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The Lord of Glory: An Exposition of John 17:3 Pt. 3

I come to the final part of my exposition

Jesus shares God’s incommunicable attributes

In John 17 where Jesus says that he and the Father shared the same Divine glory Christ also spoke of being omnipresent:

I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me… And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”John 17:23, 26

The only way that Jesus could be in all believers and all the believers be in him, i.e. in constant fellowship with the exalted Christ and vice-versa, no matter where they are is if he is omnipresent. In fact, Jesus even claims to be present with every single believer in the same sense and to the same degree that the Father is!

“‘Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are IN ME, and I AM IN YOU. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.’ … Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and WE will come to him and make OUR home with him.’” John 14:20-21, 23

Jesus further tells his followers that they can only live a fruitful Christian life to the glory of God by remaining in union with him:

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; APART FROM ME you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5

Not only is Christ affirming his omnipresence here he is also making himself out to be omnipotent since he is the One who enables and empowers all of his followers to bear spiritual fruit!

Moreover, Christ told his disciples that they would start praying directly to him after he ascends to the Father and that he would then empower them to do a greater number of miracles than he did while on earth:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in MY NAME, THAT I WILL DO, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask ME anything in MY NAME, I WILL DO IT.” John 14:12-14

Again, the only way that Jesus could answer all his followers’ prayers no matter where they’re at and give them the ability to perform greater works is if Jesus believed he has all of God’s omni-attributes, e.g., omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence!

That’s not all. On two different occasions, Jesus’ disciples told Christ that they believed he was omniscient, with Jesus accepting rather than correcting their belief!

“‘Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe?’” John 16:30-31

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

This now leads us to the next section.

Jesus – Thomas’ Risen Lord and God

According to John, when Thomas saw the risen Christ a week after his physical, bodily resurrection he proclaimed Jesus to be his Lord and God. And instead of rebuking Thomas Jesus actually accepts this exalted confession of faith:

“Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’ And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here,and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” John 20:24-29

In the OT, particularly the Septuagint, the words Lord and God are often associated with each other. In fact, whenever these two words are brought together they always refer to Yahweh:

O Lord my God (kyrie ho theos mou), in thee have I trusted: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me… O Lord my God (kyrie ho theos mou), if I have done this; (if there is unrighteousness in my hands;) if I have requited with evil those who requited me with good; may I then perish empty by means of my enemies.” Psalm 7:1-2, 4-6 [Heb. 1, 3-5]

O Lord my God (kyrie ho theos mou), I cried to thee, and thou didst heal me… O Lord my God (kyrie ho theos mou), I will give thanks to thee for ever.” Psalm 29:3, 13 [Heb. 30:2, 12b]

“Awake, O Lord (kyrie), and attend to my judgment, even to my cause, my God and my Lord (ho theos mou kai ho kyrios mou). Judge me, O Lord, according to thy righteousness, O Lord my God (kyrie ho theos mou); and let them not rejoice against me.” Psalm 34[35]:23-24

Thus, Yahweh is the only Lord God that exists for a monotheistic Jew like Thomas, which means that by confessing him as his Lord and God Thomas was acknowledging that Jesus is Yahweh!

The following Evangelical scholars help us understand just how truly significant this confession is seeing that it comes from the lips of a monotheistic Jew:

“There is essentially no controversy among biblical scholars that in John 20:28 Thomas is referring to and addressing Jesus when he says, ‘My Lord and my God!’As Harris says in his lengthy study on Jesus as God in the New Testament, ‘This view prevails among grammarians, lexicographers, commentators and English versions.’ Indeed, it is difficult to find any contemporary exegetical commentary or academic study that argues that Thomas’s words in John 20:28 apply in context to the Father rather than to Jesus. The reason is simple: John prefaces what Thomas said with the words, ‘Thomas answered and said to him’ (v. 28a NASB). This seemingly redundant wording reflects a Hebrew idiomatic way of introducing someone’s response to the previous speaker. John uses it especially frequently, always with the speaker’s words directed to the person or persons who have just spoken previously in the narrative (John 1:48, 50; 2:18-19; 3:3, 9-10, 27; 4:10, 13, 17; 5:11; 6:26, 29, 43; 7:16, 21, 52; 8:14, 39, 48; 9:11, 20, 30, 34, 36; 12:30; 13:7; 14:23; 18:30; 20:28). It is therefore certain that Thomas was directing his words to Jesus, not to the Father. No one, of course, would ever have questioned this obvious conclusion if Thomas had said simply ‘My Lord!’ It is the addition of the words ‘and my God’ that have sparked some creative but untenable interpretations of the text.

