After we confess that “we believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ” there is a string of phrases intended to articulate the full divinity of the Son of God and his unique relationship to God the Father: “the only-begotten Son of God, eternally begotten from the Father, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of the same substance of the Father.” In my last note, I considered our confession that the Son is “true God from true God.” In this note, we turn our attention to the next phrase, “begotten, not made.”
We considered the term “begotten” in a previous note. The phrase “begotten, not made” provides a clarification: when we say that the Son is begotten, we in no way imply that he is made. Seth was begotten from Adam, but he was also made. The Son of God is eternally begotten from the Father, but is not made. The Son is not a creature. He is Creator. He is not made. He is Maker.
Many people in the ancient Mediterranean world held a platonic worldview, which divided the world into an intelligible realm and a sensible realm. The intelligible realm is eternal and uncreated. The sensible realm is temporal and created. For Plato, there is a great dividing line between the sensible and intelligible realm which must be traversed. Knowledge of the true, the good, and the beautiful requires access to the intelligible realm, which is restricted by our experience of the sensible realm. For Plato, salvation means transcending the sensible realm through enlightenment and knowledge of the intelligible realm.
Remember what we’ve already confessed in the creed: God the Father is the “maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.” In other words, he is the maker of both the intelligible realm and sensible realm. When we confess that the Son is “begotten, not made” we are confessing that he is the maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. With the Father, he is creator.
Contrary to Plato, salvation does not require enlightenment but redemption and reconciliation with God through forgiveness and cleansing of sin. We cannot reconcile or redeem ourselves. But there is good news: the eternal Son, who is begotten, not made, “for us men and for our salvation . . . became man.” As the Apostle Paul testifies, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Galatians 4:4). And again, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5-6).