The Christmas Story
Let’s begin our study this Christmas, by looking at one of many well-known verses in the Bible that discusses the words begotten and son in the context of Jesus.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him
should not perish but have everlasting life. —John 3:16.
Notice the words only son, and begotten is emphasized. In the original Greek, that’s μονογενης υιος, or monogenes huios, transliterated. Note that the word that is being translated as only begotten is monogenes.
The key element to remember in deriving the meaning of monogenes is this: it is a compound word/term, combining monos, meaning only, with a second term or meaning. Often it is assumed that the second term is gennasthai/gennao, to give birth, to beget. But note that this family of terms has two nu’s, νν, rather than a single nu, ν, found in monogenes. This indicates that the second term is not gennasthai but gignesthai/ginmai, and the noun form, genos.
Genos means “kind or type”, ginomai is a verb of being. Hence the translations “one of a kind,” “one and only,” “of sole descent.” Some scholars see the –genes element as having a minor impact upon the meaning of the term, and hence see monogenes as a strengthened form of monos, thereby translating it “alone,” “unique,” “incomparable.”
The word monogenes, means: one of a kind, of sole descent, alone, or unique, and is used as a description, but only of Jesus in the New Testament, as-in, One, born of a virgin, a Savior and Redeemer, and never a human being.
The significance of this revelation that Jesus Christ is the Father’s “only begotten Son” is the bedrock of the Gospel. This unique phrase is used with reference to the Lord Jesus just four other times, and all five verses contain vitally important truths concerning Christ. He was/is: unique, one of a kind, alone, or an only because:
- He was tempted but without sin. No other man has been without sin. (Heb 4:15).
- Jesus, the only begotten, is the only way to the Father. No man can make this claim. (John 14.6).
- He is the only Son whom the Father said He was well pleased with and that the Holy Spirit fell on in a bodily form. (Luke 3:21-22).
- Jesus is the only Son that God exalted to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. This position and title is never given to any man in the Bible. (Philippians 2:5-11)
- Jesus is the only One called the Word made flesh, that dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) that was full of grace and truth. This title and position was only given to Jesus in the NT. (John 1:14).)
Also, the Greek is clear, that Christ is not a created son of God (as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and some others teach), but a begotten Son of God–in fact, the only begotten Son of God. He never had a beginning, for He was there in the beginning (John 1:1). In His prayer to the Father in the upper room He spoke of “the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5).
Man, while a spiritual son, is not an only (for there are many spiritual sons), one of a kind, because he (we) were created; but not by a supernatural virgin birth, while Jesus was. And, the only one that was.
He is not just the only begotten Son of the Father, for He is also the eternally begotten Son of the Father. He is eternally “in His bosom,” yet always “going forth” to “declare” the Father–once as the creating Word, occasionally in pre-incarnate theophanies, also through the Holy Spirit conveying God’s written Word (which had been “eternally settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89) down to man through divinely chosen prophets, then ultimately appearing as the incarnate Word to live forever as the God/man.
This is what was known as the doctrine of “eternal generation” by the older theologians.
He did not only become the only Son by His virgin birth. He was the only begotten Son from eternity, “set up from everlasting” (Proverbs 8:23). The differences between man, a created being, though by a new birth (born again) being called, ‘the sons of God’ and Jesus as the only begotten Son of God is profoundly different scripturally. Christians misunderstanding or misusing the text can lead others into believing they are co equal with God, or little ‘gods’ which is also incorrect. More on this in a moment.
He was not just the only begotten Son in the beginning, He soon also became the “first begotten of the dead” in time (Revelation 1:5). He was “declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). When Paul at Antioch preached on the resurrection, he declared that God “hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” (Acts 13:33).
He is the only begotten Son eternally and now the first begotten Son by resurrection, “the first fruits of them that slept” (I Corinthians 15:20).
The Lord Jesus is not only the unique Son of God by eternal generation and by resurrection, but also by divine inheritance. God has “spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2).
Yes, Jesus was the “first fruits of them that slept,” but He was also the only begotten Son of God, born of a virgin, sent into the world to die for our sins.
This, dear friend, is the story of Christmas. He is CHRISTmas, and there never was, nor, will there ever be another that can adorn our lives with life, freedom, blessings, favor and heaven.
BORN IN A MANGER
Fragrant glory does impart
As raiment from the sky
Soaking, surging hungry hearts
To sins not a sad goodbye.
Saturated with the spirit’s life
Purging self of inner strife
Inner peace afresh and anew
Heavens Manna, morning’s dew.
Radiance of heaven God’s dear Son
Transforming-cross the work tis done
Splendorous grandeur victory won
Triumphant praise a new life begun.
Heavenly chorus – anthems ring
Born in a manger, hope He brings
Resounding sweet words of good cheer
Prophecy fulfilled, his return is near.
Meet the Author
Alan Bullock has a BA in Biblical Studies, a Master’s Degree in Biblical Counseling, and an earned Doctor of Theology. In addition, Alan is a Certified Pastor Counselor, a member of The International Association of Christian Counseling Professionals (IACCP), and also a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC).