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Galatians 5:16-23 teaches that at any moment we are either walking by the Holy Spirit or according to the sin nature. Walking by the Spirit, enjoying fellowship with God, walking in the light are virtually synonymous. During these times, the Holy Spirit is working in us to illuminate our minds to the truth of Scripture and to challenge us to apply what we learn. But when we sin, we begin to live based on the sin nature. Our works do not count for eternity. The only way to recover is to confess (admit, acknowledge) our sin to God the Father and we are instantly forgiven, cleansed, and recover our spiritual walk (1 John 1:9). Please make sure you are walking by the Spirit before you begin your Bible study, so it will be spiritually profitable.

John 5:16-18 by Robert Dean
Duration:1 hr 4 mins 1 sec

Sustaining Work of Father and Son
John 5:16–18
John Lesson #039
February 21, 1999

The last phrase of verse 9 tells us what is going on here. It was the Sabbath that day. Jesus picks this particular incident on this particular Sabbath to throw the gauntlet down in from of the Pharisees. This is not the first miracle that Jesus has performed on the Sabbath, the other Gospel record three or four other miracles that Jesus did on the Sabbath day that had already created a confrontation with the Pharisees over their Sabbatical rules. It is on this particular Sabbath, though, that Jesus is in Jerusalem at the temple and He is going to make an issue out of this incident. In fact, this is one of the most critical confrontations that takes place in the life of Jesus and it gives rise to a discourse beginning in verse 16 that is called the Son of God discourse. This is one of the least studied and least known discourses in the Gospels and in this Jesus instructs the Pharisees about His own relationship to God, claming to perform the same works as God, and by making this claim He is, in fact, claiming to be equal to God and full, undiminished deity. The result is that from this point on the Pharisees are going to make it their number one priority to kill Him. That is why this is important. What He says in this discourse is very important for us in understanding who He is, who our Saviour is, and what He has done for us.

Another point by way of introduction is that this trip is not recorded in any of the other Gospels because it is not relevant to their particular messages. But for John who has not told us about the other incidents on the Sabbath, he takes this as the key incident to relate in order to portray the rising tension, the animosity, the antagonism that is exiting between the religious authorities and Jesus. Remember, religion is hostile to grace, it is always antagonistic to grace. Religion is man seeking God's approval and blessing by man's efforts. Christianity is not a religion in that sense; Christianity is a relationship based upon grace. Grace means that God does all the work and we simply accept it by faith alone in Christ alone. Religion emphasizes morality, ritual and guilt. It emphasizes the negative: what you do wrong, how you violate the prohibitions that are established in the religious creed. The result of that is to emphasize guilt. Guilt is the great motivator in religion.  Religious systems always motivate on the basis of guilt and so the focus is always on failures rather than on successes. In grace the focus is on success, it is not on failures. Grace focuses on the fact that God did everything, that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins. The finished work of Christ means that there is nothing that we can add to it. Jesus Christ paid it all and that emphasizes the absolute sufficiency of grace which is a major theme in this whole episode.


After Jesus disappears in the crowd the man gets up, picks up his pallet, and his neighbours suddenly realise that this lame man who has been there for 38 years is now walking. Jesus just steps away, nobody sees where He goes. As this man gets up he is going to make his way to the temple to make his sacrifice of thanksgiving, and as he heads there the Pharisees become aware of what is going on and confront him. They don't care that he is healed. This is the superficiality of religion, their rules have been violated. John 5:10 NASB "So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, 'It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet'."

Exodus 20:8 NASB "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. [9] Six days you shall labor and do all your work, [10] but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; {in it} you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. [11] For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy." Remember, the Mosaic Law was given to Israel; it was not given to Gentiles.

A couple of points for present application of this principle. First of all, it establishes a six-day work week, not a five-day work week. Second, there is a principle of rest here that should be followed consistently in our lives. The Sabbatical principle is regular rest at vacation time. That is the application, it doesn't mean setting up some kind of legalistic principle and always take Sunday off and never do anything but that just as God took that day of rest we need to take time off on a regular basis to recoup and refocus and regenerate our minds and our thinking. People who work seven days a week burn out very quickly and begin to lose focus on their priorities and what is really important in life. So there is a general principle that it is important to have rest and recreation in life on a periodic basis. The third point of application relates to the creation model itself. What this tells us is that God took six days to make the heavens ands the earth. In Genesis 1:1 is the original creation of the universe. Whatever that looked like it wasn't the present universe. It might have been the creation of a space-time continuum and not necessarily included even the stars. It might have been empty space. The heavens refers to the special dimension of the universe; the earth  refers to this planet. There si no creation of stars until the fourth day and Genesis chapter one. Then there is a period of time, and in verse 2 it says the earth became without form and void. That term in the Hebrew is TOHU WAW BOHU which refers usually to judgment. And the earth is in darkness and the waters move in the face of the earth. All of the imagery in that verse is used throughout the Scriptures to speak of divine judgment and evil. What happens in this period if the fall of Lucifer who becomes Satan the accuser, and he takes one third of the angels with him, they become the fallen angels and we have the beginning of the angelic conflict.

In the early part of the 19th century there was a Presbyterian clergyman in Scotland who developed what came to be known as the Gap theory. The idea that there is a time difference between 1:1 and 1:2 can be traced back into the early Middle Ages at least. What makes the Gap theory the Gap theory is that he wanted to assimilate Christianity with historical geology at the time. So what he did was to say that all the geologic ages and the zoological chart and all of the fossilized animals all fit into this theory of a pre-Adamic creation and a pre-Adamic race. The basic problem with that is that if all of the geologic evidence of a catastrophe, all of the fossils, must be taken as one fossil column. You can say that these fossils were part of a pre-Adamic creation and another came from the flood. You have to take them all to have been created by the same catastrophe. It was either created as a result of some kind of judgment on a pre-Adamic creation or it was created by the global catastrophe of Noah's flood. If it was pre-Adamic then Noah's flood left no evidence whatsoever in the geologic record, and that is patently absurd if we look at the data in the Scriptures on how vast, turbulent and cataclysmic Noah's flood was. It has to be the result of Noah's flood in Genesis 6-9. Also there is theological evidence that if sin is the cause of death, then if you have death in any way, shape or form prior to Adam's fall then death is not the result of sin. Physical death is the result of Adam's sin in the entire realm of nature. So if there is one thing that dies prior to Adam's sin then death is not the result of Adam's sin and Jesus doesn't need to go to the cross. If Jesus doesn't need to go to the cross then Christianity is not true. That is why the whole theory of evolution from start to finish is a major attack on the cross and there can be no compromise with it at all. It is a theological attack, it is not just a biological, geological or scientific attack. It is basically theological in its assertion because it is saying death is normal to the created order, and the Bible says that God created everything perfect, death is abnormal, it is the consequence of Adam's disobedience. When God restores everything there will be no more death. So death is an abnormal condition. That is why it hurts so much when people die. It is a reminder of the horror of sin in the universe.

There was original creation, then an unspecified time period between 1:1 and 1:2, and then there are six days of restoration. The key word in the six days of restoration is the Hebrew word asah. This is the word we find in Exodus 20:11. So the focus there is on the restoration pattern that God establishes in Genesis. Somebody always comes along and asks how we know that this six days were literal 24-hour days. The reason we know that is right here in Exodus 20:11. If the days in Genesis are figurative and just refer to lengthy periods of time then the days in Exodus 20 are figurative, and that wouldn't make any sense at all. Remember, Moses wrote Genesis 1 and Exodus 20, so the same writer writes both passages and he must be consistent with himself. If he meant literal 24-hour days in Genesis then he means literal 24-hour days here. He is obviously referring to literal 24-hour days in Genesis because he is telling people to only work for six literal 24-hour days and take the seventh one off because that is exactly how God did it. If you want to try to take those days in Genesis chapter one as figurative then you denude the Bible of any power, and authority, and any truth whatsoever and you pull the rug our from under Christianity as a whole.

