’), did not seek to attain his throne by selfish ambition apart from the Father’s will, but humbled himself, becoming obedient, even to death on the cross {see Phil.2:6-10}. Now sinners are reconciled to God by his death, and once reconciled and being placed in Messiah, they are assured, because of his resurrection to life, everlasting life in him, i.e. immortality.

Now if the son of God is the eternal Logos, co-essential with the Father, as in orthodox Christology, how can such a being experience death? For the text does not say that the human nature, acquired by the son, died (as apologists for the dual natures of Christ purport), but that the son himself died. This conundrum led early Platonized church fathers, like Cyril of Alexandria, in the 5th century, to postulate that the divine nature, or the Logos or Son, suffered impassibly (i.e. suffered without suffering). Since the suffering of Christ is referring to his death, what Cyril was putting forward is that the divine nature in Christ experienced death without really dying. This sounds like philosophical nonsense to me, offered in order to extricate oneself from a clear contradiction. All such conundrums and contradictions disappear once one accepts the biblical testimony to the pure and simple humanity of the son of God.

Romans 8:3, 29, 32 – Since it is beyond the scope of this study, I will not give an in-depth analysis of every minor verse that contains the title ‘the son’ or ‘His son’; my purpose being to merely show that in no occurrence of the title, in the NT, is the orthodox view of ‘son of God‘ required in order for the passage to make sense.

In verses 3 & 32 we find the phrase “his own son.” Although the Greek is different, in each case, the thought is the same, laying stress on the dearness of the relationship between God and his son. But again, the tendency toward eisegesis among orthodox theologians is conspicuous in their commentary on these verses. For example, Benson’s commentary reads, ” … his proper Son, his Son in a sense in which no creature is or can be his son.” Gill gives us this bit of subjective reasoning, ” … his own proper Son, and not in any metaphorical sense; a Son of the same nature with him, begotten of him, and his Son in that nature in which he is God.” Jamieson- Fausset – Brown say this, “ his own Son … in his own proper Person, and independently of his mission and appearance in the flesh … ; and if so, he not only has the very nature of God … but is essentially of the Father, though in a sense too mysterious for any language of ours properly to define.” Wow, all of that theology packed into one little word. I hope it is clear to you who are reading this, the subjective nature of the statements made by these commentators. They have simply back-read their theology into the text. I have no problem with the word ‘own‘ denoting a peculiarity of the relationship between the Father and his son, but please note that what they have given us is not a requisite of the word itself or the context of the passages. Sure their is a special relationship between God and his son, the one chosen to rule on God’s behalf over His kingdom. In the case of Jesus, this specialness exceeds that of any former son of David/son of God, for, as you may recall from Part 1 of this study, there is an additional reason for the title being given to him – that he was brought into existence, not by procreation, but by a direct act of God {see Luke 1:34-35}. To specify someone or something as being one’s ‘own‘ is to stress the preciousness and treasured place that he/it holds in the heart of the one to whom he/it belongs. Scriptural examples are ” … his own house” – Lk.11:21, ” … her own brood” – Lk.13:34, ” … his own life” – Lk.14:26, ” … her own son” – Acts 7:21, ” … his own wife” – 1 Cor.7:2, ” … their own bodies” – Eph.5:28, ” … a people of his own” – Titus 2:14, ” … his own birthright” – Heb.12:16. Would not a purely human Jesus, foreordained and predestined to rule over God’s kingdom, miraculously conceived in the womb of his mother, and the ideal image of God, hold a special place in the heart of God. This is surely a more reasonable way to understand the words “his own son” than to import a metaphysical, philosophical concept, of a later time, into the NT.

Now, regarding the statement in verse 3 that God sent his own son, it is asserted by popular commentators that this is proof of the son’s pre-existence and hence of his deity. Of course this is based on circular reasoning. You see, because they presuppose Jesus is eternal God , then he must have pre-existed in heaven. It was from there that he was sent; his being sent from heaven proves his pre-existence, which in turn proves his deity; which means he must have pre-existed … you get the point! In Mark 12:1-8 we have the parable of the vineyard owner (God) and the tenants (Israel). The owner sends servants ( the prophets) to the tenants, whom they beat and mistreat and even kill some of them. Finally the owner sends his son (Messiah), whom he loves, who they also kill. The point I want to emphasize is that the prophets were said to be sent in the same way the son was sent. There is no distinction made in the manner of the sending, only in the dearness of the son over that of the servants. In John 1:6 we read,

There was a man who had been sent from God, his name was John.

In John 20:21 Jesus tells the Apostles,

As the Father sent me, I am sending you.

The idea of ‘sending‘ one, in the Hebraic worldview, denoted the commissioning of one to go forth and carry out some particular task on behalf of the sender. This is the concept of ‘agency’, discussed briefly in Part 3 of this study. The language of sending, as applied to Jesus in the gospels and epistles, in no way implies that he pre-existed his birth; it is simply the language of agency, which every 1st century Jew would have understood.

As for verse 29, I believe Paul uses the appellation ‘son’ here to denote the glory to which believers are destined, i.e. the glory of sonship, along with Messiah. The context bears this out:

… that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

I will discuss the concept of the believer’s sonship in relation to Jesus’ sonship later in this post.

1Corinthians 1:9“God , who has called you into fellowship with his son, Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

The word for fellowship in Greek is koinonia which means an association with,  a joint participation, a sharing in common. Despite popular charismatic and even some evangelical notions, this is not a reference to an intimacy that we are called to experience with Christ, through prayer or meditation. This verse is really similar to the last one we looked at, Romans 8:29, where sonship is in view. Our association with and joint participation in the son has destined us to enter into the fullness of sonship with him, to be realized fully, only upon our resurrection. This ‘fellowship’ with his son consists of many aspects, such as:

  • participation in Messiah’s rejection and suffering – John 15:18-20; Rom.8:17; 1Peter 4:12-16; Rev.1:9
  • participation in his resurrection to immortality – Rom.6:5,8-9; 8:11; 1 Cor.15:20-23, 42-54
  • sharing in his glory – Rom.8:17; Col.3:4; 2 Cor.3:18; 4:17-18; 2 Thess.2:14
  • sharing in his inheritance – Rom.8:14-17; Acts 26:18; Eph.1:14; Gal.3:26-4:7
  • participation in his rule – Rom.5:17; Eph.1:19-21 with 2:6; 2 Tim.2:11-12; Rev.2:26-27; 3:21; 20:6; 22:5

Such is the destiny of those who are in union with Messiah, who share his sonship {see Rom.8:15-17; Gal.4:6-7; 1 John 3:1-3}.

1 Corinthians 15:28“And when all things shall have been put in subjection to him, then the son himself also will be made subject to the one who had put all things under him, in order that God might be all in all.”

The whole context from v.20 – v.28 is setting forth a picture of Messiah’s reign over God’s kingdom, which is perfectly harmonious with the OT, Hebraic concept of ‘son of God.’ In fact, the traditional view of a co-equal, of one substance with the Father, eternally begotten Son, just doesn’t seem to fit this portrait presented here by Paul. First off, Paul has already designated this sona manin verse 21. Second, his right and authority to rule are clearly derived from the Father, they are not innate. Third, God and the son are distinct beings throughout the passage, one the lesser (the son) and one the greater (God). And lastly, the goal and purpose of the son’s rule over God’s kingdom is that God (who is the Father) may be all in all, hence the glory of the son redounds to the Father, who is greater.

2 Corinthians 1:19 – “For the son of God, Jesus Christ … was not ‘yes’ and ‘no’, but in him it has always been ‘yes.’

Note that the ‘son of God’ is identified as Jesus Christ. Now I think we can safely say that when Paul says ‘Jesus Christ’ or ‘Christ Jesus’, in his mind he is talking about the  man  who was born of Mary; as in Romans 5:15 &17, where he states twice, “the one man Jesus Christ,” and in 1 Timothy 2:5, where the one mediator between God and men is said to be “the man Christ Jesus.” The verse is simply telling us that all of God’s promises to the fathers find their fulfillment in the man chosen by God to carry out His purposes, Jesus the Messiah. One aspect of those promises was to raise up a seed from David’s lineage to rule over God’s kingdom forever – this is our Lord Jesus.

 Galatians 1:15-16 –  “But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, thought it good to reveal his son in me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man … “

I do not see any real significance in Paul’s use of ‘his son’ here; he could just as well have said ‘Jesus‘ or ‘Christ‘ and the meaning of the verse would not have been altered. Therefore, there is no need to expound on this passage beyond stating the obvious, that nothing in the context demands the orthodox understanding of ‘son of God.’

