Jesus Christ, the God-Man
A gentleman is puzzled about how Jesus could refer to the Father as “my God,” if he himself possessed the nature of God. He wonders if this does not somehow contradict the concept of the deity of Christ? He cites John Calvin to the effect that, while on earth, Christ’s use of the “my God” expression was a reflection of hishumannature (see: Matthew 27:46). But this view, he suggests, is nullified by the fact that Jesus continues to refer to the Father as “my God” — even after his ascension back into heaven (Revelation 3:2).
Is there a solution to this problem?
This is a perfectly legitimate question; but it is complex, and needs to be analyzed incrementally.
The Nature of Christ
If the New Testament clearly affirms the divine nature of Jesus Christ, and yet the Lord referred to the Father as “my God,” then obviously there is no compromise of the Savior’s nature by his use of this expression.
The biblical affirmations of the divine nature of Jesus Christ are beyond dispute to any student of the scriptures who has a threshold level of interpretative ability. The following facts are evident.
First, the Old Testament unequivocally foretold the coming of the incarnate God (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; 40:3; 44:6; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 13:7).
Second, Christ claimed to be deity in nature (John 5:17-18;10:30), and others acknowledged him as such, even worshipping him — both angels (Hebrews 1:6), and men (Matthew 2:2; 14:33; John 20:28).
There must, therefore, be a way of harmonizing these facts with the Savior’s use of the expression “my God.”
Addresses such as “my God” and “my Father” (Matthew 27:46; Luke 2:49; John 5:17-18; 10:37-38; 20:17), when employed by Christ, certainly have a connection with the incarnation, i.e., the Second Person of the Godhead becoming human (cf. Philippians 2:5-11).
The use of singular pronouns, however, e.g., “my, mine” (rather than the plurals, “our, ours”), reflects a distancing of himself from ordinary people in terms of a co-equal relationship with the Father. This suggests a unique circumstance on the part of Christ. It hints of a nature not shared with others; it underscores his deity.
Human Identification Retained
What many do not realize is the fact that Jesus Christ, even after his ascension back into heaven, retained anature-identification with his people. This is a most profound truth, and yet one that is scarcely perceived by many Christians. Let us analyze the evidence.
After his conversion, Saul of Tarsus began preaching the gospel of Christ in the city of Damascus. In his presentations he “kept on proclaiming” (so the force of the verb in Acts 9:20) of Jesus that “he is [present tense verb] the Son of God.” Christ had ascended back to the Father years earlier, yet he retained his incarnate title, Son of God. This is very significant.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, there is the grand promise to be realized at the time of Christ’s return. The Lord will “fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory” (3:21). This text not only gloriously previews the future of the Christian’s immortal body at the time of the general resurrection, it also affirms the fact of Jesus’ present status, which includes “the body of his glory,” or, to say the same thing, “his glorified body.”
The Lord had been back in heaven for decades, yet he retains a glorious “body” that identifies him as human, in addition to divine. As one scholar expressed the matter, his “glorious body” is “His sacred human body, as he resumed it in Resurrection, and carried it up in Ascension, and is manifested in it to the Blessed” (Moule, 106-107).
In his epistle to the Colossians, Paul declared, “in him [Christ] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (2:9). Several points are profound. The verb “dwells” (katoikei) is a present tense form, which suggests a “fixed” or “permanent” abode, in contrast to that which is transitory (Lightfoot, 157, 179). It depicts a condition at the time the apostle is writing, some thirty years after the ascension of the Lord back to the Father.
The expression “fullness of the Godhead” refers to the full complement of qualities that constitutes the nature of deity. Finally, “bodily” has to do with “the once mortal, now glorified, body of Christ” (Ellicott, 164). As Harrison observed, the text “certainly teaches that the incarnation continues to be a fact” (58).
One of the redemptive roles that Jesus occupies is that of mediator, i.e., a “go-between” between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5). Paul, in discussing this matter, contends that one aspect of this circumstance is the fact that the mediator is “man.” Now the fact is, the mediatorial role of Christ is one that is operative for the entire scope of the Christian age (cf. Hebrews 9:15, with emphasis upon the present tense verb, “is”). Even though Jesus was in heaven at this time, the “man” aspect of his nature prevailed still.
There are several reflections in Hebrews, chapter two, that relate to this theme. The inspired writer states: “But we behold him who has been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus” (v. 9). Of special significance is the verb elattomenon, a perfect passive form rendered “has been made lower.” “The perfect [tense] emphasizes the completed state of condition and indicates that the human nature which Christ assumed He still retains” (Rienecker, 2.322, appealing to Westcott).
In verse 11, the writer continues. “For both he that sanctifies and they that are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Psalm 22 is then quoted as a prophetical confirmation of the relationship between Christ and his people.
The Savior shares the human nature with them. Of special interest is the verbal ouk epaischunetai [is not ashamed], a present tense form, indicating a sustained state. Though already in heaven, the Son of God continues to share the “brother” nature with us.
This concept of the abiding human nature of Jesus (with no forfeiture of deity, of course) is as beautiful as it is intriguing. For further study see our article, A Breathtaking View Of The Love Of Christ.
There certainly is no conflict in the ascended Lord’s recognition of the Father as “my God,” as he continues to acknowledge the status of his subordinated role, and yet also the full measure of deity that always has been his nature.
- Ellicott, C.J. (n.d.), Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistles to the Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (Minneapolis: James Family).
- Harrison, Everett F. (1971), Colossians, Christ All-Sufficient (Chicago: Moody).
- Lightfoot, J.B. (1892), The Epistles of Paul to the Colossians and to Philemon (London: Macmillan & Co.).
- Moule, H.C.G. (1977 ed.), Studies in Philippians (Grand Rapids: Kregel).
- Rienecker, Fritz (1980), A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan).