December 24: The Word Made Flesh

24 The Word Made Flesh

The Word Made Flesh

Advent reading for December 24: John 1:1-14

The Gospel writers anchor the coming of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures. Matthew traces Christ’s genealogy forward from the call of Abraham through David (Matthew 1:1). Luke goes further back, tracing Christ’s genealogy backward to “Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:38). But John looks beyond Abraham and Adam to a “time” before time.

THE WORD WAS GOD

John’s opening verse reaches back before human history, before the six days of creation, before time itself. John begins his Gospel in eternity past:

John 1:1 (ESV)  —  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Faithful Jews knew that the Scriptures began with the words “In the beginning…” (Genesis 1:1). Reading John’s Gospel, they would expect the next word to be “God.” “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Instead, in John’s Gospel they read, “In the beginning was the Word.” John goes on to say, “and the Word was God.”

So in the beginning, the Word was. The Word was God. He did not become; he did not come into existence; he already was. He eternally “was” because “the Word was God.”

THE WORD WAS WITH GOD

“In the beginning was the Word… and the Word was God.” Yet between those two phrases, John wrote, “and the word was with God.” While affirming the deity of the Word (“the Word was God”), he carefully maintains the Word’s distinct identity by repeating in verse 2, “He was in the beginning with God” (pros ton theon). The Word was in a dynamic face-to-face fellowship with God and yet the Word was God. These two truths John holds in tension: the Word was with God and the Word was God. We must not deny either truth.

Jesus affirms this understanding in his prayer to his Father the night before his crucifixion. He refers the glory he shared with his Father before the world began:

John 17:5 (ESV)  —  And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

THE WORD WITH US

Matthew points to the birth of Christ as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise that the child born of the virgin would be called Immanuel, “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). John speaks of the eternal Word who took on himself humanity and became “flesh” that he might dwell among us:

John 1:14 (ESV)  —  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

As we contemplate the meaning of Christmas, we understand that the eternal Word, who was in eternal fellowship with the Father and who came from the Father, took on himself human nature so that through his life and death and resurrection, we too may have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3).

December 21: The Lord and His Prophet

The Lord and His Prophet

The Lord and His Prophet

Advent reading for December 21: Malachi 3:1-4; 4:1-6

Prophets don’t have prophets who announce their coming. We read the calls of certain prophets such as Isaiah or Jeremiah, but nowhere do we read that the prophets had other prophets preparing the way for their coming.

In Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, the LORD speaks of two messengers who would come. 

Malachi 3:1 (ESV) — Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

The previous verse (Malachi 2:17) indicates that the LORD is speaking, so the first messenger would prepare the way before the Lord, the messenger of the covenant.

Jesus quotes Malachi to indicate that John the Baptist was the first messenger who prepared the way for Christ, the messenger of the covenant:

Luke 7:26–28 (ESV) — What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John…

“By citing Malachi, Jesus… has shown in what way John the Baptist is greater than a prophet: he is greater in that he alone of all the prophets was the forerunner who prepared the way for Yahweh-Jesus and personally pointed him out.”1

The prophets did not have prophets preparing the way before them. Only the LORD has prophets. Yes, Jesus the LORD had a prophet, John the Baptist, the greatest of all the prophets. John prepared the way for the One who was infinitely greater than himself, the Lord Jesus Christ.


1 D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 307.

December 19: The Son of Man, Human or Divine?

Son of Man

December 19

The Son of Man, Human or Divine?

Advent reading: Daniel 7:9-14

In considering many of the prophecies of the coming of Christ, we have seen recurrent themes of his sufferings (such as Isaiah 53) and his glorious reign (for example Jeremiah 23 and 33). The Apostle Peter wrote of these prophecies which pointed to “the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories” (1 Peter 1:11).

In the Book of Daniel, we find a most important vision referring to Christ’s favorite title, “The Son of Man.” Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man 82 times in the Gospels. But what does he mean by this title?

It is often assumed that the title Son of God refers to Christ’s deity while the title Son of Man refers to his humanity. In fact, the title Son of Man refers to the incarnation of the One who was made flesh (John 1:14). It refers to Christ’s authority (Mark 2:10-11, 28), his earthly mission (Matthew 17:22-23; Mark 8:31; 9:31; Luke 9:22), and future reign (Matthew 26:64). It refers to the One who was human and divine, fully God and fully man.

