Paul Believed That Jesus is not God
Many people use Paul’s writings as proof that Jesus is God. But this is not fair to Paul, because Paul clearly believed that Jesus is not God.
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote:
“I charge you in the sight of God, and Christ Jesus, and the elect angels, to keep these instructions . . .” (ch. 5, v. 21).
It is clear from this that the title God applies not to Christ Jesus, but to someone else. In the following chapter, he again differentiates between God and Jesus when he says:
“In the sight of God who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus . . .” (ch. 6, v. 13).
Paul then went on to speak of
“the second appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ which God will bring about in his own time” (vv. 14-15).
Again, the title God is deliberately turned away from Jesus.
Incidentally, many people think that when Jesus is called “Lord” in the Bible that means “God”. But in the Bible this title means master or teacher, and it can be used for addressing humans (see 1 Peter ch. 3, v. 6).
What is more important, however, it to notice what Paul says next, for this will demolish any supposition that Paul took Jesus for God. What he says about God in the following passage clearly shows that Jesus is not God. Paul says:
“God the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see” (1 Timothy ch. 6, vv. 15-16).
Paul says that God alone is immortal. Immortal means he does not die. Check any dictionary. Now, anyone who believes that Jesus died cannot believe that Jesus is God. Such a belief would contradict what Paul said here. Furthermore, to say that God died is a blasphemy against God. Who would run the world if God died? Paul believed that God does not die.
Paul also said in that passage that God dwells in unapproachable light — that no one has seen God or can see him. Paul knew that many thousands of people had seen Jesus. Yet Paul can say that no one has seen God because Paul was sure that Jesus is not God.
This is why Paul went about teaching not that Jesus was God, but that he was God’s Messiah (see Acts 9:22; 16:3; 18:5).
When he was in Athens, Paul spoke of God as “the God who made the world and everything in it,” then he identified Jesus as “the man whom God appointed” (Acts 17:24-31).
Clearly, for Paul, Jesus was not God, and he would be shocked to see his writings used for proving the opposite of what he believed.
Paul even testified in court saying:
“I admit that I worship the God of our fathers . . . ” (Acts 24:14).
And Jesus is the Servant of that God, for we read in Acts,
“The God of our fathers has glorified his servant Jesus” (ch. 3, v. 13).
For Paul, the Father alone is God.
Paul said that there is “one God and Father of all” (Ephesians ch. 4, v. 6). Paul said again,
“For us there is but one God, the Father . . . and one Lord, Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:6).
Paul’s letter to the Philippians ch. 2, vv. 6-11 is often quoted as proof that Jesus is God. But the very passage shows that Jesus is not God. This passage has to agree with Isaiah 45:22-24 where God (Yahweh) said that every knee should bow to Yahweh, and every tongue should confess that righteousness and strength are in Yahweh alone. Paul was aware of this passage, for he quoted it in Romans 14:11. Knowing this, Paul declared,
“I kneel before the Father” (Ephesians 3:14).
The letter to the Hebrews ( ch. 1, v. 6) says that the angels of God should worship the Son. But this passage depends on Deuteronomy, ch. 32, v. 43, in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. This phrase cannot be found in the Old Testament used by Christians today, and the Septuagint version is no longer considered valid by Christians. However, even the Septuagint version, does not say worship the Son. It says let the Angels of God worship God (Yahweh).
The Bible insists that Yahweh alone is to be worshipped. In Deuteronomy ch .6, v. 16, we read,
“Worship Yahweh your God and serve him only.”
Jesus, on whom be peace, believed in this, for he also stressed it in Luke ch. 4, v. 8. And Jesus too fell on his face and worshipped God (see Matthew 26:39).
Paul knew that Jesus worshipped God (see Hebrews 5:7), and Paul taught that Jesus will remain forever subservient to God (see 1 Corinthians, ch. 15, v. 28).