Distinguishing Characteristics Between God the Father and Jesus

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Distinguishing Characteristics Between God the Father and Jesus
Distinguishing Characteristics Between God the Father and Jesus demonstrates the differences between God the Father and Jesus, in contrast with modalism, which teaches that Jesus and God the Father are the same person.

Distinguishing Characteristics Between God the Father and Jesus

There is a teaching that says that Jesus and God the Father are the same person. It is sometimes called “modalism” inasmuch as it teaches that God assumes different “modes” — one mode being God the Father, and the other being God the Son (namely, Jesus). It does not teach that God the Father and Jesus are distinct persons, who are in relationship with one another. In this article, I will demonstrate that this teaching is incompatible with what the Bible teaches. Let us start by examining some key passages which immediately show a distinction between God the Father and Jesus.

Jesus said,

“But no one knows of that day and hour, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” (Matthew 24:36)

Jesus also said,

“For the Father judges no one, but he has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who doesn’t honor the Son doesn’t honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:22-23)

These passages very clearly show a distinction between God the Father and Jesus. For Jesus does not know the day or the hour. But God the Father does. God the Father judges no one. But all judgment has been given to the Son.

Let us now look at some passages that are used to incorrectly teach that God the Father and Jesus are one and the same person. Context is important, so I will be going over the context very carefully.

“I and the Father are one”

Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)

Certainly Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” But when he said that, did he mean “one and the same person” or was he referring to being united in spirit, as we might also say of two people who embarked on a common mission? The answer is plain to see, in John 17. This is the passage in which Jesus prays to his father, and this is what he says to him:

“Not for these only do I pray, but for those also who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

In this passage, Jesus prays that believers would be “one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you”. If I am one with my wife, that does not make us one person. We are still two distinct persons.

In the Bible, God said, concerning marriage:

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

By this, he was surely not meaning to say they would be the same person, but they would be united in heart and mind and purpose. This is what loving one another, and working together, is all about. It is about being united in heart, mind, and purpose.

Thus, husbands and wives remain distinct as persons, but are called to be one in spirit. So, too, is it with Jesus and God the Father.

Imagine, someone comes over to you, and says, “You and your father are the same person.” You would refute that. In fact, you might even find that offensive.

On the other hand, you could be like your father, and that could be a very honorable thing assuming your father was an honorable person. In this way, Jesus is also like his father, because he is united with him in spirit, in motive, in attitude. All of these are honorable. Therefore, Jesus can say, “He who has seen me, has seen the Father” (see John 14:9). Does this mean Jesus is the Father? Certainly not! This would contradict what we have already seen in John 17.

I would now like to cover another passage of Scripture, that is sometimes used incorrectly to teach that Jesus and God the Father are one and the same person. However, be aware that if you wanted to believe that, you would still need to ignore Matthew 24:36, John 5:22-23, John 17 and at least 18 other Scripture passage (which I will show you later).

“His name will be called ... Everlasting Father”

In the Old Testament, there is a prophecy concerning Jesus that says,

For a child is born to us. A son is given to us; and the government will be on his shoulders. His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

This prophecy is about Jesus. How can it be, then, that in light of the passages we have already seen, that this passage refers to Jesus as “Everlasting Father”? Since the Scripture cannot be broken (see John 10:35), the term “Everlasting Father” clearly does not mean that Jesus is God the Father. It must mean something else.

The Scriptures never contradict. With this in mind, we can be certain that because of the passages already seen, that it is clear that God the Father and Jesus are two distinct persons. Let us patiently examine Isaiah 9:6 to find out what it really means when it refers to Jesus as “Everlasting Father”.

Notice what it says in the passage. His name will be called (1) Wonderful Counselor, (2) Mighty God, (3) Everlasting Father, (4) Prince of Peace. Question: What is the sense of the word “name” in this passage? Does it mean literal name, or is it referring to an attribute? Since the Scripture cannot be broken, we can understand that it must be referring to an attribute, because another Scripture tells us what God’s proper name actually is, and it is none of these!

God said moreover to Moses, “You shall tell the children of Israel this, ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and this is my memorial to all generations.” (Exodus 3:15)

So then, the actual proper name of God is Yahweh, and it is not any of the ones mentioned in Isaiah 9:6. To further strengthen our understanding, note that in Isaiah 9:6, it does not say, “His names (plural) will be called ...”, but rather, “His name (singular) will be called.” So this is not referring to the literal name of Jesus, but attributes as One to whom all authority has been given (see Matthew 28:18-20).

Question: Who gave Jesus the authority in Matthew 28:18-20? Naturally, it came from God the Father. Thus, he received it as a result of delegated authority. If you understand delegated authority, you will put yourself in a better position to receive delegated authority from God. Now I ask you, since Jesus has been given all authority, does that not rightfully make him a father? And since he has been given that authority for all eternity, does that not rightfully make him an everlasting father? This does not mean he is God the Father for he received his authority from God the Father!

