For this first episode, I’m taking a look at John 17:3 which is commonly cited as proof that Jesus is not God. Nevermind that the first verse of the whole book says that “the Word was God,” (John 1:1), John 17:3, we’re told, is going to tell the real story. Let me first read it by itself, because that’s the way you’re going to hear it from people who use it this way. Jesus is praying to the Father, and he says,
“This is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
There you have, Jesus himself confesses that the Father is the only true God. He himself is not God, but merely the one sent by God.
Before we even take the always-necessary step of putting this verse in context, there’s a problem with this interpretation already. Don’t get so caught up in the words ‘only true God,’ that you miss what Jesus is actually saying. He’s talking about what eternal life is – not how to get it – but what it actually consists of. He speaks of two things – one is knowing the Father and the other is knowing Jesus Christ. How can knowing the Father not be enough for eternal life, he has to put himself in there as well? He’s not denying his divinity; he’s asserting it in no uncertain terms.
17 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, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
And now if we take a look at the surrounding verses, check out what he says in verse 5. “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” How is it that Jesus was around before the world was made if he wasn’t born until thousands of years afterward? And what’s he doing sharing the Father’s glory? Doesn’t Isaiah 42:8 say, “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other.”
So how do we reconcile these (and many other) references to Christ’s divinity with verse 3 saying that the Father is the only true God? That’s where the Trinity comes in. The doctrine of the Trinity derived from Scripture states that there is only one God who exists in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These three persons, each being eternally God, are distinct from each other. So when John 17:3 says that there is only one God, we believe that. And when it says that the Father is that God; we believe that too! What it doesn’t say is that Jesus is not God.
To put it another way, when Thomas calls Jesus his God (John 20:28), or when Paul calls Jesus ‘our God’ (Titus 2:13), or when Peter calls Jesus ‘our God’ (2 Peter 1:1) they’re not saying that the Father isn’t God even though they only believe in one God. They’re Trinitarians.
So John 17:3 does not say that Jesus isn’t God. What it does say is that eternal life is found in knowing the Father and in knowing Jesus Christ.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *