Let’s review John chapter 5:1-27. In John 5:1-15, Jesus heals a paralytic man on the Sabbath, and asks him to pick up his stuff and go. Jews get furious with Jesus as the Torah prohibited carrying or bringing in any “burden” on the Sabbath (Jeremiah 17:21), and doing any work (Exodus 20:10; Exodus 16:29). Jesus was healing, which was lawful, but the Jews were trying to find fault with him telling him, Jesus could have done such work on other days.
Now let us turn to verse-by-verse study on John 5:15-27.
“So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John 5:16-17)
Jews understood that people rest on the sabbath, but only God works on the Sabbath. This idea was taught by the rabbis. Here, Jesus says, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I [Christ] too am working.” Here, Jesus was equating himself to the Father, claiming to be God himself who works on the Sabbath.
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” (John 5:18)
So, Jews were even more furious because they knew that Jesus was claiming to be equal with God, but Jews misunderstood that Jesus was claiming to be another God. So, the two accusations being made against Jesus by the religious leaders are: number one, He broke the Sabbath, and number two, He’s claiming to be equal with God (John 5:18). The tension has now reached a level where they’re persecuting (more appropriately prosecuting) Jesus with the intent to put Him to death. The verses that follow, begins with Jesus’ defense to those charges. Jesus’ defense will not be, “I didn’t do it!” Jesus’ defense will be, “I did do it because I am God”.
Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner (John 5:19)
The Son can do nothing of Himself unless it is something He sees the Father doing. Since Jews thought she was claiming to be a different God, and doing things in opposition to God of the Old Testaments, Jesus corrects them and says he cannot and will not do anything by himself or on his own accord, because He is not a separate ‘being’ claiming equality with the Father. It’s just simply not possible for Jesus to ever be out of alignment or unity with the Father. So now stop and think about this. These are the religious leaders who claim to be representing God, who claim to know the ways of God. They’re accusing God who became flesh that He is somehow doing things in opposition to God of the Old Testament.
For whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. All that the Father does the Son likewise does. Who can claim that whatever the Father does, I can do? If one does “all” that another does or can do, then there must be equality. If the Son does all that the Father does, then, like Father, He must be almighty, omniscient, omnipresent, and infinite in every perfection; or, in other words, he must be fully God.To help those who struggle to see the equality of the Son to the Father, Augustine provides a concrete example. From the Gospels, we know that Jesus walked upon water. Where, in the Gospels, do we see the Father walking on water? If the Son only does what he “sees” the Father doing, then must it not be the case that the Father walked on water as well? John 14:10 reminds us that the Father abiding in the Son does His works. Thus, the Son’s water-walking is the work of the Son and Father. This, Augustine explains, is precisely the point Jesus makes in John 5:19. Similarly, the God created the world (Genesis 1). The Son who made “all things” created the world. The Son did not create another world by “watching” the Father. On the contrary, the world was created by the Father through the Son. Thus, another reason the Son can do nothing of himself (John 5:19) is simply because “the Son is not of himself”. The Son is not another God. The Son and the Father share one divine nature, because Son is begotten from the Father. Augustine further explains, “The Father [made] the world, the Son [made] the world, the Holy Spirit [made] the world. If [there are] three gods, [there are] three worlds; if [there is] one God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, one world was made by the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit”.2
For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel (John 5:20)
Jesus is saying to the religious leaders, “You ain’t seen nothing yet. There’s going to be so much more that will give you evidence that I am indeed God in the flesh, and this is flowing out of a love relationship between the Father and the Son.
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes (John 5:21)
Jesus is saying that God is the One with authority over life and death. Raising the dead and making alive are attributes of God. “It is I who put to death and give life” (Deuteronomy 32:39) Similarly, the Son, who is himself God, has authority to give life to whom He wishes.
For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father (John 5:22-23)
Father has the authority to judge; He’s given that authority to Jesus, even in His status as the Son of Man. So again, picture this scene where the religious leaders, supposedly representing God, are prosecuting Jesus. They’re judging Jesus! And what Jesus is saying is, “Oh, by the way, I am God in the flesh, and at the end of the story, you don’t judge Me, I judge you!”. “If Jesus is who He says He is, maybe they should back up and rethink some things.” In verse 23, then, Jesus essentially says, “If you don’t honor Jesus for who He is, and what He came to do, you stand no chance of honoring the Father. Identifying Jesus for who He is and what He came to do is the only way to honor the Father. If you don’t go through Jesus, you have no chance of getting to the Father.
“Truly, truly, (It’s absolutely true.) I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life (John 5:24)
Faith in the Father, who sent his Son, is here represented as being connected with everlasting life; but there can be no faith in the Father who “sent” his Son, without faith also in him who is “sent”, and His words. It’s very clear he who hears and believes, not “will have” eternal life. It’s not future tense but “has” eternal life; its present tense. Eternal life doesn’t start someday; it’s not a duration of life; it’s a quality of life. It starts the moment we believe, the moment we repent and trust Jesus as Savior and believe that Jesus has forgiven our sins, and that Jesus then makes it possible for us as sinful men and women to stand right before a holy God. When He talks about passed out of death into life, we know from John chapter 3 that there’s not just a judgment coming one day, but we’re already judged. We’re born spiritually dead because of our sin. We are cut off from a relationship with God. Once we believe; we receive; we trust Jesus as Savior. The Greek language there would describe it as going over a mountain pass. It’s a great description—you’re spiritually dead but, because of Jesus, you pass out of death and into life. Who has the authority to give life? God! And God has given that to Jesus, and Jesus gives it to those who believe.
Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live (John 5:25)
He’s referring to those who are spiritually dead, and what he’s saying is there is an hour coming, and it’s already here (now is). This is before Jesus died on the cross. This is before Jesus rose from the dead. This is before He has brought the fulfillment of the promises of the old covenant. So He’s headed there to usher in the new covenant and all of its promises. But already people are listening to what He has to say and what He promises. And already they’re experiencing new birth—new life— because they choose to believe Jesus tells the truth. The best example of that would be the Samaritans. Before Jesus even gets to the cross, they’re believing what He’s saying. They’re believing what He came to do. The text even told us they believe this is the One who has come to be the Savior of the world. So, Jesus is saying it’s already happening, and it’s going to happen a lot more, of course, after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; 27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man (John 5:26-27)
For just as the Father has life in Himself. Where does life come from? It would have to come from someone who has always been alive—eternal life. Life originates in God, so only God has the authority to give life. Here Father is said to have life in Himself.
Even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself and. The Father gave the Son to have life in Himself because of His status as?
And He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Giving Son to have life in himself and authority to execute judgment appear to be primarily related to His status as the “Son of man”, the Word who became flesh.
“But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins: (Matt. 9:6)
If you go back to John 5:24 we see that the “life” Jesus is talking about is the eternal life that we receive from God when we hear Jesus and believe in him. For as the Father has life (that is, eternal life to give to those who believe in Jesus) in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life (that is, eternal life to give to those who believe in the Son) in himself. This is primarily because of His status as the Son of Man, the God who became flesh. John explains, “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:11–12). Therefore, the context tells us that the life that the Father granted to the Son is the authority to give eternal life to the believers, specifically in His status as the Son of Man.
However, since the Son is begotten from the Father, it can be also said that the life that the Father shares with the Son is as eternal as the Father. For this reason, the Son too has life in himself. Augustine explains that “the source and origin of deity is the Father”. He explains that the Father “begot [the Son] timelessly in such a way that the life which the Father gave the Son by begetting him is co-eternal with the life of the Father who gave it . . .”. Thus, we should not think of the generation of the Son like “water flowing out from a hole in the ground or in the rock, but like light flowing from light”.2 There never was a time when the Son was not. See: The Only Begotten Son (John 1:1-18)
Hence, John 5:1-27 is another instance where the Son’s divinity is emphatically explained. He is identical to Father in works (John 5:19), love (John 5:20), life-and-death power (John 5:21), judgment (John 5:22), honor (John 5:23), eternal life itself (John 5:26) .
- Barret, Matthew, “What is Eternal Generation” (May 2021: https://tabletalkmagazine.com/posts/what-is-eternal-generation/
- Johnson, Keith, “Trinitarian Agency and the Eternal Subordination of the Son: An Augustinian Perspective”: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/trinitarian-agency-and-the-eternal-subordination-of-the-son-an-augustinian-perspective/