“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”John 1:14
μονογενής (“one and only”)
“The only begotten from the Father,” (ASV, NASB).
“The only son from the Father,” (ESV, RSV).
“The only begotten of the Father,” (KJV, NKJV).
“The one and only Son, who came from the Father,” (NIV).
“The one and only Son from the Father,”
“The one begotten Son of the Father,” (WYC).
“One-of-a-kind… like Father, like Son,” (The Message).
“A father’s only son,” (NRSV).
Well, which is it? I remember discussions all the way back into my childhood over which translation is more accurate and which does an injustice to the birth of the Lord Jesus (or to those who would come to believe on him for salvation). But certainly the point of all faithful translation work in this verse is to attempt to convey the uniqueness of this Christ-child as presented in the words of the original manuscript.
Members of the early church struggled to reconcile the biblical teaching on the hypostatic union of Christ. Docetists believed that Jesus only seemed to be human, but in actuality was merely a spirit in human form. Arains took the opposite approach, believing that Jesus was fully human but was less than fully God.
But here, in a single word of Scripture, we are presented with the uniqueness of this Christ-child. He would not fit nicely into any of our preconceived boxes. Our finite human minds would never be able to fully comprehend the infinite truth of this supernatural union. Simple faith would need to pave the way to an orthodoxy that would be faithful to God’s revelation—both in the written word and the incarnate Word. For all generations forward, this Christmas Gift would be cause not just for celebration, but for awe and wonder.
The Greek word μονογενής is translated other places in the New Testament as the only child of a father or mother (Luke 7:12, 8:42, 9:38, Hebrews 11:17). But John, no doubt preferring to highlight the uniqueness of the Christ, only uses this word of Jesus (here, in John 3:16-18 and in 1 John 4:9). It is a compound word in Greek, made from the words “only” and “generated/born.” Jesus is the only generated/born one from the Father.
The Holy Spirit implanted the divine Seed into Mary’s virgin womb (Luke 1:34-35) where it adjoined with her egg to conceive the most unique life that would ever develop in a human belly and be born into the human world. Jesus would be the only human child begotten of the Heavenly Father.
The wonder of this moment can only be matched by the gravity of its implications. Because Jesus was the Son of the Heavenly Father, he had claim to Heaven’s kingdom (Mark 1:15). Because he was the Son of an earthly mother, he had claim to human representation (1 Corinthians 15:45-49). Only Jesus Christ could bridge the gap between man’s sinfulness and God’s holiness. Only he could mediate eternally between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). He is the only one. He is the μονογενής.
“The wonder of this moment can only be matched by the gravity of its implications. Only Jesus can bridge the gap between man’s sinfulness and God’s holiness. He is the μονογενής of the Father.”Tweet
This Jesus came to his own (the Jews) but his own did not receive him. They rejected the most unique, most awe-inspiring gift ever given—the gift of eternal light and life in a world full of darkness and death.
Like any other gift, the gift of forgiveness from sin and eternal life in Jesus Christ is a gift that must be received, if it is to be yours…
“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,” (John 1:13-14).
Have you believed in and called on the name of Jesus for salvation? There is no one else who can bridge the gap between your sinfulness and God’s holiness. There is only one. He is the μονογενής of the Father. And he is full of grace and truth.
Come see this Jesus. Behold his glory.
Contemplate the wonder of the Gift from Heaven.
Believe on him this Christmas and be born into the family of God.
Grace and Peace,