[Jhn 1:18 NASB] 18 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 gives us quite the barrage of theological bombshells in the verse in rapid succession. No one has seen God ever. Yet, we have the only begotten God! having the only begotten God among us, still we haven’t seen God. The only begotten God has explained Him. Let’s dig into this idea of the only begotten God.
What is “Begotten”
The idea of Jesus being the “only begotten God” or the “only begotten Son” is one of the central tenets of the Christian faith – Christian theology 101. It is certainly a strongly scriptural notion (Jhn 1:14, Jhn 1:18, Jhn 3:16, Jhn 3:18, Act 13:33, Heb 1:5, Heb 5:5, Heb 11:17, 1Jo 4:9). It is the centerpiece of the Nicene Creed:
[We believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.
One of my favorite books to this day is C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. He has such a wonderful way of explaining difficult theological concepts. He explains it this way:
“We don’t use the words begetting or begotten much in modern English, but everyone still knows what they mean. To beget is to become the father of: to create is to make. And the difference is this. When you beget, you beget something o the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set – or he may make something more like himself than a wireless set: say, a statue. If he is clever enough carver he may make a statue which is very like man indeed. But, of course, it is not a real man; it only looks like one. It cannot breathe or think. It is not alive.
Now that is the first thing to get clear. What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is not man. That is why men are not Son’s of God in the sense that Christ is. They may be like God in certain ways, but they are not things of the same kind. They are more like statues or pictures of God.”
Why is the “only begotten God” important to us?
I think this is an incredibly helpful and wonderful thing to know about Jesus. It is an essential component to His role as a savior for us. I know that the things that Jesus says and does for us as explained in the scriptures carry tremendous weight. This isn’t just some prophet or some teacher or some wise person. We are all rightly distrustful of prophets – is this really a word from God or is it just some guy speculating in God’s name (Ezekiel 13)? One of the main components of modern life, and of our current political and social environment, is that no one really knows who to trust or what to believe. We have people who are so distrustful that they doubt the earth is round! We feel we can’t trust science, we can’t trust photographs, we can’t trust videos because they can all be faked. Most people distrust journalism, whose chief job is to deliver current news. Many people start to feel that everything is fake, and that our own subjective feelings are the only standard of judgment we really have.
But as Christians, we have the only begotten God. He was begotten, not made. He has explained God, not only through His words and teachings, not only by the example of His life, but by His ignoble death for our sins. We have an anchor for our lives, a true center for our souls (Hebrews 6:19).
The Bosom of the Father
The scripture says that this Word has become flesh, this only begotten God, is in the “bosom” of the Father. What does this mean? Leon Morris, in his great commentary on the gospel of John, says it indicates a closeness with overtones of affection. It is the Greek word “kolpos” which seems to simply mean, the front of the body between the arms. It is a word used to indicate the way a child nestles in its mother’s arms against her chest, comforted by the warmth and the affectionate beating heart there. This verse does not say that the only begotten God “was” in the bosom of the Father. He “is” there, he was and continues to exist in this affectionate safe warm embrace of the Father. in fact, the thing that Jesus has expressed to us is the enormous affection that God the Father has for us.
Jesus is the only begotten God, the single unique trustworthy voice of truth to us. He has, through His words and His life and His death and His resurrection, explained God to us. And it si not that God is infinite, or transcendent, or omniscient, or omnipresent, or in any other way alien to us. What He has explained is that God loves us, that God has a great affection for us, like a mother with her beloved child.God has great and tender affection for us.
Amen! God, strengthen us to cling to your breast and to snuggle close to Your tender merciful sweet love for us this day now and forever. We trust what You dear and only Son Jesus Christ has shown us of your love. Amen.