2-22 The Divine Side Of Jesus

In many discussions with Trinitarians, I came to observe how very often, a verse I would quote supporting the humanity of Jesus would be found very near passages which speak of His Divine side. For example, most 'proof texts' for both the 'Jesus=God' position and the 'Jesus was human' position- are all from the same Gospel of John. Instead of just trading proof texts, e.g. 'I and my father are one' verses 'the Father is greater than I', we need to understand them as speaking of one and the same Jesus. So many 'debates' about the nature of Jesus miss this point; the sheer wonder of this man, this more than man, was that He was so genuinely human, and yet perfectly manifested God. This was and is the compelling wonder of this Man. These two aspects of the Lord, the exaltation and the humanity, are spoken of together in the Old Testament too. A classic example would be Ps. 45:6,7: “Thy throne, O God, is for ever [this is quoted in the New Testament about Jesus]…God, thy God, hath anointed thee [made you Christ]”. It was exactly because of and through His humanity that His glory, His ‘Divine side’, was and is manifested. His glory was ‘achieved’, if you like, not because He had it by nature in Heaven before His birth; but exactly because He as a human of our nature reflected the righteousness of God to perfection in human flesh. Thus “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He”(Jn. 8:28)- the ‘I am’ aspect of Jesus was manifested at the point of His maximum humanity. Thus He was ‘made sin for us’ so that we might have the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21; 8:9). It was only because the Word was made flesh that the glory of God was revealed (Jn. 1:14).

The juxtaposition of the Lord’s humanity and His exaltation is what is so unique about Him. And it’s what is so hard for people to accept, because it demands so much faith in a man, that He could be really so God-like. The juxtaposition of ideas is seen in Hebrews so powerfully. Here alone in the New Testament is His simple, human name “Jesus” used so baldly- not ‘Jesus Christ’, ‘the Lord Jesus’, just plain ‘Jesus’ (Heb. 2:9; 3:1; 4:14; 6:20; 7:22; 10:19; 12:2,24; 13:12). And yet it’s Hebrews that emphasizes how He can be called ‘God’, and is the full and express image of God Himself.  I observe that in each of the ten places where Hebrews uses the name ‘Jesus’, it is as it were used as a climax of adoration and respect. For example: “… whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus” (Heb. 6:20). “But you are come unto… unto… to… to… to… to… and to Jesus the mediator” (Heb. 12:22-24). The bald title ‘Jesus’, one of the most common male names in first century Palestine, as common as Dave or Steve or John in the UK today, speaking as it did of the Lord’s utter humanity, is therefore used as a climax of honour for Him. The honour due to Him is exactly due to the fact of His humanity. John’s Gospel uses exalted language to describe the person of Jesus- but actually, if one looks out for it, John uses the very same terms about all of humanity. Here are some examples: 

About Jesus

About humanity generally or other human beings

Came into the world (9:39; 12:46; 16:28; 18:37)

1:9 [of “every man”]; 6:14. ‘Came into the world’ means ‘to be born’ in 16:21; 18:37

Sent from God (1:6; 3:28)

3:2,28; 8:29; 15:10

A man of God (9:16,33)


‘What I saw in my Father’s presence’ (8:38)

The work of ‘a man who told you the truth as I heard it from God’ (8:40)

God was His Father


He who has come from God (8:42)


The Father was in Him, and He was in the Father (10:37)

15:5-10; 17:21-23,26

Son of God (1:13)

All believers are ‘the offspring of God Himself’ (1:13; 1 Jn. 2:29-3:2,9; 4:7; 5:1-3,8)

Consecrated and sent into the world (17:17-19)


Jesus had to listen to the Father and be taught by Him (7:16; 8:26,28,40; 12:49; 14:10; 15:15; 17:8)

All God’s children are the same (6:45)

Saw the Father (6:46)

The Jews should have been able to do this (5:37)

Not born of the flesh or will of a man, but the offspring of God Himself

True of all believers (1:13)


