Ignatius of Antioch described the Son as our God, immortal and being life.

This is the fourth article in the series on the historical development of the Trinity doctrine.  These first articles discuss the views of the church fathers in the first three centuries to determine whether they understood God to be a Trinity; One Being but three Persons.  The previous articles were An Introduction, which defined the Trinity, followed by analyses of the teachings of Polycarp and Justin Martyr.  The current article reflects the thoughts of Ignatius of Antioch.

Triad

Ignatius of Antioch (died 98/117) wrote

“In Christ Jesus our Lord, by whom and with whom be glory and power to the Father with the Holy Spirit for ever” (n. 7; PG 5.988).

Trinitarians quote this because it mentions the triad of three Persons together.  However, as previously stated, mentioning them together does not mean that they are one or that they are equal.  It only means that they are related.  In Ephesians 4:5, Paul mentions “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.”  That means that these four form a logical group; not that they are equal or the same.

One God

Ignatius contradicted the Trinity theory earlier in the same work when he identified the Father alone as God:

Thou art in error when thou callest the daemons of the nations gods. For there is but one God, who made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that are in them; and one Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, whose kingdom may I enjoy. (Martyrdom of Ignatius 2)

Ignatius here seems to interpret 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, which reads:

Even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth … yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

These statements explicitly identify the one God as someone distinct from the one Lord Jesus Christ.  In other words, the Father is the one God.

The only true God

Ignatius further wrote:

There is only one true GodBut our Physician is the only true God, the unbegotten and unapproachable, the Lord of all, the Father and Begetter of the only-begotten Son
We have also as a Physician the Lord our God Jesus the Christ;
the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began,
but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the virgin. For ‘the Word was made flesh.’
Being incorporeal (intangible), He was in the body;
Being impassible (incapable of suffering or feeling pain), He was in a passible body;
Being immortal, He was in a mortal body;
Being life, He became subject to corruption, that He might free our souls from death and corruption, and heal them, and might restore them to health, when they were diseased with ungodliness and wicked lusts.
(Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., The ante-Nicene Fathers, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975 rpt., Vol. 1, p. 52, Ephesians 7.)

Pre-existence

According to this quote, before the Son became human, He was the only-begotten Son and Word, incorporeal, incapable of suffering, immortal and being life.  To say that He was incorporeal and incapable of suffering seem to be speculations, for such things are not mentioned in the Bible:

The description of the Son as “being life” is perhaps explained by the statement, “Just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself” (John 5:26).  On the one hand, it means that He received “life in Himself” from the Father, which means that He is subordinate to the Father.  On the other, there are only two Beings who have “life in Himself,” which testifies of a close relationship and similarity.

The statement that the Son was immortal seems to contradict the statement that the Father alone “alone possesses immortality” (1 Tim. 6:16), but there are two kinds of immortality; conditional and unconditional.  The Father alone is essentially (unconditionally) immortal, while humans will become immortal “when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:54).

Before time began

For Ignatius, as per the previous quote, the Father is “unbegotten” and the “Begetter of the only-begotten Son.”  This is an important distinction between the Father and Son.  Later Arius would conclude that the Son, therefore, had a beginning; that there was a time when the Son was not.  For Ignatius the Son was begotten “before time began,” which implies that He existed as long as time existed.  But this does not mean that the Son is equal to the Father.  To explains:

Time was created.  There exists an infinity outside time, for God exists beyond time.  In that infinity beyond time, the Son was Begotten, according to Ignatius.  If we use the word “before” not in a literal time sense, then we can say that the Father existed “before” the Son.

“Begotten” is human language for something that humans are unable to even begin to understand.

In the quote above, both the Father and Son are called physicians.  Later in the quote, Ignatius describes the sinner as “diseased” and the work of the Physician is not to judge, but to “heal … restore … to health.”  “Physician” is a most appropriate description of God’s attitude towards sinners, for He is not an independent Judge, but a kind Father.

Our God Jesus the Christ

In the quote above, Ignatius describes the Son as “our God.”  Some apologists use such phrases to argue that the church fathers before Nicene believed Jesus is God. But in the previous sentence, Ignatius described the Father as “the only true God,” which means that the Son is not “true God.”  This confusion does not exist in the original text but is caused by the translation.  To explain:

In modern English, we use the word “God” to identify one specific being.  It functions as a proper name for the Almighty.

The ancient languages did not have the modern differentiation between lower and upper case letters.  They only had words (theos in Greek) that are equivalent to our word “god.” The word “god” does not identify one specific being, but a category of beings.  The Christian God was regarded as one of the gods.

The following are examples from the Scriptures to show that the Hebrew mindset had no problem applying the word for “god” to:

Moses (Exodus 7.1),
● Angels (Psalm 8.5; cf. Hebrews 2.7),
● The divine council (Psalm 82.1, 6),
● Israel’s judges (Exodus 21.6, 22.8),
● The Davidic king (Psalm 45.6),
● Appetite (Philippians 3.19),
● Those who receive the word of God (John 10.34-35), and even to
● Satan (2 Corinthians 4.4).

Also outside the Bible, in the Greco-Roman world, they had a plethora of gods, including the emperors.  Paul confirmed, “indeed there are many gods and many lords” (1 Cor. 8:5).

In other words, during the early centuries of Christianity, the word theos (god) had a flexible meaning.  And since “every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:11), it was quite natural and appropriate for the first Christians to refer to the Son as theos.

Translation causes confusion

So the original text is clear.  All we have in the Greek Bibles is the word theos.  It says that the Father is the only true “god” and the Son is our “god.”  The confusion is caused by the theology of the translators.  When translators think that the Almighty is intended, they translate theos as “God.”  Since most translators are Trinitarians, they also translate the instances, where Jesus is referred to as theos, as “God.”  When theos does not refer to the Father or to the Son, they translate the same word as “god.”

Ignatius’ translator similarly assumed that Jesus is God, in the Trinitarian sense of the word.  Therefore, the translation refers to Him as “our God.”

However, the phrase “only true God” is illogical, for the word “God” is not a category name.  It would have been more logical to translate this phrase as “the only true god” or as “the only God.”  The same applies to John 17:3, where Jesus says that the Father is “the only true god.”

Similarly, the translations should refer to the Son as “our god” (small “g”).  A more literal translation would have reduced the confusion significantly.  For a more complete explanation, see The Meanings of the Word THEOS.

Summary

The word “God” did not exist in ancient times.
Which instances of theos are translated as “God” is substantially dependent on the theology of the translator.

Ignatius describes only the Father as “unapproachable.”  This is a quote from 1 Tim. 6:16, which says that the Father “alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light.”  Since, for Ignatius, the Father is “the only true god,” unbegotten and unapproachable, the Father is in a category all by himself.   For him, the Father and Son are not equal, as Trinitarians propose.  Rather, the Son is subordinate to the Father.

Conclusion

Ignatius condemns by Trajan. Polycarp, Justin Martyr, and Ignatius all died for their faith.

Ignatius made a clear distinction between God and Jesus Christ: The Father is the only true God, the unbegotten and unapproachable, the Lord of all, who “made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that are in them.”  He is ”the Father and Begetter of the only-begotten Son.”

Trinitarian Arguments

There are a number of statements in the quotes from Ignatius that people use to prove that the Son is equal to the Father:

Ignatius describes the Son as “our God,” but he identified the Father as “the only true God,” which means that the Son is not “true God.”  As explained, the word “God” did not exist in ancient times.  Literally translated, the original text describes the Son as “our god” and the Father as “the only true god.” Which instances of theos are translated with a capital “G” (“God”) depends on the theology of the translator.

Ignatius wrote that the Son was begotten “before time began.”  This means that He existed as long as time existed.  But this does not mean that the Son is equal to the Father, for there exists an infinity beyond time, in which the Son was begotten by the Father.

Ignatius describes the Son as “immortal,” but this also does not mean that He is equal with the Father, for the Father “alone possesses (essential) immortality,” being immortal in terms of His being.

Ignatius wrote that the Son is “life,” but He received that life from the Father.

Finally

For Ignatius, the Father and Son are not equal, as Trinitarians propose.  Rather, the Son is subordinate to the Father.  There is no evidence in the quotes above that Ignatius thought that the Holy Spirit is self-aware, that the three Persons are equal, that they consist of one substance, that they are one Being or that Jesus has both a divine and a human nature.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).

Overview

John 1:1 is an important verse in the dispute about the deity of Christ.  Some view this verse as the clearest declaration of His deity.

This article serves as an introduction to the series of articles on the translation of John 1:1.  The dispute over the translation of John 1:1 centers on the lack of the definite article (the) before the word GOD (THEOS) in John 1:1c.  Some see this omission as grounds for an indefinite translation: “the Word was a god.”  This article discusses the following:

● Alternative translations of John 1:1c;
● Why Jesus is called “the Word?
● What is “the beginning?
● The word “with” in the phrase “with God;
● The phrase “the Word was with God” seems to make a distinction between Jesus and God.
● The verse does not say that Jesus was created in the beginning.

Introduction

Nicene CreedThe second phrase in John 1:1 (“the Word was with God”) makes a distinction between Jesus and God, but the third phrase (“the Word was God”) identifies the Word (Jesus) as God.  How can the Word be God if He is distinct from God?

This question resulted in much dispute over the past 2000 years.  In the fourth century, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, and the emperor effectively took control of the Church.  The first church council was called by Emperor Constantine, specifically to address the prevailing dispute in the Church over the deity of Christ.  That council, under Constantine’s influence, resulted in the Nicene Creed of 325.  For a discussion of the major role which Emperor Constantine played in the formulation of the Nicene Creed of 325, listen to Kegan Chandler on the term “homoousios.”

John 1:1 has had a significant impact on the development of church doctrines on the nature of Christ.  The proper translation of this verse is at the center of debate between Trinitarians and non-Trinitarians.  Some view it as the clearest declaration of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ to be found anywhere in Scripture.  John 1:1 is the best known of the about seven verses in the New Testament in which Jesus is called THEOS (GOD).  The other verses refer to Jesus as THEOS in the time when the New Testament was written, but John 1:1 refers to Him as THEOS in “the beginning;” when “all things” were created (1:3).

The dispute over the translation centers on the lack of a definite article (the) before the word GOD (THEOS) in John 1:1c.  John included the article before THEOS in 1:1b (literally, AND THE WORD WAS WITH THE GOD), but omits it before THEOS in 1:1c.  Since ancient Greek did not have an indefinite article, some see this omission as grounds for an indefinite translation: “the Word was a god.”  The purpose of the current series of articles is to discuss what John 1:1 means and how it is best translated.

Purpose of this article

Jehovah Witnesses The majority of Christianity has a one-sided focus on the verses that emphasize the divinity of Christ.  Jehovah’s Witnesses err to the other side and focus only on verses that show that Jesus is distinct from and subordinate to God.  To find the truth, we need to find an explanation that satisfies all statements about Jesus, as found in the Bible.

To write this article, the Jehovah’s Witnesses defense of their translation of John 1:1c was read.  Various other website resources were studied to identify the main principles.  Many experts are quoted on these websites, but the current article does not always quote such experts.

Three Phrases

John 1:1The current article often refers to the three phrases of John 1:1.  Below the majority translation is given, together with the Greek transliteration.

To understand John 1:1 requires some understanding of some Greek words and grammar.  However, this article is intended for people that do not understand Greek.  Therefore, and since in the original Greek language there was no differentiation between lower and upper case letters, this article presents the Greek literally using CAPITALIZED ENGLISH WORDS:

(a) In the beginning was the Word,
(En arkhêi ên ho logos =
IN BEGINNING WAS THE WORD)
(b) and the Word was with God,
(kaì ho lógos ên pròs tòn theón =
AND THE WORD WAS TOWARD THE GOD)
(c) and the Word was God.
(kaì theòs ên ho logos =
AND GOD WAS THE WORD)

Preliminary Observations

Article: In the Greek, there is no article before BEGINNING, but the translation inserts the article (“the”).  In 1:1b the Greek has the article before THEOS, but the translation omits it.  There is no article before THEOS in 1:1c, but it is translated the same as 1:1b.

In the Greek, the word order in 1:1c is reversed.

The Greek word for GOD in 1:1c is THEOS, but in 1:1b the word appears as THEON.  THEON has the exact same meaning as THEOS.  Each Greek noun normally has 8 or 9 forms (cases) in which it can appear.  These forms do not change the meaning of the words but define the roles which the words play in sentences, for example, to differentiate between the subject and the object.

The implications of these observations are explained below.

Alternative Translations of John 1:1c

Three alternative translations may be considered:

The Word was God” is the majority translation. “God,” with the capital G, is the name we give to the Almighty.  We do not use “God,” with a capital G, for any other being.  “The Word was God” therefore identifies “the Word” as the Almighty.

The Word was a god” is primarily found only in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation. This translation implies that Jesus is one of a greater number of powerful but created “gods.”

The Word was divine” in Moffatt, Goodspeed and some other translations. This may be understood to imply that the Word has divine attributes, but that He is distinct from the Almighty.

The Word

LOGOSThe Word” (Greek LOGOS) in John 1:1 is widely understood as referring to Jesus, as indicated in John 1:14-17.  In the Book of Revelation, which was written by the same John, “His name is called The Word of God” (Rev. 19:13).

Matthew Henry proposed that Jesus is “the Word” because He was sent to earth to reveal His Father’s mind.  In John 1:18 we similarly read that “no one has seen God at any time,” but Jesus “has explained Him (God).”  Jesus therefore said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).  Jesus, as “the Word,” is God’s Communication to the universe.

The phrase, “the word of the LORD” is found many times in the Old Testament as an expression of divine power and wisdom.  By referring to Jesus as “the Word,” “we preach … Christ (as) the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23-24).

In the beginning

The “beginning” (1:1a) must be linked to John 1:3, which states that God created all things through Jesus.

The first words in the Bible are: “In the beginning God …” John 1:1 contains the same Greek words for “in the beginning” as are found in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) of Genesis 1:1. “The beginning” in John 1:1a therefore refers to the Genesis creation account.

Genesis opens with “in the beginning God …,” but John elaborates on the creation account by saying “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.”  Later in Genesis 1 God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (v26).  John 1:1 implies that Jesus was included in the “Us” that made man in Their image.

With God

The phrase THE WORD WAS WITH GOD (1:1b) means more than merely that the Son existed with the Father:

The term translated “with” gives “the picture of two personal beings facing one another and engaging in intelligent discourse” [W. Robert Cook, The Theology of John [Chicago: Moody, 1979], 49].

The NASB reads in 1:18 that He was “in the bosom of the Father.”  The NIV translation explains this as that He was “in closest relationship with the Father.”

In His prayer, Jesus spoke about “the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5).

Distinct From God

To say that “the Word was with God” (John 1:1b) makes a distinction between Jesus and God.  In other words, the title “God” here refers to the Father alone.  Another clear example of “God” referring to the Father alone is John 1:18, which reads, “No one has seen God at any time.” “God” here excludes the Son, for the Son has been seen.  This is a general principle of the New Testament:  Of the more than 1300 times that the title THEOS (GOD) is used in the New Testament, it almost always refers to the Father exclusively:

The Nicene Creed similarly starts with the words, “We believe in one God, the Father almighty …”

Paul wrote, “for us there is but one God, the Father …” (1 Cor. 8:6)

For a discussion of this important principle, see Jesus is distinct from God and Jesus is subordinate to God.

Jesus was not created, and always existed.

The opening phrase of John 1:1 reads “in the beginning was the Word.” The thought is repeated in John 1:2a: “He was in the beginning with God.”  It does not say that the Word was created or came into existence at the “beginning; He simply “was.”  The tense of the Greek word translated “was” expresses continuous action in the past.  This implies that the Word (Jesus) had no beginning, but always existed.  This seems to be confirmed by the following:

He is before all things” (Col. 1:17).

All things came into being through Him (Jesus)”, and “apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:3).  The Word therefore must have already existed prior to creation.

The Only Begotten

John 1:18 refers to Him as “the only begotten,” which seems to imply that Jesus had a beginning.  But some argue that the Greek word translated “the only begotten” (monogenēs) means “the one and only.”  This is how monogenēs is consistently translated in the NIV, and does not imply a beginning.