The last time Jesus uses the title “the Son of Man” is when he was brought before the Sanhedrin the night before his crucifixion, the high priest commanded him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

Matthew 26:64 (ESV) — Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Jesus explicitly claimed to be the Son of Man who is seated at the right hand of God and will come on the clouds of heaven. In answering the high priest, Jesus quoted from Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man:

Daniel 7:13–14 (ESV) — “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

Nearly 600 years before the birth of Christ, it was revealed to Daniel that one was coming “one like a son of man” who would be “given dominion and glory and a kingdom.” “All peoples, nations, and languages” will serve him. All other kingdoms would pass away, but of his everlasting kingdom “there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7; Luke 1:33). 

While we face uncertain days, but Daniel’s vision assures us that we will reign with Christ.

Daniel 7:18 (ESV) — But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’

The time will come for us to possess the kingdom (Daniel 7:22).

Daniel 7:27 (ESV) — And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’

We will rule and reign with the Son of Man who is fully human and fully divine.

December 17: The Righteous Branch

Righteous Branch

December 17

The Righteous Branch

Advent reading: Jeremiah 23:1-6; 33:14-18

Disappointed are those who put their hope in the next election. Human leaders ultimately fail to meet our highest hopes and expectations, for like us, they are part of fallen humanity. Sadly, we have come to expect broken campaign promises or the inability of elected leaders to fulfill them. We are outraged when we learn of corruption, exploitation, and the abuse of power and position by those who have been elected to serve. How much worse are the conditions of people who live in totalitarian regimes such as North Korea.

The history of the world is often the story of self-serving leaders who exploit the people they should serve in order to gratify their own selfish desires. Such was the history of Israel, both the northern and southern kingdoms. In Jeremiah 23, the LORD rebukes “the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” (23:1). He warns them, “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD” (23:2).

The wickedness of the leaders leads to the scattering of the flock of Israel, but the LORD promises to “assume the role of the shepherd and gather the remnant of his flock from all the places he had driven them.” 1 The LORD promises to set shepherds over his people who will care for them so that they will not live in fear or be lost or missing.

In fact, he promises a future day when a descendant of David, “a righteous Branch” shall reign as king and execute justice and righteousness. (See Isaiah 11:1-9 and advent reading for December 13.) This coming king will be called “The LORD our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:5-6). This promise is so important that Jeremiah repeats it virtually word for word in 33:14-16.

Who is this coming king, this righteous Branch? The Apostle Paul tells us that Christ Jesus is our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). It is “by his special work he will impart to men a righteousness not of works but of grace (Eph. 2:8) which will include personal holiness as the work of the Spirit after justification.” 2 The LORD our righteousness is the righteous Branch who will come a second time to reign as king. As we consider the state of our world, we pray with the Apostle John, “Even so, come Lord Jesus!”


1 F. B. Huey, Jeremiah, Lamentations, vol. 16, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 211.

2 R. K. Harrison, Jeremiah and Lamentations: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 21, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 123.

December 14: The Covenant and Light of the Nations

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December 14

The Covenant and Light of the Nations

Advent reading: Isaiah 42:1-10

Christmas is the story of giving. John 3:16, one of the Bible’s best known verses, tells us:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God gave the greatest gift: God gave his Son.

Isaiah tells us that Father would give the Son as a covenant and as a light:

Isaiah 42:6 (ESV) —…I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations,

GOD GAVE THE SON AS A COVENANT

A covenant is “cut” when a greater and more powerful person established the terms and blessings of a relationship. The “cutting of a covenant” is accompanied by the shedding of blood. God established the covenant with man that whoever believes in his Son and the sufficiency of his work on the cross would have eternal life. The Son is himself the basis of that covenant.

Mark 14:24 (ESV)  —  And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.

The Father loved the world and gave his only begotten Son. The Son loved us and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20).

This covenant was to establish justice:

Isaiah 42:1 (ESV)  — …I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.

Isaiah 42:3–4 (ESV)  — …he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.

The cross — the new covenant in Christ’s blood — was the demonstration of God’s love and justice in forgiving sins (Romans 3:23-26). Yet we long for Christ’s return when he will establish justice in the earth (Isaiah 42:4).

GOD GAVE THE SON AS A LIGHT FOR THE NATIONS

God’s gift was not only for the Jewish people; God gave his Son for the nations. Three times in these nine verses (Isaiah 42:1-9), God refers to the nations as recipients of his blessing:

  • “He will bring forth justice to the nations” (42:1).
  • “The coastlands wait for his law” (42:4), which Matthew translates “and in his name the Gentiles will hope” (Matthew 12:18).
  • “I will give you as… a light for the nations” (42:6).

