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)
Each time I read this text nowadays, I find that I must pause for a moment to savour the impact of what it is really saying. The truth expressed in these few lines is so profound, thrilling and uplifting that it will serve as the basis for the research and study of our entire world for a hundred million years. Simply stated, easily read, but vast and comprehensive in its scope, it encompasses the most precious truths ever revealed to the universe!
God's love for unlovely sinners.
The unfathomable depths of that love.
The infinite value of the gift which He gave.
The simplicity and completeness of the salvation provided.
It seems incredible that a truth so simply and clearly stated, and at the same time so critical to man's recovery from the consequences and penalty of sin should be so desperately and wholeheartedly attacked by men who claim to be believers in the Scriptures. I am frequently amazed at the lengths to which men will go and the devices they will utilize in their attempts to destroy these truths so unmistakably stated in this precious verse.
One man confidently affirms: "Well, you see, the Greek word from which we get the word "begotten" is "monogenes," and it does not really mean, "only begotten," it means "unique."
Another "theologian" confidently asserts, "Jesus was not the Son of God before he came to this earth. You see, He was not begotten until He was born in Bethlehem."
Still another of these learned men scoffs at the ignorance of those of us who believe that Jesus was actually the literal Son of God who proceeded from the Father in the days before time began. "What you need to understand," he says, "is the style of the Bible writers. The term ‘son of God' was a Hebrew term which was applied by the disciples to Jesus because in their eyes, He was somebody special."
And so they heap up theory upon theory, all of which are aimed at destroying the simple truth that Jesus was, and is, the Son of God, begotten of the Father from the days of eternity. It is not surprising that the enemy of truth should try with all his might to destroy or obscure this truth. If he has his way, men will never understand the love of the Father for mankind, for this is the truth which will free us from the bondage of sin. This is the truth which is the central theme of study of the entire universe.
The title, "only begotten Son," was not a title imposed upon Jesus, or chosen by the disciples. If we accept the scriptures as being factual and accurate, then it was Jesus Himself who first referred to Himself as God's "only begotten Son (John 3:16)." We may say that the disciples had confused ideas about who Jesus was, at first. Perhaps some may have thought He was a great prophet. Others, maybe, that He was Elijah returned. Most, perhaps, believed that He was the Messiah (but not necessarily a divine being). But what about Jesus? Did He know His own identity? When He referred to Himself as God's "Only Begotten Son," what was He trying to do? Why did He use those words? Was He trying to confuse Nicodemus or to enlighten him? What was the message which He was trying to get across to Nicodemus?
Don't you see that He was trying to get Nicodemus to appreciate the degree of God's love? In essence, he was saying, "Nicodemus, do you know how much God loves men? he loves them so much that he was willing to give His ONLY BEGOTTEN SON!" Can you see how critical it is that we understand the meaning of that term, "only begotten Son?" It is only as we understand it that we can begin to comprehend how much God loves us.
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9)
Of all the disciples of Jesus, John is the one who dwells most of all on the theme of the sonship of Jesus. In fact, he is the only one of the Bible writers who refers to Jesus as God's "only begotten Son."
Trinitarians pounce upon this fact and declare that the use of this phrase was just a quirk of John's style of writing. Is this true? Was it merely John's style of writing that gave Jesus the title, "Only begotten Son," or was John an accurate, truthful, honest Christian who wrote straight facts?
An examination of the circumstances which surrounded the writing of John's letters, his gospel and the book of Revelation, makes it very clear why John had this emphasis in his writings.
It is common knowledge that John was the last of the apostles to die, living until somewhere between the years A.D. 95 - 100. He was also the last of the Bible writers, with his books being the last writings added to the biblical canon. It is believed that Revelation (written A.D. 95) was the first of his writings (of those included in the Bible) being followed by his epistles and the gospel which bears his name.
The epistles of John, written after all the other apostles were dead, reveal that by the time these letters were written, certain deadly influences were beginning to rear their heads in the church. Several references in the epistles of John make it clear that some were beginning to propagate heresies of the most insidious nature. (1 John 2:18)"
In his first epistle, John emphatically states, several times, that Jesus is the Son of God. Here he describes Him as the, "only begotten Son." What was the reason for the emphasis? Was there a reason why he chose to describe Jesus in such a particular way?
Chapter 2: 22,23, Makes it clear that there were certain people arising in the Christian church who were beginning to teach that Jesus was not the actual Son of God in the truest sense of the word "Son" (the first Trinitarians?). John, the last of the apostles, one of the twelve specially chosen by Jesus to be His special witnesses, one who had "heard, … seen with our eyes, … looked upon, and our hands …handled, of the Word of life"(1 John 1:1) found it necessary to repudiate this dangerous false teaching, in clear and unmistakable language. Those who taught this heresy possessed the "Spirit of Antichrist." Emphatically, he stated that, Jesus was not only "God's Son," He was God's "only BEGOTTEN Son (1 John 4:9)." This was not an idea which John fabricated, but was a truth which he had heard himself from the lips of the Master (John 3:16).
Clearly, he makes it known that this truth is the central pillar which is the basis of all genuine Christian experience. Without this truth, we cannot overcome the world (1 John 5:5). Confession of this truth that Jesus is God's Son, is an indicator that we are abiding in God (1 John 4:15) and through understanding the truth of the relationship between God and His Son, we may appreciate the extent of God's love for us (1 John 4:9).
Why is it that none of the other Bible writers had made the same emphasis? The answer is simple. Note John's words:
"Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. (1 John 2:18)"
It is clear that the denial that Jesus was God's Son was a teaching that had not been around before the time of John's writing. No Christian had ever questioned the fact that Jesus was the Son of God, begotten of the Father, changed into flesh and sent into the world. But now that John was old, the only apostle left alive, the devil focused his attack upon the most critical point of Christian faith: the doctrine of the love of God, revealed in the gift of His Son.
God chose the defender of His truth well. Ellen White has this to say about John:
The Saviour loved all the Twelve, but John's was the most receptive spirit. He was younger than the others, and with more of the child's confiding trust he opened his heart to Jesus. Thus he came more into sympathy with Christ, and through him the Saviour's deepest spiritual teaching was communicated to the people.
The Acts of the Apostles - 545
It was John's deep love for Christ that led him always to desire to be close by his side; and this place was always given him. Jesus loves those who represent the Father, and John could talk of God's love as none of the other disciples could. He revealed to his fellow men that which he felt it to be his duty to reveal, representing in his character the character of God.
The Youth's Instructor - 03-29-00
The Bible has not been warped or distorted by the literary style, or idiomatic expressions of its writers. So called "scholars" would have us believe that the plain, simple words of the Bible are not to be comprehended, believed and accepted until they have first been interpreted by the "men of learning." This fallacy has always been and always will be rejected by those who believe in a sovereign God. One who intends that His word shall be read, understood and obeyed, and who therefore has made it simple enough for even a child, guided by His spirit, to understand.