The Only Begotten
The Only Begotten
Today, I will be talking about the expression “ONLY BEGOTTEN”: this phrase is deeply entrenched in Christian language as descriptive of Jesus. The word traditionally translated “only begotten” does not carry the idea of birth at all. Literally, it means “only one of its kind.” That is what I want us to investigate today.
Some Background information:
The Apostle John wrote 5 books around 90AD, they are the book of John, the 3 epistles of John and the book of Revelation. It was a time when the Church was growing: the 3rd generation of Christians were coming into the church. It was a time when wolves in sheep’s clothing were coming into the church, and preaching heresy against Jesus Christ. John was inspired by the HS to write these 5 letters in order to refute some of the heretical teachings that were being taught in his day.
The Greek word for this phrase, the only begotten, appears nine times in the NT, and five of these occurrences, all from the writings of the Apostle John, make reference to Jesus Christ (Jn 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 Jn 4:9).
So let’s turn to John 1:14.
The NAS reads: John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The NIV reads: John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
In both of these translations we have the Greek word translated “the Only Begotten” or “The One and Only”.
I checked on 4 more translations and found that this Greek Word is translated “the one and only” in the English Standard Version; “The only Son” in the New English Translation: and “the only begotten” in the KJV and the NKJV.
Now each translation is good, but maybe can be misleading in our English understanding minds.
The Jehovah Witnesses and the Mormons have used word translated “the Only Begotten” to construct their unique Theology. Let’s see what they believe as a result of using “the Only Begotten” in John 1:14.
The cults have taken John 1:14 and the words “only begotten” to come up with their theological systems. And of course, they had to ignore all the other verses around these verses, and the context of these verses, in order to come up with their heresies.
The Jehovah witnesses teach and believe:
1) Jehovah is the only name of God; (A combination of the Hebrew Word JHWH, and the vowels of Adonai).
2) Jesus Christ was a created being and not God-in-the-flesh;
3) Salvation is through works; witnessing as Jesus taught His disciples: preaching the kingdom, going out in groups of 2.
The Jehovah witnesses have wrongly taken the English translation of the KJV where it says “only begotten” and made it into their doctrine of Jesus being only a man; since begotten, in English, implies birth of an individual.
The Mormons teach and believe
1) God as the Supreme Being of the universe. However, He gradually acquired that position over a long period of time by living a perfect and righteous life. God the Father has a body with flesh and bones.
2) The Mormon Church views Jesus and Satan as spirit brothers and sons of God. God put forth His plan of salvation for the world, and Satan proposed his own plan. Jesus accepted the Father's plan and offered to implement it as the Savior. The Father chose Jesus, and the spirit of Jesus was given a body through the Virgin Mary. He was crucified on a Roman cross, and rose from the dead three days later to establish His deity. The character and life of Jesus is attainable by anyone who performs at such a righteous level.
The Mormon Church believes that since Jesus was a spirit being and became a man by birth, he showed us how to attain to deity.
All cults take one verse, or one translated word and build a Theology on that one word. All cults deny the deity of Jesus Christ; and diminish the importance of the Crucifixion of Jesus, as a substitutionary sacrifice for our sins.
John alone uses monogené̄s to describe the relation of Jesus to God the Father, presenting Him as the unique one, the only one (mónos) of a class or kind (génos), in the discussion of the relationship of the Son to the Father (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). Génos, from which gené̄s in monogené̄s is derived, means race, stock, family, class or kind, and génō comes from gínomai, become, as in John 1:14, “and the Word became [egéneto] flesh.” This is in distinction from gennáō, to beget, engender or create. This word then is used by John to tell us the Jesus was the only one of a kind Son of God, who is capable of revealing the Father to us, because Jesus is God in the flesh.
Well the Greek words are so close, but not the same. It would be like a commander of an army who has a troop of soldiers with high morals, or high morale. Which one would you want to be in charge of, if you were commanding a troop in time of war? You can see that just one letter can change the meaning of a word like moral, in English.
the only one of a class or kind
the only one begotten
John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9
Now let’s read the 5 verses in the Book of John, which use this “monogenes” term, with what we have learned.
