Jesus Christ: Who is He? Part 6

Jesus Christ: Who is He?

(Part 6)

Richard Hollerman

 

Christ Jesus Himself

has a God

We know that Jesus is “the Son of God” (John 20:30) or “the Son of the Father” (2 John 3).  Some may have difficulty thinking that Jesus can be “God” or deity Himself, but we have already discussed this matter.  Beyond this, we know that there is another fact that troubles most Bible students as they try to understand the nature and identity of Christ.  Jesus Christ not only is God (theos), but He Himself has a “God”!  Notice some of these passages:

·      “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34).  Jesus uses these words from Psalm 22:1 as He cries out to His Father when He hangs on the cross during the crucifixion.

·      “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God” (John 20:17).  Significantly, Jesus doesn’t refer to “our God” when He speaks to His disciples, indicating that His relationship to God is different from that of the disciples.

·      “. . . the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” (Ephesians 1:17).

·      “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3).

·      “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3).

·      “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name” (Revelation 3:12).

The logical question is, “If Jesus has a God, how can Jesus Himself be God?  Doesn’t this lead us to think that Jesus is either another God—a lesser God—or that Jesus is someone other than God?”  We have adequately examined the evidence that Jesus is actually God (theos) and we have likewise noticed that there is only one God, the Father.  When Jesus refers to His Father as His “God,” He must recognize a position that began to prevail at the time of the incarnation and continues into His present, post-resurrection, life.

One way to deal with this perplexity is to recognize Jesus as both human as well as divine.  In His humanity, we can think of Christ as having a “God” who received Christ’s prayers and worship (John 17:1ff).  Even now, Christ Jesus is a “man” (1 Timothy 2:5), thus He may be thought of as having a “God” even as we do.  Yet Jesus says to His apostles (through Mary Magdalene), “I ascend to My Father and you Father, and My God and your God” (John 10:17).  He doesn’t say, “Our Father and our God,” for His relationship to God the Father is vastly different from ours. This matter may remain a mystery to us, just as the nature of God and Christ will remain a mystery, yet it does not affect our basic thesis in this booklet.

Equal in nature, but difference in position?

One point that would be helpful to examine briefly has to do with the relationship of the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father.  While there is a genuine “equality” regarding the nature, purpose, and desire of the Father and the Son (cf. John 10:30: “I and My Father are one”), there is also a distinction in position or role.  For example, notice these points:

 

1.    God the Father sent (or gave) the Son, but the Son was sent by (or given by) the Father (John 3:16-17).

 

2.    God the Father performed miracles, but He did this through the Son (Acts 2:22).  Jesus Christ worked miracles but He did this by the Father (Luke 5:17).

The Father and the Son occupy different positions.  This may be found in a passage like 1 Corinthians 11:3: “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ.”  Are man and woman equal? Yes, they are equal in regard to their humanity, as well as their access to God and spiritual privileges (cf. Galatians 3:28; 1 Peter 3:7), yet the man is “head” over the woman, which speaks of authority.  This would say that in the equality of the man and woman, there is a God-given position or role of headship

Likewise, God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son are equal in regard to their deity, their eternity, and their nature, but the Father is “head” over the Son in some way. Ron Rhodes points out that “equality of being and social hierarchy are not mutually exclusive.  Even though men and women are completely equal in terms of their nature, there is nevertheless a functional hierarchy that exists between them.” He then goes on to make the application to God and Christ: “Jesus is functionally under the Father’s headship.  There is no contradiction in affirming both an equality of being and a functional subordination. . . . Christ in His divine nature is fully equal to the Father, even though relationally (or functionally) He is subordinate or submissive to the Father, especially since becoming a man.”[1]

 Notice that this did not just apply to Christ’s earthly life of some 33 years, but it pertains to the relationship of Father and Son even today (see the word “is” in 1 Corinthians 11:3), for Paul wrote this statement about 55 A.D, some twenty-five years after Christ ascended to the Father. In other words, presently God the Father is “head” of Christ the Son.[2]  This difference in position, rank, authority or headship is seen in various ways through the New Testament writings, such as the following:

 

1.    On earth, Jesus was obedient to the Father: “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; cf. Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 5:8; 10:7-9).  “How amazing this is.  Jesus is God, but Jesus obeys God.”[3]

 

2.    On earth, the Father was greater than Christ: “The Father is greater than I” (John 14:28).  Notice that He didn’t say “better” as in Hebrews 1:4 regarding Jesus being “better” than angels.  Rather, He said “greater.”

 

3.    Christ belongs to God: “You belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God” (1 Corinthians 3:23).  Just as we are subordinate to Christ, so Christ is to God.

 

4.    God is the head of Christ: “God is the head of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:3).

 

5.    God put all things under Christ: “He [God] has put all things in subjection under His [Christ’s] feet” (1 Corinthians 15:27).

 

6.    After such subjection of all things, Christ will be subjected to God: “When all things are subjected to Him [the Son], 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 Corinthians 15:28).  “There is no question that this passage indicates the eternal submission of the Son to the Father, in keeping with his submission to the Father both in the incarnation and in eternity past.”[4]

 

7.    Jesus Christ is said to have a “God” (namely, God the Father): “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:17; cf. Matthew 27:46; John 20:17; Revelation 1:6; 3:2, 12).

 

8.    The fact that Jesus is at “the right hand” of God the Father not only reveals a distinction but also a subordination (Psalm 110:1; Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22).

 

9.    The Father “put all things in subjection under His [Christ’s] feet (Ephesians 1:22).  This demonstrates an order between the Father and the Son.

 

10. Jesus Christ intercedes with the Father on behalf of the Christian (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).  He is also called our Advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1).  This indicates some level of subordination.

 

11. Christ said, “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me” (John 6:57).  Christ says that, in some profound way, He lives “because of the Father” and, beyond that, we will live (have spiritual life) because of the Son.  Just as we are subordinate to Christ, so Christ is to His Father.

 

12. Many times in Scripture, we read that God the Father raised Christ from the dead (though He also raised Himself, John 2:19-21).  In general, the Scripture says that “God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death” (Acts 2:24; cf. 4:10; 5:30).  “Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father” (Romans 6:4).  This again leads us to think that there is a difference in roles—one raising and the other being raised.

 

13. Christ is the Exalted One, but who exalted Him after the resurrection?  “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).  He was exalted to the right hand of God, as we noticed earlier (Acts 2:33; cf. Hebrews 2:9).

 

14. God gave Christ all authority: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:22-23; 1 Peter 3:22).  The fact that Christ was “given” authority by God indicates some sort of subordination.

 

15. In Isaiah, Jesus the Messiah is called Yahweh’s “Servant” and this too suggests a subordination: “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights” (42:1; cf. 52:13; 53:11; Matthew 12:18-21).  Paul also says that Jesus took “the form of a bond-servant” when he came to earth (Philippians 2:7).

Passages like these suggest that there is an authority-submission relationship between the Father and the Son, and this is particularly related to Christ’s humiliation and incarnation (cf. Philippians 2:5-11).  Yet it extends to the present and future relationship as well. After looking at the evidence above, Jack Cottrell concludes, “The subordination of the Son to the Father is functional, not ontological.  It has to do with the Son’s office and work, not his person.  Jesus Christ the God-man is the Father’s servant, and he does the will of the Father; but this is an aspect of the humiliation that he freely chose to endure for the sake of our salvation.”[5]

But does the incarnation and humiliation mark the beginning of Christ’s subordination to God?  The fact that God would “send” the Son suggests that there was subordination prior to Christ’s coming.  We may not be able to understand and explain every aspect of this unique relationship, but we need to affirm what Scripture does affirm about it.

 

The Mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ

We have noticed that the Scriptures view Jesus as the “mediator.”  This is the term that Paul uses in 1 Timothy 2:5: “There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”  Paramount in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ is His multifaceted work of mediation between God and men and, conversely, between man and God.  A relationship with God would be impossible without the mediation of His Son.

The term “mediator” comes from the Greek mesites, and literally means “a go-between” (from mesos, middle, and eimi, to go).[6] “The function of a mediator is to intervene between two parties in order to promote relations between them which the parties themselves are not able to effect.  The situation requiring the offices of a mediator is often one of estrangement and alienation, and the mediator effects reconciliation.”[7]

Significantly, mediatorship implies a relationship between the Mediator and the two other parties.  We have examined the fact that Jesus is fully human, thus He has this in common with us human beings.  And He is also God, having this in common with God.  Our Mediator, therefore, can identify both with God and man.  This reminds us of Job’s lament, “There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both” (Job 9:33, ESV).  Jesus is the “arbiter” or “umpire” who lays His hand on both God and man.  “Job cried out for an arbitrator or umpire, someone who understands both God and man and can bring them together in harmony.”[8]

Although “mediator” is not often used in the new covenant Scriptures, it does convey a truth which is found on almost every page, particularly the New Testament.

