THE GOD OF JESUS: PART ONE
It is commonly believed the Son and Spirit of God is God in every way the Father is God short of being the Father. It is instructive, however, that the phrase “God the Son” or “God the Spirit” is not found in Scripture. We only see the phrase “God the Father” and other phraseology identifying the Father as the one and only God. Orthodox Christianity teaches Jesus is the incarnate Son of God. As such, Jesus is seen as God in the flesh. Jesus, however, clearly teaches the Father is the one and only God. Jesus tells us the Father is greater than He and is the source of His life. Jesus consistently relates to the Father as the only God.
John 5:43-44: I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?
In the Greek the phrase “only God” is “one and only God” and is so rendered in other English translations such as the New American Standard Version (NASV). Jesus clearly identifies His Father as being the “one and only God.” There is absolutely nothing in Jesus’ statement to suggest He sees Himself and the Spirit included in the reality that is the one and only God. Jesus sees God as the Father with no hint of God being anything but the Father. In John 17:3, the Apostle records Jesus speaking to the Father and expressing to the Father His understanding that the Father is the only true God.
John 17:3: Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
Jesus sees Himself as being sent by the only true God who is the Father. There is no indication Jesus includes himself in the designation “only true God.” There is no indication Jesus considers Himself co-eternal, co-equal and con-substantial with the one who sent him. Nothing in what Jesus said suggests He is an indwelling distinction of the one and only true God and is God of very God as the Nicene Creed proclaims.
Trinitarians believe when Jesus says the Father is the one and only true God Jesus is seeing the Father as the one God within an indwelling relationship of Father, Son and Spirit. Therefore, to see the Father as the one and only true God is to also see the Son and Spirit as the one and only true God. This argument is based on the belief that God is indwelling co-eternal, co-equal and con-substantial distinctions of the single Being called God. Therefore, Trinitarians believe anyone of these three distinctions can be seen as the one and only God because they include the other two.
The Scriptures, however, never speak of God the Son or God the Spirit. The Scriptures only speak of God the Father. If God is Father, Son and Spirit, we would expect to see references to God the Son and God the Spirit in addition to the many references we see to God the Father. You will not find such references in Scripture.
Furthermore, the Scriptures consistently speak of the Son of God and the Spirit of God but never speak of the Father of God. If God is Father, Son and Spirit, we would expect to see references to the Father of God in addition to seeing references to the Son and Spirit of God. If God is a union of Father, Son and Spirit, we should expect the Father to be identified as being of God as much as the Son and Spirit are identified as being of God. Nowhere do we see this in Scripture. What we do see in Scripture are references to the Son and Spirit proceeding from the Father who is the only individual consistently identified as being God.
John 8:42: Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me (KJV).
John 15:26: But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me (KJV).
In John 8:42, Jesus says He proceeded forth from God whom he identifies as the Father. In John 15:26, Jesus shows the Spirit proceeds from the Father. Trinitarianism teaches God is coequal indwelling distinctions of Father, Son and Spirit. If this is the case, Jesus and the Spirit should be seen as proceeding from God and not just the single distinction of God called the Father. Yet the Scriptures teach the Son and Spirit proceed from the Father who Jesus said is the one and only God. Therefore, it should be evident when Jesus speaks of the Father being the one and only God and the Scriptures speak of the Son and Spirit being of God and proceeding from God, it is the Father who is clearly identified as the one and only God from whom the Son and Spirit proceed
Trinitarians argue that because the Son and Spirit proceed from God the Father, the Son and Spirit are God in every respect the Father is God short of being the Father. They analogize this to humans born of humans being humans, dogs born of dogs being dogs and so forth. This analogy, however, does not reflect the Trinitarian concept of God. The Trinitarian God is seen as an un-seperated single Being of indwelling distinctions of Father Son and Spirit. Humans born of other humans and dogs born of other dogs don’t indwell each other and they are separate individuals. While humans share a number of common characteristics, they often exhibit differences in will and purpose. Trinitarians teach there is no separation or difference of will and purpose in the Trinitarian God. Therefore, this analogy does not apply.
The God that the Son and Spirit are of and proceed from is the Father. In Trinitarian theology, God is Father, Son and Spirit. These three indwell each other and constitute the one God. Trinitarianism teaches there is no separation or subordination in the Triune God. Father, Son and Spirit are all equally God. If God is a tri-unity of Father, Son and Spirit, it would be this Triune God that the Son and Spirit are of, and proceed from. The Son and Spirit could not proceed only from the Father. Yet, Scripture reveals that the Son and Spirit are of and proceed from the Father alone. The Scriptures teach the Son and Spirit proceed from a single, undifferentiated Being identified as the Father who alone is God. Scripture identifies God as the Father and the Father as God.
Jesus identifies the Father as the one and only God. Jesus clearly dispels any notion of Him being equal to the Father when He plainly says His Father is greater than He.
John 14:28: You heard me say, `I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I .
Here Jesus clearly teaches His Father is greater than He. This statement makes it evident Jesus, as the Son of the Father, is not co-equal with the Father as is taught within Trinitarianism. Some argue Jesus is seeing the Father as greater than He purely from a human perspective. It is believed John 14:28 refers to Jesus relating to the Father in what is believed to be His "incarnated human state of being" and not in his eternal state of being. It is believed Jesus made this statement within the context of His "incarnate identity," not His "eternal identity." Since it is assumed Jesus is both God and man, anything Jesus said during His ministry that appears to picture him as separate and subordinant to the Father is seen as Jesus speaking within the context of His humanity, not His Divinity.
