Given how the New Testament uses the title “God,” Jesus is not God.

Overview

In the Trinity theory, God is one Being but three co-equal and co-eternal Persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  In the New Testament, however, as this article purposes to show, Jesus is not God, for it maintains a DISTINCTION between God and Jesus.  In summary:

The Bible is very clear that THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD.  A number of verses in the New Testament contain the phrases “God is one,” “one God,“only God,” or “only true God,” and in all instances the Father alone is God.  These verses often identify Jesus Christ as “Lord.” For example, “There is but ONE GOD, THE FATHER … and ONE LORD, JESUS CHRIST.

All letters of the New Testament commence with making a distinction between God and Jesus, for example, “Peace from GOD our Father, and the LORD Jesus Christ.”  Therefore, if we derive our definition of the term “God” from the New Testament, then we must use that title for the Father only.

Jesus referred to the Father as “My God.” He did this even 60 years after His resurrection when He gave the Book of Revelation.  Paul similarly described the Father as “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The letter to the Hebrews, speaking to Jesus, similarly talks of God as “Your God.”  And since God is also His God, Jesus prayed to God when He was on earth.

In a number of New Testament verses, God, the Father, is the Ultimate uncaused Cause of all things, in distinction to Jesus.  For example, “There is but one God, the Father, FROM WHOM ARE ALL THINGS … and one Lord, Jesus Christ, BY whom are all things” (1 Cor. 8:6). 

Jesus is the IMAGE of the invisible God.”  God is invisible, unknowable, and incomprehensible.  God, the Father, “dwells in unapproachable light, whom NO MAN HAS SEEN or can see.” If God is invisible, while Jesus is His visible image, then Jesus is distinct from God.  Jesus is therefore not God, given how the New Testament uses the title “God.”

At His ascension, Jesus “was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of GOD” (Mark 16:19). His position, at God’s right hand, is mentioned often in the New Testament.  It is the position of power over the entire universe; subject only to God.  It confirms that Jesus is both DISTINCT from God and SUBORDINATE to God.

Many, many other passages may be listed where God and Jesus are mentioned as distinct from one another.  For example, before He had to suffer and die on the Cross, Jesus pleaded with His Father, “if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.”  The book of Revelation refers “to God and to the Lamb,” and the Father “alone possesses immortality.”

Only one God

One of the primary messages of the Old Testament is that there is only one God.  The famous Shema—the foundation of Judaism—announces,

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God,
THE LORD IS ONE!
” (Deut. 6:4). 

(Shema is the Hebrew for the first word; “Hear”.)  “The LORD is one” opposed the prevailing polytheism of the nations of that day.  Through Isaiah “the LORD” (Yahweh) also declared:

44:6 “I am the first and I am the last,
and there is NO GOD BESIDES ME.

45:21-22 “There is NO OTHER GOD besides Me …
There is NONE except Me …
I am God, and THERE IS NO OTHER.

43:10-11 “Before Me there was NO GOD formed,
And there will be NONE after Me.

New Testament

The New Testament confirms that THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD.  When the scribes asked Jesus what the most important commandment is, He quoted from the Shema: 

The foremost is, ‘Hear, o Israel!
THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD …
” (Mark 12:28-30).

James similarly wrote:  You believe that GOD IS ONE; you do well” (James 2:19).

That One God is the Father.

The verses below were found by searching the New Testament for the phrase “one God.” These verses IDENTIFY THAT ONE GOD AS THE FATHER, in distinction to Jesus, who is often called LORD:

There is but ONE GOD, THE FATHER … and ONE LORD, JESUS CHRIST” (1 Cor. 8:6).

For there is ONE GOD and ONE MEDIATOR between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

There is … ONE LORD, one faith, one baptism, ONE GOD AND FATHER of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:4-6). 

By searching for the phrase “only God,” confirmation was found that that One God is the Father, while Jesus is still identified as LORD:

To the ONLY GOD our Savior, through Jesus Christ our LORD, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority” (Jude 1:25).

