I know the Apostles believed in one God, and that Jesus was that one God manifest in the flesh. So why do they use phrases like Son of God?
I have often heard this question from “seasoned saints” or even young ministers who are a bit perplexed with what to do with passages of Scripture that point to this type of biblical distinction. First we must always remember that all these types of New Testament titles have their root in the Old Testament scriptures. Any approach to interpret these phrases in any other way moves beyond the boundaries of God’s Self-revelation.
Second, we must keep in mind these passages cannot refer to a trinitarian model of Jesus as the “Eternal Son” or “God the Son.” These phrases are not only never used in Scripture, the concept is not there at all. We know this because of simple facts like people are called the “sons of God” in both the Old Testament and New Testament. The term “son of God” is about humanity being in correct relationship with God. We are called in Scripture the “sons of God” in the theological sense. Any other interpretation must necessarily be brought in from outside of both the New Testament and Old Testament revelation of God and then read into the text.
When applied to Jesus, the term “son of God” refers to the one God of the Old Testament incarnate in the man Jesus. We need to understand, preach, and teach about this type of language because it deals with the other side of the incarnation. Yes, Jesus is God. Further, He’s the one God of the Old Testament incarnate. But we cannot stop there. He is also the man, the sacrifice, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He is our High Priest, our go-between, our advocate, the only way to the Father (notice not the trinity). The Writers of the New Testament spoke this way to show His role as true “son of God” which points out that Jesus won that place as an obedient man, which was the only way He could become a Savior (Phil. 2:5-11).
God purposed the role He would take as “son of God” in eternity, but that purpose only realized itself in a history of true human struggle, submission, and obedience. That is the glory of the incarnation. The true covenant servant revealed; revealed because it was won – and won in obedience as man.
That victory created the possibility of a new union, or new covenant, because the price of a broken covenant was paid. Jesus, as a man, obeyed and lived out the glory of God by being obedient in opposition to every other human that has sinned. He became an obedient man to purchase salvation; but went even further, so that we could also share in that same glory (Jn. 1:14; 17:1, 10, 22). All of this language points to salvation and our new life in the Spirit.
The truth that is available to “whosoever will” stands as a door of entrance back into fellowship with the Holy One, and that door has a name: Jesus, or “God has become my salvation.” Acts 4:12 is both a challenge and a comfort. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. There’s no salvation outside of His work as man. Obedience to Acts 2:38 is essential to salvation. That’s what the New Testament writers under the inspiration of the Spirit keep pointing out.