A Series of Answers to Common Questions
Jesus himself admitted that the Father is the only true God. Since Trinitarians believe that the Father and the Son are distinct Persons, that they are not the same Person, wouldnt this prove that Jesus denied that he was God?
The person who raises this question is obviously assuming Unitarianism, that there is only one Person who is God (namely the Father), and then imposes this assumption onto the reading of the text. The only thing one has to do in order to understand Jesus’ point here is to simply read the entire context:
"After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: Father, the time has come. Glorify YOUR SON, that YOUR SON may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people THAT HE MIGHT GIVE ETERNAL LIFE TO ALL THOSE YOU HAVE GIVEN HIM. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I HAD WITH YOU BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come TO ME through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name - the name you gave me - so that they may be one as we are one My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be IN US so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I IN THEM and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me BECAUSE YOU LOVED ME BEFORE THE CREATION OF THE WORLD. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them AND THAT I MYSELF MAY BE IN THEM." John 17:1-5, 8, 10-11, 20-26
We note from the foregoing that:
Thus, the context makes it clear that Jesus statement about the Father being the only true God in no way was meant to deny that Christ is God as well, since he goes on to make claims that only God could make. Jesus is simply addressing the Father for being the only true God since this is what he truly is, and yet we know from the same Bible that the only true God exists as more than one Person. The Holy Scriptures plainly show that both the Son and the Holy Spirit are also truly God.
Therefore, since the one true God exists as a Trinity this means that the three Persons can be addressed as the only true God both individually and collectively. Putting it another way:
This is why Jesus can speak of one member of the Trinity as the only true God without this implying that the other members are not God. To make this point more clear, notice what the inspired book of Hebrews says:
"But about the Son he says, Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. He also says, In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." Hebrews 1:8-12
The Father praises his Son by calling him God, Lord, eternal King and for being the Creator and Sustainer of all creation! The same Scriptures teach that Jesus is the only sovereign Master and Lord:
"For admission has been secretly gained by some who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly persons who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." Jude 1:4
Now does this mean that the Father is not God, sovereign Master, Lord, and the Creator of the heavens and the earth? The answer is obvious. The Father, according to the Holy Bible, is just as much God, Master, Lord, and just as responsible for creating and sustaining the universe as the Son is. In a similar way, the Son glorifying his Father as the only true God doesnt mean that Christ was denying that he is full Deity as well.
In fact, a careful reading of John 17:3 helps to further confirm that Jesus wasnt denying his absolute Deity:
"And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, AND (kai) Jesus Christ whom you have sent."
The Lord Jesus, by using the Greek conjunction kai in his prayer, makes himself the necessary object of the knowledge that leads to eternal life. In other words, Jesus basically made himself a coequal partner with God by claiming that eternal life is dependent on knowing both the Father and the Son. As one commentary noted:
and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent--This is the only place where our Lord gives Himself this compound name, afterwards so current in apostolic preaching and writing. Here the terms are used in their strict signification"JESUS," because He "saves His people from their sins"; "CHRIST," as anointed with the measureless fulness of the Holy Ghost for the exercise of His saving offices "WHOM THOU HAST SENT," in the plenitude of Divine Authority and Power, to save. "The very juxtaposition here of Jesus Christ with the Father is a proof, by implication, of our Lord's Godhead. The knowledge of God and a creature could not be eternal life, and such an association of the one with the other would be inconceivable" [ALFORD]. (Jamieson & Fausset & Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible; online source; bold and underline emphasis ours)
The late renowned Bible expositor John Gill stated:
The Arians and Unitarians urge this text, against the true and proper deity of our Lord Jesus, and his equality with the Father, but without success; since the Father is called the only true God, in opposition to the many false gods of the Heathens, but not to the exclusion of the Son or Spirit; for Christ is also styled the one Lord, and only Lord God, but not to the exclusion of the Father; yea the true God and eternal life; was he not, he would never, as here, join himself with the only true God; and besides, eternal life is made to depend as much upon the knowledge of him, as of the Father. The reason of this different mode of expression, is owing to the character of Christ as Mediator, who is said to be sent by the only true God, about the business of man's salvation. Nor is it of any moment what the Jew objects, that Jesus here confesses, that the true God is only one God; nor does he call himself God, only the Messiah sent by God; and that the Apostle Paul also asserts the unity of God, (1 Timothy 1:17); and therefore Jesus cannot be God: for Christ and his Father, the only true God, are one; and that he is the one true God with his Father, he tacitly suggests here by joining himself with him; and what the Apostle Paul says of the one and only wise God, may as well be understood of Christ, the Son of God, as of the Father; since all the characters in the text agree with him, and of him he had been speaking in the context. (Source; bold emphasis ours)
The grouping of the Father and the Lord Jesus as the necessary objects of salvation makes perfect sense in light of the Gospels teaching that Christ is God the Son and the Savior of the world:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father No one has ever seen God; the only Son, God (monogenes theos), who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known." John 1:1-4, 10, 14, 18
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." John 3:16-18
"They said to the woman, It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world." John 4:42
"This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." John 6:50-51
"If any one hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world." John 12:47
"Thomas said to him, My Lord and my God! Jesus said to him, Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name." John 20:28-31
"And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world." 1 John 4:14
As it stands, John 17:3 does not refute the plain teaching of the Gospel of John, or the entire message of the Holy Bible, that the Lord Jesus is fully God in essence.
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