John 14:28

"for My Father is greater than I"

If Jesus is "equal with God" (John 5:18; John 10:30) then how can the Father be greater than the Lord Jesus (John 14:28)?
 

As a member of the Godhead, the Son of God shares all the attributes of deity.  [See our study on  The Tri-Unity of God.]

For example, the Lord Jesus is all powerful (Revelation 1:8 with 22:12-13).  It would be wrong to say that God the Father is more powerful than God the Son.  God has all power and He is almighty, and Jesus Christ is God.  Jesus Christ is all knowing (John 6:64; 16:30; Col. 2:3).  It would be wrong to say that God the Father has more knowledge than God the Son.  God is omniscient and Jesus Christ is God.  Names can be applied to Jesus Christ which are only applied to God.  For example, the name Jehovah (a name which refers solely to deity) is often applied to Jesus Christ.  See our article May the Name Jehovah be Correctly Applied to the Lord Jesus? It would be wrong to say that the name Jehovah applies to God the Father, but that it is never used in reference to Jesus Christ.

So in what sense is God the Father greater than the Lord Jesus?   Jehovah's Witnesses explain it this way:   The Father is greater than Jesus because the Father is the Creator and Jesus is just a mere creature, and certainly the Creator is greater than a mere creature.  Or they might say it this way:  The Father is God but Jesus Christ is not God.  He is an exalted angel created by God, but He is not God.  Certainly God is greater than any created angel, no matter how exalted that angel might be.

There are two major problems with the Jehovah's Witness position.  Problem #1--Jesus Christ is not a creature, He is the Creator!   John 1:3 makes it very clear that everything that was made was made by (through) Jesus Christ.  This makes it impossible for Jesus to be a creature unless He made Himself (an absurdity which even the Jehovah's Witnesses would not agree with).  The only other option is that He is the uncreated Creator (see also Col. 1:16).  Problem #2--Jesus Christ is not a created angel, but He is God.  See our full study on the The Deity of Christ.   So the Jehovah's Witness position must be rejected because it is glaringly unbiblical and heretical and contrary to the historic Christian faith.

In what sense, then, is the Father greater than the Lord Jesus?   Actually this verse is an indirect proof for the deity of Christ. It would be absurd for a mere man to say, "God the Father is greater than I am."   If Jesus were not Himself God, how could He compare Himself with the Father? It would be both blasphemous and ridiculous for a mere finite creature to go about trying to convince others that the Father was greater than he was! The Creator/creature distinction is infinite and cannot be compared at all. Jesus is speaking of functional distinctions between the Persons of the Triune Godhead (Christ voluntarily took upon Himself human form and certain limitations). This text is actually an indirect proof text for the deity of Christ.

When the Lord Jesus humbled Himself, He laid aside His glory and the splendor that was rightly His, and He became a Man, assuming a subordinate role.  "The assertion that the Father is greater than Jesus refers to Jesus in His Messianic office, not to the essential nature of the Godhead" (Homer Kent, Light in the Darkness, p. 176 footnote). The comparison refers to our Lord's position, not His Person.  I am not aware of anyone who has explained this verse better than A. W. Pink, in the following paragraphs:

"My Father is greater than I."  This is the favorite verse with Unitarians, who deny the absolute Deity of Christ and His perfect equality with the Father a truth which is clearly taught in many scriptures. Those who use these words of our Lord in support of their blasphemous heresy, wrest them from their context, ignoring altogether the connection in which they are found. The Saviour had just told the apostles that they ought to rejoice because He was going to the Father, and then advances this reason, "For my Father is greater than I." Let this be kept definitely before us and all difficulty vanishes. The Father's being greater than Christ was the reason assigned why the disciples should rejoice at their Master's going to the Father. This at once fixes the meaning of the disputed "greater," and shows us the sense in which it was here used. The contrast which the Saviour drew between the Father and Himself was not concerning nature, but official character and position.

Christ was not speaking of Himself in His essential Being. The One who thought it not robbery to be "equal with God" had taken the servant form, and not only so, had been made in the likeness of men. In both these senses, namely, in His official status (as Mediator) and in His assumption of human nature, He was inferior to the Father. Throughout this discourse and in the Prayer which follows in chapter 17, the Lord Jesus is represented as the Father's Servant, from whom He had received a commission, and to whom He was to render an account; for whose glory He acted, and under whose authority He spake. But there is another sense, more pertinent, in which the Son was inferior to the Father. In becoming incarnate and tabernacling among men, He had greatly humiliated Himself, by choosing to descend into shame and suffering in their acutest forms. He was now the Son of man that had not where to lay His head. He who was rich had for our sakes become poor. He was the Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. In view of this, Christ was now contrasting His situation with that of the Father in the heavenly Sanctuary. The Father was seated upon the throne of highest majesty; the brightness of His glory was uneclipsed; He was surrounded by hosts of holy beings, who worshipped Him with uninterrupted praise. Far different was it with His incarnate Son despised and rejected of men, surrounded by implacable enemies, soon to be nailed to a criminal's cross. In this sense, too, He was inferior to the Father. Now in going to the Father, the Son would enjoy a vast improvement of situation. It would be a gain unspeakable. The contrast then was between His present state of humiliation and His coming state of exaltation to the Father! Therefore, those who really loved Him should have rejoiced at the tidings that He would go to the Father, because the Father was greater than He greater both in official status and in surrounding circumstances. It was Christ owning His place as Servant, and magnifying the One who had sent Him.

Arthur Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, pages 388-389 (in the one volume edition)

 

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