Hebrews 1 can be a passage which appears to provide perhaps the strongest support for both the ‘Jesus is God’ and ‘Jesus is not God’ schools. Meditating upon this one morning, I suddenly grasped what was going on. The writer is in fact purposefully juxtaposing the language of Christ’s humanity and subjection to the Father, with statements and quotations which apply the language of God to Jesus. But the emphasis is so repeatedly upon the fact that God did this to Jesus. God gave Jesus all this glory. Consider the evidence: It is God who begat Jesus (Heb. 1:5), God who told the Angels to worship Jesus (Heb. 1:6), it was “God, even your God” who anointed Jesus, i.e. made Him Christ, the anointed one (Heb. 1:9); it was God who made Jesus sit at His right hand, and makes the enemies of His Son come into subjection (Heb. 1:13); it was God who made / created Jesus, God who crowned Jesus, God who set Jesus over creation (Heb. 2:7), God who put all in subjection under Jesus (Heb. 2:8). And yet interspersed between all this emphasis- for that’s what it is- upon the superiority of the Father over the Son… we find Jesus addressed as “God” (Heb. 1:8), and having Old Testament passages about God applied to Him (Heb. 1:5,6). The juxtaposition is purposeful. It is to bring out how the highly exalted position of Jesus was in fact granted to Him by ‘his God’, the Father, who remains the single source and giver of all exaltation, and who, to use the Lord’s very own words, “is greater than [Christ]” (Jn. 14:28).

This juxtaposition of the Lord’s humanity and His exaltation is found all through Bible teaching about His death. It’s been observed that the ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus, with their obvious allusion to the Divine Name, are in fact all found in contexts which speak of the subordination of Jesus to God(1). He was ‘lifted up’ in crucifixion and shame; and yet ‘lifted up’ in ‘glory’ in God’s eyes through that act. We read in Is. 52:14 that His face was more marred, more brutally transmogrified, than that of any man. And yet reflecting upon 2 Cor. 4:4,6, we find that His face was the face of God; His glory was and is the Father’s glory: “The glory of Christ, who is the image of God… the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”. Who is the one who redeems His people? Isaiah calls him “the arm of the Lord”: “to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (53:1; compare 52:10). Then he continues: “He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground” (v. 2). So, the arm of the LORD is a person -- a divine person! He is God’s “right arm,” His “right-hand Man”! He is also human: He grows up out of the earth like a root out of dry ground. The same sort of juxtaposition is to be found in the way the Lord healed the widow’s son. He touched the coffin- so that the crowd would have gasped at how unclean Jesus was, and how He had identified Himself with the unclean to the point of Himself appearing unclean. It was surely shock that made the pallbearers stop in their tracks. But then the Lord raised the dead man- and the people perceived His greatness, convinced that in the person of Jesus “God hath visited His people” (Lk. 7:14-16). His humanity and yet His greatness, His Divinity if you like, were artlessly juxtaposed together. Hence prophetic visions of the exalted Jesus in Daniel call Him “the Son of man”.

The mixture of the Divine and human in the Lord Jesus is what makes Him so compelling and motivational. He was like us in that He had our nature and temptations; and yet despite that, He was different from us in that He didn't sin. Phil. 2 explains how on the cross, the Lord Jesus was so supremely "in the likeness of men"; and yet the same 'suffering servant' prophecy which Phil. 2 alludes to also makes the point that on the cross, "his appearance was so unlike the sons of Adam" (Is. 52:14). There was something both human and non-human in His manifestation of the Father upon the cross. Never before nor since has such supreme God-likeness, 'Divinity' , if you like, been displayed in such an extremely human form- a naked, weak, mortal man in His final death throes.

Even after His resurrection, in His moment of glory and triumph, the Lord appeared in very ordinary working clothes, so that He appeared as a gardener. The disciples who met Him on the Emmaus road asked whether He ‘lived alone’ and therefore was ignorant of the news of the city about the death of Jesus (Lk. 24:18 RV). The only people who lived alone, outside of the extended family, were drop outs or weirdos. It was almost a rude thing for them to ask a stranger. The fact was, the Lord appeared so very ordinary, even like a lower class social outcast type. And this was the exalted Son of God. We gasp at His humility, but also at His earnest passion to remind His followers of their common bond with Him, even in His exaltation.

