Who is Jesus? Jesus is not God, but He is God.

There are at least two sides to this argument.  This article acknowledges that Jesus always existed, that God created all things through Him and that He, as the Only begotten Son, is God’s only true family.  The Bible is also clear that Jesus is equal with God and that we must worship Jesus.  On the other hand, the New Testament makes a distinction between God and Jesus and indicates that Jesus is subordinate to God.  In others words, the New Testament reserves the title “God” for the Father.  But in other places Jesus is also called God.  This article seeks a solution which that satisfies these seemingly contradictory statements.

The current article is a summary of the articles on this website that explain who is Jesus.

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

The three views of Jesus Christ

This is a summary of the article The three views of the Son.

Created: Some propose that He is a created being; the first created being, who created all other things, yet still a created being.

Derived: The Fathers of the Christian church in the Nicene creed proposed that He was eternally generated by God the Father; that He came forth from the being of God; begotten, not made.

Co-equal: A third view is that He always existed; co-equal with the Father.

This subject requires humility, for humans are not able to understand God.  We need to accept this inability with joy, for then we also appreciate a little of His greatness.

We must not use logic to supply that which the Bible does not reveal.  Human logic will only serve to lead us away from truth.

Jesus has always existed – in the form of God.

This section is a summary of the articles Jesus always existed and Jesus in Philippians.

He was before John the Baptist, “before Abraham,” “before the world was” and “before all things.”  He is “from the days of eternity;” from “the beginning.” (John 1:1, 29; 8:58; 17:5; Col. 1:17; Micah 5:2)  He existed in the “form of God” and had “equality with God” (Phil. 2:5-6).

God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten Son.  Jesus came forth from the Father.  He “descended from heaven,” “from God;” “from the Father.” (John 3:13; 6:33-38, 62; 8:23;16:28).  He “emptied Himself” of the “form of God” and of “equality with God.”  He took on “the form of a bond-servant … being made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6-7).  He descended from heaven and became a mere human baby, without any knowledge or wisdom.

God created all things through Jesus.

This is a summary of the article God created all things through His Son.

God created all things: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1; cf. Isaiah 44:24; cf. 42:5; 45:18; Mt 19:4-6).  But God created all things through Jesus:

God spoke to Jesus, in His pre-human existence, saying “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).

In the beginning was the Word … All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:1-3).  “The Word” is Jesus (see John 1:14).  See also Colossians 1:16-17 and Hebrews 1:2.

Paul concluded as follows of the different roles of God and Jesus in creation:  “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” (I Cor. 8:6).

God is the Source of all creative power and wisdom, but He creates all things through “His Son.”  He also sustains all things through His Son (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3).

Only Begotten Son

This section is a summary of the article Only Begotten Son of God.

The title “Son of God” for Jesus Christ is found about 50 times in the Bible.  By itself this title does not mean that Jesus is God, because believers are also sons of God.  But Jesus is God’s only begotten Son (John 1:14; 1:18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9).  “Only begotten” translates the Greek word monogenēs.  Monogenēs combines two words, namely monos (alone) and génos (family, offspring).  “Only begotten” is symbolic language, but it means that He is God’s only true family.  Believers are adopted as sons, but Jesus is God’s only real family.

Some assume that, since the Father is God, that the Son must also be God.  But the phrase “only begotten Son” is symbolic language.  It reflects in human language something which is human beyond comprehension.  It must not be understood literally.

First-born of all creation

Colossians 1:15-16 describes Jesus as “the first-born of all creation.”  Revelation 3:14 similarly describes Him as “the Beginning of the creation of God.”  For some this is evidence that Jesus is a created being; God’s first creation.

First in importance

Others point out that “firstborn,” in the Jewish culture, became to designate preeminence.  David, for example, the youngest son of Jesse, was named “firstborn” (Psalm 89:20–27).  This interpretation is supported by Colossians 1:18 and Revelation 1:5, where Jesus is also the “firstborn from the dead.”  He was not the first person to be raised from death, but He was the most important person ever to be resurrected from death.

First in time

Colossians reads, “He is … the firstborn of all creation, for by Him all things were created” (Col. 1:15-16).  The word “for” implies that Jesus is “the firstborn of all creation” because by Him God created all things.  It is therefore proposed here that, in Colossians 1, “firstborn” is a reference to time; not to preeminence.  Verse 17 concludes that “He is before all things.”  It is therefore here proposed that “firstborn of all creation” has the same meaning as “He is before all things.”  But this does not mean that He is a created being:

Firstly, since God created “all things” through Him (Col. 1:16-17), and because time is integral to this universe, and therefore also created by Jesus, there never was a time when the Son did not exist.

Secondly, He is not the first created, but is the “firstborn.”  Since He was “begotten,” He was not created.  “Born” here is symbolic language.  What it means for Jesus to have been born of God is difficult to imagine, but it should not be literally interpreted.  As stated above, the Fathers of the Christian church proposed that He was eternally generated by God the Father; that He came forth from the being of God; begotten, not made.

See the article Jesus in Colossians for a further discussion.

Jesus is One and Equal with the Father.

This is a summary of the article, I and the Father are One.  This article shows that Jesus is one with and equal with God and that He shares God’s names and attributes:

They do all things together.

In the beginning was the Word … was with God” (John 1:1).

God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26; John 1:3).

All things that the Father has are Mine” (John 16:15; cf. 17:10).

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

Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working” (John 5:17).

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).

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).

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

I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).

Jesus is equal with God.

According to Philippians 2 Jesus “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.”  If He had equality with God prior to His birth, He today again has equality with God.

God said, “to Me every knee will bow” (Isaiah 45:23), but Paul wrote that to “Jesus every knee should bow” (Phil. 2: 10-11).

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).

As the Only Begotten Son of God He is God’s only true family.

No one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son” (Mt. 11:27).  “The Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing” (John 5:19-20).  These are profound statements of equality.

God’s Names are claimed for Jesus.

God said, “I AM has sent me to you … This is My Name for ever” (Ex. 3:15-18).  Jesus claimed this name.  He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:24, 58).  When the soldiers came to capture Him, He said to them, “I am,” and the soldiers “drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:6 – “He” was added by the translators.)

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

The LORD” (YHVH) said “there is no savior besides Me” (Isaiah 43:11).  But Jesus is the “source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9), being “able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him” (Heb. 7:25).

Both “the LORD” YHVH and Jesus are “the first and … the last,” “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” (Isaiah 44:6; 48:12; Rev. 1:8, 17-18; 21:6 22:13).

Both the One “whom no man has seen or can see” and Jesus are called “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:14-16; Rev. 17:14 & 19:16).

Jesus has God’s attributes.

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

Where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20).  “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20; cf. Acts 18:9-10)

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).

Worship Jesus to the glory of God.

This is a summary of the article Jesus is worshiped.  Does that mean that He is God?

The Bible teaches that only God may be worshiped, for instance, “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only” (Luke 4:8).  But in the King James translation of the New Testament there are 13 verses in which Jesus is worshiped.  The question is whether this means that Jesus is God.

Worship and Proskuneó

The Greek word translated “worship” in the New Testament is proskuneó.  But “worship” is not always a good translation for proskuneó: “Worship” implies that God or a god is worshiped, while proskuneó often simply means to show respect to another created being.  This can be seen in how proskuneó is used in the New Testament:

In six instances, where people proskuneó Jesus, it is obvious that people did not worship Him, as per the meaning of the English word “worship.”  For instance, “Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him” (Mt. 20:20); KJV).  In these six instances the NASB translates proskuneó as “bow down” because the people merely showed respect to Jesus by bowing.

In other instances, where the NASB translates proskuneó as “worship,” there often are clear indications in the text that the people or angels who proskuneó Jesus did not think of Him as God.  For instance, the magi from the east “fell to the ground and worshiped” Jesus as a baby (Mt. 2:11; NASB), but they were searching for “He who has been born King of the Jews” (Mt. 2:2); not for God.

