Why Is Jesus Called “The Son of God”?

In the New Testament, Jesus is repeatedly identified as the Son of God. But as Muslim apologists often point out, many other people are called sons of God in the Bible. So why is the title Son of God so important to Christians? To understand why Jesus is called the Son of God, we need to look at the different ways people can be children of God in the Bible.

First, human beings in general are called God’s children. In Acts 17, as the Apostle Paul says “In him (i.e. God), we live and move and have our being.” God creates us and sustains us. The idea is that as a human father provides for his family, God provides for us, though in a much more significant way.

Second, spirit beings also live and move and have their being in God. In Job 1, angels are called sons of God not only because God creates them and sustains them in existence but also presumably because of their role in carrying out God’s commands.

Third, the nation of Israel is called God’s son. In Exodus 4, God tells Moses to say to Pharaoh “Thus says the Lord ‘Israel is my son, my firstborn’”. This is tied to Deuteronomy 32 where Moses says to the nation of Israel “God made you and established you but you forgot the God who gave you birth.” The nation of Israel wasn’t a normal naturally developing-nation. God produced the nation through divine intervention and was there for Israel’s father.

Fourth, the reigning davidic king, the king who was a descendant of King David was called Son of God because he was put on his throne by God and he was to rule under God’s authority as God’s representative.

Fifth, people who reflect God’s will through their conduct can be called sons of God since this gives them a kind of family resemblance. Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

So the phrase Son of God can have a variety of meanings. Why then do Christians insist on calling Jesus the Son of God? Jesus is the son of God in a divine sense. It’s his position in the trinity. In the first century, most people thought of a son as someone who carried on the family trade. Sons didn’t go away to college. They did whatever their fathers did. If your father was the butcher, you were the butcher. If your father was a baker, you were a baker. To say that someone is the Son of God in this sense would mean that he does the work that God does and this is exactly what Jesus claims about himself. According to both the Bible and the Quran, God is the one who raises the dead but in John 5:21, Jesus says that he’s the one who will raise the dead at the resurrection. According to both the Bible and the Quran, God is the final judge of all mankind. But in Matthew 25, Jesus tells his followers that he will be the final judge of all people. According to both the Bible and the Quran, God is the one who can ultimately forgive sins. And yet Jesus claims in Mark 2:2-12 that he’s the one who forgives sins. So Jesus does the work that only God does. The only way someone can do the same work that the father does is if he shares the nature and attributes of the father. Jesus claims to have this unique relationship with the father. In Matthew 11:27 he says “All things have been handed over to me by my father and no one knows the son except the father nor does anyone know the father except the son and anyone to whom the son wills to reveal him.” And this relationship has always existed. As we read in the opening verses of the Gospel of John “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him and apart from him, nothing came into being that has come into being.” The Word Jesus, the son was with God and the Word was God. How could the Word be with God and be God? It only makes sense if you’re thinking in trinitarian terms.

The same difficulty arises with the phrase “Son of God”. People ask “Was it God or the Son of God?” The confusion arises because people hear “Son of God” and they think of God producing some sort of separate offspring. Christians don’t claim that God produced a son as an offspring. We claim that within the one nature essence of God, the person of the Son is eternally with the person of the Father. We can talk about Jesus being the Son of God because he’s within the Trinity. He’s the Son of the Father but he’s God because he has the same divine essence as the Father. 

For some reason, my Muslim friends always object to such eternal relations. But until the same Muslim friends stop telling me that the Quran is an eternal book that’s co-eternal with Allah and eternally precedes from Allah, I’ll have to keep pointing out the inconsistency. Jesus is the divine Son and because he’s the divine Son, he’s the supreme example of the Son of God in all the other senses. We saw that spirit beings are called “sons of God” but Jesus is the highest spirit being. Human beings are called “sons of God” but Jesus is the greatest human being. The davidic kings were called “sons of God” but Jesus is the Messiah, the Eternal Davidic King. The nation of Israel was called the “son of God” but the Old Testament says that the Messiah himself is the new Israel. People who reflect God’s character in their conduct are called “sons of God” but Jesus is the perfect reflection of the father’s character so much so that he could say as he does in John 14:9 “Anyone who has seen me has seen the father.” This is the biblical meaning of “Son of God”.

Six centuries later, Muhammad came and revealed Surah 6:101 “Wonderful originator of the heavens and the earth, how could he have a son when he has no wife.” Out of all the various meanings of “son of God” in the Bible, do any of them have anything to do with God having sex with a woman and produce an offspring? No, that’s one thing Christians have never meant by the phrase “son of God” and according to Muhammad it’s the only thing we mean by “son of God.” This is further proof that Muhammad was a false prophet.