"Why Do Christians Call Jesus the 'Son of God'?"
It may come as a surprise to the Muslim friend of a Christian to find out that both are offended by the same idea: that Jesus would be considered to be the physical son of God. Since the time of Muhammad, Muslims have misunderstood this term Son of God to mean that Jesus was God's Son through physical sonship, as a result of a physical relationship between God and Mary. Although such an idea is as repugnant and blasphemous to Christians as it is to Muslims, nevertheless it has persisted in the minds of Muslims throughout the centuries.
It appears that this deep misunderstanding occurred throughout the confusion of two different terms for the word son. In Arabic, the word walad means "a physical boy born as a result of the marriage of a man and a woman." Of course, if this term is wrongly applied to the conception and birth of Jesus, it gives a totally false impression of physical sonship. However, it should be obvious that the sovereign God would have no physical relationship with a human being.
The Arabic word ibin, however, is the word used for son throughout the Arabic translation of the Bible in reference to Jesus' relationship with God. Ibin-Allah (Son of God) indicates a strong spiritual relationship between Jesus and God, a spiritual sonship in which Jesus was submissive and obedient to God as His Heavenly Father.
It is important to understand that through this careful definition of sonship that Christians agree with the statements in the Qu'ran that God has no partners (a physical wife or physical son). Rather, Jesus was the Son of God in the sense that the Qur'an refers to Him as the Word of God and the Spirit of God -- in the sense of a spiritual relationship. Son of God is a title reflecting this relationship.
In actuality, the Qur'an's treatment of the conception and virgin birth of Jesus makes it very clear that the prophet Muhammed acknowledged the supernatural and holy aspects of the coming of Jesus to earth. In reference to the virgin Mary, the Qur'an states, "And she who was chaste, therefore We breathed into her of Our Spirit and made her and her son a sign for all peoples" (Surah 21, Al-Anbiya, The Prophets: 91). Further honor and respect is accorded to Mary in another passage: "And then the angels said: O Mary! Lo! Allah hath chosen thee and made thee pure, and hath preferred thee above [all] the women of creation....She said: My Lord! How can I have a child when no mortal hath touched me? He said: So [it will be]. Allah createth what He will. If He decreeth a thing, He saith unto it only: Be! and it is" (Surah 3, Ali-'Imran, The Family of Imran: 42, 47).
The Qur'an also points toward the sinless nature of Jesus, for an angel comes to tell Mary, "I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son" (Surah 19, Maryam, Mary:19). At the same time, the Qur'an acknowledges that Jesus was born through the power of the Holy Spirit of God, not through any human agency: "And Mary, daughter of 'Imran, whose body was chaste, therefore We breathed there in something of Our Spirit" (Surah 66, Al-Tahrim, Banning: 12). Thus, in a spiritual sense, one who is born with God's Spirit should be called God's Son.
The unique birth of Jesus Christ, prophesied hundreds of years before, is one of the greatest supernatural events recorded in the Bible. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah foretold this miracle in Isaiah 7:14. This was 700 years before the birth of Jesus. "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel." Isaiah also declared, "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace," (Isaiah 9:6). The Bible makes it very clear that these titles are reserved for the Son of God.
The Bible states that this conception took place through the power of God Himself, not through any human or physical agency. As it was explained to Mary by the angel, "the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). Jesus was therefore different from every other man, in that He was God in the flesh. "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us," the Gospel of John tells us (John 1:14). This is further clarified in Philippians 2:6,7: "Although [Jesus] existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men." Therefore, the Son born to Mary was both fully human and fully divine.
Throughout the ministry of Jesus, others testified repeatedly that He was the Son of God. His disciple Peter declared, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," (Matthew 16:16). Martha, sister of Lazarus and Mary, affirmed, "Yes, Lord, I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes." God the Father solemnly announced in a voice from heaven, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased," (Matthew 3:17, Luke 3:22).
Jesus Himself also gave witness to His Sonship in that He called God His Father. Representative of those many passages is His response to some of the religious critics of His day: "Do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'? If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father" (John 10:36-38).
Throughout the Qur'an, Jesus is given the title Son of Mary, indicating His human connection, while in the gospels of the New Testament the term Son of man is used for this purpose. The prophet Muhammad plainly indicates that Jesus was much more than an ordinary prophet, giving Him a unique position wherever He is mentioned throughout the Qur'an. Not only does the Qur'an indicate that His conception and birth were miraculous, but it also states that He performed many miracles:
"When Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Remember My favour unto thee and unto thy mother; how I strengthened thee with the Holy Spirit, so that thou spakest unto mankind in the cradle as in maturity; and how I taught thee the Scripture and Wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel; and how thou didst shape of clay as it were the likeness of a bird by My permission, and didst blow upon it, and it was a bird by My permission, and thou did heal him who was born blind and the leper by My permission; and how thou didst raise the dead by My permission; and how I restrained the Children of Israel from [harming] these when thou camest unto them with clear proofs, and those of them who disbelieved exclaimed" (Surah 5, Al-Ma'idah, The Table Spread: 110).
According to the Qur'an only God can order living things to come into existence; mere man can't even produce a fly (22 Al-Hajj,The Pilgrimage: 75). Yet here is credited to him the creation of a bird. The Bible further tells us that all things came into being through him (John 1:3). The Qur'an also states that only God can bring the dead to life (Surah 36 Ya-Sin: 12). Above it states that Jesus had the power to do this, and the Bible records specifically that Jesus called Lazarus from the grave when he had been dead four days (John 11:43,44).
Jesus demonstrated on earth the eternal attributes and characteristics which God Himself displays. He exercised divine authority, knew the future as well as the inner thoughts of men's hearts, lived a sinless life, remained changeless in His love, justice and righteousness, and performed miracles by the power of His own will. As He revealed the very nature of God through His life, Jesus explained, "I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me . . . He who has seen Me has seen the Father . . . no one comes to the Father, but through me" (John 14:11, 9,6).
It is therefore clear, on the basis of the Bible, that it is only accurate and appropriate to call Jesus the Son of God--not physically conceived, but spiritually related to God the Father as the living Word. This is one of the central truths of the Christian faith, "that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:31).
(Adapted from Tide of the Supernatural by Kundan Massey, Here's Life Publishers)
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