There are also instances in the New Testament where people receive proskuneó.

Proskuneó is therefore not equivalent the English word “worship.”  This conclusion is confirmed by the dictionary definitions of the Greek word proskuneó, for instance, “to kiss the ground when prostrating before a superior.”

Therefore, the fact that people and angels proskuneó Jesus does not prove that He is God.

Worship the Lord your God only.

On the other hand, Jesus quoted the Ten Commandments, “you shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only” (Mt. 4:9). And when John proskuneó (worshiped) the angel, the angel prevented him from doing so, instructing him to “worship (proskuneó) God” (Rev. 19:10).

It was the Jewish custom to show respect to other people.  When Abraham saw “three men were standing opposite him; … he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth” (Gen 18:2).  It is good to show appropriate respect to other created beings.  Jesus said, “one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant” (Luke 22:26).  Paul wrote, “with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3).

But there comes a point when showing respect to another created being becomes a sin.  That point is when showing respect to another being replaces the worship of God; as if that being is God.  Our highest adoration and reverence must be reserved for God.

We must worship Jesus.

Jesus must be worshiped.  “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).  Jesus has equality with God in our esteem and affections.

But, as discussed in the article Jesus in Philippians, He is not worshiped because He is God, but because:

(1) God gave Him a name that is above every other name.
(2) To worship Jesus is to worship God.  Our worship flows through Jesus to God.

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, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11)

Please see that important article for an explanation of this text.

Jesus is not God.

This is a summary of the article, Jesus is not the same Person as God.  This article discusses the evidence for this statement.

God and Jesus are mentioned as distinct, for instance, “do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1).

In both the Old and New Testament we find statements that there is but one God, for instance, “there is no God besides Me” (Is 44:6).  And we read categorical statements that Jesus is distinct from that one true God, for instance, “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, for instance, 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 refers to God as “My God,” for instance “I ascend to My Father and to your Father, to My God and to your God” (John 20:17).  And He prayed to God, for instance, “He offered up both prayers … to the One able to save Him from death” (Heb. 5:7).

God is the Source of all things; not Jesus, for instance, “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).

In Gethsemane 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’” (Mt. 26:39).  This indicates that the Father and the Son have separate and distinct wills.

God is invisible, for instance, “no one has seen God at any time” (1 John 4:12).  Jesus is seen, and therefore distinct from God.

Conclusion: The Bible makes a distinction between God and Jesus.  It limits the title “God” to the Father.  Therefore Jesus is not God.

The Most High is God.

The angel Gabriel said to Mary:

You will conceive … and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He … will be called the Son of the Most High The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:30-35)

Gabriel therefore referred to Jesus both as the Son of God and the Son of the Most High.  Gabriel therefore limited the title “God” to the “Most High.”  When the Bible makes statements such as that God is invisible (Col. 1:15), or that Jesus sits at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19), or “there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5) then the Bible uses the title “God” exclusively for the Most High.  In this use of the title “God,” Jesus is not God.  Except for a few instances, the New Testament uses the title “God” exclusively for the Most High.  Therefore, in the terminology of the New Testament, which should also be the way in which we should use the title “God,” Jesus is not God.

The Father is God.  The Son is Lord.

Since Jesus is the Son of the Most High, Jesus often referred to the Most High as “Father.”  The “Father” is therefore called “God.”  This is confirmed by the following:

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

Jesus said that He has come “from God” (John 8:42), but in another place He that He has come “from the Father” (John 16:28).

Paul similarly wrote “Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Col 3:17).  Or, “there is but one God, the Father … and one Lord, Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 8:6; cf. 1 Cor. 15:24).

The two quotes from Paul above also show that, while the Father is called “God,” the Son is called “Lord.”  This is confirmed In the article Jesus in Colossians.

Jesus is subordinate to God.

This is a summary of the article Jesus is subordinate to God.

