By Sam Shamoun
We saw in our previous discussion how John’s Gospel ascribes to Jesus the same honor and worship that the Father receives, due to the fact of his being God Incarnate, i.e., the divine unique Son of God who took on the nature of a man.
Now some may object to this point by quoting the following verse from John where Jesus speaks of his Father being his God:
“Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” John 20:17
That the Father is Jesus’ God is stated in several places in the Holy Scriptures:
“that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:” Ephesians 1:17
“Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” Hebrews 1:9
“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels… Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.” Revelation 3:5, 12
Since Jesus has a God to whom he submits to and worships then he cannot also be God at the same time (or so the objection goes).
The problem with this argument is that it overlooks or completely ignores the fact that Jesus became a human being, and is therefore the God-Man. So he isn’t merely God or merely human, but both at the same time. And as a man, Jesus honors his Father as his God. As the following Evangelical scholar puts it in his response to Jehovah’s Witnesses:
d. Jesus has a God over him.
(1) Jesus honors the Father as his God because Jesus became a human being and therefore took the place of a creature for our sakes.
(2) Jesus is always careful to distinguish his relationship with God the Father from that of his disciples’ relationship with God: he refers to God as "my Father," or speaks to the disciples of "your Father," or teaches them to address God as "our Father" (Matt. 6:9), but never speaks of God as "our Father" where "our" refers to Jesus and his disciples. So careful is Jesus in this regard that in John 20:17 he speaks of returning to "my Father and your Father, to my God and your God," instead of simply "to our Father and our God."
(3) If Jesus is a God over us and has a different, separate God over him who is also God over us, that would make two Gods. But we know there is only one. (Bowman, Jehovah’s Witnesses [Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI 1995], pp. 27-28; bold emphasis ours)
“The most basic sort of argument employed by JWs to show that Jesus cannot be God is this: There are several Scriptures that distinguish between Jesus and God, treating them as different individuals. Some of these Scriptures simply distinguish between Jesus and the Father (e.g., John 8:17-18). These texts present no difficulty for the Trinitarian position, since the Trinity doctrine also distinguishes between the Father and the Son as two ‘persons.’
“Then there are texts that speak of the Father as the God of Jesus Christ (e.g., John 20:17; 1 Corinthians 11:3). The Watchtower booklet argues, ‘Since Jesus had a God, his Father, he could not at the same time be that God’ (p. 17). But again, trinitarians do not hold that Jesus is his Father. They hold that Jesus, because he became a man, was placed in a position in which as man he was required to honor the Father as his God. At the same time, Trinitarians point out some aspects of the Bible’s teaching that show that JWs have misunderstood the implications of the Father being Christ’s God.
“First, Jesus made it clear that the Father was his God in a unique manner compared with the manner in which the Father is our God. Thus, in John 20:17 Jesus stated, ‘I am ascending to my Father and YOUR Father and to my God and YOUR God’ (NWT). Why did Jesus not simply say, ‘I am ascending to our Father and our God’? In fact, Jesus never spoke of the Father as ‘our Father,’ including himself along with his disciples. (In Matt. 6:9 Jesus told his disciples that they should pray, ‘Our Father…,’ but did not include himself in that prayer.) Jesus was careful to distinguish the two relationships, because he was God’s Son by nature whereas Christians are God’s ‘sons’ by adoption. Similarly, the Father was Jesus’ God because Jesus humbled himself to become a man (Phil. 2:7), whereas the Father is our God because we are by nature creatures.” (Bowman, Why You Should Believe in the Trinity: An Answer to Jehovah’s Witnesses [Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI: Seventh printing, 1993], 6. Does the Bible Deny That Jesus is God?, pp. 71-72; bold emphasis ours)
That Bowman is correct can be seen from the fact that the Holy Bible teaches that Jesus became a flesh and blood human being in order to offer his life as a vicarious sacrifice for the salvation of the world:
“This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” John 6:50-56
“But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.” John 8:40
The God-breathed Scriptures further teach that after his resurrection, Jesus continues to exist as a man (albeit a glorified one) with a immortal, incorruptible body of flesh:
“And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them.” Luke 24:36-43 – cf. John 20:24-29
“Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.” Acts 2:30-32
“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by THAT MAN whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31 – cf. 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Revelation 5:5; 22:16
And since the Holy Bible proclaims that Jehovah is the God of all flesh,
“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27
It therefore makes perfect sense that the Father would be Jesus’ God, seeing that the latter became a flesh and blood human being.
To put this simply, the Father wasn’t always Jesus’ God since Christ didn’t always exist as a man. Rather, the Father only became God to his beloved Son at the moment of the Son’s human conception, a fact brought out by the falling Psalm:
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?… I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly… I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture… I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.” Psalm 22:1, 10, 14-18, 22
Here the Messiah plainly states that Jehovah has been his God from his mother’s belly or womb, meaning from his human conception.
That this is a Messianic Psalm, at least according to the NT writers, can be seen from the following verses, which either quote from or make allusion to this particular Psalm in describing the crucifixion and resurrection appearances of Christ:
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
“Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.” John 19:23-24
“For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” Hebrews 2:11-12
Therefore, the reason Jesus has a God over him is because he is not just God, but he is also a man. This is precisely why we find specific texts, which identify Christ as truly divine and human at the same time. Note, for example, the following verses:
“Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined… For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:1-2, 6-7 – cf. 10:20-21; Matthew 4:12-16; Luke 1:26-35
“But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.” Micah 5:2-4 – cf. Matthew 2:1-6; Luke 2:4-7
Jesus is the child who is born, the ruler who comes from Bethlehem to Shepherd his flock in the name of Jehovah his God, who happens to be the mighty God himself that comes forth from eternity past in order to reign on the throne of David forever!
“I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” John 10:30-33
“whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.” Romans 9:5
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16
This next one is quite remarkable:
“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:” Colossians 2:9-10
Noted Evangelical NT scholar Murray J. Harris helps bring out the significance of this text:
1. Divine Status Claimed by or Accorded to Jesus
A. In Relation to God the Father…
1. JESUS IS THE POSSESSOR OF DIVINE ATTRIBUTES
One verse beyond all others in the New Testament affirms that every divine attribute is found in Jesus… (Col. 2:9). Paul does not say simply "the plenitude of Deity," but "the entire fullness of Deity." He emphasizes that no element of that fullness is excepted. Whatever is characteristic of God as God resides in Christ. This includes both God's nature and his attributes. In the Greek text the verb lives (present tense) and the adverb translated "in bodily form" are not found side by side but are separated, which suggests that two distinct affirmations are being made: the entire fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ eternally and that this fullness now permanently resides in Christ in bodily form. Thus, Paul implies both the eternal deity and the permanent humanity of Christ.
As for specific attributes, certain passages imply that both before and after his earthly life Jesus is omniscient (John 21:17; Acts 1:24), omnipresent (Eph. 4:10), and immutable (Heb. 13:8). What is more, during his earthly life he was sinless and holy (Acts 3:14; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5) just as God the Father is holy (Lev. 19:2; Isa. 6:3; 57:15). (Harris, Three Crucial Questions About Jesus [Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI 1994], pp. 66-67; underline emphasis ours)
In fact, the NT goes as far as to identify Christ as the eternal Creator and Sustainer whom the Father appointed to bring the entire creation into existence:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men… That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not… And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-4, 9-10, 14
John wasn’t the only inspired author that describes Jesus as the Creator and Sustainer that became flesh at a specific point in time:
“who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for BY HIM were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created BY HIM, and FOR HIM: and he IS before all things, and BY HIM all things consist. 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. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” Colossians 1:13-20
“hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high… But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God (ho Theos), is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And, Thou, Lord [the Son], in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: they shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.” Hebrews 1:2-3, 8-12
What makes the above passage from Hebrews truly remarkable is that the inspired writer has taken the following Psalm, which describes Jehovah as the immutable Creator and Sustainer of the entire creation,
“Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee… But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever; and thy remembrance unto all generations… Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.” Psalm 102:1, 12, 25-27
And applied it to the Lord Jesus!
Moreover, as the eternal Creator that became flesh Jesus is worthy to receive the very worship and service,
“And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him… Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Matthew 28:9, 16-18
“And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.” Luke 24:50-53
“knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:24
“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18
“and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:5-6
Which inspired Scripture teaches can never be given to any creature, no matter how exalted, but to God alone:
“who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” Romans 1:25
All Scriptural references taken from the Authorized King James Version (AV) of the Holy Bible.