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The local context of 1 Cor. 15:28 extends from v20 to v28. With that in mind, what would be the answers for the specific questions connected with each of the following phrases in 1 Cor. 15:28 considering that Jesus is God?

  1. “Now when all things are made subject to Him, ...”: who’s “Him”?
  2. “..., then the Son Himself will also be subject ...”: what does this mean?
  3. “... subject to Him who put all things under Him, ...”: who’s the first “Him”? Who’s the second “Him”?

It would be very important to establish the interconnection among all the three points of discussion to address the full meaning the verse, 1 Cor. 15:28.

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The NLT makes the pronouns explicit:

Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere.

The "him" is God the Father. The answer to this question is found in Phil 2:5-11 -

1. Jesus' voluntary humiliation and subjection Phil 2:5-8 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross.

2. Jesus' elevation Phil 2:9-11 Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name above all names, 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.

Note that "every knee bowing" has not yet occurred but is still to be fulfilled. That will occur when:

  • 1 Cor 15:28 - And when all things have been subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will be made subject to Him who put all things under Him, so that God may be all in all.
  • Rev 11:16-18 - “We give thanks to You, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were enraged, and Your wrath has come. The time has come to judge the dead and to reward Your servants the prophets, as well as the saints and those who fear Your name, both small and great— and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”

This time has not yet arrived but will occur when -

  • 1 Cor 15:23-26 - But each in his own turn: Christ the firstfruits; then at His coming, those who belong to Him. Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

This will occur at Jesus' second appearing. Not even God the Father has overthrown death yet.

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    @NigelJ - thanks - that is part of the expectation tension - the now and not yet idea. That is, we believe by faith that Jesus has the victory but the battle is not yet confirmed. That will be the time when faith becomes sight.
    – Dottard
    Dec 20, 2020 at 21:22
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    @dottard In Phil. 2:5-8, Jesus is in the form of God, but not the God the form represents. In Phil. 2:9-11, Jesus is not the God that exalted him (one cannot be almighty God and exalted higher). The two main verses you use demonstrates that Jesus is not God (just like Jesus is not (him) God in 1 Cor. 15:28. Dec 20, 2020 at 23:55
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    @dottard I pointed out some facts about some verses you used in your argument. I did not place words in your mouth. I have not idea what. you mean by "Jesus elevated to the highest after his humiliation." He was elevated to the right hand of the GOD who occupies the central throne. The right hand of God is not elevation above GOD (if this is what you mean). Dec 21, 2020 at 2:25
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    @BillPorter There is no biblical teaching that being at the right hand of someone gives them the power of the person. You are projecting theology not stated. The power that Jesus had (Mat. 28) was given to him. Someday the son will be subjected to God “who put all things in subjection under him” (1 Cor. 15:28). Who is this God that the Son will be subjected to someday? It is not Jesus. Jesus still has God over him: Peter 1:3, Romans 6:10, 15:6, 2 Corinthians 1:3, 11:31, Hebrews 1:9, 10:7, Revelation 1:6, 3:12. Dec 24, 2020 at 14:52
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    @Dottard There is not biblical teaching that validates your projection that being at the right hand of God makes Jesus equal to God. And how many Gods do you have here? Dec 24, 2020 at 14:54
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1 Corinthians 15:26-28 explicitly have the Father as "God", but that because he [the Father] put all things in subjection to him [Jesus], it shows that Jesus became equal with "God" his Father in relation to the "all things" [the whole creation].

Notice that all things will be subjected not to God the Father in order for God the Father to be "all in all". So Jesus appears to be essential to the eschatological fulfillment of God the Father becoming all in all [i.e. that all creation may be one with God the Father]. Again, all creation will be subject first to Jesus and that's the only time all creation will be subjected to God the Father. Thus, this text coheres with another Pauline text which speak of Christ being "all in all" (Ephesians 1:10, Colossians 3:11).

The manner by which he [God the Father] will subject all things to him [Jesus] also shows that Jesus is ontologically [by nature] God. Philippians 2:9-11 speak of everyone -- in the heaven, on earth, and under the earth -- will confess Jesus is Lord [κυριος - Adonai, or YHWH]. Jesus is the fulfillment of the monotheistic eschatological event in Isaiah 45:23. Only when everyone in all creation acknowledge to God the Father that Jesus is YHWH that God the Father is glorified. This coheres with the Johannine text which says that God the Father glorifies Jesus and Jesus glorifies God the Father.

Thus, in conclusion, 1 Corinthians 15:26-28 show that Jesus is both functionally God and ontologically God, and that these are his unity [oneness] with God the Father. Without Jesus Christ, God the Father would not have all creation reconciled with him and glorifying him. And Jesus wasn't a mere agent who does things to give glory to God the Father (a one sided relationship) since God the Father himself "super-exalted" Christ above/beyond "all things" not only in this text but in all the Pauline corpus. Both the Father and Jesus receive glory by glorifying each other (as in the case found in 1 For 15 wherein God the Father subjects all things to Jesus and Jesus gives the kingdom to God the Father and then subjects himself). The catholic orthodox church teaches that this refers to the perichoresis of the Trinity wherein the divine persons are in unison and united in everything as one God in the qualitative sense.

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  • Jesus is not YHWH. The construction of theophoric names, starting with the letters “Jeho” is evidence that God’s name is actually ‘Jehovah’ (and that Christ’s name is actually Jehoshua)” – Smith’s 1863 “A Dictionary of the Bible”Section 2.1 Jul 10, 2022 at 0:12
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The verses in question demonstrate the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father; subordination of persons does not preclude equality in nature.

Deference

Any father, by right as a father, is due deference1 from his son, which deference includes honor (τιμή).2 Moses commanded children, “Honor your mother and father.”3 Hence, the Lord Jesus Christ said, “I honor my Father.”4 One means by which a son pays deference is by addressing his father as “sir.”5 It is this phenomenon that prompted the Lord Jesus Christ to ask the scribes,6

35 While he taught in the Temple, Jesus answered and said, “How do the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 For David himself in the Holy Spirit said, ‘Yahveh said to my lord, “Sit at My right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ 37 Therefore, David himself calls him ‘lord.’ How can it be that he is his son?” The large crowd heard him gladly.

The basis of the question posed by the Lord Jesus Christ to the scribes is the deference that David’s son (i.e., descendant), the Messiah, is supposed to pay David, since David is his his father (i.e., ancestor). And yet, David calls his descendant, “my lord” (i.e., my sir). This narrative demonstrates the deference required to be paid by any son to his father. (Why David pays deference to his son, rather than his son to him, would be answered in a different question.)

Deference does not preclude equality of nature

When Jesus says that “my father is greater than me” (ὁ πατὴρ μού μείζων μού ἐστιν), it is no different than what any other son would say concerning his own father. Nevertheless, the son and father still share the same nature.

For example, in the case of Adam and Seth, both share the same nature: ἄνθρωπος. That is, both possess ἀνθρωπότης (“humanity”), the quality of being human. Yet, Seth would naturally say of Adam, “My father is greater than I.” In the same manner, Jesus says his father (God the Father) is greater than him, yet both the Lord Jesus Christ (the Son) and God the Father share the same nature: θεός. That is, both possess θεότης (“deity”), the quality of being [true] god.7

Indeed, when Jesus refers to God as “my father” or “my own father,” the Jews understood it as a claim of equality with the Father. They were prepared to stone him—not because they misunderstood him, but because they rejected his claim.8

17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father works until now, and I also work.” 18 For this reason, then, the Jews were seeking to kill him more [than before], since, not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he also said God was his own father, making himself equal to God.

Eternal Filial Subordination

In traditional Trinitarian orthodoxy, it is said that the Son is “less than the Father according to his humanity.”9

Equal to the Father according to [his] divinity; less than10 the Father according to [his] humanity.

Aequalis Patri secundum divinitatem: minor Patre secundum humanitatem.

However, this belief that the Son is only less than (i.e., subordinate to) the Father according to his humanity, i.e., upon the incarnation, is unbiblical.

First, it is written that God the Father sent His Son into the world.11 On this Fr. Steven Scherrer, a Roman Catholic priest, writes,12

The Son was sent by the Father into the world. But if he was sent by the Father into the world, this means that this took place before the incarnation, and so we see that the relationship of the Father to the Son in eternity before the incarnation was one of a father with authority over an obedient son, who accepts his mission from the Father and becomes incarnate in the world. This relationship of sending and being sent is an authority-submission, paternal-filial relationship in which the Son, while one in essence with the Father and thus equal with him in divinity, is nonetheless sent by the Father and is obedient to him.

Furthermore,13

Bruce Ware (Ware, 76–83) points out clearly that we are here dealing with an eternal Father-Son relationship, an eternally subordinate relationship of the Son to his Father, although in divinity the two are equal. The Son’s subordination is not in his essence or nature, in which he is the same as his Father, but in his relation to his Father as Son. His relation to the Father is that of an obedient, subordinate, submissive, adoring Son. And this was eternally the case, not just while Jesus was a man on earth.

In addition,14

We see this throughout St. John’s gospel, where Jesus is said to be sent by the Father, for example: [John 3:16–17]. If the Son was sent into the world by the Father, then this happened before the incarnation, and therefore the paternal/obedient filial relationship of father to son also existed before the incarnation. We see this in many passages, such as the following: [John 10:36], or [John 6:38]. These quotations could be multiplied many times over, but they are sufficient to show that this relationship of an obedient, submissive, subordinate son to his father extends back from all eternity, long before the incarnation of the Son. It is not just something concerning Jesus as a man in his humanity being submissive to his Father. He has always related in this way to his Father, who even before his incarnation sent him into the world.

If it were true that the Son is only subordinate in his humiliation and incarnation (i.e., according to his humanity), we would suppose the Son to no longer be less than or subordinate to the Father after the Son’s exaltation, when he was glorified with the glory that he had with the Father before the existence of the world,15 and then ascended to Heaven.16

Yet, after his exaltation and ascension, the Son is still described as subordinate to the Father. The Son sits at the right hand of the Father.17 It is frequently recited that there is one God, the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.18 The Father is described as the God of the Lord Jesus Christ.19 In the end,20 the Son submits his kingdom to the Father, and even then, the apostle Paul wrote,21

28 But when everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself shall also be subjected to Him who subjected everything to him, so that God is all in all.

Note that the apostle Paul speaks of a time in the distant future, long after the Son had been exalted, and yet, he still speaks of the Son as being subject to (i.e., subordinate to) God the Father. This plainly indicates that the Son is subordinate to the Father regardless of the incarnation. As such, when the Son says the Father is greater than him, he must be referring to filial subordination, not simply a subordination that existed on account of the incarnation.

Summary

When the Lord Jesus Christ said, “My (not “our”) father is greater than me,” he emphasizes his filial subordination (ὑπόταξις) all the while acknowledging his ontological equality with God the Father. Recall earlier in the fourth gospel that it was those same words (“my Father”) that the Jews understood of the Lord Jesus Christ as making a claim of equality with God the Father.22

Note: All English translations of foreign-language texts are my own unless otherwise noted.


Footnotes
1 Oxford English Dicitonary: deference (n.): 3. Courteous regard such as is rendered to a superior, or to one to whom respect is due; the manifestation of a disposition to yield to the claims or wishes of another. Const. to, for.
2 Greek τιμή
3 Exo. 20:12 LXX: «τίμα τὸν πατέρα σου καὶ τὴν μητέρα».
4 John 8:42: «τιμῶ τὸν πατέρα μου»
5 “Sir,” being an English word, has its equivalents in Latin: dominus (Lewis & Scott, p. 609, dominus, B., 5.; Hebrew: אָדוֹן (adon) (Alcalay, p. 24, אָדוֹן) or the Aramaic loanword מָר (mar): (Jastrow, p. 834, מָר); Greek: κύριος (LSJ, p. 1013, κύριος, B., b.)
6 Mark 12:35–37
7 cf. Col. 2:9
8 John 5:17–18
9 Athanasian Creed
10 minor Patre is an ablative of comparison.
11 John 3:16
12 Scherrer, p. 12
13 ibid, p. 1213
14 ibid, p. 13
15 John 17:5
16 cf. Acts 2:33, 3:13
17 Acts 2:33
18 1 Cor. 8:6
19 2 Cor. 11:31
20 1 Cor. 15:24: «εἶτα τὸ τέλος»—“then the end”
21 1 Cor. 15:28
22 On other such statements of equality with the Father by Lord Jesus Christ which the Jews understood yet rejected, cf. John 8:58–89, 10:30–31.
References
Dahms, John V. “The Subordination of the Son.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS). 37/3 (September 1994): 351–364.

Scherrer, Steven. The Vicarious, Sacrificial, Atoning Death of Jesus Christ: How We Benefit from the Death of Jesus Christ. New York: iUniverse, 2010.

Ware, Bruce. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2005.
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  • Son is not just subordinate with respect to his incarnation, but with respect to his contingent begotten creation/generation/emanation from the father itself acc to the Roman Trinity. He was not omnipresent uncaused as the Father. See Monarchy of Father and related Begotten creeds or tenets of the Romans.
    – Michael16
    Jul 10, 2022 at 10:30
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“But when He says, ‘all things are put under Him,’ it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. (Paul clearly does not wish to be misunderstood on this point) Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”

This is necessarily a human act. Jesus is subjecting himself as man to the Father

  1. What we have in verses 24-25 is the complete triumph of Christ. What we have in verses 26-28 is the absolute triumph of the Father. Total subjection of all things is now complete, and all things are summed up in God. This is certainly fitting since all things proceed from God.

  2. This is connected to the fact that even in heaven, Jesus is still man. This is Hebrews 2:12-13. This would answer the issue of subjection. Once all things are subjected, including the Son himself, then his redemptive role is finished.

  3. Notice, Paul does not say, so that Christ may be all in all, or so that the Father may be all in all, or so that the Holy Spirit may be all in all. What he says is that “God may be all in all.” This is the Triadic Unity. This would seem to suggest that this culmination sees Jesus occupying the same relationship to the Triadic Unity that he had before he became flesh. The need for a Savior has been fulfilled. The need for redemption has been satisfied. The full complement of the Triadic Unity would then govern all things without the intervention of a mediator. Jesus has fulfilled all of these functions as a man and now he presents the Kingdom to the Father. It would seem that once this act of submission is complete, his role in redemption is finished and God (the Godhead) will be all in all.

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