A photo showcasing a silhouette of a cross against a vibrant sunset, symbolizing the difference between God, the omnipotent creator, and Jesus, the divine incarnation and savior.

What Is The Difference Between God And Jesus?

The nature of the relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son has fascinated Christian thinkers and everyday believers alike for centuries. At the heart of this intrigue lies one central question: what exactly is the difference between God and Jesus?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son are two distinct persons within the Holy Trinity, with the Father as the eternal, omnipotent Creator and Jesus as the incarnate Son of God. While Jesus is fully divine, he is not the Father.

Their unity amidst this distinction has been the subject of much theological reflection.

In this comprehensive article, we will unpack the nuances in the God-Jesus relationship by exploring key biblical passages, denominational perspectives, and historical debates that have shaped Christian belief about the Trinity for nearly two millennia.

The Biblical Basis for Distinguishing God the Father and Jesus Christ

Old Testament Depictions of God’s Oneness

The Old Testament clearly depicts God as one divine being. Passages like Deuteronomy 6:4 state, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This affirms that there is only one true God. While the Old Testament refers to God appearing in different forms at times, it maintains God’s essential oneness.

Jesus’s Claims to Divinity in the Gospels

In the New Testament Gospels, Jesus makes several bold claims that imply His divinity and distinction from God the Father. For example, in John 10:30 Jesus declares, “I and the Father are one.” John 8:58 records Jesus stating “before Abraham was, I am,” appropriating God’s name revealed in Exodus 3:14.

And in John 14:9 Jesus claims, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

New Testament Affirmations of Christ’s Distinction from the Father

While affirming Jesus’ deity, the New Testament also portrays Jesus as distinct from the Father. At Jesus’ baptism, the Father speaks from heaven affirming Jesus as His beloved Son (Mark 1:11). Jesus prays to the Father, showing they are separate persons (Matthew 26:39).

And John 1:1 states “the Word was with God,” indicating Christ’s pre-existence with the Father. Verses like 1 Corinthians 8:6 distinguish God the Father and Jesus Christ as separate while affirming Christ’s divinity.

Understanding the Trinity: One God in Three Persons

The Nicene Creed and the Orthodox Formulation

The Nicene Creed states that God exists as three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – while remaining one God. This formulation upholds monotheism, the belief in one God, while also recognizing the distinctions between the three persons of the Trinity.

The Father, Son, and Spirit are co-equal and co-eternal, one in essence and nature, yet distinct in personhood. The orthodox view avoids the heresies of modalism, which denies the distinctions within God, and subordinationism, which elevates the Father above the Son and Spirit.

The Nicene Creed emerged at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD in response to the teachings of Arius, who claimed the Son was created by and subordinate to the Father. Against this, the creed asserts the full divinity of the Son, begotten from the Father before time began.

The Holy Spirit is worshipped and glorified together with the Father and Son, proceeding eternally from the Father. This formulation upholds that there is only one God while recognizing real distinctions between the persons of the Trinity.

Modalism: Denying the Distinctions Within the Trinity

In contrast to orthodox Trinitarian doctrine, the heresy of modalism claims that God exists as one person who has manifested in three modes or roles in history. Rather than being three distinct persons, God is one person revealing himself sequentially as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This view fails to account for Jesus’ baptism, where the Son and Spirit are present simultaneously. It also cannot make sense of Jesus’ prayer to the Father in John 17.

Modalism denies the actual distinction between the persons of the Trinity. By collapsing Father, Son and Spirit into one person with three manifestations, it ultimately embraces unitarianism rather than trinitarianism.

Historically, modalism appeared in the teachings of Sabellius in the 3rd century and was condemned as heresy for undermining the personal diversity within the Godhead. The orthodox view affirms that God exists eternally as three distinct yet equal persons in relationship with one another.

Subordinationism: Elevating the Father Above the Son

While modalism denies the Trinity, subordinationism undermines it by elevating the Father above the Son and Spirit. It argues that the Father alone is absolutely supreme, while the Son and Spirit are subordinate in essence, nature and divinity.

This view was famously held by Arius, who maintained that only the Father was eternal and unbegotten, while the Son was begotten by the Father in time. Some church fathers like Origen and Tertullian also made subordinationist statements.

However, subordinationism undercuts Scriptural teaching on the full divinity of the Son and Spirit. Passages like John 1 reveal the Son as the eternal Word existing with the Father before creation. At the Council of Nicaea, the church recognized Christ and the Spirit as homoousios – of the same essence and being as the Father.

While the persons have distinct roles, they are co-equal and co-eternal, affirming the triune nature of God.

The Incarnation: Jesus as Fully God and Fully Human

Jesus Pre-Existing with the Father Before His Earthly Life

The Bible teaches that Jesus eternally existed with God the Father before taking on human flesh over 2,000 years ago. Jesus stated, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:5). Jesus shared the glory of God before his incarnation.

The apostle John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Jesus, as the eternal Word, dwelt forever with the Father in perfect unity and shared the divine nature. Though Jesus took on human limitations, he remained fully divine.

The Kenosis: Jesus Emptying Himself of His Divine Privileges

When Jesus became a man, he voluntarily restricted the full use of some of his divine attributes. Theologians call this the “kenosis” from Philippians 2:7 – Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant.” Though Jesus was omniscient, he chose to limit his knowledge (Mark 13:32).

