Is God Always Superior to Jesus?
JESUS never claimed to be God. Everything he said about himself indicates that he did not consider himself equal to God in any way—not in power, not in knowledge, not in age.
In every period of his existence, whether in heaven or on earth, his speech and conduct reflect subordination to God. God is always the superior, Jesus the lesser one who was created by God.
Jesus Distinguished From God
TIME and again, Jesus showed that he was a creature separate from God and that he, Jesus, had a God above him, a God whom he worshiped, a God whom he called “Father.” In prayer to God, that is, the Father, Jesus said, “You, the only true God.” (John 17:3) At John 20:17 he said to Mary Magdalene: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” (RS, Catholic edition) At 2 Corinthians 1:3 the apostle Paul confirms this relationship: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Since Jesus had a God, his Father, he could not at the same time be that God.
The apostle Paul had no reservations about speaking of Jesus and God as distinctly separate: “For us there is one God, the Father, . . . and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 8:6, JB) The apostle shows the distinction when he mentions “the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels.” (1 Timothy 5:21, RS Common Bible) Just as Paul speaks of Jesus and the angels as being distinct from one another in heaven, so too are Jesus and God.
Jesus’ words at John 8:17, 18 are also significant. He states: “In your own Law it is written, ‘The witness of two men is true.’ I am one that bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” Here Jesus shows that he and the Father, that is, Almighty God, must be two distinct entities, for how else could there truly be two witnesses?
Jesus further showed that he was a separate being from God by saying: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” (Mark 10:18, JB) So Jesus was saying that no one is as good as God is, not even Jesus himself. God is good in a way that separates him from Jesus.
God’s Submissive Servant
TIME and again, Jesus made statements such as: “The Son cannot do anything at his own pleasure, he can only do what he sees his Father doing.” (John 5:19, The Holy Bible, by Monsignor R. A. Knox) “I have come down from heaven to do, not my will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 6:38) “What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him that sent me.” (John 7:16) Is not the sender superior to the one sent?
This relationship is evident in Jesus’ illustration of the vineyard. He likened God, his Father, to the owner of the vineyard, who traveled abroad and left it in the charge of cultivators, who represented the Jewish clergy. When the owner later sent a slave to get some of the fruit of the vineyard, the cultivators beat the slave and sent him away empty-handed. Then the owner sent a second slave, and later a third, both of whom got the same treatment. Finally, the owner said: “I will send my son [Jesus] the beloved. Likely they will respect this one.” But the corrupt cultivators said: “‘This is the heir; let us kill him, that the inheritance may become ours.’ With that they threw him outside the vineyard and killed him.” (Luke 20:9-16) Thus Jesus illustrated his own position as one being sent by God to do God’s will, just as a father sends a submissive son.
The followers of Jesus always viewed him as a submissive servant of God, not as God’s equal. They prayed to God about “thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, . . . and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus.”—Acts 4:23, 27, 30, RS, Catholic edition.
God Superior at All Times
AT THE very outset of Jesus’ ministry, when he came up out of the baptismal water, God’s voice from heaven said: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matthew 3:16, 17) Was God saying that he was his own son, that he approved himself, that he sent himself? No, God the Creator was saying that he, as the superior, was approving a lesser one, his Son Jesus, for the work ahead.
Jesus indicated his Father’s superiority when he said: “Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor.” (Luke 4:18) Anointing is the giving of authority or a commission by a superior to someone who does not already have authority. Here God is plainly the superior, for he anointed Jesus, giving him authority that he did not previously have.
Jesus made his Father’s superiority clear when the mother of two disciples asked that her sons sit one at the right and one at the left of Jesus when he came into his Kingdom. Jesus answered: “As for seats at my right hand and my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted by my Father,” that is, God. (Matthew 20:23, JB) Had Jesus been Almighty God, those positions would have been his to give. But Jesus could not give them, for they were God’s to give, and Jesus was not God.
Jesus’ own prayers are a powerful example of his inferior position. When Jesus was about to die, he showed who his superior was by praying: “Father, if you wish, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, let, not my will, but yours take place.” (Luke 22:42) To whom was he praying? To a part of himself? No, he was praying to someone entirely separate, his Father, God, whose will was superior and could be different from his own, the only One able to “remove this cup.”
Then, as he neared death, Jesus cried out: “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?” (Mark 15:34, JB) To whom was Jesus crying out? To himself or to part of himself? Surely, that cry, “My God,” was not from someone who considered himself to be God. And if Jesus were God, then by whom was he deserted? Himself? That would not make sense. Jesus also said: “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) If Jesus were God, for what reason should he entrust his spirit to the Father?
After Jesus died, he was in the tomb for parts of three days. If he were God, then Habakkuk 1:12 is wrong when it says: “O my God, my Holy One, you do not die.” But the Bible says that Jesus did die and was unconscious in the tomb. And who resurrected Jesus from the dead? If he was truly dead, he could not have resurrected himself. On the other hand, if he was not really dead, his pretended death would not have paid the ransom price for Adam’s sin. But he did pay that price in full by his genuine death. So it was “God [who] resurrected [Jesus] by loosing the pangs of death.” (Acts 2:24) The superior, God Almighty, raised the lesser, his servant Jesus, from the dead.
Does Jesus’ ability to perform miracles, such as resurrecting people, indicate that he was God? Well, the apostles and the prophets Elijah and Elisha had that power too, but that did not make them more than men. God gave the power to perform miracles to the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles to show that He was backing them. But it did not make any of them part of a plural Godhead.
Jesus Had Limited Knowledge
WHEN Jesus gave his prophecy about the end of this system of things, he stated: “But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32, RS, Catholic edition) Had Jesus been the equal Son part of a Godhead, he would have known what the Father knows. But Jesus did not know, for he was not equal to God.
Similarly, we read at Hebrews 5:8 that Jesus “learned obedience from the things he suffered.” Can we imagine that God had to learn anything? No, but Jesus did, for he did not know everything that God knew. And he had to learn something that God never needs to learn—obedience. God never has to obey anyone.
The difference between what God knows and what Christ knows also existed when Jesus was resurrected to heaven to be with God. Note the first words of the last book of the Bible: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him.” (Revelation 1:1, RS, Catholic edition) If Jesus himself were part of a Godhead, would he have to be given a revelation by another part of the Godhead—God? Surely he would have known all about it, for God knew. But Jesus did not know, for he was not God.
Jesus Continues Subordinate
IN HIS prehuman existence, and also when he was on earth, Jesus was subordinate to God. After his resurrection, he continues to be in a subordinate, secondary position.
Speaking of the resurrection of Jesus, Peter and those with him told the Jewish Sanhedrin: “God exalted this one [Jesus] . . . to his right hand.” (Acts 5:31) Paul said: “God exalted him to a superior position.” (Philippians 2:9) If Jesus had been God, how could Jesus have been exalted, that is, raised to a higher position than he had previously enjoyed? He would already have been an exalted part of the Trinity. If, before his exaltation, Jesus had been equal to God, exalting him any further would have made him superior to God.
Paul also said that Christ entered “heaven itself, so that he could appear in the actual presence of God on our behalf.” (Hebrews 9:24, JB) If you appear in someone else’s presence, how can you be that person? You cannot. You must be different and separate.
Similarly, just before being stoned to death, the martyr Stephen “gazed into heaven and caught sight of God’s glory and of Jesus standing at God’s right hand.” (Acts 7:55) Clearly, he saw two separate individuals—but no holy spirit, no Trinity Godhead.
In the account at Revelation 4:8 to 5:7, God is shown seated on his heavenly throne, but Jesus is not. He has to approach God to take a scroll from God’s right hand. This shows that in heaven Jesus is not God but is separate from him.
In agreement with the foregoing, the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England, states: “In his post-resurrection heavenly life, Jesus is portrayed as retaining a personal individuality every bit as distinct and separate from the person of God as was his in his life on earth as the terrestrial Jesus. Alongside God and compared with God, he appears, indeed, as yet another heavenly being in God’s heavenly court, just as the angels were—though as God’s Son, he stands in a different category, and ranks far above them.”—Compare Philippians 2:11.
The Bulletin also says: “What, however, is said of his life and functions as the celestial Christ neither means nor implies that in divine status he stands on a par with God himself and is fully God. On the contrary, in the New Testament picture of his heavenly person and ministry we behold a figure both separate from and subordinate to God.”
In the everlasting future in heaven, Jesus will continue to be a separate, subordinate servant of God. The Bible expresses it this way: “After that will come the end, when he [Jesus in heaven] will hand over the kingdom to God the Father . . . Then the Son himself will be subjected to the One who has subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.”—1 Corinthians 15:24, 28, NJB.
Jesus Never Claimed to Be God
THE Bible’s position is clear. Not only is Almighty God, Jehovah, a personality separate from Jesus but He is at all times his superior. Jesus is always presented as separate and lesser, a humble servant of God. That is why the Bible plainly says that “the head of the Christ is God” in the same way that “the head of every man is the Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) And this is why Jesus himself said: “The Father is greater than I.”—John 14:28, RS, Catholic edition.
The fact is that Jesus is not God and never claimed to be. This is being recognized by an increasing number of scholars. As the Rylands Bulletin states: “The fact has to be faced that New Testament research over, say, the last thirty or forty years has been leading an increasing number of reputable New Testament scholars to the conclusion that Jesus . . . certainly never believed himself to be God.”
The Bulletin also says of first-century Christians: “When, therefore, they assigned [Jesus] such honorific titles as Christ, Son of man, Son of God and Lord, these were ways of saying not that he was God, but that he did God’s work.”
Thus, even some religious scholars admit that the idea of Jesus’ being God opposes the entire testimony of the Bible. There, God is always the superior, and Jesus is the subordinate servant.
[Blurb on page 19]
‘New Testament research has been leading an increasing number of scholars to the conclusion that Jesus certainly never believed himself to be God.’—Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
[Picture on page 17]
Jesus told the Jews: “I have come down from heaven to do, not my will, but the will of him that sent me.”—John 6:38
[Picture on page 18]
When Jesus cried out: “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?” he surely did not believe that he himself was God