The Lord Jesus often stressed that He was the only way to the Father; that only through knowing and seeing / perceiving Him can men come to know God. And yet in Jn. 6:45 He puts it the other way around: “Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me”. And He says that only the Father can bring men to the Son (Jn. 6:44). Yet it is equally true that only the Son of God can lead men to God the Father. In this we see something exquisitely beautiful about these two persons, if I may use that word about the Father and Son. The more we know the Son, the more we come to know the Father; and the more we know the Father, the more we know the Son. This is how close they are to each other. And yet they are quite evidently distinctly different persons. But like any father and son, getting to know one leads us to know more of the other, which in turn reveals yet more to us about the other, which leads to more insight again into the other… and so the wondrous spiral of knowing the Father and Son continues. If Father and Son were one and the same person, the surpassing beauty of this is lost and spoilt and becomes impossible. The experience of any true Christian, one who has come to ‘see’ and know the Father and Son, will bear out this truth. Which is why correct understanding about their nature and relationship is vital to knowing them. The wonder of it all is that the Son didn’t automatically reflect the Father to us, as if He were just a piece of theological machinery; He made a supreme effort to do so, culminating in the cross. He explains that He didn’t do His will, but that of the Father; He didn’t do the works He wanted to do, but those which the Father wanted. He had many things to say and judge of the Jewish world, He could have given them ‘a piece of His mind’, but instead He commented: “But… I speak to the world those things which I have heard of [the Father]” (Jn. 8:26). I submit that this sort of language is impossible to adequately understand within the trinitarian paradigm. Yet the wonder of it all goes yet further. The Father is spoken of as ‘getting to know’ [note aorist tense] the Son, as the Son gets to know the Father; and the same verb form is used about the Good Shepherd ‘getting to know’ us His sheep. This wonderful, dynamic family relationship is what “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit”, true walking and living with the Father and Son, is all about. It is into this family and wonderful nexus of relationships that trinitarians apparently choose not to enter.

The Path To Glory 

The Lord’s path to glory culminated in the Father ‘making known unto Him the ways of life’ (Acts 2:28). That statement, incidentally, is a major nail in the coffin of trinitarianism. But more significantly for us personally, in this the Lord was our pattern, as we likewise walk in the way to life (Mt. 7:14), seeking to ‘know’ the life eternal (Jn. 17:3). In being our realistic role model in this, we can comment with John: “The Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know… the eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:20).


(1) P.B. Harner, The ‘I Am’ Of The Fourth Gospel (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1970) pp. 39,51.

The Father And Son

The Wrath Of God
I want to look at the relationship between the Father and Son by considering some of the Father’s characteristics, and how His articulation of them has been affected by His experience of His Son.

God can be provoked to anger (Dt. 9:7; Ezra 5:12), His wrath ‘arises’ because of sinful behaviour (2 Chron. 36:16). He drove Israel into captivity in anger and fury (Jer. 32:37). The wrath of God ‘waxes hot’ against sinful men, and Moses begged God to ‘turn’ from that wrath (Ex. 32:11,12). The whole intercession of Moses with God gives the impression of God changing His mind because of the intercession of a mere man. Admittedly the idea of anger flaring up in God’s face and then Him ‘turning’ from that wrath is some sort of anthropomorphism. The very same words are used about Esau’s wrath ‘turning away’, i.e. being pacified, as are used about the pacification of God’s wrath (Gen. 27:45). But all the same, this language must be telling us something. The wrath of God did come upon Israel in the wilderness (Ps. 78:31; Ez. 22:31), but Moses ‘turned’ God from executing it as He planned (Ps. 106:23). Many times He turned away from the full extent of His wrath (Ps. 78:38). It is by righteous behaviour and repentance that the wrath of God turns away (Dt. 13:17; 2 Chron. 12:12; 29:10; 30:8). Ezra 10:14 speaks of God’s wrath turning away because those who had married Gentile women divorced them. God’s wrath is also turned away by the death of the sinner- the heads of the sinners in Num. 25:4 were to be ‘hung up’ before the Lord so that His wrath would turn away. A similar example is to be found in Josh. 7:26. Jeremiah often comments that God’s wrath is turned away by the execution of judgment upon the sinner (e.g. Jer. 30:24). In this sense His anger and wrath are poured out or ‘accomplished’, i.e. they are no more because they have been poured out (Lam. 4:11).

Turning Away Wrath
The fact that men such as Moses and Jeremiah (Jer. 18:20) turned away God’s wrath without these things happening , or simply by prayer (Dan. 9:16) therefore means that God accepted the intercession of those men and counted their righteousness to those from whom His wrath turned away. We shouldn’t assume that these righteous men merely waved away God’s wrath. That wrath was real, and required immense pleading and personal dedication on their behalf. Thus we read in 2 Kings 23:26 that despite Josiah’s righteousness, the wrath of God against Manasseh was still not turned away. Truly „wise men turn away wrath” (Prov. 29:8). And they evidently pointed forward to the work of the Lord Jesus- perhaps, like the sacrifices, those men only achieved what they did on account of the way they pointed forward to the Lord Jesus. He delivered us from God’s coming wrath (1 Thess. 1:10)- the wrath of God is frequently spoken of in the New Testament as being poured out with devastating physical effects in the last days. All those not reconciled to God through the Lord Jesus are „by nature the children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). The very existence of the law of God creates His wrath, because we break that law (Rom. 4:15). Romans has much to say about the wrath of God; and the letter begins with the reminder that we are all sinners, and the wrath of God will be revealed against all forms of sin (Rom. 1:18). It is only through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus that we are saved from this wrath and ‘reconciled’ to God (Rom. 5:8-10). The wrath of God abides on all who don’t accept Christ (Jn. 3:36)- confirming the truth of Paul’s statements that all of us before our conversion were „by nature the children of wrath”. God isn’t unrighteous because He will take vengeance- this is how He will judge the world in the last day (Rom. 3:5).

The Other Side Of God
But... and it’s a big but. There’s another side to this apparently angry God. He is a God of untold love, who is almost unbelievably slow to His anger. The whole Old Testament exemplifies this in His dealings with Israel. This is the God who presents Himself to us as appointing our sympathetic Lord Jesus as both our judge and our advocate. The God who will almost compromise, apparently, His own statements in order to save us, whose grace in Christ finds a way around the law that sin leads to death, freeing us from that principle (Rom. 8:2), the God who revealed Himself through the senseless love of Hosea for the worthless Gomer. The harder side of God is there, undoubtedly. But it is there in order to give depth and meaning to His amazing grace and desire to save us. Without the reality of God as a God of wrath and judgment of sin, His grace in saving us would be far cheaper to our eyes, and far harder to deeply appreciate.

Beyond Mechanics
So the question arises, how could the death of the Lord Jesus as a perfect man turn away God’s wrath from us, just because we place ourselves ‘in’ Him? It is far too primitive to suggest that the sight of the red blood of Jesus somehow appeased an angry God. For starters, God isn’t an angry God. He is a God of love who delights to show mercy and grace. But on the other hand, as Old Testament men turned away the wrath of God, so the Lord Jesus turned away that wrath from us; He saved us from it. That is the Biblical position. But how and why was this possible? What was so special about Jesus? The standard answer would be along the lines that the Lord Jesus shared our nature, was our representative, and yet was perfect, dying for us to show how we deserve death, but rising again because it wasn’t possible that a perfect man could remain dead, and if we are ‘in Him’ then we are counted as being ‘Him’, and thereby our sins are overlooked and we will share the resurrection and eternal life now enjoyed by Him personally. And I stand by all that. But it only throws the essential question a stage further back. Why and how is this so? Why would God operate like that, given the part of His character that exacts judgment for sin, and experiences the emotion of wrath against sinners? Why go through that process of atonement that required the death of His Son to achieve it- when He could have achieved our salvation in any way He liked? Maybe I have too restless a mind. But a valid explanation of what happened doesn’t explain to me ultimately why it had to be the way it was; and what was it about the death of Jesus that so uniquely moved the Father for all time to forgive us our sins and save us.

Perhaps our problem is that we are inclined to see the tragedy in Eden as a ‘problem’ for God, which He had to devise a very clever means of getting around, whilst leaving His essential principles uncompromised. The fact that the Lord Jesus in a sense was slain from the foundation of the world, the ‘word’ / logos of Jesus was in the very beginning with God, surely indicates that God didn’t in any sense think up some plan to save us when faced by Adam’s sin. To me, we’re coming at this the wrong way around, assuming that God had a problem which He needed to solve. Not at all. God’s basic principles don’t change, but He also reveals Himself as a loving Father who has all the emotions of a human father- again, the manifestation of God in Hosea exemplifies all this, with God presented as having the feelings of the wounded lover, the anger mixed with senseless love and acceptance of the betrayed husband, the God who makes statements in His fury and then by His grace and love doesn’t carry them out (1). It is this passionate and emotional side of the Father which is our salvation.

But back to our question. In what sense did the life and death of His Son somehow turn God’s wrath away from us, and why did it all work out the way that it did? For me, dry atonement theory doesn’t provide any ultimate explanation. It describes a mechanism. But the questions of why and how remain- for me at least. My explanation of what happened due to the life and death of God’s Son is best initially illustrated by a human explanation.

Father And Son
My father is in his 70s as I write this. Recently we had literally the conversation of a lifetime, one of those en passant chats which turns into a profound interchange. He explained to me how I had influenced him. How his basic life and faith principles had never changed, but what he had seen of himself in me, in failure and success, had led him to act and feel very differently towards others; and thus he had changed from being a legalistic defender of the faith to being a far more gracious individual. Not so much because of any grace or otherwise I showed; but because he saw himself played out through me, through my failures and successes, triumphs and failures. He shared with me how well he knew my mother; but it was only by seeing her in me, again, in both triumph and failure, in good and bad, that he came to more deeply understand and appreciate her. That conversation remains an abiding memory. And I am thankful to God that we both lived long enough in this lonely world to be able to have it.

My point of course from all this is that God’s having a son influenced Him. God isn’t static. I’m pinned down under the tyranny of words here, but something like ‘growth’, ‘deeper experience’ (or whatever word we find appropriate) surely is a facet of His nature, as it is of us who are made in His image. And there’s no doubt that God can be influenced to change His mind. Both Moses and Jonah demonstrated that clearly. God’s experience in Christ led Him to a deeper insight into the nature of His creation, just as my very existence gave my father greater understanding of my mother. I’m not saying that God somehow changed between the Old Testament and the New Testament. But the life and death of His Son, the way His Son gave His life for us His brethren, influenced God. It saved us from His wrath- not in that the sight of the red blood appeased an angry God, but in that He perceived again ever more forcibly how in His own personality, grace outweighs judgment, and thus He became committed to hearing our desperate pleas for that grace. The wrath of God simply couldn’t be against those who chose to be in this wonderful Son of His, who voluntarily identified themselves with Him, who believed in and were baptized into that death and seek to share in it by their own feeble lives of self-crucifixion. Such behaviour from God isn’t unexpected- because in Old Testament times He had been ‘turned from’ His wrath by men far beneath the status of the Lord Jesus. It was their lives and their prayerful intercession which affected Him. But it’s been pointed out that their ‘intercession’ was a mediating of God’s principles and blessings to men, rather than ‘mediation’ in the sense of settling a quarrel between two parties (2). How, then, did their manifestation of God to men so influence God Himself? Surely because as He saw e.g. Moses telling Israel of Him, pleading with them to repent, He saw Himself in Moses. And Moses was also Israel’s representative. And so He was moved to turn from His wrath. When it came to the ‘intercession’ of His own Son, the effect was even the more powerful. Not just Israel but any from all nations would be saved; and the Son of God ever lives to make this kind of intercession both for and to us. Moses died, but the Lord Jesus lives for evermore in God’s presence, the example of His life, the nature of His very being, having ‘persuaded’ the Father to turn away from His wrath, to not stir up all His anger [to use an Old Testament figure], and exercise to the full extent the wonderfully gracious aspect of His character towards us. God is presented to us in the Old Testament as a person, and a person with a struggle within them. He speaks in Hosea of how His heart is kindled in ‘repentings’, in changes of mind, over whether to reject or redeem His wayward people; how His very soul is grieved to decide. It seems to me that the Father’s experience of His Son leads Him to resolve this struggle, to come down on the side of goodness / grace rather than severity, with those of us who are idenitified with His Son.