Let us now go over each of the attributes listed in Isaiah 9:6.

1. Jesus is Wonderful Counselor, because you can share with him your burdens: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

2. Jesus is Mighty God, because he is Creator! “For by him all things were created in the heavens and on the earth, visible things and invisible things, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things have been created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16)

3. Jesus is Everlasting Father, because all authority has been given unto him (by the heavenly Father, see Matthew 28:18-20), and because all judgment has been given unto him (by the heavenly Father, see John 5:22). Because he has been given all authority, at any time you can come to him with regards to your needs and burdens and he has the authority to see those needs met and realized in your life. That certainly is a fatherly characteristic. The authority he has received from God the Father is his for all eternity. This makes Jesus rightfully, Everlasting Father — able to meet all of your needs, according to his own will as well as your submission to that will.

Joseph (the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egyptian slavery) eventually received authority from Pharaoh to act as second in command under him. Whatever Joseph said, was law. The whole world looked to him as a father — and provider — for their needs. This is a beautiful picture of delegated authority. God put this account in the Bible for a reason. Joseph is a “type” of Jesus, who sits and rules on his throne. Yet Joseph is not Pharaoh, and Jesus is not God the Father.

4. Jesus is Prince of Peace, because he gives peace to all who trust in him. “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, I give to you. Don’t let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.” (John 14:27)

Thus, in all of this, we can see that Isaiah 9:6 reveal attributes of Jesus.

The Sacrifice on the Cross

Did you know that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross cannot possibly make proper sense apart from understanding that God the Father and Jesus were in intimate, eternal, relationship with one another, from eternity past? On the cross, Jesus said,

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (see Matthew 27:46)

Was he talking to himself? Was he “acting” as though he was speaking with his Father, but merely “talking to himself”? Certainly not! He was actually talking to God his Father! It was an eternal relationship — from eternity past — that was suddenly broken for the first time, when Jesus hung on that cross!

You cannot properly understand the wrath (displeasure, anger) of God the Father poured out on Jesus for you, without understanding that God the Father and Jesus are two utterly distinct persons who happen to be connected in a very real way: they are inseparable in the sense that they, along with the Holy Spirit, form the “Godhead”. They are completely united in purpose, and have been, for all eternity. The only disunity that ever occurred happened on the cross when God poured out his wrath on Jesus. He did that for me and for you, so that all who believe in him, might be saved.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

The Shema

“Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God. Yahweh is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)

Deuteronomy 6:4 is called the Shema. It is a very important recitation in the Bible, and Jesus himself recited it. The Shema does not preclude the Godhead, but rather includes it. God himself is a plurality within a unity. It is the unity portion that the Shema addresses. But what about the plurality? It is not a plurality of “Gods” for it is One God, and yet this refers to God’s unity within that plurality. In fact, by understanding the statement that Jesus made, “I and the Father are one,” (John 10:30), we can understand exactly what the “one” of the Shema refers to. It does not mean that God is one person, but that God the Father and God the Son are united in spirit.

No Disagreements

There is never any disagreement between God the Father and God the Son, and yet they are distinct persons. We see the distinction as far back as Genesis 1.

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (see Genesis 1:26).

Note the plural is used “Let us” and not “Let me.” Again, at the Tower of Babel, in Genesis 11, we read God saying,

“Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (Genesis 11:7)

It is very easy to see that there are at least 2 persons involved here. In fact, there are three. There is also the Holy Spirit, who is God (see Acts 5). So there are three Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who are called “God” in the Bible. Jesus not only assumes the characteristics of God (see Colossians 1:16), he actually calls himself “the Almighty” in the book of Revelation!

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)

That is Jesus speaking. And this is where Jesus plainly says he is the Almighty.1

Elohim

Consider Genesis 1:1:

“In the beginning, God [Elohim] created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

The singular word for “God” in Hebrew is “El.” The plural word for “gods” in the Hebrew is “Elohim.” It can also be used for “God” in the Bible. Why is the plural word “Elohim” as opposed to the singular word “El” used more than 2500 times in the Old Testament to refer to God? Is God trying to tell us something about himself? Surely, he is! This mystery is unfolded in the revelation of Jesus. Yet that revelation starts in the very first book of the Bible (Genesis).