If monogenēs must be understood as “the only begotten,” which implies that Jesus had a beginning, then it is preferred here to understand this as follows:

He was not created, for God created all things through Him (1:3).  Rather, He was born, which implies that He came forth from the being of the Father.

Using the literal translation of Colossians 1:18, He IS THE BEGINNING.  In other words; He not only existed in the beginning; He Himself was the beginning of “all things.”  By giving birth to His Son, God created the universe.  This sounds mysterious, but when we talk about the creation, then we come face to face with eternity, which is a complete mystery.

The beginning” was also the beginning of time.  Therefore, if He was “begotten” in “the beginning,” then there was no time that “the Word” did not exist.

Articles in the Christology series: Is Jesus God?

   1.    The three views of the Son
  2.    Jesus existed prior to His birth in the form of God.
  3.    Jesus in Colossians
  4.    Does the book of Revelation present Jesus as God?
  5.    Jesus in Philippians: Did He empty Himself of equality with God?
  6.    Who is the Word in John 1:1?
  7.    Jesus is not God.
  8.    God is the Head of Christ.
  9.    Jesus is called God.
 10.   He is the Only Begotten Son of God.
 11.  God created all things through His Son.
 12.  Jesus is worshiped.  Does that mean that He is God?
Worship verses in the New Testament
 13.  Jesus has equality with God.
14. 
Firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:15) 
15. 
Summary of the series of articles

  Interpretation of John 1:1
16. 
Introduction 
17. 
The Word was a god.

 18.  But THEOS is a count noun.
  Jesus in the Old Testament
19.
  Jesus in the Old Testament

In the Trinity theory God is three Persons in one Being, but Jesus is not God.

The Bible makes a distinction between God and Jesus: God is the invisible Source of all things, while Jesus is visible.  Jesus refers to God as “My God” and prayed to God.  Jesus is at the right hand of God.  While Jesus was on earth, God spoke from heaven.  The Bible categorically states that God is One, and consistently distinguishes between the one true God and Jesus.  Therefore, Jesus is not God.

Not GodThis article is one of a series related to the question whether Jesus is God.  See the list at the end of the article.  This article discusses the evidence that He is distinct from God, and therefore that Jesus is not God.  Another article will explore the evidence that He is God.

Jesus is not God.

Trinity – Many people think of God as a Trinity, consisting of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  God is thought of as three Persons in one Being.

Distinct – In contrast this article shows, in a variety of ways, that the Bible draws a distinction between God and Jesus.  The following are some introductory examples:

Jesus as babyWhen Jesus was still a baby, His father Joseph was “warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod” (Mt 2:12).  “After being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee” (Mt 2:22).

Paul introduced His letters with statements such as, “Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philemon 1:3; Eph. 1:2).

Jesus asked the Young Ruler, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18).

The book of Revelation several times makes a distinction between Christ and God.  For example, “these have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb” (14:4).

Revelation 4 describes a throne in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.   In Revelation 5 the Lamb takes the scroll from the right hand of His who sits on the throne.  Revelation 22:3 therefore refers to “the throne of God and of the Lamb (Christ).”  See also 11:15; 21:22-23; 22:1, 3).

Jesus was fully human.

Jesus was truly and fully human.  He was born as a baby (Luke 2:7; Gal. 4:4) and had to grow in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52).  “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8).  He became weary (John 4:6), thirsty (John 19:28) and hungry (Mt. 4:2).  He marveled at the faith of the centurion (Matthew 8:10) and experienced sorrow when Lazarus died (John 11:35).  He had a human body, even after His resurrection (Luke 24:39).  In Gethsemane He grieved deeply, to the point of death (Mt. 26:38), and died the next day (Mark 15:37).  Jesus does not just look like a man; He was truly and fully human.

There is but one true God.

The Old Testament teaches that only one true God exists.

BibleThe great Shema of Israel—the foundation of Judaism—is, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” (Deut. 6:4).  (Shema is the Hebrew for the first word; “Hear”.)