What was the purpose of the light?

Isaiah 42:6–7 (ESV)  —  
“…I will give you as… a light for the nations,  
to open the eyes that are blind, 
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, 
from the prison those who sit in darkness.

God gave his Son as a light for the nations. Jesus, the Light of the world, was given to open our blinded eyes, and to set us free from sin and darkness.

Matthew tells us that Christ’s coming was a fulfillment of Isaiah 9:1-2 and 42:7.

so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, 
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 
the people dwelling in darkness 
have seen a great light, 
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, 
on them a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:14–16)

That Light was Christ, the Light of the World.

John 8:12 (ESV)  —  Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

December 13: The Righteous Reign of the Branch

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December 13

The Righteous Reign of the Branch

Reading: Isaiah 11:1-9

Isaiah contains amazing prophecies about the first and second Advents of the Messiah. Having focused on Christ’s First Advent, his birth and incarnation in chapter 9:6-7, he next turns to the Second Advent, Christ’s future reign after his second coming. Isaiah presents him as the ideal king.⁠1 He shows Christ’s fitness to reign, the character of his reign, and the effect of his reign.⁠2

HIS FITNESS TO REIGN

The Messiah would be “a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” Though the kingdoms of Israel and of Judah would be cut off because of their unfaithfulness to God, yet a shoot from the stump of Jesse, the father of King David, would become a branch and bear fruit. This again points to the expectation that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David.

Yet it was not his mere biological descent from David that will make him fit to reign. Rather his anointing by the Spirit of the LORD will make him apt to reign:

Isaiah 11:2 (ESV)
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

CHARACTER OF HIS REIGN

Second, Christ’s yet future reign will be one of justice and equity. Possessing perfect knowledge, he will not judge by appearance or hearsay. Instead, he will consistently judge with righteousness, executing perfect justice.

Isaiah 11:4 (ESV)
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

In this present world of injustice, exploitation, violence, and war, we cry out for justice. When will justice ever be served? Justice will be served when Christ returns to reign.

THE EFFECT OF HIS REIGN

Our Genesis 3 world is a disordered world as a result of Adam’s sin, the fall of man. Relationships are broken or perverted. Everyone knows that things are not right with world, but no one is able to fix it. 

Christ’s reign is called “the restoration” (Acts 3:21). In that day, everyone will know that Christ is King and his reign is one of righteousness.

Isaiah paints this image in symbolic and perhaps even literal terms:

Isaiah 11:6 (ESV)
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.

Under the reign of the coming Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, the world will be a safe place for everyone, and everyone will know the LORD, from the least to the greatest:

Isaiah 11:9 (ESV)
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.

The Apostle Paul points to Christ’s second coming and his rule of the nations:

Romans 15:12 (ESV)  —  And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.”

Yes, in Christ Jesus the Gentiles will hope!


1 Barry Webb, The Message of Isaiah: On Eagles’ Wings, ed. J. A. Motyer and Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996), 74.

2 Barry Webb, 75.

December 12: Jesus Our Immanuel

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December 12

Jesus Our Immanuel

Advent reading: Isaiah 7:14; 9:1-7

The Messiah would be both human and divine. He would be both the Son of David and the Son of God. This was clearly what Jesus understood (Matthew 22:41-46. See the Advent reading for December 11).

But how could this be? How could David’s human descendant be divine? How could David’s many times great grandson be God’s own Son?

Seven hundred years before Christ’s birth, the prophet Isaiah announced:

Isaiah 7:14 (ESV)  —  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

While this prophecy had symbolic application in its historical context, Matthew finds its greater literal fulfillment in the birth of Christ:

Matthew 1:23 (ESV)  —  “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

How would God be “with us”? How would the Word become flesh and dwell among us (John 1:14)? How would God become man? By being born of “the virgin.”

Isaiah further prophesies about this virgin-born child in chapter 9.

Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)
For to us a child is born, 
to us a son is given; 
Furthermore, 
“his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” 

These first three names (Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father) clearly point to Christ’s deity, while “Prince of Peace” points to his humanity.[1]

BORN TO REIGN AS PRINCE OF PEACE.

This virgin-born child, “God with us”, was born to reign. Christ’s yet future rule as Prince of Peace is declared:

Isaiah 9:6–7 (ESV)
…and the government shall be upon his shoulder…, 

Of the increase of his government and of peace 
there will be no end, 
on the throne of David and over his kingdom, 
to establish it and to uphold it 
with justice and with righteousness 
from this time forth and forevermore.

The virgin would ask, “How will this be?” (Luke 1:34). The prophet had already answered her question:[2]

“The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:7).


[1]Geoffrey W. Grogan, “Isaiah,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III, Garland David E., vol. 6 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 529.

[2]Grogan, 529.

December 11: Jesus, Our Divine King and Great High Priest

Divine King 001

December 11

Jesus, Our Divine King and Great High Priest

Advent reading: Psalm 110  

Psalm 110, the psalm most quoted from in the New Testament, begins with this puzzle: 

“The LORD says to my Lord.” Who is God talking to? Who is “my Lord”? Is God talking to himself?

The Jews all knew that the Messiah was the subject of Psalm 110. But why does David, the author of this psalm, refer to the Messiah (the Christ) as “my Lord”?

Jesus asked the Pharisees a question:

Matthew 22:42–44 (ESV)  — … “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.”  

Everyone knew that the Messiah would be “the Son of David,” meaning a descendant of King David. Just days before asking this question, Jesus had been welcomed into Jerusalem with palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21:9, 15). 

Jesus asked the Pharisees another question:

He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,  “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’?  

It is not normal to refer to one’s offspring as “my Lord.” Why would David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, call the Messiah — his many times great grandson — “my Lord”? He did so because the Messiah would be more than a descendant of David; he would be the Lord, God incarnate, God in the flesh.

So God is talking to himself! “The LORD says to my Lord.” God the Father says to God the Son, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Here we see the distinction of persons in the Godhead. The Father is not the Son, and the Son is not the Father, and they are not the Holy Spirit, but the three persons are the One True God. “Blessed Trinity!”

These conversations, interactions between the persons of the divine Trinity are found before Christ’s coming, during his time on earth, and after his return to the Father’s right hand.

We see the Father speaking to the Son again in verse 4 of this psalm:

Psalm 110:4 (ESV)  —  The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

The LORD (Yahweh) says to the Son, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

Amazingly the Son assumes the role of King and High Priest. He is King, Son of David of the tribe of Judah. He will reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet (1 Corinthians 15:25). And under the New Covenant, he is our great high priest (Hebrews 7:12-25). 

1 Timothy 2:5 (ESV)  —  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

As we wait for the return of our soon coming King, he serves us now as our Great High Priest, the only mediator between God and men.

December 10: The Royal Son, Deliverer of the Afflicted

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December 10

The Royal Son, Deliverer of the Afflicted

Advent reading: Psalm 72  

The Old Testament prophecies clearly looked forward to the coming of a Ruler who would not disappoint as had the kings of Israel and Judah.

Israel’s second king, David, prays for his son Solomon who would reign in his place, but much of what he says applies to David’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.⁠1

Christ’s future reign will be based on righteousness:

Psalm 72:2 (ESV)  —  May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice!

He is a deliverer who will defend the poor and needy:

Psalm 72:4 (ESV)  —  May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!

Psalm 72:12–14 (ESV)  —  For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper.  He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.  From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight.

When we come to verse 5, we realize that this Psalm cannot be fulfilled by any earthly king. This future King’s reign will not be terminated by death for he will reign eternally:

Psalm 72:5 (ESV)  —  May they fear you while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!

Psalm 72:17 (ESV)  —  May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun!

His rule is not limited to the geographic territory of Israel for he will have dominion to the ends of the earth:

Psalm 72:8 (ESV)  —  May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!

He is not just a king; he is the King of kings:

Psalm 72:11 (ESV)  — May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!

As God had promised Abraham, through his Offspring, all the nations of the earth would be blessed:

May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!

Christ is the righteous King, the compassionate King, the eternal King, the universal King, the King of kings, the blessed King!

We await the second coming of this One who was “born king” (Matthew 2:2). “Even so, come Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

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1 “This Psalm was penned by a king for a king and concerns the King of kings.” Erling C. Olsen, Meditations in the Book of Psalms, 1967, p. 523.

The only true God and Jesus Christ whom he sent


Is the God of the Bible a single-person God like Allah?
Was God alone before creating man?
Are the words Father, Son, and Holy Spirit modes or manifestations of God?
Or is the God of the Bible unique among the religions of the world?
Do the titles Father and Son and Holy Spirit
point to real persons in the one true God?


