The Dual Nature of our Lord's Sonship
Consistent Free Gracers argue that believing on Jesus for eternal life is quivalent to believing that Jesus is Christ and Son of God and does not necessarilly entail affirming His deity. This position has been bitterly attacked by many.
Lou Martuneac and others have accused Consistent Free Gracers such as myself of caring little for truth. If that were the case, one might expect that we would make our rhetorical case more simple and join those who deny the Eternal Sonship of our Lord Jesus Christ. While I am sure there are some Consistent Free Gracers who do deny the Eternal Sonship of our Lord, I believe that this doctrine is very important. Nevertheless, while the Bible affirms that Jesus is eternally in a relationship of Sonship to the Father, He is also entered into a new position of Sonship by virtue of the incarnation. Thus, the messianic title 'Son of God' in most cases refers more to our Lord's humanity than to His deity.
Let us compare the title 'Son of God' with the title 'Lord.' A lot of Christians in their rightful eagerness to defend the deity of our Lord make the mistake of exagerrating the importance of the title Lord or kyrios. They make the mistake of assuming that because the term Lord sometimes refers to deity, it always does so. However, the term in some contexts may simply mean a 'ruler' or 'master.'
The term 'Lord' also has a messianic usage. As we see in Acts 2:
36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Here Jesus is said to have been 'made Lord.' Although Jesus Christ is eternally the Lord God, as a man, He was appointed as Lord, meaning that He is made God's representative of mankind and heir of all things.
Likewise, although the term Son of God is owned by the one who is eternally the Son of God the Father, it is also a messianic term that indicates His status as man.
Adam was said to be the 'Son of God' (Luke 3:38). Jesus is the last Adam, the new representative head of humanity who fulfills God's gift of heirship to Adam. Likewise, Israel as a nation is said to be the son of God (Hosea 11:1). Jesus Christ is the representative of Israel and the heir to God's promises to that nation. Thus, Christ's sonship embraces that same aspect.
It is true that the term 'son of God' is rarely applied to the messiah in first century Jewish literature. Nevertheless, the use of it by some New Testament characters (Martha, Nathaniel) would support the contention that this usage was not unknown.
There are certain passages where the use of Son of God as a messianic term is clear:
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
Here being the Son of God is identified with being heir to the throne of David. This is clearly shown in 1 Chronicles 28:
5 and of all my sons, (for the LORD hath given me many sons,) he hath chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel.
6 And he said unto me, Solomon thy son, he shall build my house and my courts: for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father.
Nathaniel also makes this identification:
49 Nathan'a-el answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
Thus, we must conclude that believing in Jesus as Son of God is not necessarilly a matter of affirming our Lord's deity. So what does it mean to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God?
To believe in Christ is to trust in Him. It is to believe that He is able to accomplish that work to which the Father has entrusted Him, namely to give life to lost sinners. We see this in John 11:
25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26 and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.
To believe that Jesus guarantees everlasting life is to join with Martha in affirming that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.