“You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.”
We have discussed the doctrine of the Trinity in a number of places on this website. A corollary is that the Father is God, Jesus is God, and the Spirit is God—one God in three persons. A number of passages emphasize that Jesus is God (e.g., Philippians 2:5–8). Some people have stumbled over the phrase “being in the form of God,” as if this phrase implies a relationship that is less than equal. Actually, in the Greek, this phrase is even stronger than just saying “Jesus is God.” The phrase is closer to saying “Jesus manifests God.” The phrase states that Jesus and the Father are one in essence. Of course, John 1:1–3 points out that Jesus, the Word, created all things and so on.
Having accepted the deity of Christ, what are we to make of Jesus’s statement in John 14:28 that “My Father is greater than I”? Pseudo-Christian religions make much of this verse. For example, a Jehovah’s Witnesses publication called “What Does God Require of Us?” references this verse to “prove” that Jesus is inferior to God.1
The misunderstanding here arises by confusing Christ’s divine nature with His human nature. Jesus is both fully human and fully God. J.C. Ryle puts it this way: “Trinitarians maintain the humanity of Christ as strongly as His divinity. . . . While Christ as God is equal to the Father, as man He is inferior to the Father.”2 Calvin puts it similarly: “Christ does not now speak either of his human nature, or of his eternal Divinity, but, accommodating himself to our weakness, places himself between God and us.”3
This ties in with the Philippians passage in which we read that Jesus “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” Simply put, in His humanity, Christ is lesser than God the Father. But in His deity He is equal. This explains why Mark 13:32 says that even the Son didn’t know something the Father did. As soon as we understand Christ’s dual nature, the alleged contradiction disappears.
In fact, this is the only way any of us can make any sense at all of the biblical language. On the one hand, there are distinct functions in the work of redemption voluntarily assumed by each member of the Godhead and expressed in language of deference and submission. On the other hand, there is perfect equality—each divine person sharing the same divine essence in an inter-trinitarian relationship.
Help keep these daily articles coming. Support AiG.
Discover how compromise starting in Genesis has filtered down from Christian seminaries and colleges to pastors—and finally to parents and their children. This erosive legacy is seen in generations of young people leaving the church—two-thirds of them. Get the facts, discover God’s truth, and help bring a new reformation to churches and families by helping to call them back to the authority of God’s Word.
Answers magazine is the Bible-affirming, creation-based magazine from Answers in Genesis. In it you will find fascinating content and stunning photographs that present creation and worldview articles along with relevant cultural topics. Each quarterly issue includes a detachable chart, a pullout children’s magazine, a unique animal highlight, excellent layman and semi-technical articles, plus bonus content. Why wait? Subscribe today and get a FREE DVD download!