WELCOME TO THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

 

THE GOD OF JESUS: PART TWO

 

 PAUL AND THE GOD OF JESUS 

      Like Jesus, Apostle Paul identifies the Father as being the only God.

       Romans 3:29-30: Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.

       Romans chapter three shows God facilitates salvation for both Jews and Gentiles through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Is Paul teaching that God facilitates salvation as God the Son who is the one God along with the Father and Spirit?  The overall context of Romans 3 shows Paul using the word God as synonymous with the Father who he identifies as the only God.  Therefore, when Paul says there is only one God, it is the Father He sees as the one God.  This one and only God is seen as justifying both Jews and Gentiles by faith in the man Jesus who this one and only God who is the Father has presented as a sacrifice of atonement

       Romans 3:25a: God presented him (Jesus) as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his (Jesus') blood.  

       There is nothing in this passage to suggest Paul is saying God the Father has presented God the Son as a sacrifice of atonement. It should be evident Paul is saying God the Father, who Paul identifies as the one and only God (verse 30), has presented His supernaturally begotten human Son as a sacrifice for sin. The begettal of Jesus will be discussed in detail in Chapter Twelve.

       A review of NT Scriptures reveals repeated references to God being the God and Father of Jesus.  God is seen as the Father of Jesus and the God of Jesus. How then can Jesus be seen as being the same God He looks to as His God?  In the following Scriptural passages, it can be seen that God is identified as not only the Father of Jesus but the God of Jesus. 

       Romans 15:5-6: May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

       2 Corinthians 1:3a: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

       2 Corinthians 11:31: The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever…

       Ephesians 1:3a: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

       Ephesians 1:17:  I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

       1 Peter 1:3: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.   

       James 1:1: James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. 

       Revelation 1:5b-6: To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.  

       Trinitarians argue that when the writers of Biblical Scriptures use the phrase “God and Father,” they are referring only to the person of the Father in the Trinitarian relationship that is the one God who is Father, Son and Spirit.  Therefore, when Jesus speaks of we serving his God and Father in Revelation chapter one, it is believed He is speaking of serving the person of the Father in the tri-union of Father, Son and Spirit which is God. This notion, however, is contrary to the plain and straightforward language in the foregoing Scriptures and this notion is clearly dispelled by Apostle Paul in His first letter to the Corinthian Christians where he addresses the issue of eating foods sacrificed to idols.

       1 Corinthians 8:4-6:  So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"),  yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

       Apostle Paul emphatically writes there is no God but one and identifies this one God as the Father.  It is instructive that he does not say there is one God the Father and the Son. He does not say there is one God who is Father, Son and Spirit.  He does not say there is one God the Father and one God the Son.  Paul never uses the phrase God the Son or God the Spirit.  It is always God the Father.    

       Paul identifies Jesus Christ as Lord.  Trinitarians argue that to say Jesus is Lord is to say Jesus is God because in the Old Testament (OT) “Lord” is used as a synonym for YHWHYHWH the name by which the one God identifies Himself to Israel.  Therefore, it is believed Paul is saying there is one God/Lord (YHWH) who is Father and Son.  The designation “Lord” is seen as equivalent in meaning to the Greek Theos which is translated "God" In the NT.  It is believed Paul is seeing both the Father and the Son as YHWH God.  

       As will be seen as we proceed with this discussion, YHWH God is identified as Father in the OT.  Nowhere is YHWH identified as being Father plus others.  The name YHWH is rendered LORD (all caps) in some English translations of the Hebrew Scriptures.  In addition, the authors of the Hebrew Scriptures often used the Hebrew Adonai as a synonym for YHWH which is translated into English as Lord (capitol L followed by lower case letters).  The NT uses just one word for “lord,” the Greek kurios.  The Greek kurios is used in association with the word God and the words Father and Jesus in a variety of ways in the NT.  This requires strict attention to context in order to properly determine how kurios is being used.  For example, in the following passages, kurios is used twice to identify the Father and once to identify Jesus.

       Luke 10:21a: At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord (kurios) of heaven and earth”

      Acts 17:24: The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord (kurios) of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.

      Acts 2:36: Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord (kurios) and Christ.

       Jesus identifies the Father as Lord of heaven and earth (Luke 10:21).  Apostle Paul identifies God as Lord of heaven and earth (Acts 17:24).  Since Jesus identifies the Father as Lord of heaven and earth, it is reasonable to conclude when Paul says God made the world and everything in it and is Lord of heaven and earth; it is the Father he is speaking of.  Peter instructs that God made Jesus Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).  Here we see God appointing Jesus as Lord.  If God makes Jesus Lord, how can Jesus be the same Lord God is?

       The Hebrew Scriptures clearly identify YHWH as the one and only LORD God.  YHWH is also called Adonai (Lord).  Are Paul and the other NT authors, when speaking of Jesus as kurios (Lord), equating Him with the YHWH (LORD) and Adonai (Lord) of the OT?  As will be seen in Chapter Three, the OT Scriptures identify YHWH (LORD) and Adonai (Lord) as the one and only Supreme Most High God while identifying the Son of this God as adoni (lord) which means a servant of the one and only Supreme, Most High God.    While the Greek kurios (Lord) is used as a designation for both the Father and the Son in NT Scripture, God the Father is seen as the One and Only Most High LORD (YHWH) over all reality.  Jesus, the Son of God, is YHWH's begotten, appointed and anointed Lord to facilitate YHWH's salvation.  This will be made very plain as we proceed with our discussion.  Now let’s look at how Apostle Paul further distinguishes between God and Jesus.

       Ephesians 4:4-6:  There is one body and one Spirit-- just as you were called to one hope when you were called-- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

      Romans 16:25-27: Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him-- to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

       To the Ephesians we see Paul speaking of the one Lord, who he identifies in 1 Corinthians 8:6 as Jesus Christ.  As Paul did with the Corinthians, he identifies the one God as the Father.  To the Romans Paul speaks of glorifying the eternal and only wise God through Jesus Christ.   The eternal and only wise God is distinguished from Jesus.  We know from the context of Paul’s writings that when he uses the word God he means the Father.  When Paul says, “to the only wise God” he is identifying the Father as the one and only God. 

       We are to glorify the one and only God through Christ.  Trinitarians see Paul saying we glorify God through God the Son in the Trinitarian union that is Father, Son and Spirit. Paul, however, never speaks of God the Son or God the Spirit.  Paul consistently writes of the Father being the one and only God.  As we move through this material, it will become evident the Son is the agent of the one God through whom we worship this one God.  As God’s agent, the Son isn’t God any more than my son is me when he acts as my agent.  It is through Christ that we can be reconciled to the one God who is the Father.  The whole focus of Christ’s ministry was to bring us to God the Father which Scriptures show is the one and only God and also the God of Jesus.  Let's look at what Paul wrote to Timothy.

       1 Timothy 2:5: For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

       In this passage, Paul clearly states there is one God and Jesus is the mediator (intermediary: NET bible) between this one God and man.  Trinitarianism teaches God is a single Being with no separation of substance. God does not have parts.  There is no separation in the Trinitarian God, only distinctions of Father, Son and Spirit.  Since Paul consistently identifies God as Father in His writings, Trinitarians believe when Paul writes to Timothy that there is one God, he is referring to the Father distinction in the single Being that is God.  Jesus is seen as the Son distinction in the single Godhead.  The Son is seen as working as mediator between the Father and man within the Trinitarian union of Father, Son and Spirit.  

       The Trinitarian position is that when NT authors use the word God and Jesus in the same sentence, they are referring to the Father as a distinction of the one God and to Jesus as another distinction of the one God.  The Father and the Son are seen within an indwelling relationship of Father Son and Spirit.  This position, however, is not substantiated by the Scriptures.  The Scriptures consistently teach there is one God who is the Father.  Nowhere does Jesus or the Apostles teach the one God is the Father plus others. 