In much of the church today Jesus is seen as the second Person of the Godhead; co-equal with the Father.  But the mere fact that He is the Son already implies that He is subordinate to the Most High, who is the Father.  Other such indications  of this include the following:

Jesus said, “the Father is greater than I.
Paul categorically stated that “God is the head of Christ.
Jesus prayed to God (e.g. Mt. 26:39).
Jesus did not know all things (Mt. 24:36).
God sent the Son into the world (e.g. John 3:16).
Jesus referred to the Father as “My God” (e.g. John 20:17).
God exalted Jesus to His right hand (e.g. Heb. 12:2).
There is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

Everything which His Son has, He received from His Father.  The Holy Spirit, the ability to raise the dead, the authority to judge, “what to say and what to speak,” His works and disciples, “all authority in heaven and on earth” and even the fullness of Deity He received from the Father. (Mt. 28:18; Luke 10:22; John 1:32-34; 5:22, 36, 26-29; John 6:44;12:49; 17:1-2; Col. 1:19; 2:9).

Conclusions:

(a) Jesus was subordinate to God before His birth.  For instance, God sent His only begotten Son into this world (John 3:18) and gave Him what to say and what to do (John 12:49).

(b) Jesus is also subordinate to God after His ascension.  For instance, He is today seated “at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

(c) These examples also provide further evidence for the conclusion in the previous section, namely that Jesus is not God.

(d) As stated before, the New Testament generally reserves the title “God” for the Most High (the Father), and presents the Son as subordinate to the Father.  The general understanding in the Church is that Jesus is co-equal to the Father.  This seems to be incorrect.

Jesus is called God.

This is a summary of the article Jesus is called God.

The Question – It was shown above 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 “God” is a name for the Father exclusively.  Then Jesus is not God.  But in the New Testament Jesus is called God.  Does that mean that Jesus is God?

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.  “God” (elohim), in contrast, is used both for the true God and for false gods.  Therefore, the Old Testament uses various techniques to be specific when the true God is intended.  Often the title “God” is combined with YHVH, for instance, “the LORD God” or “the LORD his God.” In other instances, YHVH is used in the immediately context.  In other words, the term “God” is not a unique identifier or a name for the God of the Bible.

New Testament – The Hebrew name YHVH is found all over the Old Testament, but does not appear at all in the New Testament.  Instead, the NT uses the term “God” (theos) as a name for the One True God, with no further identification.  However, theos is a common noun that is also applied to false gods and to some created beings.  The term “God” is therefore used in two ways.  In most instances it is a name for the true God.  But occasionally it is used as a common noun for false gods and even people.

Jesus is called God – The New Testament uses theos (God) more than 1000 times.  In seven instances theos refers explicitly to Jesus.   This does not prove that Jesus is the same as or equal to the Only True and invisible God, because in the vast majority of instances the NT makes a distinction between God and Jesus.  Stated differently, the New Testament reserves “God” as a name for the Father exclusively.  Furthermore, “god” is also used for false gods and for exalted created beings.

John 1:1 – This principle may be illustrated by means of John 1:1:

This verse starts by saying, “the Word was with God.”  “God” in this phrase is used as a name for the Father, similar to the name YHVH, to uniquely identify the Father.  This implies that Jesus is distinct from God and therefore not God.

The verse continues to say “and the Word was God.”  Here John uses to the common meaning of the word “god” to describe Jesus as our God.  Other people have other gods, but Jesus is our God.

This does not mean that Jesus 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).

Jesus is our God because He was in the beginning with God and God created all things through Him.  Everything may perish, but Jesus will always remain the same.  He is “over all” and He is our “Savior” who “gave Himself for us to redeem us.”

Bad Question – Since the word theos is used in two ways the question, whether Jesus is God, is a bad question.  The New Testament uses “God” as a name for the uncaused Cause of all things, who cannot be seen.  Then Jesus is not God.  But theos is also used for the one that a person worships and obey.  Then Jesus is the Christian God.   “All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father.”

 

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