Begotten Not Made
Oct 12, 2015
There have been many classic controversies in the history of the Church, most of which were “settled” by Church Councils. These Councils, however, were made up of bishops who were largely carnally minded religious men and did not truly reflect the humility and love that had been seen in Jesus. For this reason, these Councils were more similar to the Jewish Sanhedrin and based upon human understanding, rather than to the biblical Council of the Lord, which functions by revelation.
The fourth century, beginning about the year 318, found the Church obsessed with the Aryan controversy in regard to the nature of Christ. The fifth century controversy, beginning in the year 400, was in regard to Universal Reconciliation. In both cases Church historians describe to us in vivid terms just how carnal—and often hateful—some of the bishops were toward their opponents.
The Council of Nicea (325) and later at Constantinople (381) focused upon the nature of Christ and His relationship with the Trinity. The earlier Council established the Nicean Creed, which is used in many churches to this day:
We believe in One God, the Father, Almighty/the ruler of all, the maker of all things, visible and invisible; and in one Lord, Jesus Christ the Son of God, begotten as the only Son out of the Father; that is out of the substance [ousia] of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, homoousios with the Father, through whom all things came to be, things in heaven and things in earth; who, for the sake of us human beings and our salvation, descended and became flesh, became human, suffered, and rose on the third day, ascended into the heavens and is coming to judge living and dead; and in the Holy Spirit.
As for those who say, “There was when he was not,” or “he did not exist before he was begotten,” or “he came into being out of non-existence,” or who fantasize that the Son of God is [made] from some other hypostasis or ousia, or that he is created or mutable or changeable, such people the catholic and apostolic church anathematizes.
(Taken from A. Bryden Black, The Lion, the Dove, & the Lamb, An Exploration into the Nature of the Christian God as Trinity, p. 56)
The central issue established at the Council of Nicea was that Jesus was “begotten not made,” and that He was of one “substance” (ousia) with the Father. Scripture is clear that Jesus was begotten of God, but what are the implications of this? That was the controversy. Arius, a presbyter in the church of Alexandria, believed and taught the things that the Council ultimately anathematized. He said that Jesus did not exist prior to His incarnation, and that Jesus was fully man and not God.
I have expressed my view many times in past studies, showing the prophecies from Exodus 15:2, Psalm 118:14, and Isaiah 12:2, 3, which tell us in plain Hebrew that Yahweh has become my Yeshua and that He is my God and my fathers’ God. Furthermore, the New Testament often points out that the Old Testament referred to Jesus (Yeshua, “salvation”) whenever it used that word. Compare Isaiah 12:3 with John 7:38, John 4:22, and Luke 2:30. Jesus is our “Salvation” and He is the One who sends the Holy Spirit to flow out from us as living springs of water.
Hence, I find no fault with the Nicean Creed in this matter. It is plain that Arius was not familiar with the prophetic implications of Jesus’ Hebrew name Yeshua. Scripture shows us that Yahweh, who gave the law to Moses, was the same Being who was begotten in Mary many years later. The incarnation was the moment when Yahweh became Yeshua. He had a change of form, not of substance, as He moved from spirit to flesh.
In those days the controversy itself forced the Church to find terminology that best expressed the nature of Christ. Various bishops had their own terms which they wanted to include in the established Creed. Hence, the Creed seems to be redundant: “God from God, light from light, true God from true God.” Is “God” different from “true God” (or “very God,” as some have translated it)?
The Nicean Creed said almost nothing of the Holy Spirit: We believe … in the Holy Spirit.” It was as if the Holy Spirit was acknowledged in the end as an afterthought. The later Council of Constantinople enlarged upon this in its expanded Creed:
“And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son is co-worshipped and co-glorified, who has spoken through the Prophets.”
(Taken from A. Bryden Black, The Lion, the Dove, & the Lamb, An Exploration into the Nature of the Christian God as Trinity, p. 57)
Begotten Not Made
The first creation was made (Heb., asah). The New Creation is begotten (Heb. yalad; Greek, gennao).
To be made, or hand-crafted, is good, but it is not the same as being begotten into a family. There is a different relationship between that which we make and the children that we beget. This is how Scripture distinguishes between the two creations. The manner in which something comes into being is important. When we make something, we use an existing substance that is outside of ourselves. A child, however, is begotten in our own image and originates from the substance of the parents.
As it was with Christ, so also is it with all those who are begotten of God. John 1:13 says,
13 who were begotten not of blood(line), nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. [The Emphatic Diaglott]
One might fashion an image of a child out of wood, stone, or copper, but such a work remains dead. Life begets life, and so our children are begotten with life—that is, the same level and quality of life that the parent enjoys.
Sin and Death
When Luke 3:38 refers to “Adam, the son of God,” nothing is said about the manner in which he was created. For that detail, we must go to Genesis 2:7, where “God formed man of dust from the ground.” God is pictured as a Master Craftsman, using substance, rather than by begetting him as a true son. As such, Adam was given life when God breathed life into his nostrils after he had been fashioned from earth material.
Adam’s “life” later changed into a lesser quality when God judged him for sin. He became mortal. Life became temporary. Further, by the law of Biogenesis, where like begets like, Adam passed this mortal life to his children. His seed had become corruptible and mortal. Theoretically, if he had not sinned, he might have begotten sons of God with incorruptible seed. But this did not happen, for it was in the divine plan to establish something better. The sons of God were to be begotten of God, not merely made by God.
So 1 Peter 1:23 says,
23 for you have been born again [gennao, “begotten”] not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God. 24 For “all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, 25 but the word of the Lord abides forever.” And this is the word which was preached to you.
Peter was quoting from Isaiah 40:6-8, which compares the flesh to grass and flowers. Perishable (mortal) seed begets only mortal children, who spring to life for a season but eventually die. On the other hand, the Word is imperishable seed that begets immortal sons of God. This is the New Creation Man, which is begotten spiritually by faith in “the word which was preached to you.”
When a person receives the incorruptible seed of the gospel-word by faith, that person is begotten by the Father on the same pattern as when Jesus was begotten in Mary. Even as Mary brought forth the “only-begotten Son of God,” so also are we bringing forth the sons of God. John says that it is not by physical childbirth, not by bloodline, not by the will of the flesh, not by the will of man, but by the will of God.
At the present time, we are pregnant, as it were, with “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Christ in us has not yet been “born.” We were begotten through the feast of Passover, sustained through the provisions of Pentecost, and brought to birth through the feast of Tabernacles. At this point in time, the feast of Tabernacles has not yet been fulfilled, and we observe it only as a prophesied event that is our “hope.”
Even so, the New Creation Man within us is alive and well. In fact, this holy seed ought to rule our lives even today as we walk in the Spirit. 1 John 3:9 says (literally),
9 Every one having been begotten of God does not sin, because this Seed abides in Him, and he cannot sin because he has been begotten by God.
John was not referring to people in the flesh, but to the New Creation Man that has been begotten by God within us. That New Man within us (Christ in you) is incapable of sin, because the Seed of God abides in Him, even as it abode in Jesus Himself. This must be contrasted with the fleshly man that was begotten physically by mortal, corruptible parents. The fleshly man cannot help but sin, even as the spiritual man cannot help but be perfect.
At the present time, we live with both the “old man” (Romans 6:6; Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9) and the New Creation Man. We have two “I’s” or two identities (Romans 7:25), and we are called to identify ourselves with the spiritual man, forsaking our old identity in Adam and in the flesh.
The question is, Who is the real you? It is a legal question, and we have the right to go before the divine court and to change our identity (name). This is what happens when a person is begotten of God, although most new Christians are unaware of the legal implications of their profession of faith. The change of identity is recorded anyway, unless the person insists on retaining his old fleshly identity. Unfortunately, there has been much confusion in the Church, because there is too little teaching about it. Apparently, this problem characterized the early Church as well, for Paul mentions it in 1 Corinthians 4:15 (The Emphatic Diaglott),
15 For though you may have myriads of leaders [paidagogos, “child-tenders”] in Christ, yet not many fathers; for in Christ I begot you through the glad tidings [i.e., the gospel].
Paul recognized that there were many leaders who took care of their spiritual children, but there were “not many fathers” who could present the gospel as being the incorruptible seed of the word. Perhaps he meant to say that there were many Church members, who were converted by persuasion by the wisdom of men, but fewer actual believers who had been begotten spiritually by the seed of the word.
To put it in Nicean terms, there were (and still are) many Christians by religion or by Christian doctrines who have been “made” into Christians, but far fewer who have actually been “begotten” from above. Our way of life manifests which type of Christian we are. The fruit tells everyone what sort of tree we are, or how well we succeed in identifying with the New Creation Man.
This is part 1 of a series titled "Begotten Not Made." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones