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John 5

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21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.

 

Commentary Jesus elaborates on His previous statements that He acts in perfect harmony with the Father - doing only what He sees His Father doing and whatever He sees His Father doing.  And, the Father who loves the Son perfectly, shows the Son everything that He does.  Here, Jesus asserts that the prerogatives of resurrection and giving life - which the Jews knew belonged to God alone (cf., 2 Kings 5:7) - are His as well.  Just as the Father will "bring back to life" those whom He will, so too the Son gives life to "whom He wishes."  This statement, far from contradicting his previous assertion that He does nothing "of Himself" (v. 19), is a further indication of the unity of will enjoyed between Father and Son.  

Claiming the prerogatives of God and His unified will with God, is a further explanation of exactly how the Son is equal with God.  Not as a rival God, one who acts independently or in competition, but as the fully Divine Son, who submits to the Father's Will; who perfectly loves and is loved; who reveals the Father to us so exquisitely that we can say that when we have seen Christ, we have seen the Father.

whom he willónot only doing the same divine act, but doing it as the result of his own will, even as the Father does it. This statement is of immense importance in relation to the miracles of Christ, distinguishing them from similar miracles of prophets and apostles, who as human instruments were employed to perform supernatural actions, while Christ did all as the Fatherís commissioned Servant indeed, but in the exercise of his own absolute right of action (JFB).

Grammatical Analysis `wsper gar`o pathr ...`outwV kai`o`uioV

h‘SPER GAR hO PAT R ... hOUT‘S KAI hO hUIOS ...

For just as the Father ... so also the Son ...

 

h‘SPER

  •  (just) as (BAGD).

  • Strengthened by PER... "even as" (Vine).

  • Even as, as (Moulton & Milligan).

  • PER...brings out the force of hOS..."Just as," "even as" (Thayer).

Other Views Considered

Jehovah's Witnesses

objection:  Some Witnesses have argued that while verses like this one demonstrate that Jesus functioned as God while on earth, this does not mean that the Son is equal with the Father in terms of His Nature.  Even some Trinitarian commentators see a distinction between a "functional Christology" and an "ontological Christology," indeed even Calvin can be read this way.

Response:  It must be noted that while this verse and the surrounding context speak specifically of Christ doing the "work" of the Father, elsewhere we are told that the Son does share the Divine Nature of the Father (cf., John 1:1; Philippians 2:6; Col 2:9; Hebrews 1:3).  Thus, the whole counsel of Scripture declares both functional and ontological equality of Father and Son.

It has been correctly noted, for example by de Jonge, that in order to bring out the distinctive and unique character of Jesus' discourse and actions John had to go back to the origin of him who spoke and acted thus; and therefore it does not make sense to play "action" off against "being," "function" against "nature."  .... It is the Word of this God, who in the beginning created life and light, that the Evangelist speaks when in his prologue he mainly traces the "meaning" of Jesus' words and works to his origin and "nature."  It is also the nature of the incarnate Word that forms the basis for the pronouncements in ch. 5, which are pivotal for the entire Gospel, to the effect that "the Son can do nothing of his own accord but only what he sees his Father doing" because "the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing" (Ridderbos, pp. 194-95).

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