Is Jesus God?
Updated: Dec 19, 2020
“I do not agree or disagree in everything with either one party or the other. Because all seem to me to have some truth and some error, but everyone recognizes the other's error and nobody discerns his own.” - Michael Servetus 1533 C.E.
The Trinity is one of the most divisive topics among professed followers of Christ. Before considering the topic and its' related arguments it would seem prudent to first review the basics of being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. When it comes to being identified (by Jesus) as one of his disciples which do you imagine is more important, understanding the complex interconnectivity between the spiritual bodies of Jehovah and Jesus, or showing in all our interactions the prevailing quality of love? Jesus said “by this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) Clearly having heartfelt love for all mankind is the first and most important step in being identified by Jesus as one of his disciples.
We are admonished by the Lord's apostle Paul “I urge you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you should all speak in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you may be completely united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10) There is little room for interpretation regarding Jesus counsel as it is presented to us here. Among those of us comprising the body of Christ there can be no divisions. In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul emphasized the correlation of Christ's disciples to a body, he said: “there should be no division in the body, but its members should have mutual concern for one another.” (1 Corinthians 12:25)
Furthermore John plainly tells us if we are incapable of showing this love and concern for others who are professing union with Christ than we are disowning our Lord. “If anyone says “I love God” and yet hates his fellow Christian, he is a liar, because the one who does not love his fellow Christian whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And the commandment we have from him is this: that the one who loves God should love his fellow Christian too.” (1 John 4:20-21 NET) Also John said “the children of God and the children of the Devil are evident by this fact: Whoever does not practice righteousness does not originate with God, nor does the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” (1 John 3:10-11) Yes the message from the beginning was primarily about love.
However the Trinity doctrine has been a source of division among professed Christian's for more than a thousand years. That simple truth in itself should give us pause. What spirit is behind the history associated with the intense arguments and murders connected with the hardline attitudes taken respecting this doctrine? Why do so many feel it necessary to wager their identity as a follower of Christ on the conviction that they have the right side of this issue?
The quote at the beginning of this article was by Michael Servetus. He was talking about the dramatic church reformations happening at the time. Admittedly I know little more about Michael than a brief internet search has provided me with, but with that small amount of information I feel a close connection to him as my brother in Christ. When Michael was about my age, on October 24th, 1553, he was sentenced to death by burning for denying the Trinity and infant baptism. Three days later his final words were "Jesus, Son of the Eternal God, have mercy on me."
I feel connected to Michael not necessarily because I hold the exact same doctrinal interpretations as him. It is more how he came to the conclusions he did, and the attitude he had. Michael was known for his love of the Scriptures. He felt it was important to have a firm foundation for doctrine evident in Scripture. If he perceived any particular church doctrine was not in harmony with the Scriptures, he chose to support the Scriptures in lieu of the doctrine. Back then to do so meant you could be burned alive. Therefore, a whimsical or lackadaisical approach to Bible study was not an option for him.
Here are the links to a couple of articles on Michael Servetus on Wikipedia and in the Awake magazine. Interestingly it seemed as if the Awake article was depicting Servetus as though his views on the Trinity were similar to those held by the CCJW (Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses). In my brief investigation it seems possible he may have supported a perception of the Scriptures not exactly the same as what is presented in the Watchtower. Nevertheless, the Awake said “His sincerity, however, did not prevent Servetus from reaching some mistaken conclusions. For example, he calculated that Armageddon and the Millennial Reign of Christ would come during his own lifetime.” That statement made it seem as though Michael would have much in common with the CCJW.
Awake magazine once wisely stated: “true educators present all sides of an issue and encourage discussion.” (Awake 8/22/78 p.3) Unfortunately presenting all sides of this issue would require volumes rather than a brief article. As far as the most levelheaded and Scripturally based reasoning for accepting the Trinity doctrine I believe Mike Winger's video “The Trinity: Can We Defend it Biblically?” is one of the best pro Trinity presentations I've seen. On the other side of the issue the CCJW has presented many Scripturally based arguments against the Trinity doctrine, and while the entire “Watchtower Library” has an abundance of articles on the doctrine their brochure “Should You Believe in the Trinity?” sums up their contentions.
