The central theme to the Gospel of John is that Jesus is the Son of God. This is most evident by the way that John continues to build a case for Christ’s deity from the very first verse to the very end of this book. John begins his gospel by writing, “In the beginning the Word was God and the Word was with God” (John 1:1). This statement asserts that Christ is one with God and has been for all of eternity. With this kind of beginning, the reader is made keenly aware of John’s overarching purpose for writing his book. He longs for the non-believer, especially the Jew, to come to the understanding and faith to believe that Jesus was God Himself, sent as the Messiah to dwell among His people (John 1:14). If the reader of John has not fully grasped John’s thesis, they cannot miss it when he stated it in chapter 20:31, “But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
The Gospel speaks of “the son (of God)” twenty-nine times and refers to God as “Father” over one hundred times.[i] This alone is a clear example of John’s purpose to help people come to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The way this is emphasized in the Gospel of John makes this gospel unique among the other synoptic Gospels. Not only has the Gospel of John captured Christ’s earthly ministry, but it strives to show Him as the preexistent son of God and highlight his divinity while looking forward to His future reign as God and King.
Christ Existed Before Humanity Proving His Divinity
In addition to the example of Christ being referred to as logos (the “Word”), we see other passages that point out Christ’s preincarnate existence. In John chapter 8:48-59 Jesus is recorded as speaking about His preexistence to Abraham, using the same phrase or name for Himself as the name of God found in Exodus chapter 3:14 – “I Am.” Jews despise the idea of this man claiming deity or equality with God, and that He spoke with boldness about His oneness with the Father. He stated, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am” (John 8:58). Also in chapter 17 of the Gospel of John He prayed, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5). Herein He plainly states that He was with God before the world existed. In the same chapter, He spoke of the love the Father had for Him before the foundation of the world (John 17:24).
The pre-existence of Christ is important because it helps us understand that He truly was God Himself, sent to dwell among men, and the one to appease the wrath of God – something only God can do (Hebrews 2:17). No one will ever be good enough to appease God’s wrath, it is for that reason that God had to use His own son as the sacrifice for man’s sins. If Christ were merely a creature created by God in the line of Adam, He would have had sin as a part of His nature and therefore would not have been able to atone for our unrighteousness. It was for this reason that He had to send the pre-existent Christ to exist as a human being and bear the weight of God’s wrath on our behalf. We are told elsewhere in Scripture that the fullness of God was pleased to dwell within him in bodily form (Colossians 1:19, Colossians 2:9). In this we can conclude that Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, came to earth to take on a human nature, yet did not cease to be God in any way.
Jesus was the Son of God, Reflecting God’s Character
Just as an earthly son will often resemble his earthly father, so it is also true of Christ resembling the Heavenly Father. They both shared the same characteristics. Jesus’ appearance to mankind was to reveal the things of the Father to our dark minds (John 1:18). He came to show the world what we otherwise could not see, which is evident in His statements such as, “even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me” (John 17:25).
His righteous lifestyle on earth also proved His divinity. His sinlessness was something that no human could ever attain. He never disappointed God or fell below God’s standard of holiness. Jesus stated, “And He who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (John 8:29). Christ was perfect in every way, and had to be, in order to be our sacrifice and full propitiation. He lived a sinless life, and was exempt from the original sin of man (Matthew 4:1-11; John 8:46; John 8:29; John 14:30-31; 1 Peter 1:19; Hebrews 4:15). His sinlessness included the fact that he perfectly obeyed the Father through His entire life (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 7:28), including coming into the world in the first place (John 8:42).
We also saw Jesus exhibit other divine attributes that can only be associated with God. His character shone true to the fact that He was the Son of God. For example he proved that He was omnipotent by performing many miracles including changing water into wine in John 2:1–11. He carried the attribute of being omniscient – knowing all things – even during his earthly ministry. In John 1:48 he was able to see that Nathaniel was under the fig tree from far away. “For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him” (John 6:64).[ii] Those who were with Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry, namely the disciples, later affirmed that Christ was all knowing by stating, “now we know that you know all things” (John 16:30).
His divinity also made it so that He was the one by which all persons must believe in order to be saved. God would not have given such a weight or responsibility to anyone other than Himself, through His own Son. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). This type of claim validates his sovereign rule over all men’s souls. Only God could speak with such authority, therefore we can conclude that He truly was God himself.
Jesus also claimed to be immortal, having power over death. In John 2:19 he said that the Jews will “destroy the temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John explains that He was not speaking about the temple made with the stones in Jerusalem, “but he spoke of the temple of his body.”[iii] The disciples recalled the statement later (John 2:21-22), after He died and rose again, which was significant for John because it again underscored the fact that Jesus truly did have the power of God as His Son. God is the only one with the sovereign power to take away life and in doing so appease His own wrath. Jesus also said in John’s Gospel that he had “The power to lay down my life, and pick it up again; this charge I have received from my father” (John 10:17-18).
His Supernatural Power was an Earthly Sign of a Heavenly Origin
Jesus came to do the works of the Father consistently in His earthly ministry. He never acted without the Father prompted Him to do so (John 5:19) including doing divine tasks that only God could do. He said, “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” (John 5:19). He mimicked the actions of God in order to prove that He was God and therefore reveal to man what we otherwise could not see. In John chapter 11 we see Him giving life to the dead. In chapters 4, 5, and 9 he demonstrated a diving power to restore as he healed the official’s son, the crippled man by the pool, and a man born blind man. He also performed judgment in the gospel of John on those who did not believe. These two things especially – giving life and granting forgiveness or penalty – are only tasks that can be fulfilled by God Himself.
He also proved to be a supernatural power when He walked on water, demonstrating His authority over nature (John 6:16-21). He multiplied a small amount of food to feed over five thousand, proving that he had the power of God create and multiply (John 6:1-14). He did a similar miracle, already mentioned, at the commencement of His public ministry when He changed water into wine (John 2:1-12). All of these works are proof that He was God Himself, and as He explains in John chapter 5, 9, and 10 that it is the Father’s works, including judgment, being performed through Him as the Son.
Jesus’ Intimate Fellowship with God Proves His Deity
John described his intimacy with Christ as the beloved disciple in order to convey the depth of relationship He shared with Christ. In a similar way, using many of the same words found in the original language, John explained Christ’s close fellowship and deep intimacy with God the Father. John explains Jesus as being “in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18), meaning that He knew Him as intimately as one possibly could. There are three aspects to Christ’s intimacy with the father that should be noted found in the Gospel of John:[iv]
- He knew the Father and His will. As we have seen previously, he did not act without the Father’s permission or prompting. He claimed equality with God as He fulfilled His will on earth (John 6:45 – 47; 8:55; 15:15).
- He shared in all things with the Father. He said in John 16:15, “All that the Father has is mine.” There were no exceptions to what the Father shared with the Son because they were united. This applied you into the souls of men and those He reconciled unto Himself through Christ (John 6:37).
- He enjoyed special access and influence with the Father. There were no limits as to what Jesus could ask of Father. That is because their wills are united and are like-minded in every way. Jesus explained His access to the Father, and by which we should ask all things in faith when He said, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13).
All of these things are only characteristics of Jesus Christ in His relationship with the Father. Though we are His adopted children, we do not have the same aspects in our relationship with God. John states that it is “only” Jesus who is the one true Son (John 1:14, 18; 3:16). Nowhere in the gospel of John do we ever see the disciples or Christ’s followers called “sons,” nor do they ever address God as “father.”[v] This is intentional on the author’s part as he describes Jesus as the one true Son of God.
Jesus was the Fulfillment of Old Testament Prophecy
Jesus Christ was the messiah that the prophets had talked about, and He came to earth to reconcile man to God as the final atonement. A Messiah was promised for hundreds of years prior to Christ’s birth. Upon His arrival, and through His life, hundreds of prophecies were fulfilled. Psalm 69 and Isaiah 53 told us that His own people would reject the Messiah. In John 1:11 we see that the Jews and God’s own creation did indeed reject the Messiah that was sent. Isaiah 9:6 tells us that the Messiah would be eternal and supernatural in nature. John 11, 8:58 and 14:9 all speak of His divine nature and eternal existence. Isaiah 53:4–6 explains that this Messiah would die in place for His people. John 18 we are told that Caiaphas expedited the death penalty process for Jesus and in doing so stated, “one man will die for his people” (v.14) and thus fulfilling prophecy.
Around His death there were many prophecies fulfilled: He was crucified (Psalm 22:16; John 19:18), that His garment was divided (Psalm 22:18; John 19:24), that His side was pierced (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:37), no bones were broken (Exodus 12:46; Psalm 34:20; John 19:33-37), that He was buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9; John 19:28-42). All of these things are mentioned in the Old Testament prophecy and then fulfilled through Christ as recorded in the Gospel of John.
We must not miss the power of Old Testament prophecy being fulfilled. This is perhaps one of the greatest illustrations of Christ divinity that anyone can observe. It is a safe assumption for one to conclude that Jesus truly is the Son of God, the Messiah, because He fulfilled perfectly what God has prophesied prior to his birth. Jesus did not only fulfill a partial number of prophecies but rather fulfilled every single prophecy God had said about Him, and in the future will come again fulfill all end time prophecies about His return.
The Gospel of John is very clear that Jesus is the Son of God. The proclamation of this gospel forces the reader to make a decision about faith. All people must come to either believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God or they will have to disregard the clear evidence found within Scripture. The only thing God demands for our salvation and the gift of eternal life is to believe in the Son of God. This belief means that we obey Him (John 3:36), come to Him with complete faith and surrender as the Lord of our life (John 14:6), and honor Him in word and action (John 5:23). If we do this, such faith will bring us salvation (John 5:34) and the gift of life. This life is not merely an existence in bliss after death. It is the divine presence of Christ joined with our lives now through the power of the Holy Spirit (John 6:40, 47: 20:31).
I firmly believe that Jesus Christ still performs divine functions as the risen Lord, now seated at the right had of the throne of God. I believe that He is the sustainer (1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3) and author of life (John 1:4; Acts 3:15). He is the ruler of some now and all in the future (Matt. 28:18, Rom. 14:9; Rev 1:5). By His divine functions on earth, we can rest assured that He was and is the Son of God. Scripture claimed that Christ was fully divine and to see it any other way would make Scripture out to be nonsense and untrue.
[i] Green, Joel B., Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall. “Son of God.” Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1992. 774. Print.
[ii] Grudem, Wayne A. “Chapter 26: The Person of Christ.” Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press; 1994. 547-549. Print.
[iii] Grudem, pg. 548
[iv] Green, pg. 775