The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary Definition of “Son of God”: Son of God. As applied to Jesus Christ, a Messianic title stressing His deity, comparable with the title “Son of man,” which stresses His humanity. Like the many other names and titles accorded Him in Scripture, the title “Son of God” accommodates to human minds and understanding an important aspect of His work for our salvation. In view of the broad range of meanings latent in the word “son,” as used by the Hebrew people and the Bible writers (see Son), it is not possible arbitrarily to circumscribe the expression “Son of God” within the narrow limits implied by the English word “son.” Whether or not the title is in any sense an appropriate description of the absolute and eternal relationship between Son and Father, is a matter on which Scripture is silent. Obviously, it does not connote a generic relationship comparable in any way to the usual human father-son relationship, and accordingly it is necessary to understand it in some sense other than a strictly literal one. A clue to the implied meaning may occur in the expression “only begotten” (Gr. monogenēs), which characterizes Christ as having a “unique” relationship with the Father (Jn 1:14; see Only Begotten). Properly understood of Christ’s unique status as the Son of God, monogenēs distinguishes between Him and all others who, through faith in Him, are given “power to become the sons of God” (v 12) and who are specifically declared to be “born … of God” (v 13). Christ is, and always has been, very “God” (v 1), and by virtue of this fact we have been granted the privilege of becoming “the sons of God.”
A further aspect of the meaning implied by the term “son of God” is set forth in Col 1:15, where He is said to be “the image of the invisible God”; in Heb 1:3, where He is declared to be “the express image of his person”; in Php 2:6, where it is stated that, prior to the Incarnation, He was “in the form of God” and “equal with God.” The expression is thus an affirmation of the absolute and unqualified deity of Jesus. At the annunciation the angel Gabriel declared to the virgin Mary that by virtue of the overshadowing power of the Holy Ghost her Son was to be “called the Son of God” (Lk 1:35). Here the angel plainly attributes the title “Son of God” to the unique union of Deity with humanity at the incarnation of our Lord. Paul stated that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom 1:4).
The Synoptic Gospels never quote Jesus as applying the title “Son of God” to Himself, though when others use it of Him He accepts it in such a way as to acknowledge it (see Mt 4:3, 4, 8:29; 14:33; 26:63, 64; 27:40, 43). Only in Jn is Jesus recorded as thus using it (see chs 5:25; 9:35; 10:36; 11:4). At His birth (Lk 1:35; cf. Mt 1:23), His baptism (Mt 3:17), and again at the Transfiguration the Father acknowledged Jesus as His Son (Mt 17:5). This Father and Son relationship is both explicit and implicit in many statements by our Lord Himself (see Mt 11:27; Lk 10:21; Jn 5:18–23; 10:30; 14:28; etc.). Jesus’ claim to being the Son of God incurred the implacable hatred of the Jews, who protested that He thereby made “himself equal with God” (Jn 5:18) and, indeed, made Himself out to be God (ch 10:33). Eventually, His own clear statement of this claim led to His condemnation and crucifixion (Mt 26:63–66; Lk 22:67–71).
During His earthly ministry our Saviour voluntarily surrendered the prerogatives, though not the nature, of deity, and assumed the limitations of human nature, thereby subordinating Himself to the Father (see Ps 40:8; Mt 26:39; Jn 3:16; 4:34; 5:30; 12:49; 14:10; 17:4, 8; 2 Cor 8:9; Php 2:7, 8, Heb 2:9), even as we are to be subject to Him. He said, “My Father is greater than I” (Jn 14:28), and “the Son can do nothing of himself” (ch 5:19). His use of the title “Son of God” thus clearly links this title to His incarnation and earthly ministry, giving meaning to the expression.
I’ve underlined two points that I would like to comment on regarding the theologians definition of the Son of God.
1.) “Son of God. As applied to Jesus Christ, a Messianic title stressing His deity”
The title “Son of God” is about His deity.
2.) “it is not possible arbitrarily to circumscribe the expression “Son of God” within the narrow limits implied by the English word “son.” Whether or not the title is in any sense an appropriate description of the absolute and eternal relationship between Son and Father, is a matter on which Scripture is silent. Obviously, it does not connote a generic relationship comparable in any way to the usual human father-son relationship, and accordingly it is necessary to understand it in some sense other than a strictly literal one.”
I would like to propose that it is possible to use the title “Son of God” within the English word “son”. Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines son in regards to Christ:
8.) Christ is called the son of God, as being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, or in consequence of his relation to the Father. – Websters 1828 Dictionary
The dictionary defines son in terms of relationship. The author of this dictionary is implying doubt to this definition. Why? It may have something to do with preconceived ideas and sectarian training. The reason the Adventist theologian provides for his doubt is the word “Obviously” with no explanation.
This provides no evidence for his doubt that the Son of God cannot be understood by the English word “son”.
There is a general trend in the Christian world to focus on performance and the Divine attributes when talking about Jesus being Divine. If someone on the street challenges a Christian about the Divinity of Christ many people will start with Divine attributes rather than on showing the Divine nature of Christ through His relationship with His Father in Heaven.
For an excellent study on Performance-Based Thinking v.s. Relational-Based Thinking I would encourage you to look at the book “Return of Elijah” by Adrian Ebens. The book is detailed and gives you wonderful insight regarding the word “equality”. You will have a new appreciation for the word which has helped me tremendously.
The author of this Bible Dictionary definition uses John 5:19 to show “Son of God” is being linked to His incarnation but I would like to show that verses 18-19 clearly shows the opposite.
vs18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. vs19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. John 5:18-19
How was Jesus revealing His Divinity to the Jews?
Verse 18 clearly shows. Jesus was revealing His Divinity by showing His relationship with His Father and this is the reason why the Jews sought the more to kill Him. The Webster’s definition of “Son of God” fits very nicely in stressing Christ’s Divinity. Please continue reading John 5 and you see how many time’s the word “Son” and “Father” is used. It’s beautiful.
Friend’s. I believe that Jesus is truly and literally the Son of God. I hope and pray that no one takes Jesus Christ away from you by unsound doctrine.
If the Scriptures say he is the Son of God, I believe it. If it is declared that the Father sent his Son into the world, I believe he had a Son to send.
R.F. Cottrell, Review & Herald, June 1, 1869
What do you think about this Bible Dictionary definition of the “Son of God”?