Though omnipotent, he did miracles through the power of the Spirit rather than his own authority. And though omnipresent, Jesus became confined to a human body after the incarnation. So while Jesus remained fully God, he chose not to fully express these attributes during his earthly life.

Implications for Christ’s Miracles, Death, and Resurrection

Because Jesus retained his divine nature, he displayed supernatural power through healings, exorcisms, and dominion over nature. His miracles provided evidence that he was from God (John 20:30-31). As God in flesh, Jesus’ death had infinite worth for atoning for sin.

And Jesus overcame the grave through his divine power, raising himself from the dead (John 2:19-21). The resurrection validated his claims to deity. His ascension back into heaven was possible because of his intrinsic divine nature and authority.

Prayer and Worship: Directed to the Father Through the Son

Jesus as Mediator and Intercessor

Jesus serves as the one mediator between God and humanity (1 Timothy 2:5). He intercedes for believers, presenting their prayers to God the Father. Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17 beautifully demonstrates His intercessory role.

He prays for the protection and sanctification of His disciples in an intimate conversation with the Father. Hebrews 7:25 also describes Jesus as the eternal high priest who intercedes for those who come to God through Him.

Jesus’ sinless life and sacrificial death provide the basis for Him to stand before the Father on our behalf.

The Significance of Baptism in Jesus’ Name

Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38) identifies the believer with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It also invokes Jesus’ authority and oversight of the baptism. The book of Acts records Christians being baptized in the name of Jesus, underscoring that the Lord adds people to His church (Acts 2:47).

Baptism in Jesus’ name points to Jesus as the focal point of Christian devotion, not just as one entity in the Trinity. It signifies that Jesus is the accessible, relational God who washed away sins on the cross and oversees the believer’s new life in Him.

Trinitarian Doxologies in Christian Worship

Most Christian worship involves praising the triune Godhead – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Singing doxologies like the Gloria Patri (“Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost”) shape worshippers’ theology and understanding of God.

While acknowledging the triune divine reality, Apostolics believe the New Testament model of worship is centered on Christ. Jesus receiving worship as Lord (Philippians 2:9-11) and prayers directed to God in Jesus’ name shape Apostolic praise and prayer.

Emphasis is placed on the Acts 2:38 message and Jesus as the incarnate God who sovereignly guides the church.

Ongoing Theological Debates and Denominational Views

Roman Catholic Perspectives

The Roman Catholic Church has historically emphasized the distinct roles and identities of God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son within the Holy Trinity. According to Catholic theology, God the Father is the eternal, omnipotent creator of all things, while Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God, begotten by the Father before all ages.

Jesus is believed to be fully divine yet also fully human. The Church teaches that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah and the one mediator between God and humanity. His sacrificial death on the cross reconciled humanity with God, overcoming sin and death.

After rising from the dead, Jesus ascended into heaven and now reigns with the Father, continually interceding on behalf of his people.

There have been varying perspectives within Catholicism on the precise relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son. Some have emphasized their unity of being and will, while others have stressed that the Father has ultimate primacy and authority.

Yet the Church has consistently upheld the full divinity of Christ alongside the Father. Ongoing debates include the role of the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son (the filioque clause), and whether Jesus’ humanity limits his omniscience relative to the Father.

Eastern Orthodox Perspectives

In Eastern Orthodoxy, God the Father is the eternal source and fountainhead of the Godhead who sends forth the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is believed to be the eternal and divine Logos or Word of God, eternally begotten of the Father before all time.

At the incarnation, the Son took on human flesh for the sake of human salvation. Christ is fully God and fully human in one indivisible person. The Orthodox Churches affirm the Nicene Creed which declares the Son to be “consubstantial” (of one being) with the Father.

Yet the Father is still considered the eternal source and monarch of the Trinity.

Eastern Orthodoxy emphasizes that while Christ is begotten of the Father, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone and not from the Son (no filioque). There is some diversity of thought on whether the incarnate Christ retained omniscience along with the Father, or whether he voluntarily limited his human knowledge.

But Orthodox theology has upheld the irreducibility of the divine persons and the real distinction between the incomprehensible essence of God and the tri-personal manifestations.

Protestant Perspectives

Among Protestants there is a diverse range of Christological views reflecting denominational differences. Yet core Protestant beliefs include the full divinity of Christ as the eternal Son of God, his sinless life, atoning death for human sin, and bodily resurrection from the dead.

Christ alone is the mediator between God the Father and humanity. Most Protestants affirm the doctrine of the Trinity, while differing on the details of the relationship between the Father and the Son.

For example, some modern theologians have supported a form of subordinationism with the Father having ultimate authority.

In the 16th century Reformation, Martin Luther upheld Christ’s divinity but rejected what he saw as unbiblical church doctrines that obscured the gospel. John Calvin emphasized Christ as the divine image of God the Father.

The Church of England Articles of Religion also affirmed the consubstantiality of the Father and Son. Today, Evangelicals tend to focus on Christ’s sacrificial atonement on the cross and role as Lord and Savior.

Theological debates continue on how best to understand the Trinity in light of Scripture’s teaching about the Father and Son.


In closing, while the exact relationship between the First and Second Persons of the Trinity continues to prompt discussion and debate, the overwhelming testimony of Scripture and broad Tradition affirms both the oneness of God’s divine nature and the real distinction between the Father and the Son.

Appreciating this tension – that Jesus is fully equal with God the Father in deity yet subordinate in role – enriches Christian devotion and draws us more deeply into the holy mystery of the Triune Godhead.

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