God is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ who was begotten by God when the Holy Spirit overshadowed a virgin. That is what the Bible teaches in uncomplicated and clear terms, for the angel Gabriel explained to Mary how it was to happen:
“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest” (Luke 1:31-33).
It is true that by now there are differences of belief among Christians. Many churches teach that there is a Trinity of the Godhead and there are complicated Church creeds that say that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are One and that together they constitute the three persons of one Godhead, who are co-equal and co-eternal.
- God Is One
The important thing, of course, is to know what the Bible teaches. This is the Book in which God reveals vital truths about Himself and His gracious purpose. The Bible has to be preferred to mere Church creeds if the two are in opposition.
It is unmistakably clear that the Bible teaches the Oneness of God. There is but one God – the Creator of all. This was a key teaching of Moses:
“Hear, O Israel: YAHWEH our God, YAHWEH is one! You shall love YAHWEH your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4,5).
And Jesus himself confirmed the Unity of God when he declared this saying to be the most important commandment in the entire Law:
Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, YAHWEH our God, YAHWEH is one’ … This is the first commandment” (Mark 12:29,30).
- Jesus is God’s Son
Jesus is God’s only begotten Son, miraculously conceived by the power of God – God’s Holy Spirit. Jesus was a very real human being and it is a remarkable truth that, to save mankind, God was willing to give birth to a Son and then let him die so that His rescue plan could be put into effect:
“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him” (John 1:18);
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (3:16).
- The Holy Spirit is God’s Power
The Holy Spirit is God’s almighty power which proceeds from Him. It is God in action. That is why Mary was told:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
Father and Son
How is it, then, in the light of such clear Bible teaching, that people have become so confused about the precise relationship of Father and Son? Let’s examine two passages of Scripture which, at first glance, may be difficult to understand. In so doing we hope to bring out what is true Bible teaching concerning God and His Son.
Here’s a passage frequently quoted to prove the Unity of the godhead. Jesus once said:
“My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one” (John 10:29,30).
And here’s a second, also from John’s gospel:
“If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe me; but if I do, though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in him” (10:37,38).
Now ask yourself, do these passages teach the co-equality of Jesus with the Father? Both of them explain that God has empowered His Son, and that Father and Son are working together with a common aim and purpose. But Jesus is always careful to differentiate and distinguish His Father’s accomplishments from what he undertakes. In John chapter 14, Jesus declares himself to be the only way to the Father, which leads his disciple Philip to ask if they might see the Father himself. What Jesus said in reply was that he and his Father were acting as a partnership: they were in perfect harmony:
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does the works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me, or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves” (14:10,11).
Again it is clear that Jesus was not claiming equality, for in the same conversation he adds:
“You have heard me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for my Father is greater than I” (14:28).
Jesus – Like Us
This partnership between Father and Son is quite wonderful. God asked His Son to volunteer his life and Jesus willingly consented. Nobody forced Jesus to die as a sacrifice for sin: he did it willingly. As he said himself:
“Therefore my Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from my Father” (John 10:17,18).
He chose to suffer and die and Scripture says that was part of his personal path to perfection:
“For it was fitting for him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason he is not ashamed to call them brethren”
… The unity which Jesus has with His Father is one of Purpose. He declared it was his meat and drink to do the will of his Father in heaven. Looking at Jesus we can see God made known in a man’s life, but we look in vain for co-equality.
Jesus was mortal as we are; he died the same as we do; the very strength he possessed was derived from God. He said he did not his own will but that of the One who sent him. Jesus calls upon the disciple to follow this example. He said:
“A little while longer and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:19,20).
Thus, in a sense, we can be “in Jesus” as he is “in God”. And we can be one with God as Jesus was with his Father. For that was what Jesus prayed might happen:
“And the glory which you gave me I have given them, that they may be one just as we are one: I in them, and you in me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them as you have loved me” (John 17:22,23).
If we were to take Jesus’ words “I and my Father are one” to mean co-equality, then we would have to argue that the disciples are co-equal in the Godhead. But the truth is perfectly clear. We are called upon to follow Jesus, and if we too are willing and obedient then we can also be one with God – one in unity and purpose. We too can become God’s fellow-workers and members of His family.
… Jesus suffered for us, so that he might make us holy and thus acceptable in God’s sight. Because he has died to save us, and because we can be baptised into his saving name, “both he who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:11).
Jesus is the first member of the family of God, the first of many. All that he did, he did for us. Now we should live for him.