Monday, February 6, 2017

Is Jesus equal with God the Father?

Many people accept that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and even the Savior of the world, but would not agree that he is equal with God the Father.  However, there is ample Biblical warrant for holding to the position that Jesus is equal to God the Father in authority, position, and essence.  The following scriptural references seem to support the claim that Jesus Christ is a lesser being than the Father:  Jesus Himself stated, “The Father is greater than I” (John 14:28).  Jesus referred to the Father as “my God” (John 20:17) and Paul states that “God is the head of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:3).  Jesus is called God’s “only begotten Son” (John 3:16) and the “Beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14).  Paul states that Jesus is “the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15), indicating that Jesus is a created being, and some religions teach that Jesus was created as the angel Michael.

The Father is greater than I
Is God the Father greater than Jesus?  In John 14:28, when Jesus said, “the Father is greater than I”, the Greek word used for “greater” is, (Strong’s, G3187) which is translated as: greater, larger, older, louder, or more.[i]  Meizōn means greater positionally, in the same manner the president of the USA would be greater than anyone else in the USA.  A supervisor at work or coach of a team is in a superior position, but is not a better human being.  It does not mean he is a better person in his nature or essence.  If John had intended to indicate that Jesus is an inferior being to God the Father, he had another Greek word at his disposal:  kreittōn (Strong’s, G2909).  The Greek work kreittōn is translated as “better, superior, greater”.[ii]  The use of kreittōn indicates that the object being described is better in value or dignity, more useful or profitable, nobler, or more excellent.  The word kreittōn is never used in the Bible to compare Jesus to God the Father. 

Jesus equated Himself with God
On several occasions, Jesus identified Himself with God the Father.  For example, in John 10:30, Jesus said, “’’I and the Father are one.’  The verse goes on to say, “The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him.”  Clearly, the Jewish religious leaders understood Jesus to be equating Himself with God which they knew to be blasphemy and worthy of stoning.  Again, in John 8:58 it is stated that, Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.’  And, again the text records of the Jewish religious leaders, “Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him.”  This reference Jesus used in John 8:58 was intentionally chosen as a quotation of Exodus 3:14, in which God spoke to Moses from the burning bush.  “God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am’; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I am has sent me to you.'"  If Jesus was inferior to God, He certainly would not have made this statement in John 8.  This is not to indicate modalism, a doctrinal heresy in which Jesus Christ is exactly the same being as God the Father, but in a different form, as ice and steam are different forms of water.  The Bible teaches in a number of passages that Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit are distinct entities. 

Old Testament Scriptures identify Jesus as God
Is Jesus the Mighty God?  Isaiah 9:6 states, “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.”  The Hebrew words used for “Mighty God” are “gibbor” and “el”, meaning “mighty one, mighty warrior, special guard” and “God, the Mighty One” (Strong’s H1368 and H0410).  This is a direct reference to Jesus Christ as evidenced by the mention of a child who will be born.  The book of Isaiah was written approximately 700 years before the birth of Christ.  Demonstrating that the Son who will be given is equal to the Father, Isaiah used the same Hebrew words to describe God the Father when he writes, “A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God” (Isaiah 10:21).   The same Hebrew words are used by Jeremiah as he wrote, “O great and Mighty God, the Lord of Hosts is His name” (Jeremiah 32:18).  In fact, the next word used by Jeremiah after Mighty God is Yahweh, or the Lord.  So, the term “Mighty God” is used to describe God the Father as well as the Son.    

Jesus is Savior
Does the Bible say that only God is savior?  Isaiah 43:11 states, “I, even I, am the Lord, and there is no savior besides me.”  The Hebrew word used for the Lord here is YHWH or Yahweh (Strong’s H3068), “the proper name of the one true God”.[iii]  So, the Bible clearly states that only God is savior.  Then, in the New Testament, Luke states, “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11), clearly identifying Jesus Christ as Savior.  Only a few verses previous to this, Luke identifies God as Savior:  “My spirit has rejoiced in God (Strong’s G2316, theos) my Savior” (Luke 1:47).  The word Luke uses here for savior is sōtēr (Strong’s G4990), which appears approximately 24 times in the New Testament, interchangeably associated with God and Christ. 

Jesus Forgave Sins
Can God alone forgive sins?  John says of God, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9).  Jesus, speaking to a woman “who was a sinner” said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven" (Luke 7:48).  The Bible instructs believers to forgive one another, but there was no indication in Luke 7 that this woman had sinned against Jesus.  In fact, those sitting at the table recognized this as unusual and said among themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” (Luke 7:49)  Similarly, when Jesus was confronted with a paralytic, rather than simply heal the man, Jesus said, "Son, your sins are forgiven" (Mark 2:5).  Recognizing that Jesus was taking on a prerogative of God, the scribes observing this reasoned, “He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?" (verse 7)  Jesus answered them by saying, “so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--He said to the paralytic, I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.’ And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out” (verses 10-12).  Jesus could have healed this woman and man without mentioning their sins, as He had many others.  However, He made a point of openly forgiving their sins to demonstrate His authority as God.   

Jesus accepted worship
Should we worship God only?  The Bible states that we should only worship God.  For example, God instructed His people through Moses, “you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14).  In the Ten Commandments, it is stated, “You shall have no other gods before me” and “You shall not worship them or serve them” (Exodus 20:3,5).  However, Jesus accepted worship on a number of occasions and did not dissuade anyone from worshipping Him.  Matthew records that, “a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him” (Matthew 8:2) as well as “she (a Canaanite woman) came and began to bow down before Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!’" (Matthew 15:25).  The disciples worshipped Jesus as the Bible records, “Jesus met them (11 disciples) and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him” (Matthew 28:9) and, “When they (11 disciples) saw Him, they worshiped Him” (Matthew 28:17).  When Jesus was a small child, He was worshipped:   “After coming into the house they (magi) saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him” (Matthew 2:11).  And, apparently prior to the rebellion of Lucifer, the Bible records, “and when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, ‘And let all the angels of God worship Him’” (Hebrews 1:6).  All the angels worshipped Jesus and Hebrews 1 goes on to describe how Jesus is clearly different from the angels.  Finally, Thomas, who had been with Jesus during His earthly ministry, was not confused about Christ’s identity when he said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).  Jesus is God.

[Biblical quotations are from the NASB version.]

[i]James Strong, John Kohlenberger, and James Swanson, The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 2001), 1626.
[ii] Ibid., 1623.
[iii] James Strong, 1507.

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