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According to What does the Bible really teach?, a Watchtower publication, pp.41-42:

The only-begotton Son never even considered trying to be equal to his Father. The Bible clearly teaches that the Father is greater than the Son. (John 14:28).

John 14:28 says:

“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I."

Which, on the surface, appears to agree with the JW claim that Jesus himself says he is "not equal" to his Father.

What is the Protestant response to this, in the context of the divinity of Jesus. How can Jesus be divine, and also "lesser" than the Father?

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In my opinion, this verse is explained nicely by D.A. Carson, who is cited in the Book "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel. I've cited the relevant part of the interview here. –  user2428118 Aug 20 '13 at 10:54
The Carson comment seems confusing. eg "Jesus says, 'If you loved me, you'd be glad for my sake when I say I'm going away, because the Father is greater than I' That is to say, Jesus is returning to the glory that is properly his, so if they really know who he is and really love him properly, they'll be glad that he's going back to the realm where he really is greater. Jesus says in John 17:5, 'Glorify me with the glory that I had with the Father before the world began'-that is, 'the Father is greater than I'.... I cannot understand how he goes from the verse to what he thinks the verse says. –  user5197 Aug 20 '13 at 22:05

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Good question, it is written

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men." (Philippians 2:5-7)

Herein it says Jesus is equal with God (the Father), thus contradicting the watchtower quote you provided.

"And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh" (1 Timothy 3:16 NKJV)

In John 14:28 Jesus is saying he is subordinate to the Father, but Philippians 2:5-7 says he is equal. So Jesus is subordinate but equal. To be subordinate does not mean one is not equal, for example the Bible admonishes wives to be subordinate to their husbands in the Lord (Ephesians 5:22), yet they are 100% equal in value in God's sight. More info on Jesus divinity from Scripture found here - http://www.amazingfacts.org/media-library/book/e/77/t/the-trinity.aspx

Hope that helps!

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Thank you. I brought up Phil. 2:5-7 with my JW friend, and it left her scratching her head. –  Flimzy Aug 17 '13 at 20:16
The amazingfacts link is helpful. Thx –  user5197 Aug 21 '13 at 0:24
regarding Phil. 2:6 "If ἁρπαγμός is used according to the above analysis, then Christ is said not to have snatched at or grasped for equality with God. Though he was himself true deity existing in the form of God, he did not try to grasp for this other aspect he did not possess—namely, equality with God. On the contrary, Christ emptied himself. This emptying consisted in taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men" It should read something like this. "Christ Jesus, being in the form of god, gave no though to making a seizure, that he should be equal to god". –  Jeremy Nov 16 '13 at 16:43
ἁρπαγμός Means to seize something like it is prized. That in conjunction with the words surrounding it shows that Jesus was showing the inverse of that word. That it was not something he would try to seize. Really because of the way the words are used that scripture can be translated several different ways, each with a completely different meaning. –  Jeremy Nov 16 '13 at 16:50

Jesus is both God and man, Divine and human natures in one person. In regard to His humanity, He is subordinate to God the Father, but in regard to His Deity, He is the Father's equal.

The mistake people like the JW's (and there are other sects ancient and modern who have gone the same route) is to take the statements in Scripture about Jesus as a human being on earth, living in obedience to the Father, and treat them as if they were about His eternal being.

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look at Hebrews 5:7. Here it says that the Father favorably heard Jesus because of his godly fear. If Jesus was god then why would he show "fear" or that is "respect" to himself? There are words in Greek to say that directly, that Jesus is god, so why aren't they used here or in other places? –  Jeremy Nov 16 '13 at 17:00

Jesus IS God but God made man. Thereby he was God transpositioned into finite form; in his full glory He is infinite. That is probably why Jesus maintained people to see him as the 'Son' and not as the image of God. In a way he really was an 'aspect' of God, a different side of the diamond, the trinity; God's outstretched hand (and blood and flesh sacrifice) for man.

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