In this part (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2019/06/16/revisiting-jesus-subordination-to-the-father-pt-1/), I am going to address the passages often used to show that Jesus is not equal to the Father.
The meaning of headship in Paul’s thought
1 Corinthians 11:3 is often cited to disprove Christ’s essential equality to God (the Father):
“The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”
This no more proves that Jesus is not equal to God in essence than Paul’s statement that man is the head of the woman proves that women are inferior in nature to men.
The absurdity of this assertion is clearly seen from the comments which Paul makes right afterward:
“A man should not wear anything on his head when worshiping, for man is made in God’s image and reflects God’s glory. And woman reflects man’s glory. For the first man didn’t come from woman, but the first woman came from man. And man was not made for woman, but woman was made for man. For this reason, and because the angels are watching, a woman should wear a covering on her head to show she is under authority. But among the Lord’s people, women are not independent of men, and men are not independent of women. For although the first woman came from man,every other man was born from a woman, and everything comes from God.” 1 Corinthians 11:7-12
These statements conclusively prove that Paul didn’t think that men are superior to women in nature. Paul realizes that man’s existence is just as much dependent upon woman as the latter’s existence is dependent upon him since this is how God has designed things. Paul also writes elsewhere that in Christ there is no distinction between male and female when it comes to the issue of salvation and glory:
“For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” Galatians 3:26-29
Paul is simply echoing the teachings of Genesis which says that both male and female bear God’s image and have been given dominion over the entire physical creation:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let THEM have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, In the image of God he created him; male and female he created THEM. And God blessed THEM. And God said to THEM, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ And God said, ‘Behold, I have given YOU [plural in Hebrew addressing both the male and the female] every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. YOU shall have them for food.’” Genesis 1:26-29 ESV
“This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed THEM and named THEM Man when they were created.” Genesis 5:1-2 ESV
Paul’s point regarding a woman being from man is also a direct allusion to the following Genesis story:
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.’ So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still there was no helper just right for him. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man. ‘At last!’ the man exclaimed. ‘This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called “woman,” because she was taken from “man.”’ This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one (lit., the two become one flesh).” Genesis 2:18-24
This account explains why the female is called woman, i.e. since a woman came out of the man she fully shares in the same nature and therefore has equal value and dignity.
In fact, the inspired Apostle even quotes Genesis 2:24 to make the case that husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies:
“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body. As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:25-33
In light of the foregoing, it is obvious that Paul didn’t mean that man was the head in the sense of being superior to a woman in essence and dignity. Paul’s point was that man had authority over a woman without this making him better in nature.
However, Paul does say that Christ is the head of man, which may be taken as supporting Zaatari’s argument that Jesus is not equal to God in nature. After all, we know that Christ is not just greater than man in authority and status, but he is also superior in nature by virtue of being more than a man. The inspired Apostle taught that Christ is fully God in essence just as we are about to see.
Putting Paul’s Christology in Perspective
In order to determine what Paul meant when he wrote that God (namely, the Father) is the head of Christ we must first examine his teaching concerning the Lord Jesus. If Paul taught that Christ is a created being then this would affirm that the inspired Apostle believed that the Father was Christ’s head by virtue of being vastly superior both in terms of position and nature. However, if Paul actually believed that Christ is fully God in nature then this means that the Son is equal to the Father in essence and therefore the Father’s headship over Christ can only be in terms of authority, e.g. God has greater authority by virtue of being the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christ – the Eschatological Judge and Omniscient Lord
Paul taught that Christ is coming to judge every person and expose everyone’s hidden motives:
“Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns.” 1 Corinthians 1:7-8
“My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide. So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.” 1 Corinthians 4:4-5
“For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body. Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others.” 2 Corinthians 5:10-11
According to the Hebrew Scriptures, it is Yahweh who alone knows the secret intentions of man and who will judge a person for what s/he has done:
“then hear from heaven where you live, and forgive. Give your people what their actions deserve, for you alone know each human heart.” 1 Kings 8:39
“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.” 1 Chronicles 28:9
“But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” Jeremiah 17:10
The only way that Paul could ascribe these exclusive Divine functions and qualities to the Lord Jesus is if he believed that Christ is Yahweh God (yet not the Father or the Holy Spirit).
Christ – The Preexistent Divine Lord of the OT
The Apostle also believed that Jesus saved Moses and the Israelites out of Egypt and provided for them in the wilderness:
“I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. All of them ate the same spiritual food, and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, ‘The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.’ And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day. Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snakebites. And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death (Destroyer).” 1 Corinthians 10:1-10
According to the OT, the Rock that delivered Israel and the Lord whom the people put to the test in the desert was Yahweh (cf. Numbers 21:4-9; Deuteronomy 32:3-4, 12-15, 18, 29-31). This again confirms that the blessed Apostle taught that Jesus is God and not a mere creature!
Christ – The Agent and Sustainer of Creation
According to Paul Jesus is the one Lord through whom all things were created and through whom we live:
“But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whomGod made everything and through whom we have been given life.” 1 Corinthians 8:6
Paul writes something similar in another letter:
“For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear (beloved) Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see — such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.” Colossians 1:13-18
Paul’s statements imply that Christ is omnipotent since he must have the power to create and keep the entire creation under his total control. This is the very same power that also enables the risen Lord to transform our mortal, corruptible bodies to be like his glorious body when he returns from heaven:
“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.” Philippians 3:20-21
The inspired Apostle’s comments also bring out the fact that Christ is uncreated or eternal since he plainly says that the Son existed before all creation!
Can there be any doubt that Paul believed that Jesus is fully God in nature seeing that only God is eternal and omnipotent? This leads us to the next section (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2019/06/16/revisiting-jesus-subordination-to-the-father-pt-3/).