The Only Begotten Is Not the Only Beloved (HC LD 13, QA 33-34)

Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God. He is the only beloved begotten Son of God. God has only one natural beloved Son, and this makes Jesus Christ eternally and uniquely loved. But the only Begotten is not the only beloved.  

The creeds and Reformed confessions are extremely helpful in understanding what the Bible teaches about only beloved begotten Son of God. The Apostles’ Creed calls Jesus Christ God’s “only begotten Son.” The Nicene Creed says more:

the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

In like manner, the Athanasian Creed, which I encourage you to read and meditate on, adds, “The Son was neither made nor created; he was begotten from the Father alone . . . He is God from the essence of the Father, begotten before time.” To be a Christian, you must be certain about this: God has only one natural Son who is of His essence and is eternally begotten.

Beget means to father or to generate offspring. I have four begotten children who came from me. I came from my father, Leon Shirk, who begot me, and now I have begotten four children. As the ecumenical creeds rightly declare, the Son of God had no beginning but is eternally begotten of the Father. The Son eternally generates from the Father and is God. The Son is not made or created but is of one substance with the Father. I am the son of Leon Shirk, not the son of God, therefore, I am the substance of my father. I am human. The Son of God is the substance of his Father. The Son is God and is solely begotten of the Father. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states, the Son is “the same in substance, equal in power and glory” with the Father. [1] The Son is indeed coeternal and coequal with the Father from whom he is begotten. This is an unfathomable and glorious mystery.

And the only begotten Son of God is the only beloved begotten Son of God. God loves His Son immensely and calls him His “beloved.” The Father said from heaven at the baptism of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Later at the transfiguration, the Father said of His Son Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matt. 17:5). Jesus Christ is the only beloved begotten Son of God who is uniquely, deeply, eternally, and unfathomably loved by the Father. God’s love for His Son is a unique, special, intra-Trinitarian love.

Heidelberg Catechism 33 asks of Jesus Christ, “Why is He called God’s ‘only begotten Son,’ since we also are children of God?” Good question. Heidelberg 33 answers, “Because Christ alone is the eternal, natural Son of God. We, however, are children of God by adoption through grace for Christ’s sake.”

Okay, here is where you and I come in. God has only one beloved begotten Son. That said, Jesus Christ is not the only beloved son. Here’s what I mean. The doctrine of adoption is among the most personal, precious, and reassuring Biblical doctrines for the believer. Brothers and sisters in Christ, through the redemption of Jesus Christ our Lord, God has brought us into His family so that we belong to Him as heirs. Because of Christ, we are true children of God, albeit adopted children. Colossians 1:13–14 says, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” In God’s beloved Son, we have redemption. Ephesians 1:4-6 says:

In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

We were predestined for adoption to God the Father as sons through Jesus Christ the Beloved. It is, therefore, in the preeminent Beloved that we are blessed as beloved adopted children. Predestination secures our identity as well as the love of God for us.

Brothers and sisters, we received the Spirit of adoption as sons. That Spirit of adoption dwells within us and assures and comforts us that we are children of God, in fact, that we have the same Father as the only beloved begotten Son. Romans 8:14–17 assures us with these beautiful words:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Make the connection. The only begotten is not the only beloved. The only begotten is uniquely and specially and preeminently beloved, yet everyone united to him who possesses the Spirit of adoption is also God’s beloved. 1 John 4:10 says that “God sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” In the next verse, John addresses believers and says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Those rescued from their sin and misery by the Beloved are also God’s beloved because they are beloved in him. Paul exhorted the church in Ephesus, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph. 5:1). Paul exhorted the church in Colossae, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col. 3:12). Jesus Christ the Beloved of God is the basis for our being God’s beloved and our loving others.  

Jesus Christ is our Beloved. We deeply love him because he first loved us. God’s Beloved is the means by which we have been brought from the orphanage of Satan and sin to belong to the Father as His beloved (adopted children). Our older beloved brother brought us to our Father to be loved forever. We have become God’s beloved because we have been eternally loved in the Beloved (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4-6; 2 Tim. 1:9).

Perhaps you have not been loved well by those around you. Perhaps you are bullied at school or were abused by a relative, or your spouse left you or is thinking about it, or your children are rebellious and disrespect you, or your boss takes advantage of you. You may not feel particularly loved right now. Have you considered that because of Christ you are God’s beloved in Christ? Almighty God deeply loves you. He promises to work all things for your greatest good and salvation (Rom. 8:28). He will never leave you or forsake you because He deeply loves you (Deut. 31:6; Josh. 1:5; 1 Chron. 28:20; Heb. 13:5). This is the center of your comfort, hope, and joy. This is also the basis for your selfless love of your brothers and sisters in Christ. Again, 1 John 4:11 says, “Beloved [that’s you and me], if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” As beloved adopted sons and daughters of God, our identity compels us to love one other. God’s love for us motivates our love for one another.

Let us look to Christ our Beloved to help us love God’s beloved. May no member of your church be without your selfless love and service.

[1] The Confessions of Our Faith, Fortress Edition, ed. Rev. Brian W. Kinney (Fortress Book Service & Publishers, 2007), 124.

Quotes from the Heidelberg Catechism and creeds are taken from Zacharias Ursinus & Jonathan Shirk, The Heidelberg Catechism: True Comfort for Life & Death (Manheim: Small Town Theologian, 2021). Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

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Jonathan Shirk

Welcome to the online home of Jonathan Shirk, family man, Reformed pastor, author, podcaster, and small town theologian. Whether you're from a small town or big city, may this website help you find deeper comfort and joy in the gospel.

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