Why do Christians say that Isa is the ‘Son of God’?
We are often asked the meaning of the phrase ‘Isa the Son of God’.
‘Surely God cannot have a son! How could God have a sexual relationship with a woman? Is he not far above such a thing?’
‘Yes,’ we reply, ‘He is indeed far above it. When Christians say that Isa is the Son of God they never mean that God had a sexual relationship with the Virgin Mary and the result was a child.’
But Christians do say that Isa is the Son of God. So what does this expression mean?
The miraculous birth of Isa from the Virgin Mary
Let’s first look carefully at the story of the birth of Isa as we read it in the Injil. God sent his messenger, the angel Gabriel, to Mary to tell her that, although she was a virgin and unmarried, she was going to become pregnant and bear a son. Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, the wife of Zakaria had also recently become pregnant in her old age. Elizabeth became the mother of Yahya ibn Zakaria (John the Baptist):
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.’
‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’
The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.’
‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38)
We see here that there was no sexual relationship between God and Mary. It all happened in a miraculous way, through the power of God by his Holy Spirit. Nothing is impossible with God.
The eternal Word of God
Isa is the eternal Word of God who became a man by being born from Mary. The Word of God has always existed. He was with God in the beginning. One of Isa’s disciples, John, wrote this about him in the Injil:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5 & 14)
The Word of God became flesh by being born as a man, Isa, from the Virgin Mary. He was truly a man and often in the Injil he is called the ‘Son of Man’ to emphasise that he was fully human, like us. But at the same time he is the Son of God.
Just as our words reveal our thoughts so that others can know them, Isa became a man so that we could know God. We cannot see God, so he sent his Word to become a man so that we could know him. Often, we can see the likeness of a father in his son. Isa is the perfect son of God and he reveals the Father to us.
Philip, one of Isa’s disciples, once said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus replied:
‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9)
The baptism of Isa
The title ‘Son of God’ was not given to Isa by Christians. It was given to him by God himself. This clear when we read the account of Isa’s baptism by his cousin Yahya ibn Zakaria:
Jesus left Galilee and went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John kept objecting and said, ‘I ought to be baptized by you. Why have you come to me?’
Jesus answered, ‘For now this is how it should be, because we must do all that God wants us to do.’ Then John agreed.
So Jesus was baptized. And as soon as he came out of the water, the sky opened, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down on him like a dove. Then a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my own dear Son, and I am pleased with him.’ (Matthew 3:13-17)
The voice that spoke from heaven was the voice of God the Father. God wanted all those who heard to understand that Isa was his Son. God chose the picture of the relationship between a son and his father as the best way to explain to us his relationship with Isa. There was never any sexual element in this relationship. Isa has a position of honour and glory as the perfect Son of the Almighty Father.
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