God the Son or “the Son of God”?
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”—MATTHEW 16:16.
1. (a) What view do many church members have about Jesus? (b) What interesting comment did Jesus make about this?
WAS Jesus God? Many members of Christendom’s churches would answer yes. But did you know that there is someone Jesus called “God”? Open your own Bible to John 20:17 and read Jesus’ own words near the end of that verse: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.” If that surprises you, you may be amazed at some of the other things the Bible says about Jesus and God.
2. What other interesting comments does the Bible make about the relationship between Jesus and God?
2 Think, for a moment, about the angel who announced Jesus’ birth to Mary. He did not say her child would be God, but that he would be “God’s Son.” (Luke 1:35) And rather than saying, as do some, that “God Himself” came to earth to provide the ransom, the Scriptures say “God sent forth his Son” to do this.—Galatians 4:4, 5; 1 John 4:9, 10.
3, 4. How do statements by Peter and John the Baptist disagree with Christendom’s teaching about the Trinity?
3 Jesus asked his disciples who they believed he was. Did Simon Peter reply: “You are God”? No. Peter said: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Did Jesus correct Peter? No, Jesus said: “Happy you are, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, but my Father who is in the heavens did.”—Matthew 16:15-17.
4 Religious writers, believing God is a Trinity, speak of “God the Son.” However, John the Baptist did not call Jesus “God the Son” but “the Son of God.” Jesus’ disciples did not say, “You are God the Son,” but, “You are really God’s Son.” There is a great difference between these statements.—John 1:34; Matthew 14:33.
Is the Father Greater?
5. What can be said about Jesus’ heavenly position?
5 The Bible tells of Jesus’ prehuman existence. He existed before Abraham did, he was with his heavenly Father “before the world was,” he was “the firstborn of all creation” and by him “all other things were created.” (John 17:5; 8:58; Colossians 1:15-17) Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake. For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name.” The Bible also says that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . raised him up from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above every government and authority and power and lordship and every name named, not only in this system of things, but also in that to come.”—Philippians 2:8, 9; Ephesians 1:17, 20, 21.
6-8. What are some of the things Jesus said about his position in relation to the Father?
6 Yet Jesus repeatedly showed not equality but submission to the Father. He said he was sent by his Father, instructed by his Father, commanded what to say by his Father. (John 3:17; 5:36; 6:38; 12:49, 50) Jesus said that he “finished the work” his Father gave him to do, and that his followers “have come to know that you [the Father] sent me forth.”—John 17:4, 6, 18, 25.
7 Even Jesus’ enemies did not accuse him of saying he was God. Instead, they said he was making himself “equal to God” by calling God his Father. They wanted to kill Jesus because, as a well-known Roman Catholic translation puts it: “He spoke of God as his own Father, and so made himself God’s equal.” Jesus said: “I tell you most solemnly, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees the Father doing: and whatever the Father does the Son does too.”—John 5:18, 19, The Jerusalem Bible.
8 Despite his highly exalted position, Jesus told his apostles: “The Father is greater than I am.” (John 14:28) Some people say that was true only because Jesus was still on earth and that it is no longer true now that he has ascended to heaven. But that is not what the Bible says.
After Jesus’ Ascension
9. How did Paul show the difference between even the resurrected Jesus and God?
9 After Jesus ascended to heaven, his followers continued to teach that the Father is greater than the Son. More than 20 years later, Paul wrote about “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:6) Look carefully at those words. Paul is speaking of Jesus’ God. Consistently Paul makes this distinction not only between the Father and Jesus but between God and Jesus. He writes of God and Christ. Paul’s standard greeting in his letters was: “May you have undeserved kindness and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2) Paul also wrote, not that Christ is God, but that he “is the image of God,” thus perfectly representing him. (2 Corinthians 4:4) However, the translator of The Living Bible, believing that God is a Trinity, changed this passage to read, “Christ, who is God.” But since that is not what it really says, this footnote was added: “Literally, ‘who is the image of God.’”
10. How does Revelation show the distinction between Jesus and God?
10 The Bible book of Revelation also distinguishes not only between Jesus and the Father but between Jesus and God. It opens, “A revelation by Jesus Christ, which God gave him.” (Revelation 1:1) More than 60 years after Jesus’ ascension, Revelation quotes the exalted heavenly Jesus as saying: “The one that conquers—I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God . . . I will write upon him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which descends out of heaven from my God, and that new name of mine.”—Revelation 3:12.
11. How is the distinction between Jesus and God made in the Bible’s last chapter?
11 This distinction between God and the Lamb Jesus Christ is made right down to the Bible’s last chapter, where the great heavenly throne of the magnificent New Jerusalem is not described as the throne of an imaginary Trinity, but as “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Revelation 22:1, 3) These statements are not difficult to understand, unless you have been taught to try to make them say something they do not say.
“At the Right Hand of Power”
12. (a) How did Jesus explain the position he would have after his resurrection? (b) How does Psalm 110:1 show that Jesus is not Jehovah?
12 Jesus’ enemies, seeking a reason to put him to death, did not ask if he claimed to be God, but whether he was “the Christ the Son of God.” He answered: “You yourself said it. Yet I say to you men, From henceforth you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:63, 64) Earlier Jesus had quoted and applied to himself David’s words: “The utterance of Jehovah to my Lord is: ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.’” Jesus did not say he was Jehovah, or part of some unscriptural Trinity, but that he would be at Jehovah’s right hand, awaiting the outworking of God’s time and purposes.—Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:42-44.
13. What did Stephen see just before giving his life for his faith?
13 Stephen, the first person to die for his faith in Christ, was given a vision of the resurrected Jesus in heaven. Did he see Jesus as being God, or part of some Trinity? No. As Jesus and David had foretold, he saw Jesus “at God’s right hand.” The Living Bible says that Stephen saw “Jesus the Messiah standing beside God, at his right hand!”—Acts 7:55, 56.
14. What does Daniel’s vision show about “someone like a son of man”?
14 A larger view of this is found in Daniel’s magnificent vision of the Ancient of Days. Daniel wrote: “I kept on beholding in the visions of the night, and, see there! with the clouds of the heavens someone like a son of man happened to be coming; and to the Ancient of Days he gained access, and they brought him up close even before that One. And to him there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him. His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be brought to ruin.” (Daniel 7:13, 14) Jesus was not the Ancient of Days, Jehovah God, but he was the Son of man. And notice that this one was brought up close before his heavenly Father, to receive “rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him.”—Compare Matthew 25:31.
15. What does Revelation show that this great crowd would know?
15 The Bible book of Revelation clearly shows that the great crowd from all nations and languages who come under Christ’s rulership would be persons who know the distinction between God and the Lamb Jesus Christ, for their cry of praise is: “Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.” In addition, the 144,000 standing with the Lamb Jesus Christ on heavenly Mount Zion have “his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads.”—Revelation 7:9, 10; 14:1.
16. What would the Jews understand when Jesus said that his Father is the one they called their God?
16 The Jews knew about God’s name. They knew who Jesus was talking about when he said: “It is my Father that glorifies me, he who you say is your God.” (John 8:54) Who was this God? Whether they would still pronounce it or not, they saw his name in their copies of the Scriptures, it was in the scrolls in their synagogues, and it was written in Hebrew characters in the Greek Septuagint Bible translation that they read and used. (See the article “God’s Name in the Christian Scriptures,” page 7.) Jehovah is not another name for Jesus. When Jesus called “God his own Father” and called himself “the Son of God,” his Jewish hearers would understand that he was saying he was the Son of the one whose name was written with the four Hebrew letters YHWH. He was not saying that he was Jehovah, but that he was Jehovah’s Son.—John 5:18; 11:4.
The New Covenant for Christians
17, 18. (a) What key points do you see in Jeremiah’s prophecy of the new covenant, and how important is this prophecy? (b) What did the mediator of this covenant do?
17 Jeremiah’s great prophecy of the new covenant shows that not just Jews but Christians, too, would be a people for Jehovah’s name. If the translators of your Bible properly used God’s name where it appears in the original Hebrew, you would read:
“‘Look! There are days coming,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and I will conclude with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant . . . For this is the covenant that I shall conclude with the house of Israel after those days,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘I will put my law within them, and in their heart I shall write it. And I will become their God, and they themselves will become my people. And they will no more teach each one his companion and each one his brother, saying, “Know Jehovah!” for they will all of them know me, from the least one of them even to the greatest one of them,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.”—Jeremiah 31:31-34.
18 The Christian apostle Paul devotes four chapters of the book of Hebrews (chapters 7-10) to discussing this new covenant, which God established with spiritual Israel. Paul does not suggest that Christ was the maker of this covenant (which was made valid through his blood), but says that Christ was its “mediator.” Its maker was Jehovah God. Of its mediator, Paul wrote: “Christ entered . . . into heaven itself, now to appear before the person of God for us.”—Hebrews 8:6; 9:15, 24.
19. Who does this prophecy say would be the God of those in the Christian new covenant?
19 Who does Jeremiah say would be the God of the Christians in the new covenant? Jehovah! It is Jehovah who said: “I will conclude . . . I will put . . . I will become their God.” And this prophecy says of Christians in the new covenant: “‘They will all of them know me, from the least one of them even to the greatest one of them,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.” So all those who really are in the Christian new covenant—as well as other faithful Christians associated with them—would be persons who know and serve Jehovah! More than 400 years ago, John Calvin wrote: “These words, ‘Know ye Jehovah,’ point out the first elements of faith.”—Commentaries on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah and the Lamentations, by John Calvin, translated by John Owen, page 136.
A Changed Situation
20. What did Jesus’ hearers need to realize?
20 In Jesus’ day his hearers knew the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob. Their ancestors worshiped Jehovah, and they had Jehovah’s temple in their midst. What they needed to see was the importance of honoring and following Jesus. Thus Jesus said that all should “honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He that does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.”—John 5:23.
21, 22. (a) How is this situation reversed today? (b) What must we not overlook?
21 Today the situation is reversed. Members of Christendom’s churches say a great deal about the Son but overlook “the Father who sent him.” It was God who exalted Jesus “to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”—Philippians 2:9-11.
22 We must not, as many have done, overlook that fact—that our confession of Jesus should be “to the glory of God the Father.” Many of today’s religious leaders, and therefore their flocks, have all but forgotten the Father. Yet, in prayer to his heavenly Father, Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God.” But that is not enough. We must also learn of and follow the one whom God sent forth. Thus, Jesus continued, “And of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3.
Questions for Review
□ What Biblical statements show the difference between Jesus and God?
□ Were Jesus’ words “the Father is greater than I am” still true after Jesus returned to heaven?
□ What did David and Daniel say that helps us to understand Jesus’ position in heaven?
□ What does Jeremiah’s prophecy about the new covenant show that true Christians would know about God?
[Box on page 17]
“God the Son” a Later Idea
The New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 13, page 426, says: “To ask whether the N[ew] T[estament] presents Jesus as God the Son” is to “seek a frame of reference for Him that was developed only later.”
Thus, Jesus and his apostles taught that he was “the Son of God,” but it was later churchmen who developed the idea of “God the Son.”