“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
1) Is Jesus Not As Great As God the Father? (Tom Edwards)
Is Jesus Not As Great As God the Father?
Based on John 14:28, one might wonder if Jesus is a “lesser” God. For Jesus says in the last part of this verse that “the Father is greater than I.” But when did Jesus say this, and what was His relationship with the Father at that time? It, of course, was after Jesus had greatly humbled Himself to come to earth and had taken on “the form of a bond-servant” (Phil. 2:7), where He, as “the Son of God,” had been living in submission to His Father in heaven.
Normally, we think in a father-son relationship that the father is greater than the son. Therefore, it is the son who is in subjection to the father — and not the father to the son. So these terms serve as accommodating language to express the role Jesus took upon Himself when coming to earth. For it appears that prior to the creation, there was not a Father-Son relationship, as also indicated in Hebrews 1:5: “For to which of the angels did He ever say, ‘YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU’? And again, ‘I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM AND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME’?” The “will be” and “shall be,” which I underlined, indicate a time when that type of relationship would begin. So what was it prior?
The very same chapter also declares that Jesus “is the radiance” of His Father’s glory and “the exact representation” of His Father’s nature (Heb. 1:3). So Jesus was not just 50%, 75%, or 99% — but, rather, was 100% of the “exact” nature of Deity that His Father also possessed.
Paul, too, speaks of that in Colossians 2:9: “For in Him ALL THE FULLNESS OF DEITY dwells in bodily form” (emphasis mine). The “Him,” of course, refers to Christ, as mentioned in verse 8. Again, Jesus is as much God as the Father; but was in subjection to Him while on earth.
This might also remind you of what Jesus says in John 14:7: “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him” (Jn. 14:7); and “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (v. 9). Though two distinct persons, yet same in Deity.
And what about the Holy Spirit? He is also a divine person who makes up the Godhead, but why is He never referred to as a “Son”? Though the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” see Him as a power — and not a person — yet the Bible speaks of Him as a person when using masculine pronouns, such as “Him” (Jn. 16:7) and “He” (v. 8). Furthermore, the Holy Spirit is One who can “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (v. 8); and He can “guide,” “speak,” “hear,” “disclose,” “glorify” God, and take from God (vv. 13-15). He can also be “grieved” (Eph. 4:30). How could just a power, like electricity, be grieved?
Paul speaks of that “sacrifice” Jesus made in humbling Himself to leave heaven and lay aside that glorified state He had there — in order to become a man: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard EQUALITY WITH GOD a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being found in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8, emphasis mine).
So Jesus was in an “EQUALITY WITH GOD” before coming to earth. And what He “emptied Himself” of was not His Deity, but the blessings of dwelling in heaven and His heavenly “body” that was replaced with a human one that would experience hunger, thirst, weariness, pain, and temptations — a body that was much inferior to what He had in heaven. This is why the Hebrew writer says, “But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9). Jesus was not “lower than the angels” when it came to rank because He was still God, and angels were part of His creation. The angels worshiped Christ, but He did not worship them. But He became “lower than the angels” by taking on an inferior body compared to the perfect, heavenly body that they possess. And this verse also shows why Christ did that: “so that…He might taste death for everyone.” Jesus had to become a man so that He could make an atonement for sin by His death on the cross.
So though He had been in “equality with God” in heaven, He did not feel that He had to cling to that and all the blissfulness that goes with it, but willingly gave up the privileges and blessings He had there in order to come to earth, humbly take on “the form of a bond-servant,” and subjectively and faithfully carry out His role as the Son of God in submission to His Father in heaven.
In thinking more of the Lord’s equality with His Father, John 1:1-3 is an excellent passage. It declares: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (emphasis mine). This “Word” is Jesus, and He is not referred to as a “lesser” God, but as “God”! John then goes on to say in verse 14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Recently, I was talking with a couple “Jehovah’s Witnesses”; and when pointing out this passage to them to show how much Jesus is God, and asking why their New World Translation renders Him as “a god” (in John 1:1), one responded by saying that it is a different Greek word than the previous one referring to the Father. But that is incorrect, for they are both from the same Greek word “theos.”
The “Jehovah’s Witnesses” do not see Jesus as being as great as He really is. For they not only teach of Him as being a “lesser” God, but also as one that is a created being — and, therefore, not eternal like His Father. To them, Jesus is Michael the archangel and the first of God’s creation.
One passage they misused was Colossians 1:15 to assert that Jesus was created. For that verse speaks of Him as being the “first-born of all creation.” But if “first-born” is to be taken literally, who gave birth to Christ prior to the creation? So even in that, we can infer that “first-born” is being used figuratively.
During the Mosaical Age, the firstborn son was to receive a double portion of the inheritance from his father (cf. Deut. 21:15-17). So in that, we see of a preeminence the firstborn had over his siblings; and that idea also came to take on a metaphorical usage in the Scriptures. For example, Isaiah 14:30 says that “the firstborn of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety…” (KJV). But “firstborn” is not used literally in this passage. Rather, it is referring to those who were most poor. Notice, for instance, how this is rendered in some other Bible translations: “Those who are most helpless will eat, And the needy will lie down in security…” (NASB). And in the NIV: “The poorest of the poor will find pasture, and the needy will lie down in safety…” Consider, too, Psalm 89:27: “I also shall make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth” (emphases mine in these passages).
