Controversy of John 5:16-19, does Jesus claim to be God?

Father and Son work together as one
Father and Son work together as one | Source

Controversy in the Bible

Who Jesus is, is very important to me. As I resume my Bible study in John chapter 5, I realize that I am about to dive into a controversial passage. These verses have been used by Christians to show that Jesus is God, and by others to prove that he is not.

John 5:16 - 19

"So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God."

Exodus 35:2

"For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a sabbath of complete rest to the LORD; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death."

Is Jesus God?


It was the Sabbath, a very important day to the Jews. God commanded them to rest on the Sabbath and set it aside as holy to Him. Death was the penalty for working on this special day. Keeping this commandment was important to them, and whole books were written to help them define work. The Pharisees knew the regulations well, but it was impossible to follow them all. On this day, Jesus was visiting the pool of Bethesda. He chose a man lying there and healed him of his disease. This infuriated the religious Jews; for healing was definitely not permitted on the Sabbath. They confronted Jesus and persecuted him for working on the Sabbath. His answer angered them even more.

“My father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”

By this statement, the Jews understood that Jesus was claiming to be equal to God. This was even more horrifying than breaking the Sabbath. They tried even harder to have him killed. Jesus had more to say.


Jesus does Nothing by Himself

“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

A friend of mine, who is not a Christian, looks to these verses as proof that Jesus is not God, or even equal to him. She points out that Jesus doesn’t actually say that he is God in his statement. In fact, she believes he is claiming not to be equal to God when he says that he can’t do anything by himself.


Jesus is Equal to God

I have a different view. First, I think that Jesus is using the exact words needed to show his audience who he really is. He knows that they will understand that he is claiming to be God by calling him “Father”. We see this confirmed a bit later in this gospel. John 10:33 – “We are not stoning you for any of these,” (miracles) replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” Jesus said nothing without a purpose. His words were understood exactly as he intended them to be.

I also believe these verses give us a glimpse of the perfect unity between the Father and the Son. I think that it would show inequality between the two if Jesus could do things the Father couldn’t do. Then he would be either greater than the Father, or sinful. Which I think goes against pretty much everybody’s beliefs.


What is the Trinity?

It might be helpful to stop a moment and define the trinity here. To believe in the Holy Trinity means that we believe that God is one in essence and being who exists in three equal persons, each with their own unique roll. It is with perfect unity that each individual member of the trinity works and interacts together. Therefore, I believe that Jesus is saying: God works on the Sabbath – I am equal to God – so I work on the Sabbath. Not only is he claiming to be equal to the Father, but he is also showing them that he is not working outside of God’s blessing. They work together equally as one.

Read more on Jesus' claim to be God and how he demonstrates his unity with the Father by continuing to the next hub - Jesus demonstrates his unity with the Father in John 5:19 - 23.

http://aprilreynolds.hubpages.com/_xlrvaljpe5td/hub/Jesus-claims-to-be-God-in-John-519-23

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Comments 45 comments

teacherjoe52 profile image

teacherjoe52 4 years ago

Hi April.

The trinty will always be a mystery which will not be explained until we get home (Heaven) but your observation are right on.

God bless you.


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 4 years ago from Arizona Author

Thank you teacherjoe, Yes, I agree, God is bigger than we can ever comprehend here on earth, but there are good reasons why the early church fathers described him as a trinity.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

I wonder what makes our simple human minds ask such a question. How nice that centuries of faith have given us this phrase "the mystery of" let it always be.


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 4 years ago from Arizona Author

I find it very comforting that God is bigger than I can understand! Thank you Eric.


dianetrotter profile image

dianetrotter 4 years ago from Fontana

Great Hub April! Non-believers hone in on a passage to support their positions without knowing the context or supporting passages.


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 4 years ago from Arizona Author

Thank you for reading Diana. You are right, that is why it's so important to know what we believe and how to read the context to make sure it's true!


michael rivers1 profile image

michael rivers1 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida

One of your best hubs, April. I appreciate your insight and willingness to tackle a tough subject.


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 4 years ago from Arizona Author

Thank you Michael, I put this off a long time, but I'm glad I came back to it. God is so amazing!


aimer 4 years ago

Yes, the Jews knew that Jesus was claiming to be God, that is why they wanted Him dead. This claim is also seen in John 8:58-59 and in John 14:8-9. May God bless you April and use you mightily in your friend's life.


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 4 years ago from Arizona Author

Thank you aimer. Its hard for us to understand the impact those claims made in their culture.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

April, yesterday I asked this question and "do you understand the Trinity?", in a catechism glass I teach. On your question no one knew, on mine several said yes but could not explain it in any way. We paused and I asked the same question with only the concept "do you believe"? The beauty was that all hands went up with confidence. Cool.

Your hub helped teach 20 or so young Christians - No mystery there.


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 4 years ago from Arizona Author

Wow, that is amazing, I am so glad they were all confident in what they believed! The Trinity and the deity of Jesus is so important to our faith. I am humbled , thank you.


newenglandsun 4 years ago

This is definitely one of the verses in John that I had in mind. Here are about...all of them.

John 1:1 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

(is God)

John 5:18 - Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

(is only equal to God)

John 8:24 - Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."

(is God)

John 8:28 - Then Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.

(is subordinate to God while at the same time being God - this one is just confusing)

John 8:58 - Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."

(is God)

John 10:29 - My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.

(back to being subordiate to God)

John 10:30 - I and My Father are one."

(back to being God)

John 14:9 - Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?

(is God again)

John 14:28 - You have heard Me say to you, 'I am going away and coming back to you.' If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, 'I am going to the Father,' for My Father is greater than I.

(is subordinate to God)

John 17:3 - And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

(is subordinate to God)

John 20:17 - Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.' "

(is subordinate to God)

John 20:28 - And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"

(back to being God again)

The author's Christologt confuses me. And I'm not just referring to one part. Thank you so much!


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 4 years ago from Arizona Author

Ahhh I love John 1:1...its part of what made me decide to do a study on John. My 3rd and 4th hubs are about it. For the longest time I couldn't figure out why Jesus was called the word, so I had to figure it out. I hope to eventually get through the whole book. Although it might take awhile, I've been at it for a year and I'm only half way through chapter 5.


newenglandsun 4 years ago

I'm also a little confused as to what Christians are supposed to view Jesus as. God, Demi-God, Archangel, Man, Son of God, Created Being of Some Other Dimension?

I know that Christians have split themselves on some of these issues as well.


dianetrotter profile image

dianetrotter 4 years ago from Fontana

I don't know of any Christians that don't believe in the trinity. The denominations that I am aware of agree on the trinity. Groups that don't believe in certain basics are classified as cults.


newenglandsun 4 years ago

@dianetrotter

My question was NOT directed at you, it was directed at April. Also, what is it that defines a cult?

dictionary.com produces the following definition:

1. a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.

2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.

3. the object of such devotion.

4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.

5. Sociology . a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.

That sounds like ALL of Christianity is a cult. Who made you so arrogant that you can proclaim "I have the truth! Everybody else is destined for Hell!" Do you know all there is to know about God? If someone professes to be a Christian, then it logically follows that they are a Christian. The Roman Catholic Church considers Protestants heretics. Are Protestants who claim to be "Christian" therefore actually non-Christian? The Eastern Orthodox Church declares Protestantism AND Roman Catholicism as heresy. Is the Eastern Orthodox Church right?

Please provide me with evidence demonstrating why these "cults" are wrong and you are right. Interacting with THEIR arguments put forward to support their view as well.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Wow what a great exchange. I think we are all confused. Or as 90% of Christians would say "It is a Holy mystery!"


newenglandsun 4 years ago

@Ericdierker

Finally, it is refreshing to see a humble Christian who is not bent on labeling other subsects of their own religion as evil and heretical "cults".


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

The Hub is about John. April writes with a loving compassionate heart. No body ever told me I could pick and choose who to love. Paul and Peter had a division over who could be a Christian - God settled that dispute and everyone is included.


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 4 years ago from Arizona Author

wow! I never expected to see so much going on here when I got home. Thank you all for your interest. Please keep in mind that I expect everyone to be kind and respectful while commenting on my hubs! This is important to me as I want it to be a safe place for anyone and I really like to avoid heated arguements.

I hope you are well tonight newenglandsun! I am not sure if you are aware that hubpages is a community site and it is common for us to join in on each other's discussions. I am sure dianetrotter had no intention of being disrespectful. I think she was just trying to help answer your question.

Thank you for your kind words Ericdierker. I appreciate your interest in my hubs!

I personally believe that the Bible teaches us that there is one God who reveals himself to us as three individual persons(God the Father, God the Son(Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit) who are equal and act in perfect unity with each other. Which means that I believe that Jesus is God. I also believe that he loved us so much that he put aside and let go of some of his glory for a time to become a man. (based on Phillipians 2:1-11) This is an important subject to me and, if you don't mind I'd like to put aside some of your other questions for the time being and look at these. Just let me know what you prefer. I hope to publish a book about this someday.

As far as who a Christian is, some of my Jehovah's Witness friends put it well. They say that they have learned from going door to door that just about anybody will call themselves a Christian regardless of what they believe or don't believe. She has met some who don't even believe in God (so have I) but still say they are Christians. The J. Witnesses feel the term 'christian' has become so generalized that it has lost its meaning.

What I think dianetrotter is refering to in her comment, is the uncanny coincidence that virtually all the religions that are generally classified as cults do not believe in the holy trinity. To the extent that it has become a defining point. Although I personally know both Mormons and Jehovah's witnesses who consider themselves Christians and not Cults. (however each strongly believes that the other is a cult and neither believe in the trinity)

It saddens me to say that I have also been told that the christians who say they are born again are the rudest and most argumentative people they meet at the door. I get the idea that you may know someone who has been treated badly by those claiming to be Christians in the past. If so, I am very sorry about that. But please don't judge us all by the actions of others.

I am glad that you ask questions newenglandsun. It is an important thing to do. God gave us our brains, we should use them! I don't have all the answers, but I am willing to look for them for you. I wonder if you have a heart that is searching for God. What do you think he is like? What do you want him to be like? I find encouragement in Jeremiah 29: 13. The Israelites were in captivity and had been lied to by some of their prophets. God tells them not to be deceived and promises "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." I think this promise applies to all of us. Seeking God can be difficult and it takes courage to ask the questions and even more courage to listen to the answers. But if you find God, its all worth it!


dianetrotter profile image

dianetrotter 4 years ago from Fontana

Hi April, Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe the things that define Christianity. They don't believe Jesus is God. They don't celebrate Chrismas or Easter. It may be politically correct to call them Christians. My mother's sister was JW and she sent Watchtowers to us the whole time I was growing up. She discussed her beliefs with us.

Recently, last 10 years or so, they have started saying they are Christians. That enables them to get into a deeper discussion. They believe people will go to paradise which is a separate place from heaven. They believe hell is the grave. http://www.watchman.org/jw/jwafterl.htm


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 4 years ago from Arizona Author

You are absolutely right diane. JW's are a recognized cult and they do not believe in the trinity and many other things the bible teaches. Yet they still call themselves Christians. I was not saying that they are Christians and they believe the same things I do, I was just trying to point out that you can't tell what someone believes when they say they are a Christian anymore. Some consider themselves Christians just because they live in the United States, or consider themselves good people, or have a family member who goes to church. There are even many who sit in church every week, who talk and act real spiritual, but don't have that personal relationship with Jesus Christ that I believe should define a Christian and set them apart from the rest of the world.


dianetrotter profile image

dianetrotter 4 years ago from Fontana

Right on April. The "Christians" that don't act like it, especialy when they leave church, damage the faith more than any nonbelievers.


newenglandsun 4 years ago

Sorry.

This talk about JW's has raised more questions.

dianetrotter said: "They don't celebrate Chrismas or Easter."

Didn't Christmas (December 25 celebration) come from Mithras and that no one really knows when Jesus was born and that it was sometime in the Summer or Spring? Also, didn't Easter come from the Babylonian god Eostre (a goddess who really digs bunnies)? I am taking a New Testament class at ASU right now and this is what we have learned about these two Holidays.

Concerning Philippians 2:1-11, I was wondering on the correct way to interpret that passage as well because some have also asserted that it is understood to be referring to the divine image that Jesus had before he gave it up and submitted himself as a bondservant.

Also, do Christians believe that those who don't agree with them go to Hell to burn for eternity because I see some of this stuff at school where a street preacher calls everyone fornicators and tells them they will burn for eternity in Hell.

I am a former evangelical who is expressing much doubts in Christianity as a whole due to some of the assumptions of what people are supposed to believe in order to be a Christian. My sister is also an uber-Atheist, former evangelical.


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 4 years ago from Arizona Author

No need to apologize newenglandsun, I am happy to hear from you.

You are right, we don't know when Jesus was born. Some think it's fall others say summer or spring. The Jehovah's Witnesses say it can't be winter because the shepherds wouldn't be out with their sheep in all the ice and snow. Although Bethlehem's temps in winter aren't too much different than ours here in Arizona during winter. Lows in the upper 30's and highs in the 50's. They get more moisture than us, but still not a whole lot of ice. I think if God cared when we celebrated Christ's birth, he would have given us the date. If we stole the date from a pagan culture, all the more power to us...hardly anyone knows who Mithras was anymore, but Christ is known univerally. There are so many pagan gods, I'm sure whatever date was picked would have been near someone's holiday.

Easter is based on the first full moon after the spring equanox because that is when Passover is on the Jewish calender. Since Jesus celebrated the Passover just before his crucifixion and resurrection, this is when we celebrate Easter. That Passover happens to coincide with the pagan celebrations of spring and fertility gave Christ another opportunity to override the pagan deities. Although in our culture, both holiday's are so overridden with materialism and gluttony that I think the world is making a mighty effort to take them back. :)

I think it is obvious from the abundance of celebrations God gave to the Jews, that he approves of a good party to help us remember Him in our lives. But I don't think he minds if we celebrate or not. I take this from Romans 14:5,6,12 "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the lord and gives thanks to God...So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Ooops, it's time for me to go get the kids. I'll get back to finish later!


newenglandsun 4 years ago

This guy seems to have a different view on what a Christian is that has nothing to do with belief. Is being a "Christian" about what someone believes or what someone does? I would recognize myself as a new age deist/agnostic.

http://www.newtonproject.sussex.ac.uk/view/texts/n...


dianetrotter profile image

dianetrotter 4 years ago from Fontana

;1-Hi Newengland, There is probably something to the pagan celebrations and we don't know what day Jesus was born. Isn't the weather in Israel reverse to the US so, excluding a date, it might be reasonable to assume that weather elements would be different from the US. When we celebrate these holidays, it is very clearly explained what we are celebrating - the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many people do commercialize both holidays.

I believe Phil. 2:1-11 demonstrates how Jesus humbled Himself to come to earth in the form of man, to show us how to live valuing other people. That value is shown in how we treat people, give them the benefit of the doubt, are kind to them even when they are mean to us, etc.

Agreement should not be with other people. Jesus Christ set the standard for mankind. The agreement should be with the Word of God as revealed in the Bible. People may interpret it differently for other reasons.

Matthew 7:13-14

New International Version (NIV)

The Narrow and Wide Gates

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

If a person doesn't believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven, I can't understand them being upset if they are not going to heaven. It is mean to tell a person "You are going to hell." I would wonder what that person's motives are. We are to bring others to Christ - not push them away.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Wow newenglandsun, Reading Newton should leave your head spinning. Newton did not differentiate between the abstract, theological and scientific. So his words are wonderful but not in a language we speak these days. He was one of the last to begin a sentence about a scientific law, put in some ecclesiastical and historic and then settle into mathematical equations and conclusions. (all in a sentence)

In your comments I see a free and very intelligent spirit.

I have a saying with my tiny congregation -- If it seems questionable to you, you are not reading it in Love. If the Word does not seem loving adjust your insides. Sometimes that means stay away from folks who read it otherwise.


MotherWisdom profile image

MotherWisdom 3 years ago from Indiana

You have hit on a big topic of Who Jesus Christ is. This goes down to the issue of the trinity, the purpose of "why" He came, the cause of the "why", the total deity of God, the nature of God, and so much more. I would even dare to go one step further, when did this doctrine of "trinity" really come into existence? Is God one or three? From Genesis to Revelation it is clear.


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 3 years ago from Arizona Author

Yes MotherWisdom, their unity is seen throughout the whole Bible. Even if the terminology wasn't applied until the Nicene Council in 325. Thank you so much for your visit!


newenglandsun 3 years ago

Hello, MotherWisdom, I must ask why it has to be an "either or" scenario. Does God have to be "one" in order to be "one" or can three teammates in hockey form "one" front line?

But if the totality of God became a man then I must ask that wouldn't this mean that the entire Trinity of the F/S/HG became a man? Why would two of the totality remain in heaven while one was down here?

Conclusion: God was never really a man.


MotherWisdom profile image

MotherWisdom 3 years ago from Indiana

I challenge everyone, even myself, to know the origins of a lot of things we incorporate into our belief system with God. The Israelites stayed in trouble with God because they took on pagan things. They replaced pure worship with things which offended God. We can further become complacent by putting so much on grace that we absolve ourself of responsibility to give Him our best. In Jesus dwells the fullness of the Godhead "bodily". This means all we need to gain salvation is in Him. Jesus gets us back what we lost in the fall of man. He is the second man Adam. The first sold us, the Second redeemed us. When God said let us make man in our image and likeness, God was talking to the Lamb who was in His mind and slain from the foundation of the earth. God is omniscient. He already saw the fall. If you read in Genesis, you will find that man was the only part of creation not pronounced good and very good. The work of creating man in His image and likeness was a work in progress. In Jesus we become complete. God covers all space, and He holds time in His hands. He is omnipresent. There is no way God the Father could fit on the earth. The earth is His footstool. God is a Spirit: He cannot die. Therefore, a body He prepared, to offer up in our place, the payment for the penalty of sin. I really condensed to give a very brief overview. Jesus was/is God and Man. This is what makes Jesus so great. I am trying to condense this...whoooah! He is greater. He clothed Himself in flesh so He could feel what I feel. He was tempted in all points but without sin...


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 3 years ago from Arizona Author

beautifully said MotherWisdom...thank you newengland for expressing your question in a kinder manner


newenglandsun 3 years ago

Hello, MotherWisdom, are you a modalist? No offense, but modalism confuses me more so than trinitarian beliefs.


newenglandsun 3 years ago

You're welcome, Mrs. Reynolds. I am still very confused on the entirety of John though.


MotherWisdom profile image

MotherWisdom 3 years ago from Indiana

I do not know what a modalist is. I do know that I believe one Lord one faith one baptism. God is a God of manifestation. We was disconnected from Him in the fall. We are reconnected to Him through Jesus.


busillis22 profile image

busillis22 3 years ago

MotherWisdom: Modalism is the idea that God is one person with three different 'masks' - three different ways He appears. This is considered an unorthodox view by most mainstream churches (though many hold it without realizing it) and was condemned by some of the early Church councils which contended that God is three persons (Father, Son, Spirit) in one being. Fully one and yet fully three.

Wonderful hub April! A great defense of the deity of Jesus as described in a somhwhat confusing (but deeply profound once understood) passage!


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 3 years ago from Arizona Author

Thank you busillis22, that was helpful. I didn't know what Modalism was either. I'm glad you liked my hub.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Sorry but that is a debunked and silly notion. Modalism is some type of sophistry. It is almost Shakespearean. It would have us believe that God "plays" different roles. A throwback to paganism.

busillis22 stand for something, God is not to be made in a masquerade ball.

But it is very good to shine light and understand, thank you.


April Reynolds profile image

April Reynolds 3 years ago from Arizona Author

Thank you for your visit Ericdierker. I was unclear on your comment...were you saying Modalism is sophistry? I don't think busillis was saying he agreed with Modalism, jsut informing us what it was. Please show love on my hubs.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

April, sometimes love is not in platitudes but in reconciliation of dereliction.

I have great love for the conversation and the personalities. Modalism is not serious thought.


newenglandsun 3 years ago

Modalism and Trinitarianism were two reasons I decided to reject the belief that Jesus is God. Trinitarians would argue modalists with the same logic modalists argued against them. Modalism is entirely based on the teaching of the dual nature of Christ. When he was praying, that was nature 1 speaking to nature 2. Of course, Trinitarianism also affirms the dual natures and their attacks on modalism were just ridiculous.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

I am very amazed newenglandsun, that those two groups would effect your decision at all.


newenglandsun 3 years ago

Hello, Eric. I am not amazed that they would effect my decision. I believe that Christianity quite frequently shoots itself in the foot over and over again with silly pseudo-historical lies and propaganda.

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