The witness of John to Christ’s deity
This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.
Previously, we saw that Jesus claims to be God. Further, He proves His deity through divine acts that only Yahweh can perform. But is there corroborating testimony? What do those who know Jesus best – the disciples who walk with Him – have to say about the issue?
The pages of the New Testament ooze with the deity of Christ – and most of the writers are strict monotheistic Jews! So, let’s consider a sampling of testimony from the apostles and other first-century eyewitnesses, beginning with John.
No other eyewitness goes to the lengths of the apostle John to bear testimony to the deity of Jesus.
Here are a few examples:
John 1:1-5 – In these five verses, John declares several key truths about Jesus: (1) He is eternal, existing with God “in the beginning” (cf. Gen. 1:1); (2) He is the Word – the Logos, the expression of divine power and wisdom; (3) He is a distinct person from God the Father; (4) He is God; (5) He is the Creator, the one who made “all things;” (6) He is life – from the Greek zoe, which refers to spiritual life as opposed to the Greek bios, which describes physical life; and (7) His life is the light of all people – God’s life manifested in Christ.
John further notes, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God becomes man in the Incarnation, and John is among the eyewitnesses who see His unveiled glory (Matt. 17:1-8). He even declares, “No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side – he has revealed him” (John 1:18).
John 5:17-24 – John records Jesus’ claim of deity to the religious leaders. Jesus says He does what the Father does, gives life just as the Father does, judges all things, and deserves the same honor due to the Father. John writes, “This is why the Jews began trying 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 to God” (v. 18).
John 10:22-40 – John reports Jesus’ encounter with the Jews gathered at the Festival of Dedication. Jesus calls God His Father and claims to do works in His Father’s name. He acknowledges that He is the promised Messiah. He grants eternal life. He states plainly that He and the Father are one in nature, glory, and authority. He says the Father is in Him and He is in the Father. He remarks, “I am the Son of God” (v. 36). When the Jews pick up rocks to stone Him, they say, “We aren’t stoning you for a good work … but for blasphemy, because you – being a man – make yourself God” (v. 33).
1 John 5:20-21 – “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know the true one. We are in the true one – that is, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”
John uses the word “true” (Greek alethinos) three times to emphasize the value of truth in a world filled with the lies of the evil one. The last use of the word underscores the most important truth of all: Jesus is “the true God and eternal life.”
Revelation 1:17-18 – “When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man. He laid his right hand on me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I was dead, but look – I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades.’”
After quaking in terror before the glorified Christ, John listens to Jesus as He identifies Himself. First, Jesus says “I am” – ego eimi in Greek, the covenant name of God (cf. Exod. 3:14). Next, Jesus tells John He is “the First and the Last,” a title used of God in the Old Testament (Isa. 44:6; 48:12). Jesus repeats this title in Revelation 2:8 and 22:13. Finally, Jesus claims to be “the Living One,” a term used for God throughout Scripture (cf. Josh. 3:10; 1 Sam. 17:26; Ps. 84:2; Matt. 26:63; 2 Cor. 3:3; 1 Tim. 3:15).
Jesus’ words, “I was dead, but look – I am alive forever and ever,” testify to His sinless humanity as the God-Man, who died on the cross and rose physically from the dead for our salvation. As John MacArthur notes, “The living One, the eternal, self-existent God who could never die, became man and died. As Peter explains in 1 Peter 3:18, Christ was ‘put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.’ In His humanness He died without ceasing to live as God.”
Next: The witness of Paul