Most Christians can quickly and easily repeat the formula that the trinitarian God of the Bible is one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And perhaps the most famous verse in all the Bible is John 3:16, which refers to Jesus as God’s Son, sent into the world because of the abounding love of God. But what does it mean for Jesus to be God’s Son? What are the implications that Scripture draws from that reality?
What does it mean for Jesus to be God’s Son?
While the ramifications of Jesus being God’s own Son are numerous, and every one of them are significant, a few of the most prominent and important are 1) that Jesus’ person and work was pleasing to God, 2) that Jesus came with God’s own authority and glory, and therefore 3) that loving, honoring, believing, and having Jesus is the only way to love, honor, believe, and have God.
My Son, With Whom I Am Well Pleased
The baptism of Jesus, which marks the beginning of his public ministry, is referenced in all four gospels. Each gospel writer also includes in the account the divine affirmation that occurred at this event. As Jesus was submitting to John’s baptism, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove upon him and the Father spoke audibly from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
God fully approved of the person, mission, and work of Jesus.
John the Baptist, having been warned ahead of time of the significance of this sign, bore public record that this Jesus must therefore be “the Son of God” (John 1:34). It is no accident, then, that the very next day John the Baptist pointed his own disciples to Jesus as the Messiah to follow, identifying him as “the Lamb of God” who would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 36).
The fact that Jesus is God’s Son from the very beginning implied God’s divine approval of the person, mission, and work of Jesus. Jesus refers to this perfect harmony between heavenly Father and human Son in John 6:37-40:
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
The Father’s will is for the Son to save everyone given to him, so that everyone who sees the Son and believes on him will have everlasting life.
This Is My Beloved Son: Listen to Him
Because Jesus’ person and mission and work perfectly pleasing to his Father—Jesus came with the full authority and glory of God himself.
On the Mount of Transfiguration, the disciples see Jesus transformed, outwardly displaying the intrinsic glory he’d had all along. When Moses and Elijah appear, representing the Law and the Prophets, the Father’s divine commendation of his Son results in a divine command for the disciples: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mark 9:7).
Jesus is God’s Son and so God demands that we trust in Jesus as our ultimate expression of repentance, submission, and obedience.
Jesus came to fulfill the perfection of the law and the prediction of the prophets (Matthew 5:17). But in fulfilling both the law and the prophets, Jesus also superseded them, and so the Father now thunders of his Son: hear him! The perfect life that Jesus would live, and the substitutionary death that Jesus would die, provided the way to God that the Law and the Prophets could never be for fallen human beings. The way to please God is not merely by seeking to keep the Ten Commandments, nor is it to peruse the prophets for a way to satisfy God. Jesus is God’s Son and so God demands that we trust in Jesus as our ultimate expression of repentance, submission, and obedience.
Peter perceived the momentous ramifications of this event, when he later described what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration:
[Our Lord Jesus Christ] received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain (2 Peter 1:17-18).
On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter says, the God who will not give his glory to another (Isaiah 42:8) ascribed glory and authority to Jesus as the Son of God. Likewise, Paul says in Romans 1:4, God was putting his stamp of approval on Jesus as his Son when he raised Jesus from the dead; he was “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.”
Therefore All Should Honor the Son
Because God publicly attested to his pleasure in his Son Jesus’ person and work, and because God publicly ascribed to his Son Jesus authority and glory, the only way for any human being to truly love God, or honor God, or believe God, or have God is to approach God through his Son Jesus.
Jesus, knowing what he had come to accomplish on behalf of his Father, expressed to his disciples over and over the inseparable connection between himself and the Father: “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:35-36).
Loving, honoring, believing, and having Jesus is the only way to love, honor, believe, and have God.
In fact, Jesus insisted, the Father is so pleased with the work of his Son that he has committed to his Son “all judgment” (John 5:22) and made his Son the standard by which all will be judged (Acts 17:31). All this has been divinely arranged, in the eternal plan of salvation, so that “all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:23). This is why John would later write in his first epistle, “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23).
It is impossible to have the Father without acknowledging the Son. It is impossible to honor the Father without honoring his Son. It is impossible to love the Father without loving the Son whom the Father himself loves. Jesus is God’s Son and therefore is God’s only way of salvation. The person who believes on the Son, we are assured, has everlasting life. Are you trusting in the Son of God, who has been approved by God, for your salvation?