Admittedly we have trodden upon ground which Scripture doesn’t explicitly open up to us. But there is some Biblical indication of the nature of the Son’s influence upon the Father, and His relationship with Him. Remember that whilst Father and Son were one in purpose, the will of the Father wasn’t always that of the Son. The agony in Gethsemane was proof enough of that. In the parable of Lk. 13:7,8, the servant [=Jesus] is commanded by his master [= God] to cut down the fig tree. Not only does the servant take a lot of initiative in saying that no, he will dig around it and try desperately to get it to give fruit; but, he says, if even that fails, then you, the Master, will have to cut it down… when he, the servant, had been ordered to do it by his master! This servant [the Lord Jesus] obviously has a most unusual relationship with the Master. He suggests things on his own initiative, and even passes the job of cutting off Israel back to God, as if He would rather not do it. In the parable of Lk. 14:22, the servant [= Jesus] reports to the master [= God] that the invited guests wouldn’t come to the supper [cp. God’s Kingdom]. The master tells the slave to go out into the streets and invite the poor. And then we’re hit with an incredible unreality, especially to 1st century ears: “The servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room”. No slave would take it upon himself to draw up the invitation list, or take the initiative to invite poor beggars into his master’s supper. But this servant did! He not only had the unusual relationship with his master that allowed this huge exercise of his own initiative- but he somehow knew his master so well that he guessed in advance what the master would say, and he went and did it without being asked. In all this we have a wonderful insight into the relationship between the Father and Son, especially in the area of inviting people to His supper [cp. salvation]. The point of all this is to demonstrate how the Lord Jesus has His influence upon the Father, and can at times change His stated purpose [e.g. with regard to the rejection of Israel- just as Moses did]. And this is the same Father and Son with whom we have to do, and whose matchless relationship is the basis and reason of our salvation.

Real Relationship

The parable of the fig tree appears to show the Lord Jesus as more gracious and patient than His Father- the owner of the vineyard (God) tells the dresser (Jesus) to cut it down, but the dresser asks for another year’s grace to be shown to the miserable fig tree, and then, he says, the owner [God] Himself would have to cut it down (Lk. 13:7-9). But in Jn. 6:37-39 we seem to have the Lord’s recognition that the Father was more gracious to some than He would naturally be; for He says that He Himself will not cast any out, exactly because it was the Father’s will that He should lose nothing but achieve a resurrection to life eternal for all given to Him. And the Lord observed, both here and elsewhere, that He was not going to do His own will, but rather the will of the Father. Now this is exactly the sort of thing we would expect in a truly dynamic relationship- on some points the Father is more generous than the Son, and in other cases- vice versa. And yet Father and Son were, are and will be joined together in the same judgment and will, despite Father and Son having differing wills from one viewpoint. But this is the result of process, of differing perspectives coming together, of a mutuality we can scarcely enter into comprehending, of some sort of learning together, of a Son struggling to do the will of a superior Father rather than His own will, of conclusions jointly reached through experience, time and process- rather than an automatic, robot-like imposition of the Father’s will and judgment upon the Son. And the awesome thing is, that the Lord invites us to know the Father, in the same way as He knows the Father. His relationship with the Father is a pattern for ours too.

(1) See http://www.aletheiacollege.net/ww/4-5-1extent_of_grace.htm
(2) John Launchbury, 'The Present Work Of Christ' , Tidings Vol. 69 No. 1, Jan. 2006 pp. 8-18.




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