Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Unveiling the Identity of the Only True God Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

We come to the final part of our examination.

The final line of evidence which establishes that Jesus is the only true God, even though he is not the Father, comes from Christ’s statement that all must honor him just as they honor the Father. What makes this a rather bold assertion is that Jesus said this in the same context where he tells the Jews that he is able to do whatever the Father does, such as give life and resurrect the dead from their graves simply by the sound of his all-sovereign voice!

“And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working.’ This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. 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. 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. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 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… 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. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself… Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear HIS [the Son’s] 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. ‘” John 5:16-23, 25-26, 28-29

This explains why the disbelieving Jewish leaders assumed that Jesus was blaspheming, and therefore deserving of death, since they realized that he was claiming to be God’s Son in such a way as to make himself equal with God in essence:

“The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.’” John 19:7

Christ even went as far as to assert that he personally existed together with the Father in the same divine glory before the world was created!

“And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” John 17:5

However, the Holy Bible is emphatic that Yahweh does not share his divine glory or worship and praise with any other deity:

for you shall worship no other god, for Yahweh, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God, ” Exodus 34:14

“Yahweh made a covenant with them and commanded them, ‘Do not fear other gods; do not bow down to them; do not serve them; do not sacrifice to them. But Yahweh, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the One you must worship. To him you shall bow down and to him offer sacrifices.’” 2 Kings 17:35-36(1)

“For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” Isaiah 48:11

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and you shall serve him only.”’” Matthew 4:10 – cf. Luke 4:8

Hence, the only way for Jesus to possess the same divine glory and to receive the same divine honors that the Father does is if he is Yahweh God.

Concluding Remarks

Here is what we discovered from John’s Gospel concerning the identity of the only true God:

  1. There is only one God (5:44).
  2. The Father is the only true God (17:3).
  3. The Father is the God of Jesus and of Jesus’ disciples (20:17).
  4. At the same time, Jesus is the God of Thomas and, by extension, the God of all the disciples (20:28; cf. Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1).
  5. Since Christ is the disciples’ God, and since they only have one God over them, Jesus must, therefore, be the only true God as well.
  6. Yet Jesus is not the Father, but is personally distinct from him (1:1-2; 8:17-19; 17:5, 24).
  7. However, although personally distinct from each other, Jesus and the Father are one in essence (10:25-33).
  8. Therefore, since the Father is the only true God, and since Jesus is one with him in essence, then this simply provides additional support that Jesus is also the only true God.
  9. Jesus even possesses the same glory and receives the same honor that the Father himself possesses and receives (5:22-23; 17:5).
  10. However, the Scriptures are rather emphatic that Yahweh alone is to be worshiped since he does not share his glory and praise with any other god (Exodus 34:14; 2 Kings 17:35-36; Isaiah 48:11; Matthew 4:10; Luke 4:8).
  11. This means that both the Father and the Son are identified as Yahweh, and therefore both of them are the only true God according to John’s Gospel.

Now we could have taken the time to discuss John’s prologue (i.e. 1:1-18), showing how the very first chapter of John’s Gospel identifies Christ as the eternal, preexistent Word and divine Agent of all creation who became flesh, as further confirmation that Jesus is most definitely identified as the only true God. However, we wanted to limit our discussion to the words of Jesus in order to show that Christ himself testified that he is fully God in essence.

We could have further discussed what John says about the Holy Spirit in order to show that even he is depicted as being a fully divine Person, and therefore God as well. However, that will have to wait for a future article (Lord Jesus willing).

Yet for the sake of preventing this article from becoming any lengthier than it already is, we will have to stop here for now. Besides, the data we have provided is more than sufficient to establish the fact that according to John’s Gospel, both the Father and the Son (along with the Holy Spirit) make up the eternal identity of the only true God.

We conclude in the words of noted Evangelical NT scholar Murray J. Harris, who does a masterful job of summing up John’s witness to the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ:

"… As elsewhere in John, the title ho huios tou theou, which is in apposition to ho Christos in John 20:31, denotes more than simply the Davidic Messiah. The Gospel was written to produce belief that Jesus was the promised Jewish Messiah and that the Messiah was none other than the ‘one and only’ Son of God who had come from the Father (John 11:42; 17:8), who shared his nature (John 1:1, 18; 10:30) and fellowship (John 1:18; 14:11), and who therefore might be appropriately be addressed and worshiped as ho theos mou. Unique sonship implies deity (John 5:18; cf. 19:7)… As used by a monotheistic Jew in reference to a person who was demonstrably human, theos will denote oneness with the Father in being (cf. John 10:30),94 not merely in purpose and action. In other words, Thomas’s cry expresses the substantial divinity of Jesus. Thomas has penetrated beyond the semeion–the appearance of the risen Jesus–to its implication, viz., the deity of Christ. While not couched as an ontological affirmation (su ei ho theos mou), the apostle’s exclamatory address has inescapable ontological implications. Even as it is expressed, the confession embodies less functional than ontological truth: Jesus was worshiped by Thomas as a sharer in the divine nature, not simply as a mediator of divine blessing… That Thomas’s cry was not an extravagant acclamation, spoken in a moment of spiritual exaltation when his exuberance exceeded his theological sense, is apparent from two facts. First, the evangelist records no rebuke of Jesus to Thomas for his worship. Jesus’ silence is tantamount to consent, for as monotheist Jews considered the human acceptance of worship as blasphemous. Thomas was not guilty of worshiping the creature over the Creator (cf. Rom. 1:25). Indeed, Jesus’ word to Thomaspepisteukas (John 20:29a; cf. ginoupistos in v. 27)–implies the acceptance of his confession, which is then indirectly commended to others (v. 29b). Second, John has endorsed Thomas’s confession as his own by making it his final and climactic christological affirmation before his statement of purpose, verse 31. The author found in Thomas’s cry a convenient means by which he might bring into sharp focus at the end of his Gospel, as at the beginning (John 1:1, 18), the ultimate implications of his portrait of Jesus.” (Harris, Jesus as God –The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus [Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI: first paperback edition, 1992], Chapter IV: My Lord and my God! (John 20:28), c. The Meaning of theos, pp. 124-127; bold emphasis ours)

94. Given John 1:1 and 1:18, it is quite admissible to discern in ego eimi ho pater hen esmen (John 10:30; cf. 17:11, 22-23; 1 Cor. 3:8) more than unity of will or purpose but less than identity of person. Equality of divine power (10:28-29) points to unity of essence (10:30; hen esmen). Surjansky finds in hen esmen a unity of nature and existence (84-87). On the exegesis of John 10:30 in early Trinitarian controversies, see Pollard, “Exegesis.” (Ibid, p. 125; bold emphasis ours)

Please make sure to read our Addendum as well.

Further Reading

My Lord and My God
The Truth of John 1:1


(1) Amazingly, Jesus receives the very reverence which this particular OT text says is strictly forbidden for any other deity besides Yahweh to receive. For instance, not only do individuals bow down to or worship Jesus,

“And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” Matthew 14:33

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him.” John 9:35-38

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

“And again, when he brings his Firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all of the angels of God worship him.’” Hebrews 1:6

They are also expected to fear or revere him, as well as to serve him as Lord,

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience 2 Corinthians 5:10-11

“Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.” Colossians 3:22-24

Believers are even required to sing to Jesus in their worship and praise of the resurrected and exalted Lord of glory:

“do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:18-21

“And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’ Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ And I heard EVERY CREATURE in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne AND TO THE LAMB be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’ And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.” Revelation 5:8-14