As far as my personal connection to these two sources, I can say the following. Respecting Mike Winger, prior to the publishing of this article I have never met or had any correspondence with him, and I am admittedly not familiar with every doctrine he accepts or rejects. That said I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a promoter of God's Word as the one and only source of truth today. From his videos that I have seen he consistently endeavors to supply a Scriptural foundation for what he presents. Also he has confessed many times that the Scriptures alone are the ultimate authority for any follower of Jesus Christ. In many of his videos he has taken a simple passage of Scripture and clearly explained an important lesson in faith, love, or humility that I needed to work on.
As to the CCJW, presently I am still an active member in “good standing” as they say. However just as Michael Servetus after studying the Scriptures was forced to disagree with his religion on some doctrinal issues and compose a couple of books explaining why, similarly I have composed and presented the articles for your consideration on this website. His religious leaders burned him alive - atop a pyre of his own books, and unfortunately I imagine the “Governing Body” would feel justified doing the same to me. That said I believe these men truly imagine that Jehovah God has appointed them as his one and only channel of communication with mankind today. Whether or not that is true is irrelevant, the point is that they genuinely believe it to be true. From that disposition they view the Scriptures as “inspired of God” and honestly feel that the Bible supports all of their doctrines.
After having prayerfully considered both sides and relevant Scriptures, I am left with a strong conviction, - they are both misguided in their attitudes taken on this issue. Why? Because they are approaching this subject as though it alone is the basis for salvation. In the beginning of his video Mike states that he is willing “to die on this hill” referring to his conviction that he's right about the Trinity. Likewise page 3 of the Trinity brochure states “our entire future hinges on our knowing the true nature of God, and that means getting to the root of the Trinity controversy.” In considering this topic they both begin stating they're right and that being right is a matter of life or death. That may sound a bit extreme, but why was Michael Servetus burned alive? He was murdered because that exact same inappropriate attitude and conviction has been displayed by church leaders for the last thousand years.
I believe it would be beneficial for Mike to reflect prayerfully on his own words that he presented at the 1:03:30 mark in his video. He said speaking of Jesus “He was careful to distinguish his person-hood from the Father because he didn't want to confuse us about the Trinity. Bottom line we just believe the whole Bible.” According to Mike, Jesus understood that this could be a confusing and divisive issue and decided it would be better to not get into it with his disciples. Mike suggests that Jesus came to this conclusion because he didn't want to confuse his disciples. How paramount to our salvation did Jesus feel a thorough understanding of this issue was for his followers? In view of all the divisions and murders perpetrated among professed Christian's over the centuries because of this doctrine, it makes sense that Jesus didn't bring it up as a matter of importance. Throughout all the disciples writings, this doctrine is never explained in detail or presented as fundamental for our salvation. Mike does well explaining what he believes and why he believes it, but from my perspective he failed to show me from the Scriptures why Jesus would demand his followers accept and promote this doctrine. Certainly not at the expense of displaying other more important Christlike qualities.
The “Governing Body” bases their statement quoted above on Jesus words at John 17:3 where he said: “This means everlasting life, their coming to know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” Their application of this verse is a bit askew. What Jesus said was important, but they are misapplying his words in trying to argue against the Trinity. What they are failing to consider is that those who believe in the Trinity accept that Jehovah, and Jesus are two separate persons so they would not see this verse at odds with their doctrine. Jesus was not making a point about understanding the details of God's spiritual body and it's relationship to his own. Jesus was saying that if any of us want everlasting life we need to know and have a relationship with his father and also with him. That's the point. There was no hidden meaning there.
The claim is that no one can to truly know God unless they accurately understand the spiritual dynamic of how Jesus Christ, his father Jehovah, and the holy spirit are interconnected. However, there could be a seemingly endless list of things about our Lord Jesus Christ that his apostles did not comprehend. Nevertheless, Jesus said to them “You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master does. But I have called you friends, because I have made known to you all the things I have heard from my Father.” (John 15:14-15) He “made known” to them all the things necessary, but he never explained the details of his being mystically connected or not to his father. The important point not to be missed is that Jesus expects us to 'do what he commanded us to do.' He never commanded us to debate doctrines.
So the question many would still want answered is 'which doctrine is the truth?' I think Michael's quote at the introduction to this article relating to Catholics and Protestants has relevance to the Trinity. To be Jesus disciples we need to have a personal relationship with him and his father, and we need to have the holy spirit help us in our lives. That is indisputable. Every follower of Christ needs to comprehend who Jesus is if they want to progress as one of his disciples.
