The One Who Sends Is Greater than the One Who Is Sent

The One Who Sends Is Greater than the One Who Is Sent September 6, 2015

Most Christians think the primary message of the Gospel of John is that Jesus is God. I think that is a misunderstanding of this gospel and that it never identifies Jesus as being God. Quite the contrary, the primary and most repeated message of the Gospel of John is that God sent Jesus to be the Savior of the world by dying on the cross. In fact, this gospel says numerous times that God sent Jesus, and in most of these instances, Jesus himself said God “sent me.”

God sending Jesus means God sent Jesus as his agent. Agency was a common concept in the business world of antiquity, at least in the Near East. The following is an excerpt from my book The Restitution of Jesus Christ: “Actually, the foremost christological motif in the Fourth Gospel is not incarnation Christology but ‘agent Christology.’ John informs us no less than forty times that the Father ‘sent’ Jesus or did ‘send’ Him as His agent. Some have labeled this concept a ‘Sending Christology.’ Jesus claimed similarly, that He ‘came’ or did ‘come’ from the Father. J.A.T. Robinson explains concerning this abundant data, “The picture which John presents is of Jesus as the Father’s agent.'[1] Indeed, church father and former lawyer, Tertullian, explains regarding the Johannine Jesus, ‘He had shown Himself to be the Father’s Commissioner, through whose agency even the Father could be seen in His works, and heard in His words.'[2] G.B. Caird states similarly, ‘Jesus is God’s agent because he acts on behalf of God and because God is present in him.'”[3]

This concept of agency requires that the principle is greater than his or her agent. So, in agency the sender is greater in rank than the one sent. In the case of God and Jesus, the Father is greater than Jesus. Indeed, that is exactly what the Johannine Jesus said–“the Father is greater than I” (John 14.28).

Traditionalists (=believe Jesus is God) often assert that John 14.28 does not mean the Father is essentially greater in nature, but that cannot be determined from its context. Rather, the Apostle Paul repeatedly says the Father is the God of Jesus, which indicates the Father is essentially greater than Jesus (e.g., 2 Corinthians 1.3; Ephesians 1.3, 17; 4.6; Colossians 1.3). Conversely, the NT never says Jesus is the God of the Father.

The Johannine Jesus gave his final discourse to his apostles at the Last Supper. Some scholars call it the Fairwell Discourse. In it Jesus told the Eleven, “the Father himself loves you,” not because they believed Jesus was God but, “because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God”  (John 16.27). This is one of the many times Jesus, especially in this gospel, disinguished himself from the one God.

Then we read next, “His disciples said, ‘Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! Now we know that you know all things,… by this we believe that you came from God” (vv. 29-30). This is the great enlightenment that Jesus’ disciples had about him as presented in the Gospel of John. And Jesus being sent by God, and thus coming from God, merely reveals that he is God’s beloved Son as the heavenly voice pronounced at his baptism (Matt. 3.17; Mark 1.11; Luke 3.22). But Jesus being God’s Son refers to relationship, not Greek metaphysics, so that being God’s Son does not means Jesus is God. Rather, the repeated identification of Jesus in the New Testament gospels as “the Christ, the Son of God,” means no more than that they these titles are used interchangeably, thus being equivalent.

Jesus thereafter prayed to the Father, “this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (17.3). This is the clearest statement in the Bible that shows Jesus is not God, but only the Father is God. That is what Paul says in to the Corinthians, “there is no God but one…. for us there is one God, the Father” (1 Corinthians 8.4, 6). In another letter Paul writes, “There is … one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4.4-6).

In conclusion, Jesus being sent by God indicates that God is greater than Jesus, so that Jesus is essentially subordinant to God.

[1] J.A.T. Robinson, The Priority of John, 350. Robinson notes several scholars who affirm likewise.

[2] Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 24.17.

[3] G.B. Caird, New Testament Theology, 414.

…………….

To see a list of titles of 130+ posts (2-3 pages) that are about Jesus not being God in the Bible, with a few about God not being a Trinity, at Kermit Zarley Blog click “Chistology” in the header bar. Most are condensations of my book, The Restitution of Jesus Christ. See my website servetustheevangelical.com, which is all about this book,  with reviews, etc. Learn about my books and purchase them at kermitzarley.com. I was a Trinitarian for 22 years before reading myself out of it in the Bible.

 

 

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  • Great post, Kermit. I’m going to link this on trinities tomorrow. I hope that you’re having a great Labor Day, and are with family or friends or out on a green somewhere with a club in your hand. God bless, Dale

    • kzarley

      Hi Dale. Good work you’re doing with your podcasts, etc. Good news: I’ve got five scholars endorsing my next book, including Jimmy Dunn. It will be available in about a month.

  • Ginny

    Your posts are refreshing. My husband and I have been Bible students for years and have always found this topic central to what we believe. It is exciting to come across posts like you just posted. Actually I have been reading your blog for a while, it just took me a while to figure out how to do a comment. The post “Trinity and Unity: Between a Rock and a Hard Place’ expresses what we have felt for a long time. I have friends that are trinitarians but am not sure that some of them fully understand what they believe. That doctrine is pretty complicated. It all becomes so simple when one just reads ‘God sent Jesus Christ’. Thanks for posting!

    • kzarley

      Thanks for that encouragement. It’s always comforting for me to know people who see the truth of the one God of scripture, our Father, and yet still make Jesus Lord and Savior of their lives. Blessings.