There are few verses in the Bible better known than John 3:16 'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life'. This verse had been described as the gospel in a nutshell, and such a description is apt for in just twenty five words it proclaims the good news that God gave his Son to be the Saviour of men. However in some modern translations of the scriptures this verse has been very poorly rendered, in such a way that the eternal sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ is denied. Translations such as the New International Version amongst others have removed the phrase 'only begotten Son' and replaced it with 'his one and only Son'. While to the casual reader this may not appear to have much of an effect on the message of the verse, yet no-one ought to be a casual reader of the scriptures. A closer look at the meaning of the words will reveal the importance of the truth that Jesus Christ is God's only BEGOTTEN Son.
The Greek word translated 'begotten' in John 3:16 is 'monogenes'. This same word is also found in several other passages of scripture including John 1:14 where the Lord Jesus Christ is described as 'the only begotten of the Father' and 1st John 4:9 which speaks of God sending 'his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.' Nowhere in scripture does the New International Version translate 'monogenes'vas 'begotten', but simply as 'his one and only son'. What then is the meaning of the word 'monogenes', is begotten the best translation of the word, and what theological significance does it have? The word 'monogenes' is derived from two separate words; 'monos', meaning sole or single, and 'ginomai', meaning to generate. It is in this second word that the great truth behind the word begotten is found; not only was Christ God's only Son, but that he was eternally generated of the Father. Christ is not simply God's only son, nor can He be described as his unique son, but as his only begotten son, from all eternity.
Whilst Jesus Christ was made flesh at his incarnation, He has existed from all eternity as the Son of God. Christ stated this truth clearly when he said 'before Abraham was I am', taking upon himself the eternal name of God. The Jews to whom Christ spoke that day clearly understood the import of those words for they cast stones at him, because He had declared himself to be the eternal God. Jesus Christ is not a created being as claimed by the Jehovah's Witnesses, nor did He become the Son of God at some point in history, but he was always so, begotten of the Father from all eternity. Louis Berkhof described the eternal generation of the Son as 'a timeless act, the act of an eternal present, an act always continuing and yet ever completed.' To deny the truth of the Eternal Generation of the Lord Jesus Christ is to rob Him of his glory, diminish His majesty and make Him less than God. It is to make our Saviour a mere man, a created being, and one incapable of offering that perfect sacrifice for sin. Our saviour is the eternal Son of God, sent into the world that we might have life everlasting through Him. Let the glorious truth of John 3:16 never cease to fill us with wonder, that the only begotten of the Father would give Himself a ransom for man.