By Mike Willis
In the editorial in the last issue, we looked at some passages commonly cited to prove that Jesus did not have omnipotence while on earth. We endeavored to show that those passages in which Jesus said that he was not doing his own will but the will of the Father, rather than being a denial of his omnipotence, were strong affirmations of the unity of the Godhead. We continue this same theme by looking at several significant quotations from R.C.H. Lenski on pertinent passages in John. ICC.H. Lenskis Comments
Throughout his commentary on the gospel of John, Lenski addresses the concept of a Jesus who only has derived power. Several of his comments are extremely good. I reproduce some of them below:
1. John 4:50. After describing the healing of the noblemans son from a distance, Lenski added, “Jesus gives the man only his word and even that in the tersest form, Thy son lives not a syllable more- On him who speaks this little word, and on the little word this person speaks, the man is thus bidden to rest his faith. On paper, and as we read it from the printed page, it does seem little too little; yet as there spoken by Jesus it was mighty, it bore all the power of Jesus will, a divine pledge an unconditional assurance, an absolute promise. . . The fact that Jesus wrought this miracle, as he did every other deed of his, in conformity with his calling and office and in harmony with his Fathers will, needs no saying. But to add that in each case Jesus had and had to have a decision or an intimation from his Father to do the deed is devoid of Scripture support. To think that every miracle came only as an answer to a prayer reduces him to the level of the ordinary prophets and is contradicted by all the cases where Jesus reveals that he acts by his own will and power (352-353). To say that Jesus works by his own will and power simply affirms the fulness of his divine nature as a person in the Godhead, but it does not mean that he acted separate and apart from the other persons in the Godhead.
2. John /1:41. Regarding Jesus prayer before the raising of Lazarus, Lenski said, “Accordingly, we dismiss as inadequate those interpretations which have Jesus ask the Father for power and authority to raise Lazarus from the dead. This reduces Jesus to the level of the prophets and the apostles who as mere men wrought miracles only in this way. . . – Jesus neither is nor acts as a mere tool of the Father. Jesus mission is so great that it could not be executed by one who would be only an instrument in the Fathers hands, to be guided by him at every step, and to be powerless except for the special power granted for every work. This mission the Son alone could execute, for it required one who in power as well as in mind and in will is wholly one with the Father. This is the sense of 5:19 and 30: Jesus can do and say nothing of himself, as emanating from himself alone and deviating from his Father; in all he does and says he is one with the Father, because he is the Fathers Son. Ever the Father shows, ever the Son `sees’; ever the Son looks up to the Father, ever the Father `hears.’ Such absolute unity is possible only between these two” (815-816). In other words, the perfect unity of the Godhead is seen even when the separate persons of the Godhead act.
3.John 12:45. Jesus said, “And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.” Lenski added, “Between the prophets of God and the God who sent them a wide gap appears, which is bridged by the word they brought; between Jesus and his Sender there is no gap in the one you see the other, for the Son is the express image of the Father, Heb. 1:3. All that the Father thinks is fully revealed in Jesus. More than this, the Father and the Son are one in essence and so in will and in work. No division and separation is possible between them. To see the Son is thus in full reality to see the Father who did send him” (893-894). There is perfect union in all the operations of the Godhead.
4.John 13:3. In John’s record of Jesus’ washing the disciples feet he comments that Jesus knew the hour of his death had come (13:1) and adds, “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God.” Lenski commented, “Jesus knows not merely the arrival of the hour for his transfer out of the world to the Father; we are to think of him as being fully conscious of his power in this hour when the devil, Judas, and his enemies seem to be celebrating the triumph of their power, fully conscious also that he of his own will came from God and now of his own will is in the act of going back to God. This loving Jesus is the almighty Jesus, the sovereign eternal Son who descended from God for his supreme mission and now at its close returns as the Son that he is….`He did come out from God’ declares his deity, his essential oneness with God” (910,912). While the Father and the Son are distinct persons in the Godhead, they work in perfect harmony.
5. John 14:28. Jesus said, “I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than L” Lenski wrote, “It has well been said and often repeated that the creature that would dare to make a comparison of himself with God by saying. `God is greater than I,’ would be guilty of blasphemous folly as he who would say, `I am equal to God.’ When Jesus utters this comparison he does so with the most vivid consciousness of his deity” (1020). While each member of the Godhead played a distinct role in the plan of redemption, the full deity of each person remained intact and the work was done in complete harmony.
6. John 15:26. Regarding the sending of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” The Comforter is “from the Father” and “proceedeth from the Father,” but Jesus is the one who sends him. The Father’s giving is accomplished by the Son’s sending; the Son’s sending is accomplished by the Father’s giving. Len-ski adds, “The added phrase `from the Father’ does not indicate a subordination of Jesus to the Father. The same is true in 14:16 with regard to the request of Jesus to the Father. There is an assumption that because he does not act independently of the Father he must be lower and less than the Father. Applying this assumption to the Spirit, he would be still lower and less than the Son, for he, too, does not act independently but comes only at the Son’s sending. This stressing of the acts of the Persons in relation to each other in order to make one lower than the other is unwarranted. Against this procedure stands every Scripture passage which places the Persons on an equality. When equals are a unit in a purpose and a work, the equality remains undisturbed when one of these equals requests another, sends another, allows himself to be sent by another, to perform one or the other great part of that work. All these acts reveal only the perfect harmony of these equals in carrying out their one work, each acting with the other, each with the other’s con-sent” (1068). There is perfect unity and harmony in all the workings of the Godhead.
The concept that Jesus only had derived power and not inherent power while a man has not been sustained by the verses to which appeal has been made. The interpretation given to these verses by brother Welch and a few others clashes with other statements of Scripture. The view that Jesus worked miracles only by the power given to him by the Holy Spirit reduces him to the level of the prophets and apostles.
The denial of the omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, and holiness of Jesus is an assault against the immutability of God the Son. The writer of Hebrews 13:8 said, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” If Jesus ever possessed all the attributes of deity, he possessed them forever. Otherwise he is not “the same yesterday, and to day, and forever.”
What is gained by this new interpretation offered by brother Welch? Nothing that I can see. One is in no better position to affirm the actual temptations of Christ by denying his omnipotence. Asserting that Jesus was omnipotent but chose not to use his omnipotent power does not reduce his temptations. Actually, one with omnipotent power faced temptations greater than a mere man. A mere man was never tempted to turn stones into bread and call a legion of angels to remove himself from the cross. These temptations were greater for Jesus because of his omnipotence; they were not weakened because he was omnipotent!
The denying that Jesus was omnipotent attacks the deity of Christ. One might as well affirm that Jesus was not eternal while on earth as to affirm that he was not omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent. One can say, “I believe that Jesus was deity before, during, and after his life on earth,” but if the Jesus who is called deity is deprived of his omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, holiness, and other divine attributes, what is left that makes him deity? If Jesus can maintain his eternity while on earth without compromising his humanity, he also can maintain all of his other at-tributes by the same reasonings.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 14, p. 2
July 15, 1993