The Exalted Lord of Glory

Jesus as the Most High God

Sam Shamoun

Yahweh Alone is Exalted

The Hebrew Bible says that Yahweh is highly exalted above and over everything that exists:

"Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as HEAD above all." 1 Chronicles 29:11

Head here means that Yahweh has preeminence, holding supreme authority and rank over all, with the implication being that Yahweh is the King of creation, the Sovereign Lord of all:

"The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth … All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you gods! … For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods." Psalm 97:5, 7, 9

"For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods." Psalm 135:5

"For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand." Psalm 95:3-7

In the above Psalm Yahweh’s exaltedness is directly related to his being the Maker and Sustainer of creation. The Psalmist is stating that Yahweh is preeminent over everything because he made the entire creation and therefore has complete control of it, a point reiterated in the following texts:

"And he blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth…’ But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth,’" Genesis 14:19, 22

The inspired Scriptures further teach that Yahweh alone is exalted and that he will bring down, or humble, every high and proud one:

"that they may know that you ALONE, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth." Psalm 83:18

"The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the LORD ALONE will be exalted in that day. For the LORD of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low; against all the cedars of Lebanon, lofty and lifted up; and against all the oaks of Bashan; against all the lofty mountains, and against all the uplifted hills; against every high tower, and against every fortified wall; against all the ships of Tarshish, and against all the beautiful craft. And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the LORD ALONE will be exalted in that day." Isaiah 2:11-17

Jesus Christ: God’s Highly Exalted Son

Amazingly, the NT teaches that Jesus is the Head of everything and that he is highly exalted above all creation:

"that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all." Ephesians 1:20-23

"For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the HEAD of ALL rule and authority." Colossians 2:9-10

"Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him." 1 Peter 3:21-22

The NT further teaches that Jesus, much like Yahweh, is Lord and King of/over all things:

"As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all)… And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead." Acts 10:36, 42

"For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living." Romans 14:8-9

"Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:9-11

"And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." Revelation 1:5-6

"They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, FOR he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful." Revelation 17:14; cf. 19:16

As if this isn’t amazing enough, the NT writers link Jesus’ preeminence and exaltation with his being the Maker, Sustainer and Savior of the entire created realm!

"He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For BY HIM all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created THROUGH HIM and FOR HIM. And he IS before all things, and IN HIM all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that IN EVERYTHING he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." Colossians 1:13-20

"Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high," Hebrews 1:1-3

The foregoing makes it clear that the NT writers obviously saw no problem ascribing to Jesus a status and position which the Hebrew Scriptures say belong to Yahweh alone. In fact, the unhesitant ease with which they did so indicates that Jesus, to them, was Yahweh God (or at least identical in nature if one takes the position that Yahweh is a proper name denoting the Father).

The following syllogism helps bring out the reasoning behind our argument:

  1. Yahweh alone is highly exalted over creation.
  2. Jesus is highly exalted over creation.
  3. Therefore, Jesus is Yahweh.

The only way for a person – specifically a Unitarian who denies the Deity of Jesus – to successfully challenge the conclusion of this syllogism is to contest one or both of the premises. Yet, as we have already seen, the Old Testament unambiguously establishes the first premise and the NT expressly teaches the second. Since both premises are biblically sound the conclusion is therefore valid and the logic irrefutable.

Noted Evangelical scholar Murray J. Harris states it best:

"… that the New Testament writers credit Jesus with a status that the Old Testament reserves for God and describe him as exercising functions that lie exclusively within the divine domain. This correlation between the status and roles of Jesus and the status and roles of God is further confirmed by certain Old Testament passages that in their original setting refer exclusively to Yahweh but that are applied to Jesus in the New Testament with what H. R. Mackintosh calls ‘unembarrassed simplicity.’ …

"If, then, several Old Testament passages referring to Yahweh are directly applied to Jesus by New Testament writers, what are we to deduce about the relation of Jesus to Yahweh? Christians have given two answers to this question. Some make a straight personal equation, ‘Jesus is Yahweh.’ This assumes that Yahweh is a personal name that may be appropriately applied to both God the Father and Jesus. ‘The name … above every name’ that God gave to Jesus at the resurrection (Phil. 2:9-11) was the name Kyrios ("Lord"), which in the Greek Old Testament represents the personal name of the God of Israel, Yahweh. Others argue that although Jesus shares the status and roles of Yahweh, he remains personally distinct from Yahweh. This assumes that Yahweh is a personal name that refers to the Father alone, so that the New Testament distinction between Father and Son corresponds exactly to the distinction between Yahweh and Jesus. On either view, Jesus’ parity of status and function with Yahweh points to their identity of nature. It is precisely this identity of nature that is highlighted by the New Testament passages where Jesus is actually given the divine title God…" (Murray J. Harris, 3 Crucial Questions about Jesus [Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI 1994], Chapter 3: Is Jesus God?, pp. 87-88, 91-92; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Harris then goes on to discuss the following NT texts which apply the title God to Jesus: John 1:1, 18, 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1.

An Objection Considered

A specific objection which an anti-Trinitarian (or someone who denies the Divinity of Christ) may raise is that some of the passages we quoted expressly say that Jesus was given this rank or status. In certain texts, God is said to have exalted Jesus above all creation, thereby implying that Jesus didn’t have this status and that there is someone greater than him. These two factors indicate that Jesus is not God, or at least not equal to God the Father.

The first problem with this objection is that, regardless of the fact that God gave Christ this exalted position, the point still stands that Jesus has the very status and rank of Yahweh. This means that either Jesus is God or the NT writers committed idolatry and blasphemed God for ascribing to a creature an honor and position which belongs only to Yahweh.

The other problem with this claim is that it fails to take into consideration that Jesus’ exaltation followed his state of humbleness, the time in which he had made himself of no reputation by taking the position and status of a slave. The Christian Greek Scriptures teach that, by becoming a man and coming to the earth, Jesus left his position of glory in order to die as a ransom for sinners:

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though being in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Philippians 2:5-8

"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45

"A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.’" Luke 22:24-27; cf. John 13:1-17

This explains why the NT authors refer to Jesus being exalted to the highest rank since while he was on earth he had willfully and deliberately set aside his authority and heavenly glory in order to die in the place of his people. God then honored his Son for this voluntary act of humility by raising him to the place and rank he enjoyed before Christ became a man.

Moreover, this also shows that in one sense the Father was greater than the Son since the latter had set aside his Divine Glory to come to the earth whereas the Father retained his Divine majesty and splendor:

"You heard that I said to you, 'I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I." John 14:28

Note, here, Jesus’ statement that the disciples should rejoice over the fact that he is returning to the Father since the latter is greater than him. Now the reader may not see the connection between the Father being greater with the Son returning to him. The connection becomes clear when we read Jesus’ prayer that is recorded in the seventeenth chapter:

"Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was… Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world." John 17:5, 24

The reason why Christ’s followers should rejoice that the Lord returns is because at his ascension to heaven Jesus will regain the Divine majesty and splendor which he had relinquished when he became a man. This explains what Jesus meant by the Father being greater, e.g. during the time that he was on earth in the form of a slave the Father was greater than the Son in rank and honor, not in essence or nature.

As it stands, there is no valid biblical objection against the plain and unambiguous proclamation of the inspired NT authors that Jesus Christ is the Most High God, the highly exalted Son who is superior to and preeminent over all creation.

Further Reading

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