Who is Jesus? During the past two thousand years, many passionately reasoned that to deny Christ’s divinity is to blaspheme God Himself. Others fatefully accepted a martyr’s death, fully convicted that Jesus was the Son of God, but not God the Son. And still others have been completely repulsed from ‘Christianity’ all together, because of the teaching that God is ‘three in one’.
So, who is Jesus? And who is God? And does it matter what we believe?
No doubt a proper understanding of Jesus and his relationship to His Father is essential, based on John 17:1-3 and 1 John 4:1-4.
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” 1 John 4:1-4
Jesus’ Victory Over Sin
Consider this: to say that Jesus is God, completely robs him of his victory over sin and death. For if Jesus wasn’t like us in every way (Hebrews 2:17-18) then his victory in overcoming human nature and temptation, and his submission to God’s will, was just a facade.
“Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” Hebrews 2:17-18
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:14-15
“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39
These scriptures are clear. Jesus WAS tempted like we are, had OUR nature and struggled with a will that was DIFFERENT from His Father’s. This alone should be sufficient to show that Jesus cannot be God.
Relationship Between the Father and the Son
If Jesus is actually God, then the beautiful relationship of a Father and a Son becomes only an analogy, not a true relationship.
Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” John 20:17
“Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:5
The Difficult Sacrifice
If Jesus is actually God, it diminishes the difficult sacrifice that God made for us. It is much more difficult for a father to give a faithful, obedient, loving Son over to death, than to give up his own life. Any truly loving father, given the choice of dying himself, or giving his son’s life – would choose to die himself. Giving up one’s son is a much harder choice.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:35-36
“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” Hebrews 5:7-8
These passages continue to show the wonderful relationship of a father and a son in perfect harmony, working together to resolve the problem of sin and death, and bringing salvation to all mankind.
Who is God in the Old Testament?
The first commandment God gave to Israel was, ““Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Deuteronomy 6:4.
In Isaiah 45, God emphasizes over and over that He is THE ONLY God.
“I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God…” (Isaiah 45:5).
“Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me.” (Isaiah 45:21)
The Jewish and Islamic faiths have remained resolutely monotheistic since their inception thousands of years ago. Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, does not alter this timeless Truth. Only the concept of Jesus as God in the Trinitarian formulation contradicts God’s decree, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)
Old Testament Promises to Abraham and David
Abraham was promised a descendant through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). We are told in Galatians 3:8, 9 & 16 that this promised descendant was first and foremost Jesus. “… preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith… Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.”
David was promised,
“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.” (2 Samuel 7:12-14)
When the angel Gabriel visited Mary, he reiterated the promise to David, saying,
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31-33)
Both Abraham and David were clearly told that God’s Son would be from their genetic line. This is verified in the genealogy of Jesus, in Matthew 1:1 “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
Even now while Jesus is in heaven with his Father, he refers to this genealogy, saying in Revelation 22:16, “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
If Jesus is actually God, then why did God promise Abraham and David that the Messiah would be their descendant? What is the point of this ‘human’ genealogy if Jesus is really God?
Consistent with the passages already referred to above, Jesus was a human being, with human nature, and human ancestors. The Trinity makes a mockery of these facts, which is why is it often referred to as a MYSTERY.
What did Jesus say about himself and his Father?
Jesus said he came to glorify God (John 17:4), which we are told he did through his willing submission and obedience (Philippians 2:9-11). From Jesus’ own words we learn:
- Jesus does nothing of himself (John 5:30, 19; 8:28)
- It is ‘God’s word that Jesus speaks’ and not his own (John 8:26; 7:16)
- Only God is good (Mark 10:18)
- Only God knows the ‘day and the hour’(Mark 13:33)
- His Father is greater than he is (John 14:28)
- God was still Jesus’ God, even after the resurrection! The resurrected Jesus told Mary that he was about to go to, “my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
- We are told that Jesus LEARNED obedience through suffering and was MADE perfect (Hebrews 5:7-9)
- We are told that Jesus prayed to his Father (Matthew 26:53; John 14:16; Hebrews 5:7-9)
- We are told Jesus is ONE with the Father (John 17), but a few verses later, Jesus requests that the believers also be ‘ONE’ with him and his Father. This indicates that the ‘oneness’ referred to, is a oneness of mind and purpose.
Even now that he is in heaven, Jesus is still referred to as:
- a ‘man’ (1 Timothy 2:5) – the ‘mediator BETWEEN God and men.’
- He still has a God (John 20:17; Ephesians 1:3; Romans 15:6)
How was Jesus Miraculously Born?
In Luke 1:33-35, we are told that God’s power – the Holy Spirit – overshadowed the virgin Mary. From one of the eggs in her womb, a baby boy was miraculously created without the involvement of a man. In this way, through Mary’s human genealogy, Jesus Christ was both the promised descendant of Abraham (Galatians 3:16) and David (Luke 1:33-35), and also the miraculous ‘Son of God’. He was a man, just like us, tempted in every way that we are (Hebrews 4:15), yet through his single-minded focus on willingly serving his Father, God’s intimate conversations with him every day, and angels strengthening him in times of deep temptation – he NEVER sinned!
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” Luke 1:35
To create a baby from an egg, without the involvement of a sperm, is a wonderful miracle – yet it is not the only time that God through his power – the Holy Spirit – has created miraculous births. God spoke and Adam was created from a pile of dust. Adam is also referred to as ‘the son of God’ (Luke 3:38). In the line of Jesus Christ – the ‘promised seed’, God restored the ‘dead’ womb of Sarah to bear Isaac, and healed the barren womb of Rebekah to bear twins.
What do Historians Say About the Development of the Trinity?
“The formulation ‘one God in three persons’ was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century. But it is precisely this formulation that has first claim to the title the Trinitarian dogma. Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective.” (New Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Guild Publishers; 1967-1974. Trinity;14:299)
“The Trinity is a corruption borrowed from the heathen religions and engrafted on the Christian faith.” (A Dictionary of Religious Knowledge. Lyman Abbott; 1875. Trinity;944)
“If Paganism was conquered by Christianity, it is equally true that Christianity was corrupted by Paganism. The pure Deism of the first century Christians was changed by the Church of Rome, into the incomprehensible dogma of the trinity. Many of the pagan tenets, invented by the Egyptians and idealized by Plato, were retained as being worthy of belief.” (Gibbon, E. History of Christianity. New York: Arno Press; 1972)
“The term ‘Trinity’ is not a Biblical term, and we are not using biblical language when we define what is expressed by it as the doctrine that there is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence.” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia – article on the Trinity by Benjamin B. Warfield)
“It must be admitted by everyone who has the rudiments of a historical sense that the doctrine of the Trinity, as a doctrine, formed no part of the original message. St. Paul knew it not, and would have been unable to understand the meaning of the terms used in the theological formula on which the Church ultimately agreed.” (Dr. W.R. Matthews, Dean of St. Paul’s in “God in Christian Thought and Experience” pg. 180)
And perhaps to summarize all that has been said so far, here is a quote from the Encyclopedia Britannica: (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Trinity-Christianity)
“Neither the word “Trinity” nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Hebrew Scriptures: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:4)… The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies. Initially, both the requirements of monotheism inherited from the Hebrew Scriptures and the implications of the need to interpret the biblical teaching to Greco-Roman religions seemed to demand that the divine in Christ as the Word, or Logos, be interpreted as subordinate to the Supreme Being. An alternative solution was to interpret Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three modes of the self-disclosure of the one God but not as distinct within the being of God itself… It was not until later in the 4th century that the distinctness of the three and their unity were brought together in a single orthodox doctrine of one essence and three persons. The Council of Nicaea in 325 stated the crucial formula for that doctrine in its confession that the Son is “of the same substance [homoousios] as the Father,” even though it said very little about the Holy Spirit. Over the next half century, St. Athanasius defended and refined the Nicene formula, and, by the end of the 4th century, under the leadership of St. Basil of Caesarea, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Gregory of Nazianzus (the Cappadocian Fathers), the doctrine of the Trinity took substantially the form it has maintained ever since.”
The Name Above All Names
Yes, Jesus has been ‘GIVEN the name that is above every name’ (Philippians 2:9-11). Because of his faithful and obedient life, submitting his own will to the Father’s will, God has given Jesus a position higher than the angels, shared his immortal nature with his Son, and promised that he will be King of the world.
Philippians 2:9-11 – “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The Creator of the New Creation
God has elevated Jesus to be the Creator of a NEW creation. Those who give their lives to Jesus, guided by the Spirit of the Word, choose to ‘die’ to a life of sin and be born anew to serve God (Romans 6:2-10). This is the beginning of the new creation.
John 3:5-6 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Romans 6:2-10 – “…Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in NEWNESS of life. For if we have been PLANTED together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection…”
2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” (NKJV)
FIRSTBORN From the Dead
Jesus is the ‘firstborn from the dead’ (Colossians 1:18), the ‘first to rise’ (Acts 26:23) to receive God’s immortal nature. Our hope is to rise from the dead – like Jesus – and receive immortality (1 Corinthians 15:20-54). This will be the ultimate creation of immortal beings, of which Jesus is the author and finisher. Jesus has the power to create a spiritual mind in us now so that we can be fully like him in the future (1 John 3:1-3).
Colossians 1:15-18 “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature (creation):…And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, THE FIRSTBORN FROM THE DEAD; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”
Acts 26:22-23 “I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”
1 Corinthians 15:20-54 – “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the FIRSTFRUITS of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his order: Christ the first fruits; afterwards they that are Christ’s at his coming…And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly…For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
1 John 3:2 – “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
God – All in All
Yet, even with this elevated position and the ‘name above every name’ that God has given Jesus, it is only for an allotted time. We are told in 1 Corinthians 15:28, that Jesus will give back this position to God at the end of the kingdom.
1 Corinthians 15:28 – “And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”
Why Did the Trinity Become Church Teaching?
The book ‘When Jesus Became God’, by Richard E. Rubenstein (available on Amazon), tells the real story of the bitter infighting among many questionable ‘Christians’ in AD 300, as they all vied for power and Constantine’s approval for their own interpretation and creed. Constantine, an uncommitted Christian until his deathbed, had power to choose which creed he felt would best unite the empire, but he was not purely interested in preserving God’s truth, but rather in avoiding dissent and commotion to make his empire strong. He wavered back and forth between the teachings of Arius and his rival Athananius.
This little clip from the book ‘When Jesus Became God’ is very telling as to why Trinitarian teachings became the popular choice:
“While Arians tended to emphasize people’s potential to follow the moral example of Jesus, anti-Arians like St. Augustine focused on their continued self-enslavement, which implied the need for a Christ who was God. Only God could liberate His people from the crushing forces of habit and concupiscence. Only a Christ who was God could forgive them even if they remained helpless sinners…” Pg. 96
“most people’s primary need was the need for security. Only a strong God, a strong Church, and a strong Empire could provide helpless humans with the security they craved.” Page 74
Warnings in the N.T. About False Teachings
Throughout the New Testament the inspired writers warned that ALREADY in THEIR MIDST, wrong beliefs were being taught concerning the relationship between Jesus and God (1 John 2:18-23; 2 Peter 2:1; 2 John 1:7-9; Acts 20:30; Matthew 24:24). The First Epistle of John 4:1-4 warns that those who cannot fully assert that Jesus shared our nature (came in the flesh) are teaching doctrines which should be avoided. The Apostle’s Creed is so simple. It only uses language and ideas that are found in the Bible. The Nicene Creed, and its follow-on – the Athanasian Creed, are filled with ideas and language that are not found in the Bible. Take note that the phrase “God the Son” is never found in the Bible, neither is “God the Holy Spirit”, “consubstantial with the Father” nor the word “incarnate”.
“Restating the relationship between the Father and the Son, in other words, redefined both parties, not just the Son. As a result, Christians who accepted this triune God, distributed over three Persons, no longer shared Jehovah with their Jewish forebears or the Supreme Being with their pagan neighbours, nor could Jews or pagans claim to believe in the same God as that worshiped by the Christians.” When Jesus Became God, Richard E. Rubenstein. pg. 209.
“Indeed! Everything about this theory is beyond human understanding. The bishop ridicules the Arians for saying that Jesus, being a creature of God, had the power to grow or decline in virtue, and that he chose to be virtuous through the exercise of his uniquely powerful will. No, Athanasius says, Christ, being God, was perfect by nature and could not change as humans do. But how can Jesus be called virtuous if he had not the power to choose? How can he be a model for human behaviour if he was incapable of change? The answer: this is a matter that is beyond human understanding!
The problem is not only that Athanasius’s theory mixes God with His creation, but that it removes Jesus entirely from human society, for the universe of moral turmoil, and places him in the unchangeable heavens. If Christ is not a changeable, choosing creature at least something like us, how can we hope to imitate him? And if he is God himself, not our representative and intermediary, how can he intervene on our behalf? Athanasius apparently thinks that Christlike behaviour is to be limited to a few desert saints like Antony, while the rest of us sinners wait in hope of unmerited salvation. It substitutes the sacraments of the Church for sacrificial action in the world. What, one wonders, would Jesus have made of that?” Ibid, Page 119
Several times in the Gospel, Jesus encourages every believer to ‘deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me’ (Luke 9:23), he tried to help his disciples learn to overcome sin by following his example of prayer (Matthew 26:41) and filling our hearts with God’s written word to combat temptation (John 6:63) as he did in Luke 4 and Luke 22. This is not the message of “God did it all for you – so there’s nothing left for you to do”, but rather, to follow in Jesus’ footsteps (1 Peter 2:21), to be inspired by his example to overcome (Revelation 3:21). And yet, of course, keeping in mind that sometimes we will fail, and through confession and repentance we are blessed to be covered with the forgiveness and salvation that is only available based on the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 3:21 – “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”