Most Christians believe Jesus is God because that is what the institutional church has taught. And it has asserted that if anyone does not believe Jesus is God, that person is not a genuine Christian. But the Bible never supports this assertion.
For example, the Bible states repeatedly that Jesus had a God, he prayed to his God, and he worshiped his God. Since the Bible constantly proclaims there is numerically only one God, which Jesus affirms, Jesus having a God is prime proof he wasn’t God.
The New Testament (NT) evidence that Jesus had a God is in the Gospel of John, the Apostle Paul’s letters, and the book of Revelation. And, in most of this sacred writ, it is Jesus himself who is quoted as saying he has a God whom he called “the/my Father.”
The first NT evidence that Jesus had a God, and that he worshipped his God, appears in the narrative about Jesus encountering the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (John 4.7-26). Now, the Samaritans were half Jew and half Gentile, and they worshiped the God of the Bible. But they disputed with Jews about the proper place on earth to worship God. They claimed it was their Mount Gerizim, and Jews insisted it was their Temple Mount at Jerusalem. When Jesus revealed to the woman that he was a prophet, she posed this question about the proper place of worship. Jesus replied by saying of the Samaritans, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (vv. 22-24).* When Jesus said, “we worship what we know,” he included himself among the true worshipers of God. And notice that he called God “the Father.”
Jesus also said on the first Easter, only minutes after his resurrection, that he had a God. It was when Mary Magdalene—one of Jesus’ disciples from whom he exorcised seven demons—came with other women early that morning to Jesus’ tomb and discovered it empty (John 20.1-18). She ran and told two of Jesus’ disciples, one being the Apostle Peter and the other probably being the Apostle John. They then ran to the tomb, discovered it empty, and departed. Mary returned to the tomb and apparently became the first disciple who literally saw and conversed with the risen Jesus. We read, “Jesus said to her, ‘Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God”’” (v. 17). So, the risen Jesus clearly called the Father “My God.” And when Mary Magdalene then ran and told the others of this additional news, she became “the apostle to the apostles.”
Five times the Apostle Paul writes unequivocally of the Father being the God of the Lord Jesus Christ. These texts are as follow:
- “glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15.6).
- “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 1.3).
- “The God and Father of the Lord Jesus” (2 Corinthians 11.31).
- “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1.3).
- “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” (Ephesians 1.17).
Six times the book of Revelation describes Jesus Christ as having a God, who is God the Father. Notice that five of them quote Jesus referring to the Father as “My God.” These passages are as follows:
- Jesus “has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father” (Revelation 1.6).
- Jesus said, “I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God” (3.2).
- Jesus said, “I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God (3.12).
- Jesus added, “and I will write on him the name of My God” (3.12).
- Jesus added, “and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem” (3.12).
- Jesus added, “which comes down out of heaven from My God” (3.12).
Four times the Old Testament (OT) says the Davidic Messiah has a God. First, while Jesus hung on the cross he quoted David’s Psalm 22.1 and applied it to himself by crying out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27.46; Mark 15.34). Second, Isaiah foretold much about a righteous Servant of Yahweh (Isaiah 42—53), whom the Apostle Peter implied was Jesus (Acts 3.13; 4.27, 30). Isaiah represented this Servant as saying, “the justice due to Me is with the LORD [=Yahweh], and My reward with My God…. For I am honored in the sight of the LORD, and My God is My strength” (Isaiah 49.4-5). Third, Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in “Bethlehem” and become “ruler in Israel” in “the name of the LORD His God” (Micah 5.2, 4).
So, fifteen times the Bible declares unequivocally that Messiah Jesus had a God, whom he said was “the/My Father.” Yet, the Bible never conversely says the Father has a God, much less that he is Jesus. One would expect this if the institutional church has been right about its doctrine of the Trinity, that God is one essence existing as three separate and distinct, co-equal and co-eternal Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, the Johannine Jesus said, “the Father is greater than I” (John 14.28; cf. 10.29), so that they cannot be co-equal; he identified the Father as “the one and only God” (5.44); and he prayed to the Father, calling him “the only true God” (17.3). This last saying of Jesus is probably the strongest biblical evidence that only the Father is God so that Jesus is not God.
With such overwhelming evidence that God the Father is the God of Jesus Christ, it is biblically incorrect and quite incoherent to identify Jesus as God. Moreover, it is morally irresponsible for the church to reject people as genuine Christians only because they don’t believe Jesus is God. Paul clearly states, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10.9). So, if anyone truly believes in the resurrected Jesus as their Lord and Savior, that person is a born-again Christian regardless of whether s/he believes that Jesus is God.
(This post is a condensation of portions of my book, The Restitution of Jesus Christ.)
*All scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible.