A Look Inside the Trinity
29 March 2015
A study in the series on the Gospel of John by John Dugas
Grace Bible Church, Tulsa
Full Audio Message
A Look Inside The Trinity
Whenever a friend gets a sporty new car, his friends usually do a very “guy thing.” They pop the hood to admire the engine. It’s far more important though for someone studying to be a mechanic. They need to know how things work. Many of us have had to dissect animals in science classes. But it’s far more important for those studying to be medical doctors or veterinarians do that so that they know how things work. Biblical counselors learn how to look inside people’s hearts or look inside at the inner workings of relationships. Looking inside of things enables us to see how they work.
Understanding the inner workings of the Trinity can be immensely helpful. We need to understand how the members of the Godhead relate to one another and how they function together so that we will rightly understand Jesus’ Gospel and so that we will respond to it rightly.
In John 5:19-30, Jesus reveals the loving oneness between the members of the Trinity. We need to hear this so that we will believe that Jesus is God in the fullest sense. And if we do believe this, we need the confidence that Jesus will raise us up to enjoy life forever. However, if we do not believe this, we desperately need this warning that Jesus will raise us up judge us for our sins.
Jesus delivers this message in three solemn pronouncements which begin with the words Truly, truly or “Very truly” or “Verily verily” or “Most assuredly” (Literally: Amen, amen, vv. 19, 24, 25).
What had set up this whole discussion was Jesus’ healing of a disabled man at the Pool of Bethesda which occurred on the Sabbath. That infuriated the religious leaders. Jesus intentionally set up a theological clash with them to challenge their unbiblical beliefs about God and the Sabbath.
Those religious leaders had a difficult time accepting the truth that Jesus was God. They understood that Jesus claimed to be God (v. 18). But how could this be? Are there two gods? If there is only one God and He is Jesus? Is He sometimes called the Father, sometimes the Son? The issue is: how can God have two (or three) persons and still be only one God? Jesus will expose the inner workings of the Trinity for us to see the unity, perfect coordination and love that drives their relationship.
A “person” has a will by which they make choices. So if there are three persons within the Trinity, then there must be three separate wills. However, in order for there to be only one God, those multiple wills must be perfectly aligned. We will see in today’s passage that their wills are so perfectly aligned that they function like a single will. Think of how Jesus prayed “not My will but Thine be done”. And think of Jn 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me.” We see in those examples that Jesus has His own separate will, but His will is perfectly and completely aligned with His Father’s will.
Now in order for their wills to function as one, the will of one member must be primary. Within their relationship, the Trinity chooses to follow God the Father’s will. That is, God the Son and God the Spirit willingly and joyfully align their wills to the Father’s will. So first…
I. Jesus solemnly portrays His unity with the Father (19-23).
Jesus here walks His hearers through the reasons why He doesn’t work independently of the Father (Guthrie). First, the Son acts precisely like the Father. Look at v. 19.
Jesus explains that He is not independent of God the Father. He is not even able to work independently. The nature of His relationship to the Father runs this deeply. He must work in coordination with the Father. What Jesus sees the Father doing, this He does. What this means of course is if Jesus is doing exactly what His Father is doing, then Jesus is fully authorized by God the Father to do work on the Sabbath. Why? Because the Father works on the Sabbath.
Second, the Father shows the Son His plans. Look at v. 20.
Here is how members of the Trinity coordinate their work. God the Father shows the Son what He is doing. The Son sees these things and does likewise. We also see what makes this coordination of work so perfect. Their coordination flows out of their continuous love for one another. Love here is the Greek word phileo which is commonly seen in the affection between close relatives. They are related as Father and Son with “close family” love between them. While the Father takes the lead, He displays to the Son what He is doing so that the Son can work in coordination.
Jesus knows that soon the Father will disclose to Him even greater works. Why? So that those around Him may marvel. These religious leaders have yet to marvel at Jesus’ works (in a good sense) and realize the significance of who He is. Experiencing wonder at Jesus’ miracles can lead to faith (14:11). Dwell on His works to impress upon your mind how important they are and to stir your soul to a wonder that glorifies Him.
Third, the Son, like the Father, has power to give life. Look at v. 21.
One of the prerogatives of deity is the authority over life and death. When Naaman the leper came to the Israelite king for help, the king asked, “Am I God, to kill and make alive?” (2 Kings 5:7). We just saw in 5:1-18 that Jesus selected one man to heal out of a multitude of disabled people (the Son gives life to whomever He wishes). Jesus can impart spiritual life and a resurrect the body. In ch. 11, the raising of Lazarus is going to be a picture of both of those greater works: spiritual life and resurrected bodies. Jesus has the power to reverse the processes of the material world and bring life out of death (physical and spiritual).
Fourth, the Son has been given authority for judgment by the Father. Look at v. 22.
Another right that belongs to deity is the authority to judge mankind. The future judgment of mankind has been given by the Father to the Son. The Jews had thought that they would stand before the Father in the last day for judgment. Now, Jesus adds some insight to OT passages. Which person of the Trinity will they stand before? It will be God the Son. This is important because the religious leaders are at present rejecting God the Son!
One more thing to note before we leave this first main point. A purpose of Jesus’ works was to produce a helpful kind of marveling. But here in v. 23 we see a second purpose.
Why has the Father given all judgment to the Son? So that all will honor the Son. Notice how tightly God the Father and God the Son are tied. Their unity is so complete that they share the honor that belongs to each other. To honor one is to honor the other. To reject one is to reject the other. This demonstrates the great peril that Jesus’ enemies are in.
Honoring Jesus puts Him on a higher level than a mere ambassador. He shares honor that belongs to the Father. God said in Isa 42:8 and 48:11 “I will not give My glory to another”. The only way that Jesus can share God’s glory is if He is fully God. Now, on to our second point…
II. Jesus solemnly promises life for those who believe Him. Look at v 24.
Jesus says two important things about the believer. He explains what makes someone a believer and what happens when they believe. How does a person receive this eternal life that Jesus gives? That person must first hear Jesus’ words and then to put their trust in that message and believe that the Father sent Jesus.
So what happens to a person when they believe? They will not be condemned (judgment) but instead will be given eternal life. But there’s more. When a person believes in Jesus’ message, he passes from one realm to another. Death and life are distinct spheres. By believing, the person passes from the sphere of death to the sphere of life. Think of Col 1:13: For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. And now, our final point…
In v. 25, Jesus is probably talking about both spiritual and physical resurrection. During His ministry, people were already being raised spiritually from death to life. But also in this ministry period, Jesus will raise a man physically. Jesus doesn’t use the name Son of God often. But He uses it here and in 11:4 where His power to resurrect people shows that He is God the Son.
God the Father is the source of life (Gen 2:7; Ps 36:9; Dt 30:20; Ps 42:8). He eternally gives (1:4) this right to the Son to have life in Himself (the ability to give life). As the Son of God Jesus has authority over life. Also as the Son of Man, the Father has delegated to Him the authority to execute judgment. Jesus is that apocalyptic Son of Man who will execute judgment (Dan 7:13-14).
In vv. 28 – 29, Jesus exhorts His hearers to not doubt Him here [read 28-29]. What Jesus has declared will certainly come to pass. As Son of Man, His voice has creative, life-giving power. In that great future day, He will raise all men and women from the dead. But that’s where their similarity ends. He will raise some to a resurrection of life and others to a resurrection of judgment. Why shouldn’t His hearers be surprised? This was prophesied long ago in Dan 12:1-2.
Does Jesus here teach salvation by works (good deeds vs. evil deeds)? First we must remember from the book so far that salvation is by faith in Jesus (3:16). Condemnation is by rejecting Jesus (3:36). What Jesus is saying here is that while men may claim to believe in Jesus, their works are the proof as to whether they believe in Him or reject Him. As Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, we will be known by our fruit (Mt 7:16-20). A person who truly believes in Jesus will produce good deeds as proof (Eph 2:8-10). A person who claims to follow Jesus but who really rejects Him will produce evil or worthless deeds as proof that they actually reject Jesus’ message. People will be judged not by their profession but by the proof of their profession. People will be judged not by their lips but by their lives. If faith is real, it will produce good works.
Verse 30 concludes this section about the unity of God the Father and God the Son [read]. Jesus declared that He can do nothing on His own initiative. That is, He never works independently of His Father. Because His judgment has been expressly granted to Him by His Father, His judgment is just. And He reminds us that His will is perfectly aligned with His Father’s will.
Jesus really will raise the dead. How you respond to Him will determine which group you are in. Will you be raised to life forever with Jesus? Or will you be raised only to be condemned?