John 1:14 (my translation) and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as of the only one of a kind, from the Father, full of grace and truth.
We can also say unique, or “one and only” instead of “only one of a kind”, but I think “only one of a kind” has a better impact on us.
Let me make it also clear that I am not demeaning the translators at all. They were trying to translate a Greek term into English as best they can for our English minds to comprehend. I am just trying to help us see a little deeper into God’s revelation of His Son. So again, I am not trying to demean the translators of any of our English Bible versions.
Going back now to John 1:14. John tells us that Jesus came from the Father to dwell or tabernacle among us, and John says “we saw His glory. The glory as of the only one of a kind from the Father. This Jesus was full of grace and truth. Grace – God’s unmerited favor toward us. Truth – Jesus was full of truth. Unlike Satan who is the Father of lies, and is full of lies. Jesus tells the truth, lives the truth and is the truth. Jesus came to us balanced with truth and grace. He did not come with truth only - telling the truth in a harsh way: but He came telling the truth in a gracious way. That is why He could proclaim the truth to a prostitute and then say “go and sin no more”. That is why He could forgive the sins of the man at the pool of Bethesda and say “go and sin no more”.
This, only one of a kind, Jesus was full of grace and truth. Jesus was not full of grace, with no truth. He could not be gracious to all and forgive all of our sins without being truthful and saying “unless you believe in Me, you cannot be saved.” Jesus was full of grace and truth; in the proper balance. This fact also shows us how different Jesus is from us. We humans find it hard to be balanced in grace and truth.
John says “We disciples have seen His glory.” The disciples could see Jesus’ glory because Jesus is God in the flesh. John and the other disciples have seen God’s glory, the glory of God shinning out of Jesus on the mount of transfiguration: but also they saw God’s glory – the only one of a kind Son, God in the flesh. When this realization hit doubting Thomas, he fell down before Jesus and said “My Lord and My God”.
Let’s look now at the second occurrence of this word “only begotten”, used by the Apostle John.
John 1:18 (NASB) 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 (NIV) No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
The text literally says “No one has ever yet seen God. The only one of a kind God, the one who is in the bosom of the Father, that one has revealed Him.
Did you hear correctly? The only one of a kind God? Yes that is what it says. Jesus is God. He is God in the flesh, the only one of a kind God, in the flesh. He had to be born a man in order to accomplish His task on earth. The task was to be the lamb of God being sacrificed for all the sins of the world. As Hebrews 10:5 tells us “ a body you have prepared for me”. A spirit being cannot die; so a body must be prepared for this special only one of a kind Son.
The attitude expressed toward the incarnate Word is the highest possible. No one has ever seen God, but the only one of a kind God, who is in the bosom of the Father, has revealed him. This verse states that the only one of a kind person, that was seen by John all the others, is God Himself, coming directly from the Father and revealing the Father to us.
This verse can not be taken any other way, except to show us that Jesus is the incarnate Word, God Himself, come down to earth in the flesh. This agrees with John 1:1-2 (In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, the same was in the beginning with God.)
John was inspired to write 1:18 by the HS, because some people were going around saying that Jesus was just a man, whom God came upon, but left after Jesus was crucified. But we Christians know that Jesus is God, and as God, we should honor Him and be reverent and respectful of Jesus. We Christians should give reverence to His name, to His honor, and to His reputation, as we live in this world. At the name of Jesus all worldly powers will bow; at the name of Jesus the demons tremble; at the name of Jesus all Christians should bow in reverence and awe.
Moses, even though he was called the friend of God, was never allowed to see God (Ex 33:20). No one in the OT was allowed to see God, or they would die. Even the High Priest had to very careful on how he entered the Holy of Holies, once every year. Proper sacrifices must be made, before he could enter that special sacred place.