The way Mike Winger describes things, it seems to me as though Jesus, Jehovah, and the Holy Spirit are like individual Voltron lions that unite to become the “being” of God. (Sorry Mike I grew up in the 80's and that's how my mind comprehended your conclusions) The “Governing Body” focuses 100% on glorifying and worshiping Jehovah and views Jesus as the highest ranking angel, while the holy spirit is basically electricity. To progress in my personal relationship with Jesus and our Father I need to draw my conclusions directly from the Scriptures.
Personally I know absolutely nothing about the spirit realm or the spiritual bodies that exist therein. How could I? I know that those who dwell and exist in the heavens have spiritual bodies because it says so in Scripture, “if there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one.” (1 Corinthians 15:44) It takes a considerable amount of mental energy for me to comprehend the basics of the physical universe that I am a part of and dwell within. I have a basic grasp of space-time and relativity, and that only persuades me to consider how little I truly comprehend. I agree with Elihu's statement to Job; “understanding the Almighty is beyond our reach.” (Job 37:23)
While I freely admit there is much I do not understand, I have to move forward with an understanding more in line with the “Governing Body's” than with Mike Winger's. When Jesus was baptized and John “saw God’s spirit descending like a dove and coming upon him” and heard Jehovah from the heavens say: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matthew 3:16-17) I identify two persons and a force that is at best having the individuality of an animal, “a dove” as the Scripture expresses it. If the holy spirit is a person I ask my Lord Jesus and my Father, why no name? Every person I've ever encountered or heard tell of has been identified with a name. That's the way my stupid human brain works, and I have to expect that if God wanted me to better comprehend he would give me a better brain or have explained what he wanted me to understand more clearly in his Word. Nevertheless, I have faith that what he has written is sufficient for his expectations of my comprehension.
I do not see an issue with Christendom glorifying Jesus with the title of God, but I do take issue with their not properly glorifying our Father. Conversely it is concerning to see the diminished role the “Governing Body” has ascribed to Jesus. It seems as if the “Governing Body” has elevated themselves and lowered Jesus so much that they are now very close to being on an equal plain with each other. In the Scriptures Jesus does honor us by addressing us as his friends and brothers, but we should appreciate his divinity. While he was in the flesh the Scriptures clearly show he was a man just like us with the exception that he was perfect. Paul said: “we have one who has been tested in all respects as we have, but without sin.” (Hebrew 4:15) The Watchtower's explanation of Christ offering himself as a ransom that was of exactly equal value to Adam's perfect life that was lost makes good sense to me.
As I read the accounts of Jesus life and ministry I see the holy spirit as a shield around him so that he remained perfect while rubbing shoulders, so to speak, with a sea of imperfect humanity. For example there was a woman with a medical issue causing her to bleed for 12 years. That condition rendered her and anyone she touched unclean. She tried to discreetly touch Jesus thinking she would be cleansed. If she had done so while still sick he would have become unclean. However the instant she touched the fringe of his garment she was cleansed by the holy spirit, without Jesus knowledge of exactly what had just happened. He was only aware, as he said: “that power went out of me.” Did this woman reason out that the holy spirit would not allow Jesus to become unclean so therefore if she touched just the fringe of his garment the spirit would have to cleanse her? The Scripture does not explain how she came to the conclusion she did, however Jesus did say to her: “Daughter, your faith has made you well.”
Another example is when a leper humbly approached Jesus and said: “If you just want to, you can make me clean.” This is a man that may not have been touched by another person for years because of his illness. Notice how Jesus healed this man, “he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him: “I want to! Be made clean.” If I'm right then Jesus knew that he would not be able to touch the man before the holy spirit cleansed him completely. This theory holds true throughout Jesus life. He was never able to touch anyone that at the moment of his doing so was unclean and therefore would make him unclean, the holy spirit prevented that from happening by immediately cleansing all whom he touched. Similarly he would not be able to touch a corpse, so the person instantly would be resurrected by the holy spirit if Jesus touched them.
Consider two Scriptures that may stand out as an example of why there is confusion regarding Jesus being God. These two accounts at first glance may seem to be showing a contradiction in Jesus identity. The Scriptures are Mark 10:17,18 and John 20:28. In Mark someone approaches Jesus and says: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit everlasting life?” Jesus said to him: “Why do you call me good? Nobody is good except one, God.” In John "Thomas said to him: "My Lord and my God!" So why differentiate himself from God in the first account, and accept Thomas addressing him as God in the second? These Scriptures clearly show two specific points. First, the verses in Mark show that Jesus highlighted the importance of understanding that he is not his father. Second, Thomas's exclamation shows that as Christ's disciples it is acceptable to address Jesus as “my God.”
The other indisputable fact that can be seen by comparing these two verses is that if you want to argue against the Trinity you can highlight the verses in Mark, but if you want to argue in favor of the Trinity you could refer to Thomas's expression as recorded by John. And these are just two of the dozens of verses that could fall categorically into a for or against list that would result in an endless debate over the Trinity. So why is it acceptable to address Jesus as God, as Thomas did? It's simple and a point “Jehovah's Witnesses” should grasp more quickly than others may. God is a title not a name. Jesus has been given all authority and will ultimately sit on God's throne. Can you sit on the throne of God and not be addressed as God?
After having considered everything the most important thing is that we love and accept Jesus as our Lord and Teacher. That is what his Father expects all of us to do. If Mike's perception differs from mine in that he perceives the Holy Spirit as a person, and that while Jehovah, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are three separate persons they ultimately form the celestial “being” of God, why should that bother me or diminish my respect for him? As we get to know people it becomes clear that all of us have our own personal relationship with Jesus and perceive him as our own minds have processed the Scriptures. For a fact all of our minds have a unique way of perceiving the world around us. Do we all process the same foods as delicious, or disgusting? Do we all enjoy the same aromas and colors? Indeed each of our brains processes things just a bit differently than others. When I look at Mike I see a man doing his best to do what Jesus has told him to do. Jesus emphasized the importance of that when he said “Why, then, do you call me ‘Lord! Lord!’ but do not do the things I say?” How we address Jesus is not as important as the level of respect we show for the things he taught.
With that having been said, if any wish to advance in their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ they must adjust their personal perceptions to align with the truth. While Mike's perception of Jesus has gotten him to where he's at now, he needs to continue progressing in his personal relationship with him. All of us belonging to Christ must let the Scriptures adjust our perception. Paul said: “all Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight.”
Throughout the Scriptures Jesus spoke of his relationship with his Father using the most intimate expressions, such as “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.” These expressions remind us of the intimate way Jesus described a married couple, he said the two are “one flesh.” In saying that, Jesus was not in anyway implying that a husband and wife are two persons that form one being. That's just how Jesus talked. He existed as a spirit person for a span of time we could not begin to imagine before he was sent to the earth to live as a man. It is understandable that his affectionate way of describing his intimate relationship with his Father could seem to some as if he was describing himself and his Father as one being.
Nevertheless, as we progress in our relationship with Jesus we must get to know him as our Lord and brother. Just as he told the Samaritan woman at the well, similarly we say to those accepting this doctrine, “you worship what you do not know; we worship what we know.” As brother's of the Lord we know him, and we know our Father. Everything Jesus taught us showed that he was not equal to his Father. He said: "most truly I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him." Was Jesus sent? He answers: "the One who sent me is true," and again "I have not come of my own initiative, but that One sent me."
The fifth chapter of Hebrews makes clear to the congregation that Jesus is the high priest that our Father appointed for us: “no one assumes this honor on his own initiative, but only when called to it by God, as in fact Aaron was. So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming high priest, but the one who glorified him was God, who said to him, “You are my Son! Today I have fathered you,” as also in another place God says, “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” During his earthly life Christ offered both requests and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death and he was heard because of his devotion. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered.”
If anyone can prayerfully read those verses and say with conviction that Jesus and his Father are the same being, then unfortunately they are not accurately comprehending the person we have come to know and love as our Father. This is not said with contempt or derision, but with hope. Hope that they will prayerfully reconsider why they have taken such a rigid stance compared to what the Scriptures say. For my part I have prayerfully considered and listened to the arguments presented by individuals such as Mike Winger, and understand why they have accepted their doctrine. While it may seem that some verses support that perception, the inspired Scriptures as a whole do not. That is not how the Lord Jesus has revealed himself to his brothers.
“We see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by God’s grace he would experience death on behalf of everyone. For it was fitting for him, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For indeed he who makes holy and those being made holy all have the same origin, and so he is not ashamed to call them brothers.” - Hebrews 2:9-11