The Creed of Chalcedon
one and the same…only-begotten
I have spoken of the importance of this word, “begotten,” on several occasions, so I will only briefly cover its significance here. Though the English word, “beget,” has fallen out of usage, it simply means to father a child in the natural sense. I begat two daughters whom my wife birthed. I can only beget human beings. Neither I nor any other man can beget anything else. The same is true for all of nature, and the same is true for God. Does this mean that God answers to nature? Of course not, for God created nature. It means that God has chosen to answer to the laws which He Himself has created in His own wisdom—which manifests to us the magnanimity of His grace. So when God begets, He begets after His own nature, His own kind—which means that He begets God, in this case, His Son. What an important little word “begotten” is, for in that word the divinity of the Son is gathered up and expressed.
So allow me now to discuss that other word, “only.” The Greek word is, monogenes, meaning, “only-begotten.” That’s the “mono” part. The emphasis is on our Lord’s uniqueness as God’s Son—His only Son. We are certainly God’s children as well (Acts 17:28-29), but not in the same way as Christ Jesus. All human beings are God’s children by creation, and some are His children by redemption. But only Christ is God’s Son by nature; that is, Christ is from God and shares God’s nature so that the two are Father and Son. And no one else, no other being in heaven, earth, or hell, can make such a claim. Now we should add that the Holy Spirit “proceeds” from the Father (John 15:26) and so shares the divine nature of the Father as well and so completes the divine persons of the Triune God. No, I cannot tell you the difference from “being begotten of” the Father and “proceeding from” the Father, only that Scripture teaches us so, and that is enough for us.
The uniqueness of the Son carries extraordinary significance for Christian theology. First, the Son is the only one who reveals to us the Father (John 14:8-11). From creation to consummation, he is the Son who has and will continue to reveal the Father to us. This is why he is called, “the Word” (John 1:1-2). Second, the Son is the only one who can redeem us though his sacrificial death and resurrection. As divine Revealer and Redeemer the Son acts in his office as Mediator—the one who teaches us about the Father (Prophet), brings us before the Father (Priest) and reigns over us from the Father’s right hand (King). He is the one and only Son, the only-begotten, the only Mediator between God and man—the God-man—Jesus Christ.