       In 1Timothy 2:5, Paul contrasts the one God with the man Jesus.  There is no hint here of Jesus also being the one God.  Paul consistently identifies the one God as Father and never as Father and Son or Father, Son and Spirit.  Paul consistently identifies the Father as God and God as the Father.  Jesus consistently identifies God as the Father and only as the Father.  The Scriptures consistently speak of the Son of God.  The Scriptures never speak of the Father of God.  As already discussed, if God is a single Being in three distinctions of Father, Son and Spirit, you would expect to see references to the Father of God as you commonly see references to the Son and Spirit of God.  Since no such references exist, it gives evidence to the Father and only the Father being God with everything else being of and from the Father including the Son and the Spirit. 

        Let’s take a closer look at the Acts 17 passage cited above.  Paul addresses the Athenians and identifies to them the one and only true God who is maker of heaven and earth and the one responsible for their being alive.  Paul concludes his remarks by saying the following:

       Acts 17:31: For he (God) has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.

       God, as creator and sustainer (17:24), is contrasted with the one He raised from the dead.  God is seen as appointing Jesus as the man through whom He will judge the world.  As you proceed through this material, you will see that God the Father is Supreme Judge and Savior and Jesus is given these designations only as the appointed facilitator of God’s judgement and salvation.  In leading up to his statement about there being one God and Jesus being the one mediator between God and man, Paul speaks of God as Savior who wants all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4).  The context of this passage shows the Savior Paul is referring to is the Father.  We know it is the Father who sent Christ to save the world (John 3:16-17).  Jesus is the facilitator of the Father's will to provide salvation for mankind.  This doesn’t make Jesus, as facilitator of the Father’s will, any more equal with the Father than my son carrying out my will makes my son equal with me.

       In addressing the Thessalonian Christians, Paul speaks of the Thessalonians having at one time worshiped idols but were now worshiping the true God. He then speaks of them waiting for the appearance of the Son of this true God whom this true God raised from the dead.  There is not a hint in any of this that the Son of this true God is also this true God.  Paul's dialog clearly indicates he is speaking of a single entity he calls the "living and true God" and a separate entity he calls the Son of this living and true God who he identifies as Jesus.

       1 Thessalonians 1:8-10:  The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia--your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it,  for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

       In addition to the already quoted Scriptures that show the Father to be the God of Jesus, other Scriptures clearly show that God the Father, as the Most High Supreme LORD (YHWH) of all reality, is our God and Father as well, while Jesus is our lord as YHWH's anointed savior to the world.

       Galatians 1:3-5: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.  

       Philippians 4:19-20: And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

       1 Thessalonians 1:3: We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

       1 Thessalonians 3:11,13: Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you.  Verse 13, May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

       In these passages, there clearly is separation of Being indicated between God the Father and the Son.  Paul writes of “our God and Father.”  If God is Father, Son and Spirit, Paul is actually saying “our Father, Son and Spirit and Father” which clearly makes no sense.

       Trinitarianism teaches God the Father and Christ the Lord are a single entity called God and have no separation of Being in their co-eternal, co-equal and con-substantial state.  Any perceived separation in Being is seen to be a consequence of the Son’s “incarnation” as the Christ and not a separation in ontological Being with the Father and Spirit.  Many Scriptures make this conclusion highly problematical.  Here are just a few.

       Revelation 1:5b-6: To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.     

       Revelation 7:10: And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."

        Revelation 12:10b: Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.

        Revelation 20:6c: but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

       Acts 7:55-56: But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

       Colossians 3:1: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

       All these Scriptures show separation between God and Christ after Christ has ascended to the Father and has been granted great, authority and power as the glorified Son of God who facilitated the Father’s salvation for the human race.

       When NT writers refer to God and Christ in the same sentence, God is seen as a separate entity from Christ.  In Revelation 1:5b-6, God is seen as the God of Jesus.  In Revelation 7:10b, we find the Lamb (Christ) seen as separate from God who sits on the throne.  In Revelation 12:10b the Son is referred to as God’s Christ which means the anointed of God.  In reference to the thousand year reign, God is shown as distinct from Christ.  Stephen sees Jesus standing next to God.  Paul writes of Jesus seated at the right hand of God.  Jesus speaks of Himself being at the right hand of the Mighty One (Matthew 26:64).  There is not a hint in any of this that the Son, in His glorified state, is ontologically one with God.  In these passages of Scripture, we see distinction made between God and Jesus.  If Jesus is as much God as the Father is God and God is indeed Father, Son and Spirit, it seems mighty peculiar to see Jesus, in His glorified state, consistently identified as a separate entity from God.

       We have seen that Jesus and Paul teach the Father is the one and only God. Therefore, when John, Stephen and Paul speak of God in the above passages, they are speaking of the Father.  They are seeing the Father and the Son as separate Beings and not distinctions of the single Being God.   When John, Stephen and Paul use the term God in these passages, they understand God as a single, undifferentiated Being who is the Father and only the Father.  In Revelation 3:21, we read that Jesus and His Father have a separate throne which gives further evidence to their separateness of Being.    

       Revelation 3:21: To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.

       It is instructive that nowhere in Scripture will you find the phrase God the Son.  Jesus is consistently seen as the Son of God the Father and clearly identifies himself as such throughout his ministry.  While the word God is associated with the Father in most of the New Testament, there are Scriptures where the word God is associated with Jesus.  I address these passages later in this book when I discuss how the words for God are used in the Scriptures.  During His ministry, Jesus never used the word God, as in Supreme, Most High God, to identify Himself.  He only used the word God in association with the Father.  One of many examples of this is found in Jesus’ conversation with a Samaritan woman where God is identified as the Father.

       John 4:23-24:  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.   God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.

       Jesus speaks of worshiping the Father in spirit and truth.  He identifies the Father as God.  Jesus gives no hint to the Samaritan women that He also is God.  Instead, He clearly identifies Himself to her as the Messiah (John 4:25-26) which is to identify Himself as the anointed of the God He was speaking of. 

       Within the doctrine of the Trinity, Jesus is seen as co-equal with the Father.  Trinitarianism sees no subordination between the “Persons” of the Trinity.  Yet Apostle Paul clearly writes of Jesus being subject to God and of God being all in all.

       1 Corinthians 11:3: Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

       1 Corinthians 15:27-28:  For he "has put everything under his feet." Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.    

       Paul makes it perfectly clear that when God says He has put everything under Christ it does not include Himself, God.  God being all in all is seen in the context of all things being in subjection to God, including Jesus.  Paul clearly shows God to be separate and superior to Jesus.  This statement about God and Jesus was made after Jesus had ascended to the Father and was now in His glorified state.  This statement alone should put to rest the idea that Christ is equal with the Father in every respect short of being the Father.  The above two passages from 1 Corinthians clearly show everything is subject to the one and only Supreme God and this everything includes the Son. 

       God, who is identified throughout Scripture as the Father, is seen as over all things including Jesus.  Jesus is seen as subordinant to the Father which is to say He is subordinant to God.  The very language of 1 Corinthians 11:3 and 15:27-28 shows God to be supreme, superior and above all things including His Son Jesus.  Fourth century Trinitarian theologian Gregory Nazianzen wrote that “to subordinate any of the three Divine Persons is to overthrow the Trinity.”  I submit that Apostle Paul overthrows the Trinity.

       Trinitarians argue that while the Son is God in every respect short of being the Person of the Father, He willingly submits to the Father and in this manner is seen as subordinant to the Father.  While it may be possible to be equal to someone and voluntarily be in submission to them, God is seen as the head over Christ and Christ is seen as subject to Him so that God is all in all.  This is not language that speaks of the Son voluntarily subjecting Himself to God the Father while remaining in every respect equal to the Father short of being the Father.  As will be seen in Chapters Three and Seventeen of this book, the Father and no one but the Father is identified in Scripture as YHWHYHWH is identified as the Most High God.  YHWH, as the Most High God who is the Father, doesn’t have any equal.

