Monday, March 13, 2017

Who Is the Only-Begotten God?

The first chapter of the Gospel of John is the highest concentration of christological declarations in all of Scripture. It culminates with, "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him" (John 1:18 NASB). The Apostle tells us that Jesus is God, but is distinguished from the Father in His having been begotten. That is His office, as the Father's office is to beget, and the Holy Spirit's office is to proceed. It is not a carnal inference.

Modalists resist this reading, though it is widely accepted as that of the best Greek manuscripts. They prefer the reading of the King James Version, derived from the later manuscripts used by the Textus Receptus: "only-begotten Son."

The reason they want to hold on to that reading is because Modalists (and I am speaking of the variety known as Oneness Pentecostals) teach that "Son" refers only to the flesh of Jesus. they deny the deity of the Son, while claiming to believe in the deity of Jesus.

When I insist on the eternal deity of the Son, including the reference from John 1:18 in the NASB, they respond with, "Then who is His mother?" As they rightly add, Mary was the mother of His flesh. Therefore, they claim, if He was begotten in His deity, then He must have some kind of divine mother, just as the Mormons believe.

And that assertion is nothing more than that, an assertion, assuming that "beget" can only refer to the physical act of fatherhood. But that assertion is self-serving, ignoring other relevant biblical data.

In the Epistle to Philemon, the Apostle Paul says to that man (verse 10), "I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment." Paul is telling his friend that, in his time with Onesimus, he had led this useful slave to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. He had begotten him spiritually, as Paul is quoted in their beloved King James, "I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds." And there is that pesky word "begotten" again.

The question that I have, then, for the Modalists is this: So, if Paul begot Onesimus, who was his mother? And, as is patently evident, the question is nonsensical. Just as it is when Modalists make the same challenge to John 1:18.

Paul in prison

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