If Jesus is not God, why does the Bible call Him God?

Purpose

The New Testament, generally, makes a distinction between Jesus and God and uses the title “God” for the Father alone. That implies that Jesus is not “God.” However, of the 1300 instances in the New Testament of the Greek word theos (translated as “god” or as “God” – Strong’s Greek: 2316. θεός), about seven refers to Jesus as theos. The purpose of this article is to determine what the New Testament writers meant when they described Jesus as theos.

God’s name YHVH

YHVH is often translated as “the LORD.”

To appreciate 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 as Yahweh. This name is used all over the Old Testament; more than 6800 times. Some Bibles 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 most Bibles ‘translate’ YHVH as “the LORD” (all capitals). For example, in the NASB, the same verse reads:

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

?? This verse refers to YHVH as the “Most High.” Angel Gabriel similarly said to Mary that Jesus “will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32).

This distorts the meaning.

For example, 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
” (Exo 6:2).

Because “Lord” is a title and not a name, this ‘translation’ distorts the meaning. It would be easier to understand this verse if the name “YHVH” was not replaced with“the LORD” and it read as follows

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
.”

In other words, Moses was the first person to whom God revealed His name. The name YHVH does appear in Genesis, but that is because Moses also wrote Genesis.

El and Elohim

Elohim is a category name.

In Hebrew, the word for “god” (generally El or the plural form Elohim), in contrast to YHVH, is used both for the true God and for false gods. El and Elohim are 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 (Strong’s Hebrew: 430. אֱלֹהִים (elohim)). For example:

The True God”
A jealous and avenging God [elohim] is the LORD” (Nahum 1:2).

False gods:
For My people have forgotten Me,
They burn incense to worthless gods
[elohim]
(Jer 18:15; cf. Exo 20:3; 32:31).

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” (Exo 12:12).

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

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

Techniques to make the title elohim specific

Since the title Elohim is a name for a category of beings, the Old Testament uses various techniques to be specific when the true God is intended:

(1) Combines Elohim 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’” (Isa 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” (Exo 29:46). (12 times)

(2) YHVH in the immediately context

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

So the LORD changed His mind …
Then Moses … went down from the mountain
with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand …
the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets.

(Exo 32:14-16)

“6 The LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah …
7 But God appointed a worm … and … the plant … withered.
8 … God appointed a scorching east wind,
and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head …
he became faint and begged with all his soul to die …
9 Then God said to Jonah …” (Jonah 4:6-9)

(3) 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 (e.g., Jer 19:15) and 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 (e.g., Gen 48:3).

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

Jesus is Elohim.

It is difficult to find a place in the Old Testament where the term Elohim is used for YHVH without further identification. The name YHVH seems to be always somewhere in the context. This means that the Old Testament does not use Elohim as a unique identifier or as a name for the God of the Bible. In contrast, in modern English, “God” is used as a unique name for the Most High.

Since Elohim, by itself, does not identify any specific being uniquely and since it has such a wide range of meanings, so that it is even translated as “god,” “divine,” “divine being,” “great,” “judges,” and as “rulers,” given what we know of Jesus, He would also be Elohim. But we want to know more than that. We want to know whether Jesus is YHVH, or the Elohim of Israel.

Jesus is called God.

Of the 1314 times that the title “God” appears in the New Testament, it refers explicitly to Jesus about seven times, depending on the translation. Jesus is possibly called “God” three times in John (1:1, 18; 20:27; 1 John 5:20), twice in Paul’s letters (Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13), once by Peter (2 Peter 1:1) and once in Hebrews (Heb 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 about seven instances. Furthermore:

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

A separate article shows that, 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 (e.g. Acts 2:33). Everything that His Son has, He has received from His Father. This includes:

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)

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

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.

Romans 9:5

Does Romans 9:5 refer to Jesus as God?

