A few days ago a reader named Annie made this comment here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life:
My ancestors aren’t from Israel, so as well as having no God in heaven to pray to, they would have had no Jesus to listen to. As God loves all, what must Jesus’ thoughts be on the fact that most people in his lifetime he would never meet, as Jesus was in a small space in the world, and most would have no link to God, including my European ancestors.
But if Jesus is the Son of God—a part of him but not actually him—then for me the whole idea that God has his one and only Son takes away from the belief that we are all God’s children, and he created all of us. I am a Christian who loves Jesus and God, but am confused.
(I have edited Annie’s comment for readability. You can read her original comment here, and my original response here. The rest of this post is an edited and expanded version of my response to Annie.)
These are all excellent questions! A good question is the beginning of understanding.
To understand God, and how Jesus was and is God, we must expand our mind beyond our usual limited, material human conceptions of things. For you personally to understand these things, you’ll need to stretch your mind to grasp concepts that you may not have thought of before. So if what I’m about to say sounds complicated at first, please bear with me, and at the end I’ll link you to some articles that explain it further, and provide some supporting Bible quotes as well.
Though understanding God is a challenge for us small-minded humans, it is not impossible. And as we gain an understanding of God, we gain an understanding of the meaning and purpose of our life here on earth as well, and everything starts to fall into place for us.
God is not limited by time and space
Consider that unlike our limited human nature, God has no limitations of space or time.
We humans can be in only one place at a time—or perhaps, in our minds, in several places at a time through imagination or communications technology.
However, God is present in all places and at all times simultaneously. This is not because God is stretched out in time and space like a material object. God is divine, not material. And we know from modern physics that time and space are properties of physical matter. So our usual conceptions of time and space simply don’t apply to God. God is present in all time and space from a divine state of being that is above and beyond space and time.
This means that when God came to earth in a particular time and place as Jesus Christ, God did not stop being present in all other times and places. Rather, God had a special presence in that one time and place while continuing to be God in heaven. So God was still running the universe and creating new people all over the earth while being present in Jesus Christ in ancient Palestine.
How was Jesus the Son of God?
Jesus was the Son of God, but not in the same way as our usual earthly conception of human fathers and sons.
According to the Gospels, Jesus had no earthly father, but he did have an earthly mother. The Bible says that Mary conceived through the presence of the Spirit of God. So Jesus was born on earth with God as his Father, but with an ordinary human being, Mary, as his mother. This means that when he was born, he had both an infinite, perfect divine side and a limited, fallible human side.
However, Jesus did not separate from God the way human children separate from their fathers. Rather, since Jesus’ Father was God, God remained in Jesus as his soul and as his higher self within his limited human side that came from Mary.
At birth, Jesus was not fully God
This means that at the time of his birth Jesus was not fully God. Rather, from his birth Jesus had two natures, or two parts of himself:
- He had an infinite and perfect divine nature within him that was God. This was his inward nature, or his spirit and soul.
- He had a finite, fallible nature from his human mother Mary. This was his outward earthly mind and physical nature
During his lifetime on earth, Jesus was sometimes more aware of and connected with his infinite divine nature, and sometimes more aware of and connected with his finite human nature. That’s why in the Gospels we sometimes see him praying to the Father as if to a different being, and other times saying that he and the Father are one.
Jesus went back and forth between these two states of awareness, one higher and one lower, throughout his entire lifetime on earth.
Jesus battled the Devil through his ordinary human nature
Also during his lifetime, Jesus was continually battling against hell, evil, and the Devil (these are really just different words for the same thing), which got access to him through the faulty, sin-prone human nature that he received from his mother Mary.
There is absolutely no basis in the Bible for the Catholic dogma that Mary was born without any inherited evil, or “original sin.” In fact, if she were born by an “immaculate conception” as held in Catholic doctrine, it would destroy God’s whole reason for coming to earth through a human mother. It would make it impossible for Jesus to accomplish his major task on earth of saving humanity from the power of the Devil. The very existence of this unbiblical doctrine shows that the Roman Catholic Church has no real knowledge or understanding of why God was born into our world as Jesus Christ. (Neither does Protestantism, for that matter.)
If Mary had been born without the usual human tendencies toward evil and sin, and therefore without the ability to pass these tendencies on to her firstborn son, Jesus’ birth, life, suffering, death, and resurrection would all have been for nothing.
It was precisely so that God could confront and defeat the Devil on the Devil’s own turf that God was born on this earth of a human woman, complete with all of the tendencies toward evil and sin that every one of us inherits from our human parents.
The Devil cannot face and fight against God’s infinite divine nature directly. If the Devil attempted to do so, the Devil would be instantly destroyed by the infinite power of God. It would be like our trying to fight the sun by flying straight into it. We would be instantly vaporized.
However, through the ordinary, sin-prone nature that Jesus received from his human mother Mary, the Devil was able to approach God and fight against God in Jesus Christ. And God, in Jesus Christ, was able to confront and defeat the Devil, thus saving everyone on earth from the Devil’s mounting power.
It was by working through the ordinary, sin-prone human nature that he received from Mary that Jesus was able to save us from the power of evil without destroying us all in the process. Each of us has a piece of the Devil in us. That evil within us is a part of our natural character and life right from the time of our birth. It can be removed only through a lifelong process of repentance and spiritual rebirth accomplished by God’s power working within us.
If God vaporized the Devil, God would mortally wound us as well. And God wants to save us, not kill us.
God, in Jesus, saved us from the Devil’s power
Unlike us, Jesus never yielded to the human evil that he inherited from his mother. Unlike us, Jesus never sinned. Unlike us, he was always victorious in temptation. Unlike us, through the power of his inner divine nature he was able to fully defeat the Devil, not only for himself, but for all of humanity.
If Jesus had not done this, the Devil would have wreaked his full fury upon us. And unlike God, we are finite and weak. We would have succumbed to the Devil’s power. Every single one of us would have been dragged down to eternal hell.
But throughout his entire lifetime on earth Jesus stood between us and the Devil, taking all of the Devil’s furious attacks and blows so that they would not fall upon us, and fighting many battles for us against the Devil, always winning them through the power of his divine soul within, which the Bible calls “the Father.”
And because Jesus achieved a full victory over the Devil, Jesus is able to give us the power to defeat evil and the Devil within our own souls and in our own lives as well, if we turn to Jesus as Lord and accept that power into our heart, mind, and life.
Jesus is able to do the same for non-Christians also if they accept into their lives the power of God, as they understand God. That’s because whether people of the various religions realize it or not, Jesus truly is God. There is no other God.
During his life on earth Jesus became fully divine
If, as I said earlier, Jesus was not fully God at birth, how did Jesus become fully God?
Through his lifelong process of facing, battling, and always overcoming the Devil that had gained access to him through his finite human heredity, Jesus gradually set aside all of the finite, sin-prone human nature that he had gotten from his mother Mary, and replaced it with an infinite, perfect divine human nature that was God.
This means that by the time Jesus rose from death after his crucifixion, there was no longer anything of Mary left in him. He was now fully God, and also fully and infinitely human. That’s why at the time of his death Jesus did not recognize Mary as his mother, but instead gave her to his disciple John as his mother, and made John Mary’s son.
That is also why we on earth can now have a direct, personal relationship with God through his human presence as Jesus Christ. God is now not only fully divine, but also fully human. When we come to know Jesus Christ, we are coming to know the human presence of God.
In short, unlike during his lifetime on earth, Jesus Christ is now fully God, and fully present everywhere in the world, with every human being.
Jesus saves non-Christians also
It doesn’t matter whether a person is Christian or Hindu or Buddhist or Jewish or Muslim or aboriginal or atheist. Jesus Christ is present with everyone on earth with the power to save them if they are willing to live a good life of love and service to their fellow human beings as Jesus taught us to do.
For Jesus’ own teaching about who, from all the nations, is saved, see Matthew 25:31–46. In this key passage about salvation and eternal life Jesus says nothing at all about believing the right thing. Only about doing good deeds for one’s neighbor—which, he says, is the same as doing good deeds for him.
This also means that all people on earth are God’s children, though not in quite the same way that Jesus was God’s Son.
Jesus was conceived directly from God within Mary’s womb. The rest of us are conceived and born indirectly from God, through a human father and mother. So we are all God’s children, created by God, but unlike Jesus we are created by God through two human parents.
And we especially become God’s children if we believe in God—or at least in the good qualities that come from God, such as truth and justice and love for our fellow human beings—and live the way God teaches us to live.
- For Christians, this means living according to the teachings that Jesus Christ gave us in the Gospels—especially the teaching that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
- For people of other religions, it means living a good life as their religion teaches them to do. And every major religion on earth teaches its people that they must live good lives of love and service to their fellow human beings.
- For atheists, it means living according to some higher principle of life, and seeking some greater good that goes beyond serving only their own interests. That higher principle and greater good is God within them.
Learning to know and love the Lord God Jesus Christ
I hope this begins to open your mind to some satisfying answers to your great questions. I realize that all this may seem complicated and daunting at first. But if you consider it and meditate on it, and continue to learn more, in time it will become a light in your mind and a flame in your heart, guiding you toward everything good.
So that you can continue to learn and grow in understanding, here are some further articles that explain different parts of this in more detail, and expand it into other areas of life as well: