The Title “Only Begotten”
T. Holliday, Ottawa, Canada
In the original Scriptures there is a sweetness in this title which is not apparent in the English translation “only begotten”, and if the emphasis is placed only on the word “begotten” then the meaning is altogether obscured. For example, Isaac is called Abraham’s “only begotten” son, Heb. 11. 17, so that if a question of generation were involved then this would not be true, since Abraham had other sons. Rather, Isaac had no rival in Abraham’s affections; he was Abraham’s only one - his darling.
The word is used (i) in Luke 7. 12, “the only son of his mother”, (ii) in Luke 8. 42, “he had one only daughter”, (iii) in Luke 9. 38, “he is mine only child”. These verses indicate that “only begotten” means one standing alone, the sole object of the thoughts and love of the heart. Add to this both intimacy of relationship and community of nature, then we have clearly the meaning of this title as it belongs to the Lord. Christ ever did and ever will occupy this peculiar and unique place in the Father’s thoughts and affections; He is the Father’s “only begotten”.
The Holy Spirit uses this title “only begotten” at least five times in reference to Christ; on each occasion it is very beautiful and impressive.
1. To exalt to the uttermost the glory of the Word become flesh, the Spirit declares through John, “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father”, John 1. 14.
2. When the Spirit would convey to our hearts the perfect eternal intimacy and union between the glorious Persons of the Godhead, the unspeakable endearment of the Son to His Father, the loftiest possible idea of the majesty of the revelation of the truth, the perfection of the manifestation of God in Christ, the Spirit again declares through John, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him”, 1. 18.
3. To show the benevolence of God in highest splendour towards the world, the Spirit says, “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”, 3.16.
4. To show unbelief as the extreme of human guilt, putting man under condemnation at the present time, the Spirit warns, “he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God”, 3. 18.
5. To show both the magnificence of the benevolence of God toward His people, and God’s great desire for a living response, the Spirit affirms, “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. Observe that it is not a matter of possessing life, but of living. This involves responding in a practical way, exhibiting in our lives the beneficent features of the divine nature in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that God Himself may be seen and known in His family (all born again persons) while in this scene of contrariety and evil - a magnificent triumph for God.
How the glory and beauty of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, shine in the sacred page so as to impress our hearts and thoughts with a yearning to know Him in a deeper and fuller way, so that there may be in our hearts no rivals or idols.
It is most impressive to note that Christ anticipatively uses the word “only one - darling” of His bride the Church, when He was in the midst of the most intense sufferings: “Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog”, Ps. 22. 20; (the word “darling” is in the feminine form). The bridegroom, speaking of the bride, says, “she is the only one of her mother”, Song 6. 9. How profoundly touching to contemplate that the Church holds this unique place in the affections of Christ!
May the divine love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have a larger place in our hearts, so that our service of praise may increase in volume until that glad day when every chord in the vast universe will reverberate with His praises.