The Son and the Father (1)
J. Wesley Ferguson, Antrim, N. Ireland [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
A STUDY OF THE CLAIMS OF THE LORD JESUS IN JOHN'S GOSPEL TO A UNIQUE RELATIONSHIP WIYH THE FATHER
There are many occurrences in John’s Gospel of the expression ‘my Father’ in contexts which make it clear that the inclusion of ‘my’ underlines the uniqueness of Christ’s relationship with God the Father. God had indeed said more than once that He was as a Father to Israel, the nation. The Lord Himself had indeed taught His own to pray ‘our Father’. But in quite a few contexts in John’s Gospel He seems deliberately to include ‘my’ as He claims a unique position of sonship involving deity. It is interesting that many of these occur in chapters 5, 8 and 10, where He is in conflict with unbelieving Jews. Others are in chapters 14 and 15, where He is reassuring His disciples before He leaves them and they will face opposition and persecution without His physical presence with them. In this article we shall examine some of those claims, which He makes as the unique Son of God.
He claimed that those who hated Him also hated His Father, 15. 23, 24.
This is in the same vein as His declarations in chapter 5 about the essential harmony between Father and Son. It is in chapter 5 that men first accused Him of making Himself equal with God, v. 18. Chapter 15 is His encouragement to His own when they suffer for His sake saying they would not be alone, for they would have the ministry of the Spirit of truth. When the persecution which they would suffer seemed senseless and unprovoked they should remember that men hated Him ‘without a cause’, 15. 25. Ultimately, it was against God that men were raging. They were to hate the Son because they hated His Father. Closely linked with this reassurance is His encouragement in chapter 14 verses 1 to 23, that those who ‘loved the Son’, as evidenced by their obedience, would be loved by the Father; and not only that, but both Father and Son would make their abode with them. He had spoken in verse 2 of ‘many abodes’ in the Father’s house; how gracious of Him now to speak of Father and Son making their abode with those who loved Him. He does use the same word in verse 2 as in verse 23. He claimed that He honoured His Father as His Father honoured Him, 8. 49, 54.
This claim was in the context of the dishonour heaped upon the Son by His enemies, v. 49. His assertion is that if His Father honoured Him and they dishonoured Him their claim to know His Father was false, v. 54. They said that they believed in God, yet they dishonoured the Son of God, so their claim was false; they had no knowledge of God. If they had known the Father they would have known His Son. In all His claims He honoured His Father just as His Father honoured Him, in that eternal harmony of Father and Son in the Godhead. These unbelievers, who dared to rise up against Him, knew neither Father nor Son. By contrast, He assured His own in chapter 15 verse 8, that if they abode in Him and thus bore much fruit the Father would be glorified. The clear implication is that the honour and glory due to Father and Son are inextricably linked.
He claimed that knowledge of the Son and of His Father were closely linked, 8. 19; 14. 7.
In chapter 8 the Lord was arguing that although He came from the Father, those who were opposing Him would not receive Him. His emphasis was that God sent Him and that the Father bore witness to His genuineness. Their reply was to sneer by referring to ‘thy’ Father. The Lord Jesus took up the possessive word and returned it to them: ‘Ye neither know me nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also’, v. 19. This claim is closely parallel to His claim to equal honour with the Father.
The reference in chapter 14 is somewhat different. The verse that occupies our attention is verse 7. Verse 6 had explained that the disciples, by knowing the Lord Jesus, knew the way to the Father, even if they were not confident that they understood what He was saying. Thomas had asked, ‘How can we know the way?’, v. 5. Now Philip is going to say, ‘Lord, show us the Father’, v. 8. In between these expressions of lack of confident understanding the Lord gives His assurance, ‘From henceforth ye know him, and have seen him’, v. 7. They were being weaned to the realization that, as they had come to know the Lord Jesus, they had come to know the Father, even if they had not fully become awake to the wonder and glory of it. ‘He that hath seen me hath seen the Father’, v. 9. Once again, what was a truth to confound His enemies was a comfort and reassurance to His own.
He claimed that His work was led by and modelled on that of His Father, 5. 17; 10. 25, 37.
The assertion of the Lord Jesus that He modelled His work on His Father’s was first made in chapter 5 and was the first claim to His unique association with His Father which gave rise to bitter resentment in His enemies. He had healed a paralytic man on the Sabbath and, when charged with doing this ‘forbidden’ thing, He said, ‘My Father worketh even until now, and I work’, v. 17 RV. They picked up, accurately, that His reply was a claim that God was ‘His own’ Father, v. 18 RV. They also drew the correct inference that He was claiming equality with God. The next instance of this claim is in chapter 10. He had spoken of His work as the Good Shepherd, laying down His life for the sheep. He went on to claim that He had authority (‘power’ in AV, v. 18) to take His life up again after He had laid it down. This caused them to speculate on whether He was demonpossessed. Soon after, when pressed by the enemies to tell them if He was the Christ, He answered, ‘The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me’, v. 25. This might not, in itself, be a claim to equality with the Father, but we note how He continued. After a claim that He gave eternal life to His own He entered into a debate with them about His claim to be the Son of God that they had correctly taken to be a claim to deity. Then He continued, ‘If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do them though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know and understand, RV, that the Father is in me, and I in him’, vv. 37, 38 RV. He is claiming that His works and His Father’s are inextricably linked because Father and Son are both alike divine.
He claimed to have authority even over life itself as the Father had, 5. 25; 6. 40; 10. 28.
We have seen that the Lord Jesus claimed to have authority to take up His life again after He had laid it down for His own. This is in harmony with a claim which He made, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself’, 5. 25, 26. This is the gift of spiritual life, which He gives to those who trust in Him. It is seen here as parallel to the gift of resurrection life which He will give in a future day, v. 28. This is spelled out more fully in chapter 6 verse 40, ‘For this is the will of my Father, RV, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day’. The unity of Father and Son in giving eternal life and security is seen powerfully in chapter 10 verses 27-30, ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one’. This authority to give spiritual life is parallel to His ‘power on earth to forgive sins’, Mark 2. 10, and we remember what a storm of protest that claim aroused when He healed the paralytic and told him that his sins were forgiven. The shocked reaction of the scribes on that occasion was due to their realization of the claim He was making. In John chapter 10 He is claiming that the sheep are His own, and that it is He who gives them eternal life. We notice that in John chapter 10, as in John chapter 5 there is mention of people ‘hearing his voice’, with powerful effects. This is an indication of His divine authority.
To be continued
AUTHOR PROFILE: Wesley Ferguson is in the assembly in Antrim in N. Ireland. He ministers the word throughout the Province and the UK and is the author of numerous magazine articles, and recently authored ‘Genesis’ in the Ritchie series ‘What the Bible Teaches'.