But now, in the fullness of time, the Son has become flesh and revealed God to us. The revealing of the Word of God was the ultimate disclosure of God Himself. No one has seen God, until Jesus came.
The book of Hebrews tells us (in Chapter 1, verses 1-2) “In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days, He has spoken to us through His Son. Yes, Jesus, the only one of a kind Son, God’s very self-expression, became flesh; he put on our humanity, but without sin. God became man: and God spoke to us through His only one of a kind Son. He is one of a kind; the only one of a kind. There can be no other Jesus. There can be nothing nor no person to be able to be put in His place. No church, no tradition, no special pathway of living can be substituted for Jesus; because He is the only one of a kind Savior. The amazing fact is God, who will not allow sin in His presence, came to this sinful earth, clothed in humanity, and treated us with grace.
Moving on to the next verse, we come to John 3:16:
John 3:16 (NASB) “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (NIV) “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Reading this now, with “only one of a kind” placed in the verse:
John 3:16 - For God loved the world like this, that He gave the only one of a kind Son, in order that all the ones trusting in Him should not be destroyed but have eternal life.
Again we see Jesus, called the Son of God, the only one of a kind Son of God. There has never been another one like Jesus. He was and is the only one of a kind; He is special; He is unique. As the Son of God, Jesus has all the attributes of His Father. Jesus is God, but as God, He is unique: he is the only one of a kind Son of God. Jesus must come to earth, to fulfill the wishes of His Father, and become a man that He might die for the sins of the world. God, as spirit, can not fulfill this need for us, because a spirit cannot die. So God sent His Son, the very Word of God described in the first chapter of John, as the incarnate Son, with flesh and blood; to provide that blood as a sin sacrifice for each one of us. This makes Jesus – the only one of a kind, special, unique.
John 1:4 tells us that “Jesus has life”. Yes, and more than that. Jesus is the life, as John 14:6 tells us. The giving of life is a godly attribute. God is life; God creates life. We see in the Gospels how Jesus went about raising the dead, healing the sick, restoring sight, creating bread, turning water into wine. Jesus can create and heal and raise the dead because He is God.
Jesus gives us eternal life, not a better life here on earth. Jesus did not come to improve our living here on earth. He came to give us eternal life; because we were dead in our trespasses and sins. Somehow, some Christians think that they deserve a better life and better treatment, once they have accepted Jesus as their Savior. This is wrong thinking. Jesus came to give us life; because we were dead. Jesus then left us here in this world to be His witnesses. If the world hated Jesus, it will hate us also.
Turn to the next verse with the phrase “The only begotten” is John 3:18.
John 3:18 (NASB) “He who believes in Him (Jesus) is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:18 (NIV) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Now let’s read that verse with “Only one of a kind” placed in it.
John 3:18 (my translation) “The one who is trusting in Him (Jesus) is not judged, but the one not trusting is already judged, because he has not trusted in the name of the Only one of a kind, Son of God.
This verse states that before any one trusts in Jesus, he or she is already under the judgment of God. God tells us where we are. The people of this earth are lost, judged without hope; but there is a way out. Those who trust in the Only one of a kind Son will not be judged. Again, the theme of this verse is Jesus, the Only one of a kind Son of God. This verse is telling us that the American way of life means nothing to God without the Son in your life. Those without Christ are judged already. They may be “good people”, but they are already judged. Religious people are already under God’s judgment and are not acceptable to God, until they trust in the only one of a kind Son of God. Those trusting Christ are not judged anymore; and will never be judged as the world will be judged.
This verse, like John 3:16, tells us that we ought to place very high esteem and praise upon the Son of God, because He is the only one of a kind Savior: there is no other like Him: there will be no other like Him.
These verses also tell us that since Jesus is the Only one of his kind, there can be no other way to forgive sins. We cannot have sins forgiven by trying to do good in order to compensate for sin in our lives. Jesus is the only way to salvation. Jesus has done it all, it is finished. The work is complete. These verses also show us our total inability to save ourselves. We can only be taken out from under the judgment of God through faith in the only one of a kind Son and His sacrifice. This verse also tells us that there is no other way to salvation. No church, no creed, no style of living can save. Salvation is through the Only One of a kind Son of God.
Now let’s look at the 5th time that the Apostle John writes about this unique one, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
1 John 4:9 (NASB) By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
1 John 4:9 (NIV) This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
Substituting the phrase, only one of a kind, again, we read:
1 John 4:9 (my translation) By this, the love of God was demonstrated to us, that God has sent His Only One of a kind Son into the world in order that we might live through Him.
This only one of a kind Son was sent by God the Father into this sinful, dark world for the purpose that we might have life through Him. There is hope, now, because Jesus came. Before Jesus came there was only hope in the covering blood of bulls, lambs and goats. But now Jesus comes to this world, the only one of a kind Son: coming as the Lamb of God.
That is what John 1:14 told us: “and the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us”. We read that this only one of a kind Son, became flesh, a spirit being becoming a human being. Since God is a spirit being, we cannot see Him. So God must become a flesh being, so we who are flesh beings can see and comprehend Him. This verse is telling us that Jesus is the Only one of a kind God, in the flesh.
1 John 4:9 also tells us that life begins, continues and ends with Jesus as your Savior. This verse helps us understand John 15 more also. Jesus is the vine, we are the branches. Branches get their life flowing sap through the vine. We get our life through Jesus. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life”. This is also stated in John 1:4, “in Him was life and the life was the light of men”. We need to keep in touch with Jesus in order to have a fruit bearing life here on earth. If we disconnect from the vine, that is Jesus, through willful sin against brothers and sisters in Christ, we break fellowship with the only one of a kind Savior. Our life here on earth is dependent upon our staying connected with Jesus. You will never experience real life on earth without Jesus; and you will not enjoy continued spiritual life and growth, without fellowship with Christ. John chapter 15 tells us that we have fellowship with Jesus when we are obedient to His commands.
This only one of a kind Savior makes each Christian a new creation or a new creature. We are made new because of Jesus and Jesus keeps us new. And the astonishing fact is that - we are being molded into His image. God can make a sinner into a saint because He sent His only one of a kind Son; to accomplish in our lives, what we could never do on our own efforts. God’s plan was implemented by His only one of a kind Son. Our salvation is dependent upon Jesus. Our spiritual well-being is dependent upon Jesus. Our eternal destiny is dependent upon Jesus.
So I hope that I have shown to you today why we gather every Sunday morning to worship the Father through the Son. We ought to be very grateful for the Father’s desire to save us, the Son’s willingness to pay the price and the HS’s work to keep us saved and reveal the Son in us.
Look to Jesus the author (creator) and finisher (the one who matures you) of your faith. Jesus is the creator of our faith, and the one who matures us in our faith.
But let us also understand that Jesus did not come to give us a better life here on earth, but to give us eternal life.
Jesus did not come to change our circumstance of life, but to give us eternal life.
Jesus did not come to improve our living down here. He came to give us true life.
Let us also understand that this world will never be our home. We are in a world that does not want God as ruler, or as king. We live in a hostile environment. We are being molded into the image of Christ in a world that rejects Christ. We are lights shinning in a dark world.
Jesus did not promise to remove us from this hostile environment, or from our troubles; but He did promise to go through this life with us, through all our trials and problems. But remember, that we have a one of a kind Savior, who wishes to go through life with us. He has given us all we need in order to be a successful witness for Jesus Christ.
- remember what God has done for you, through Jesus His only one of a kind Son.
- remember that you have life in Jesus, because He is life itself.
- remember that you are a new creation in Jesus.
- Don’t look at your circumstances of living; but look forward to your eternal life in Christ and your ultimate destination of Heaven.
- Desire to please the Father, by giving glory to His Son in your walk, each day.