Is Jesus God? He has equality with God and share God’s divine name and titles.

This article will show that God and Jesus always work together as one.  They have been together from all eternity.  Together they created all things and together they own all things.  They share glory together.  Together they are in believers.  They work together to save, to protect believers and to judge all.

This article provides further evidence of Christ’s equality with Godnamely that Jesus had equality with God prior to His birth.  This means that He today again has equality with God.  They receive equal honor.  As every knee will bow to God, so every knee will bow to Jesus.  He is God’s only Begotten Son, which means that He is God’s only true family.  Only God knows Jesus and only Jesus knows God.  These are profound statements of equality.

God and Jesus share the same name and titles and attributes.  Jesus claimed the divine name “I AM.”  He has many Divine Titles, such as King of kings and Lord of lords, Lord of the Sabbath and Saviour.  Jesus also has many divine attributes.  He is the Truth, eternal and omnipresent.  All the fullness of Deity dwells in Him.  He created all things and has all authority.

God and Jesus work as one.

They have been together from all eternity. 

The beginningIn the beginning was the Word And the Word was with God … He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2).  These verses make a distinction between God and Jesus.  However, Jesus was in the beginning with God, and the beginning was before all things!

God and Jesus together created all things. 

God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26).  The “Us” and “Our” must refer to God and Jesus, for in John 1:3 we read, “All things came into being through Him (the “Word” – Jesus), and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being”.  In other words, God created all things through His Son.

God and Jesus own all things together.

Jesus said, “All things that the Father has are Mine” (John 16:15).  And, in His prayer, “all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine” (John 17:10).
Hebrews 1:2 says that God appointed His Son as heir of all things.  This again makes a distinction between God and Jesus, but there is nothing which exists which is not the property of Jesus.

God and Jesus together own and direct the angels. 

The Lord, the God … sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place” (Rev. 22:6).  But just ten verses later Jesus says “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches” (v16).
Luke 12:8-9 refers to the “angels of God,” but in Matthew 13:41 Jesus said, “The Son of Man (Jesus Himself) will send forth His angels.

God and Jesus share glory together. 

Jesus prayed, “Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5).

God and Jesus work together. 

Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now” (John 5:17).  The Father upholds the universe and keeps it going; every second and minute and day.  But then Jesus adds, “and I Myself am working” (v17).  If this was not true, this would have been a most arrogant statement of equality.

God and Jesus work together in salvation.

Jesus said, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).  But we also know that “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44).  They have always been working together.

God and Jesus together protect believers.

My sheep hear My voice … and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).

God and Jesus live together in believers. 

Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him (John 14:23, NASB).

They judge as One.  

My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me” (John.8:16).

Conclusion

God and Jesus are distinct.  This has been shown by the article Jesus is not the same Person as God.  The article “God is the Head of Christ” confirms that Jesus is subordinate to God.  We also see this in some of the statements above, such as that God appointed His Son as heir of all things (Heb. 1:2).

But their oneness, as evidenced above, puts the Son far above any created being.  The Bible sometimes refer to Jesus as “God,” but in the article The Bible calls Jesus God it is argued that this does not mean that Jesus is God, for the title “god” is used for any exalted being.  However, the unity of God and Jesus puts Jesus far above the general meaning of the word “god.”  This unity implies that we should regard Jesus as equal to God.

Jesus has equality with God.

The Bible provides us with further evidence that Jesus had equality with God:

Jesus “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.

This refers to the time prior to His birth.  See the article Does Philippians 2 say that Jesus emptied Himself of equality with God?  If He had equality with God prior to His birth, He today again has equality with God.

They receive equal honor.

All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23, NASB).  That is a profound statement of equality.

Every knee will bow to Jesus.  

every kneeGod identified Himself as the One speaking and says, “to Me every knee will bow” (Isaiah 45:23), but Paul says that to “Jesus every knee should bow” (Phil. 2: 10-11).

Only Begotten Son

This is My beloved SonSince He was “begotten,” He was not created.  The article Only Begotten Son of God shows that this phrase means He is God’s only true family.  The Bible consistently distinguishes between God and Jesus, but, God begets God.

Only God knows Jesus and only Jesus knows God. 

No one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son” (Mt. 11:27 NASB; cf. Luke 10:22).  This is an amazing statement of equality.

The Father shows the Son all things.

The Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing” (John 5:19-20).

Conclusion

God is not comparable to anything we know.  We do not understand God, but perhaps an analogy will explain the equality of God and Jesus better.  A human son is subordinate to his father, but equal to his father when compared to the beasts of the field.  Jesus is subordinate to God, but equal to God from the perspective of finite created beings.  In other words, although Jesus is distinct from God, we must honor Him equal to God.

Jesus has Divine Titles and Attributes.

Many titles that belong to God only, are also applied to Jesus.

I AM

Moses asked God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His Name?’ what shall I say to them?

God responded, “I AM WHO I AM …. Say this to the people of Israel, I AM has sent me to you … The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My Name for ever” (Exodus 3:15-18).  Here, God, in giving His name, gives the essential meaning of Yahweh; the One who exists without cause, but who is the Cause of everything else.

In John 8:21-59 Jesus repeatedly claims the divine name “I AM” for Himself.  He said, for instance:

You will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I AM” (John 8:24)
Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:24, 58).

Jesus, by referring to Himself with this sacred name, claimed to be the God of the Old Testament; the Jehovah of Exodus 3:14.  This the Jews understood, for they wanted to stone Him for blasphemy (cf. John 5:18, 8:59, 10:30-36).

King of kings and Lord of lords

The One “whom no man has seen or can see” is called “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:14-16).  Jesus is similarly called “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Rev. 17:14, cf. 19:16).

Lord of the Sabbath

The seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God” (Exodus 20:10).  But Jesus is “the Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28).

Saviour

The Lord” said “I, even I, am the LORD, And there is no savior besides Me” (Isaiah 43:11).  God is also the Savior in Psalms 106:21; Isaiah 43:3; 45:21-23; 44:6 and I Timothy 2:3; cf. 1 Tim 4:10.)

But the New Testament describes Jesus as the “source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9), being “able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25) for He “came into the world to save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15).  He is “our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; who gave Himself for us” (Titus 2:13-14; cf. 2 Peter 1:1).  Jesus is also referred to as Savior in Luke 2:11; John 4:42; Acts 4:12; I John 4:14 and many others.

Jesus is the Truth.

Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” In Jesus Christ alone “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).

Jesus is eternal. 

The LORD” (Yahweh) said:  “Before Me there was no God formed and there will be none after Me” (In Isaiah 43:10).  “I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me” (Isaiah 44:6; cf. Is. 48:12).  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End … the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8; cf. 21:6).  This means that God is eternal; “from everlasting to everlasting” (Ps. 90:2).  The same applies to Jesus Christ:

Micah 5:2 speaks about the coming Christ, whose “goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2).

John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word”.  Since He was “in the beginning”, there was no time when He was not.

In Revelation, Jesus Christ says of Himself, “I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (Rev. 1:17-18). In the last chapter He says, “I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last” (Rev. 22:13).

Christ is eternal as the Father is eternal.

Jesus is omnipresent.

Matthew 18:20Where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.
Matthew 28:20I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
Acts 18:9-10 The Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking … for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you.

All the fullness of Deity dwells in Christ.

It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him” (Col. 1:19).
All the fullness of Deity dwells in Christ in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).

Jesus created all things.  

In a separate article it was shown that God created all things, but God created all things through His Son.  The Son even created time.  There was no time that He did not exist.

Jesus has all authority.

Jesus claimed, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).  This same authority was given to the Son of Man in Daniel 7:13–14 (see also Matthew 26:64).  By implication, God gave Him this authority, just like “it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him” (Col. 1:19).  These things show Christ’s subordination to God, but also His equality to God.

Conclusion

Previous articles concluded that Jesus is not God and that Jesus is subordinate to God.  However, their oneness puts the Son far above created beings; on equal footing with God from the perspective of finite created beings.  We must honor Him as we honor God.  To further explain the notion that Jesus is not God, but has equality with God, the reader is advised to read Jesus in Philippians 2.

Articles in the 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.    Jesus in Philippians 2
5.    Who is the Word in John 1:1?
6.    Jesus is not God.
7.    God is the Head of Christ.
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.   Current article
13. 
Who is Jesus? – Summary of the series of articles
14.  Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament?

In the Bible Jesus is sometimes called God. Does that mean that Jesus is God?

This is an article in the series, “Is Jesus God?”  Previous articles have shown:

That Jesus has always existed,
That God created all things through Jesus,
That Jesus has equality with God,
That Jesus is God’s only true family and
That we must worship Jesus to the glory of God.

But it was also found that, in the New Testament, “God” is a name for the Father exclusively.  If “God” is used for the Father only, then Jesus is not God.  On the other hand, in the NASB translation of the New Testament, Jesus is called God seven times.  The purpose of the current article is to determine what the New Testament writers meant when they wrote that Jesus is God.  This topic is very sensitive and emotional.  People are polarized on the two sides of this argument; but often due to a lack of knowledge.  This article seeks a solution which will reconcile the seemingly contradictory statements.

God’s name is YHVH.

To understand the meaning of the term “God,” first consider the Old Testament.  In the Hebrew Old Testament, the God of Israel has a unique name that is not used for any other being.  That name is YHVH, pronounced as Jehovah or Yahweh.  This name is used all over the Old Testament.  It is used more than 6800 times.  Some Bible translations translate YHVH as Yahweh or Jehovah, for instance:

That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth” (Psalms 83:18, KJV).

But it is most often translated as “the LORD” (capital letters).  The same verse in the NASB reads as follows:

“That they may know that You alone, whose name is the LORD, Are the Most High over all the earth.”

Note that YHVH is here called “Most High.”  “Most High” is one of the well-known names for YHVH.  The angel said to Mary, that Jesus “will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32).

God said to Moses:

I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them” (Ex. 6:2).

This is actually a bit confusing, because “Lord” is a title; not a name.  It is easier to understand this verse when “the LORD” is replaced with the name “YHVH:”

I am YHVH; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, YHVH, I did not make Myself known to them.”

Therefore, the first time that God made His name (YHVH) known, was to Moses.  This name appears in Genesis only because Moses also wrote the first five books of the Bible.

God” is a general title.

God” (generally El or Elohim in Hebrew), in contrast to YHVH, is used both for the true God and for false gods.  “God” is even used for angels and exalted people.  The NASB therefore translates Elohim 45 times as “god” and 204 times as “gods,” and occasionally also as divine, divine being, exceedingly, God’s, goddess, godly, great, judges, mighty, rulers and shrine.  For example:

The True God – “A jealous and avenging God is the LORD” (Nahum 1:2).

False gods – “For My people have forgotten Me, They burn incense to worthless gods” (Jer. 18:15).  (The word translated “gods” here is Elohim; exactly the same word elsewhere translated “God.”)
This people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves” (Ex. 32:31)
You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3).

The princes of Egypt “For I will pass through the land of Egypt … and on all the gods [elohim] of Egypt [the princes] I will execute judgments: I am the Lord” (Ex. 12:12).

Judges – The judges appointed by Moses were called gods: “Then his master shall bring him unto the judges [elohim]” (Ex. 21:6, KJV; also see Ex. 22:8-9, 28).

Abraham – The Hittites called Abraham a “mighty [elohim] prince” (Gen. 23:6).

Techniques to make the title “God” specific

Since the title “god” is non-specific, the Old Testament uses various techniques to be specific when the true God is intended.

Combine with YHVH

Often the title “God” is combined with YHVH:

The LORD God” (YHVH Elohim) is found more than 200 times in the NASB, for instance, “the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven” (Gen. 2:4).

The LORD, the God” – about 50 times;

The LORD your God” – about 200 times; For instance, “Then the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying ’Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God’” (Is. 7:10)

The LORD his God,” for instance, “When a leader sins and unintentionally does any one of all the things which the LORD his God …” (Lev. 4:22)

The LORD my God,” for instance, “I (Daniel) prayed to the LORD my God” (Dan. 9:4)

The LORD our God,” for instance “We have sinned against the LORD our God” (Jer. 3:25) (54 times)

The LORD their God,” for instance, “I am the LORD their God” (Ex 29:46). (12 times)

YHVH in the immediately context

When “God” is not combined with YHVH, YHVH is often used in the immediately context, so that it is still clear that “God” refers to YHVH, for instance:

So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people. Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written on both sides; they were written on one side and the other. The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets.” (Ex. 32:14-16)

Jonah 4:6 “The LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah … 7 But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. 8 When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.” 9 Then God said to Jonah …” (Jonah 4:6-9)

Other techniques

The Old Testament also uses other techniques to ensure that the reader understands that the true God is intended, include:

The phrase “God of Israel” is found more than 60 times, for instance, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel” (Jer. 19:15).  The phrase “God of Israel” makes a distinction between YHVH and the false gods of the surrounding nations, for instance, “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?” (2 King 1:3-4).

The phrase “God Almighty” is found 5 times, for example, Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan” (Gen 48:3).

Many times God is identified as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (e.g. Gen 32:9).

“God” is not a name.

It is difficult to find a place in the Old Testament where the term “God” is used for YHVH without further identification.  The name YHVH seems to be always somewhere in the context.

In other words, the term “God” is not used in the Old Testament as a unique identifier or as a name for the God of the Bible.  What is interesting is that the translators of the Old Testament inserted the term “God” as a unique identifier for the God of the Bible.  For instance:

They gave Psalm 12 the title “God, a Helper against the Treacherous,” but the psalm does not mention “God,” but rather the name YHVH (LORD); nearly in every verse.

They gave Habakkuk 2 a title “God Answers the Prophet,” but verse 2 reads “the LORD answered me and said.”

In other words, in modern English “God” has become a unique identifier for the true God, but this was not how the term was used in the Old Testament.

Conclusion: To ask, in Old Testament times, whether Jesus is God, would have been an anachronism, for it uses the term God” in the modern sense.  This question would have made no sense, for the term “God,” by itself, at that time, did not identify any specific being uniquely.  One would have had to be more specific, such as to ask whether Jesus is YHVH, or whether Jesus is the God of Israel.

The New Testament uses “God” as a name.

The discussion above focused on the Old Testament.  We now shift our attention to the New Testament.  The Hebrew name YHVH, which is found all over the Old Testament, does not appear at all in the New, which has been written in Greek.  Instead, the NT uses the term “God” (theos) as a name for the One True God, with no further identification.  To mention a few examples from the first chapters of the NT:

God warned the magi in a dream not to return to Herod” (Mt. 2:11).
God warned Joseph to leave for the regions of Galilee” (Mt. 2:22).
From these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham” (Mt. 3:9).
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8)

It is this understanding of the term “God,” namely as a name for the true God, which the translators took to the Old Testament.  Of the 1314 times that theos appears in the New Testament, the NASB translates it 1267 times as “God,” but the following examples confirm that, similar to elohim, theos is a common noun that is also applied to false gods and to created beings:

Satan – Satan is called: “the god [theos] of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4).

Herod – When Herod took his seat upon the throne, the crowd shouted, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” (Acts 12:21-22) “And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died” (v23).

Believers – After Jesus told the Jews who He is, the Jews became very angry and wanted to stone Him, “because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (John 10:33).  In defense Jesus said: “In your own Law (quoting from Psalms 82:6) it says that men are gods (theos)” (v34).  In the next verse He explains that “to whom the word of God came”, are called “gods” (theos – v35).

Strong’s concordance similarly defines theos as (a) God, (b) a god, generally.  The NASB translates theos 6 times as “god” and 8 times as “gods.”

Conclusion: The term “God,” in the New Testament, has a double meaning.  In the vast majority of instances it is used as a name for the true God, with no further identification.  But occasionally it is also used as a common noun for false gods and even people.

Jesus is called God.

Of the 1314 times that the title “God” appears in the New Testament, seven refers explicitly to Jesus.  Jesus is called “God” three times in John (1:1, 18; 20:27), twice in Paul’s letters (Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13), once by Peter and once in Hebrews (1:8).  This, by itself, does not prove that Jesus is the same as or equal to the Only True and invisible God (John 17:3; Col. 1:15), because “god” is also used for false gods and for exalted created beings, and because Jesus is referred to as “God” in only seven instances.  Furthermore:

 The NT reserves “God” as a name for the Father exclusively.

In a separate article it was shown, from the occurrences of “God” in the New Testament that do provide further identification, that the New Testament consistently and clearly draws a distinction between God and Jesus.  For example:

Paul refers to “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:7). 

Revelation states. “I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22). 

John wrote of “the only true God, and Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). 

That article therefore concludes that the New Testament reserves the title “God” for the Father exclusively.  With that use of the term “God,” Jesus is not God.

Another article confirms that Jesus is not God by showing that Jesus is subordinate to God.  For instance, God is the Head of Christ (1 Cor. 11:3) and Christ sits at God’s right hand.  Everything that His Son has, He has received from His Father.  This includes:

His ability to raise the dead: ”Just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself” (John 5:26)

His authority to judge: “The Father … gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man” (John 5:27).

His teachings: “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me” (John 7:16).

The Fullness of Deity: “It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in him” (Colossians 1:19; cf. 2:9).

His glory: “My glory which You have given Me” (John 17:24)

We must use the title “God” in the same way that the Bible does.  If we define the title “God” as referring to the Father exclusively, then Jesus is not God.

God in Romans

To confirm this conclusion, the references to “God” in the letter to the Romans, which provides further identification, were analyzed.  Fourteen occurrences were found.  The following distinguish between God and Jesus:

God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:7) /
The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 15:6)

We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1) /
We shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him (Rom. 5:9) /
We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son (Rom. 5:10).

I thank my God through Jesus Christ (Rom 1:8) /
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:25) /
To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever (Rom. 16:27).

God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus (Rom 2:16)

The life that He (Christ now) lives, He lives to God (Rom. 6:10) /
Christ Jesus … who is at the right hand of God (Rom. 8:34)

God sent His Son and God publicly displayed Jesus:

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith (Rom. 3:23-25) /
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3)

One verse was found which might refer to Jesus as God, but it might also mean that God blessed Jesus:

Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever (Rom. 9:5)

Verses that refer to Jesus as God are discussed in more detail below.

Conclusions from Romans

Firstly, of the fourteen verses in Romans that provide further identification, thirteen make a distinction between God and Jesus.  One verse possibly refers to Jesus as God (9:5).  It is proposed that this is true of the entire New Testament, namely that for every reference to Jesus as “God,” we find more than ten that make a distinction between Jesus and God.  Therefore, generally, the title “God” refers to God the Father exclusively.

Secondly, in Romans Paul only twice uses the title “Father”; right in the beginning and at the end of the letter (1:7; 15:6).  His habit was to use “God” to refer to the Father.

Thirdly, the word “through” is found in 8 of the 14 verses.  This is a surprisingly high number and it helps to explain the relationship between God and Jesus, namely that everything which God did or does, He did or does through Jesus, including creation of all things.  We even worship God through Jesus.

We will now discuss the instances, where Jesus is called God, in more detail:

Paul

Paul referred to Jesus as God twice in his writings:

The Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5);
Our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession” (Titus 2:13).

But Paul also maintained a clear and consistent distinction between God and Jesus, for instance:

There is but one God, the Father … and one Lord, Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 8:6)
I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 6:13).

Peter

Peter described Jesus as “our God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1).  But in the very next verse Peter makes a distinction between God and Jesus:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Peter 1:2).

We see the same distinction between God and Jesus in Peter’s statement a few verses later, “Lord Jesus Christ … received honor and glory from God the Father” (2 Peter 1:16-17).

Hebrews

God says of “the Son”: “Your throneO God, is forever and ever” (Heb. 1:8).  But the very next verse reads, “God, your God, has anointed you”.  In other words, God is the God also of “the Son”.

This entire passage is a quote from Psalm 82, where the king is called “God” (v6), saying “God, Your God, has anointed You” (v7). This shows again that people are sometimes called “god”.  Hebrews, under inspiration, applies this to Jesus.  But the point remains; although Jesus is called God, God is also His God.  This statement does not make Him the same as or equal to God.

Thomas

When Jesus showed him His wounds, the doubting Thomas realized that the One standing in front of him is the risen Lord, and he exclaimed:

My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

However, just a minute before Thomas did not even believe that Jesus was resurrected.  He had no idea of the profound concepts that God would later reveal to John, which we read of in His gospel.  It is unthinkable that Thomas, at that moment, thought of Jesus as the same as or equal to the Only True and invisible God (John 17:3; Col. 1:15).

The Word was God (John 1)

John 1:1 is the best known “proof” that Jesus is God.  John 1:18 is similar to John 1:1.  These two verses are therefore discussed together:

Jesus is distinct from God.

Both verses start by making a distinction between God and Jesus:

John 1:1 refers to Jesus as the Word (see verse 14).  It starts by saying, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.”  Since Jesus was “with God,” He is distinct from God.

John 1:18 starts by saying that “No one has seen God at any time.”  Colossians 1:15 also describes God as invisible.  Since God is invisible, while Jesus was seen, Jesus is distinct from God.

But both God and Jesus existed in the infinite “beginning” (1:1) and both therefore are eternal.  This is confirmed by 1:3 which says “All things came into being through Him (the Word), and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being”.  There was no time that “the Word” did not exist, for God created all things through Him; even time itself.

Jesus is God.

Both verses then continue to refer to Jesus as God:

John 1:1 continues to say “and the Word was God.

John 1:18 similarly continues, “the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”

Conclusions from John 1

Firstly, note that 1:18 identifies the unseen God as the Father.  One of the many similar statements is “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God” (John 20:17).  This confirms the previous conclusion that the New Testament, in the vast majority of instances, reserves the title “God” for the Father.

Secondly, these phrases refer to Jesus as God, but the same verses also make a distinction between God and Jesus.  These are two different uses of the title “God:”

WHO: In the vast majority of instances the Bible uses “God” as a name for the Father, similar to the name YHVH.  It uniquely identifies the Father.  In this use of the term “God,” Jesus is not God.

WHAT: In the seven instances where Jesus is called “God,” the term “God” is used in a different sense.  It is not used as an identification, but as a description, namely that Jesus is our God.

Note the “our” and “my:”  Both Paul and Peter wrote, “Our great God … Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1).  Thomas said “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).  In other words, although Jesus is not the God, but He is our God.

When the New Testament refers to Jesus as God, then the NT reverts back to the common meaning of the word “god.” Other people have other gods, but Jesus is our God.  This does not mean that He is God, for the title “God” is reserved for the Father, “who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16).

Why is He our God?

To discover why the writers of the New Testament declared Jesus to be our God, we must read the seven verses where He is called God.  Then we find that Jesus is our God because:

He was in the beginning with God and that God created all things through Jesus (1:1-3; Heb. 1:10).  Although everything may perish, Jesus will always remain and will always remain the same (1:11-12).  He is the only One who is able to explain God, who cannot be seen (John 1:18).  He rose from the dead (John 20:28) and He is “over all” (Rom. 9:5).  He is “Savior” who “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession” (Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1).

Is Jesus God?

This is a bad question, unless we define what we mean by “God.”  The New Testament reserves the title “God” for the uncaused Cause of all things, who cannot be seen.  Jesus referred to Him as “Father.”  Gabriel referred to Him as the “Most High.”  If we use this meaning for the title “God,” then Jesus is not God.

But in a small number of instances the New Testament refers to Jesus as “God.” These verses use a different meaning of the term “God.” These verses use the common meaning of theos, in which beings other than the uncaused Cause of all things may be called theos.  Other people have other gods, but Jesus is the One that we worship and obey.

This does not mean that Jesus is equal to the uncaused Cause of all things.  Here we depart from mainstream Christianity.

As discussed above, Jesus received everything from the Father.

Jesus is not the Creator of all things, but God created all things through Him.

If we ask whether Jesus always existed, then the answer is yes and no, for we need to understand what the questioner means.  The term “always” assumes time, and time did not always exist.  Time started when this universe was created.  Before time there was no such thing as time.  But we cannot even talk about “before” the creation of the universe.  There is just no such thing.  To talk about what exists outside time is to ask about the One “who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16).  These things are simply beyond human understanding.  But Jesus existed in the “Beginning” (John 1:1).  We can therefore safely assume that Jesus existed from the beginning of time.

Jesus is not co-equal to the Father, but He is our God, for He created us, redeemed us, sustains us, is preparing homes for us, and one day He will return to take us where He is.  Then:

All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23).

God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW … to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9:11).

Jesus is subordinate to God. God is the Head of Christ. Everything that the Son has, He received from His Father. 

Head of ChristAs the Son of God, Christ is subordinate to God, and therefore sits at God’s right hand.  Everything that the Son has, He received from His Father.  This includes His ability to raise the dead and His authority to judge.  He also received His teachings, His works, His disciples and even the Fullness of Deity from God, who is the Head of Christ.  Jesus said that He can do nothing of Himself.

This is part of a series of articles that asks, “Is Jesus God?”  These articles present the arguments on both sides, and seeks a solution that satisfies both.  Please see the list at the end of this article.

The Trinity theory presents God is three Persons in one Being; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  By pointing out that the Bible maintains a distinction between God and Jesus, the previous article argued that Jesus is not God.  For instance:

Invisible God is the invisible Source of all things, while Jesus is visible.
My God Jesus referred to God as “My God” and prayed to God.
Distinct Jesus is at the right hand of God.
God is One The Bible categorically states that God is One, and consistently distinguishes between that One True God and Jesus.

The current article continues that theme.  While the previous article highlights the distinction between God and Jesus, the current article more specifically shows that Jesus is subordinate to God; God is the Head of Christ.

God is the head of Christ.

Greater than IGreater than Christ – When Jesus told His disciples that He will go to the Father, He said, “the Father is greater than I (John 14:28).  This statement makes a strong distinction between Jesus and God.

Head of Christ – Paul concluded, “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ (1 Cor. 11:3).

Christ is subordinate to the Father.

Jesus said, “I do exactly as the Father commanded Me” (John 14:31).

Servant Peter spoke of Him as God’s Servant:  “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus” (Acts 3:13; cf. 26).

My God – We never see statements in Scripture of the Father referring to Christ as His God, but Jesus often referred to the Father as His God:  “I ascend to … My God and your God” (John 20:17).

The title “Son” implies that the Father is greater.

Similar to a human father who brings forth a human son, the heavenly Father brought forth His Son.  He is God’s “only begotten Son” (John 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9; cf. John 1:18).  He is, for that reason, subordinate to the Father.

He is at the right hand of God.

Various scriptures speak of Christ as “seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2; cf. Acts 2:30; Acts 2:33; 7:55; Rom. 8:34; Mark 14:62; 16:19).  This is the place of honor, but still subject to the ultimate Ruler.

God sent the Son into the world. 

This statement is found many times in the New Testament, for instance:

Jesus said, “I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me” (John 8:42).

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

But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4; See also John 3:17; 4:34; 5:24, 36; 6:38; 7:16; 12:44, 45, 49, 17: 23, 25; John 20:21; Rom. 8:3.)

These “sent“-statements firstly imply His pre-existence; that He existed prior to becoming a human being.  Secondly it implies His subordination to God; not only as human being, but also in His pre-existence.

Jesus many times claimed that He was sent by the Father to give the Jews an elevated understanding of Himself and His mission.  But the Jews did not believe Him.  Today we often do not believe Him either, but we make the opposite error.  We focus so much on the statements of His equality to God that we no longer believe that God is the Head of Christ.

Everything He has, He received from His Father.

Jesus received the Holy Spirit at His baptism (John 1:32-34).

Jesus received the ability to raise the dead.

Jesus is able to raise the dead:

He “gives life to whom He wishes” (John 5:21).

There will come an hour when “all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth” (John 5:28-29).

He said, “My sheep hear My voice … and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish” (John 10:27-28; see also 1:4).

God gave Jesus this authority:

Just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself” (John 5:26)

Jesus prayer, “Father … You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life” (John 17:1-2).

The Father received His life from no one, for He is the eternally self-existent Source of life.

Jesus received authority to judge.

The Bible teaches that “God” is the judge (1 Sam 2:10; Ps 50:6; Eccl. 12:14; Gen. 18:25; Joel 3:12 and many others).  But in Matthew 25:31-46, John 5:27, 9:39; Acts 10:42; Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; and 2 Timothy 4:1 Jesus Christ is the Judge of the world. Jesus said:

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Mt. 25:31-33).

We may want to use this as proof of His deity, but Jesus received this authority from the Father:

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

The Father … gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man” (John 5:27).

Jesus received His teachings and works.

God gave Jesus His teachings:

I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak” (John 12:49).

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

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

The Father gave Jesus His works:

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

Jesus prayed, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4).  See also John 10:32.

Jesus received His disciples.

My Father is the vinedresserJesus even received His followers from the Father:

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me …  This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:37-39).

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44; cf. 6:65).

My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all” (John 10:29a).

In prayer, He said, “Father … that to all whom You have given Him (the Son), He may give eternal life” (John 17:1-2).

Jesus does not draw you to the Father; the Father draws you to Jesus.  Why did you all of a sudden get interested in God and the Bible? Look at all the millions of people out there, billions of people out there. Why did you get interested? How did that happen? That’s a miracle from God!

Jesus received all authority and all things.

Jesus received all authority from the Father:

Jesus claimed that, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).  By implication, God gave Him that authority.  Jesus received that authority.

Jesus has all things because He Jesus received it from the Father:

All things have been handed over to Me by My Father” (Luke 10:22, cf. Mt. 11:27)

The Father … has given all things into His hand” (John 3:35; cf. 13:3).

Jesus received fullness of Deity.

All the fullness of Deity dwells in Christ in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).

This the Father gave this fullness to Him:

It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in him” (Colossians 1:19).

Jesus can do nothing of Himself.

The Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19).

I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 5:30).

The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works” (John 14:10).

Jesus did not know all things.

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, You know all things” (John 21:17).  Jesus knew many things, for instance about the woman at the well, but He did not know all things.  Jesus said He did not know the hour or the day of His second coming, “but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36; cf. Mark 13:26-27, 32).  Peter’s statement must therefore not be taken as ultimate truth, but only in a relative sense.

In Hebrews 4:15 we read:

We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are”.

This implies that Jesus learned to sympathize with our weaknesses because He was tempted Himself.  God does not need to be tempted in order to be able to understand, for He is all-knowing.

Subordinate to God before His birth

Emptied Himself: To become a human being, the Son emptied Himself:

He “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself … being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7).

See Jesus emptied Himself for a discussion of this statement. It would be possible to argue that God was greater than and the Head of Christ only after Jesus “emptied Himself”.  There are, however, many indications that He always was subordinate to the Father:

Creation: God created all things “through” His Son (Heb. 1:1; cf. John 1:3).  It therefore was God who Created all things.  See God created all things through His Son.

God so loved the worldSon: God sent His only begotten Son to this world (John 3:16; cf. 18; 1 John 4:9). This means that He was God’s only begotten Son before He was born as a human being: He did not become God’s only begotten Son when He was born as a human being.

Sent: Jesus many times said, “I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me” (John 8:42). If the Father sent Him, then He was subordinate to the Father also before He came to this world.

What to say and do: God told Jesus what to do and what say when He sent Him, which was prior to becoming a human being:  “I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak” (John 12:49; cf. John 7:16; 5:36; 17:4).

Subordinate to God after His ascension

Greater than IGreater: Jesus said to His disciples, “If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I”.  This implies that the Father will still be greater than Jesus when Jesus is with the Father, which is after His ascension.

Head of Christ:  Long after Jesus ascended to heaven Paul explicitly stated that “God is the head of Christ” (I Cor. 11:3). This is then also the situation today and always.

My God: Jesus said, “I ascend to … My God” (John 20:17).

Right hand: Jesus ascended to heaven and took His seat “at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2; cf. Acts 2:30; Acts 2:33; 7:55; Rom. 8:34; Mark 14:62; 16:19).  This the place of honor, but it means that He is still today subject to the ultimate Ruler.

The End: Referring to the time when an end will be made of all evil, Paul wrote: “Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father.  … When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:24, 28).  Since Jesus “will be subjected to” God at the end, it implies that Jesus was subjected to God before evil developed.

Jesus said, “To sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father”  (Mt. 20:23).

God, therefore, is not only greater than Jesus because Jesus “emptied Himself” when He became human being (Phil. 2:5), but God was greater than Jesus for all eternity, and always will be.

Summary

Most Christians believe that Jesus is co-equal to the God, the Father.  The previous article (Jesus is not God) concluded that the New Testament uses the title “God” exclusively for the Father, who is also called the Most High.  In this use of the title “God,” Jesus is not God.

The current article supports this conclusion by showing that Jesus is subordinate to God.  This proves both that Jesus is not God and that He is not co-equal to the Father:

Jesus is subordinate to God.  God sent His Son into the world.  Jesus prayed to God.  Peter spoke of Jesus as God’s Servant.  Christ is at God’s “right hand.”  “God is the Head of Christ.”   And the end of time Christ will be subjected to God.

Jesus is subordinate to the Father.  Jesus did not know all things, “but the Father alone.”  Jesus said, “the Father is greater than I.”  Everything which His Son has, He received from His Father, including the authority to raise the dead and to judge.  The Father gave Him His disciples and authority and also the fullness of Deity.

The Father is God.  Jesus is therefore subordinate to both God and the Father.  Because the New Testament uses the title God exclusively for the Most High, who is the Father, this is actually saying the same thing.  Jesus said, for instance, “I ascend to My Father and to your Father, to My God and to your God” (John 20:17).  Paul similarly wrote “there is but one God, the Father … and one Lord, Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 8:6).

Conclusion

Jesus was subordinate to God before His birth, during His life on earth and still is.  He always was God’s only begotten Son, whom God sent into the world.  God always was and still is “the Head of Christ” (I Cor. 11:3).  Jesus took His seat “at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2), which means that He is subject to the ultimate Ruler; the Most High.

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.
7.    Jesus is subordinate to God.  Current article 
8.    In the Bible Jesus is called God.    Next
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?

Is Jesus God? Or is He a created being? – A study of the letter to the Colossians

ColossiansThis article discusses the view of Jesus in the letter to the Colossians; is Jesus God?  Is He equal to the Father?  Or is He a created being?  

Colossians has been selected for this purpose because it contains perhaps the highest view of Christ of all of the New Testament letters.  Colossians 1:15-19, in particular, is Paul’s fullest explanation of the Person of Christ.  This is the second article on Jesus in Colossians.  The first is the Introduction.

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are from the New American Standard Bible.

He rules over the entire Universe.

The Father's Right HandHe is “seated at the right hand of God” (3:1).  As discussed in the previous article, this statement means that He is distinct from God and subordinate to God.  But it also implies that He has the highest position in all the universe; next to God.  Other statements indicating His extremely high position are:

1:16God created the whole universe … for him.” (Good News Translation).
1:18He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
2:10He is the head over all rule and authority.

He existed before all things.

1:17He is before all things.

The International Standard Version explains this verse as follows

He himself existed before anything else did.

Therefore, there never was a time that He did not exist.  Since all things were created through Him, even time commenced through Him.

He is the image of the invisible God.

He is the image of the invisible God” (1:15).

Other translations clarify the meaning:

Christ is exactly like God, who cannot be seen” (Contemporary English Version).
Christ is the visible likeness of the invisible God” (Good News Translation).

This statement confirms the distinction between God and Christ:  While God is invisible, Jesus can be seen.  Nevertheless, in Him we can see what God is like.  When Philip asked, “Lord, show us the Father,” He responded, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

In Him the Fullness of Deity dwells.

The Essence of Jesus ChristThere are two verses in the letter that refers to “the fullness” that dwells in His Son:

It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him” (1:19).
For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (2:9).

While 1:19 refers to “all the fullness,” in 2:9 it is “the fullness of Deity.”  It is therefore assumed that “all the fullness” (1:9) is equivalent to “the fullness of Deity.”  Some translations interpret “the fullness of Deity” as follows:

God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (NIV; 1:19).
For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body” (New Living Translation; 2:9).

God Himself

Other translations take it one step further to interpret this fullness as God Himself, for instance:

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ” (New Living Translation; 1:19).
God himself was pleased to live fully in his Son” (Contemporary English Version; 1:19).
God lives fully in Christ” (Contemporary English Version; 2:9).

God being fully in Jesus would be consistent with Jesus’ prayer, in which He said, “You, Father, are in Me and I in You” (John 17:21).  But this does not mean that Jesus is God.

Divine essence

Other translations interpret 2:9 as that Jesus is God:

ColossiansIt was by God’s own decision that the Son has in himself the full nature of God” (Good News Translation; 1:19).
God was pleased to have all of his divine essence inhabit him” (International Standard Version; 1:19).
For the full content of divine nature lives in Christ, in his humanity” (Good News Translation; 2:9).

This seems to go beyond the message of Colossians.  It was God who gave “all the fullness to dwell in Him”.  This maintains a distinction between God and His Son and it implies that His Son is subordinate to the Father.  This distinction and subordination is also seen in the following:

(1) He is “seated at the right hand of God” (3:1).
(2) He is the visible likeness of the invisible God.
(3) As “Son” (1:13), He is subordinate to the Father.
(4) The Father is the Active Force both in creation and salvation, while His Son is the Means through which the Father works.  See Jesus in Colossians; Introduction.

Christianity often teaches that the Son is co-equal to the Father.  Colossians, in contrast, consistently makes a distinction between God and Jesus.  Therefore, to interpret 2:9 as that Jesus is God, would be contrary to the persistent teaching of Colossians.

Conclusion

In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.”  We should be careful not to make too much or too little of this statement:

To say that He is co-equal to the Father would be making too much of this statement.  But it will be an even worse error to make too little of this statement.  Perhaps we should conclude with the NIV’s statement “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.”  What this means is further discussed in the concluding section of this article: Is Jesus God?

He holds all things together.

In Him all things hold together” (1:17).

Another translation of the same phrase:

In union with him all things have their proper place” (Good News)
He holds all creation together” (New Living).

This is a most profound concept.  Hebrews 1:3 similarly says, “He … upholds all things by the word of His power.”  Just like God created all things through Jesus, it is proposed that God holds all creation together through Him.

He is the firstborn of all creation (1:15).

His beloved Son … is … the firstborn of all creation, for by Him all things were created” (Col. 1:13-16).

The word “for” sets a causal relationship.  In other words, He is the firstborn of all creation because He created everything.  This could be understood in at least two ways:

Most important: He is the most important Being in all of the universe because He created everything.  OR

First to exist:  He was the first to exist because He created everything.

Both statements are true.  The question is what Paul meant.

Preeminent

FirstbornThe word “firstborn” (prōtotokos) initially literally meant the one born first, but over time became a designation of preeminence (Gen. 49:3–4; Ex. 4:22).  For example, David, the youngest of Jesse, was called “firstborn” (Psalm 89:20–27).  Manasseh was born to Joseph first, but Ephraim, his younger brother, was “firstborn” due to his position as given by their father Jacob (Gen. 48:13–20, Jer. 31:9).

The interpretation that “firstborn” (prōtotokos) means preeminence is supported by the following:

Jesus is also the “firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18; cf. Rev. 1:5), but He was not literally the first to be raised from death.  Lazarus, for example, was raised from death before Him.  “Firstborn from the dead” therefore means to be the most important person ever to be raised from death.

Paul elsewhere stated, “become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29).  “Firstborn” here implies preeminence.

The word “firstborn” in Colossians therefore does not refer to a literal birth, but means that He is superior over all creation.  Most non-literal translations render the phrase with this meaning:

The firstborn over all creation” (NIV);

He is the first-born Son, superior to all created things” (Good News Translation).

Preeminent over all creation” (New Heart English Bible).

First to exist

Consider again the context in which we find the phrase:

He is … the firstborn of all creation, for by Him all things were created… He is before all things.” (1:15-17 NASB)

The word “for” links “the firstborn of all creation” to the creation event.  Since the creation event implies a time reference, it is possible to understand “the firstborn of all creation” to have a reference to time.  In other words, that it literally means that Jesus was the first to exist, for God created all things through Him.  This would then have a similar meaning to verse 17, which says, “He is before all things.

Created

Some argue that “Firstborn of all creation” means that Jesus is part of creation, and therefore a created being.  In other words, that God created His Son.  This interpretation is not supported here, for the following reasons:

Firstly, Paul’s main message in these verses is that Jesus created all things (1:16).  If all things have been created through Him and for Him, then He was not created Himself.

Secondly, as explained, the word “firstborn” in this context can quite naturally be understood as meaning “superior to all created things.

Thirdly, if He was born, He was not created.  John often refers to Jesus as the Only Begotten Son of God (1:18; 3:16, 18).  “Begotten” must be understood different from created.  He was not born like a human child is born, but God brought forth His Son.  What this means is difficult to imagine, for it is hidden in the infinity of God.  For a further discussion, see Only Begotten Son of God.

Does it really matter?

But perhaps all of these arguments, about whether He was created, are irrelevant.  Contrary to the general understanding in Christianity, Colossians and the Bible in general maintains a clear distinction between God and Jesus.  See also Jesus is not the same Person as God.

However, the Bible also says that in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form (2:9), that He always existed, for even time was created through Him and He upholds all things by the word of His power (1:17; Heb. 1:3).  Since these things are true, why would it matter whether He was created or born?  We don’t even understand the difference.

Is Jesus God?

Jesus ChristAs shown in the previous article. Colossians maintains a clear distinction between God and Jesus.  This is seen in statements such as that Jesus sits at God’s right hand, and that He is the image of the invisible God.  Such statements imply that Jesus is not God, but subordinate to God.

But Colossians also teaches that God created all things through Jesus, that Jesus Christ holds all creation together, that the fullness of deity dwells in Him, that He is the visible likeness of the invisible God, that He existed before all things and that He rules over all the entire Universe, subject only to God.  Therefore most Christians worship Him as God.

Both views are valid.  Actually, the question, whether He is God, is a bad question, for it depends on what one means by the title “God:

Most High: The angel said to Mary that Jesus will be called the Son of the Most High.  When the Bible makes statements such as that God is invisible, or that Jesus sits at the right hand of God, or “There is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,” then the Bible refers to the Most High as God. Using this definition of the title “God,” Jesus is not God.

Worship: But the word “God” also has a more general meaning, namely a being who is worshiped by other beings.  Many false gods are worshiped in the world.  However, one of the articles in this series concluded that we must worship Jesus.  When we use the title “God” to identify the One we must worship, then Jesus is God.

The question, whether Jesus is God, therefore creates unnecessary disagreement due to a confusion of terms.  The Bible in a few places describes Jesus as God, but that does not make Him the same as or equal to the Most High.  To be technically correct, we should use the Bible’s definition of the title “God,” which excludes Jesus.

Summary

Jesus rules over the entire Universe.  He is seated at the right hand of God.  God created the whole universe for him.  He is the Head over all rule and authority.

He existed before anything else did.  There never was a time that He did not exist.  Since all things were created through Him, even time commenced through Him.

He is the visible likeness of the invisible God.  In Him we can see what God is like.  He said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

In Him the Fullness of Deity dwells.  Some translations take this to mean that Jesus is God.  This is contrary to the message of Colossians.  Colossians consistently maintains a distinction between God and Jesus and implies that Jesus is subordinate to God.

In Him all things hold together.  Hebrews 1:3 similarly says, “He … upholds all things by the word of His power”.

He is the firstborn of all creation.  Some argue that this means that He is part of creation, and therefore a created being.  This interpretation is not supported here, because Jesus created all things, and could not have created Himself.  Secondly, He was “born;” not created.   The word “firstborn” in 1:15 probably means pre-eminence, saying that Jesus is superior to all created things.

Is Jesus God?  The New Testament generally reserves the title “God” for the Most High, which excludes Jesus.  But if the use the title “God” to identify the One we must worship, that includes Jesus.

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.
3a   Jesus in Colossians – Introduction
3b    Jesus in Colossians – I He God?  Current article
4.    Did Jesus empty Himself of equality with God?   Next
5.    Who is the Word in John 1:1?
6.    Jesus is not God.
7.    God is the Head of Christ.
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?