I finished our last study by saying that Jesus has not only lived forever as the Son of God; He has also enjoyed perfect love, joy, and unity with the Father from eternity past. That is the focus of today’s study—His co-existence with God and what it means.
Listen again to verses 1 and 2. John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” Twice in two verses, John says, “the Word was with God.” So now we know something else about Him—not only is He God, He was also with God. But if He was both God and with God, that means there must be Two Persons who are God. Exactly! That’s the very point John is making. Not only is Jesus the eternal God, He is also distinct from the eternal God. Who, then, is the Person He was with who is called God?” God the Father, of course!
“Huh?” you say. “That doesn’t make sense!” Maybe not; nevertheless it’s true even if your mind is unable to grasp it, for John is now leading us into a realm where human reason is of no help and introducing us to a concept which the finite human mind cannot understand. He’s revealing that within the Essence of the One True God is a plurality—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
“But,” you worry, ”Isn’t that heresy, and the very thing for which the people of Israel were punished again and again—worshiping other gods in addition to the One True God?” For example, only days after receiving the Ten Commandments they coerced Aaron into making a golden calf, which they proceeded to worship, bringing the wrath of God upon them. But it turns out that we don’t need to worry, for Jesus said it is neither a heresy nor disloyal to the Father for us to worship the Son. For never has there been a twinge of jealousy or rivalry between Them. On the contrary, Jesus said it is rebellion and disloyalty not to give the Son the same honor we give the Father.
For example, on the last night before His death, He commanded His disciples to believe in Him just as we are to believe in the Father. “Let not your heart be troubled,” He said. “You believe in God. Believe also in Me.” Phillip felt he needed more, so he asked Him, “Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us.” To which Jesus responded, “Phillip, have I been with you so long and still you do not know Me? He who has seen Me has seen the Father!”
Talk about claiming to be equal with God! But that’s what Jesus does in this Gospel again and again. In fact, at one point He comes right out and says it. John 10:30—“I and My Father are One.” Not only is that unprecedented pride if Jesus is not God; the Old Testament says it was also grounds for the death penalty, which is why His enemies immediately picked up stones to kill Him.
But the fact is Jesus is equal with God. That’s John’s point in verses 1 and 2. You see the phrase “with God?” The word in the original means face-to-face with someone. And nobody can claim that but Jesus alone. Angels don’t stand face-to-face with God. Nor do human beings! Instead, what do human beings do when they come face-to-face with God? They fall on their faces in worship, lest they see the face of God and die. But not Jesus, for Jesus is equal with the Father in every way from eternity past.
By the way, this is also a great verse for Father’s Day, for it gives us a perfect model for the way fathers and sons ought to relate to one another. John says that Jesus and the Father have forever lived in perfect face-to-face, eye-to-eye fellowship with Each Other, never wavering in their love and respect for One Another.
You can see a hint of this as far back as Deuteronomy 6:4 where we find the great Shema Israel, a prayer that faithful Jews recite every morning and evening to this day. Here the Lord emphasizes that He, Jehovah, is One God, so we’re to have no other gods besides Him. “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God is One!” But what you may not realize unless you’ve studied this passage is that the word “One” doesn’t mean “one in number.” It means “one in unity.”
I can say that because of another key place the word is used. Genesis 2:24, where the Lord says to Adam and Eve, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Two persons but one flesh! That’s the same idea when it comes to the Trinity. There are Three Eternal Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – who are together One God in essence and unity.
In fact, the more you study it, the more you see why God from the beginning forbade making images to represent Him. He was reserving that holy spot for His Son who, according to Colossians 1:15 and other passages in the New Testament, is “the image of the Invisible God,” so that those who have seen Him have seen the Father. We’ll see that again when we study John 1:18 which says, “No one has seen God at any time; the only Begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known.”
The truth is God is different from every other Being who has ever existed. Does that surprise you? For example, when it comes to people, how many persons has He placed within each human being? Just one, right? But that isn’t true of God. In God’s case, there are Three Persons who share the One Divine Essence we call God. This means God has never been lonely, but has always enjoyed perfect, fulfilling fellowship—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I emphasize this because there are many heresies today that deny and distort the doctrine of the Trinity. One of the most prominent that’s been going around for centuries and is popular again today is called “oneness theology.” There is nothing new under the sun! This is a core belief of the United Pentecostal Church numbering 25 million members worldwide. But it disagrees with mainstream Pentecostalism. Many of you have a Pentecostal background, as do I. I was led to Christ by Pentecostal believers and spent the first part of my Christian life worshiping in a Foursquare Church. But the UPC is very different from mainstream Pentecostalism.
For one thing, they deny the Trinity and teach in its place something called Modalism. It’s the belief that God has at times taken on different modes. For example, in the Old Testament, He was God the Father; in the Gospels, He was Jesus the Son; whereas today He’s at work in the world as the Holy Spirit. But He is not all Three at once. That’s a heresy which, unless a person repents of it, will lead to an eternity apart from Christ. As St. Augustine warned, “He who tries to explain the Trinity will lose his mind. He who tries to explain it away will lose his soul.”
So let me say it one more time to make sure no one is confused about the Bible’s teaching. John says that Jesus Christ is God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, enjoying a glory from eternity past that belongs to God alone.
Tomorrow we will finish this portion of Scripture by studying the most profound fact about Christ, and that’s His self-existence.