Note also the word “through.”  This word often describes the relationship between the Father and the Son.  Everything we receive from God, we receive through His Son.  And all glory we give to God, we give through His Son.

Jesus said, “you do not seek the glory that is from THE ONE AND ONLY GOD” (John 5:44).

In prayer, Jesus said to the Father, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, THE ONLY TRUE GOD, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

To the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the ONLY GOD, be honor and glory forever and ever” (1 Tim. 1:17). 

To prove that 1 Timothy 1:17 refers to the Father, one may search for the word “invisible,” and you will find that only the Father is “invisible” (Col. 1:15; cf. John 1:18; 1 Tim. 6:16).  One may also search for the term “immortal,” and you will find that the Father “alone possesses immortality” (1 Tim. 6:16). The immortality of all other beings depends on His immortality.

Is it then not sufficiently clear, from the above, that the New Testament presents the Father alone as God?  If Jesus prayed to the “only true God” (John 17:3), how can Jesus also be God?

There are many texts in the Bible that mention the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but the quoted verses SPECIFICALLY DEFINE GOD, and must, therefore, be regarded as VERY important when we ask about the identity of God.

Summary

The Bible is very clear that THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD.  A number of verses in the New Testament contain the phrases “God is one,” “one God,“only God,” or “only true God,” and in all instances the Father alone is God.  These verses often identify Jesus Christ as “Lord.” For example, “There is but ONE GOD, THE FATHER … and ONE LORD, JESUS CHRIST.

Introductions to letters

James White is perhaps the best known Trinity apologist alive today.  He emphasizes that the New Testament makes a distinction between the Father and the Son.  However, that point is rather obvious.  Our argument is rather that the New Testament consistently MAKES A DISTINCTION BETWEEN GOD AND THE LORD JESUS, which means that Jesus is not God, as the New Testament uses the term “God.”  Read the first verses of any NT letter and you will find this contrast:

Paul wrote:

Peace from GOD our Father,
and the LORD Jesus Christ
” (Rom. 1:7).

I thank my GOD through JESUS CHRIST” (Rom. 1:8).

Grace be unto you … from GOD our Father,
and from the LORD Jesus Christ
” (1 Cor. 1:3).

The grace of GOD
which is given you by JESUS CHRIST”
(1 Cor. 1:4).

Blessed be the GOD and Father
of our LORD Jesus Christ
” (Eph. 1:3).

Peace … from GOD the Father
and the LORD Jesus Christ
” (Eph. 6:23).

For examples from the introductions to Paul’s other letters, see also Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Colossians 1:2, Philemon 1:3 and 1 Thessalonica 1:1.

James wrote:

James, a servant of GOD and
of the LORD Jesus Christ
” (James 1:1).

Peter wrote:

“Peace … through the knowledge of GOD and
of Jesus our
LORD” (2 Peter 1:2).

John wrote:

“Peace, from GOD the Father, and
from the
LORD Jesus Christ” (2 John 1:3).

These are only a few examples.  The point is, if we derive our definition of the term “God” from the New Testament, then we must use that title for the Father alone.

James White is certainly right when he argues that the Bible makes a distinction between the Father and the Son, for the New Testament uses “God” and “the Father” as synonyms.  This is also shown by the quotes above.  But the point is rather that the New Testament consistently identifies the Father as “God;” in distinction to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Summary

All letters of the New Testament commence with making a distinction between God and Jesus, for example, “Peace from GOD our Father, and the LORD Jesus Christ.”  Therefore, if we derive our definition of the term “God” from the New Testament, then we must use that title for the Father only.

God is Jesus’ God

Jesus referred to the Father as “My God.”  He said,

I ascend to MY FATHER and to your Father,
to MY GOD and to your God
” (John 20:17). 

Hanging on the Cross, Jesus cried,

MY GOD, MY GOD,
why have
You forsaken me?“ (Mt. 27:46).

About 60 years after the Cross, Jesus said to Sardis,

I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of MY GOD


But about He who overcomes, He says,

“I will write on him the name of MY GOD” (Rev. 3:2, 12).