“Thomas’s words echo statements addressed in the Psalms to the Lord (Jehovah), especially: ‘Wake up!’ Bestir yourself for my defense, for my cause, my God and my Lord [ho theos mou kai ho kurios mou]!’ (Ps. 35:23). These words parallel those in John 20:28 exactly except for reversing ‘God’ and ‘Lord’. More broadly, in biblical language ‘my God’ (on the lips of a faithful believer) can refer only to the Lord God of Israel. The language is as definite as it could be and identifies Jesus Christ as God himself.

“In identifying Jesus as God, Thomas, of course, was not identifying him as the Father. Earlier in the same passage, Jesus had referred to the Father as his God. It is interesting to compare Jesus’ wording with the wording of Thomas. Jesus told Mary Magdalene, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and to your God’ (theon mou kai theon humon, John 20:17). As in John 1:1 and John 1:18, the Father is called ‘God’ in close proximity to a statement affirming that Jesus is also ‘God.’ Here again, as in John 1:18, we do not see the apostle John distinguishing between the Father as ‘the God’ (ho theos) and Jesus the Son as only ‘God’ (theoswithout the article). In fact, whereas Jesus calls the Father ‘my God’ without the article (theon mou, 20:17), Thomas calls Jesus ‘my God’ with the article (ho theos mou, 20:28)! One could not ask for any clearer evidence that the use or nonuse of the article is irrelevant to the meaning of the word theos. What matters is how the word is used in context. In John 20:28, the apostle reports the most skeptical of disciples making the most exalted of confessions about Jesus, John expects his readers to view Thomas’s confession as a model to follow. Recognizing Jesus as the One who has conquered death itself for us, we too are to respond to Jesus and confess that he is our Lord and God.” (Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ, Chapter 12. Immanuel: God with Us, pp. 142-143; bold emphasis ours)

Hence, since Thomas confesses Jesus as his Lord God, and since the only Lord God that a monotheistic Jew can ever confess is Yahweh, seeing that he is the only true God that exists, this means that Thomas was confessing Jesus to be Yahweh his God. Even anti-Trinitarians like the Jehovah’s Witnesses admit that when an Israelite says “my God” he can only be referring to Yahweh his God:

“In its articles on JEHOVAH, the Imperial Bible Dictionary (Vol. I, p. 856) nicely illustrates the difference between Elohim (God) and Jehovah. Of the name Jehovah, it says: ‘It is everywhere a proper name, denoting the personal God and him only; whereas Elohim partakes more of the character of a common noun, denoting usually, indeed, but not necessarily nor uniformly, the Supreme…. The Hebrew may say theElohim, the true God, in opposition to all false gods; but he never says the Jehovah, for Jehovah is the name for the true God only. He says again and again my God…; but never my Jehovah, for when he says my God, He means Jehovah. He speaks of the God of Israel, but never of Jehovah of Israel, for there is no other Jehovah. He speaks of the living God, but never of the living Jehovah, for he cannot conceive of Jehovah as other than living.’” (Aid to Bible Understanding [Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1971], p. 885; bold emphasis ours)

Furthermore, since Jesus accepted Thomas’ confession this shows that Jesus must have also thought that he is indeed the only true God Yahweh.

Finally, since Jesus affirmed that the Father is the only true God and since he is not the Father, this means that Jesus wasn’t a Unitarian nor was he a Muslim. The evidence conclusively proves that Jesus confirmed and taught his followers that the only true God was/is multi-personal and that he was also the only true God along with the Father (as well as the Holy Spirit).

Concluding Remarks

Here is what we have discovered from John’s Gospel.

Jesus is the Son who gives eternal life to all whom the Father gives to him (v. 2).

Eternal life is dependent on knowing the Father AND the Son equally (v. 3).

Christ and the Father shared the same Divine glory before the creation of the world (v. 5). According to the Holy Bible, this is a glory which Yahweh does not give to any other god and which no heavenly being shares.

John says that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory when he saw Yahweh seated on his throne in Isaiah 6:1-10. This means that Jesus is Yahweh God, even though he is not the Father, and that the glory which he set aside had to do with his heavenly rule, symbolized by the throne Isaiah saw, which Christ shared with the Father.

Jesus has all the omni-attributes of God. By claiming to have these unique Divine attributes Jesus is affirming his absolute Deity.

Thomas worships Jesus as his Lord God, with Jesus accepting Thomas’ confession of faith. Since the only Lord God that a monotheistic Jew has is Yahweh this means that by accepting Thomas’ confession Jesus was confirming that he is also Yahweh, the only true God!

Therefore, Jesus not only taught that the Father is the only true God he also spoke of himself in such a way as to make himself one with the only true God.

We can further add the witness of the Evangelist himself. According to John’s prologue, Jesus is the eternal Word who as to his essence is fully God, existed in intimate loving fellowship with God the Father before creation, and was the Divine Agent who brought all creation into being. The following translation best captures the meaning of John’s Greek:

“In the beginning the Word was existing. And the Word was in fellowship with God the Father. And the Word was as to His essence absolute deity (kai theos een ho logos). This Word was in the beginning in fellowship with God the Father. All things through His intermediate agency came into being, and without Him there came into being not even one thing which has come into existence… In the universe He was, and the universe through His intermediate agency came into existence, and the world of sinners did not have an experiential knowledge of Him… And the Word, entering a new mode of existence, became flesh, and lived in a tent [His physical body] among us. And we gazed with attentive and careful regard and spiritual perception at His glory, a glory such as that of a uniquely-begotten Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… Absolute deity in its essence no one has ever yet seen. God uniquely-begotten (monogenes theos), He who is in the bosom of the Father, that One fully explained deity. John 1:1-4, 10, 14 (Kenneth S. Wuest, The New Testament: An Expanded Translation [William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: October 12, 1994 (Paperback)], pp. 209-210; bold and italic emphasis ours)

It is apparent that John didn’t see any conflict with Jesus being God in essence and with Jesus’ own affirmation that the Father is the only true God and that there is only one God:

“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” John 5:44

In fact, since it is this very Gospel which says that there is only one true God this means that Jesus must also be the true God unless we assume that monotheistic Jews like John and Thomas would actually be willing to honor or worship a false god.

However, we know that this can’t be the case since John himself warns believers against committing idolatry:

“We know also 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—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21

This proves that as far as John’s Gospel is concerned Jesus is just as much the only true God as the Father is (as well as the Holy Spirit). Moreover, by affirming that Jesus is also the only true God this further confirms that John believed that Jesus is Yahweh since Yahweh is the only true God according to the inspired Hebrew Scriptures:

“There is none like You, O Yahweh; You are great, and great is Your name in might… But Yahweh is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King At His wrath the earth quakes, And the nations cannot endure His indignation.” Jeremiah 10:6, 10

In light of our analysis, the testimony of both Jesus and John is crystal clear: Jesus is Yahweh God who set aside his Divine authority in order to perfectly accomplish the purpose of his Father. As such, John 17:3 does not exclude Jesus from being the only true God. That is a gross misreading and/or distortion of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ.

With that said we can conclude with Christian apologist Ron Rhodes’ excellent summation of John’s witness to the eternal and absolute Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ:

“Without doubt, John’s Gospel is the richest book in the New Testament in regard to various evidences for Christ’s deity. Unlike the Synoptic Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), John begins his Gospel in eternity: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1, emphasis added). It is from this eternal perspective that John understands the true significance of the work of Christ.

“In John’s Gospel, Jesus claims to be God (John 8:58), is recognized by others as being God (20:28), and is portrayed as being preexistent and eternal (1:15,30; 3:31) self-existent (1:4; 5:26), omnipresent (1:47-49), omniscient (2:25; 16:30; 21:17), omnipotent (1:3; 2:19; 11:1-44), and sovereign (5:21,22, 27-29; 10:18). Christ is also recognized as being the Creator of the universe (1:3), and He claims to be the theme of entire Old Testament (5:39,40). These and many other evidences in John’s Gospel point to the full deity of Jesus Christ.” (Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses [Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 1993; here], 4. Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Gospel of John, p. 99)

We couldn’t have said it any better!

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