Two Yahweh’s in the Old Testament

As we have already seen from Genesis 3:15, Yahweh is the name of God. Did you know that there are two Yahweh’s in the Old Testament, and not one? There is Yahweh who appears as a man (he is Jesus), and Yahweh who is in the heavens (he is God the Father). First, Yahweh appeared to Abraham as a man:

“Yahweh appeared to him [Abraham] by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day.” (Genesis 18:1)

We know this was Jesus, because Abraham called him “the Judge of all the earth” (see Genesis 18:25), and we know from John 5:22-23 (quoted at the start) that the Father has entrusted all judgment to the Son. The judge of the whole earth is Jesus. Many other passages also demonstrate this (for example, Acts 10:42, 2 Timothy 4:1, and Romans 14:10). Abraham was therefore talking to Jesus. This is also confirmed because of what Jesus said about 2000 later to the Jews:

“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it, and was glad.” (John 8:56)

Thus, Jesus indeed stood before Abraham that day, even before he was born of a virgin. That is because Jesus, being God, is eternal, and has always existed (see Micah 5:2). He came into the world through a virgin to fulfill a mission, but he has always existed (see also John 1:1).

Note that when Jesus appears in the Old Testament, it is sometimes referred to as a “Theophany.” That is a term that means, “Jesus made a special appearance in the Old Testament.” Yes, Jesus actually appeared many times in the Old Testament. In Genesis 19, just after Jesus’s encounter with Abraham, we then read that God (Yahweh) destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. But wait! There are two Yahwehs mentioned! One Yahweh (Jesus) is on the ground, and the other Yahweh (God the Father) is in heaven!

Then Yahweh rained on Sodom and on Gomorrah sulfur and fire from Yahweh out of the sky. (Genesis 19:24)

The picture we see here is of Jesus on the ground carrying out the judgment, and God the father in heaven providing the raw material from his storehouse (that is, burning sulfur). This is teamwork. It is like the boss has given you charge of the project. Now the boss says, “I will help you.”

In Genesis 19:24, God the Father assisted Jesus in carrying out the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. That is a beautiful picture of teamwork. There is no sense by which you can accommodate a teaching that says that God the Father and Jesus are one and the same person. This passage, and many others, simply does not allow it.

The Face of God

Next, I want to show you a huge difference between the Father and the Son. The Son’s face you can see. But the Father’s face you cannot see, or else you will die! In the Old Testament, God spoke to Moses, and said,

“You cannot see my face, for man may not see me and live.” (See Exodus 33:20)

Therefore, God showed Moses his back (see Exodus 33:23). Who is “God” in Exodus 33:20? This cannot be God the Son, because Jesus was seen by many (see 1 Corinthians 15:6), and he was even seen by Abraham well before that in Genesis 18, as previously demonstrated. Nobody died when they saw Jesus, whether in the Old Testament or the New. Thus, there is a clear difference between God the Father and God the Son.

Jacob (who was then named Israel) wrestled with a man. That man was God. Yet Jacob was surprised, because he saw God and lived. For he said:

“I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” (See Genesis 32:30)

Why was Jacob surprised that he lived after seeing God face-to-face?

In another instance, a man named Manoah and his wife (parents of Samson) both saw God.

Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God.” (Judges 13:22)

Why was Jacob surprised that he lived after seeing God? And why did Manoah expect to die after seeing God? Both Jacob and Manoah believed that one could not see God and live. What they did not realize was that this only applied to God the Father, and not the Son!

The Old Testament contains “snapshots” of Jesus, but not the full revelation. A greater revelation of who Jesus was would have to wait until the New Testament.

Thus, both Jacob and Manoah did not understand God the Son that he is, in fact, distinct from God the Father, and that God the Son and God the Father are not the same person.

More Characteristics Still

Did you know that there are many more characteristics beyond the ones I have shown that show that God the Father and Jesus are different persons? For example:

In John 14:16, Jesus prays to the Father. He is not praying to himself. In John 16:28, Jesus came from the Father and went to the Father. He is not coming from himself and going to himself. In Mark 13:32, Jesus has distinct thoughts from the Father. For the Father knows the day and the hour. The Son does not. (This does not mean they are not united in intent. It means that the decision to choose the day and the hour is left up to the Father, and not the Son.)

In John 8:28, Jesus is taught by the Father. In John 8:54, Jesus is glorified by the Father. In John 3:35, Jesus is loved by the Father. In John 14:28, Jesus is submitted to the Father. In John 20:17, Jesus ascends to the Father. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus is united but distinct from the Father. In Luke 10:22, Jesus is known by the Father. In John 5:19, Jesus does only what he sees the Father doing. In Matthew 28:18 and John 5:22, Jesus receives delegated authority from the Father.

Perhaps you have believed that Jesus and God the Father were always the same person. I have shown you numerous verses which clearly demonstrate they are not. I trust this will be enough to encourage you to do your own research in the Scriptures and dig deeper, still.

1. See also, Who is Jesus? which addresses many verses which demonstrate Jesus is God.

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