Especially with that last verse, we can easily see the figurative usage of “firstborn” to indicate exaltation or the preeminence that God would give to that one. And that is the way it is used in Colossians 1:15. For notice the context: After speaking of Jesus being “…the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation,” it then goes on to say: “for by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him” (Col. 1:15-19).
To “have first place in everything” is to have the preeminence over everything, and that is what the idea of Jesus being “the firstborn of all creation” is figuratively expressing. For He is not merely the firstborn of a particular family, which He was; but, rather, He is said to be the firstborn over “all creation.” How highly exalted Christ is! He has “the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). He is the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:6); and, as He declares in Matthew 28:18, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
We saw also in Colossians 1:16, “For by Him all things were created…” Every created thing has been made possible by Jesus Christ. Going along with this, John 1:3 declares, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”
Well, if the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” are correct that Jesus is a created being then it could not be said that “by Him all things were created.” For if that be so, then Jesus would have had to create Himself! So what do they do with Colossians 1:16 so that it does not clash with their belief? They “solved” it with the word “other.” Quoting from their New World Translation, “by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and on the earth…” (emphasis mine). By inserting the word “other,” they can now say that “God created Jesus, and Jesus then created all other created things.” But that is not what the Bible teaches. In the 23 different Bible translations I looked this up in, not even one of them uses the word “other” to imply that Jesus was also a created being.
It is said of Jesus that “they shall call His name Immanuel; which is, being interpreted, God with us” (Matt. 1:23, ASV). Yes, Jesus was God incarnate, Deity in human flesh while on earth.
But when the Jews said to Jesus, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?,” the Lord responded by saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM” (John. 8:57-58, emphasis mine). Notice that Jesus doesn’t just say, “I was,” which would have still been an awesome thing to say, and which would have probably been what He would have said if He had been a created being prior to Abraham; but Jesus did not say that. Rather, He said, “I AM,” which expresses His eternal nature. He had no beginning, for He has always been and always will be.
Notice how the psalmist expresses God’s eternal nature:
“Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even FROM EVERLASTING TO EVERLASTING, You are God” (Psa. 90:2, emphasis mine). And who did we earlier see as being credited with the creation in John 1:2? Jesus. Also in Hebrews 1:2: God “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, THROUGH WHOM ALSO HE MADE THE WORLD (emphasis mine). And what does God the Father call His Son in Hebrews 1:8? “But of the Son He says, ‘…O GOD…”
That Jesus was involved in the great work of creation is also seen in the first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). We have pointed out that “God” in this passage is from “Elohim,” the plural form of God; and look what we go on to see: “Then God said, ‘Let US make man in OUR image, according to OUR likeness…God created man in His own image…” (Gen. 1:26-27, emphasis mine). Notice the plural pronouns. God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were all involved in the work of creation. Concerning the Holy Spirit, Genesis 1:2 says, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” The psalmist declares of God, “You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the ground” (Psa. 104:30).
So getting back to that phrase, “FROM EVERLASTING TO EVERLASTING, You are God,” notice that it doesn’t say, “from everlasting to everlasting, You HAVE BEEN God” or “from everlasting to everlasting, You WILL BE God”; but “from everlasting to everlasting, You ARE God” (emphases mine). God already fills all eternity. Eternity is not like our realm of time, which is linear like a timeline. God will not be a day older tomorrow, or a year older next year. He does not age. He does not wear out or diminish in any way. I describe Him as being “eternally new.” The Hebrew writer says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).
Do you remember what Micah said when prophesying Jesus’ birth, as to where He would be born and from where He had come? Several hundred years before Christ was born in Bethlehem to the virgin Mary, Micah wrote: “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, FROM THE DAYS OF ETERNITY” (Micah 5:2). Think of the oldest person you know. Can that person be referred to as having come “from the days of eternity”? Even of Methuselah, who lived to be 969 years old, you could not say was from the days of eternity.
In thinking more of Christ’s eternal nature, and that He was not a created being, look at Isaiah 9:6: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” So not only is Jesus called “God,” but also “Eternal Father.” This probably sounds very wrong to many to refer to Jesus as “Father”; but, as one commentator writes, when Isaiah had said this, “the distinctions of Persons in the Godhead had not yet been revealed” (Pulpit Commentary). The thought of Jesus being the “Eternal Father” has also been viewed as His being the “Father of Eternity.” In other words, eternity did not bring about God, but eternity is because God is! And here, Jesus is the One in the Godhead being referred to and being shown in His relationship — not to the other two persons that make up the Godhead, but to eternity itself. He is the Father of it.
Is it not important that the world comes to believe in Jesus for who He truly is – and not some lesser being? For Jesus says, “unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).
(All Scripture from the NASB unless otherwise indicated.)
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday services: 9:00 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
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