Yet there is one point I wish to make concerning this verse’s relationship to ‘reformed theology.’ Our Reformed brothers want us to see in this verse the doctrines of unconditional election and irresistible grace. They claim the verse clearly speaks of Paul’s conversion taking place when “God … was pleased … ,” that is to say Paul was unconditionally elected to be saved and when God was ready to save him He did so, and Paul had nothing to do with it. As in the case with orthodox Christology, reformed theology is often built on shallow readings of Scripture, which upon closer scrutiny just do not hold up. The verse is not really saying what the ‘Calvinist’ thinks he is seeing there. Paul is simply not talking about his conversion or his salvation experience at all. Rather he is referring to a time subsequent to his conversion when God further revealed or made known to him the fullness of the mystery of Messiah. If we take out of the text the parenthetical statements it reads this way:

But when God … was pleased to reveal his son in me … I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me, but I went  into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. Gal. 1:16-17

If you compare this with Luke’s account of Paul’s conversion, in Acts 9, things do not line up right for the Reformed brothers. Luke says that upon being baptized Paul spent ‘some days’ with the disciples in Damascus. This ‘some days’ describes his whole stay at Damascus (probably 3 yrs. – Gal. 1:18), presumably including a brief excursion into Arabia. Then Luke begins to give details of the ‘some days’ starting with “immediately he began to preach in the synagogues … .” Verse 23 then says “After many days had gone by … . ” At some time in between those two statements Paul went into Arabia because God was ready and the time was right (for that is the import of the words “when God was pleased“) for Him to reveal (Gr. apokalupto – to lay open what had been veiled or covered up; to make known what was before unknown) His son to Paul. There is no need to assume that immediately upon Paul’s conversion he had all knowledge of Christ. No, God had yet to make known to him the fullness of the mystery of Christ. Paul tells his Gentile audience about this in Eph. 1:9 and 3:2-11, also in Col.1:25-27.

Also of note is the fact that Paul states he was “set apart from my mother’s womb“; if he were talking about his election unto salvation, should not he have rather said, “I was set apart before the creation of the world” in keeping with reformed doctrine? Was Paul elected to salvation only after being born? On top of that, the words ‘in order that” introduce the reason God revealed his son to (in) Paul – to preach him among the Gentiles. But if this passage were about Paul’s election to salvation wouldn’t he have said in order that I might be saved.” The passage is about Paul’s call to be an apostle to the Gentiles and the revelation which was given to him to adequately equip him to carry out his task.

Galatians 2:20 “I no longer live, but Messiah lives in me, and the life that I am now living in this body I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (ISV)

Paul, as a Jew and one thoroughly studied in the Hebrew Scriptures, surely understood the significance of the title ‘Son of God’ as he applied it to Jesus. In this whole passage, from verse 15 thru verse 21, Paul refers to Jesus by his title ‘Messiah‘ (or Christ) seven times, then suddenly calls him ‘son of God’, then switches back to ‘Messiah.’ Is there any theological significance in his doing this? We know from our study of the Hebraic concept of ‘son of God’, as found in the Hebrew Scriptures, that Messiah and son of God are synonymous with each other, as well as with son of David and king of Israel. Though some popular commentators see a theological purpose in Paul’s use of the title here [e.g. JFB says it “reminds us that his Divine Sonship is the source of his life-giving power.” The Cambridge Bible Commentary says ” … His eternal Sonship gave it’s value to His atoning sacrifice … “], the fact is, Paul could have used any of the above mentioned titles without it altering his meaning. The point is that the one destined to rule over God’s kingdom on God’s behalf, is the same one who loved us and gave himself for us {see 2 Cor. 8:9}.

Galatians 4:4-6 “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His son, having been born of a woman, having been born under law, in order that he might redeem those under the law, in order that we might receive the adoption (legal status as sons). And because you are sons, God sent forth the spirit of His son into our hearts, crying out, Abba, O Father.”

First off, I have already dealt with the concept of ‘sending’ from a Hebraic perspective. The idea of  being sent, no more implies the son’s pre-existence as it does the pre-existence of John, the OT prophets, or the apostles. It is the language of agency – of one commissioned to a certain work.

Now, because Orthodox theologians see the son as pre-existing in heaven before his birth, they see the statement “born of a woman” as a reference to the doctrine of the Incarnation. They read the text as if it says “God sent his already existing son from heaven to the earth to be born of a woman as a man.” Please note that the text does not actually say this. What the text is saying is this: God commissioned his son to a task, the son who had been born of a woman, who had been born under law; his task was to redeem those under law. The phrase ‘born of a woman’ is simply a Hebraism for ‘man‘, as can be seen from the following verses: Luke 7:28; 1 Cor. 11:12; Job 14:1; 15:14; 25:4. So Paul is declaring the humanity of this son, not his alleged deity. Perhaps Paul stresses the humanity of the son because in OT theology beings other than man are also called sons of God (i.e. angelic beings), but it was not to any one of these that the task of redeeming mankind was entrusted, but to one who was himself a man. The author of the book of Hebrews makes this point in chapters 1 and 2 of his work. That the son was born of a woman signifies his humanity; that he was born under the law signifies his Jewishness.

