John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
Some state that John 17:3 is evidence to deny the Trinity and that Jesus Christ is not God. Their reasoning is that if Jesus were God, then He would not have called the Father, “the only true God.” So as Jesus called the Father “the only true God” then He cannot be God as well.
To answer this we must look at various factors:
1. When Jesus Christ was referring to “the only true God” He was contrasting God with the world’s false gods\idols, and not with Jesus Himself. This was a ‘glorious contrast equally with heathen polytheism, philosophic naturalism, and mystic pantheism’ (Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown Commentary).
2. Jesus had previously identified Himself as being in Oneness with the Father in John 10:38 “But if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” In John 10:30 Jesus said “I and My Father are one.” (Emphasis added) So the Father and Son are one in essential character, and not divided. Consequently as the Father is the only true God, then Jesus is the only true God as well. That Jesus is the true God is further emphasised in 1John 5:20 “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” (Emphasis added). Here Jesus Christ is called the “true God” and so is not contradicting John 17:3.
3. To properly understand a text you must take it in its context. There is also the need to understand what the Bible generally says about a subject to get a balanced view of it. Therefore to take one or two verses on a subject and use them to interpret all the other verses according to their own position, is not the right way to interpret the Bible. “The entirety of Your word [is] truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments [endures] forever” (Psalm 119:160). Therefore let us examine John 17:3 in the light of a sample of the rest of the Bible:
3.1 John 1:1-2, 14 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. v2 He was in the beginning with God. v14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
3.2 John 8:58 “Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” This refers to Exodus 3:14 “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” So Jesus was claiming to be God.
3.3 John 10:25, 30-33 “Jesus answered them, … “I and My Father are one.” v31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. v32 Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” v33 The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”” The Jews could see that when Jesus said that He was One with the Father He was claiming Deity and so would stone Him for what they considered to be blasphemy.
3.4 John 20:28-29 “And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” v29 Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”” Here the Lord Jesus did not deny Thomas’ statement that He was Deity or God. If Jesus was not God, then to accept such a statement would have been blasphemy which no Jew would have accepted. However Jesus acknowledged Thomas’ faith and commended future believers. But believers in what? In that which Thomas has just confessed … that Jesus Christ is Lord and God.
3.5 Hebrews 1:8 “But to the Son He (God the Father v5) says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom.” So here none less than God the Father calls Jesus God.
3.6 2Peter 1:1 “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
3.7 Colossians 2:9 “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”
As a result we find, and with other verses to confirm, that the Bible shows that Jesus is called God by God and others. Therefore those that state that John 17:3 cannot allow for Jesus being God need to consider the rest of the Bible. This also shows that it is not correct to make a theological doctrine out of one verse.
4. If we consistently use the above logic that the Father is the only true God, then the following verses raise puzzling questions:
4.1 John 1:9-10 “That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. v10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.”
As Jesus is here called the “true Light” does that show that the Father is not the true light? If that is not the case, then both the Son and the Father are the “true light”.
4.2 Isaiah 43:11 “I, even I, am the LORD [YHWH], And besides Me there is no saviour.”
1John 4:14 “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world.”
Matthew 1:21 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
According to this logic, Jesus could not be the Saviour since the Bible tells us that YHWH is the only Saviour. However this logic creates a problem as it contradicts God’s Word in Matthew c1 which shows that Jesus is Yahweh.
4.3 Isaiah 44:24 “Thus says the LORD [YHWH], your Redeemer, And He who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself.”
John 1:3 “All things were made through Him (the Word v1-2), and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
Colossians 1:16-17 “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, …”
Using the above logic here would create a problem.
Consequently John 17:3 is not evidence to deny the Trinity and that Jesus Christ is not God. There are a number of other Bible verses that show that Jesus is God (YHWH).
As “the Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world” is the Lord Jesus Christ your Saviour? Do you now know that after you die, when you are in eternity, that you have avoided the eternal judgment of God against your sins and you can confidently look forward to being accepted in God’s (YHWH’s) heaven?