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JESUS CHRIST: TRUE GOD FROM TRUE GOD

In this post, I am going to argue that the blessed Apostle John identifies Jesus as the true God in his first inspired epistle. Here is the text in question:

“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true—His Son Jesus Christ. He is (houtos estin) the true God and eternal life (ho alethinos Theos kai zoe aionios).” 1 John 5:20

That John is identifying the Son as the true God and eternal life in 1 John 5:20 can be easily proven from the following factors.

First, John has already used the expression “He is” (houtos estin) earlier in the chapter in reference to the Son:

“Who is it that overcomes the world, but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is He (houtos estin) who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. It is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is the truth.” 1 John 5:5-6

This makes it more likely that it is Jesus who is being described as the true God.

This brings me to my next point. All throughout the Johannine literature, the epithet “true” is used for Christ. For instance, Jesus is the true bread,

“Then Jesus said, ‘Truly, truly I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.’… Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me shall never hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.’” John 6:32, 35

The true vine,

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” John 15:1

The true and faithful witness,

“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens, says these things:’… To the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write: ‘The Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says these things:’” Revelation 3:7, 14

Which incidentally is a description given to Yahweh:

“Then they said to Jeremiah, ‘May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us, if we do not act according to all things for which the LORD your God shall send you to us.’” Jeremiah 42:5

In fact, even the title Amen, which Revelation ascribes to the risen Christ, is applied to Yahweh:

“Those who pronounce a blessing in the land will do so by the God called Amen (b’elohe amen); those who make a solemn pledge in the land will do so by the God called Amen (b’elohe amen). Past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my sight.” Isaiah 65:16 Common English Bible (CEB)

Interestingly, the Greek version renders the Hebrew phrase elohe amen as “the true God”:

“which shall be blessed on the earth; for they shall bless the true God (ton Theon ton alethinon): and they that swear upon the earth shall swear by the true God (ton Theon ton alethinon); for they shall forget the former affliction, it shall not come into their mind.” LXX

Hence, for Christ to be described as the Amen and the faithful and true witness he must, in fact, be the true God!

The Apostle further says that eternal life comes from believing in the Son,

“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life, and whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 5:11-13

Since Jesus is Life itself, and therefore the Source of all life:

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life. They shall never perish, nor shall anyone snatch them from My hand.” John 10:27-28

“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’” John 11:23-27

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” John 14:6 – cf. 1:4; 5:21, 26

“When Jesus spoke these words, He lifted His eyes toward heaven and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may also glorify You. As You have given Him authority over all flesh, He will give eternal life to all whom You have given Him.’” John 17:1-2

John even goes as far as to identify Christ as the eternal life that was with the Father and who then manifested himself to the Apostle:

“the life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and announce to you the eternal life, which was with the Father (zoen ten aionion hetis en pros ton Patera) and was revealed to us—” 1 John 1:2

Since John starts off his epistle by describing Christ as eternal life, it shouldn’t surprise us that he would conclude his letter in a similar manner. In fact, 5:20 serves as a bookend, an inclusio so to speak, to 1:2, where the Evangelist ends his discussion by reiterating the point he makes at the beginning.

Moreover, for Jesus to be eternal life he must also be the true God; otherwise, this would mean that the Evangelist is teaching that the true God and a creature can both be rightly described as eternal life. Such a view would be anathema to a monotheistic Jew, which John most certainly was. Thus, to be eternal life one must also be the true God, and the Son must, therefore, be the true God.

Note the logic behind this argument:

The true God is eternal life.

Therefore, to be eternal life one must also be the true God.

Jesus Christ is the eternal life that was with the Father.

Therefore, since Christ is eternal life he must also be the true God

Finally, the Nicene Creed lends extra-biblical confirmation that 1 John 5:20 is describing Christ as the true God:

“And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God (ton Hyion tou Theou ton Monogene), begotten from the Father before all ages, light from light, true God from true God (Theon alethinon ek Theou alethinou), begotten not made, of one substance with the Father, through Whom all things came into existence,”

It is evident that the Creed is echoing the language of both John 17:3 and 1 John 5:20 in identifying the Father and the Son as the true God. This, in turn, shows that native Greek-speaking Christians, believers whose mother tongue happened to be Greek, understood from the grammar and context of 1 John 5:20 that the Apostle was calling the Son the true God and eternal life.

The preceding factors lead me to conclude that 1 John 5:20 is most definitely identifying Jesus Christ as the true God and eternal life. And yet this doesn’t negate the Father from being the true God since the Son is the true God and eternal life in union with both the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Unless noted otherwise, scriptural references taken from the Modern English Version (MEV) of the Holy Bible.

 

God

 

Jesus Christ

“For as the Father has life in Himself…” John 5:26a

“This then is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

“For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart and knows everything.” 1 John 3:20

“This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” John 17:3

“The four living creatures had six wings each, and they were covered with eyes all around. All day and night, without ceasing, they were saying: ‘“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,” who was, and is, and is to come.’” Revelation 4:8

“He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the spring of the water of life to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.’” Revelation 21:6-7

 

“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 were created through Him, and without Him nothing was created that was created. In Him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. The light shines in darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it… The true Light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not know Him… The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-5, 9-10, 14 – cf. 1 John 2:8

“so He has given to the Son to have life in Himself,” John 5:26b

“Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.’” John 8:12

“While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:5

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Yet a little while the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. He who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have light, believe in the light that you may become sons of light.’ Jesus said these things, and departed and hid Himself from them… ‘I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not remain in darkness.’” John 12:35-36, 46

“‘I have told you these things in proverbs. But the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in proverbs, for I will speak to you plainly about the Father. On that day you will ask in My name. I am not saying to you that I shall ask the Father on your behalf. For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world. As I said, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.’ His disciples said to Him, ‘Yes! Now You are speaking plainly and with no figure of speech. Now we know that You know everything and do not need anyone to question You. By this we believe that You came from God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe?’” John 16:25-31

“He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”’ Peter was grieved because He asked him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Lord, You know everything. You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep.’” John 21:17 – cf. 2:23-25

“the life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and announce to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was revealed to us—” 1 John 1:2

“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true—His Son Jesus Christ. He is (houtos estin) the true God and eternal life (ho alethinos Theos kai zoe aionios).” 1 John 5:20

“Look! He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,’ says the Lord, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’… When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though I were dead. Then He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, though I was dead. Look! I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.’” Revelation 1:7-8, 17-18 – cf. 2:8

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me to give to each one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last… I, Jesus, have sent My angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.’… He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:12-13, 16, 20

 

 

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