Question: Bro. Burk, in John 5:20 we hear Jesus telling us that “the Father loves the Son…” If this passage was written in question form it would read, “Who is loving Who?” And from my conversations with certain oneness apostolic believers, “Son” is always a reference to the flesh, so I have been told this passage should be read in light of Eph. 5:29. But if this is the case, then the above question, Who is loving Who? (the Father loves the Son) would have to be changed to, “Who is loving What?” (the Father loves the flesh). Is this the correct apostolic understanding of the title “Son” and this passage?
Answer: You ask a great question. The Bible says there is only One God. As a result, we know that the passage in question cannot be speaking of “God the Father” loving “God the Son.” The correct question that should be asked in this verse is “who prefers what?” The reason for this is that the context of that verse has Jesus speaking of the “Son” being the preferred plan of God, and that this plan either causes life or brings judgment leading to death. Another key to seeing this is the correct question is found in this verse’s “love.” Strong’s Concordance defines the word “love” found there as follows:
1) to love
1a) to approve of
1b) to like
1d) to treat affectionately or kindly, to welcome, befriend
Using this understanding, we could say:
“For the Father [sanctions]the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.”
With this we see Jesus being God’s plan to present His message to humanity. He surpassed the Law as being the preferred vehicle through which He would explain His will to mankind. Jesus even mentions this being the case when He states:
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,” (Joh 5:39 ESV).
Similarly, John uses this same preferred plan message for the beginning of his gospel. John’s message here will make perfect—One God—sense if wherever you see the BOLD words “He,” Word,” “Him,” “light,” or “Jesus Christ,” you insert the expression, “preferred plan.”
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (Joh 1:1-18 ESV).
Like in John 5, John 1 also mentions John the Baptist’s role in ushering in God’s preferred plan to mankind. John the Baptist was representative of the Old Covenant. That plan was the guardian that led the students to the great teacher—Jesus Christ (see Gal 3:24-26). This is like Moses (the temporary plan/John the Baptist) leading the children of Israel to the edge of the Promise Land, and Joshua (the permanent preferred plan/Jesus Christ) taking over and leading them through the Jordan and into the promise.
Remember what Moses foretold:
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him (Deu 18:15-19 ESV).
These words of Moses are also found quoted in the New Testament (see Mat 17:5; Mar 9:7; Luk 9:35; Joh 10:20; Act 3:22). When comparing the context of these accounts with that in Deuteronomy 18, we see that Moses was prophesying about Jesus, and that when Jesus did come, He would usher in God’s preferred message for mankind. We know this has already happened, and as such, Jesus’ New Covenant gospel message is the only message whereby all men and women can be saved.
Jesus being the preferred plan that brings about both God’s salvation and His judgment is mentioned also by the following writing from John:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (Joh 3:16-18 ESV).
Paul writes in agreement about this same preferred plan being given through Jesus:
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory (1Ti 3:16 ESV).
This verse agrees with John’s statement that God’s plan was made flesh and dwelled among His people, and through that appearance, mankind could see the “glory of God” (John 1:14). The one who penned Hebrews echoed this when writing:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs (Heb 1:1-4 ESV).
Again we see the Old Covenant message being usurped by the better, more preferred message of Jesus’ New Covenant. Also, “angels,” used in the above verse 4, is not “spirit beings,” but is better understood as being “messengers,” such as “preachers,” or better yet as an allusion to the “prophets” cited in verse 1.
So, in conclusion, the verse in question is not about “God the Father” loving “God the Son,” or about the “Spirit of God” loving the “Flesh of God”; rather it’s about God showing His approval of a sanctioned method through which He chose to present His New Covenant message to mankind. Mankind’s obedience or disobedience to this message will determine whether a man or woman is blessed or cursed, is in the kingdom of light or darkness, and if they are saved or unsaved.
I hope my answer helps. If I didn’t make my thoughts clear enough, please let me know and I’ll take another run at it.
Copyright © 2011 TK Burk. All Rights Reserved.