Equal With God
John 5:16-18 MKJV And therefore the Jews persecuted Jesus and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath day. (17) But Jesus answered them, My Father works until now, and I work. (18) Then, because of this, the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the Sabbath, but also said that God was His father, making Himself equal with God.
Jesus is “breaking out of the box” of Jewish religious tradition. He does good works on the Sabbath (a healing miracle), and He called God His Father “thus making Himself equal with God”.
The Jewish spiritual world was stratified and the basic levels were: the Pit (where demons were confined), the lower and upper realms of Sheol (where the human dead dwelt), Earth, first heaven (where birds fly), second heaven (angelic realm) third heaven (throne) and above the heavens (God).
In this structure mankind was clearly divided into two, Jews who were under the Law which was administered by the good angels (Acts 7:25, Hebrews 2:2) and the Gentiles who worshipped fallen angels that is – demons (1 Corinthians 10:20).
Thus all men were less than the angelic realm and far, far less than God. Humanity was so far below God that any sort of ‘family relationship’ was thought to be utterly impossible. No mere human could call God his Father. God was said to be ‘the father of Israel’ as a nation but that implied nothing more than tender care and provision.
Jesus thus astonished everyone by calling God His Father. Fatherhood implies “having the same nature as”. Dogs only father dogs, cats only father cats, donkeys only father donkeys. If the father is a monkey, then we know that any child logically must also be a monkey. So if I say, “My father is God” then I am logically saying, “I have a divine nature”.
Thus by the Jewish logic of levels and natures anyone saying “My father is God” is saying “I am on the same general spiritual level as God and my make-up and nature is of the same kind as His.”
Now the OT says clearly that there is only one God, and now this person (Jesus) claims to be of the same spiritual level and make-up and nature as the one and only God, therefore they are claiming to be that God, or at least equal to Him.
Furthermore Jesus demonstrates powers that no normal human had at that time by giving prophecies about the end of the world and performing healings, exorcisms and mighty miracles. He was also going around seemingly “changing the rules” about things like the Sabbath and divorce. And only God can change the very rules that God had made.
So Jesus is clearly making Himself equal with God, and when the Jews accuse Him of this (saying He was equal with God) He does not flat-out deny it, even though such a denial would have got Him out of trouble – in that they wished to kill Him.
The epistles make very clear that Jesus was indeed God in human form:
Colossians 2:9 MKJV For in Him (Jesus Christ) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
Philippians 2:5-7 MKJV For let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, (6) who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, (7) but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.
John 1:1-3, 14 MKJV In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was in the beginning with God. (3) All things came into being through Him, and without Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being. …(14) And the Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us. And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and of truth.
Jesus was able to call God Father, because He was the Word, the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, the fullness of deity in bodily form.
We can call God Father, because we are in Christ, are made citizens of Heaven, and are born of God with an eternal nature. Because of the work of Christ we will rule and reign with Him and He is not ashamed to call us “brothers” (Hebrews 2:11). He is the Son of God, the Elder Brother, and we are the “sons of God”, His brethren.
Let me be clear, we are not God, or even gods with a small g. We are sons of God, and we are seated in the heavenly realms with Christ (Ephesians 2:6,7) promoted into glorious realms by the ascension of Jesus.
Jesus had God as His Father from all eternity; He is the only-begotten Son, while we are adopted children of God. Thus we can call God our Father without making ourselves equal with God. Yet we are to call Him “Abba”, Daddy in the spirit of our adoption as sons (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6).
Jesus shook the Jewish world by calling the Creator God “Father” – something that is so common today because of the Lord’s Prayer. It still makes Muslims furious when Christians dare to call God “Father”. It is an awesome privilege that has been bestowed upon us because we are new creations in Christ Jesus.