Most Christians believe Jesus is God because that is what the institutional church has taught. And it has asserted that if anyone does not believe Jesus is God, that person is not a genuine Christian. But the Bible never supports this assertion.
For example, the Bible states repeatedly that Jesus had a God, he prayed to his God, and he worshiped his God. Since the Bible constantly proclaims that there is numerically only one God, Jesus having a God is prime evidence that he was not God.
The New Testament (NT) evidence that Jesus had a God is in the Gospel of John, the Apostle Paul’s letters, the book of Revelation as well as other writings. And in most of this sacred writ, it is Jesus himself who is quoted as saying he has a God—the Father. The first NT evidence that Jesus had a God and that he worshipped his God appears in the narrative about Jesus encountering the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (John 4.7- 26). Now, the Samaritans were half Jew and half Gentile, and they worshiped the God of the Bible. But they disputed with Jews about the proper place on earth to worship God. They claimed it was their Mount Gerizim, and Jews claimed it was their Temple Mount at Jerusalem. When Jesus revealed to the woman that he was a prophet, she posed this question about the proper place of worship. Jesus replied by saying of the Samaritans, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (vv. 22-24). When Jesus said, “we worship what we know,” he included himself among the true worshipers of God. And notice that he called God “the Father.”
Jesus also revealed that he had a God on the first Easter, only minutes after his resurrection. Mary Magdalene—one of Jesus’ disciples from whom he exorcised seven demons—came early that morning to Jesus’ tomb and discovered it empty (John 20.1- 18). She ran and told two of Jesus’ disciples, one being the Apostle Simon Peter. They ran to the tomb, discovered it empty, and departed. Mary then returned to the tomb and apparently became the first disciple who literally saw and conversed with the risen Jesus. We read, “Jesus said to her, ‘Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God”’” (v. 17). So, the risen Jesus clearly called the Father “My God.”
Five times the Apostle Paul writes unequivocally about God the Father being the God of the Lord Jesus Christ. These texts are as follow:
- “glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15.6).
- “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 1.3).
- “The God and Father of the Lord Jesus” (2 Corinthians 11.31).
- “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1.3).
- “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” (Ephesians 1.17).
The Apostle Peter also uses the same language in the opening of his first epistle – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3).
Six times the book of Revelation describes Jesus Christ as having a God, who is none other than God the Father. These passages are as follows:
- Jesus “has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father” (Revelation 1.6).
- Jesus said, “I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God” (3.2).
- Jesus said, “I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God (3.12).
- Jesus added, “and I will write on him the name of My God” (3.12).
- Jesus added, “and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem” (3.12).
- Jesus added, “which comes down out of heaven from My God” (3.12).
The Old Testament (OT) states that the Messiah has a God. First, while Jesus hung on the cross he quoted Psalm 22.1 and applied it to himself by crying out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27.46; Mark 15.34). Second, Isaiah foretold much about a righteous Servant of Yahweh (Isaiah 42—53), whom the Apostle Peter implied was Jesus (Acts 3.13; 4.27, 30). Isaiah represented this Servant as saying, “the justice due to Me is with the LORD [=Yahweh], and My reward with My God…. For I am honored in the sight of the LORD, and My God is My strength” (Isaiah 49.4-5). Third, Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in “Bethlehem” and become “ruler in Israel” in “the name of the LORD His God” (Micah 5.2, 4).
So, at least fifteen times the Bible declares unequivocally that Jesus had a God, whom he designated as “the/My Father.” Yet the Bible never conversely states that the Father has a God, much less that he is the man Jesus Christ. One would expect this if the institutional church has been right about its doctrine of the Trinity, that God is one essence existing in three separate and distinct, co-equal and co-eternal Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, the Johannine Jesus said, “the Father is greater than I” (John 14.28), so that they cannot be co-equal; he identified the Father as “the one and only God” (5.44); and he prayed to the Father, calling him “the only true God” (17.3).
With such overwhelming evidence that God the Father is the God of Jesus Christ, it is biblically incorrect to identify Jesus as God and morally irresponsible for the church to not accept people as genuine Christians only because they do not believe Jesus is God. Paul clearly states, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10.9). So, if anyone truly believes in the risen Jesus as their Lord and Savior, that person is a born again Christian, regardless of whether s/he believes that Jesus is God.
This article by Kermit Zarley is an excerpt/condensation from his book The Restitution of Jesus Christ (2008).