What did Jesus mean that God the Father is greater than He is?

In John 14:28 Jesus says His Father is greater than He. There is definitely a distinction between He, the Father, and the Holy Spirit in personalities, though they are One (but compared to the sense that we, too, will be one as described in John 27:21). Is Jesus equal to the Father or under Him? Could you please help me to understand the oneness of the Trinity and how you explain that to a person that thinks we serve 3 Gods rather than one? I imagine it is maybe something none of us can adequately describe this side of heaven!!!


There’s a couple of different ways you could take that, but the simplest would be that during His incarnation He made Himself temporarily lower than even the angels (Hebrews 2:9). Philippians 2:6-8 describes how He voluntarily humbled Himself by temporarily refraining from exercising all of His divine prerogatives so that He could do life like a mortal - but a Spirit-filled mortal. Otherwise, He could not have been a legitimate example for all the rest of us mortals.

But that He was fully equal to God for all eternity before and after, He later says to the Father in John 17:5, as He prepares to finish His earthly ministry and return to heaven, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.


Hi @Donnahedger, I really like your question. :grinning: It is one I’ve started looking into myself in the last year, having had a couple of discussions with Jehovah’s Witnesses locally to me. It is something that will be raised as a challenge quite often in such discussions. It’s therefore a really important discussion to understand from both viewpoints. It’s also important from a personal point of view in knowing God more.

I want to refer to an in depth article on this issue. Like @jlyons said above, this statement of Jesus in John 14:28 is referring to his relationship with the Father from his human capacity. This article from William Lane Craig looks at the Trinity from different angles. Firstly, he looks at the economic Trinity - referring to the 3 persons and their roles in terms of salvation and the necessary need for one of them to become incarnate which is where Jesus’ statement fits in. He then looks at ontological trinity which are the 3 parts of the 1 God in eternal existence, with no rank or subordination. In his conclusion, he says the following:

On the view I prefer, the persons of the ontological Trinity are equal and underived. In the economic Trinity, by contrast, there is subordination (or, perhaps better, submission) of one person to another, as the incarnate Son does the Father’s will and the Spirit speaks, not on His own account, but on behalf of the Son. The economic Trinity, while eternal, does not reflect ontological differences between the persons but rather is an expression of God’s loving condescension for the sake of our salvation.


That is very helpful! Thanks so much!