According to 1 Tim 3:16, Jesus is God manifest in the flesh. However, in Jn 20:17, Jesus said, “I ascend … to my God.” In Rev 3:12 he referred to “the temple of my God, and … the name of my God, and … the city of my God.” And again, Jesus cried out on the cross and said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” [Matt 27:46]. So, if Jesus is God manifest in the flesh, then what is he doing referring to his Father as “my God” since he is supposed to be God himself? That would seem to indicate that Jesus is not really the same God as God the Father. As a result, some folks question the deity of Jesus Christ.
There is no need to question the deity of Jesus Christ; there is only the need to better understand this mystery. John referred to this problem as “the mystery of God,” [Rev 10:7]. It is similar to other mysteries in the Bible which can only be understood by revelation of the Spirit of God [1 Cor 2:10-16] and believed by faith. For instance, we know that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God in heaven, yet Col 1:27 says that he is “in you, the hope of glory.” Paul calls this phenomenon a “mystery.” Indeed it is. Nevertheless, the Spirit of God helps us to understand this mystery when we believe God’s words that Jesus is both in us and seated in heaven simultaneously.
So, why does Jesus call his Father, “my God” when they are one God [1 Jn 5:7]? The reason is that the second person of the Trinity humbled himself as a man [Phil 2:7-9] and subjected himself to God the Father [1 Cor 15:27-28] in order to atone for our sins and destroy death [Rev 20:14]. God couldn’t die, but the man Christ Jesus [1 Tim 2:5] could and did. If the Word had not become flesh and dwelt among us [Jn 1:14], then God Almighty would never have been greater than the Word. However, because the Word manifested himself in flesh by being born as the Son of God, he willingly submitted to God the Father [1 Cor 11:3].
By doing this, God was able to pour out his wrath on Jesus Christ without separating the Trinity. Jesus became sin for us [2 Cor 5:21] and bore our sins in his own body on the tree [1 Pet 2:24], yet God remained perfectly sinless. Jesus died on the cross and was buried [1 Cor 15:3-4], yet God didn’t die. Jesus went to hell with our sins on him [Acts 2:27, 31] and remained in the lower parts of the earth for three nights and three days [Eph 4:9], yet God did not burn in hell. Jesus was our propitiation for sin [Rom 3:25] to satisfy the judgment of God and he reconciled us to God [2 Cor 5:18-19], yet Jesus did not have to reconcile himself [Heb 7:25-28].
Once we believe that Jesus can be all God [Jn 10:30] while willingly being submitted to God in his capacity as the Son of God [Jn 14:28; Heb 10:7, 9], then we can understand “the mystery of God.” And then we can understand verses that show the hierarchy of authority between God and Jesus without rejecting the deity of Christ. Here are some examples with a brief explanation.
Matt 26:46 – “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” – The Father did not reject his Son, rather God forsook the man Christ Jesus because he had become sin for us and God poured out his wrath for sin on Christ’s body.
Jn 20:17 – “I ascend … to my God” – Jesus was still performing the duty of the high priest and had yet to enter into the heavenly holy place by his own blood to obtain eternal redemption for us [Heb 9:11-12].
Rev 3:12 – “the temple of my God, and … the name of my God, and … the city of my God” – As “my God” there are three things that God has reserved to himself for the time being though Jesus said in Matt 11:27, “all things are delivered unto me of my Father,” [see also Jn 16:15]. So that Jesus could perform the duty of the high priest, the temple is still God’s. When Jesus became the Son, he was given his own name “Jesus” while God retained his name “Jehovah.” Furthermore, God owns New Jerusalem which is “the mother of us all,” Gal 4:26, and will give it to Jesus in Rev 21:2, 9-10.
Heb 1:9 – “God, even thy God, hath anointed thee” – God anointed Jesus to rule on his own throne [Heb 1:8] which is currently seated at the right hand of God [Heb 12:2; Matt 22:41-46].
Eph 1:17, “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” – This is another one of the verses that show the hierarchy of authority between God the Father and God the Son. The context is the resurrection of Jesus Christ [Eph 4:19-20; Acts 2:32] and his subsequent exaltation above all things [Eph 4:21-23; Phil 2:9].
So, Jesus is not a lesser God than God Almighty, as some believe. Rather he is the manifestation of God in the flesh and as such he is willingly submitted to God until God is “all in all,” [1 Cor 15:28].
Hope this helps,
Pastor Bevans Welder