Ephesians 1:17 similarly refers to “the Father of glory” as “THE GOD OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.”

Hebrews 1:8-9 refers to Jesus as God, but in verse 9 the writer quotes the psalmist saying to Jesus, “GOD, YOUR GOD, has anointed you.”  Jesus, therefore, is here called God, but the Father is still His God.  To understand why Jesus is here called God, see the article on Hebrews 1:8.

Jesus prayed to God.

In the days of His flesh,
He offered up both prayers …
to the One able to save Him from death
” (Heb. 5:7).

The entire John 17 is a record of Jesus’ prayer to “the only true God” (v3).  He spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:16).

Summary

Jesus referred to the Father as “My God.” He did this even 60 years after His resurrection when He gave the Book of Revelation.  Paul similarly described the Father as “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The letter to the Hebrews, speaking to Jesus, similarly talks of God as “Your God.”  And since God is also His God, Jesus prayed to God when He was on earth.

God caused all things.

There is but one God, the Father,
FROM WHOM ARE ALL THINGS
and we exist FOR Him;
and one Lord, Jesus Christ,
BY whom are all things,
and we exist THROUGH Him
” (1 Cor. 8:6).

ALL THESE THINGS ARE FROM GOD,
who reconciled us to Himself THROUGH Christ …
God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself
” (2 Cor. 5:18-19).

In the presence of GOD,
WHO GIVES LIFE TO ALL THINGS,
and of Christ Jesus
” (1 Timothy 6:13).

God … in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, …
THROUGH whom also He made the world
” (Heb. 1:1; cf. John 1:3)

Note also the words “through” and “by” in these verses, indicating that God works “through” His Son.  This seems to be the standard pattern of how God works.

Jesus; the visible image of the invisible God.

God is invisible.

God, the Father, “dwells in unapproachable light,
whom NO MAN HAS SEEN or can see

(1 Tim. 6:16; cf. 1 Tim. 1:17).

NO ONE HAS SEEN GOD at any time
(1 John 4:12; John 1:18).

God is Spirit” (John 4:24), and thus cannot be seen.

NOT THAT ANYONE HAS SEEN THE FATHER,
except the One who is from God;
He has seen the Father
” (John 6:46).

The previous verse quoted (John 6:46) identifies the Father as God; distinct from Jesus.  Some Christians believe that Jesus did not exist as a Person before He became a human being, but this verse implies that Jesus saw the Father before His birth.

Another verse that identifies God as invisible, in contrast to Jesus is:

He (Jesus) is the image of the INVISIBLE God” (Col. 1:15).

The Invisible God is the Source of everything that is seen. He exists outside our physical realm of time, space and matter. 

By faith we understand … that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” (Heb. 11:3)

Jesus is His image.

He “is the IMAGE of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).

“Christ, who is the IMAGE of God” (2 Cor. 4:4)

He is the radiance of His glory and
THE
EXACT REPRESENTATION of His (God’s – see v1) nature” (Heb. 1:3).

When Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father“, Jesus responded,

Have I been so long with you,
and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip?
HE WHO HAS SEEN ME HAS SEEN THE FATHER;
how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
” (John 14:8-9)

Some use this to say argue Jesus IS the Father, but given the previous verses quoted, we should rather conclude that Jesus said here that He is THE EXACT IMAGE of the Father.  For a further discussion, see He and the Father are one.  Is Jesus God?

Human beings cannot comprehend a Being that is not limited in space or time and Who exists without cause.  But in His Son, appearing in a form that we can understand, God becomes knowable, visible and audible to the material creatures of the universe:

No one has seen God at any time;
the only begotten God
who is in the bosom of the Father,
He
(Jesus) has EXPLAINED HIM” (John 1:18).

Jesus is God’s visible face and God’s audible voice.  For that reason, He is the Word of God (John 1:1, 14).  Since the Father is invisible, the Son is not the image of God in physical terms, but an image of God in every other sense.

Summary

Jesus “is the IMAGE of the invisible God.”  God is invisible, unknowable, and incomprehensible.  God, the Father, “dwells in unapproachable light, whom NO MAN HAS SEEN or can see.” If God is invisible, while Jesus is His visible image, then Jesus is distinct from God.  Jesus is therefore not God, given how the New Testament uses the title “God.”

At God’s right hand.

At His ascension, Jesus “was received up into heaven and sat down at the RIGHT HAND of GOD” (Mark 16:19).

His position, at God’s right hand, is mentioned often in the New Testament.  Stephen, just before he was stoned, said, “I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the RIGHT HAND of GOD” (Acts 7:56).

Other examples include Matthew 26:62; Acts 2:33; 7:55; Romans 8:34 and Ephesians 1:20.  In the book of Revelation Jesus says that He “sat down with My Father on His throne” (Rev 3:21), where He took the sealed book from “the RIGHT HAND of Him who sat on the throne” (Rev. 5:1). 

It is the position of power over the entire universe; subject only to God.  It confirms that Jesus is both DISTINCT from God and SUBORDINATE to God.

Trinitarian apologists claim that the Bible only makes a distinction between the Father and the Son; not between God and Jesus, but that this is incorrect.  As shown by these examples, the distinction is between God and Jesus.

Other examples

Many, many other examples may be listed where God and Jesus are identified as distinct from one another, for example:

When Jesus was a baby, GOD warned his father Joseph “in a dream not to return to Herod” (Mt 2:12).   “After being warned by GOD in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee” (Mt 2:22).

Jesus asked the Young Ruler, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except GOD alone” (Mark 10:18).

Jesus “fell on His face and prayed, saying,
My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me;
yet NOT AS I WILL, BUT AS YOU WILL
’” (Matthew 26:39).

This quote shows that the Father and Jesus have separate and distinct wills.

The book of Revelation frequently makes a distinction between Christ and God.  For example:

The 144,000 “have been purchased from among men
as first fruits TO GOD AND TO THE LAMB
” (Rev. 14:4). 

Revelation 4 describes a throne in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.  In Revelation 5, the Lamb takes the scroll from the right hand of His who sits on the throne.  Revelation 22:3, consequently, refers to “THE THRONE OF GOD AND OF THE LAMB (Christ).”  See also 11:15; 21:22-23; 22:1, 3).

THE FATHER “ALONE POSSESSES IMMORTALITY” (1 Tim. 6:16). The immortality of all other beings depends on His immortality.

Fourth Century

The purpose of this article is to show that the Bible makes a DISTINCTION BETWEEN God and Jesus, but it also provides many examples of statements that indicate that Jesus is SUBORDINATE TO God, the Father.  This was the key point of controversy when the dispute about the nature of Christ broke out early in the fourth century:

The Nicene Creed declared the Son to be “true God from true God.”  This proposes that Jesus is co-equal with the Father, as the Athanasian Creed states.  To support this view, the Nicene Creed ventured that the Father and Son are of the “same substance” (homoousios). 

The Arians, who opposed the Nicene creed, and who are today often castigated as heretics, said that, with respect to the Son, “there was when He was not.”  Antagonists of Arianism today interpret that saying as “there was A TIME when He was not.”  But that is not what Arius said, for the Arians believed that the Son existed before time began.  Their point rather was that the Father was the Ultimate Source of all things and that the Son received His existence from the Father and therefore was subordinate to Him.

If God caused all things, as is argued above, then the Arians had it right.

Jesus is God.

Above are some of the many indications that the New Testament does not describe Jesus as “God.”  However, of the about 1300 times that the word Greek theos (god) appears in the New Testament, it refers to Jesus about 7 times.  So why is Jesus called “God” in these instances?

The reason is that the word “God” does not appear in the Greek of the New Testament.  The ancient Greek language only had words equivalent to our word “god.”  In English, we use the modern word “God” as a name to identify one specific Being.  It is up to the translators to decide when they will translate theos as “God” and when as “god.”  (For a further discussion, see, for example, the article on Hebrews 1:8 or on the word theos.) 