The ultimate purpose for the redemption is stated by Paul to be “that we might receive the legal status as sons.” In the immediate context he is referring to those under the law, i.e. the Israelites. Though the nation held the status of God’s son {see Exodus 4:22-23}, this status was not automatically  guaranteed to each and every individual descendant of Israel. With the coming of Messiah, only those reckoned in him, i.e. joined in union and association with him, attain the status of sons. This privilege has also been extended to the Gentiles {see Gal. 3:26-29}.

What Paul here calls “the spirit of His son,” he call in Romans 8:15 “a spirit of sonship.” This means that our sonship is inextricably tied to the sonship of Jesus. It is in him that we are made sons of God along with him. As it is written:

You are all sons of God through faith in Messiah Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Messiah have clothed yourselves with Messiah … Galatians 3:26-27

… having foreordained us to sonship through Jesus, Messiah … Eph.1:5

It was fitting for God, … in bringing many sons into glory, to make the author of their salvation (i.e. the son of God) perfect through suffering. For both the one who sanctifies (Jesus) and those who are sanctified (us who believe) are all one, for which reason he is not ashamed to call them brothers.  Heb. 2:10-11

For those God foreknew he also foreordained to be conformed to the likeness of his son, that he (Jesus, the son) might be the firstborn among many brothers. Rom. 8:29

The apostle clearly sees all believers as sharing sonship with Jesus, though as the firstborn, he holds the preeminent place in the family. Now I ask you all a few simple questions – if the sonship of Jesus is a divine sonship, one which he has by virtue of sharing the essential nature of God; if his sonship is eternal and ontological, how could we ever share in this sonship with him? How can believers be conformed to the likeness of the Son if the Son is a co-equal member of the Godhead? Will believers become co-equal members of the Godhead also? If his sonship is of an entirely different sort than ours, how can he call us brothers or how can he be the firstborn among us, his brothers? If Jesus’ sonship is based on a nature which he possesses, that is as different from our nature as humans, as a man is from a cow, he could no more honestly identify himself as our brother as a man could honestly identify himself a brother to a herd of cows.

Ephesians 4:13 ” … until such time that we, the whole (body), shall attain to the oneness of the faith and the knowledge of the son of God; (until we attain, as a whole) to a full-grown man, to the measurement of the stature of the fullness of the Messiah.”

I discern no theological significance in the use of the title here. It seems to just be synonymous with Messiah. I take Paul to be referring to the point in time when the body of Messiah is brought into the state of glory, at his appearing. Only then will the ‘ecclesia’ attain to the oneness of the faith and knowledge of the son of God. Until then, I believe Paul is assuming an incomplete unity i.e. there will be differing opinions and even factions within the professing, so-called ‘church‘. The correct knowledge regarding the son of God will not be found among all the existing assemblies. Little did Paul understand, I’m sure, to what degree this would be true; to what degree the correct knowledge of the son of God would be lacking among the congregations confessing his name.

Colossians 1:13“[The Father] who has delivered us from the rule of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”

Paul’s use here coincides perfectly with the OT concept found in 1 Chron. 17:13-14; 28:5-6.

1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 ” … you turned to God from idols to serve the true and living God, and to wait for His son, from out of the heavens, whom He raised from the dead — Jesus, the one rescuing us from the coming wrath.”

As believers, we are awaiting the son of God, the Messiah , son of David to come and to establish, on this earth, the everlasting kingdom foretold in the prophets of old. He is coming in fulfillment of the promise of God to give him the throne of his father David {see Luke 1:32-33}. The thing to note in this verse is that the son who is coming is a distinct being from the “true and living God,” and therefore cannot himself be the true and living God.


Author: Troy Salinger

I am 60 yrs. old. I live with my wife of 37 yrs. in Picayune MS. I have been a believer in the Lord Jesus since August of 1981. I have no formal theological education, but have been an ardent student of Scripture for 41 yrs. I am a biblical Unitarian i.e. I believe the Father is the only true God (John 17:3) and Jesus is His human Son, the Messiah.

4 thoughts on “Son of God (Part 4) – In Acts and Paul’s Epistles”

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