The Bible sometimes refers to Jesus as "God". But what does this title mean when applied to Jesus?
Whilst Jesus is God, Jesus is not God the Father. He is the Son of God the Father. Because He is God's Son, He share's God's nature, much like a human son shares the human nature of his parents. As such, Jesus is called "God" in the sense that He is in very nature "God", even though He is a distinct person from Him.
A well-known example of Jesus being called “God” is John 1:1, which reads,
John 1:1 (NKJV)
“In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”
Imagine a glass of water with ice in it. We can say, "the ice is with the water, and the ice is water". In other words, the ice and water are distinct, yet they are the same substance - water. Even so, God and Jesus are are the same "substance", though they are distinct persons. It is in this sense that Jesus is called "God" in the New Testament.
Let us examine this verse in a little more depth. In the clause, “the Word was God”, the original Greek does not have a definite article before the word “God”. In Greek grammar, a definite article is like our English word “the”. It is similar to the gesture of someone pointing at something and saying “this one”. When there is no definite article, it sometimes indicates that the word following is characteristic of the subject of that clause. For example, in 1 John 1:5 we read, “God is light”. The original Greek has no definite article before “light”, which indicates that “light” is characteristic of “God”. In other words, “light” describes the nature of God. Even so, the absence of the definite article before “God” in the last clause of John 1:1 indicates that “God” is characteristic of “the Word”. John is basically saying that the very nature of the Word is “God”. He is saying that the Word is everything that God is. In light of the construction in the original Greek, the best translation of John 1:1 I have come across is found in the New English Bible. It reads,
John 1:1 (NEB)
“When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was”
Jesus’ title of “God” is therefore descriptive of the fact that His nature is one and the same as God’s. Therefore, Paul referred to Christ as being “in very nature God” (Philippians 2:6 NIV) and wrote that in Christ, “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9 ESV).
Unfortunately, some have wrongly conflated the persons of God the Father and Jesus because of a misunderstanding of the phrase "Everlasting Father" as used in Isaiah 9:6:
Isaiah 9:6–7 (NKJV)
6 For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
The title “Everlasting Father” does not mean that Jesus is God the Father. The passage is a prophecy about the coming Messiah who would sit as king upon “the throne of David” (v7). In Mark 11:10, the crowd cried out, “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David” (NKJV). Notice, David was referred to as “our father”. Like King David, Jesus will be a father to His people as He reigns over them as their king. However, unlike David who only reigned for 40 years, Jesus will reign forever. Therefore, He is called “Everlasting Father”. As such, this title is a reference to Jesus’ eternal kingly function as Messiah. It is not a reference to God the Father, who is clearly distinguished from His Son throughout the New Testament. For example,
1 Corinthians 8:6 (NKJV)
“6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.”
John 16:28 (NKJV)
“28 I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.””
Ephesians 1:3 (NKJV)
“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ...”
We can therefore conclude that Jesus' title of "God" does not mean that He is the same person as God the Father. It means that He is in very nature "God" because He is God's Son.
Verses marked NIV are from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Verses marked HCSB are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers. Verses marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Verses marked NLT are from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. Quotations marked NEB are from The New English Bible: The New Testament © ‘The
Delegates of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press 1961, 1970.