Through Isaiah “the LORD” (Yahweh) declared,

44:6I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me.
45:21-22There is no other God besides Me … There is none except Me … I am God, and there is no other.
43:10-11 Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me.

The New Testament confirms that only one God exists.

When the scribes asked Jesus what the most important commandment is, He started His explanation by quoting from Deuteronomy: “The foremost is, ‘hear, o Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord” (Mark 12:28-30).

James similarly wrote: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19).

Jesus is distinct from the only true God.

The Trinity theory agrees that God is One, but argues that God is one Being consisting of three Persons.  The current section therefore continues to quote verses that confirm that God is one, but these verses make a distinction between Jesus and God:

John 17:3

Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).
(Note that God sent Jesus, which means that Jesus was subordinate to God before he was born as a human being, and therefore always will be.)

There is but one God, the Fatherand one Lord, Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 8:6).  (It will be shown later that the title God is exclusively used for “the Father.”)

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

There is … one Lord, … one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:4-6).  (Jesus is consistently called “Lord” while the Father is consistently called “God.”)

These verses confirm that God is One, and contrasts Jesus with God.  If Jesus prayed to the “only true God” (John 17:3), how can He also be God?

Jesus is at God’s right hand. 

Stephen saw Jesus
Stephen saw Jesus

God sits on His throne in heaven (1 Kings 22:19; Ps 11:4; 47:8). Various scriptures speak of Christ as being at the “right hand of God“:

Ascension – Jesus “was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19).

Stephen – Just before he was stoned, Stephen said, “I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).

Revelation – Jesus said that He “sat down with My Father on His throne” (Rev 3:21), where He took the sealed book from “the right hand of Him who sat on the throne” (Rev. 5:1).  See also Mt. 26:62; Acts 2:33; 7:55 or Rom. 8:34.

The fact that Jesus sits at the right hand of God confirms that He is both distinct from God and subordinate to God.  In other words, Jesus is not God.

God calls Jesus “My Son”,
but Jesus calls God “My God”.

This is My Beloved SonAt Jesus’s baptism “a voice came out of heaven”, saying, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased” (Luke 3:22; Mt. 3:17, cf. Col. 1:13).

Jesus said, “I ascend to My Father and to your Father, to My God and to your God” (John 20:17).  (Note that this confirms that the title God refers to the Father.

Hanging on the Cross, Jesus cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?“ (Mt. 27:46).

How can the Father be His God if Christ is God?

Jesus prayed to God.

Since God is also Jesus’ God, Jesus prayed to God:

In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death” (Heb. 5:7).

The entire John 17 is a record of Jesus praying to “the only true God” (v3).

He spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:16).

A while later Jesus “fell on His face and prayed, saying, My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will’” (Matthew 26:39).  This indicates that the Father and the Son have separate and distinct wills.

God is the Source of all things; not Jesus.

This section continues to quote verses that make a distinction between God and Jesus, but these verses emphasize the difference in their roles:

There is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” (1 Cor. 8:6).

All these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ … God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Cor. 5:18-19).
(Note: Here we have the phrase “God was in Christ”.  But this does not mean that Jesus is God.  Rather, it indicates a unity of purpose and action.  See John 17:23.)

In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 6:13).

God … in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, … through whom also He made the world” (Heb. 1:1; cf. John 1:3)

These verses show that, as is also concluded in the article Jesus in Colossians, that God, the Father, is the Source of Power in creation and in salvation.  But He always works through Jesus.

God is invisible.

God is unknowable, invisible and incomprehensible:

God, the Father, “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16).

No one has seen God at any time” (1 John 4:12; John 1:18).

God is Spirit” (John 4:24), and as such cannot be seen.

Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father” (John 6:46). (In this verse we again discover evidence that it is the Father who is given the title “God.”)

God is the Source of all things, and exists outside our physical realm of time, space and matter.  The Invisible God is the source of everything that is seen.  Since Jesus is seen, He is distinct from God, and therefore not God.

Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God.

There is only one true GodThe Son “is the (visible) image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).

“Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4)

He (His Son) is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3).

When Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father“, Jesus responded, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:8-9)

Human beings cannot comprehend a Being that is everywhere, that exists without cause, and is not limited by time and space.  The Son is the visible image of the invisible God.  In His Son, appearing in a form that we can comprehend, God becomes known, visible and audible to the creatures of the universe:

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He (Jesus) has explained Him” (John 1:18).

Jesus is God’s visible face and the God’s audible voice.  For that reason, He is called the Word of God (John 1:1, 14).  However, since the Father is invisible, the Son is not the image of God in physical terms, but an image of God’s character.

If God is invisible, while Jesus was certainly visible, then Jesus is distinct from God and therefore Jesus is not God.

Possible Objections

Jesus is called God.

In John 1:1 and in 1:18 Jesus is called God.  But, as discussed, the Bible clearly and consistently makes a distinction between God and Jesus.  The same two verses also make a distinction between God and Jesus by saying, “The Word was with God” (1:1) and “No one has seen God at any time” (1:18).  How can He be called God if He is not God?  This is discussed in the article Jesus in Philippians 2.  In brief, the term “God” is used in two different ways:

Most of the time the title “God” functions like a name and identifies a specific Being, namely the Most High.

In a few instances the title “God” is applied to Jesus, not to identify Him as “the only true God” (John 17:3), because He is not, but because He has “equality with God” (Phil. 2:6) in the affections and worship of the created universe.

Jesus and the Father are one in purpose and effort.

In John 10:30 Jesus said, “I and the Father are one”.  In John 14:9-11 Jesus similarly says, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father”.  Some people read into such verses that Jesus is the Father.  To be “one,” however, does not mean to be literally one Person.  Jesus, in His prayer, defined the term to “be one”:

That all of them (His followers) may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me … that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me“ (John 17:21-23).

Christian believers must “be one” as God and Christ are one; united in purpose and unified in effort.  To “be one” therefore does not mean to be literally to be one and the same, but describes a relationship between different autonomous beings.  As Jesus said, He did the works of the Father (10:32) and He only did what pleased the Father (8:28:29).

Summary

Unmisinterpreting

God and Jesus are distinct.  When Jesus was a baby, God warned his father Joseph  “in a dream not to return to Herod” (Mt 2:12).  Paul introduced His letters with, “Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philemon 1:3).  The 144,000 “have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb” (Rev. 14:4).  It is “the throne of God and of the Lamb (Christ)” (Rev. 22:3).

There is but one God.  Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” (Deut. 6:4).  Jesus quoted this statement.  YHVH declared, “I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me” (Is 44:6).  James similarly wrote: “You believe that God is one; you do well” (James 2:19).

Jesus is distinct from the one true God.  Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).  Paul wrote, “there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

Jesus is at God’s right hand.  Jesus “was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19).  This is the position of power over the entire universe, subject only to God, but confirms that Jesus is both distinct from God and subordinate to God.

Jesus calls God “My God.”  He said, “I ascend to My Father and to your Father, to My God and to your God” (John 20:17).  How can the Father be His God if Christ is God?

Jesus prayed to God.  “He offered up both prayers … to the One able to save Him from death” (Heb. 5:7).  The entire John 17 is a record of Jesus praying to “the only true God” (v3).  “He spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:16).

God is the Source of all things; not Jesus.There is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things … and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things” (1 Cor. 8:6).  “God … has spoken to us in His Son, … through whom also He made the world” (Heb. 1:1).

God is invisible.  “No one has seen God at any time” (1 John 4:12).  Jesus “is the (visible) image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).  Jesus is seen, and therefore distinct from God.  Jesus is God’s visible face and the God’s audible voice.

Since the Bible makes a distinction between God and Jesus, Jesus is not God.  The next article provides further evidence of the distinction between God and Jesus by showing that Jesus is subordinate to God.

Articles related to the question: Is Jesus God?

1.    The three views of the Son
2.    Jesus existed prior to His birth in the form of God.
3.    Jesus in Colossians
4.    Did Jesus empty Himself of equality with God?
5.    Who is the Word in John 1:1?
6.    Jesus is not God.   Current article
7.    God is the Head of ChristNext
8.    In the Bible Jesus is called God.
9.    He is the Only Begotten Son of God.
10.  God created all things through His Son.
11.  We must worship Jesus.
12.  Jesus has equality with God.
13. 
Who is Jesus? – Summary of the series of articles
14.  Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament?

