We’ve been looking at the names of God and how his names help us understand him better. This week I want to look at the name, ‘One and Only’.
The name ‘One and Only’ comes from one Greek word, monogenes which the old King James Version translated as ‘begotten’.
John’s gospel calls the Son of God the ‘One and Only’ a few times: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only (monogenes) Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only (monogenes) Son ‘ (John 3:16-18).
And earlier he said: ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only (monogenes), who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'” From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only (monogenes), who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.’ (John 1:14-18)
But what does ‘One and Only’ mean in reference to the Son of God? Firstly, we understand that the word monogenes is used to show someone is an only child. In Luke’s gospel, we read of Jesus meeting a woman grieving for her dead son: ‘As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out– the only (monogenes) son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry”’ (Luke 7:12-13). The situation is all the more moving when you learn that this woman who has lost her husband, now has lost her only (monogenes) son.
But the word monogenes is also used to refer to Isaac: ‘By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son (monogenes), even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”’ (Hebrews 11:17-18). And the word here can’t mean Isaac was an only child, as Ishmael was born to Abraham before Isaac. Rather, the word here is emphasising that Isaac is a unique son, different from all Abraham’s other children. Why? One reason is that he is heir of God’s covenant promises.
So what does it mean that the Son of God is called ‘One and Only’? At a minimum it is telling us that Jesus is utterly unique. Yes, God may have many sons in the human race, but Jesus is different by far. He is one of a kind. He is truly God’s ‘One and Only’. And it is really only through faith in the ‘One and Only’ that God the Father has any others who are called his children.
So do you recognise God’s Son as the ‘One and Only’? Have you trusted in the ‘One and Only’ so that you also are a child of God? Joel Radford