So God worked for six days and then He rested. God rested on the seventh day because He was finished, He was complete, He had done everything necessary for man. His grace is sufficient for us. He had provided everything that man would need in human history in order to fulfil God's plan. God had built into the creation everything it would need, knowing in His omniscience that man would fail, plunge the earth into sin and all the collateral damage that that would result in throughout the entire botanical kingdom, the entire zoological kingdom, one the fall occurred. There was absolute and complete sufficiency, and the point is grace. That is the issue in the Sabbath. God provides everything; man does nothing except rest and rely on what God has done. That is what the crux of Jesus' argument is going to be when he deals with the Pharisee.

Matthew 25:34 NASB "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." The "foundation of the world" is a phrase that relates to the creation, the restoration of the six days in Genesis. So the kingdom was prepared in those six days. That tells us that when those six days ended the outline of history was already established, everything that was necessary for the entire history of humanity, was built into every single system in the plan.

Hebrews 4:3 NASB "For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, "AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST," although His works were finished from the foundation of the world." God doesn't rest by completely ceasing all labour. From that point on God was involved in sustaining the universe but all the factors and all the contingencies were already built into the original creation. For example, we have the problem of physical death. Physical death was not present in the original creation, that is the consequence of Adam's fall and it does not come until after the curse. Once Adam sinned and sin entered into all the systems on planet earth, creation begins to be dismantled and chaos is introduced into the universe. What that means for us if we think about it is that God built enough flexibility into all of the systems in days one through six to handle all the chaos that is going to enter into the systems throughout human history. That would include such cataclysmic changes as the flood, as well as the fiery dismantlement and destruction of the planet during the second advent. It would include other things that are going to take place, like the resurrection body in relationship to our physical body. Think about this: When Jesus received His resurrection body it was not a totally new body. If it was a totally new body the old body, the old matter, would have still been in the tomb. But the old matter was reshaped, reformed and was the basis for forming the new body. The old body was gone, the tomb was empty. It didn't just vaporise, it was the building material out of which God would fashion the perfect resurrection body that Jesus took with Him into eternity. The same thing will happen to us.

Colossians 1:15, 16. Here we see the role of God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ in relationship to creation. NASB "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, {both} in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him." The term "firstborn" means that Jesus Christ is the pre-eminent one of creation. [17] "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." This means that Jesus Christ is the one who holds the universe together, moment by moment.

John 5, the confrontation. This man who was healed on the Sabbath is an ungrateful wretch, he is not a believer, and he turns on the man who heals him. John 5:10 NASB "So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, "It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet. [11] "But he answered them, "He who made me well was the one who said to me, 'Pick up your pallet and walk.'" He is saying, "It's not my fault." Just like Adam and Eve in the garden he is passing the buck and blaming Jesus.

John 5:12 NASB "They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Pick up {your pallet} and walk'? [13] But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in {that} place. [14] Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, 'Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you'." It is the feast day, that means there are probably between 100-200,000 extra people in Jerusalem and the central point of their being in Jerusalem is to go to the temple. So there are crowds now, and there is going to be a public confrontation.

There are two categories of people in Jerusalem now. There are those who are traditionalists: "Well, we've always done it this way, and this is what the Pharisees say and we have to go along with them. And who is this man to challenge them on the Sabbath? The Pharisees are going to get him and he is going to get what is due to him." Then there is probably the other crowd that is just impatient under all these rules and regulations. They are tired of the burden of the Law and are watching this man walk through town while word is spreading like wild-fire as one person tells another that the paralysed man has been healed, and Jesus did it. What is going to happen? The Pharisees are going to get him. There is going to be a big confrontation. So everybody is suddenly focused on the temple and the Pharisees come to confront Jesus.

As soon as this man sees Jesus he runs off to the Pharisees. He just can't wait to tell them who it was who caused him to carry his pallet on the Sabbath. John 5:15 NASB "The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. [16] For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath." In the Greek this word "persecuting" is in the imperfect tense. If it had been an aorist tense it would indicate just this one instance. John is very precise and has only told us about one instance of Jesus violating the Sabbath, but he uses the imperfect tense here which would include all the instances, they were continuing to persecute Jesus because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. They come up and are persecuting Him with questions.