Others believe all Scriptural statements that show the Father to be superior to the Son must be viewed as Jesus being eternally begotten by the Father within the relational structure of the Trinity where the Son relates to the Father as the source of His existence. The Son is seen as generated by the Father and yet ontologically one with the Father and the Spirit (equal in Being with the Father and Spirit). Even though the Son is said to originate from the Father, He is not seen as being separate from the Father but as being equal with the Father in all things short of being the Father. The question to be asked is how one can be ontologically one with the source of ones existence? Should not the giver of life be greater than the recipient of such life? This issue will be discussed in depth in Chapter Eleven.
In John, chapters 14 through 16, Jesus begins an extensive discussion with His disciples by saying, “Trust in God, Trust also in me” (John 14:1). Jesus clearly distinguishes between Himself and God whom He identifies as the Father throughout John 14-16. This discussion takes place shortly before His crucifixion where He reveals he will soon leave this world and go to the Father. It is in this context He says the Father is greater than He. Throughout these three chapters, Jesus shows how everything He does is from the Father and will continue to be from the Father after He ascends to the Father. Jesus’ entire discussion gives evidence to the Father being greater than He and superior to Him in all things. This includes the Father being ontologically superior to the Son by being the source of the Son's existence.
As already discussed, Jesus clearly identifies the Father as the one and only God. In saying the Father is greater than He, Jesus is essentially telling His disciples that although He is the unique Son of God, has been given great power and authority by His God and will be ascending to His God, He is not at the same ontological level (level of Being) as God. He is separate in level of Being from that of the Father. Now let’s look at Mark 13:32.
Mark 13:32: No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
If Jesus was at the same ontological level as the Father, He would have the same level of knowledge, understanding and wisdom as the Father. Yet, Jesus clearly shows this not to be the case when He says that only the Father knows the day and hour of the eschatological events described in Mark 13. It is interesting that in the Matthew 24:36 parallel account of this passage, the phrase “nor the Son” is missing in a number of ancient Greek manuscripts. Some scholars believe this phrase was deleted by scribes who believed Jesus was God and were troubled by the implication that Jesus didn’t know what God knew. Fourth century Trinitarian theologian Athanasius did not include this phrase in his rendering of Matthew 24:36.
Jesus plainly reveals it is the Father who has life within Himself (intrinsic life). It is from the Father that Jesus receives His life. Jesus did not have intrinsic life. If Jesus was an incarnation of an indwelling distinction of the eternal God, He would not need for the Father to grant life to Him. He would have intrinsic life as the Father does. Yet Jesus says He receives His life from the Father.
John 5:26: For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.
Jesus reveals it is the Father alone who has immortal life in Himself and gives of this life to the Son. The context of John 5 shows it is eternal life being discussed. Although Jesus’ physical life comes from the Father as is true with all humans, Jesus is not talking about God granting Him His physical life in this passage. The context of John 5 is eternal life. If the Son (Jesus) is co-eternal with the Father, He would have eternal life in Himself as does the Father and would not have to be granted such life by the Father. Jesus was given eternal life through resurrection from the dead as will be made clear as we progress with this discussion. Scripture consistently shows Jesus to relate to the Father as His God. This is clearly shown in a statement Jesus made to Mary following His resurrection.
John 20:17: Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, `I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.''
In this statement made to Mary shortly after His resurrection, Jesus clearly identifies the Father as God and more specifically as His God. Some argue that when Jesus says “to My Father …and to My God,” He is simply recognizing the Father as a distinction of the Triune God. Since Jesus consistently speaks of God as His Father during His ministry, it is believed He is telling Mary He is ascending to the person of the Father who is God as one of three distinctions in a Trinitarian relationship of Father, Son and Spirit.
Some Trinitarian thinkers believe “Father” is being used in a two-fold way in this passage and throughout the New Testament Scriptures (NT). It is believed “Father” is used to identify God as the Creator and Lord of all things and in some separate sense as the God and Father of Jesus. Therefore, when Jesus says to Mary He is ascending to His Father and God and her Father and God, it is believed He is telling Mary He is ascending to the Being she knows as the unbegotten, unoriginate source of all there is. On the other hand, Jesus is seen as ascending to the Being He knows as His God and Father within the Trinitarian relationship of Father, Son and Spirit. This apparently was the position taken by fourth century theologians Athanasius and Gregory Nyssen relative to John 20:17.
The problem with this perspective is that Jesus made it clear during His ministry the Father is the one and only God (John 5:43-44 and 17:3) with no hint of He also being this God. Jesus’ statement to Mary is totally consistent with what He previously stated about the Father being the one and only God. Jesus provides no hint of God being a plurality of Father, Son and Spirit. In John 20:17 Jesus speaks of ascending to His Father and His God. If Jesus is God in all attributes that define God except that of being the person of the Father or the person of the Spirit, why does Jesus speak in terms of ascending to His God when He is the God He is ascending to? Why is the Father seen as the God of Jesus if Jesus is God in every way except that of being the Father? This issue is addressed in more detail in Chapter Twelve where the concept of “eternal begettal” is discussed.
Just before Jesus died on the cross He cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" This is another example of Jesus relating to God as His God. Trinitarians see this as Jesus relating to God strictly as an expression of his human nature. Yet if the Son is an indwelling distinction of the one God who is Father, Son and Spirit, it appears He would have addressed the distinction called the Father rather than address God in making His plea. If Jesus is an indwelling distinction of God, by addressing God, Jesus is virtually addressing Himself. He is making a plea to Himself.
It is much more consistent with Jesus' own proclamations regarding who God is to conclude when Jesus addresses God with His plea, He is addressing His Father who, during His ministry, He identified as the one and only God.