Hebrews 1:5 reports the following words of the Father to Jesus: “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You” (NKJV). What does it mean that Jesus was “begotten,” and when did this happen? Does not this show that Jesus was somehow created by God sometime way in the past, as many believe?
Read Hebrews 1:5; 2 Samuel 7:12-14; Psalm 2:7; and Luke 1:31-32. What promise to David did Paul in Hebrews apply to Jesus?
Jesus was begotten in the sense that He was installed, or “adopted,” by God as the promised ruler, the son of David. The concept of the divine adoption of the ruler was common in the Greco-Roman world and the east. It gave the ruler legitimacy and power over the land.
God promised to David, however, that his Son would be the true legitimate ruler of the nations. He would “adopt” David’s son as His own Son.
Through this process the Davidic King would become God’s protégé and His heir. The covenant is fulfilled in Jesus as the Son of David. God would defeat His enemies and give Him the nations as His inheritance (Psalm 89:27; Psalm 2:7-8).
As we can read in Romans 1:3-4, and Acts 13:32-33, Jesus was publicly revealed as God’s Son. Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration were moments when God identified and announced Jesus as His Son (Matthew 3:17, Matthew 17:5).
Yet, according to the New Testament, Jesus became the “Son of God with power” when He was resurrected and seated at the right hand of God. It was at that moment that God fulfilled His promise to David that his son would be adopted as God’s own Son and His throne over the nations would be established forever (2 Samuel 7:12-14).
Thus, Caesar (symbol of Rome) was not the legitimate “son of god,” ruler of the nations. Instead, Jesus Christ was. The “begetting” of Jesus refers to the beginning of Jesus’ rule over the nations, and not to the beginning of His existence, because Jesus had always existed. There was never a time when Jesus did not exist, because He is God.
In fact, Hebrews 7:3 says that Jesus does not have “beginning of days nor end of life” (cf. Hebrews 13:8) because He is eternal. Thus, the idea of Jesus as God’s “only begotten son” is not dealing with the nature of Christ as deity but with His role in the plan of salvation. Through the incarnation, Christ fulfilled all the covenant promises.