Who is He?
Is Jesus God
or the Son of God?
This is an issue that troubles many people. They just cant comprehend how Jesus could be both God and Son of God at the same time. Yet Scripture does refer to the Lord Jesus as God (John 1:1; 20:28) as well as the Son of God (1 John 5:10, 20). We must accept both truths.
It is true that Jesus is called the Son or the Son of God many more times than He is called God. By this term, we must understand that Jesus is the Son of the Father (2 John 3), and God in these cases is referring to God the Father. Generally, when God is found through the New Testament, it is a reference to the Father. For example, Paul writes, 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 whom are all things, and we exist through Him (1 Corinthians 8:6). As in most other cases, God here means God the Father rather than the Son.
Calling Jesus the Son of God doesnt, in itself, deny that Jesus also is legitimately called God in other contexts. Robert Bowman makes this point. He says, regarding calling Jesus the Son of God: This is to be understood as using the title God with reference specifically to the Father, without denying that it also applies with equal validity to the Son. To use a useful but limited analogy, if someone referred to me as Robert Bowmans son, they would be right, even though Robert Bowman is my name, because it is also my fathers name. . . . In other words, Son of God is short for Son of God the Father.
Since the New Testament writers usually referred to our Lord as the Son of God rather than God, it would be wise for us to do the same. However, we should recognize one point about Christs Sonship. Consider this illustration. Just as a man who is son to an earthly father shares in the humanity of that father, in a similar way (and in a spiritual way), Jesus the Son of God the Father shares in the same naturea divine natureas that of God the Father. Rather than detracting from the deity of the Lord Jesus, it illustrates it.
The Jewish people in New Testament times thought that Christs claim to be the Son of God was blasphemy, for they understood this to be a claim to deity. When Jesus spoke of God as His Father (John 5:17; cf. 10:30), they attempted to kill Him because He was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God (John 5:17-18). Sonship to God implied equality with God, or deity.
Likewise, when Jesus later called God Father, the Jews explained that they were stoning Him because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God (John 10:30-33). The Jews recognized that Jesus reference to Sonship implied deity. Later, when Jesus stood before the Jewish council, the Jews said to Pilate, We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God (John 19:7). Anyone who would dare to claim deity in any way must face death on the grounds of blasphemy. Anyone who would claim to be Son of God was claiming to be God, in nature.
Cottrell remarks, It is apparent from incidents such as these that Jesus reference to himself as the Son of God was taken to be a claim to deity. Such was the content of this title. James O. Buswell adds that in Hebrew usage the words son of . . . meant of the order of . . . , as the sons of the prophets. . . . With this usage in mind, it is easy to see how Jesus contemporaries in Palestine took His claim to be the Son of God as a claim to be the order of God, that is, equal with God, or God. Four points we might emphasize in this regard would be: (1) God normally and usually is a reference to God the Father; (2) Jesus is generally called the Son of God, much more than simply God; (3) Jesus is the Son of God the Father; and (4) Son of God itself suggested a claim to deitythe same divine order as God Himself.
Is Jesus Less than God?
A number of passages have been cited with an attempt to prove that Jesus isnt deity. While some people may say that Jesus is worthy of admiration, respect, and reverence, they may stop short of attributing deity to Him. Lets notice two verses that many find troubling.
Colossians 1:15: He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
Does the term firstborn indicate that Jesus was the first created being, or perhaps the first creature who was born? The trouble with this is that weve seen that Christ created all things, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being (John 1:3). Rather than being created, He was the creator. Or perhaps the term means the most distinguished in relation to all creatures created? Definitely, Christ was distinguished over all creation, but this again suggests that Christ Himself was part of creation.
Consider this. In Hebrew practice, the firstborn son was the major heir of the father. In this sense, Christ, as the Son of God, is the Fathers heir because everything that is the Fathers is also the Sons. The Hebrew writer tells us that Christ is the one whom [God] appointed heir of all things (1:2; cf. Psalm 2:8). All creation is the estate that Christ inherits by virtue of being Gods Son, the one for whom all creation was made. Thus, it is likely that Christ is viewed as the firstborn of all creation inasmuch as He is the heir of all things.
The term firstborn comes from the Greek prototokos, which can mean first in rank, pre-eminent one, heir. The word carries the idea of positional preeminence and supremacy. Christ is the firstborn in the sense that He is positionally pre-eminent over creation and supreme over all things. Among the Hebrews, the word firstborn referred to the son in the family who was in the preeminent position, regardless of whether or not he was literally the first son born to the parents. This firstborn son would not only be the preeminent one, he would also be the heir to a double portion of the family inheritance. This definitely meets the description of Jesus Christ, the preeminent one (cf. Colossians 1:18) who is also heir of the Father.
Revelation 3:14: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.