This is discussed in a separate article Jesus in Romans. That article analyses all references to “God” in the letter to the Romans and it concludes that Romans everywhere makes a distinction between God and Jesus. The only possible exception is Romans 9:5. Of the 28 translations of this verse, as provided by BibleHub, 14 identify Jesus as God but, in the other 14, Jesus is “God blessed” (NASB), which makes, like the entire rest of that letter, a distinction between God and Jesus. It is all a matter of punctuation, and punctuation in the Bible is interpretation (The Aquila Report).

Furthermore, Romans 9:5 contains the phrase “who is over all” and ascribe blessing. To read Romans 9:5 as describing Jesus as God, He must be the One who is “who is over all” and ascribe blessing. But in all other places in Paul’s writings “who is over all” refer not to Christ, but to God (Eph 4:6). Similarly, everywhere else in Paul’s writings our thanks go to God; not to Jesus.

Given these facts, and since Paul nowhere else applied the title “God” to our Lord, Romans 9:5 should not be used to argue that Jesus is God.

Titus 2:13

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).

Letter to the 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 conclusion that the New Testament, in the vast majority of instances, reserves the title “God” for the Father.

Secondly, although John 1:1 and 1:18  refer to Jesus as God, these 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 understand 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).

Conclusion

I have written several articles on the use of theos for Jesus in the NT. My conclusions can be summarised into the following categories:

Instances where it is NOT clear whether theos refers to Christ:

In many translations of Romans 9:5, Jesus is not God but blessed by God. See, Jesus in Paul’s letter to the Romans.

In 1 John 5:20, the title “true theos” is sometimes understood as referring to the Son. However, the entire purpose of that verse is to say that the Father is the “true” God, in contrast to the idols mentioned in the next verse. It twice refers to the Father as “Him who is true.” Therefore, when that verse concludes by saying that “This is the true God,” this should be understood as referring to the Father:

20 And we know that the Son of God has come,
and has given us understanding
so that we may know Him who is true;
and we are in Him who is true,
in His Son Jesus Christ.
This is the true God and eternal life.
21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (NASB)

Instances where it is not clear whether the original manuscripts contain the word theos:

Many of the ancient manuscripts of John 1:18 describe Jesus as “Son” and not as God.” See, Did John John refer to Jesus as theos (god) or huios (son)?

Instances where the meaning of the word theos is in dispute:

The grammatical structure of John 1:1c means that the word was like God; not that he is God. See, The Word was God or like God?

In Hebrews 1:8-9 and John 20:28, 19, Jesus is called theos but the Father is called His God. That means that theos is used in different senses for the Father and Son. See the article on theos.

Other Available Articles

The Son is subordinate to God. “God is the Head of Christ.”

Purpose of this article

The Bible depicts the Son as subordinate to the Father. But this is inconsistent with the Trinity doctrine in which the Son and the Holy Spirit are co-equal with the Father.

The first defense of the Trinity doctrine is to say that the Son was only temporary subordinate to the Father while He was on earth, but that He was equal with the Father before His incarnation and that He again is equal with the Father after He returned to heaven.

However, as this article will show, according to the Bible, the Son always was subordinate to the Father and will always be subordinate to the Father.

Therefore, the second defense of the Trinity doctrine is to say that the Son is eternally functionally subordinate to the Father but ontologically (in terms of substance and being) equal with the Father. This article quotes several authorities to show that this is really an orthodox teaching.

This article then concludes by arguing that even eternal functionally subordination does not protect the Trinity doctrine against the evidence from the Bible that the Son is subordinate to the Father.

The Main Enemy

According to Kevin Giles, the three great trinitarian heresies are tritheism, modalism, and subordinationism.

    • Tritheism is the risk that the Trinity may be understood as three Gods.
    • Modalism is the risk that the Trinity may be understood as one Person.

These are regarded as two incorrect understandings of the Trinity doctrine. But Subordinationism is the main enemy of the Trinity doctrine for it challenges the very foundation of the Trinity doctrine. Ted Peters says that if anything, contemporary mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic trinitarian thinking is “antisubordinationist.” (Ted Peters, God as Trinity (Louisville: Westminster, 1993), p. 45)

Subordination in the Bible

Carl Henry stated:

“The biblical data put beyond doubt the subordination of the Son.” (Henry, God, Revelation and Authority. Vol. V. The God Who Stays (Waco, TX: Word, 1982) 207.)

For example:

Jesus, as a child, “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

Jesus said that He did not know when Judgment Day will be. He added, “of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mark 13:32; cf. Matt 24:36).

Jesus explicitly admitted, “The Father is greater than I” (John 14:28).

In Gethsemane, Jesus prayed and submitted to his Father will: “Yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matt 26:39).

Jesus described the Father as His “God” (John 20:17). Consistent with this, He also prayed to God (e.g., John 17:1). For instance, He asked the Father to give the Spirit to His disciples (John 14:16-17) and that His disciples might “be with Me where I am” (John 17:24).

Everything that He did and said were given to Him by the Father (e.g., John 5:19, 30; 8:42; 14:10; 17:4).

The subordination of the Son to the Father seems contrary to the Trinity doctrine in which the Father, Son and Spirit are three co-equal Persons of the One God. One of the defenses of the Trinity doctrine against such subordination passages is to say that His subordination was temporary. It is argued that, because of sin and the desire to save, the Son temporarily submitted to the Father and became man.In other words, He was not always subordinate to the Father. 

This article will now show that, in the Bible, the Son always was and always will be subordinate to the Father:

Subordinate before He came to Earth

There are several indications that the Son was subordinate to the Father before He came to this world:

God’s Son

The following shows that He did not become the Son when He became a human being; He was God’s “only begotten Son” before God sent Him to this world:

When the fullness of the time came,
God sent forth His Son
” (Gal 4:4).

For God so loved the world,
that He gave His only begotten Son

(John 3:16; cf. 3:18; 1:18; 1 John 4:9).

God did not send the Son into the world
to judge the world …
” (John 3:17).

Within a family, regardless of actual capability, sons are considered subordinate to fathers, expected to honour and respect them. God uses human relationships to explain divinity.

Begotten Son

God has many sons, but Christ is God’s only “begotten” Son (e.g., John 1:18; 3:16). What that exactly means, we do not know, but since God uses human relationships to explain divinity, it implies that Jesus was not created but came forth from the being of the Father. This implies that the Father is the Ultimate Source of all things and that Jesus always was ontologically subordinate to the Father. As Tertullian stated:

The Son is a derivation and portion of the whole, as He Himself acknowledges: My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28).

(For a further discussion, see Only Begotten.)

Sent by God

In John’s gospel, Jesus says perhaps forty times that the Father “sent” Him (John 4:34; 5:30; 8:42)and “gave Him what to do and what to say” (John 12:49; cf. John 5:36; 6:38; 8:26, 28, 38, 40; 10:32; 14:24, 31; 15:10, 15; 17:4, 8, 14). For example, Jesus said:

I came down from heaven,
not to do mine own will,
but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38).

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).

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

Paul confirmed this:

But when the fullness of time came,
God sent forth his Son, born of a woman

(Galatians 4:4; cf. Rom 8:3)

Since He was sent before He became a human being, He was subordinate to the Father before His incarnation. (Note: This article assumes pre-existence, which is discussed in another article.)

Jesus claimed so often that He was sent by the Father to give the Jews an appreciation of Him and His mission (e.g., John 11:42). But the Jews did not believe Him. Today, many Christians still do not believe Him, but for the opposite reason, for they do not believe that He always was subordinate to the Father.

Creation

God is the eternal origin of all things but He created all things “through” the Son:

All things came into being through Him,
and apart from Him nothing came into being
that has come into being
” (John 1:3).

The world was made through Him“(John 1:10).

