By Wes Comer
Trinitarian dogma purports to offer answers to difficult theological questions through the use of Greek philosophy, human reason, and manmade proclamations. Students of the Bible, however, understand that there is no need to look externally for answers—the answers to these questions and more are found throughout the text.
In honor of Father’s Day, we examine here a few of the questions that have tripped up philosophers and theologians for hundreds of years. Specifically, questions concerning the relationship of “God the Father” to “God the Son.”
Q. IS “GOD THE FATHER” A BIBLICAL CONCEPT?
While the term “trinity” is never mentioned in Scripture, the phrase “God the Father” appears several times, always referring to God Himself. The scriptural use of this title, however, has nothing to do with the “relationship” between God and Jesus. Rather, the Scripture speaks of God as the Father of all creation. Malachi 2:10 asks, “Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?”
When we filter the term of “father” through human reasoning, we can perhaps sympathize with a Trinitarian understanding. Jesus, knowing this, was explicit in his response to the Jews who sought a direct answer from him when they asked in John 10:24, “How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.” His response? “I and my father are one.”
So while “God the Father” is a biblical concept, we must clearly understand that Jesus is the Father. Again, this may sound strange filtered through our understanding, but the Scripture repeatedly assures us of this fact. Paul, writing to the Colossians, said that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God…by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:” (Col 1:15-16).
Q. IF JESUS IS THE “GOD THE FATHER,” HOW CAN HE ALSO BE “GOD THE SON?”
Referring to Jesus as “God the Father” is biblical and accurate. The term “God the Son,” however, is neither. The phrase never occurs in Scripture, although the term “Son of God” does. What’s the difference, you ask? “God the Son” is a Trinitarian title identifying Jesus as “united in essence but distinct in person” with God the Father—an extrabiblical concept that seeks to give credibility to the philosophical attribution of Jesus as a pre-existing, co-eternal, and co-equal “person” of the Godhead.
By contrast, “son of God” refers to the humanity of Jesus Christ. When the angel Gabriel visits Mary, he uses this term saying, “therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). While the phrase “Son of God” can be attributed to Jesus’ human nature, or His manifestation of God in the flesh, it never refers to a pre-existing Spirit, or the Spirit alone. The phrase is used scripturally only when referring to Jesus—an important distinction from Trinitarian usage of “God the Son.”
Q. SO IF JESUS, BEING FULLY GOD, WAS ALSO FULLY MAN, COULD JESUS HAVE SINNED? AND IF SO, HOW COULD JESUS BE GOD, WHO IS WITHOUT SIN?
First, it’s important to establish a key fact—Jesus didn’t sin. So it’s really a moot point. Questions like this are academic in nature, and designed primarily to distract or provide argumentative loopholes through which to sow seeds of doubt.
It would be easy to argue either side of this issue. Jesus was led up to a wilderness to be tempted of the devil in Matthew 4:1-11. However, we read in James 1:33, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man.”
So which is it? Prepare yourself for an honest answer—It. Really. Doesn’t. Matter.
The old saying goes, “If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas.” We can postulate and aggrandize our positions on the subject all we want, but this is absolutely no different from asking, “What if Hitler won the war?” Yes, it makes for interesting conversation, but it has no bearing (or shouldn’t) on the development of solid, biblical doctrine. If Jesus could not have sinned, it only serves to solidify His position as God of all. If Jesus could have sinned, but didn’t, the position of Oneness believers still suffers no damage.
O. WHY IS JESUS REFERRED TO AS THE “SON OF GOD” AND ALSO THE “SON OF MAN?”
Dr. David K. Bernard, General Superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church International and a renowned Oneness theologian, addresses this issue systematically in his treatise, “The Oneness of God.” In this book, Dr. Bernard begins by pointing out the meaning of the terms “Jesus” and “Christ:”
“Jesus is the Greek version of the word Jehoshua,’ which means `Jehovah-Savior’ or ‘Jehovah is Salvation’…’Christ’ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word `Messiah;’ both words mean ‘the anointed one:”
This is important because the answer to the question is found in Jesus’ name—”Jehovah is Salvation.” In His name, God’s plan is revealed. Jesus would bring salvation because His dual nature made Him unique among man. Fully God, and fully flesh.
Jesus referred to Himself as “Son of man” often, while writers in the New Testament would refer to Jesus both as “Son of man” and “Son of God.” This shouldn’t confuse us. Rather, these passages should serve as further evidence that the contemporaries of Jesus, and early church fathers, understood the complexities of Jesus’ dual nature.
Q. BUT JOHN 3:16-17 SAYS JESUS WAS “SENT” FROM GOD AS THE “ONLY BEGOTTEN SON,” RIGHT?
Trinitarians will often cite this verse to illustrate the distinct “persons” of Father and Son within the Godhead. However, this verse beautifully demonstrates the deep fractures and inadequacies of their argument. If “God the Son” is co-equal and co-eternal, how can He be begotten? This begs other questions. If Jesus existed in eternity past as a separate “person,” did He exist as a baby? And how does He now exist in eternity future?
Many do not realize that within Trinitarian believing Christian churches there are many, many different schools of thought concerning the “Sonship” of Christ, and deep divides exist between them.
Understanding, however, that most who cite this Scripture to refute Oneness belief do so as an illustration of the distinction of “persons” within the Godhead, and of God the Father offering up His Son as a separate entity, it is important to have an even more developed answer.
Did God send His Son? Yes. Does this prove a separate, co-eternal entity within the Godhead? No. First, we find that Gabriel proclaimed to Mary in Luke 1:31, ‘And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS?’ Further, Paul writes in Galatians 4:4 that “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” Jesus could not have preexisted as a separate entity if He were “made” of a woman, and had a moment of “conception?’
For example, in John 1:6 we read of John the Baptist, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” By the same logic used by Trinitarians in their understanding of the word “sent” in John 3:17, John the Baptist would be eternally existent, which we know isn’t so.
1 Timothy 3:16 offers further insight: ‘And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh…” The word “manifest” means “to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown; make actual and visible, realized.” Jesus was the embodiment of God—God in the flesh.
Q. WHO WAS JESUS PRAYING TO IN THE GARDEN? WHY DID HE NEED TO PRAY AT ALL?
Moments such as this in Scripture may appear to some to be a “smoking gun,” proving the separation of persons in the Godhead However, we must also understand the theology of those who ask the question. Trinitarian dogma states that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are co-eternal, consubstantial, and co-equal—that last phrase being of particular importance. Trinitarians have, throughout history, rejected as heresy claims of “subordinationalism,” or the belief that Jesus was subordinate or inferior to the Father. Yet, by claiming that Jesus’ prayers somehow demonstrate a separation of persons, the ability to claim Jesus as co-equal with God the Father is damaged.
Instead, we should take this passage as further evidence of the dual nature of Jesus as God and as the Son of God. Jesus prayed as a man, not as God. Jesus needed strength in His mortal body and human will—as a man. This was not the divine will of “God the Son” struggling with another divine will of “God the Father?’ Jesus gives a clear picture of His struggle as both God and man in Matthew 26:41, saying, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak?’
The above article, “Understanding Your Father,” is written by Wes Comer. The article was excerpted from Apostolic Witness Magazine – June 2014.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.