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Equal with God

John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  33:33
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Today we are studying John 5:18-23. The context is Jesus coming to Jerusalem for one of the feasts, where they were to remember God who saved and redeemed Israel out of slavery about 1500 years before.
While Jesus was in Jerusalem, on one Sabbath, also a day when the Jews were to rest from their normal labors and take time to remember the Lord, he went to the Pools of Bethesda. There, he found a lame man and healed him.
Because Jesus told the man to pick up his mat and walk, the man did. But then the Jewish leaders were all over this man because he was breaking their rules for the Sabbath.
The man told them Jesus did it, and they went on the attack against Jesus for His healings on the Sabbath.
Jesus offered is defense for healing on the Sabbath, saying, “My Father is always at his work to the very day, and I too am working.”
They did not like it.
That is where we are picking up the story-line today.
John 5:18–23 NIV
For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
Prayer

Equal with God

When Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to the very day, and I too am working,” The Jews were offended. They knew that Jesus was calling God His own Father. How did they get that?
Obvious to them was the fact that Jesus was referring to God working on the Sabbath. As we saw last week, God is always at work. He is working for us to this very day!
I hope you took time to reflect on how God is working for you this week.
The Jews did not have a problem with God working. They did not have a problem with calling God, “Our Father,” or “Our Father in Heaven”.
When alone and addressing God in prayer, they might, though not often, refer to Him saying, “My Father in Heaven.” However, when talking with others, they would never refer to God as “My Father.” This was just being way to familiar with God.
So, when Jesus said, “My Father,” and spoke of working on the Sabbath just like God the Father, they knew that Jesus was claiming to be equal with God.
This is one of the emphases that John has in his gospel. He wants us to know that Jesus is God the Son. And that is not less than God, that is equal with God.
Jesus truly is equal with God. He is God. Yet, he also referred to the Father here, and on other occasions, and he referred to the Spirit. At this point in the gospel, John is focused on the Father and the Son.
The distinction of the Father and the Son in this passage shows that they are distinct persons.
Yet, the harmony in which they work speaks to the true unity of them being one God.
I see in this passage a great example of what we call the trinity.
Trinity is the term that we use to describe God as we see Him in the Bible. God is completely different than we are. He is beyond our comprehension, yet still wants to reveal himself to us.
God is certainly, One God.
Deuteronomy 6:4 NIV
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
That is represented by the centrality of God in this diagram. There is only one God.
Yet from the very beginning, God revealed himself as One being, One God, that is a unity of three persons.
Genesis 1:26 NIV
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
The ‘Us’ there is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are distinct from one another. So, the Father is not the Son nor the Holy Spirit. The Son is not the Father, nor the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not the Father, nor the Son.
Yet the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.
Matthew 3:16-17, and Matthew 28:19 are great passages for seeing the three persons, and the complete union of the three in One God.
Matthew 28:19 NIV
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
This verse shows us how the three are truly one, having one singular name or identity. They are God.
Matthew 3:16–17 NIV
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Here we see God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit all present and working together at the baptism of Jesus. This is, I believe, one of the best evidences against what is called modalism.
Modalism teaches that God sometimes manifests or reveals himself as God the Father, other times as God the Son, and yet other times as God the Holy Spirit.
That is what the author of the Shack portrays in his book.
What the scripture reveals is three persons working as One union, One God.
We often refer to the God as One God, subsisting as three persons who are coeternal and coequal who are of one essence, yet distinct.
When we refer to them as three persons, and speak of the work they do, or the roles they play as they work in complete unity often leaves us thinking of them as three individuals.
However, the passage today will help us see them not as three individuals, but as a completely unified, working union.
Let’s dig into it verse by verse.
John 5:19 NIV
Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

The Son can do nothing by himself...

This verse shows the great unity of God. The Father Son and Spirit all work together in perfect harmony.
But what does it mean that the Son can do nothing by himself? Does that mean that Jesus is less than God? Does that mean he cannot do anything unless God enables him to do it? If that is the case, than Jesus would no longer be God. To be less than God is to not be God.
This verse gets to what theologians call the Kenosis, or emptying.
When Jesus came to earth, he came as fully man.
Philippians 2 speaks of this.
Philippians 2:5–8 NASB95
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Kenosis - emptying

This passage speaks of Jesus being fully God. “Who being in very nature God.” He is exactly the same as God.
Some interpret this verse to mean that He was less than God. But the exact same wording is used in verse 7 that says he took the very nature of a servant. So if you want to say he was less than God in verse 6, that would mean that verse 7 says he became less than a servant.
No, you cannot corrupt the text that way. He is in nautre fully God. And when he came to earth as a man, he took the very nature of a servant. He was fully a servant.
Jesus is fully God, but what does verse 7 mean when it says, “he made himself nothing?”
That word in the original Greek text is κενόω (kenóō). Theologians call this the Kenosis, or emptying, and have spilled much ink over what it means that Jesus emptied himself when he came to earth.
Did Jesus become less than God, and therefore need to have God show him everything so he knew what to do? Is that what the passage today is saying?
No, when Jesus came he was still fully God. He was still the creator who came into the world.
We saw this is John 1.
John 1:3 NIV
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
John 1:10 NIV
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
John 1:14 NIV
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:18 NIV
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
He was still God when he came to earth.
We see evidence of that in that he still knew all things even the hearts of men. We saw that in John 2:25
John 2:25 NIV
He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.
He was still, somehow, omnipresent in that he saw Nathanael when he was not physically present with him. John 1:48
John 1:48 NIV
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
He was still all that God is: Holy, Righteous, Just, Love, Merciful, Lord, King.
Yet in the passage today, John 5:19, it said that Jesus can do nothing by himself?
And in Philippians 2:7 it says he made himself nothing.
So what does it mean that He emptied Himself?
The Philippians passage itself tells us. He became a servant. God Almighty is not a servant. He does work for us, and care for us out of his love for us, but he is not our servant, or more literally in the passage, our slave.
Jesus emptied himself of his glorified position Over All, to become a servant. He temporarily veiled his glory in human flesh (other than on the mount of transfiguration). And he came to serve us, seeking to save the lost by dying for our sins on the cross.
That is true humility.
Back to John 5:19.
John 5:19 NIV
Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
The Son cannot do anything by himself. If he were to do anything by himself, working completely on his own as an individual, he is no longer a part of God, because God works as one. God is truly unified. Three persons of one essence, and working in true union; One God.
So, He works as God, in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit, doing what He sees his Father doing.

What the Father does the Son also does

I love the ending of the verse: because whatever the Father does, the Son also does. They work in completely unity in all they do. That is why God created, and yet we find verses where Jesus Created. We find verses where the Father sends the Spirit, and we find verses where the Son sends the Spirit.
What God does, the Son does!
This passage does not show the Son as being less than God, but completely equal and in union with the Father, One God working!
John 5:20 NIV
For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.

For Father loves and shows…

The Father truly loves the Son. The interesting word choice here is the word for brotherly love, or love between friends or equals.
God has chosen to use the terms Father and Son. However, there is not that kind of relationship. The Father is God, and the Son is God. They are equal, but working in complete unity, playing their roles in harmony as One God, loving each other as the equals that they are.

Greater works than these!

And, just as they worked in complete unity to bring healing to the lame man, God was going to do even greater things! Things that were going to amaze those to whom he was speaking, and still amaze us today!
What are they?
John 5:21 NIV
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.

Son gives Life

I believe this speaks to how Jesus was going to raise the widows son, the little girl, and Lazarus from the dead. But if you read the context, it also refers to how Jesus gives new spiritual life to us.
Ephesians 2:1 NIV
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,
This tells us how we are spiritually dead in sin. Remember, Death is separation, not an end. Physical death is the separation of our spirit from this body. Spiritual death is the separation of our Spirits from God.
Jesus came to make us alive in Him! To bring us back to God! To restore that relationship that was lost because of sin.
And I love this verse because, well look at it again...
John 5:21 NIV
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.
Jesus gives it to us because he is pleased to give it. He does not do it begrudgingly. It is not like he is

Son Judges

Romans 8:31–35 NIV
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

Honor the Son

Homework:
Read John 5. Look at the full context for the passage we looked at on Sunday. While reading look for evidence of the Trinity. Look for the distinction of the persons of God (Father and Son in particular). Look for the union of the Father and the Son.
Read John chapters 1-5. What evidence do you see for Jesus being God? Be prepared so you can share with anyone who asks.
What other verses would you use to share about God being one God, yet three persons who are in complete union as one God, of the same essence, coeternal and coequal? If you need help, ask one of the pastors or elders.
Read John 5:21. Did Jesus give life to you? Why is it special that Jesus gives life to whom he is pleased to give it?
Read John 5:22. Jesus is the judge. How does that bring encouragement to you? Read Romans 8:31-35. Jesus is the judge, but what else is He?
Read John 5:23. How can you honor the Son?
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