But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
We have been considering the record of our Lord’s healing of the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda, and closed by noticing the indignation of the legalistic Jews of that day who were distressed because the Lord did this upon the Sabbath day. They had added a great many of their own laws to those in the books of Moses. They were more concerned about the technicalities of this case than they were in the blessing of the poor man who had waited so long for deliverance. “Therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him because he had done these things on the sabbath day” (v. 16).
Note our Lord’s defense. “But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (v. 17). Just what did He mean by this? Why, He would carry their minds back to creation. God created the heavens and the earth at an undetermined period, so far as man’s records are concerned. We do not know how far back it may have been. Whenever that beginning was, God created the heavens and the earth. Then the earth fell into a chaotic condition, and God undertook to remake that earth that it might become the abode of man and the stage upon which was to be enacted the great drama of redemption. So we have the six days’ work in which the world was brought back from chaos to order, and we are told that God rested on the seventh day and that the seventh day was hallowed. It was the Sabbath of God. But, alas, God’s Sabbath was a very brief one, for it was not long until sin came in to that fair creation which but a little while before had been proclaimed as very good And when sin came in, God became a worker once more, and He never found rest again until at last He rested in the work of His own beloved Son of Calvary’s cross.
During all the millenniums preceding the cross, God never observed a Sabbath. He gave the Sabbath to man in the law for man’s blessing and good. Jesus Himself says, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). But when God gave to man one day in seven, He had no rest Himself. It was unthinkable that He, the loving, holy, compassionate God, could rest as long as the sin question remained unsettled. So Jesus answered these men by saying, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). That is, because He was one with the Father He did what His Father did, and so He was in the world working to undo the results of sin. They found fault with Him because He delivered a man from sin’s effect on the Sabbath day. It shows how little they comprehended the mind of the Father. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” They did not understand. Their indignation increased, and they sought the more to kill Him because He not only had broken the Sabbath, but had said that God was His Father. The expression is a rather peculiar one. It implies that He Himself had implied that He had a right to use this name in a way that other men did not. He said that God was His own Father, making Himself equal with God. They understood that when the Lord Jesus spoke of Himself as the Son of the Father that He meant to say that He was one with the Father—one person of the Godhead.
Jew and Gentile are both charged with the murder of the Son of God. The Jews dragged Him into Pilate’s hall saying, “We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God” (John 19:7). That was their accusation, but Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they desired, so he stands as the representative of the Gentile world accused before the bar of God of the murder of His blessed Son. Yet how gracious God is! He offers to both Jew and Gentile salvation through the One they rejected, although they spurned Him and united in crucifying the Son of God. The Jews would have stoned Him to death, but by driving Him to the Gentiles He was sent to the cross. However, in virtue of His sacrifice of Himself on the cross of shame, salvation can be offered to Jew and Gentile if they turn to God and believe on the Son. “We need not be afraid then to admit that we have had a part in murdering the Son of God. But we can come to Him as repentant sinners and trust the One whom we have rejected as our personal Savior. “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him” (Rom. 10:12).
Legalists of every kind always reject Jesus. Legalists of every type, Jew or Gentile, would crucify Him if He were here again. How can you prove that? Why! They do not want Him now. If they wanted Him they would accept Him and believe in His name, but they refuse to believe, showing that their hearts are just the same today as the hearts of those who sought to slay Him. They sought to slay Him because they denied His Deity. He declared that He was one with the eternal Father. He made Himself equal with God. “Then answered Jesus and said unto them…” (John 5:19a). Instead of trying to make things easier for them, He makes them harder. If men turn away and refuse to believe, then He will give them something even more difficult to believe. But if they come to Him in repentance, He will make things plain so that they can easily understand. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (v. 19b). What a tremendous claim was this! Whatsoever the Son sees the Father do, He does. Would ever mere man dare to say that? If he did, would he not be branded as a paranoiac? But Jesus spoke as the Son of the Father.
“The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do,” He does. What does that really mean? Some people imagine that He is saying, “I have less power than the Father. I can only imitate.” But it is the very opposite. He is saying, “It is impossible for the Son to act apart from the Father.” Every person of the Trinity might speak like that. The Father can do nothing without the Son, the Holy Spirit can do nothing without the Son, the Father can do nothing without the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit can do nothing without the Father, the Son can do nothing without the Father, and the Son can do nothing without the Holy Spirit. In other words, the relationship of the three persons in the Godhead is such that none can act apart from the other. Whatever the Spirit does, He does in the fullest fellowship with the Son and the Father, and so with every other person of the Eternal Trinity.
Here we have set forth in a marvelous way the reality of the unity and yet trinity of the Godhead. We sometimes speak of the three persons of the Trinity as the Father, the first person; the Son, the second person; the Holy Spirit, the third person. Scripture makes no such distinction. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are one, coequal and coeternal, and neither can act without the full approval and fellowship of the rest. Here as a Man on the earth, the Lord Jesus could actually face His accusers in that day and say, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.” And then He added, “For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doeth: and he will show him greater works than these, that ye may marvel” (v. 20). Oh, how utterly impossible it is for us to understand the love of the Father for the Son as a Man here on the earth. Three times He rent the heavens above His head to declare His love for His Son, saying, “This is my beloved Son.” “The Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that he doeth.” They are one in counsel and purpose, and “he will show him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.” He was looking on to His triumphs at the cross and in His resurrection.
Our Lord Jesus claimed that He has exactly the same power to call man back from the dead as the Father has. “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will” (v. 21). To quicken is to impart life. The Son gives life to whom He will. When we think of resurrection, we think of the omnipotent power of God put forth to bring the dead back from the grave. This power is attributed to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. This is true in connection with our Lord’s own resurrection. We read that He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father. He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again” (John 2:19). He says elsewhere, “No man taketh [my life] from me… I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (10:18). And then we are also told that the Spirit of Him that raised up Christ from the dead shall quicken our mortal bodies. God the Father is said to have raised Him from the dead. The entire Trinity acted as one to raise the Lord Jesus, and the entire Trinity will have part in the resurrection of all them that are in Christ at His coming. It is God the Father and God the Holy Spirit and God the Son who will call the dead from their tombs.
Then the Lord Jesus said a tremendous thing: “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (5:22). What a stupendous claim is this! He who moved about over the hills and through the valleys of Palestine and, to all outward appearances, was just a Galilean artisan, says, “The Father… hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” “[He] hath given him authority to execute judgment… because he is the Son of man” (v. 27). Scripture says that “[God] hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). In the Bible we read that God is going to judge the world, but here we read that the Judge is He who became Man for our redemption. What a marvelous declaration!
Are you out of Christ today? If you die like that, you will have to stand before the Great White Throne, where you will find yourself looking into the face of a Man. You will see upon that throne the Man Christ Jesus, the One who went to Calvary’s cross to die for you. You will give an account of yourself to Him and His lips will proclaim the sentence of judgment. We who believe will not have to come into judgment for our sins, and yet we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. He will go over all our ways down here, since His grace brought us to know God as our Father and Christ as our Savior, and He will examine all our work and judge the deeds done in the body. Our Lord Jesus Christ will do this. He is the One who will call all the nations into judgment eventually: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory” (Matt. 25:31). “The Father… hath committed all judgment unto the Son.”
“That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him” (John 5:23). One of the first grave dissensions in the early Christian church was the Arian controversy. Arius taught that it was unreasonable to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ was the eternal, uncreated Son of the Father. He maintained that instead of that He was the first created being, that He was not eternal, that He was not one with the Father from eternal ages. This man was opposed by Athanasius, who maintained the truth that the Lord Jesus, whose goings forth are from everlasting to everlasting, was the eternal Son as God the Father is the eternal Father and as the Holy Spirit is the eternal Spirit. That controversy disrupted the church for many years, but finally at the Council of Nicaea it was definitely declared that the Scriptures taught that the Lord Jesus Christ was one with the Father from all eternity. For a century afterward, however, it was disturbed by the same controversy.
On one occasion, Athanasius, the valiant defender of the truth as to Christ’s equality with the Father, was summoned before one of the emperors who had given his own royal son the honor of sharing the imperial power and sitting with himself upon the throne. Athanasius bowed low before the emperor but utterly ignored his son. “What!” exclaimed the angry ruler, “do you pretend to honor us while dishonoring and paying no attention to our son, whom we have made the sharer of our authority?” “Do not you,” answered Athanasius, “profess to honor God the Father, while refusing to give the same honor His coequal Son?” It was a word fitly spoken, but whether the emperor saw the truth or not we do not know.
Now we come to a verse that has been used as much as any other in the gospel of John for winning souls: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (v. 24). What a stupendous statement do we have here! Can any believer in the Lord Jesus doubt his eternal salvation with words like these before him, words that come to us directly from the lips of the Son of God Himself? He begins with the divine oath, “Verily, verily.” We find that double “verily” only in John’s gospel. Again and again we find it there, and it always introduces a truth of tremendous importance. In the Douay Version the verse reads like this, “Amen, amen, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life and comes not into judgment, but is passed out of death into life.” Think of it! What a wonderful declaration! “Amen, amen!” “Verily, verily!” It means “without any possibility of controversy,” “He that heareth my word…” Have you heard His word?
There are many people who hear with the outward ear, but do not hear in the heart. He speaks of hearing the word in the sense of receiving it in the heart. He who receives and believes what God has said in His Word—what God has said about our lost condition—about redemption—he who hears the word of the gospel, “and believeth on him that sent me”—it is not exactly on but “he that believeth him.” It is God who has spoken. When I stand up and give men something from that Book, I am preaching what God has said. Do you believe God? People say sometimes, “Well, I am trying to believe.” Trying to believe whom? God has spoken. You either believe Him or you do not believe Him. If you believe what God has said, our Lord declares that you have eternal life.
Now notice, it is not that you may hope to have it, providing that you continue faithful. It is not eternal life at the end of the way. It is the present tense: “He that believeth hath. “There is a sense, of course, in which eternal life is at the end of the way. The reason is that if I am a believer in Jesus Christ today, I know that some day, when He comes again, my very body will be quickened into eternal life. But every believer, here and now, possesses life, eternal life. The very life of God is communicated to him who trusts the Word of God.
Now look at this: “Shall not come into condemnation.” The word is really judgment. There is no judgment to those who are in Christ. Why? Because all our judgment was borne by the Lord Jesus Christ when His arms were outstretched on the cross. There all our sins deserved was poured out upon our blessed Substitute, and so we shall never have to go into the judgment for our sins. Our judgment day was at the cross.
Jesus died, and we died with Him,
Buried in His grave we lay.
All our sins were dealt with when He took our place upon the tree, and so we shall not come into judgment, but already we have passed out of death into life.