Bible Studies > Self-Portraits of God: Lesson 3

Self-Portraits of God

Studies in the Life and Work of Jesus

Lesson 3: Snap-shots in Titles

Only begotten

Many of these thoughts were presented to us by Dr. Raoul Dederen in a class in Christology, in about 1965.)

The Story

Our study begins with the simple statement found in Matthew 3:17—this is My Beloved Son. This phrase comes to us from the account of Jesus baptism. This record simply states that John was preaching about the One coming after him who was greater than himself; this One would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and fire, John said.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.

And John tried to prevent Him saying, I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?
But Jesus answered and said to him, Permit it to be so now for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he allowed Him.

When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.

And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, this is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Setting and Analysis of the Story

This is My Beloved Son. This title is so clear that it would need neither comment nor explanation, except that this title, son, appears in one of the best-known verses of Scripture with an alteration. As you probably know John 3:16 tells us that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Now we have been interesting issue—why does God’s beloved Son become His only-begotten Son when the promise is that faith in Him brings everlasting life? What is the meaning of the phrase only-begotten? What does this phrase add to the concept beloved?

The phrase only-begotten is a translation of the Greek word monogenes. Yes, you are going to have to learn this word! This word appears in the Greek New Testament nine times; five of those times it is applied to Jesus. This is a most fascinating concept.

Meanings of Monogenes, when applied to others then Jesus

In Luke 7:11-15 we read about a dead man being carried out of the city of Nain by a large group of people at the same time that Jesus and a large group of people were entering the city. When Jesus saw the weeping-widow mother walking behind the people carrying her son’s body He had compassion on her and said to her, Do not weep. Then He came and touched the open coffin and those who carried him stood still, and He said, Young man, I say to you arise! And the young man sat up and began to talk. And Jesus presented him to his mother.

The relevance to our study of this story is in the description of the young man. Luke gives to us; the only son of his mother and she was a widow. The only-son phrase appearing in Luke’s Gospel is a translation of the word monogenes. By this story we find our first definition of the word monogenes; the only one, irreplaceable. The father has died and there are no other children. And because the mother is a widow, he is also the needed one. The dictionary meaning of monogenes is, in general, the same; mono, meaning one; and genes, from ginomai, meaning come to be. The dictionary meaning is one-of-a-kind.

In Luke 8:42, Jairus’ daughter is a monogenes daughter. This father may have had sons, but this was an only daughter.

Luke 9:38 adds to our study when we read there of a man calling to Jesus from a crowd, asking Jesus to look at the son of him, because, “he is monogenes to me.” This boy has had many bad experiences, and Jesus heals the boy, but the reason that he is monogenes is not given. This story simply tells us that to the father he is monogenes.


One irreplaceable son, the needed one, an only daughter, and an unknown quality, so far make up the meaning of monogenes.

Hebrews 11:17. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.

In this passage the son Isaac is of course not put to death, and literally resurrected-that would make a monogenes, but he is the son of his mother, being born after she was expected to be able to have children. This makes him a monogenes, as long as she did not have more children. Of course Abraham, Isaac’s father was old when he was born, but after the death of Sarah, Isaac’s mother, Abraham had other children by his second wife.

To see Isaac’s monogenes title coming from the fact of the age of his mother is of course adequate reason for him to be called monogenes. But there is much more to the story of Isaac! He was the son of a promise, which would qualify him for the monogenes title, too, but there is more! Isaac was the son through whom the promised Messiah was to find His genetic family roots. Isaac’s descendants became the tribes of Israel. Isaac is not only the promised son, he is the son through whom the promises made by God to Abraham were to find fulfillment. Here the monogenes is the unanticipated, divinely provided, channel of fulfillment.

The Portrait

In the New Testament, when the word Monogenes is not applied to Jesus, the picture we are presented with is drawn by association; the portrait is of a divinely provided irreplaceable channel of blessing.

Meanings of Monogenes when applied to Jesus

The first occurrence of this word when it is applied to Jesus is found in John 1:14.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

This passage parallels the story of the boy; the significance of the monogenes title is not clear; unless it is that He is full of grace and truth. The implied message in the English language is that He was fathered by God; but that is not the meaning of monogenes. The concept of becoming a parent is not part of this word. That element comes shortly! With another title!

John 1:18. No one has seen God at anytime, the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

In this passage we have a great definition for the significance of monogenes. Here we are told that the One who knows God perfectly has set forth in language the One no man has ever seen. This means that the monogenes is the revealer of the unseen One; the accurate representative of the father.

1 John 4:9. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son Into the world, that we might live through Him.

Here the message is easy to see-the sent from God, the monogenes Son, is the One through whom eternal life is brought with in our reach.

John 3:16. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

In this verse the Only Begotten (monogenes) grants everlasting life to all who believe in Him.

John 3:18. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

The very interesting question this text presents to us is in regard to its reference to the name of the Son of God.

This chapter, chapter three, starts with the statement that there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.

This man came to Jesus by night. (The one called Son of God in verse 18.)

This name, Jesus, is the name that the angel instructed Joseph he was to call the son to be born to Mary, because, he said, He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

Therefore the significance of monogenes in John 3:18, where it is connected to the title Son of God, and both are applied to Jesus, is that this monogenes is the One who, if believed in, removes the condemnation which attaches to those born in the world, and saves His people, those believing in His name, for the everlasting life promised in the preceding verse, John 3:16.


When Jesus is called the monogenes, translated the only begotten, there is no reference to anyone being fathered.

There are several messages carried by the title as it is attached to Jesus. He as the monogenes is full of grace and truth, the accurate representative of the unseen Father, sent by Him, to bring everlasting life within the reach of those who believe in Him. This means that by extension, Jesus is the needed one; a meaning of monogenes that we found being carried by this word earlier.

He is also the remover of the condemnation which attaches to all born in this world. Jesus, the only begotten, with whom none of His people perishes.

Here we see that the meaning of monogenes, though painted with different colors than in our earlier texts, has the same significance—a divinely provided irreplaceable channel of blessing.

MONOGENES-one kind of Gift; the only one you cannot live without.

The Portrait

This self-portrait is a double exposure- covering a profile of Jesus we see the glory of the Father.

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