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Sermon: John 5:19-30: The Way to the Father is Through the Son, for Father and Son are United as One

Reading of God’s Word

John 5:19–30 (ESV)19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. 30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Introduction

There are three major world religions which find their origin in Palestine: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.  All three insist that there is but one God. This is the thing that the three share in common – the insistence that God is one!

One of the things that sets Christianity apart from the other two is our answer to the question, who is Jesus? The Muslims regard him as a prophet; the Jews consider him a false prophet, a false Messiah; Christians confess that he is nothing less than the Son of God.  The question, who is Jesus?, or what is the relation of Jesus to the one true God? is a question that divides.

Listen to the words of the Nicene Creed, penned in A.D. 325. It is a wonderful summery of the Christian understanding of who Christ is.

“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end…”

This is a good confession concerning Christ! This is a true confession! The expectation is not that we would fully comprehend these things – how the nature of God and man could be united in one person – but that we would confess them as true because God has revealed these things to us through his Word.

What we have here in John 5:19-30 is a very careful explanation from Jesus himself concerning the relationship between he and the Father.

Do you remember the accusations that were leveled against Jesus by the Jews in verse 18?  The accusations were twofold. The Jews sought to kill Jesus because he was, one, braking the Sabbath (He did not break the Sabbath. He broke the traditions of man that had been helped upon the Sabbath). The second accusation was this: Jesus was calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. This he did! But, as we will see, explanation was needed – clarification was needed – teaching was needed in order that we might correctly understand what Christ means when he claims to be the Son of God, and to be equal with God.  That is what we have in verses 19-30.

It would seem me that the second accusation is more serious than the first. It’s one thing for a man to break the Sabbath; it’s another thing altogether for a man to claim to be equal with God. Jesus responds to both accusations in verses 19-30 by insisting that he and the Father are in perfect unison – they are one.

This gives an answer to the accusation of Sabbath breaking: The works of the Son are the works of the Father. To accuse the Son of braking the Sabbath is to accuse the Father of breaking the Sabbath.

This also clarifies what Christ means when he claims to have God as Father. Jesus is not claiming to be another God. He is not claiming to be a separate God, acting independent from God the Father. No, he and the Father are one (see John 10:33). This union, or oneness, that exists between the Father and the Son is such that Jesus can respond Philip’s request to see the Father by saying, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9, ESV)

 Remember that this subject has already been addressed in John 1. The opening lines of John’s gospel clearly articulate the nature of Jesus Christ. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. [verse 14] 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.” (John 1:1, 14, ESV)

So, the eternal Word of God is divine. What God is, the Word is, in terms of substance or nature. The eternal Word of God took on human flesh and dwelt amongst us in the person of Jesus Christ. And so Christ is indeed God incarnate – God clothed in humanity – that has been made clear. But Christ is careful here in this passage to insist that, though he and the Father are distinct, they are one. There is a union that exists between them. In other words, monotheism is upheld. God is one, eternally existing in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Jews who witnessed Jesus’ signs and who heard his words are struggling to make sense of this. This man claims to have God as Father! He is claiming to be equal with God! To them it would have been the highest form of blasphemy for a man to set himself on the same plane as God. And so Jesus explains the relationship between Father and Son.

At least five things become clear in this text.

The Father and Son are United in Their Work

First of all, it is clear that the Father and Son are united in their work. 

Verse 19a: “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing…” (John 5:19a, ESV)

The words “truly, truly” appear three times in this text. They are there for emphasis. They have the same effect of saying, listen carefully to this! 

And what is Jesus concerned that they hear? He, first of all, makes it clear that the Son of God does not act on his own accord, or by his own initiative. He only does what he sees the Father doing.

I think it is interesting that the word “sees” and the word “doing” are in the present tense. They are a present and ongoing activity in the life of Christ. In other words, it’s not as if the Father drew up a game plan and gave it to the Son in eternity past, or prior to the incarnation, and then sent the Son went on his way, as it were, to accomplish the mission. No, the Father and Son were indeed in union form eternity past, and then continued in union during the incarnation, and to this present day.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing…” (John 5:19a, ESV)

He continues in verse 19 saying, “For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19b, ESV)

The Father’s works are the Son’s works; and the Son’s the Father’s. You cannot criticize the works of the Son without in actuality criticizing the works of the Father. What a powerful statement this is in response to the  criticism of the Jews!

So why does the Father reveal his works to the Son in this intimate way? Verse 20: “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. (John 5:20b, ESV) 

We are here given a glimpse into the relationship between Father and Son. The Father loves the Son and therefore shows him all that he is doing; the Son, in a reciprocal fashion, loves the Father by doing his will. The Father and Son are united in love. Were we to extend this conversation to the Holy Spirit we would also have to include him in this – the Father and Son love the Spirit and the Spirit loves the Father and Son by doing the work they have given him to do. So it is love that binds the Triune God together – perfect love – eternal love – love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

So we begin to see here that, though Christ did indeed claim to be equal with God – of the same substance – there is some distinction between them. The Father is the one who wills, the Son is the one who accomplishes the Father will and does his work. This is important. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are One in substance, but they differ in regard to the role that they play within the Godhead.

Jesus continues in verse 20 saying, “And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.” (John 5:20, ESV)

Jesus had just healed a man paralyzed for 38 years. Before that he turned water to wine. These are indeed great works – great signs. But Jesus claimed that greater works were on the way. Jesus would preform many great works, but two stand out as being greater than what he had already done: One, the rising of Lazarus from the grave, and two, his own resurrection. Why would Jesus do these things? So that they would marvel. So that they would be astonished and thus move towards faith.

The Father and the Son are united in their work.

The Father and Son are United in their Giving of Life

The second thing that is clear in this text is that the Father and Son are united in their giving of life.

It was, and is, widely recognized amongst the Jews that only God has life in himself; therefore, only God has the power to give life.

You and I have life in us in this moment We are alive. But our life is contingent life, it is a dependent life. Our life is derived from God. He gave us life in the beginning and he sustains our life continually. He breathed into man the breath of life, and he give us our breath.

God’s life is of another kind. He has life in himself. He is life. He, like no other, has the power to give it and to take it away.

What and incredible claim this is that Jesus makes!

Verse 21: “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” (John 5:21, ESV)

Verse 26: “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” (John 5:26, ESV)

Here we see that the Father and the Son are united in this: They both have the power to give life. The Father has granted the Son to have life in himself. The Son is able to give life to whom he wills.

This power was displayed in the preceding story. Jesus chose one man out of a great multitude and raised him up by his word.

The two stories are linked together by the use of a particular greek word. In verse 21 we read, For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.”  The greek word for raise is ἐγείρω. The same word is used in 5:8 when Jesus said to the man, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” In the greek it is ἐγείρω! That story of Jesus raising up the paralytic was a sign pointing to this reality that just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” (John 5:21, ESV)

Father and Son are united in the giving of life.

The Father and Son are United in Their Judgement

The Father and Son are also united in their judgement.

Just as life is something that ultimately belongs to God alone, so too the judgement. God alone can judge. He alone is most holy and just in his judgments. He is the sovereign Lord of all creation and is the supreme judge.

When Abraham interceded for Sodom and Gomorra he pleaded with God saying, “Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25, ESV)

God is the judge of all the earth and he is just.

But look at what Jesus claims here:

Verse 22:  “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son…” (John 5:22, ESV)

There is no contradiction here. God is still the judge of all the earth, for Jesus is God. What is taught here is some new and more specific claim than what had been revealed before, that judgement has been given to the Son, the second person of the Trinity.

Why? Verse 23a: “…that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. (John 5:23a, ESV)

This is perhaps another way of saying that no one comes to the Father except through the Son. If judgement were the Fathers alone, then men and woman would stand only before the Father. With judgement being committed to the Son, men and women will stand before the Son and the Father, as the Son judges according to his will.

You may be thinking to yourself, I thought that, according to John 3:17, “…God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17, ESV)

That is true. The purpose for Christ’s first coming was not final judgment, but the salvation of the world. But he will come again. And what is said here is that he will come as judge of all the earth.

Look with me at verses 27-30:

“And he [the Father] has given him [the Son] authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 5:27–30, ESV)

So what will happen at Christ’s second coming, according to John? The dead will rise!  Those who have done good will rise to the resurrection of life. Those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

Some have been confused concerning the phrases, “those who have done good” and “those who have done evil” as if Jesus were saying that we will either live or be judged in the end based upon what we have done. The text says no such thing.

Two things should be noted: One, our works are not the ground of our right standing before God. If our salvation were based upon our good works none would stand. This makes it abundantly clear that the ground of our salvation is faith in Christ. Verse 24: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” But two, notice the tight link between those saved by faith in Christ and good works. According to this text those saved by faith can right be described as “those who have done good.”

I do fear that we Protestants (and we Reformed in particular) can so major upon justification by faith alone that we can sometimes neglect the twin truth that those with true saving faith will show evidence of it by their good works.

The point here is that “[God the Father] has given [God the Son] authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.” (John 5:27, ESV)

Son of Man is Jesus’ favorite title for himself. It has a twofold significance in this context.

One, Christ is uniquely qualified to judge humankind because he is both the Son of God and the Son of Man.   The same can be said in regard to our salvation. Christ is uniquely qualified to save because he is both Son of God and Son of Man. Where he only man he could not provide salvation for humanity any more than you and I could. Were he only God he could not live and die and rise again as man’s representative – as man’s substitute. He saved us as the second Adam! Similarly, he will judge in the end with the authority of the Son of God and as the Son of Man who was “in every respect… tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15, ESV)

Two, the phrase Son of man should clearly take our minds back to the most famous Old Testament text where that phrase is used – Daniel 7.

“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. 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.” (Daniel 7:13–14, ESV)

It would seem that Jesus was saying to his Jewish brethren, this is me! I am the apocalyptic Son of man who stands before the Ancient of Days (God himself) and receives dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages may serve me. I am the Son of Man who has walked where men walk and who judge in the end, all things having been given to me.

Christ Jesus our Lord will judge in the end. The Father and Son are united in judgement. Jesus declared in verse 30, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 5:30, ESV)

To Reject the Son is to Reject the Father 

The fourth thing that is clear in this text is this:  To reject the Son is to reject the Father.

Verse 23b: “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:23, ESV)

This, I think, is at the heart of what Jesus is saying.

Think of the power of this statement. He is speaking to his Jewish brethren. He is speaking to men and women who claim to love God with all that they are. They are devout – deeply devoted to the things of God. But they do not know what to do with this Jesus. They do not know how to respond to his works and words. They are at a crossroads. The Christ is standing before them – the Messiah is looking them in the eyes. What will they do with his works and with his claims? Will they receive him, or reject him? So far they have rejected his claims. So far, their response has been to seek his death.

His word to them is this, to reject the Son is to reject the Father, for the Father and Son are indeed one. They are one in essence (John 1:1,14); they are one in their work; they are one in their ability to give life; and they are one in their judgement. To reject the Son is to reject the Father.

Truly things could not be stated more clearly. Truly the line has been drawn. Jesus Christ proves to be the dividing line.

To Receive the Son is to Receive the Father and to Pass From Death to Life

The fifth thing that is clear in this text is related to the fourth, only more positive: To receive the Son is to receive the Father and to pass from death to life.

This is certainly Jesus’ objective – to call people to faith. This is certainly John’s objective as he writes his gospel – to persuade people to believe in the Son, and the Father who sent him and to pass from death to life.

Verse 24: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24, ESV)

Notice here that life is not merely a future hope, but a present reality for those who believe in Son.

Anyone who hears the words of the Son and believes his word, which is also the word of the Father, has eternal life.  Eternal life, according to Christ, is not only a future thing, is is something that those who believe in Christ possess now.

The person who believes in the Son “does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

This is an very odd thing for Christ to say were he speaking of his ability to give physical life, for he speaking to people who are already alive in the flesh.

No, what Christ is referring to is the passing from spiritual death to spiritual life.

To Nicodemus Jesus said, “you must be born again”, that is “born of the Spirit.” 

To the woman at the well he offered “living water”, a “spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 

Here Jesus claims to have the power to give “…life to whom he will.” (John 5:21, ESV)

It is those who believe who have it. It is those who confess, this word is true who have the Father and he Son and life eternal. It is those who trust and obey the Son who pass from spiritual death to spiritual life even today.

Eternal life is not merely a future thing, but it has broken in to the here and now through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God.

Conclusion

My question for you is this: are you alive? Are you alive in the soul? Are you alive, eternally so?

There are many who, though the live, they are in fact dead.

There are also many who, though they might indeed be alive in Christ, have chosen to walk in the flesh for a time, and have experienced spiritual death once more. They have grieved the Holy Spirit of God.

It is no secret that a great many have lived, indulging in the things of this world, only to find things of the earth do not have the power to make one alive in the soul.

Come to Jesus.

One you are there, walk in him. Walk in the light and enjoy life eternal.

To come to Jesus is to come to the Father.

They are one in their work; one in their giving of life; one in their judgment.

To reject the Son is to reject the Father.

But to receive the Son is to receive the Father and to pass from death to life.

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