John 1:1, John 1:18 in John 20:28 call Jesus God, but only the Father is God.

Purpose

Gospel of JohnThe purpose of this article, and the ones following after it, is to determine whether Jesus is God according to John’s gospel, or whether only the Father is God.  The ultimate purpose is particularly to determine what John meant when he wrote that “the Word was theos (god)” in John 1:1c.  As discussed in the article theos, the word Greek theos has various different meanings.  John 1:1c may, for instance, be translated as:

“The Word was God” (definite) or
“The Word was a god” (indefinite) or
“The Word was like God” (qualitative).

Which of these is the intended meaning should also be the picture of Jesus we find by reading the entire gospel.  To prepare these articles, the gospel was read carefully and all relevant statements were selected and categorized.

Summary

Is Jesus called God in John’s gospel?

The title theos (usually translated “God” or “god”) appears more than 100 times in John’s gospel:

In most instances it is not clear whether it refers to the Father or to the Son, for instance: “There came a man sent from God, whose name was John” (1:6).

In ten instances it is clear that theos refers to the Father exclusively, for instance, “the Word (Jesus) was with God” (1:1b).  God has never been seen (1:18), while Jesus was seen.  The Father is even called “the one and only God” (5:44; 17:3) and Jesus referred to Him as “My God and your God” (20:17).

Three verses are sometimes used to argue that Jesus is called “God:”

John 1:1c

John 1:1c does not use theos in a definite sense, and therefore may not be translated “the Word was God.”  It is used in a qualitative sense, and therefore may be translated, “the Word was like God.”  Or, using the phraseology from Philippians 2, the Word “existed in the form of God” and had “equality with God” (Phil. 2:6).  But, as also argued in the article Jesus in Philippians 2, if Jesus “existed in the form of God” and if He had “equality with God,” then He is still distinct from God.

John 1:18

John 1:18 calls Jesus “the only begotten theos,” but only in some of the ancient manuscripts.  In the manuscript tradition with the widest geographical distribution, He is called “the only begotten huios” (son).  Therefore, the KJV translates this phrase as “the only begotten Son.”  John originally wrote either theos (god) or huios (son), but somebody corrupted the text either on purpose or by accident, and textual critics are not sure what John actually originally wrote.

John 20:28

John 20:28 records Thomas, when he saw the resurrected Jesus for the first time, as saying “my Lord and my God.”  This happened just after Jesus completed his work on earth and just before the apostle took the work forward in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Thomas could not have referred to Jesus as “God,” for the following reasons:

1. Jesus never taught the disciples that He is God.  Jesus consistently made a distinction between Himself and God.

2. When Thomas said these words, the apostles did not believe that Jesus is God.  For example, the two disciples walking to Emmaus spoke of Him as “a prophet” and said “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:19-21).

3. Afterwards, as recorded in the book of Acts, the disciples did not teach that Jesus is God.

Therefore, if Thomas did apply the title theos to Jesus, it could have been in the sense of God’s representative.  The Bible does use theos sometimes in that sense.  But Thomas actually said ho theos.  This title is used for the Father only, and implies that when Thomas said “my God,” he actually referred to the Father.

Conclusion

The evidence is clear that Jesus is not called God in John’s gospel.  Only the Father is God.  However, the view that Jesus is God does not rely on the argument that He is called God.  It is based on other facts, such as that He is worshiped equal to God.  These matters are discussed in the articles that will follow after this one.

John’s Gospel

Critical scholars believe that John’s gospel was written by a number of writers over a period of time.  But the gospel expresses a coherent and consistent view of God and Jesus.  It does not seem to be written by more than one person.

John’s gospel was written much later than the other (synoptic) gospels.  It was written in the eighties or nineties, and has a much higher Christology (view of Christ) than the other gospels.  Some interpreters understand John’s gospel as saying that Jesus existed before His conception in Mary’s womb, and even that Jesus is God Himself.  The other gospels do not have such a high view of Jesus.  In the other gospels Jesus seems to be just a man; an anointed and sanctified man, but still only a man.  Competing views are therefore expressed, namely:

1.  John contradicts the first three gospels. OR

2.  John does not contradict the other gospels, for Jesus is God the Son also in Matthew, Mark and Luke; as divine as the Father is. OR

3. John does not contradict the other gospels, for John’s gospel is generally misunderstood, and even in John’s gospel Jesus is merely a man; God’s Messiah; and not God.

Unless otherwise stated, all quotes are from the NASB of John’s gospel.

Jesus is distinct from God.

Rather than referring to Jesus as God, John’s gospel reserves the title “God” for the Father.  The following phrases make a distinction between Jesus and God:

The Word (Jesus) was with God” (1:1b).

No one has seen God at any time” (1:18).  (Jesus was seen.)

God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (3:16-17)

You do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God” (5:44).

This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (6:29).

You are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God” (8:40).

I proceeded forth and have come from God“ (8:42).

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me” (14:1-2).

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

John 17:3

Most of these quote Jesus’ words, making a distinction between Himself and God.  Two of these quotes refer to “the only true God” (17:3; cf. 5:44).  God is invisible (1:18), sent His Son (3:16-17; 6:29; 8:42; 17:3) and taught Jesus the truth (8:40).  His disciples, listening to these words, would not get the idea that Jesus is God.  To the contrary, in 8:40 Jesus refers to himself as “a man.”  Therefore, why would Thomas refer to Jesus as “my God” in John 20:28?  Where did he get the idea that Jesus is God?

The Father is God.

Jesus refers most often to “God” as the “Father.” It is important to understand that in John’s gospel, and in the entire New Testament, the title “God” is a synonym for “the Father,” for instance:

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places” (14:1-2).

Jesus said to Mary, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God” (20:17).

If only the Father is God, then it obviously follows that the Son is not called God.  But there are some Trinitarians that view the Father and Son to be a single self, and in Modalism the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are simply three modes of the same single divine Being.  Contrary to these views, the following shows that Jesus is distinct from the Father:

Thinking about His approaching death, Jesus said, “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (12:27).
(In Gethsemane He similarly prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Mt. 26:39).  This shows that the Father and Jesus two separate wills.)

If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I” (14:28; cf. 10:29).

The Father and the Son are therefore distinct Beings.  And, in the way that the New Testament uses the title “God,” only the Father is God

The Father is God for Jesus.

The following verse even identifies the Father as Jesus’ God:

Jesus said to Mary, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God” (20:17).

John, who also wrote the Revelation, quotes Jesus saying, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God” (Rev. 3:12; cf. 3:13).

Conclusion

The title theos (usually translated God or god) appears more than 100 times in John:

In most instances it is not clear whether it refers to the Father or to the Son, for instance: “There came a man sent from God, whose name was John” (1:6).

Above ten instances are mentioned where theos refers to the Father only.

On the other hand, there are three instances (1:1, 18 and 20:28) where theos perhaps refers to Jesus.  Separate articles have been placed on this website for each of these verses.  Below these articles are summarized:

John 1:1c

John 1:1This is usually translated “the Word was God.”  A series of articles on this website addresses the translation of John 1:1c.  One article evaluates the translation “The Word was God” and another the translation “The Word was a god.”  In these articles it is shown that neither of these translations are appropriate because the word theos is used in a qualitative sense in that phrase, as grammarians agree.  It should rather be translated as “the Word was like God.”

Both John 1:1 and Philippians 2 describe Jesus before He became a human being.  The article Jesus in Philippians 2 proposed that “the Word was theos” can be understood as equivalent to the statements in Philippians 2 that Jesus “existed in the form of God” and had “equality with God” and “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow” (Phil. 2:6, 10).  But, as also argued in that article, if Jesus “existed in the form of God” and if He had “equality with God,” then He is still distinct from God.

John 1:18

This verse is discussed in the article: John 1:18. In the NASB, this verse reads,

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”

The word “God” appears twice in this verse.  The first “God” refers to the Father, who is described as invisible.  Since God is invisible, the conclusion can be that Jesus is distinct from God.

The second “God” in 1:18 refers to Jesus, but appears only in some translations.  Twelve of the 27 translation of this verse, as listed by BibleHub, describe Jesus as God in this verse.  The other (mostly older) translations, use a different source text, which actually has the widest geographical distribution, and which describes Jesus as “the only begotten Son.”  John originally wrote either theos (god) or huios (son), but somebody corrupted the text either on purpose or by accident.  It is the task of the textual critic to determine which was the original wording.  As discussed in the article Is Jesus God in John 1:18? neither the external or internal evidence is conclusive.  Because of this uncertainty, this verse should not be used as evidence that Jesus is called God.

John 20:28

This verse is discussed in the article on John 20:28.  Thomas would not believe the reports that Jesus was raised from death, but when He saw Jesus in person, a few days later, he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” (20:28)!  Jesus did not reprove Thomas.

For some this provides the best evidence that Jesus is God.  It is said that Jesus is here without doubt called “God.”  However, strong circumstantial evidence exists that Thomas could not have referred to Jesus as God:

1. Jesus did not teach the disciples that He is God.  Jesus never used the term θεός (theos = god) for Himself, but described Himself as the Christ and as the Son of God.  As discussed above, Jesus consistently made a distinction between Himself and God.  John summarized the main thesis of his book as follows:

These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31).

2. The events in the immediate context of John 20:28 show that the disciples did not believe that Jesus is God.  The two disciples walking to Emmaus demonstrate the thoughts of Jesus’ followers at that time.  Speaking to the resurrected Christ, whom they mistook as just a traveler, they described Jesus as “a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God…and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:19-21).

3. The events in the book of Acts began a few weeks after Jesus appeared to Thomas.  If the apostles really believed that Jesus is God, that would have been their message in Acts, but such a statement is never even once found in Acts.

4. Paul was given the task of interpreting the dramatic Christ-events and to teach the church through his letters.  He did not teach that Jesus is God, but wrote the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3).   According to some translations of Romans 9:5, Paul referred to Jesus as God, but the article on Romans 9:5 shows that it is all a matter of punctuation, and all punctuation in the Bible is interpretation.

The article on John 20:28 analyses possible interpretations of Thomas’ exclamation.  Since the word theos has many different meanings, Thomas might have described Jesus as God-like or as mandated by God to speak for Him.  These are valid alternative meanings of the word theos.  See the article THEOS.  Another option is that Thomas did not address Jesus, but that He addressed the Father as “my God.”  Since Thomas did not merely say theos, but ho theos, this is quite possible.

But which of these is what Thomas actually meant is not important.  What is important is that the immediate and wider context prevents us from understanding John 20:28 as saying that Jesus is God.

Conclusion

The evidence is clear that Jesus is not called God in John’s gospel.  Only the Father is God.  However, the view that Jesus is God does not rely on the argument that He is called God.  It is based on other facts, such as:

He is worshiped equal to God.
The Jews thought that Jesus “was … making Himself equal with God” (5:18).
Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (8:58), “I and the Father are one” (10:30) and “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (14:9).

These matters are discussed in the articles that will follow after this one.

NEXT:  Did Jesus claim to be God?

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?

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 of whether Jesus is God.  See the list at the end of the article.  This article discusses the evidence that Jesus is distinct from God, and therefore that He is not God.  Another article will explore the evidence that He is God.

Jesus is not God.

The Trinity concept represents as one Being but three Persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Distinct – In contrast, this article shows, in a variety of ways, that the Bible MAKES 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?