John 17:3 – God is One; The only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent

John 17:3 summarizes this article, for it makes the three points discussed in this article:
      1 –  God is One; There is but one true God.
      2 – Jesus is contrasted with the one true God.
      3 – The Father is greater than the Son, for He sent Him.

The previous article explains the three views of the Son of God:

(1)   A created being
(2)   Derived from the Father
(3)   Always existed; co-equal with the Father.

The current article compares the Son to the Father.

This is an older article, and has been replaced with two other articles, namely Jesus is not the same Person as God and  God is the Head of Christ.

God Is One.

God is OneThe Bible declares that God is One;

There is no other God besides Me …
For I am God, and there is no other
” (Isaiah 45:21-22).

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”. (Deut. 6:4-5)

When the scribes asked Jesus what the most important commandment is, He started by quoting this truth from Deuteronomy:

The foremost is, ‘hear, o Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord” (Mark 12:28-30).

And James also wrote God is One:

Christianity and Judaism are monotheistic religions, compared to the surrounding cultures with their multitudes of gods.

The Bible clearly and repeatedly distinguishes between God and Jesus.

For instance, while Joseph and Mary were still carrying the baby Jesus around, God told Joseph where to go (Mt 2:12, 22).  And Jesus said:

John 17:3

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

This verse confirms that God is one, and then continues to contrasts Jesus to God.  Paul similarly wrote:

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5)

Image of the invisible GodHe (Christ) is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), which implies He is not “the invisible God“.

God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 6:13).

The book of Revelation several times contrasts Christ with God, for instance “the throne of God and of the Lamb (Christ)” (Rev. 22:3; see also 14:4; 11:15; 21:22-23; 22:1, 3).

These are merely a few examples of the many, many instances where the Bible contrasts God with Jesus, implying that Jesus is not equal to God.  One may protest by noting that these quotations all apply—not the Son of God before He became a human being—but to the human being named Jesus.  We must also remember the point made in the previous article, namely that “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6-7).

The Father is greater than the Son.

The names Father and Son imply that the Father is greater than the Son.  The quotations below also indicate that the Father is greater than the Son.  As stated, to become a human being, the Son emptied Himself (Phil. 2:6-7).  It may therefore be argued that the statements below have been made in the context of the Son after He emptied Himself.  However, the phrases in bold orange seem to say that the Father was greater than the Son even before He became a human being, and will always remain greater than the Son:

The Son can do nothing of HimselfThe Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing” (John 5:19; cf. John 14:31).

I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me” (John 8:28; cf. 5:30).

The works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me” (John 5:36).

My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me” (John 7:16, cf. 17:3).

The Father therefore told His Son what to do and the Father has sent His Son to this world.  These things happened before He became a human being and provide evidence of the Son’s eternal subservient position, relative to the Father.

the Father is greater than IJohn 14:28 records Jesus saying, “If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I”.  He made this statement while talking about going to the Father, implying that the Father will be greater than Him even after He has returned to the Father.

The Father … has given all things into His hand” (John 3:35).

The Father has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22).

Paul concluded, “the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” (I Cor. 11:3).  Paul made this statement long after Jesus ascended to heaven.  We therefore need to accept that the Father always has been and always will be greater than His Son.

Conclusion

This article states that God is One and that the New Testament contrasts Jesus with that one true God.  The New Testament also claims that the Father is greater than the Son.  If this was all we knew about Jesus, we would have had to conclude that He is not divine.  But in the articles to follow statements will be analysed which seem to confirm the Son’s divinity.  The last article in the series combines all this evidence into a conclusion.

Series of Articles

This is the second in a series of seven articles:

(1) The three views of the Son of God.
(2) God is One, the Son contrasted with God and the Father is greater than the Son.
(3) What the Son does: He created and upholds all things.
(4) What the Son is: fullness of Deity
(5) The Son is worshiped.
(6) The Son is Yahweh of the Old Testament.
(7) Conclusion: Is He created, derived or eternally co-equal?