Saturday, May 27, 2017

Jesus: The Father is Greater than I

Jesus declared in John 14:28 “the Father  is greater than I.” How is this so? This declaration by Jesus is seized as the dagger against deity claims and the scriptures by atheists, skeptics, Muslims, Jews and others. Others seize these words as a contradiction on the teaching of the scriptures. Still others, including so-called unitarians and so-called trinitarians, seize the deity claims of Jesus
and the scriptures as the divine will of God take these words with a contrived forcefulness, but no less weak explanation for the edification of the saints. They find themselves at a loss to understand much less teach these words which were spoken by our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Typically, Jesus did not speak things such as this seemingly ambiguous or mysterious saying to the disciples without ample clues or straightforward explanations for them. The clues as to what Jesus meant when He said the Father is greater than I are present in the surrounding text. They not only reveal how or in what sense the Father is greater than Jesus in their relationship with each other, but they reveal how Jesus Himself would soon enter into a similar relationship with respect to the Holy Spirit.

Jesus had previously stated this to his disciples:

"Truly, 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. (John 13:16)

We might be inclined to invert these words of Jesus concerning a slave and his master and one who sends and the one sent to see if it carries the same meaning which Jesus intended to convey. However, this is not so. The master is greater than the slave. The one who sends is greater than the one who is sent. Equality as the modern social pursuit to make all things right is not in question or in discussion here. Although some may conclude that Jesus is acknowledging some inferior state between Himself and the Father and that equality is what was in the mind of Jesus to pursue; this, too, is not so.

Jesus: the one who was sent
There are two ways by which the Father is greater than Jesus. These were repeatedly cited by Jesus. First, He repeatedly asserted that it was the Father who had sent Him. (John 14:24) Jesus, the Son of God, did not come into the world in accordance with his own will or to do his own will. He came into the world in accordance with the will of the Father to do the will of the Father who sent Him.

Jesus: words and works
Second, Jesus repeatedly asserted that He did not speak anything of his own accord. He spoke only what the Father had given for Him to speak. Furthermore, the life and ministry of Jesus was characterized as much by the words which He spoke (John 8:26, 14:10) as by the works which He performed. (John 8:29, 14:11) The words and the works were inseparable. These, too, Jesus asserted were in accordance with what the Father had given Him to say and do. It was the same words and works which Jesus cited for Philip and the disciples as the proof that the Father, that is, deity dwelt in Him. Thus, the Father was greater than Jesus in the sense that and because it was the Father who sent the Son to speak the words of the Father and do the works of the Father.

the Holy Spirit: the one who was sent
Christians often state that the Father sent the Holy Spirit. This is true. It is correct. It is equally true and correct to state that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit as Jesus Himself asserted in John 16:7. Such is the unity between Father and Son as well as their mutual love. The Holy Spirit, then, was in a similar relationship with the Son as the Son was with the Father. Just as the Father sent the Son, so too, the Son sent the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit: the one who spoke
Just as the Son spoke the words and did the works with the Father gave so, too, Jesus said the Holy Spirit would speak to the disciples only as the Comforter, the Helper, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit was to take what was of Jesus which was what was of the Father. The Holy Spirit carried on the testimony of God, that is, Father and Son, through the signs, wonders, miracles and gifts. (Hebrews 2:4) Hence, the unity of the Holy Spirit with the Father and Son.

When Jesus asserted that the Father was greater than Jesus it was not to abdicate, negate or to deny His oneness with the Father. The Father was greater than the Son in the sense that it was the Father who sent the Son. It was the Father who gave His own words for the Son to speak. It was the Father who gave His own works for the Son to perform.

It is true that the Holy Spirit was sent from the Father. It is equally true that the Holy Spirit was sent by Jesus. It is true that the words which the Holy Spirit spoke were not His own, but the words which He received from Jesus. This was in much the same manner as Jesus spoke the words which the Father gave Him to speak. It is in this manner that what the Father was with respect to the Son, namely, that the Father was greater than the Son because the Father gave the Son words and works to fulfill. It is, also, in this manner that the same relationship as is revealed between Father and Son is revealed between Son and Holy Spirit with respect to the words and works fulfilled by the Holy Spirit. He did not speak on his own or do anything on his own, but only as he received from the Son.

The assertion by Jesus about the Father being greater than the Son is not about the nature of Father and Son. Rather it is with respect to what Son came to accomplish through the words and works of the Father. John states that the Word who became flesh came into the world to explain, that is, speak words for our understanding of God.

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