Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What About...John 5:18?

"On this account, indeed, the Jews began seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath but he was also calling God his own Father, making himself equal to God."-John 5:18

To many, this verse is telling them exactly what they want to hear: Jesus Christ was making himself equal to God. Is that verse really valid proof in support of the Trinity? Let us see.

First, we must understand, who was saying that Jesus Christ was equal to God? Was it Christ himself? No. The unbelieving Jews were saying that. Let us follow the same steps that we always follow. First, the context.

"After these things Jesus found him in the temple and said to him: 'See, you have become sound in health. Do not sin anymore, in order that something worse does not happen to you.' The man went away and told the Jews it was Jesus that made him sound in health. So on this account the Jews went persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things during Sabbath. But he answered them: 'My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working.' On this account, indeed, the Jews began seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath but he was also calling God his own Father, making himself equal to God.

"Therefore, in answer, Jesus went on to say to them: 'Most truly I say to you, the Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he beholds the Father doing. For whatever things that One does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father has affection for the Son and shows him all the things he himself does, and he will show him works greater than these, in order that you may marvel.'"-John 5:14-20

When we examine this closely, where in the verse does it say that Jesus was making himself equal to God? Nowhere! The words that Jesus really said were, "My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working." There is not one statement by Jesus in that verse where he is making himself equal to his Father.

Look at the verse again, though. Jesus did say "the Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he beholds that Father doing." That is not the statement that someone makes if they are truly equal to someone else. The Jews began to reason wrongly on this. Why?

Obviously, the statement made by Jesus angered the Jews but there was nothing in that statement that was warranting death. Perhaps the Jews were only exaggerating the statement so they could have a reason to kill him. Unfortunately, that reasoning is based off a "what if" and so we have to really delve deep into the Bible. Remember that, though. The Jews were notorious for exaggerating things.

At the beginning, when Jehovah God brought the Jews out of Egypt, He instituted the Sabbath Day. During this day He said that no work was to be done neither was anyone to buy or sell. This was a day of rest and worship.

By the time of Jesus, the religious leaders had made the Sabbath a pain to follow. They said that no work whatsoever was to be done. For example, if a man fell and broke his arm on the Sabbath, a doctor was not allowed to mend it until the day after the Sabbath. Even killing a fly or flea was forbidden as hunting! [1] Jesus knew that this was severe exaggeration of the Sabbath Law. This account shows the unreasonableness of the religious leaders demands.

"After departing from that place he went into their synagogue; and, look! a man with a withered hand! So they asked him, 'Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?' that they might get an accusation against him. He said to them: 'Who will be the man among you that has one sheep and, if this falls into a pit on the sabbath, will not get hold of it and lift it out? All considered, of how much more worth is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do a fine thing on the sabbath.' Then he said to the man: 'Stretch out your hand.' And he stretched it out, and it was restored sound like the other hand."-Matthew 12:9-13

When the Pharisees saw this, what was there reaction. "But the Pharisees went out and took counsel against him that they might destroy him." (Matthew 12:14) The Pharisees wanted to stone Jesus because he healed a mans hand on the Sabbath! Notice, too, he didn't say even touch the man, he only spoke to him. The Jews even had a saying, "The sins of everyone who strictly observes every law of the Sabbath, though he be an idol worshiper, are forgiven." [1] This was contrary to Jehovah's Law. He specifically said that anyone who broke the Sabbath was to die! So, the Jews were certainly capable of exaggeration. That is another false conclusion in John 5:18. The Jews also thought that Jesus was breaking the Sabbath. So, in one verse, John draws out two false conclusions the Jews came to. This should present a problem. If the Jews were right in believing that Jesus was claiming equality with God then they must have also been right in claiming that Jesus broke the Sabbath. However, they were not.

The last thing that we will look at is whether or not Jesus Christ claimed to be equal to God. When we make a thorough search, we cannot find one such account. John 10:30 doesn't work. However, a few Scriptures are adequate proof that Jesus never claimed to be God.

The first Scripture was spoken by Jesus himself. He said, "You heard that I said to you, I am going away and I am coming back to you. If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going my way to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am." (John 14:28) Some people argue that the Father Jehovah is greater then Jesus because Jesus was limited by his human form. Does this line of reasoning work? No.

The Trinity teaching says that the Father is fully God, the Son is fully God, and the holy spirit is fully God. In fact, many people can be heard to say that Jesus was "fully God/fully man" while on earth. In effect, these people contradict themselves.

Is there any indication that Jesus was inferior to the Father before his descending from heaven? Yes. We read in the Old Testament: "He himself calls out to me, ‘You are my Father, my God and the Rock of my salvation.’" (Psalm 89:26) These words were spoken by Jesus before his human birth. Further words by Jesus reveal that he was created by the Father, thus proving his inferiority before his birth.-Proverbs 8:22-26

Perhaps the most revealing verse as to the inferiority of Christ before and after he was a human is told us by the Apostle Paul. He says:

"Have this mind in you, which was also in Mashiyach Yahshua [or, Messiah Jesus]: who, existing in the form of Yahweh, counted not the being on an equality with Yahweh a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the stake. Wherefore also Elohim highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Yahshua every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth."-Philippians 2:5-10, Zikarown Say'fer Bible

Before Jesus (or, Yahshua as this translation has it) was born as a human he was inferior. In clear words Paul said that "although [Jesus] existed in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped." {New American Standard Bible) Jesus did not even try to grasp something that he did not have. Other translations mistranslate that word "grasped" to things like "cling", "grasped or retained", as if there are two alternate renderings, and "be used for His own advantage." (The Message, The Amplified Bible, Holman Christian Standard Bible) These three translations mistranslated the original Greek word used by Paul here. They are trying to read something into the text that is just not there. It is okay, though. Paul clear this up later.

Regarding Jesus after he ascended to heaven the Bible says, "But I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God." (1 Corinthians 11:3) As I always ask after reading this verse, "How is it that God is the head of Christ in the same way that Christ is the head of man if Christ is God? If Christ is God and yet God is his head, then we are Christ because he is our head!" I have never had a Trinitarian come up with an answer, normally they only bring my attention to another Scripture. This verse presents a real problem for them.

The last Scripture that has a bearing on this subject says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort." (2 Corinthians 1:3) So, even after Jesus is resurrected, the Bible clearly states that he is inferior to the Father.

Scriptures such as John 5:18 can superficially seem to present a problem but upon further examination they really do not. In the eyes of the Jews, Jesus was making himself equal to God by calling God his own father. However, the Jews were known to exaggerate little things and make them very big things. They did it more then once on the night of Jesus' death.

The conclusions drawn by apostate Jews is not an adequate basis for making any statement. If we did then Jesus was a blasphemer and a law-breaker. What should really guide our understanding is what the Bible says. May we all endeavor to do that.