What Does “Son of God” Mean?

For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption.

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In this article/Bible study we’re going to take a quick look at the different meanings of the phrase “son of God.” If you’ve spoken to some Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons (or Latter-Day Saints as they prefer to be called today) you may be curious as to how they can seem to believe the same thing that you and your pastor believe. It is amazing how people can use the same words, especially when referring to religious matters and mean something completely different. As a general rule when witnessing to someone in another religion (and yes, the organization called Jehovah’s Witness and Mormonism are different religions than Christianity) remember: If in doubt, ask: What exactly do you mean by that?

Remember that there is a wealth of information online from people who were once Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons who go in detail to explain what people of these faiths really mean when they say certain things. If you’re interested in a quality resourse for learning more about these religions and how to witness to them I would highly recommend you check out Mike Winger’s videos, it will be time well spent to help equip you in your witnessing for Christ (https://www.youtube.com/user/EkimRegniw).

Okay, so let’s dive in. From reading the Scriptures there are four different possible meanings for the phrase: son of God.

  1. Son of God can refer to humanity in general.

Yet, Yahweh, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we all are the work of your hands. – Isaiah 64:8

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ – Acts 17:24-28 NASB

… son of Enos, son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God. – Luke 3:38 CSB

      2. Son of God can refer to the angels.

And there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before Jehovah; and Satan came also among them. – Job 1:6 DBY

Now it came to pass when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful, and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. – Genesis 6:1-2 NKJV

3. Son of God can refer to those who have been born of the Holy Spirit (aka Christians).

… for through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:26 CSB

…the Word… God… was in the world, and the world was created through Him, and yet the world did not recognize Him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. – from John 1:1,10-13 CSB

For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father! ” The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs ​— ​heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ ​— ​if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. – Romans 8:14-17 CSB

4. Son of God can refer to Jesus as the eternal God, co-existing as the Father, Son, and Spirit.

“I and the Father are one.” Again the Jews picked up rocks to stone him. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these works are you stoning me? ” “We aren’t stoning you for a good work,” the Jews answered, “but for blasphemy because you ​— ​being a man ​— ​make yourself God.” – John 10:30-33 CSB

The Jews understood that when Jesus called Himself the son of God, He was claiming to be equal to God for just as the son of a man is also a man, for Jesus to claim to be the son of God and one with the Father was to claim deity. He claimed that He was God and the Jews also proclaim this in the Scriptures though of course Jesus proclaimed it as truth and they proclaimed it as blasphemy.

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 NASB

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16 RSV (Notice how it says, “only Son” this along with all of Hebrews chapter 1 emphasizes that Jesus is not an angel.)

I wanted to give you a short but helpful resource in understanding what the Bible and people can mean when they say, “son of God”. When a Jehovah’s Witness (JW) or Mormon (LDS) say that Jesus is a son of God, what they mean is: according to the teachings in their religion they believe that Jesus is an angel, a little “g” god, a created being, unworthy of worship, prayer, or equality with God the Father. As I linked earlier, please watch Mike Wingers video’s over the Jehovah’s Witness faith and Mormon/Latter-Day Saints faith if you are witnessing to them to help you understand what they believe and how to witness to them.

If you’d like to read more about my own personal studies from the Scriptures over this topic, you can read these three articles linked below. If you’re only interested in reading one of, I would recommend you take the time to read article 2.

Article 1 Who does the Bible say that Jesus is?

Article 2 Who did Jesus say that He was?

Article 3 Who did Jesus followers say that He was?

Thank you for pursuing the truth. May God bless you in your search.

 

Featured image by Thomas Despeyroux

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About the Author

Jennifer Quinn is just a woman saved by grace and undeservedly blessed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Her focus is on her God and Savior, husband, children, homeschooling, and whenever she glances out the window... it's on her backyard chickens. She makes mistakes and sometimes looses focus on her Savior in the busyness and stresses of life. Fortunately her God is a patient and gentle teacher who can work even the stresses and messes of this life into something that points to and gives glory to Him. Her hope is that she might share a little bit of the wisdom and encouragement that God is teaching her with her sisters and brothers in Christ for their good and for His glory.