God …in these last days has spoken to us in His Son …
through whom also He made the world” (Heb 1:1-2).

All things have been created through Him
and for Him
” (Col 1:16).

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

In Revelation 4, in which Jesus is absent, God alone is identified as the Creator (Rev 4:11). Jesus only enters God’s throne room in chapter 5 (Rev 5:6).

The word “through” in these verses identifies God as the Creator and assigns a subordinate role to the Son. It means that Jesus is not an independent Creator but is God’s Means of creation: All creative power and wisdom are from the Father but through His Son. For a further discussion, see, God created all things through His Son.

God not only created all things through His Son; the Son also upholds all things “by the word of His (God’s) power” (Heb 1:3; Col 1:17). [Hebrew 1:2-3 uses the word “His” four times to consistently refer to “God” (Heb 1:1).]

These facts imply an extremely close relationship between the Son and “all things,” which is understood to refer to the entire universe (Col 1:16). It is proposed, therefore, that, by ‘begetting’ (giving ‘birth‘ to) Jesus, as His “only begotten Son,” God brought all things into being, which is similar to the Logos-Christology of pre-Nicene times. (See, The Apologists

Foreknowledge

Before the foundation of the world” “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … chose us in Him” (Eph 1:3-4; cf. 1 Pet 1:1-2; Rev 13:8; 17:8). This indicates that, although the Son already existed “before the foundation of the world” (John 17:5, 24), He did not take part in choosing us. That God “chose us” before we even existed implies foreknowledge, but this foreknowledge is limited to the Father.

Subordinate to God after His ascension

There are also several indications that the Son today still is subordinate to the Father:

At the right hand of God

Jesus ascended to heaven and took His seat “at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 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 over the entire universe but is still subject to the ultimate Ruler.

Jesus’ God and Head

The risen Son is said to be “head over all things” (Eph 1:22; Col 2:10). However, decades after Christ ascended to heaven, Paul refers to the Father as Jesus’ God (Eph 1:16-17; cf. Eph 1:3-4) and as “the head of Christ” (1 Cor 11:3). The Book of Revelation, received about 60 years after His ascension, also refers to the Father as Jesus’ God (Rev 1:6; 3:2, 12). This, therefore, describes the relationship between the Father and the Son today and for all eternity. In contrast, Peter referred to Jesus as God’s “servant” (Acts 3:13; cf. 26).

Statements such as that “God is the head of Christ” and that the Father is His God refer to Him as a Person; not only to one of His two natures as in the theory of the hypostatic union, as adopted at the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451.

Other indications

Other indications that Jesus still is subordinate to the Father, include:

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
” (Matt 20:23).

Jesus received the visions contained in the book of Revelation from God (Rev 1:1).

Future Eternity (1 Corinthians 15)

1 Corinthians 15 describes the future condition after sin and the consequences of sin have been eradicated. It says that, in that future ideal state, after God’s people have been raised from death, and death itself and all of Satan’s forces have been destroyed (1 Cor 15:24), then Christ “hands over the kingdom to the God and Father” (1 Cor 15:24) and:

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 15:28).

In other words, in that perfect future state, after all traces of sin has been removed, the Son will be subordinate to God the Father for all eternity. Any possibility of the submission of the Son to the Father being a temporary or less than ideal state of affairs seems out of the question here. (Right Reason)

Some commentators counter that “God” in the phrase “God may be all in all” refers to the Trinity. But, with this interpretation, verse 28 states that the Son will be subjected to Himself as well as to the Father and to the Spirit, so that all three may be “all in all.” This is an extremely awkward interpretation. The sentences before us just don’t read that way. In addition, verse 24 identifies “God,” to whom Christ would hand over the kingdom, specifically as the Father (1 Cor 15:24).

Who is Christ?

The current series of articles attempts to determine and describe who Jesus really is:

Alternative Views

Mere Man

Some people claim that He was merely a man, namely the ultimate example of a person who is completely filled with the Holy Spirit. In this view, Jesus did not exist before He was born as a human being. Listen, for example, to Dr. Tuggy’s podcast 189. Dr. Tuggy relies on what he calls “common sense;” irrespective of what the Bible says.

Contrary to what Tuggy teaches, one of the articles in this series provides evidence that Jesus did exist before He was born. In fact. God created all things through His Son and still maintains all things through His Son (Heb 1:2-3)

First Created Being

Jehovah WitnessesJehovah’s Witnesses, according to the NAMB website, teach that Jesus Christ was the first created being of Jehovah God and that, through the agency of the His Son, Jehovah created all other things in the universe.

However, the article – Only Begotten – proposes that Jesus was not created but came forth from the being of the Father. Furthermore, His Son had “equality with God” before He was born as a human being (Phil 2:6) and He has ”life in Himself” (John 5:26). These things indicate that He is more than a created being.

Almighty God

In the Trinity doctrine, the Son is God; co-equal and co-eternal with the Almighty Father. Head of ChristHowever, another article in this series shows that the Bible maintains a distinction between God and Jesus, which means that Jesus is not God. Furthermore, the very purpose of the current article is to show that Jesus is not co-equal with the Father but subordinate to Him.

The question, then, if none of the options above are correct, who is Jesus really? 

Summary

(1) His God

The Father is His God (John 20:17). Therefore, He also prayed to the Father (Mark 14:32).

(2) As a Human Being

With respect to His existence on this earth as a human being, Jesus received everything He has from the Father: God gave Jesus the Holy Spirit (John 1:32-34), His teachings (John 7:16), His works (John 5:36), His disciples (John 6:37-39), and authority to take up His life again after He died (John 10:18). Because He only had what God gave Him, Jesus said that He “can do nothing of Himself” (John 5:19) and He did not know all things. For example, He said that He did not know the hour or the day of His second coming; “but the Father alone” (Matt 24:36).

(3) His eternal existence

God also gave to Jesus everything He has with respect to His eternal existence. God gave “all the fullness of Deity” to dwells in Christ (Col 2:9; cf. 1:19). This “fullness” includes having “life in Himself” (John 5:26) and the authority to give life to the dead (John 17:1-2). This “fullness” also includes “authority to execute judgment” (John 5:27), authority over and ownership of the entire universe (Matt 28:18; Luke 10:22), and that “all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (John 5:22-23). He receives this honor because God exalted Him above all other beings (Phil 2:9-10).

(4) Before His incarnation

This article argues that He was subordinate to the Father before His birth as a human being, as evidenced by the fact that God had begotten Him (gave birth to Him) (John 3:16), created all things “through” Him (Col 1:16), sent Jesus into the world (John 8:42), and gave Him what to do and to say (John 12:49).

(5) After His ascension

Greater than IAlso, after His ascension and exaltation, He remained subordinate to God. For example, Jesus said that He is going to His Father who is “greater than” Himself (John 14:28). He took His seat at the right hand of God (Heb 12:2), which is the place of honor over the entire universe, but still subject to the ultimate Ruler. Consistently, many years after His ascension, Paul described the Father as “the Head of Christ” (1 Cor 11:3), did Jesus received the visions contained in the book of Revelation from God (Rev 1:1), and did He refer to God as His God (Rev 3:2, 12).

– END OF SUMMARY –


Eternal Subordination

One God

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one” (Deut 6:4) was and is a cornerstone of Judaism, in contrast to the polytheism of the nations. In this verse and elsewhere in Scriptures, “LORD” in all capitals actually translates God’s name Yahweh. So, what this verse (the shema) actually says is that Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one.

The New Testament never uses that name Yahweh. It uses the Greek word theos instead. The New Testament several times repeats the principle that Yahweh is one, but it does it by referring to “one theos” or “only theos” or “true theos.” The important point is that such phrases always refer to the Father alone. Notice how the following quotes contrast the “one God” to Jesus Christ, who is often referred to as Lord. For example:

In prayer, 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; cf.
5:44).

Paul wrote that the believers in Thessalonica have turned from idols “to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven” (1 Thess 1:9-10).

To Timothy, Paul described the Father as “the … only Sovereign … who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim 6:15-16) and as “eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim 1:17). The Being in both these quotes is “invisible” and, therefore, refers to the Father alone.

Jude closed his letter by giving glory to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Jude 1:25).

There is:

The following are more examples, but verses begin with the phrase “there is,” indicating that these verses define God:

There is … one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
one God and Father of all who is over all
” (Eph 4:4-6).

There is one God,
and one Mediator also between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus
” (1 Tim 2:5).

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).

There are many texts in the Bible that mention the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but since these “there is”- verses explicitly define God, they must be regarded as very important for out understanding of the divine.

1 John 5:20

It is sometimes claimed that 1 John 5:20-21 refers to the Son as “true God, but read these verses carefully:

20(a) And we know that the Son of God has come,
(b) and has given us understanding
(c) so that we may know Him who is true (Father);
(d) and we are in Him who is true (Father),
in His Son Jesus Christ.

(e) This is the true God and eternal life.
21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols.

20(d) identifies “Him who is true” as the Father. Therefore, “the true God” in part (e) is the Father. The purpose of these verses is to contrast the true God, who is the Father, with the idols in verse 21.

The Father is God.

These references to the Father as the “one theos,” “true theos” or “only theos” is part of the overall trend of the New Testament to refer to the Father alone as theos, indicating the subordination of the Son to the Father. For example, in the beginning of any of the New Testament letters, one will find statements such as:

Grace to you and peace
from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 1:7).

Is Jesus called God?

In a handful of instances, the New Testament does refer to Jesus as theos. However. the word has a wide range of meanings. It may be translated as “God” or as “god,” but sometimes even exalted people are described as theos (See theos). The renowned scholar R.P.C. Hanson stated:

“The word theos or deus, for the first four centuries of the existence of Christianity had a wide variety of meanings. There were many different types and grades of deity in popular thought and religion and even in philosophical thought.” (link)

If we understand that theos has a wide range of meanings and basically means an immortal being with supernatural powers, then it is quite appropriate for Jesus to be called theos. For a discussion of the Bible passages that refer to Him as theos, see Does the New Testament refer to Jesus as God?

In English, the title “God” refers to the Almighty; the Ultimate Reality. In the Trinity doctrine, the Son is equal with the Father. The translation of theos, when it refers to Jesus, as “God,” therefore, is an application of the Trinity doctrine; not proof there-of.

Received everything from the Father.

The Holy Spirit

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

His followers

God gave Jesus His followers (John 17:6; cf. 6:37-39; 6:44, 65; 10:29; 17:1-2). Jesus also said:

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44).

My Father is the vinedresserSimilarly, in the parable of the true vine (John 15) the Father is the One who works: “My Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1). It is the Father who cuts away branches that do not bear fruit and prunes other branches “so that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2; cf. 17:2, 9, 24; 10:29).

Resurrection

The Father gave Jesus to take up His life.

I have authority to lay it (My life) down,
and I have authority to take it up again.
This commandment I received from My Father.

(John 10:18)

Immortality

As discussed above, Paul wrote that the Father “alone possesses immortality” (1 Tim 6:15-16). This means that the Son receives His immortality from the Father. The Father received life from no one, for He is the eternally self-existent Source of life.

God redeems through Christ.

Sometimes, we think of Jesus as the Redeemer, and that is true, but, as shown in the discussion of the letter to the Colossians, Jesus is the Means of redemption, while the Father is the driver of redemption. For example:

“… thanks to the Father …
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness,
and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”
(Col 1:12-14).

It was the Father’s good pleasure … 
through Him (Jesus)
to reconcile all things to Himself
” (Col 1:19-20).

When He comes into the world, He says,
‘Sacrifice and offering you have not desired,
but a body you have prepared for me …
behold, I have come … to do your will, o God.’” (Heb 10:5–7).

The only God our Savior,
through Jesus Christ our Lord
” (Jude 1:25;
cf. John 3:16);

Received Divine Attributes

There are a number of indications in die Bible of Jesus’ divinity, such as that all the fullness of Diety dwells in Him, that He created all things, and that He is the Judge of the living and the dead, but the Bible also indicates that He received His divinity from the Father: 

Authority to judge.

God” is the judge (e.g., 1 Sam 2:10; Psa 50:6; Eccl 12:14; Gen 18:25; Joel 3:12). But, in the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the Judge of the world (Matt 25:31-46, John 5:27, 9:39; Acts 10:42; Rom 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10; and 2 Tim 4:1). For example, Jesus said:

When the Son of Man comes in His glory …
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

(Matt 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,
so that 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 5:22-23).

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

Authority to raise the dead

Jesus is able to give life to the dead. For example:

Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life,
even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes

(John 5:21).

He said, “My sheep hear My voice …
and I give eternal life to them,
and they will never perish

(John 10:27-28; cf. 5:28-29; 6:40, 44; 11:25-26).

God gave Jesus the authority 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).

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).

All authority and all things.

Jesus claimed that “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18). The phrase “has been given” implies that God gave Him this authority. Jesus confirmed this when He said:

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

The Father loves the Son
and has given all things into His hand

(John 3:35; cf. 13:3).

Worship 

The Father … has given all judgment to the Son,
so that all will honor the Son
even as they honor the Father

(John 5:22-23; cf.
17:24).

The words “so that” mean that Jesus will be honored equal with the Father because the Father “has given all judgment to the Son.” Jesus, therefore, receives glory because it is the Father’s will.

We see this also in Philippians 2 which says that every knee will bow to Jesus because God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Phil 2:9-10; cf. Heb 1:6). Furthermore, every knee will bow to Jesus “to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11).

That every knee will bow to Jesus is worship, for the word that is sometimes translated as “worship” (proskuneó) simply means “to do reverence to” (Strong’s Greek: 4352) and is often translated as “bow down” (Matt 8:1-2; 9:18-19; 15:25; 20:20; Mark 5:2, 6; 15:19 – NASB). For a further discussion, see Jesus is worshiped.  Does that mean that He is God?

The following quote, similar to Philippians 2, also refers to Jesus receiving “the name which is above every name,” but this quote associates that event with His enthronement to God’s right hand, which is mentioned very often in the New Testament, (e.g., Acts 5:31):

The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory
seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
far above all rule and authority and power and dominion,
and every name that is named
” (Eph 1:17, 20-21)

This explains the glory which Jesus had “with” the Father “before the world was” (John 17:5). That He received glory and honor “with” the Father implies that Jesus does not receive glory and honor independent from the Father. This we also see in Revelation 5, where God and Jesus are worshiped together (Rev 5:13).

A separate article discusses “worship” in the New Testament. Ancient Greek had fewer words than modern English. Consequently, words had a broader range of meanings. Similar to the word theos, the Greek word proskuneó can mean “worship” but it can also simply mean to show respect. 

Fullness of deity

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

This is often taken as evidence that Jesus is God. However, firstly, even believers are to “be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19). “There were many different types and grades of deity in popular thought and religion and even in philosophical thought.” (RPC Hanson).

Secondly, the Father gave Jesus this fullness:

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

Conclusion

Eternal subordination implies essential (ontological) subordination.

The Father, therefore, is not only greater than Jesus because Jesus “emptied Himself” when He became a  human being (Phil 2:5), but the Father always was greater than His Son and always will be. The trinitarian teaching, that Jesus is co-equal to God, is not Biblical.

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