John 5:17 NASB "But He answered them, 'My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working'." To most of us that doesn't sound like a very powerful statement. We don't catch its significance. But there is a tremendous amount going on here, because look at their reaction. [18] "For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God." That one sentence doesn't sound like a whole lot to us but it is loaded with theological content. To the Pharisees who heard it, it was the height of blasphemy and it is the turning point in the relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees. Because He makes this one statement it is from this point on that their agenda is to see that He is killed.

Remember, Jesus has been charged with a Sabbath violation. We know that the origin of the Sabbath was to teach grace, so Jesus here is making an issue here between grace and the religious crowd and their legalism. He begins by saying, "My Father is working until now." He uses the present middle indicative of ergazomai [e)rgazomai] which means to work. It is a deponent verb so it has an active meaning, so for all practical purposes it is a present active indicative, but what Jesus is saying is, "My Father continues to work, even to the present." He worked for six days, He rested, but there is the continual sustaining work of God. He is saying to the Pharisees, You may think that He goers to sleep when the sun goes down on Friday, but the very fact that you are standing there breathing and living and haven't blown off the planet because gravity ceased indicates that God is continuing to work. Then he says, "even until now." Even to this present moment God has not stopped His sustaining work in the universe. Then He says, "And I myself am working," two words in the Greek which just blow the lid off the situation: kago ergazomai [kagw e)rgazomai], which means to work, to do, to produce, to make. One of its synonyms is poieo [poiew] which means also to do or to make or to apply. If Jesus had said, "I am working [poieo]," nobody would have been upset, because He would have been using a different verb indicating a different kind of working. But Jesus says, "I am doing exactly the same thing as the Father," and He uses a present middle indicative, same tense, same morphology. What is the point? The point is, "the Father continues to work in His sustaining ministry until now and I am doing exactly the same thing." And that was a slap in the face to the Pharisees. What Jesus was saying was: "If I stop working on the Sabbath, like you want me to, you would vaporize in an instant, because I am God and I am the one who holds the universe together right now, I am the one that is holding you on this planet, I am full undiminished deity, I am equal with God." The Pharisees understand completely what Jesus has said, and that is indicated by their response.   

"For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking…" Here we have an imperfect tense indicating continual action. They were seeking all the more to kill Him. This is going to be their modus operandi for the next two to two and a half years until He is finally crucified. The last phrase is illuminating. He says, "but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God." He was not only breaking the Sabbath, and this is from the Greek word luo [luw] which means to loose. Sometimes it can mean to break; it can means to release. Basically it means that He is loosening the regulations of the Sabbath, He is relaxing them. But that is not all. They also understand that He is calling God His own Father and making Himself equal with God.

The word "equal" comes from the Greek word isos [i)soj], and this is the same word we find in Philippians 2:6: "who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality [isos] with God a thing to be grasped." What is meant by equality? There is a good sense and a bad sense to the term "equality." In the ancient world there would be somebody who was trained in a certain skill and the way that was passed on would be by way of an apprentice. In Jesus' particular case, because His father Joseph was a carpenter, Jesus would learn all the various aspects of carpentry. At some point the apprentice thinks that he knows as much as the master and that he is equal with the master. Sooner or later there is always some smart-mouthed adolescent who comes along and says he is now your equal. In that sense the term "equality" means I am now independent of you to do whatever I want to do. So when some people say they want to be equal they don't want equality in the good sense of the term, they want equality in the insubordinate sense of the term. They want to go their own way and be independent of everybody else and make their own decisions. This is not the sense in which Jesus is making Himself equal to the Father. When He says He is equal to the Father what He is saying is that He has identical essence with the Father. This is the doctrine of the Trinity. They are co-equal and co-eternal. They have the same identical attributes, they differ in their person and in role, so that the Son is completely equal to the Father and yet He functions in a way that is subordinate to the Father.