How is the Father Greater than Jesus?

How is the Father Greater than Jesus?

One of the most commonly quoted Bible verses to dispute the deity of Jesus Christ is John 14:28 wherein Jesus told His disciples that “The Father is greater than I.” Jesus repeatedly said that He is doing the Father’s will, thereby implying that He is somehow subservient to the Father.

Doesn’t the Bible teach that the Son has been God for all eternity? And that God the Son became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ? If the Father and the Son are both God and equally divine, how is the Father greater than Jesus? What exactly did Jesus mean with this statement?

Making Sense of Jesus’ Statement

The fact that Jesus said, “The Father is greater than I,” has led some to conclude that He was somehow lesser in nature than God. Thus, Jesus is not the true God. However, the New Testament teaches that Jesus Christ lived in submission to the Father while He was here on the earth.

“The Father is Greater than I” Meaning

Christ humbled Himself by taking on the form of a human being. But doing so did not diminish His divine nature. In other words, Jesus did not stop being God at His reincarnation. He just added humanity to His deity. Jesus took an inferior position as a human being but He was not inferior in nature.

The Father Sent the Son

1 John 4:9 tells us that “God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” And in 1 John 4:14 it says, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.”

The Bible consistently teaches that the Father sent the Son; it never teaches that the Son sent Himself.

The Son Submits to the Father

Even before He took on human form, the Son was in submission to the Father. Yet He was not the Father’s servant. God the Son, Jesus Christ only became a servant to the Father when He came to earth. This important truth is emphasized by Paul in his letter to the Philippians.

“But made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

God the Son, Jesus, humbled Himself and came to this earth in the role of a servant Though He was God Almighty, He willingly took the form of a servant.

God the Father Remains to be Jesus’ Father

After His resurrection and ascension into heaven, Jesus still referred to God the Father as His God. We read this in John 20:17.

Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’”

In the book of Revelation we also read Jesus saying this about the Father:

“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name” (Revelation 3:12).

Jesus’ submission to the Father does not mean He is inferior. He may be inferior in position but certainly not inferior in nature.

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The Father is the Head of Christ

Christ is the head of the church but the Father is the head of Christ. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth and explained it this way.

“But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3).

Yet this headship has to do only with their relative position; it has nothing to do with their nature. In nature, the Father and the Son are equal. In the same way, no one would argue that men are superior to women in nature. This was made clear by Paul in Galatians 3:27-28.

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Therefore, the passages referring to the Son submitting to the Father do not reflect His inferior character, only the inferior position. Although the Father and the Son have distinct roles within the Godhead, they are the same essence, the same nature.

The Exaltation of the Son

Continuing his thought to the Philippians, Paul wrote:

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

God the Son humbled Himself when He came to this earth. But upon His return to His former position, He has been exalted by God the Father. In this passage, it says that one day every knee will bow to Jesus and every tongue will confess that He is indeed Lord, all to the glory of the Father.

Conclusion

Jesus is God; He is co-equal, co-powerful, and co-eternal with the Father. Therefore, Jesus’ statement in John 14:28 that the Father is greater than Him has nothing to do with his nature compared with God the Father. It does not contradict the idea that He is God.

One of the best illustrations I’ve heard is that of Nabeel Qureshi’s explanation of the Trinity. The president of the United States is greater than every ordinary American citizen but that does not make him more “human” than the rest of them. The president is greater in role but not in nature (or essence).


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