JESUS VS PAUL # 15: Jesus God’s equal?

The following discrepancy comes from JESUS VS PAUL # 15: Jesus God’s equal?

(15) Paul–“…who (Jesus–Ed.), being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Phil. 2:6) and “For in him (Christ) dwelleth all of the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9) versus Jesus–“…for my Father is greater than I” (John 14:28) and “…I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17). Paul may consider Jesus God’s equal but clearly Jesus does not.

The question is whether Jesus was God. Some of what follows is covered more in depth in a previous post of mine entitled, “Did Jesus exist before time? Is Jesus God?“.

First let us look at the passages mentioned. All biblical passages will be in the NIV (for its ease of reading), unless otherwise specified.

Colossians 2:9

9For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form

Philippians 2:6

6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped

John 14:28

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.

John 20:17

17Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ “

Let us deal with the last passage first. If you continue reading John 20, you will notice that Thomas, the doubter, finally became convinced and called Jesus his God. Jesus not only accepted this, but told him he believed because of what he had seen, and those who would believe without seeing will be blessed.

John 20:28-29

28Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

So we know from this that Jesus accepted being called God. If Jesus is God, then why would He call His Father His God? Because only God is His Father. He was making a distinction between the person of God the Father and God the Son (we know this because He accepted being called God in John 20:28-29). It is not that Jesus did not think He, Himself, was God, but that Jesus recognized  He was sent by God the Father. Indeed John 20:17 tells us God the Son (Jesus) was returning to God the Father. We know God the Father sent God the Son in John 3:16-18.

16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

This same passage, John 3:16-18, tells us that God the Father sent His Son. This is what Jesus meant in John 14:28 when He said the Father is greater than He. God the Father is the first person of the trinity (a concept we cannot not fully understand, yet is supported scripturally – for more information see here), and so is higher (or greater) in the Godhead than God the Son (Jesus).

The reason Paul wrote that ‘all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form’ when speaking of Christ (in Colossians 2:9) is because Paul knew what God had told Him. Recall in Acts 9 and Acts 22 that Jesus visited Paul in a way that others saw and heard.

Acts 9:3-9

3As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6“Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

Acts 22:6-9.

6“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’

8” ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.

” ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 9My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.

Jesus had spoken with Paul. Apparently this was not simply a single event, but something that happened more than once, as we see in Acts 22:17-21

17“When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance 18and saw the Lord speaking. ‘Quick!’ he said to me. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’

19” ‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these men know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you.20And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’

21“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ “

So Paul knew Jesus was God. This is why in Philippians 2:6 Paul wrote that Jesus was “in very nature God.” This was in line with what John wrote concerning Jesus Christ as well.  John tells us that the Word was God and was with God in the beginning.

John 1:1

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

We see also in John 1:14-18 that the Word (God) became flesh and dwelled among humanity and He is now at God the Father’s side.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ” 16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

Jesus, who sits at the right hand of God, made God known. Jesus is God
Hebrews 1:3

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Jesus claimed the name God gave Moses about Himself, ‘I AM’ in in Jn 8:54-58,

54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
58 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

Jesus said “I am” and people fell down, which is what happens in the presence of God – in the original manuscripts, “he” is not present in Jn 18:4-6 (Young’s Literal Translation)

4 Jesus, therefore, knowing all things that are coming upon him, having gone forth, said to them, `Whom do ye seek?’
5 they answered him, `Jesus the Nazarene;’ Jesus saith to them, `I am [he];’ — and Judas who delivered him up was standing with them; –
6 when, therefore, he said to them – `I am [he],’ they went away backward, and fell to the ground.

Even demons knew Jesus was the Son of God.

Matthew 8:28-29

28When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29“What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”

The apostles called Jesus the Son of God, bowing to Him. And Jesus allowed it.

Matthew 14:33

33Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

When asked if He was the Christ, the Son of God, he said yes.

Matthe 26:63-66

63But Jesus remained silent.
The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

64“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

65Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66What do you think?”
“He is worthy of death,” they answered.

The priest knew that anyone claiming to be the Son of God equated himself with being equal with (or the same as, or the same substance as) God.

John 5:16-18

16So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. 17Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” 18For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

And we see in John 19:7 that they had a law against doing such a thing.

John 19:7

7The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

So then, the Jews recognized that anyone calling himself the Son of God was making himself equal with God. The apostles recognized the deity of Christ. In fact, Jesus, while recognizing He was subordinate to God the Father, none the less recognized His own deity. Thus, there is no contradiction when we see Paul saying that Christ had the nature of God, and the fullness of the deity resided in Christ – because Christ claimed it for Himself and accepted the name and acclamation as such.


One Response

  1. […] before time? Is Jesus God?, IS the Holy Spirit separate from God the Father or God the Son?, JESUS VS PAUL # 15: Jesus God’s equal?, Is the relationship between God the Father and Christ supposed to be familial?, More on whether […]

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