'Father', 'Lord' and 'God':
What is the Difference?
E&MS ca.February 1992
Q. I have some questions concerning the words "Lord", "Father", and "God". I believe these questions are a result of my earlier membership in the Jehovah's Witnesses. I have seen the expression, "...the Lord, His Christ, and His saints..." used (in the revelations). I have always believed that there is only one Lord, which is Jesus Christ. I get confused every time I see the word "Lord" when someone means "Father". As Paul says: "..there is actually to us one God the Father, out of whom all things are, and we for him; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ..." (1 Cor.8:6). Almost every letter from Paul begins with "May you have undeserved kindness and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." All the scriptures in the New Testament confirm this doctrine. So when anyone is praying to the Lord, I am not sure who they mean. But I also know that, for example, Peter means "Father" when he writes "Lord" (1 Pet.3:12). So, if it is possible, I would like to have some feedback on this subject, because I am a little confused.
A. Yet for us there is (only) one God, the Father, Who is the Source of all things, and for Whom we (have life), and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through and by Whom are all things and through and by Whom we (ourselves exist) (1 Corinthians 8:6, Amplified Version).
The term "Lord" is used interchangeably throughout the Bible to refer to both God the Father and to Jesus Christ. The Greek kurios ('Lord') literally translates as "one who wields authority for good" (Strong's Lexical Aids to the New Testament). It is also used of despots who wield unrighteous authority over slaves or of rulers in general (Mark 10:42). The key word in the Greek is therefore authority.
Throughout the Old Testament Yahweh is called "Sovereign Lord", or "He who wields (righteous) authority". In the New Testament this authority is conferred upon Christ by the Father. Notice that the disciples are given authority of Christ to cast out unclean spirits (Luke 9:1) thus making them 'lords' (kurios) over devils.
Each of the apostles wrote in a particular style. Paul speaks of "God our Father" and of the "Lord Jesus Christ". That is his way. John writes in his own distinctive style and uses different combinations of words. Paul, quite naturally, wishes to stress Jesus' divinity, and therefore gives Jesus the title "Lord", as one who has received all authority from the Father.
Because "Lord" is used interchangeably between the Father and the Son it is not always clear who is being referred to. But does it matter? When Christ is addressed as "Lord", so too is the Father, since Christ is the Father's representitive. It was quite common in Old Testament times for the patriarchs to be known as "lord" and their wives even addressed them by this title to acknowledge their presidential authority over them.
As I wrote in my pamphlet, God, Yahweh (Jehovah) is a Name for both the Father and the Son. I remember, when we first talked about this subject in your home, the relief you felt when we declared this doctrine, for you had found reference to both the Father and the Son being called "Yahweh". And so it is. Both are called "Yahweh (Jehovah)" and both are called "Lord". The Father is God and the Son is God. They are One God and therefore One Lord and one Yahweh, even though they are two separate Persons.
If you try to follow the Jehovah's Witnesses' "Ping Pong" method of studying scriptures you will always get into trouble because the Bible isn't like straight algebra where x is always equal to x, at least where it comes to the attribution of divine names. As you know the word "Elohim" is employed in the same way and is used to refer both to God and to human judges (see the pamphlet, Ye Are Gods?). Remember also when Thomas called Jesus "My Lord and My God" (John 20:28) -- note that Jesus did not correct him but accepted his worship and the divine designation Thomas gave him -- it was, after all, the Holy Spirit that gave Thomas this knowledge.
This subject is only confusing if you seek to attribute a divine name to only one personage but if you understand that divine names are used for the whole divine family it becomes simpler. Such a concept is not easy to pass on to a Jehovah's Witness who sees things very much in a monochrome "either...or" mode. It's not that simple. Indeed, we should not expect the Infinite God to be that "simple"!
This is a big subject and I suppose to do it any real justice we would need to sit down and sift through hundreds of scriptures. What I offer, then, is but an "overview".
Jesus was the Father (because of the spirit) and the Son (because of the flesh). And as so many of the revelations explain, we are all "fathers" and "sons" (or "mothers" and "daughters"). The supreme God of All, is both the Father and the Son; similarly Jesus is both the Father and the Son, because of the spirit and the flesh. As the scripture in 1 Corinthians you quoted states, Christ was the creater of all things, including us. The word "father" literally means "creator".
These are deep mysteries and not grasped in an instant. They must be revealed by the Holy Spirit for written scripture cannot. God does not reveal His mystery to anyone but is purposefully hidden. You will remember that when Jesus spoke in parables it was to deliberately confuse the children of the world -- only those who were of the Light would understand them. When it comes to Jehovah's Witnesses or anyone else indulging in scriptural ping-pong, the best you can do is show them that the scriptures are not as plain as they suppose or preach, but that the divine names are applied to both the Father and the Son. If they are willing to accept the plain evidence of their eyes, and are humble, then the Spirit will teach them the mystery. But going into deep doctrine I have found is pointless for they cannot understand, being blinded by their own fleshiness. You could give the most masterful discourse ever, and employ a superior knowledge of Greek and Hebrew to them, but unless they want to know, nothing will budge them. As a Mormon friend recently wrote to me in a letter, saying: "If Jesus Christ came and stood before them (the Mormons) and told them that Mormonism was false, they would say that He was the devil dressed as an angel of Light."
So as far as the JW's are concerned, just make a list of scriptures that show that Christ is Father and Son, Yahweh, etc.. If they won't acknowledge that, then the discussion can't proceed anyway.
Also see The Godhead index of articles and especially the Trinity series.
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