Sunday, January 27, 2013

"I live because of the Father"

I recently ran across a unitarian who cited Jn 6:57 to prove his contention that the Son owes his existence to the Father. However, this reflects the dangers of atomistic prooftexting. Here is the verse in context:

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever” (6:52-56).

i) 6:57 isn’t describing the origin of one’s existence. Take the comparison with Christians. Although there’s a roundabout sense in which Christians derive their existence from the Son, due to his creatorship (1:3), that’s not what this passage is referring to. Jesus is talking about a kind of life he confers on people who already exist. So we need to keep that comparison in mind.

ii) What kind of life does he confer? Eternal life. This takes existence for granted. It concerns the present and the future, not the past. Continuous existence. Prior existence is a given.

iii) Eternal life takes its inception at the moment of regeneration:

3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (3:3-8).

38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (7:38-39).

For Christians, eternal life is a present possession.

iv) And this, in turn, carries over into future life. Resurrection life:

21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 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. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

25 “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. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment (5:21-29).

54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day (6:54).

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die (11:25).

Christ illustrates the basic principle by comparing the asymmetrical relationship between branches and the vine:

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (15:4-5).

Branches must be attached to the vine to stay alive and bear fruit. Pruned branches wither, turn brown and dry, due to lack of moisture and nutrients.

v) Jesus can give what he has. Because he is immortal, he can grant immortality to others.

This is clearly operating at the level of the economic Trinity. Biological life. The Incarnation and the Resurrection. Mortality applies to creatures. Humans are liable to death. God is not.

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