In the Trinity theory, God is one Being but three co-equal and co-eternal Persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The New Testament, however, as this article purposes to show, maintains a DISTINCTION between God and Jesus. In summary:
The Bible is very clear that THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD. A number of verses in the New Testament contain the phrases:
- “God is one” (Mark 12:28-30; James 2:19),
- “One God” (1 Cor 8:6; 1 Tim 2:5; Eph 4:4-6),
- “Only God” (Jude 1:25; John 5:44; 1 Tim 1:17); or
- “Only true God” (John 17:3).
And in all these verses, the Father alone is God. These verses often identify Jesus Christ as “Lord.” For example, “There is but ONE GOD, THE FATHER … and ONE LORD, JESUS CHRIST.”
All letters of the New Testament commence with making a distinction between God and Jesus, for example, “Peace from GOD our Father, and the LORD Jesus Christ” (Rom 1:7-8; cf. 1 Cor 1:3-4; Eph 1:2-3; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Phil 1:2; Col 1:2; Philem 1:3; 1 Thess 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:2 and 2 John 1:3). Therefore, if we want to derive our definition of the term “God” from the New Testament, then we must use that title for the Father only (cf. Eph 6:23).
Jesus referred to the Father as “My God” (John 20:17; Matt 27:46) He did this even 60 years after His resurrection when He gave the Book of Revelation (Rev 3:2, 12; cf. 1:6). Paul similarly described the Father as “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:17). The letter to the Hebrews, speaking to Jesus, similarly talks of God as “Your God” (Heb 1:8-9). And since God is also His God, Jesus prayed to God when He was on earth (John 17:1; Luke 6:16.
In a number of New Testament verses, God, the Father, is the Ultimate uncaused Cause of all things, in distinction to Jesus. For example, “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; cf. 2 Cor 5:18-19; 1 Tim 6:13; Heb 1:1; John 1:3).
Jesus “is the IMAGE of the invisible God” (Col 1:15; cf. 2 Cor 4:4; Heb 1:3; John 1:18). God is invisible, unknowable, and incomprehensible. God, the Father, “dwells in unapproachable light, whom NO MAN HAS SEEN or can see” (1 Tim 6:16-17; cf. 1 John 4:12; John 1:18; 6:46). If God is invisible, while Jesus is His visible image, then Jesus is distinct from God. Jesus is therefore not God, given how the New Testament uses the title “God.”
At His ascension, Jesus “was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of GOD” (Mark 16:19). His position, at God’s right hand, is mentioned often in the New Testament (Acts 7:56; Matt 26:62; Acts 2:33; 7:55; Rom 8:34 and Eph 1:20). It is the position of power over the entire universe; subject only to God. This confirms that Jesus is both DISTINCT from God and SUBORDINATE to God.
Many, many other passages may be listed where God and Jesus are mentioned as distinct from one another. For example, before He had to suffer and die on the Cross, Jesus pleaded with His Father, “if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matt 26:39; cf. Matt 2:12, 22; Mark 10:18) The book of Revelation refers “to God and to the Lamb” (Rev 14:4; cf. 11:15; 21:22-23; 22:1, 3), which confirm that Jesus is distinct from God. And the Father “alone possesses immortality” (1 Tim 6:16).
The amended article (Given how the New Testament uses the title “God,” Jesus is not God) continues to discuss:
FOURTH CENTURY CONTROVERSY
The controversy about the nature of Christ arose early in the fourth century. See, for example, the Council of Nicaea, the Nicene Creed interpreted, Fourth Century Arian Period, and What did Arians believe in the fourth century? For an overview of the early development of the trinity doctrine, see the Byzantine Papacy.
JESUS IS CALLED GOD.
Above are some of the many indications that the New Testament does not describe Jesus as “God.” However, of the about 1300 times that the word Greek theos (translated god or God) appears in the New Testament, it refers to Jesus about 7 times. So why is Jesus called “God” in those instances?
The reason is that there is no exact equivalent for the modern word “God” in the Greek of the New Testament. The ancient Greek language only had words equivalent to our word “god.” In English, we use the modern word “God” as a name to identify one specific Being. It is up to the translators to decide when they will translate theos as “God” and when as “god.” To translate the instances of theos that refer to Jesus as “God” is an application of the Trinity doctrine; not proof there-of. (For a further discussion, see, for example, the article on Hebrews 1:8 or on the word theos.)
JESUS IS GOD.
So, before we can ask whether Jesus is God, we really should define the word “God” first. Since the New Testament consistently makes a distinction between the Father as God (theos) and Jesus as Lord (kurios), and since we should derive our terminology from the Bible, we should conclude that the Father alone is God.
If we define the word “God” as any Being that is described as Jesus is described, for example, that God created all things through Him (Heb 1:2), that He upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:3) and that He is the First and the Last (Rev 1:17), THEN JESUS IS GOD.
But if we define God as the uncaused Cause of all things, then the Father alone is God. The Father is the only true God (John 17:3) and the only truly immortal Being (1 Tim 1:17; Rev 4:10). He is the invisible and unknowable Ultimate Cause of all things (Rev 4:11). He is our God and also Jesus’ God. The Lord Jesus is always subject to and subordinate to the only true God. To use Bible terminology, “God is the head of Christ” (1 Cor 11:3).
The conclusion, that the Bible makes a distinction between God and Jesus, and therefore that Jesus is not God, given how the New Testament uses the title “God,” came as a surprise to me personally. To confirm my conclusion, I studied various books of the New Testament. These studies are available as articles.
One important article provides further evidence of the distinction between God and Jesus by showing that Jesus is subordinate to God.
The Book of Revelation is particularly important for the current topic because it was received about 60 years after Jesus died. I sometimes hear people speaking of Jesus as God Almighty and a chill runs down my spine. All except one occurrence of the word “Almighty” in the NT are found in Revelation and that book makes a clear distinction between the Almighty God and Jesus. For example, “the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev 21:22). For a discussion of Jesus in this book, see the articles, God in the book of Revelation and the Almighty.
I discuss the Christology of the letter to the Colossians in two articles. The first asks, What view does Colossians have of Christ Jesus? Is He called God? Are we saved by Christ Jesus, or by God? Who created all things and who reconciled all things; God or Christ Jesus? The second article concludes that God created all things through Jesus. Jesus holds all creation together, yet He is distinct from God.
Philippians 2 is an important chapter for understanding who Jesus is, for it teaches that He existed in the form of God but emptied Himself of equality with God.
1 Corinthians 8:6 is another key verse. On the one hand, it contradicts the Trinitarian view by explicitly identifying the Father as God and Jesus as Lord. On the other hand, contrary to Socinianism, it confirms the message of John 1:3, Colossians 1:16 and Hebrews 1:3, namely that God created all things through Jesus Christ.
Various articles have been written to address the objections against the view proposed here. Perhaps some may be mentioned:
John 1:1 and 1:18 refers to Jesus as God. However, the same two verses also make a distinction between God and Jesus by saying:
“The Word was with God” (John 1:1) and
“No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18).
Why is He called God if He is not God? The article series on John 1:1 concludes that John 1:1c should be translated:
“The Word was like God.”
John 1:1 then has the same meaning as Philippians 2:5, which says that Jesus, before His birth, “existed in the form of God” and had equality with God.
The article on John 1:18 shows that the original text is disputed. Many ancient manuscripts refer to Jesus as huios (son) and not as theos (god). But even if John originally did describe Jesus as theos, we remember that it is up to the translators to decide whether to translate theos as “God” or as “god.” To translate theos as God,” when it refers to Jesus, is an application of the Trinity doctrine; not proof of it.
I AND THE FATHER ARE ONE.
In John 10:30 Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” Related to this, in John 14:9-11, Jesus 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 for His followers, defined the term to “be one”:
“That they may be one as we are one“ (John 17:21-23).
To “be one,” therefore, means to be united in purpose and in work. It describes a relationship between distinct beings. As Jesus said, He did the works of the Father (John 10:32) and He only did what pleased the Father (John 8:28-29).
THE NATURE OF CHRIST
– ARTICLES ON THIS WEBSITE –
STUDIES OF SPECIFIC BIBLE BOOKS
STUDIES OF SPECIFIC BIBLE PASSAGES
JESUS IS SUBORDINATE TO THE FATHER.
JESUS IS EQUAL WITH GOD.
JESUS IS CALLED GOD.
- Overview– Overview of the articles on the verses that refer to Jesus as theos.
- Theos – The meaning of theos – the word translated “God.”
- The translation of John 1:1
- John 1:18 – The original text of this verse is in dispute.
- John 20:28 – Did Thomas say that Jesus is God?
- John’s gospel – Discussion of theos in this gospel.
- Romans 9:5 – The translation depends on punctuation.
- Hebrews 1:8 – The next verse says that God is His theos.