Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Jesus Christ – The Sovereign Lord Who is Above All

The inspired Scriptures proclaim that Yahweh is exalted above all the nations as their King since he is the sovereign Lord of the whole earth:

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.” 1 Chronicles 29:11

“For the Lord Most High is to be feared, A great King over all the earthGod has ascended with a shout, The Lord, with the sound of a trumpet… For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with a skillful psalm. God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne. The princes of the people have assembled themselves as the people of the God of Abraham, For the shields of the earth belong to God; He is highly exalted.” Psalm 47:2, 5, 7-9 

In fact, the Holy Bible says that he alone is the Most High over the entire world: 

“That they may know that You alone, whose name is the Lord, Are the Most High over all the earth.” Psalm 83:18 

The Hebrew Bible further speaks of Yahweh exalting himself among the nations so that they will finally realize that he alone is God,

 “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 

Yahweh is further depicted as being above all the gods or spirit beings whom the nations look to and worship:

“For You are the Lord Most High over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods.” Psalm 97:9 

“For the Lord is a great God And a great King above all gods,” Psalm 95:3

“For I know that the Lord is great And that our Lord is above all gods.” Psalm 135:5 

This means that the entire creation is under God’s sovereign control and that there is no authority that can rival or match Yahweh’s power and domination. 

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 

At the same time, however, the inspired Christian Greek Scriptures testify that the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s beloved and unique Son, is one with the Father in power and essence:

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; AND I GIVE ETERNAL LIFE TO THEM, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them OUT OF MY HAND. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them OUT OF THE FATHER’S HAND. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-30 

Here Jesus claims to have an ability which the Hebrew Scriptures insist only Yahweh possesses, namely, the power to give life and prevent anyone from delivering out of his almighty control:

“See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39 

“There is no one holy like the Lord, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God… The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.” 1 Samuel 2:2, 6

It is in this context that Christ says that he and the Father are one, in stark contrast to all those whom the Father is greater than, which happens to be everyone else besides Christ. 

Therefore, since Christ is essentially one with the Father we would expect to find the inspired Scriptures presenting him as the sovereign head of all creation. We would assume that this essential unity which exists between them means that the Son also shares in his Father’s sovereign rule over the entire creation, and therefore expect to find statements which say that everything is subject to Christ’s power and authority. 

Lo and behold, this is precisely what we find! 

For instance, John the Baptist testifies that Christ is above all since he is from above, i.e. the Son came forth from the Father himself who is exalted above everything:

“He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.” John 3:31

Moreover, since Christ is from above, meaning that he is from heaven itself since he comes forth from the Father’s own presence: 

“Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.’ Then they said to Him, ‘Lord, always give us this bread.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.’ … Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, “I have come down out of heaven”?’… ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh. John 6:32-38, 41-42, 47-51

“And He was saying to them, ‘You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.’” John 8:23-24 

“Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.’” John 8:40 

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God,” John 13:3 

“‘These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father. In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father. I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.’ His disciples said, ‘Lo, now You are speaking plainly and are not using a figure of speech. Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe?’” John 16:25-31

“Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.” John 17:7-8 

He is therefore more than qualified to speak on heavenly and spiritual issues, just as the following text affirms: 

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, WE speak of what WE know and testify of what WE have seen, and you do not accept OUR testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.’” John 3:11-13

It is evident from the context that the plural pronouns are intended to signify the fact that Christ speaks on behalf of the other divine Persons of the Godhead, i.e. he represents the Triune Godhead who alone are able to speak perfectly and comprehensively from firsthand experience concerning heavenly matters. This, in fact, is the reason why Christ and the Holy Spirit were sent from the Father, namely, for the specific purpose of making known God’s unfathomable wisdom to mankind. The inspired Scriptures emphatically testify that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have perfect comprehension and infinite understanding, and are therefore the only Ones capable of revealing the unsearchable riches and knowledge of God to others: 

“At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, ‘I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.’” Luke 10:21-22 – cf. Matthew 11:27

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets: And they will all be taught by God. Everyone who has listened to and learned from the Father comes to Me— not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God. He has seen the Father.” John 6:44-46

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” John 14:26 

“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me,” John 15:26 

“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” John 16:12-13

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27 

“But as it is written:  What eye did not see and ear did not hear, and what never entered the human mind—God prepared this for those who love Him. Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-12

Hence, since Jesus is from above (as is the Holy Spirit) he is not only sovereign over every creature, but also infinitely qualified (much like the Holy Spirit is) to reveal God to men. 

And since being above everyone means that the risen Lord is exalted over all of creation, Christ is therefore sovereign over the entire angelic host:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about 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 every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection 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 1:18-23 

Moreover, Christ expects and demands that all those in subjection of him recognize his sovereign rule by turning to him in faith and obedience: 

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-20

Notice how Jesus sends his followers to go around making disciples who will obey all of his commands, ordering them to show their willing submission to his rule over their lives by receiving baptism in the name of the Triune Godhead. Jesus then reassures the Apostles that they will be successful in carrying out his commission since he will personally be with all of them wherever they go. These statements show that Jesus claimed to be the unique divine Son of God who possessed all of God’s essential omni-attributes, specifically omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence. 

This brings us to our next point. If we are correct that the reason Jesus happens to be above all is because he is absolute Deity, and therefore essentially coequal to the Father, then we would expect to find statements which affirm that Christ is truly God by nature and/or fully possesses the divine essence.

Lo and behold, this is exactly what we find stated in the inspired Christian Greek Scriptures! 

For instance, Jesus is said to be the eternal Word who always existed as God, and the One whom the Father employed to bring the entire creation into existence:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men… There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-4, 9-10-11, 14 

Christ is also Thomas’ Lord and God:

Thomas answered AND SAID TO HIM, ‘My Lord and my God! Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.’” John 20:28-29

As well as the God who is over all and forever praised! 

“whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” Romans 9:5

Jesus is further identified as the One in whom all the fullness of the divine essence dwells physically: 

For in Him all the fullness of Deity (theotetos – that which makes God what he is) dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority… Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Colossians 2:9-10, 3:1 

He is even said to have existed in the very form of God who then voluntarily chose to be born as a human being:

“Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11

The late NT scholar William Barclay helps bring out the implications of Paul’s statement, both in this passage and in Colossians 2:9:

(a) It is not doubtful that Paul thought of Jesus Christ in terms of God. He says of Jesus that he was in the form of God. (Phil. 2:6). He then goes on to say that Jesus was found in human form (Phil. 2:8, RSV), where the AV renders that he was found in fashion as a man. The RSV somewhat misleadingly translates two Greek words by the English word form, whereas the AV correctly distinguishes between them. In the first instance the word is morphe, which means the unchanging and unchangeable essential nature of a thing; the second word is schema, which means the changing and altering external form of a person or a thing. For instance, a man has always the unchanging morphe of manhood; that is what he essentially is; but he will have different schemata, different outward forms, in babyhood, childhood, youth, maturity and old age. A tulip, a rose, a chrysanthemum, a marigold, a daffodil, a delphinium all have the same morphe, the same essential nature, for they are all flowers; but they have very different outward schemata, outward forms. Paul says that Jesus was in the morphe of God; that is to say, the essential nature of Jesus is the same as the essential nature of God; but he says that Jesus was found in the schema of a man; that is to say, he temporarily took the form of manhood upon him. The NEB renders the Greek well here. In translating the word morphe it renders the passage: ‘The divine nature was his from the first.’ In translating the word schema it says that he was ‘revealed in human shape.’ This passage leaves us in no doubt that Paul believed that the nature of Jesus is the nature of God

The second passage is in Colossians 2:9 where Paul says of Jesus: ‘In him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily’ (RSV). The NEB renders: ‘It is in Christ that the complete being of the Godhead dwells embodied.’ Here again there is the affirmation of faith that Jesus is not explicable on any human terms.

On these general grounds we may say WITH CERTAINTY that Paul believed in the deity of Jesus Christ. (Barclay, Jesus As They Saw Him [Eerdmans Publishing Company; Grand Rapids MI, rpt. 1998], pp. 27-28; bold and capital emphasis ours) 

Hence, the reason why Jesus is sovereign over every created thing is because he is the God who created all things for his own glory and pleasure!

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and FOR Him. He IS before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” Colossians 1:15-18

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and THE EXACT REPRESENTATION OF HIS NATURE, and upholds all things BY THE WORD OF HIS POWER. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” Hebrews 1:1-3

Yet that’s not all.

The Christian Scriptures even go as far as to identify Jesus as Yahweh Incarnate!

that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Romans 10:9-13

The Apostle Paul cites Isaiah 28:16 and Joel 2:32, OT texts which speak of believing in and calling upon Yahweh, and applies them to Christ in order to emphasize the fact that salvation comes by confessing that Jesus Christ is the Lord whom God raised from the dead!

Hence, the reason why Jesus is the Lord of all,

“The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)—” Acts 10:36

“For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” Romans 14:9

Is because he happens to be Yahweh in the flesh (even though he is not the Father or the Holy Spirit)!

It should, therefore, not surprise us that the NT writers would affirm that Christ is sovereign over all creation when we recall what the Hebrew Bible says concerning Yahweh. The OT prophets proclaimed that Yahweh is the Most High who is exalted above the heavens and the earth. And since the NT writers identify Jesus as Yahweh God who became flesh, it is only to be expected that they would teach that Christ is exalted above all creation. Notice how this works out logically:

  1. The OT writings plainly teach that Yahweh God is exalted over every created thing.
  2. The inspired Christian scriptures identify Jesus Christ as Yahweh God who became a flesh and blood human being.
  3. Jesus is, therefore, exalted over every created thing, which is precisely what the NT proclaims.

Amen! Come Lord Jesus, come! We your people testify that you are highly exalted above every creature since you are the sovereign Lord of all creation! Amen.