Does this verse mean that God created Jesus in the beginning, that He was the first created one? On the contrary, the Greek arche (beginning) generally denotes a beginning point in time rather than the first thing in a series. (See John 1:1, 2; 6:64; 8:25, 44; 15:27; 16:4, etc.). It can have an active meaning, such as one who begins, origin, source, creator, or first cause. In the Revelation, penned by John, God Himself is referred to as the beginning and the end (1:8; 21:6). Since God is the beginning and we know that He existed before creation, we can assume that 3:14 also refers to Christs eternity. In fact, He is likewise referred to as the beginning and the end in Revelation (22:13). This may mean that God (and Christ) is the beginner and consummator of creationthat he is its first cause and its final goal. In this case, the term beginning (arche) may refer to source or first cause. This is reflected in the ESV: the beginning of Gods creation. Note also the NET Bible: the originator of Gods creation. Another translation possibility is ruler or magistrate, in which case, Jesus would be the authority over all creation.
If Jesus Christ was God, was He God the Father?
Some people seek to solve the question of Christs nature and identity by saying that Jesus was Himself Yahweh God in the Old Testament era, Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospel period, and the Holy Spirit in the remainder of the New Testament and in the present time. People with this theology will affirm Jesus humanity and carefully guard His deity, but they do not properly distinguish between the Father and the Son (or the Spirit). In the early church, this position was called Sabellianism, after the third century teacher, Sabellius.
Today we call this view modalism, since proponents say that Jesus has related to humanity through different modes of existence or different persons through history. It is represented in the contemporary oneness theology, advocated by United Pentecostals as well as others in the Apostolic group of sects and denominations. Although there are differences between the ancient Sabellians and the modern Oneness groups, the basic view is similarthere is a single personality manifested in different ways. The Apostolic view seemingly is that the physical part of Jesus was the Son while the spiritual part of Jesus was the Father. In any case, they vociferously deny the twofold nature of God (or threefold nature). They go so far as to say that the name of God is Jesus. In arriving at their view, they emphasize:
· That God is only one personality.
· That a singularity is found throughout the Old Testament.
· That Jesus is God.
· That the different references to a twofold or threefold nature of God merely refer to different aspects of a single personality.
· That the term name in the baptismal statement of Matthew 28:19 shows a singularity in all three.
· That God is called the Holy One and not the Holy Three!
· That the idea of a Trinity comes from Constantine and other false leaders of the fourth century, and doesnt represent the New Testament teaching.
We may note the fact that the Word was with God and was God (John 1:1), that He created all things (vv. 1-2), that the world was made through Him (v. 10), and that, in the course of history, He became flesh as the man Jesus Christ. Does this not show that there are at least two personalities called God who created all things? Apostolic proponents say that there was only one personality and His word was what materialized. According to David K. Bernard, a leading proponent of United Pentecostalism: In the fullness of time and exactly according to Gods predetermined plan, Gods Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. God enacted His plan. He uttered Himself. The eternal Word was expressed in human flesh, in space and time. In short, the Word is Gods self-disclosure or God in self-revelation. This Word was the sum total of His [Gods] mind, reason, thought, plan, and expression, which is God Himself. The Son did not exist before the Incarnation and did not create the world in the beginning. When the Bible repeatedly says God is one, the only one, alone, and by Himself, we understand Him to be absolutely, numerically one. Is it true that Jesus was God the Father before the incarnation? Or was there a distinction between the Father and the Word?
In contrast to this Apostolic view, a large number of passages help us to see that there is a difference or distinction between the Person of the Father and the Person of the Son. Notice a few of these:
1. All things have been handed over to Me [the Son] by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him (Matthew 11:27).
· The Father and the Son are clearly distinguished in this statement. Jesus says that only He knows the Father and only the Father knows the Son, apart from divine enablement.
2. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).
· This is a classic passage that shows both a relationship as well as a distinction between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
3. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all (2 Corinthians 13:14).
· Similar to the previous verse, this one also distinguishes between the three personalities.
4. After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased (Matthew 3:16-17).
· In this case, Jesus was being baptized by John in the Jordan. As he came from the water, God spoke out of the heavens and the Spirit of God descended in the form of a dove. Jesus Christ, the Father, and the Spirit were involved in this one incident. Modalists would say that Jesus in His humanity was speaking to Jesus in His deity, and vice versa.
5. There is one body, and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling: one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4-6).
· Here we can see the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ, and God the Father are distinguished.
6. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).
· Again, we see three mentioned: the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ, and God the Father. Each participates in the granting of spiritual gifts to the members of the body.
7. The angel answered and said to her, 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 1:35).
· Gabriel the angel tells Mary about the baby that will be born of her, even though she is a virgin. In this passage, we notice the Holy Spirit, the Most High God (God the Father), and the baby that will be bornthe Son of God, Jesus Christ.
8. [We] are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood (1 Peter 1:1-2).
· In this passage, we see reference made to God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ. Each is distinguished from the others.
9. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:14-17a).
· Pauls prayer is offered to God the Father, but He prays that his readers would be strengthened through Gods Spirit (the Holy Spirit), with the result that Christ Jesus would dwell in their hearts.
10. . . . for through Him [Christ] we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father (Ephesians 2:18).
· In this verse, God the Father is the goal, Christ is the mediator, and the realm of this is in the Holy Spirit.
11. The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you (John 14:26).
· Jesus is the speaker here, but He makes reference to the Holy Spirit whom God the Father would send. All three participate in this holy activity.
12. When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me (John 15:26).
· This is similar to the previous verse, for it presents Jesus as the speaker, the Spirit of God as the Helper, and God the Father as the Sender of the Spirit.
13. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life (Jude 20-21).
· In this beloved passage, we read of the love of God the Father, the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, and prayer in the Holy Spirit.
14. We should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
· Paul speaks of thanksgiving to God the Father, he calls the brethren beloved of the Lord Jesus, and he refers to the sanctification by the Spirit (the Holy Spirit).
15. This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit who He has given us (1 John 3:23-24).
· Here there is reference to the commandment of God the Father, the name of Jesus Christ (the Son of the Father), and the Holy Spirit who is given as a gift to us by God the Father.
16. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God (1 John 4:2).
· This simple verse speaks of the Spirit of God, confession of Jesus Christ, and God the Father.
17. Watch out for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son (Acts 20:28, Net Bible).
· If the Net Bible is correct in this rendering, we see reference to the Holy Spirit, God the Father who owns the church, and the blood of Jesus Christ the Son that served as the purchase price. If certain other translations are correct, we would have reference to Jesus Christ Himself as God.
18. I [Jesus] am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser (John 15:1).
· Here we can see that Jesus is distinguished from God His Father.
19. Of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone (Mark 13:32).
· The Father and the Son are distinguished, and the Father knew something that the Son didnt know.
20. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son (1 John 2:22).
· Here the Father and the Son are distinguished, yet they are coupled with the conjunction and.
21. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son (2 John 9).
· Although closely related, there is a distinction between the Father and the Son.
22. Even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me. Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true. I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me (John 8:16-18).
· Jesus said that He is not alone but this testimony includes the testimony of God His Father. Here we have identical testimony but distinction of Persons.
23. 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).
· Notice the distinction between the Father and the Son. Also notice that the Father and the Son are referred to with the plural pronouns, we and our.
24. . . . how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14).
· Notice the distinction between Christ, the Spirit, and God.
25. Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love (2 John 3).
· A distinction between the Father and the Son is clearly seen in this verse.
26. Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me (Romans 15:30).
· Each of these three personalities is distinguished from the others.
As we have stated, these are a sampling of the Biblical passages that refer to God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and (in some of them) the Holy Spirit. In each of the passages, all three are distinguished in a way that it is clear that there is not merely one personality mentioned, under three different names or titles. Instead, there would be three different and distinguished personalities.
In many other cases, two are mentioned, such as God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. The interested reader may want to study this more thoroughly, by turning to the following references: Acts 2:34-36; 7:55; 22:14; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 15:24-28; Hebrews 1:1-3, 5-13; 2:3-4; 9:14; John 8:16-18; 11:41; 14:16-17; 15:1; 16:13-16, 28; 17:21; Matthew 12:32; 24:36; James 1:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; Romans 1:1, 3-4; 5:5-8; 8:11; 15:16-19, 30; Ephesians 1:17; 2:19-22; 3:2-5; 5:18-20; Titus 3:4-7; 1 Timothy 2:5; 5:21; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 3:21-24.
Further evidence that Jesus Christ is not God (the Father)
Lets examine further evidence that shows that, while Jesus is truly God or Deity, He is not to be identified as God the Father. He is in God the Father, the Father is in Him, but He is not the same personality as God the Father.
Perhaps we can profitably give a few points that add further evidence to the fact that Jesus Christ the Son is distinguished from God the Father. Consider these:
1. The prayers of Christ to the Father testify to a duality (Luke 22:42; 23:34; John 11:41-42; 17:1-26). Jesus does not pray to Himself, but to God His Father.
2. The salutations of the New Testament letters show that spiritual blessings come from two personalities (God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ) (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Colossians 1:2). When these two personalities are stated, they are joined by the conjunction and (the Greek kai), indicating two, not one.
3. Jesus sometimes speaks of the Son and the Father as a duality, indicating more than one. For example, in John 8:17-18 Jesus speaks of two. In John 14:23, Jesus speaks of Himself plus God the Fatherand He also uses the plural pronouns: We will come to him and make Our abode with him. Jesus refers to another Helperthe Holy Spiritfor He was one Helper and the Spirit would be another one, indicating duality (John 14:16). Jesus also speaks of another who would testify of HimGod the Fatherand this indicates a distinction of some kind (John 5:32).
Jesus said that He was not alone for the Father was with Him, indicating more than one (John 8:16, 29; 16:32). Note also the word also in John 15:23-24 and 1 John 2:23-24, with both passages indicating duality. All of these examples and others like them testify that there exists more than one personality.
4. In Revelation, the Lamb takes a scroll from the One who sits on the throne who is God the Father (5:7, 13). This speaks of a distinction between the two. One gives the scroll, while another receives the scroll.
5. Scripture says that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father. While this may be metaphorical, it yet speaks of a distinction and duality (cf. Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22; cf. Revelation 3:21).
6. Stephen gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55). This speaks of a duality in heaven.
7. The Father knew something that the Son did not know (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32). If Jesus was God the Father, there would be identical knowledge between them.
8. The Hebrew writer says that Jesus went to heaven itself but what is He doing there? The writer continues, Now to appear in the presence of God for us (9:24). The fact that Jesus presently intercedes for us (Romans 8:34) speaks of a dualityOne to intercede and One to receive the intercession. Further, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1). This too speaks of a duality, one consisting of the Father and the Son.
9. Many passages state that God the Father sent His Son to this earth, and this would indicate that there is a distinctionfor one doesnt send Himself (cf. John 6:38; 7:29; 8:42). One person sends and another personality is sentthe same personality didnt send Himself.
10. We also read of Christs departure from this earth and going back to God the Father, which would indicate there is more than a single personality involved (cf. John 6:62; 7:33; 20:17).
11. Man didnt see God the Father, but they did see Jesus Christ who revealed the Fatherand this would show a distinction (cf. John 1:18; 6:46; Colossians 1:15; 1 John 4:12). Of God it could be said that no man has seen or can see Him (1 Timothy 6:16), but of Jesus Christ the Son, it was written, What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life (1 John 1:1; cf. 1 Corinthians 9:1).
12. The Father honored Jesus His Son, but the Son didnt honor Himself; if Jesus were the Father, this would not make sense (John 8:54).
13. Jesus didnt speak on His own initiative, but on the initiative of the Father (John 12:44-50). This also shows a distinction between the Father and the Son.
14. Jesus prayed to God the Father, then the Spirit was sent, all of which indicates more than a single personality (John 14:16; 16:7). When one sends another, this indicates more than one personality.
15. Jesus said, The Father is greater than I (John 14:28). The Father was greater than the Son, at least when He was on earth. This comparison indicates duality.
16. Jesus said, Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was (John 17:5). When He said, Me together with Yourself, we see a clear distinction in personalities, for together speaks of duality.
17. The Father prepared a body for Jesus in the incarnation when Jesus came in the flesh (Hebrews 5:9; 1 Timothy 3:16; John 1:14), and this indicates some distinction of personalities. The Father didnt prepare a body for Himself.
18. Jesus said, I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him [God] who sent Me (John 5:30). This indicates two willsthat of the Father and the Son (cf. also Matthew 26:39, 42; Luke 22:42).
19. To deny the Father and the Son is to be antichrist (1 John 2:22-23). Notice that one must acknowledge both the Father and the Son and not in any way confuse the two. This duality is necessary for salvation! To go too far and not abide in the teaching of Christ, he has both the Father and the Son (2 John 9). The term both indicates duality.
All of this Scriptural evidence leads us to conclude that God the Father is not Jesus Christ the Son, and Jesus Christ the Son is not God the Father. The ancient Modalists were faulty in their belief, just as modern Oneness United Pentecosals (and other Apostolic adherents) are incorrect in their theology. While there is some difference between the ancient Sabellians and modern Oneness or Modalistic Pentecostals (sometimes called Jesus Only), they are also alike in some respects. The Modalists were correct in identifying Jesus as God, but wrong in concluding that He was the same Person as God the Father.
 Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, pp. 84-85.
 The Faith Once for All, pp. 235-236.
 The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, p. 804; Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Jehovahs Witnesses, p. 135.
 Bowman, Ibid., p. 62.
 Ibid., p. 64.
 Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovahs Witnesses, p. 130.
 Ron Rhodes, Ibid., p. 131.
 Bowman, Ibid., p. 65.
 Ron Rhodes, Ibid., p. 123.
 Bowman, Ibid., p. 66.
 Arndt and Gingrich, Greek-English Lexicon.
 Other translations would be: the ultimate source (JB), the prime source (NEB), the moving cause (Barclay), the source (Knox), and the beginner (Williams and Goodspeed).
 Rhodes, Ibid., p. 125.
 David K. Bernard, The Oneness View of Jesus Christ, pp. 36-37.
 Ibid., p. 36.
 Ibid., p. 55.
 Ibid., p. 101.