It declares . . . that God the Father’s actions toward mankind have been taken not directly but indirectly, not immediately but mediately, namely through Jesus Christ His Son; and that in consequence our approach to him must be through Jesus Christ our Savior.[9]

Some believe that viewing Jesus Christ as the mediator will make God the Father seem remote and distant from us.  Stott answers: “Jesus Christ’s mediation, far from being responsible for the remoteness of God, actually overcomes it. . . . ‘Through Jesus Christ’ means access to God, not barriers.  It indicates the only bridge over an otherwise unbridgeable chasm.”[10]

God’s actions toward man are mediated by Jesus Christ.  He acts “through,” “by,” or “in” Christ Jesus His Son.  These prepositions are frequently employed, but even when they are not, the mediation of Jesus may often be in view.  Conversely, and in consequence of God’s relation to man through Jesus Christ, man’s approach to God must likewise be through Jesus Christ the mediator.  God’s relationship to man through Christ is primary and paramount, but the reverse is equally true: man’s relationship to God is through Jesus Christ.  How is this mediation set forth in Scripture?  Notice these examples:

1.    God created the world through Jesus.  We have noticed that God the Father creates (Acts 17:24-26) and that Jesus creates (Colossians 1:16).  But in other passages, we see that God created through or by Jesus Christ, His Son. The Hebrew writer says that God has “spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world [ages]” (1:2).  John also tells us that “all things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (1:3).  Thus, when we read of God’s creation, we can assume that this creation came about through the mediation of Christ.[11]

 

2.    God will judge the world through Jesus.  Paul writes of the “judgment seat of God” (Romans 10:10) as well as the “judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10).  Who will judge the world—Jesus Christ or God the Father?  Scripture says that God will judge but He will do so through the Lord Jesus.  Paul explained, “He [God] has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed”—Jesus Christ (Acts 17:31).  The Lord said, “Not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22).  He then said that God “gave Him [Christ] authority to execute judgment because He is the Son of Man” (v. 27).  Peter also said, “This is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42).  It is true that Yahweh God is “the Judge of all the earth” (Genesis 18:25) but we must always bear in mind that God judges through the mediation of Christ.

 

3.    God has spoken through the Lord Jesus. Scripture says that God has spoken His word (Matthew 4:4) and Jesus has done likewise (John 12:48).  However, when we learn of Christ’s words, we must recognize that God has spoken through Him.  The Hebrew writer said that God “spoke long ago to the fathers . . . in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (1:1-2).  This is why Jesus could say, “I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak” (John 12:49; cf. 8:26, 28, 38; 14:10). He also affirmed, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. . . . the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me” (7:16; 14:24).  Jesus Christ is the mediator through whom God has revealed His truth and will.

 

4.    God reconciled the world through Christ. We know that God is the great reconciler—the One who brings people into a saving relationship with Himself.  The Scripture also says that Jesus is the reconciler—“He [Jesus] has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death” (Colossians 1:22).  But we read further that God reconciles people to Himself through the Lord Jesus: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).  How did He do this?  “We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10).  Therefore, God is the reconciler, but He reconciles through the mediation and work of Jesus Christ.

These scriptural truths emphasize to us that there is a definite relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ.  Some of this pertains to Christ’s pre-earthly life.  For example, God created all things through the Lord Jesus, then known as the “Word” (cf. John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:2-3).  Others pertain to Christ’s incarnate or post-resurrection life—such as judging the world through Christ (Acts 17:31).  Christ is our Mediator.

The following items of Christ’s mediation deserve careful, prayerful study and meditation.  They are listed alphabetically as an aid to study.  You will notice that generally the verses listed make reference to both God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord, or both Jesus Christ and the believer, thus revealing Christ’s role of mediation.  We gave some consideration as to how the headings should be worded.  Although Paul generally refers to “God the/our Father” and “the Lord Jesus Christ” in his salutations (e.g., Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3), and sometimes elsewhere (1 Corinthians 8:6), he does on occasion shorten this to simply “God” and “Christ” (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 1:24; 3:23; 11:3).   To shorten the headings and to give some consistency, we have followed the latter example.

 

1.    ACCESS.  Our access to God is through Christ.  “Through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18; cf. John 14:6; Hebrews 7:25).

2.    ADOPTION.  God adopts us (makes us “sons”) through Christ.  “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” (Ephesians 1:4-5).

3.    CALL.  God calls us through Christ.  This is a call to salvation and glory.  “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14; cf. Galatians 1:6; 1 Peter 5:10).

4.    COMMUNICATION.  God communicates, speaks, and teaches through Christ.  “God . . . in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2; cf. John 8:26, 38).

5.    COVENANT.  God made a new covenant through Christ.  “. . . to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 12:24; cf. 8:6; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25).

6.    CREATION.  God created all things through Christ.  This includes the world (John 1:10) and the ages (Hebrews 1:2).  “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him” (John 1:10; cf. Hebrews 1:2).

7.    ETERNAL LIFE.  God gives eternal life through Christ.  “The witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11).  “God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9; cf. Romans 6:23).

8.    FORGIVENESS.  God forgives us through Christ.  “God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

9.    GIFTS/BLESSINGS.  God bestows blessings through Christ.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:3).

10. GLORIFICATION.  God is glorified through Christ.  “. . . in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11; cf. John 14:13; Ephesians 3:21; Romans 16:27).

11. GRACE.  God’s grace is given to us through Christ.  “I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:4; cf. Ephesians 1:6; 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:8-9).

12. HOLY SPIRIT.  God gives the Holy Spirit through Christ.  “. . . the Holy Spirit, whom He [God] poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5-6).

13. INTERCESSION.  Christ makes intercession for man to God.  “Christ Jesus is He . . . who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34; cf. Hebrews 7:25; 9:24; Isaiah 53:12).  He is our advocate: “If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).

14. JUDGMENT.  God has given judgment to His Son and He will judge through Him.  “God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:16). “[God] will judge the world in righteousness through a man whom He has appointed” (Acts 17:31; 10:42; cf. John 5:22, 27).

15. JUSTIFICATION.  God pronounces us righteous through and in Christ Jesus.  “. . . being justified as a gift by His [God’s] grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9; Acts 13:39).

16. KNOWLEDGE.  We may know the Father through Christ.  “We know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him [God] who is true, and we are in Him who is true” (1 John 5:20; cf. Matthew 11:27; John 8:19; 14:7).

17. LOVE.  God’s love is revealed in Christ Jesus.  “. . . nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39; cf. 5:8; 1 John 4:9-10).

18. MIRACLES.  God works miracles and healings through Christ Jesus.  “Men of Israel, listen to these word: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst” (Acts 2:22; cf. 4:30; 10:38; John 14:10).

19. PEACE.  Our peace with God is the result of Christ’s reconciling work through the cross.  “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1; cf. Acts 10:36; Philippians 4:7).

20. PRAISE.  We praise God through Christ Jesus.  “Through Him [Christ] then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God” (Hebrews 13:15; cf. 1 Peter 2:5).

21. PRAYER.  We pray to God in the name of Christ.  “Whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you” (John 15:16; cf. 16:24).

22. PROPITIATION.  God is propitiated through Christ.  “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10; cf. 2:1-2; Romans 3:24-25; Hebrews 2:17).

23. RECONCILIATION.  God reconciles us to Himself through Christ.  “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19; cf. Romans 5:10-11; Colossians 1:19-22).

24. REVELATION.  God the Father revealed Himself in Christ Jesus to man and Jesus revealed the Father to man.  “All things have been handed over to Me 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; cf. John 1:18).

25. REDEMPTION.  We are redeemed by God through Christ and His saving work.  “. . . the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

26. SALVATION.  God saves us through Christ.  “God did not sent His Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through Him” (John 3:17).

27. SALVATION FROM WRATH.  Christ will save us from God’s coming wrath.  “God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).  “We shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him [Christ]” (Romans 5:9-10).

28. THANKSGIVING.  We offer thanks to God through Christ.  “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all” (Romans 1:8).  “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25; cf. Colossians 3:17).

29. VICTORY.  God gives us the victory through Christ.  We have victory over sin and death through Him.  “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57; cf. 2 Corinthians 2:14).

30. WORK.  God works in us through Christ.  “Now the God of peace . . . equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

We can learn several important points by observing these Scriptural facts.  First, we learn that God generally doesn’t relate to us directly.  He relates to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Second, God requires that our relationship to Him must be mediated through His Son; we don’t go to Him directly.  Third, Christ’s mediation is absolutely essential to our present life and eternal salvation.  Fourth, we can see the exalted position of our Lord when we recognize all that he does for us and does for God.  He is no mere man.  He is both God and man and this qualifies Him to work in this crucial and essential way.

 



[1] Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, pp. 140-141.

[2] Bruce A. Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, carefully explores this matter of Christ’s willing and glad subordination.

[3] Ware, Ibid., p. 74.

[4] Ware, Ibid., p. 84.

[5] The Faith Once for All, p. 257.

[6] W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary.

[7] John Murray, The New Bible Dictionary.

[8] NASB Study Bible.

[9] John Stott, Focus on Christ, p. 17.

[10] Ibid., p. 18.

[11] “It is quite true that Jesus is normally described as the agent of creation and the Father as the source of creation, but it does not logically follow that the Son is therefore inferior.  It only follows that He is different” (James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity, p. 67).


 

Comments are closed.