God's Kingdom Ministries
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Chapter 14: One God and Father

Paul writes in Eph. 4:6,

6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

This statement conformed perfectly with the Jewish understanding of Deut. 6:4, KJV, which is known as the great Shema.

4 Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord.

Jesus affirmed this in Mark 12:29, calling it the first and foremost commandment. This, of course, is the foundation of monotheism itself. When Christians asserted the idea of a Trinity, it caused great controversy between them and Jews.

The Trinitarian concept was actually the minority view in the second and third centuries, as most believed that Christ was subordinate to the Father—as He asserted so often in the Gospel of John.

John wrote that Jesus Christ came as “the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18), so the early church was agreed upon the deity of Christ. They also understood His preexistence  from Jesus’ statement in John 8:58 (KJV),

58 Before Abraham was, I am.

They also agreed that Jesus had the same essence as His Father. Further, they agreed that Father, Son, and Spirit were entirely in agreement, for Jesus Himself said in John 10:30, “I and My Father are one,” meaning one mind and purpose.

Jesus later explained the meaning of being “one” in His prayer for the disciples in John 17:21,

21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

To be “one” does not mean being the same individual but that they are in unity, having one mind with no disagreements. Hence, the Father and the Son were not the same individual but were two in unity.

The Son is Subject to the Father

The fourth-century controversy was primarily about a Trinity that was co-equal in authority. This speaks into the very definition of God, which literally means “a Subjector,” that is, one who has others that are subject to him. This is the meaning set forth in Exodus 7:1,

1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.”

Again, the judges in Israel were also called “gods” (“elohim”) in Exodus 22:28 (KJV), not because they were literal gods but because they were in a position of authority over others.

Just as Moses was a god to Pharaoh, so also was Jesus—the one like Moses—the only-begotten God under whom all will be subjected. Yet neither Moses nor Jesus was the Father God, and Jesus subordinated Himself to the Father. In fact, at the end of time, Christ will be subordinate to the Father, as we read in 1 Cor. 15:27, 28,

27 For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. 28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

Father and Son are Two

Jesus’ Himself stated plainly in John 14:28,

28 You heard that I said to you, “I go away, and I will come to you.” If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

For this reason, Jesus never did anything on His own initiative, but subjected Himself to the will of the Father. See John 5:30; 8:28, 42; 10:18; 12:49; 14:10. It is clear, then, that Jesus never claimed to be equal in authority to His Father, the Most High God. Nonetheless, all things except the Father Himself has been put in subjection to Christ, the only-begotten God.

Paul’s view of the Father’s relationship to the Son is stated most clearly in Luke 1:31, 32, when the angel announced to Mary,

31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High

As the Son of the Father, He always honored His Father, according to the Fifth Commandment (Exodus 20:12). The authority of a father over his sons is the basis of this truth.

In 1 Cor. 8:4-6, Paul enlarges on the meaning of “one Lord” and “one God,” saying,

4 … there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by [dia, “through”] whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

Paul believed in “one God, the Father… and one Lord, Jesus Christ.” In Luke 1:31, 32, the angel announced to Mary,

31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High…

The “Most High” is Jesus’ Father—the “one God, the Father.” The whole point in a father-son relationship is to distinguish the two as well as to show unity of purpose. Hence, also, a son of Abraham is one who shares Abraham’s faith and is in agreement with Abraham (Gal. 3:7).

In John 5:44, Jesus says,

44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?

Finally, we must note Paul’s statement in 1 Tim. 2:5,

5 For there is one God and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

A mediator mediates between two parties, God being just one party, for Gal. 3:20 says,

20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one.

In other words, Christ is the Mediator between God and men. He is not God the Father.

Trinitarian Controversies

The Trinitiarian controversy at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. reached its own conclusions as to the relationship between Father and Son, leaving the question of the Holy Spirit unanswered for some decades. Eventually, they concluded that there was a Trinity of co-equal Gods, which scandalized the Jews as well as the Arians (followers of Arius) who believed that Christ was subordinate to the Father.

In so doing, their main argument was based on John 10:30, “I and My Father are one.” They interpreted this to assert the idea of three Gods in one, as if somehow they were all the same God and yet separate. This position became increasingly difficult to define as time passed, until finally their final argument was that we must accept it by faith, because the Trinitarian “truth” was incomprehensible.

Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit was soon to come as their “guide” (John 16:13). Jesus called Him “another Comforter” (John 14:16, KJV), which implies that Jesus was also a Comforter. Just as Jesus never spoke on His own initiative, but spoke the words of His Father, so also the Holy Spirit would never speak on His own initiative (John 16:14) but revealed the truth of Jesus’ words. The Holy Spirit was to glorify Christ, even as Christ glorified the Father (John 16:14). This seems to imply that the Holy Spirit was subject to the authority of the Son, even as the Son was subordinate to the Father.

The New Testament clearly distinguishes the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as separate individuals who were all in unity of mind and purpose. However, there is no real evidence that they were co-equal in authority. The only evidence that may possibly indicate this is in Phil. 2:5, 6,

5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

Christ preexisted “in the form of God,” which establishes His deity, as does John 1:18. In that He “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,” there are two main ways to view this. First, we might say that Christ did not try to claim equal authority with the Father.

The other view is more plausible (to me), saying that Christ did not hang on to His position that He enjoyed in heaven, but “emptied Himself” of that authority and, when born on earth, took “the form of a bond-servant.” The contrast is between “the form of God” and “the form of a bond-servant.” This should not be understood to mean that Christ was co-equal in authority prior to His incarnation on earth, for that would contradict His numerous statements to the contrary.

Whichever way we view this passage, it is clear that Christ was not equal with God the Father, but yet He may properly be called a subordinate God. Once He was begotten through Mary, He then became “the only-begotten God” (John 1:18). The Most High God remained in His position of authority as the “one God,” maintaining the integrity of the great Shema, “The Lord our God is one Lord.”