Is Jesus Equal with God?

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Segment of "Christ in Gethsemane" by Heinrich Hofmann (1886).

Last edited on 21/Apr/2021

The Bible’s Answer

The Bible makes it clear that Jesus Christ is equal with God—a fact which powerfully refutes all cults and false religions (John 5:18, 22–23; Philippians 2:5–7). Although the Bible does teach that Jesus submits himself to the Father (John 6:381 Corinthians 15:27–28), this does not mean that he is inferior; it simply means that he does so willingly, out of love (John 10:17–18; 14:31). Let’s now examine some passages which teach that Jesus is equal with God.

The Bible Teaches That Jesus Is Equal with God

There are two primary instances which explicitly teach Christ’s equality with the Father, found in John 5:18, and Philippians 2:5-7. We are told in John 5:18 that Jesus made himself equal with God by calling him his own Father:

“This is why the Jews began trying all the more to kill Him: Not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” (John 5:18, HCSB) *

Although God is the Father of all those who believe in him, this doesn’t make all believers equal with him. But whenever Jesus referred to God as his Father, he was claiming a special, exclusive relationship with him, in which he and the Father are so close that they are equals. The next verse reinforces this, in which Jesus tells us that he and the Father are in perfect sync with each other in absolutely everything (John 5:19). In Philippians 2:5-7, we are told that Jesus entered the world as a humble servant instead of using his equality with God to his own advantage:

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:5-7, NIVUK)

Jesus could have remained in heaven and kept all the divine privileges that came from being equal with God; however, he chose instead to take on the humiliation of becoming a man, in order to take the journey to the cross, for our sake. Moreover, Paul reinforces Jesus’ equality with God by declaring him to be “in very nature God”—a fact which could not be true if he weren’t God’s equal.

Other Bible Passages

There are still other passages which teach Christ’s equality with the Father. In the last passage, we saw that Jesus is “in very nature God”. This is also taught in Hebrews 1:3, but to a more powerful degree, which says that Jesus is “the exact imprint of [God’s] nature”:

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1:3a, ESVUK)

Jesus’ nature isn’t simply similar to the Father’s; it is exactly the same. This is the equivalent of saying that Jesus and the Father are equally God, hence, this passage also affirms Jesus’ equality with God. As the Nicene Creed correctly states, Jesus is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father”.¹ Another passage which teaches Jesus’ equality with God is John 10:30-33, in which Jesus says that he is one with the Father:

“The Father and I are one.” 31 The Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.” (John 10:30-33, NRSV)

When Jesus claimed to be one with the Father, he was claiming to be one in essence or being, because verse 33 says that by claiming this he had made himself God, and also in the previous verses he claimed powers exclusive to God (John 10:27-30). A unity of essence necessitates equality. After the Jews accused him of making himself God, Jesus never corrected them. Paul again wrote of Christ’s equality with the Father in Colossians 2:9-10, by stating that “the full content of divine nature lives in Christ”:

“For the full content of divine nature lives in Christ, in his humanity, 10 and you have been given full life in union with him. He is supreme over every spiritual ruler and authority.” (Colossians 2:9-10, GNT)

Here, we see that Jesus can’t have been less divine than God, even when he became a human, because he possesses the “full content” of divine nature. So, if Jesus can’t be less divine, he must be as equally divine as God in nature. More passages could be shown which prove Jesus’ equality with God, but for the sake of brevity, these should suffice.

Conclusion

It’s very important that we believe in Christ’s equality with the Father, because the Bible teaches that the Father gave all judgement to the Son, so that all would honour the Son just as the Father is honoured (John 5:22-23). Those who reject Jesus’ equality with God cannot honour him as they would honour the Father, because they consider him inferior, and by doing so they dishonour not only the Son, but the Father also (John 5:23b). Christians who are truly regenerate would not dishonour the Son or the Father, because they have the Holy Spirit within them (1 Corinthians 3:1612:3), so those who reject Jesus’ equality with God show evidence that they are not yet regenerate, and still need to be saved by believing in the truth.

Notes

* Jesus justified his works on the Sabbath by telling the Jews that the Father is always at work, and that it is both he and the Father who are doing these works in unison (See John 5:17).

References List

1. What Lutherans Believe, Lutheran Church of Australia – where love comes to life, accessed on 7 March 2019, <https://lca.box.com/shared/static/2n56xyuqb9t3yf1qp08adng8axypk6sj.pd>

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