       Psalms 83:18: Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD (YHWH), that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.

       It should be evident when Scriptural writers speak of the Father and Jesus in the same context; they are not speaking of co-equal persons who are both the one and only Most High God.  At one point during His ministry, Jesus was dealing with an evil spirit who cried out in the following manner:

       Mark 5:7b: What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!

       The evil spirit understood Jesus to be the Son of the Most High God and not that the Son is the Most High God.  The evil spirit even asks Jesus to swear by God showing this spirit understood God is a separate Being from Jesus. Jesus is identified throughout Scripture as the Son of God and not as God.  Luke records it was the power of the Most High that would overshadow Mary resulting in her becoming pregnant with Jesus.  The result would be that the one to be born would be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35).  Jesus is the Son of God because the Most High God facilitated His birth through Mary and not because He pre-existed as a co-eternal, co-equal and con-substantial distinction of the Most High God.  There is only one Most High God and that God is the God of Jesus.

       Jesus made it clear that a servant and messenger are not greater than the one who sends him.  Scripture makes it clear Jesus was sent by God the Father as His servant.  When we consider Jesus’ status as a servant of God along with what Paul said about God being the head of Christ and Christ being subordinant to God, it should be obvious the Son and the Father are not equally the Most High God.  The Scriptures clearly teach that Jesus is the servant of God and not that Jesus is God.

       John 13:16: I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

       Matthew 12:18: Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.

       Acts 3:13a: The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.

       In these passages, Jesus is identified as a servant of God and by His comments recorded in John 13:16, it can be seen that Jesus recognizes his subservient relationship to God in saying a messenger is not greater than the one who sends him.  Other Scriptures show it is God who sent Jesus. 

       In addition to Paul and Jesus writing of the Son's subordination to God, Apostle John, when speaking of God and the Son in the same context, also sees the Son as subordinant to God and doesn't see the Son as being the God He is subordinant to. 

       1 John 1:5-7: This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him (God) yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 

       It is clear from the context of this passage that it is God the Father who is light and is in the light.  God the Father, who is light, facilitated the conception of His Son Jesus through whom God's light was expressed in bringing salvation to the world.  Jesus is not intrinsically this light but the agent of this light through whom this light became manifested.  Paul made it very clear in his letter to Timothy that it is God the Father who alone is intrinsically immortal, lives in unapproachable light and is invisible (1 Timothy 6:16).  Apostle John clearly identifies God the Father as the true God and Jesus as the Son of this God.

       1 John 5:20: We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him (God) who is true. And we are in him (God) who is true--even in his Son Jesus Christ. He (God the Father) is the true God and eternal life. 

       By saying “in his Son Jesus Christ,” John identifies the Father as the God who is true.  This is the same John who quotes Jesus in John 17:3 and 5:44 as saying the Father is the only true God and the one and only God.  John is being consistent in identifying who the true God is.  Some Trinitarians believe the phrase; “He is the true God and eternal life” refers to the Son.  Is this the case?  A review of the scholarly research on this passage reveals almost unanimous consensus that John’s reference to the true God is a reference to the Father.  1 John 5:20 is a powerful statement about who God is versus who Christ is and has great significance relative to how we understand the first chapter of John’s Gospel which will be addressed in a later chapter of this book.          

       I titled this book The God OF Jesus because Jesus plainly taught the one and only true God is the Father and it is the Father who is His God.  Apostles Paul and John, along with the other authors of the New Testament, teach the same thing.  Trinitarianism teaches God is Father, Son and Spirit and therefore Jesus is God as the Father and the Spirit is God.  In the following chapters, we will comprehensively examine the dynamics of this issue and carefully examine what the Scriptures teach as to the nature of the Father, Son and Spirit.

PART THREE