So, before we can ask whether Jesus is God, we really should define the word “God” first. Since the New Testament consistently makes a distinction between the Father as God (theos) and Jesus as Lord (kurios), and since we should derive our terminology from the Bible, we should conclude that the Father alone is God. 

But if we define the word “God” as any Being that is described as Jesus is described, for example, that God created all things through Him, that He upholds all things by the word of His power and that He is the First and the Last, THEN JESUS IS GOD.

Since the word theos has a much wider meaning than the modern word “God,” THE CLEARER CONCLUSION from this article is that the Father is the only true God and the only truly immortal Being.  He is the invisible and unknowable Ultimate Cause of all things.  He is our God and also Jesus’ God. Lord Jesus sits at His right hand, which means that He rules over the entire universe, but He is always subject to and subordinate to the only true God. To use Bible terminology, “God is the head of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:3).

Other Articles

The conclusion, that the Bible makes a distinction between God and Jesus, and therefore that Jesus is not God, given how the New Testament uses the title “God,” came as a surprise to me personally.  To confirm my conclusion, I studied various books of the New Testament.  A number of these studies are available as articles.

One important article provides further evidence of the distinction between God and Jesus by showing that Jesus is subordinate to God

The Book of Revelation is particularly important for the current topic because it was received about 60 years after Jesus died.  All except one occurrence of the word “Almighty” are found in Revelation.  For a discussion of Jesus in this book, see the article, Is Jesus God in the book of Revelation?  See also the article on the word Almighty.

I discuss the Christology of the letter to the Colossians in two articles.  The first asks, What view does Colossians have of Christ Jesus?  Is He called God?  Are we saved by Christ Jesus, or by God?  Who created all things and who reconciled all things; God or Christ Jesus?  The second article concludes that God created all things through Jesus.  Jesus holds all creation together, yet He is distinct from God. 

Philippians 2 is an important chapter for understanding who Jesus is, for it teaches that He existed in the form of God but emptied Himself of equality with God.

1 Corinthians 8:6 is another a key verse.  On the one hand, it contradicts the Trinitarian view by explicitly identifying the Father as God and Jesus as Lord.  On the other hand, contrary to Socinianism, it confirms the message of John 1:3, Colossians 1:16 and Hebrews 1:3, namely that God created all things through Jesus Christ.

Objections

Various articles have been written to address the objections against the view proposed here.  Perhaps some may be mentioned:

John 1

John 1:1 and 1:18 refers to Jesus as God.  However, the same two verses also make a distinction between God and Jesus by saying:

The Word was with God” (1:1) and
No one has seen God at any time” (1:18). 

Why is He called God if He is not God?  The article series on John 1:1 concludes that John 1:1c should be translated, “the Word was like God.”  It then has the same meaning as Philippians 2:5, which says that Jesus, before His birth, “EXISTED IN THE FORM OF GOD” and had equality with God.

The article on John 1:18 shows that the original text is disputed. Many ancient manuscripts refer to Jesus as huios (son) and not as theos (god).  But even if John originally did describe Jesus as theos, we remember that it is up to the translators to decide whether to translate theos as “God” or as “god.”  To translate theos as God,” when it refers to Jesus, is an application of the Trinity doctrine; not proof of it. 

I and the Father are one.

In John 10:30 Jesus said, “I and the Father are one”.  In John 14:9-11 Jesus similarly says, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father”.  Some people read into such verses that Jesus is the Father.  To be “one,” however, does not mean to be literally one Person.  Jesus, in His prayer, defined the term to “be one”:

“That all of them (His followers) MAY BE ONE,
F
ather, just as you are in me and I am in you.
… that THEY MAY BE ONE AS WE ARE ONE:
I in them and you in me
“ (John 17:21-23).

Christian believers must “be one” as God and Christ are one; united in purpose and work.  To “be one” therefore describes a relationship between distinct beings.  As Jesus said, He did the works of the Father (John 10:32) and He only did what pleased the Father (John 8:28-29).

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