Fr. Rusty's Corner

Turn Four: Thoughts from Your Parish Priest

The Only Begotten Son of God

The language of the Creed can get very theological at certain points.  Sometimes there are words we say, but do we take the time to fully understand what they mean?  Begotten is probably one of those words for many people.  And why do we use this word?  It actually comes from the famous verse John 3:16.  We typically read the verse, “God so loved the word that he gave his only Son…”, but the word for only is a Greek word monogenesMonogenes literally means only-begotten.  What does it mean to be the Begotten Son of God?  And why is Christ the ONLY begotten?

First, we need to take a look at what it means to be begotten to understand how the Son is the only-begotten.  As we saw earlier in the Creed, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one.  There is no division between them.  The Trinity is also eternal, so there has never been a time that the Trinity did not exist.  From what we know, begotten does not separate the Father from the Son, for God is of the same divine substance. We can also see that the begottenness has always been.  We can conclude that Jesus is the only eternal Son of God.  The Son is not a creation from the Father.  He does not generate from the Father in the way a couple would have a baby, as we would know it.  Jesus is uncreated; He has no beginning as the Son. He was and is and will always be the Son.  Begotten here thus means the Son comes from the Father, but it is in an eternal way that makes it a mystery of our faith.

Understanding begotten helps us understand how Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God.  Scripture describes at certain points that angels are sons of God, but this is in a created way.  God creates them, but they are not of the same substance as God.  They have a beginning to their existence in time.  They are not divine.  Humans are also called sons and daughters of God, but this is through adoption.  Through the fall, we separated ourselves from the Creator.  By Christ coming into the world as a human and dying on the Cross, He became our brother.  Through our baptism, we join with God as His sons and daughters.  God is a Father to us, but in a way that He is the source of our life.  Jesus’s source of life is not in the Father, for they both are God.  Though we are all children of God, Jesus is the Son who shares eternal being with the Father.

Why is it important to know all of this?  Understanding what Only-Begotten shows us what the rest of John 3:16 means.  “…that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”  The Son shares in the divine life with the Father.  God wants to share that with us, so the only-begotten Son comes to share that divine life with us by joining His divinity to our humanity.  We have eternal life because God wanted to share that divine love with us, and He chose to do that through His Son.

- Fr. Rusty Vincent

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