This short article aims to show that the conversations and transactions between the Father and the Son point to the reality of the mutual existence of the persons in the Godhead. Most of this article is drawn from the writings of “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” the Apostle John. More specifically, most of the focus is on Christ’s “high priestly prayer,” the night before going to the cross, which Jesus addressed to his Father in heaven:

ESV John 17:1–3 —  When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,  since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.  And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Here the Son makes requests of his Father. He points to their interrelationship, the distinction of persons within the Godhead, and speaks of the mission that his Father has given him to provide eternal life. 

  • As Jesus approaches the cross, he acknowledges to his Father that it is now the hour for him to glorify his Son (v. 1).
  • The Son will in turn glorify the Father (v. 1).
  • The Father gave the Son all authority over all flesh (v. 2).
  • The Father gives people to the Son (v. 2).
  • The Son gives eternal life to those the Father has given him (v. 2).

These transactions point to real distinctions between the persons. While the Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, the Father is not the Son or the Holy Spirit, and the Son is not the Father or the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. The following is adapted from an ancient digram of the Holy Trinity:

Trinity


Three Persons, but Only One God


At same time, Jesus underlines that there is only one God, “the only true God” (v. 3). While many other passages make it abundantly clear that Jesus is God (for example, John 1:1, 18; 5:18; 10:30, 33; 20:28; Acts 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1), my purpose here is to show that the Scriptures point to the real interrelational existence “of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

These distinctions between the persons are further laid out in the verses which follow:

ESV John 17:4–5 —  I [the Son] glorified you [the Father] on earth, having accomplished the work that you [the Father] gave me [the Son] to do.  And now, Father, glorify me [the Son] in your [the Father’s] own presence with the glory that I [the Son] had with you [the Father] before the world existed.

Four times in those two verses, Jesus distinguishes himself from his Father. The Son glorified the Father on earth. The Father gave the Son work to do. The Son accomplished the work which the Father gave him. The Son asks the Father to glorify him in the Father’s presence even as the Son glorified the Father on earth. 

Then Jesus makes the astounding statement that he was with the Father before the world existed: 

ESV John 17:5 —  And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

The Son’s existence is not linked to the world or his mission in the world. He existed before the world existed. He was with the Father before the creation of the world. He shared the Father’s glory. Before “the beginning,” the Father and the Son were in eternal fellowship. 

Furthermore, eternal life is inextrincably bound up in a relationship with the Father and with the Son:

ESV John 17:3 —  And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Jesus here defines eternal life. It is knowing the only true God AND Jesus Christ whom God has sent. It is a knowledge of BOTH the Father AND the Son. The Apostle John emphasizes this truth in his First Epistle when he writes:

ESV 1 John 1:3 — that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.


“Indeed our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son Jesus Christ.”


As Christians, our fellowship is not only with the Father, nor is it only with the Son: It is “with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” Later in his letter, John points to the grave danger of denying the Son’s real existence:

ESV 1 John 2:22–24 — Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.

“No one who denies the Son has the Father” (v. 23). To deny the existence of the Son and to deny that Jesus is the Christ, that is the work of the antichrist. The spirit of antichrists—for John says that there are many (1 John 2:18)— is to deny the real existence of “the Father and the Son” (v. 22). Those who deny the Son do not have the Father, but “whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (v. 23). The word “also” like the word “and” in verse 22 shows us that the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father. 

John goes on to explain that this is the message that his readers heard from the beginning. If this truth abides in them—and in us—then they and we “will abide in the Son and in the Father” (v. 24). This again shows that our fellowship is with both the Father and with his Son as John said in 1 John 1:3.

The Apostle John insists on this truth in no uncertain terms in his Second Letter:

ESV 2 John 9–11 — Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

Apparently some felt that they were more progressive and advanced (v. 9). They went “on ahead” and did not hold to this teaching about Christ being sent into the world by his Father so that through the Son we might have eternal life. They felt that the doctrine or teaching about the Son was not necessary; having God was enough. The Apostle John warns that these progressive teachers who do not hold on to the Son “do not have God.” But “whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” Both… and… Not just the Father, but also the Son.

This teaching is wholly consistent with the teaching of the New Testament that while both the Father and the Son are God, the conversations and transactions between them are not a matter of biblical or literary fiction. They point to the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son.

On virtually every page of the New Testament, we see the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit —the one true God— working together in perfect harmony to bring about the fulfillment of “the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11).

ESV John 17:3 — And this is eternal life,
that they know you, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.