When Jehovah’s Witnesses first started discussing Jesus with me in the 1970s, they asked me to read aloud John 14:28.

In that verse, Jesus said, “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”

“There, you see,” they told me, “Jesus himself said that the Father is greater than he is, so Jesus admitted he wasn’t equal to God. So why does your church teach that he is?”

At that time, I had no idea how to answer them.

John 14:28 is still a favorite proof text of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The last six words are like a mantra to them: “the Father is greater than I.”

The Watchtower argument is easy to understand:

  1. The Father is greater than Jesus.
  2. Therefore, Jesus can’t be equal to God.
  3. Therefore, Jesus can’t be God.
  4. Therefore, Jesus isn’t part of a trinity.

What they are misunderstanding is that positional subordination doesn’t disprove identity.

For example, Luke 2:51 tells us that when he was young, Jesus was lower positionally than Mary and Joseph and therefore subject to their parental authority. Their position was superior to his.

Does this mean that Jesus was a lesser being than they were? Of course not.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

As the sinless Son of God, he was superior to both of them. Jehovah’s Witnesses admit this.

Philippians 2:7-8 tells us that when he became a man, he “emptied himself, by 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.”

He didn’t empty himself of his divine identity.

He voluntarily emptied himself of his exalted position and depended on the Father totally for his teachings (John 14:24) and works (John 10:37).

When you talk with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I recommend that you tell them that you believe in a fully human Jesus. He wasn’t just pretending to be human. He really was human, and he accepted many human limitations despite his divinity.

You can cite a number of passages which teach this:

  • Jesus experienced both hunger and thirst (Matthew 4:2; John 4:7; 19:28).
  • He needed sleep (Matthew 8:24).
  • He was tempted (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:15).
  • He didn’t know who touched him in a crowd (Mark 5:30-32).
  • He didn’t know the day or hour of his return (Matthew 24:36).
  • He worshipped his Father as his God (John 4:21-22).
  • He prayed to his Father in heaven (Matthew 26:39).
  • He learned obedience through the things he suffered (Hebrews 5:8).
  • He was made lower than the angels and died (Hebrews 2:9).
  • The Father is greater positionally than Jesus (John 14:28).
  • The Father is the head of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:3).
  • One day, Jesus will deliver the kingdom to his Father and will be subject to him (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

It will surprise Jehovah’s Witnesses to hear you admit all these things.

It will also surprise them greatly to learn that acknowledging the human limitations of Jesus and his positional subordination to the Father is not a denial of the doctrine of the Trinity.

It is an integral part of that doctrine.