At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of the Son of God. What does the Bible mean when it refers to Him by that title? In ancient times, and still today some have given “Son of God” a meaning never taught by any major branch of the Christian church.
The Bible does not teach that Jesus was an ordinary man who was adopted by God; nor that He was merely a man in whom the Christ-Spirit dwelt; nor that God the Father, in an immortal physical body, had sex with Mary; nor that the Son came into existence from the Father at some time in the distant past; nor that He is the preeminent Son among many similar sons of God.
All of these aberrations have been firmly denied by the Eastern Orthodox, the Roman Catholic, and all the major Protestant churches. Only when clergy depart from the founding documents of their faith do they forsake the common confession of the universal Church.
When the Bible and the creeds call Jesus the Son of God, they are confessing that He is fully God, equal in power, wisdom, love, holiness, and glory to God the Father. He is God, the Son, who has an eternal relationship with the Father that is the pattern for our time-bound relationship with our earthly fathers.
The Bible says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-2, 14).
The eternal Word was God, and was with God, and remained God when He took on our humanity in the womb of Mary. All of His DNA was human, and it came from Mary. There was no divine DNA as we see in the demi-gods of Greek mythology. The Holy Spirit fashioned the humanity of Jesus in the womb of Mary, from the stuff of Mary, for the eternal Son of God to inhabit. When Mary asked how she, a virgin, could have a baby, “The angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God’” (Luke 1:35).
The whole Trinity was active in the miracle of the incarnation—the Father exerting His power, the Holy Spirit preparing the body of Jesus, and the Son joining Himself to the human embryo growing in Mary’s womb. (By the way, the Trinity, though mysterious, is not a contradictory doctrine when properly stated, but that would entail another essay.)
Why is it important that Jesus was (and is) fully God and fully human? The answer is simple. If He were not a genuine human being, He could not have died to save human beings. He stood in our place and took our punishment. An ox could not have done that nor even an angel.
On the other hand, if He had only been a man, He might have died for the sins of one other man, but not for a multitude of sinners. If He had been a mere man, He would have been crushed by our sins, never to rise again. As the infinite God, He was able to bear up under the load of our sins and then to rise up again in glory. As a man, He could die for us. As God, He can lift us up to God. This is the meaning of Christmas.