Is Jesus God or the Son of God?

Question:  Was Jesus God or the Son of God–did God beget him or was he always around–and did he (Jesus) create the world?

Answer:  Yes.

All of that is true.  Mark 1:1 says Jesus is the Son of God.  John 1:1 says Jesus is God.  John 1:3 it says nothing was made without Jesus.  Colossians 1:15,16 says Jesus is the firstborn of all creation and that in him all things were made.  John 1:18 says Jesus is either “the only [begotten] God” or  “the only [begotten] Son” depending on what the correct text is.  And I put the word “begotten” in brackets because there is a question as to the meaning of the Greek word used here, monogenes.

The word monogenes could mean “only begotten” or it could mean “one and only” or it could mean “unique.”  It is used of Jesus in John 3:16.  But it is also used of Isaac in Hebrews 11:17.  Was Isaac Abraham’s only begotten son?  No, he had sired Ishmael earlier.  But Isaac was his special son by Sarah, the one to whom he was giving his inheritance.  Is Jesus begotten by the Father, or does this term monogenes simply designate him as the unique Son of God as opposed to all created beings who might be designated sons of God?

I lean toward the view that monogenes, when applied to Jesus, means “unique” Son of God.  However, Scripture also says in 1 John 5:18 of Jesus that he is “born of God.”  There is a doctrine that has developed from this called the eternal generation of the Son, which it says is “an eternal personal act of the Father, wherein, by necessity of nature, not by choice of will, He generates the person (not the essence) of the Son, by communicating to Him the whole indivisible substance of the Godhead, without division, alienation, or change, so that the Son is the express image of His Father’s person, and eternally continues, not from the Father, but in the Father, and the Father in the Son.” (See Theopedia)

What this means is that from all eternity God the Father has been in a relationship with the Son by which He has generated the personality of the Son (and He and the Son have “generated” the personality of the Spirit) so that they share the same essence (deity, divine nature).  This makes them entirely equal in every sense of the word so that each is rightly called God, and yet Jesus can also rightly be called the Son of God.  This doctrine makes a lot of sense of the data of Scripture concerning Jesus absolute deity (John 1:1) and yet his submission to the Father in all things.  This makes it reasonable for him to be the one who takes on human nature (the Father and the Spirit did not do this) and to rule God’s kingdom until it can be handed over to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24).  Jesus is thus “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3), which seems to speak of some kind of derivation from the Father, and yet at the same time exact equality.

This is a difficult concept to wrap our heads around, but then God is the most amazing and unique being of all, infinite and beyond our ultimate ability to comprehend, yet able to correctly reveal Himself to us in true ways that enable us to know Him.

So the answer to all your questions is, “Yes.”

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How Do You Explain the Trinity?

Text of "Our Father" prayer with Tri...

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Question:  How do you explain the Trinity?  Since our personal relationship is with Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit lies within us, what role does God play as Father? 

Answer:  Jesus came to lead us into relationship with the Father and that required the sacrifice of his own life because of our rebellion.  He described himself as a “helper” (“counselor” or “comforter” in some translations) and said that when he left he would send another “helper” like him, the Holy Spirit, who would lead us in our relationship with the Father (John 14:15-21).  The Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit are the three persons who make up the one God. 

The Son was commissioned to take on human nature so that he could show us more tangibly who God is and model for us how to relate to the Father, and so he could die in our place to cover our guilt before God.  The Holy Spirit is the one who enabled Jesus to accomplish all he did when he was here, because he chose not to utilize his deity but rather live the way we need to live.  Now the Holy Spirit is here to help us live as Jesus did. 

Normally, all our prayers are directed toward the Father, just as Jesus gave us access to Him through his death and resurrection.  But as we’ve said before, there is no jealousy in the Trinity.  The Father will not be mad if you talk to the Spirit or the Son.  The Holy Spirit will not be mad if you think of Jesus as the one who empowers you (for he certainly does, as does the Father).  They are not operating in any way independently of each other, but each does have specialized responsibilities and there is a chain of command (1 Corinthians 11:3; 15:20-28; John 15:26, etc.).  Nevertheless, each is equally God in every sense of the word (infinite, eternal, unchangeable in being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth, to paraphrase the Westminster Confession of Faith catechism).

The Church has worked carefully through the Biblical data to formulate a perspective that, while it does not exhaustively explain the Trinity, does keep us within Biblical bounds.  We understand God to be one in essence (infinite, eternal and unchangeable…), yet three in personality.  In other words, each personality of the Godhead shares the one, undivided essence of deity.  Thus each is equally God without there being more than one God in essence.

Wrong views of the Trinity include the view that God is one solitary personality who reveals Himself in three different ways (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) much like a woman could be a mother, daughter and sister all at the same time, yet be only one person.  This view breaks down regarding God because Scripture represents the members of the Trinity interacting with each other (a person who talks to herself might be considered mentally ill) and Jesus, in Mark 13:32, indicates that he does not know the time of his return, that only the Father does.  This would not be possible if he were the same person.  Other wrong views include the view that Jesus is just somewhat less God than the Father.  This is best represented in modern day Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Jesus, according to them, is the highest created being in God’s universe, but He is not God.

Is the trinity like one person with three roles?

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Question: : Does Central not believe that God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit is like an egg, 3 parts but still one? I am Frankie the daughter, wife, mother but still the woman I was born. I have 3 parts but just one person. God the Holy Spirit stayed in heaven while He took on man form as Jesus that walked the earth. We cannot see 2 faces when we get to heaven but the shining precious face of Jesus.

Answer:No, Central does not believe that. It is a common way of expressing the concept of the Trinity but I believe it is an inadequate way of dealing with the truths of Scripture. For example, John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We see equality with God in the last phrase (equality of nature, I believe) but we see the Word, Jesus, being with God, which indicates distinctness of person. Though I am a father, a son, and a husband, I cannot be with myself in any qualitative sense. When Jesus prayed to the Father, was he really just talking to himself? When he said that the Father knew the day of his return but he did not (Mark 13:32), that indicates that there was a distinction between them. They are not the same person.

The historic teaching of the church on the Trinity is that there are three persons who share the same undivided nature (deity). They have been in union and fellowship with one another from all eternity. They worked together to create the universe and create us. One member of this trinity also took on human nature in addition to divine nature and died on the cross for us. Neither the Father nor the Spirit did that, but they were all part of the plan and execution of the plan. Each had different roles in the plan.

We will see Jesus’ face in heaven, but we will also then, with spiritual eyes in spiritual, resurrected bodies, be able to see the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Here is a link to several articles I wrote on this subject that may be of help.

Follow up question: I believe it is three but all in Jesus. We will be able to see the Father and the Holy Spirit in Jesus. There cannot to me be Jesus standing there or sitting, then the Father and then the Holy Spirit. We would all be running around crazy looking back and forth. I think our focus will totally be on Jesus. Scripture says Me and my Father are one, if you have seen me you have seen the Father. Oh well, Jesus is the way and we believe in Him so that is what counts.

Follow up answer: The Bible says that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God the Father. In the book of Revelation as the Father sits enthroned the Lamb comes to him to receive the scroll with seven seals (Rev.5:6,7). There is no problem in Scripture having them sitting or standing next to each other. When Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), he used the neuter form of the word “one.” If he had used the masculine it could possibly be interpreted that he meant he and the Father were the same person. But in using the neuter he was stating that he and the Father were the same thing, which can be interpreted to mean, the same substance or essence. They are different persons, as the Scriptures clearly teach. But they share the same essence. This is obviously something difficult, if not impossible, for us to grasp. But what would we expect from the infinite God. If He were completely understandable to us He would not be God.

Randall Johnson

Why did Jesus have to experience physical and emotional pain on the cross?

Question: : Why did Jesus’ penalty for “sin” need to include physical and emotional pain – why not just spiritual separation from God?

Answer: First of all, I agree with you that Jesus’ penalty payment had to include physical and emotional pain, or God would have found another way. The question is, why couldn’t he have simply (is that possible?) have separated himself from Jesus spiritually without all the suffering of the cross?

I cannot imagine, actually, that Jesus could have experienced spiritual separation from the Father without at the same time experiencing physical and emotional pain. That is the definition of hell, to be separated from God and the resulting pain such separation causes.

But I think the other thing to consider is that if Jesus would only have experienced spiritual separation and there was no way to observe his suffering, we would not have had the assurance we need that God has fully taken on our pain, has been accustomed to pain all our existence, and embraced that pain in such a way that He redeemed the experience. We suffer so much exactly because we are made in God’s image, but we sometimes think that He is somehow exempt from pain. The cross has forever put that myth to rest. We still cause God pain when we “grieve the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30). We can come to see that God is in pain when we go through physical and emotional pain ourselves.

Randall Johnson

Did Jesus experience hell on the cross?

Question: I know the question “Did Jesus Visit Hell?” is asked and answered in this column. I have a similiar question. When Jesus was on the cross and said something like, “God, why have you forsaken me?,” was he separated from God? And if he was separated from God, does that mean that for an unspecified time he was in hell, visiting there for all sinners?

Answer: He was essentially in hell, not physically, of course, but spiritually. I view hell as a place, but more than that, it is a place separated in some sense from God. It cannot be entirely separated from God because, of course, God is omnipresent. But it is a place without God’s manifested presence, His presence manifested in ways that brings life to people’s souls. It therefore feels like a fiery torment. Jesus experienced spiritual separation from the Father and was experiencing the soul piercing pain of the absence of God’s manifested presence in his life. What this says to me is that even unbelievers are able to thrive to one extent or another in life because God is making His presence known in them at a level they don’t even recognize. They will recognize its absence, however, in hell.

Randall Johnson

How can there be a hell if God is love?

Question: I have a friend I work with who told me that she doesn’t believe in hell. She said that God is love and God is everywhere so how can there be a hell? She attends a Unity Church here in town and said they do not preach if you died today do you know where you would go. She said if this earth were all there was, she would be fine with it because she wouldn’t know anything else. What do you think about this?

Answer: I think she is not doing justice to her own internal sense of justice. When she sees someone has used a child for pornographic purposes, abusing them sexually and videoing it for financial gain, what does she think love should do? I think she is not doing justice to her own internal sense that this world is not enough and that deep down she desires something better, because we were made for perfection. I think she is not doing justice to her sense of her own sinfulness, to her own capacity to do evil. Where did this come from? Did God create us this way or did we rebel from His original intent? If we rebelled, then what is the penalty for such rebellion? Does He just say, “Ah, it’s okay. I forgive you.” Then He is not very just Himself. And consequently, He is not very loving, because He lets people who have done unspeakable evil get away with hurting people who did not deserve to be hurt.

Paul says, “Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God” (Romans 11:22). You are not a whole person if you do not possess both attributes. There are things worth getting mad about, and certainly things worth demonstrating kindness about. But if you are only one or the other you are neither emotionally healthy nor loving. Why would we expect God to be only one or the other?

Randall Johnson

Why did Moses see God but John said no one could?

Moses mosaic on display at the Cathedral Basil...

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Question: In the book of Exodus (33:11, NIV) it says, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” Then in the same chapter in verse 20 it says, “But, ‘He said,’ you cannot see My face, for no one may see Me and live.” And in verse 23 it says, “Then I will remove My hand and you will see My back; but My face must not be seen.” In John 1:18 it says, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.” Can you explain how in one verse God speaks to Moses face to face and in two other verses in the same chapter it says that no one can ever see God’s face and in Exodus it says that Moses would see God’s back and in John it says that no one has ever seen God?

Answer: I believe that by “face to face” in Exodus 33:11 the author meant that God did not speak to Moses through more symbolic or indirect means such as dreams or visions but in direct conversation (Numbers 12:8). I believe that when God tells Moses that he cannot see His face but only His back, He means that to really see Him as He is will not be allowed, or perhaps is not possible, in Moses’ present condition (without his being in a spiritual, resurrected body), but that He will let Moses see a representation of Him that Moses can handle. John states the ultimate truth, that no one has seen God at any time, only representations of Him that He adapted to the human eye.

Randall Johnson