And Jesus Christ Whom You Have Sent

In Jesus' prayer to His Father, which dialogical activity requires the presence of two distinct persons, Jesus states: "And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." (John 17:3 NRSV, emphasis added) The connective "and" is significant here: Christ's desire is that people understand the core distinctive of obtaining eternal life: to know personally-relationally the only true God, the Father to whom He is praying, and also Jesus Christ whom the Father sent into the world. Jesus Himself declares His own divine equality as deity with God the Father. This connective "and" is significant at other texts as well.

In the Introduction to most of St Paul's letters, he references God the Father, then uses the connective "and" to include, in equality, the divine Person of Jesus Christ the Son: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:3; Phil. 1:2; 2 Thess. 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philem. 1:3). Grace and peace flow from the Father and equally from the Son. To the believers at Thessalonika, the apostle states that the church is "in" both God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 1:1).

Half-brother to Jesus, James opens his letter by declaring himself a servant of both God, presumably the Father, and of the Lord Jesus Christ (James 1:1). St Peter begins his address, "May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God," presumably referring to God the Father, "and of Jesus our Lord." (2 Pet. 1:2, emphasis added) The apostle frames his address regarding knowledge including the Father, as well as the Son, as does Jesus at our John 17:3 passage. The apostle John assumes a different relational tact at his commencement:
We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life -- this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us -- we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and [a connective of equality] with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3, emphases added)
Here, eternal life is a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. This "word of life" (1 John 1:1; cf. John 1:1-3), this "eternal life," was always with the Father (1 John 1:2). "In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1 NLT) St John also informs us: "So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son." (John 1:14 NLT) The author of Hebrews teaches us that Jesus is "the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being." (Heb. 1:3 NRSV) St John concludes: "No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father's heart [or in the bosom of the Father, NASB]. He [Jesus] has revealed God [the Father] to us." (John 1:18 NLT)

Further justifying His own equality with His Father, Jesus, having stated that eternal life comprises knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son, continues, "I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory I had in your presence before the world existed." (John 17:4, 5 NRSV, emphasis added) Prior to His incarnation, Jesus existed as the Son of God from eternity past with the Father, in the glory of God. His earthly mission is nearing completion, and He asks to be restored to His prior condition, with the glory He had from eternity past with the Father in heaven. Should anyone miss the obvious statement of Jesus' equality with the Father at John 17:3, the same is obvious from John 17:4-5, as Jesus confesses His divine state prior to His incarnation.

The unitarian heretic Arius (d. 336 CE), known as a heresiarch (a prominent heretic), appeals to certain "church fathers" to support his heretical notions denying to Christ His rightful and eternal divinity. The primary heretical "church father" of Arius' false notions regarding the divinity of Jesus originate in Paul of Samosata, against whom three separate synods charge the man as maintaining heresy. (link) Paul of Samosata is condemned and excommunicated, but not before influencing Lucian, an editor of the Septuagint, as well as Eusebius the historian, Eusebius of Nicomedia, and Arius the heresiarch. (link) In other words, Arius' appeal to other so-called fathers for support of his heretical doctrines is not an appeal to all the orthodox Church fathers who had condemned and excommunicated the very man from whom Arius learns his heresy. Prior to Arius' own condemnation, our early Church fathers have locally condemned any teaching that opposes the apostolic teaching of the divinity of Jesus Christ and the Triune Godhead.


Arius, as noted by Athanasius and quoted by Gerald O'Collins, SJ, considers "the Son strictly inferior to and, in fact, infinitely different from the Father."1 Yet, any cursory reading of the New Testament requires us to believe, absolutely, that Jesus Christ the Son of God is equal to yet distinct from His Father. Otherwise, every statement uttered by Jesus, regarding equality with the Father, and every statement uttered or penned by any individual related to the New Testament, renders that person guilty of idolatry and overt blasphemy to His Father, by uttering that eternal life is found in knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son whom the Father sent into the world. (John 17:3) Is Jesus confused by praying in this manner? Is He deceived?

Moreover, for Jesus to claim that He possesses the glory of God the Father from eternity past, prior to His incarnation (John 17:4, 5), when clearly He did not, since He is just a mere man as Arius argues, then Jesus is delusional at best and demonically inspired at worst. But this summation is what the likes of Arius forces us to concede. Either Jesus is, in His nature, as He declares Himself to be or else He is deceived, a blasphemer proper, and of all creatures most to be pitied; for, what state of mind is worse than the perception that one is the divine Son of God, the Messiah of God the Creator, the Propitiation for the sin of the world, when, in actuality, the individual is merely confused, misled, and found as another huckster in the annals of history?

Recall Arius' presuppositional framework by which he interprets the New Testament: Jesus, as Son/Logos (or Word), is a "being created before the beginning of the world, out of nothing, and by the will of the Father, but not created 'like one of the creatures,'"2 referring to angels and human beings. So, Arius denies what Jesus confesses of Himself, that He is co-eternal with the Father (John 17:4, 5). Jehovah's Witnesses tragically hold this damnably heretical notion to this day:
After initially speaking of the Son as created out of nothing, Arius subsequently allowed for the Son being "generated" by the Father but persisted in considering this act of generation to be in effect a creation. The only creature directly created by the Father, the Son carried out the will of the Father by creating everything else [including the first humans] and so acting as a kind of demiurge [a pagan notion], a Logos to be located very high in the hierarchy of being and exercising divine power between God and the universe, but less than God. Hence, the One who became incarnate was not truly divine but below the level of God. Christ was also not truly and fully human. According to Arius, the Logos took the place of the human soul in Christ.3
From Jesus' own lips we have the confession that salvation from sin is not possible to the one who denies the divinity of Christ: "I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am [ἐγώ εἰμι]" (John 8:24); "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am [ἐγώ εἰμι]" (John 8:28); "Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am [ἐγώ εἰμι]" (John 8:58). The repeated phrase "I Am" in Greek is ἐγώ εἰμι and is used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures) as the eternal Name of God at Exodus 3:14, 15, the Name by which God is associated and to be remembered and revered forever:
God [elohim] said to Moses, "I Am Who I Am." He said further, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'I Am has sent me to you.'" God also said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'The LORD [YHWH, trad. Yahweh], the God [elohim] of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you': This [I Am] is my name forever, and this my title [or Memorial] for all generations." (Exodus 3:14, 15)
God reveals God's self, God's nature, as I Am. God is the Great I Am of all eternity. This is God's Name by which He is to remembered forever: I Am. When Moses asks God whom he shall say to the Israelites has sent him to them, God answers, "Tell them I Am has sent you to them."

Jesus uses this same reference for Himself, noting particularly that recognition of and belief in this eternal truth, even Jesus Christ Himself as the Great I Am and in union with the triune I Am of the Father and the Holy Spirit, warrants salvation from sin (John 8:24). This is why Trinitarianism and the doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ is of paramount significance: unless one is willing to recognize Jesus as the divine Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, then such cannot be saved. Is Arius in heaven this day? No. Are those deceived by Arius' teaching in heaven today? No. Anyone who denies the divinity of Jesus Christ, according to Jesus' own words and teaching, will not be saved from their sins. (John 8:24; 17:3) May this remind us why orthodox theology is so very important. Be very careful who you allow yourself to follow theologically.

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1 Gerald O'Cllins, SJ, The Tripersonal God: Understanding and Interpreting the Trinity (New York: Paulist Press, 2014), 112.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid., 112-13.