John 5:19
Then answered Jesus and said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do: for what things soever he does, these also does the Son likewise.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(19) The Son can do nothing of himself.—The key to this and the following verses is in the relation of Father and Son, from which they start. The Jews saw in this equality with God blasphemy, and sought to kill Him. Men have since seen and now see in it inferiority, and a proof that Christ did not claim for Himself the glory which the Apostle claims for Him in the prologue (John 1:1-18), and which the Church has ever in reverent adoration placed as a crown upon His brow. The words “Son,” “Father,” are the answer to both. Did they accuse Him of blasphemy? He is a Son. The very essence of blasphemy was independence of, and rivalry with, God. He claimed no such position, but was as a Son subject to His Father’s will, was as a Son morally unable to do anything of Himself, and did whatever He saw the Father do. Yea, more. He thought not His equality with God a thing to be seized, but emptied Himself and became, as they then saw Him, in the form of a servant, and in the likeness of men. (Comp. Notes on Philippians 2:6 et seq.)

5:17-23 The Divine power of the miracle proved Jesus to be the Son of God, and he declared that he worked with, and like unto his Father, as he saw good. These ancient enemies of Christ understood him, and became more violent, charging him not only with sabbath-breaking, but blasphemy, in calling God his own Father, and making himself equal with God. But all things now, and at the final judgment, are committed to the Son, purposely that all men might honour the Son, as they honour the Father; and every one who does not thus honour the Son, whatever he may think or pretend, does not honour the Father who sent him.The Son can do nothing of himself - Jesus, having stated the extent of his authority, proceeds here to show its "source and nature," and to prove to them that what he had said was true. The first explanation which he gives is in these words: "The Son" - whom he had just impliedly affirmed to be equal with God - did nothing "of himself;" that is, nothing without the appointment of the Father; nothing contrary to the Father, as he immediately explains it. When it is said that he can "do nothing" of himself, it is meant that such is the union subsisting between the Father and the Son that he can do nothing "independently" or separate from the Father. Such is the nature of this union that he can do nothing which has not the concurrence of the Father, and which he does not command. In all things he must, from the necessity of his nature, act in accordance with the nature and will of God. Such is the intimacy of the union, that the fact that "he" does anything is proof that it is by the concurring agency of God. There is no separate action - no separate existence; but, alike in being and in action, there is the most perfect oneness between him and the Father. Compare John 10:30; John 17:21.

What he seeth the Father do - In the works of creation and providence, in making laws, and in the government of the universe. There is a special force in the word "seeth" here. No person can see God acting in his works; but the word here implies that the Son sees him act, as we see our fellow-men act, and that he has a knowledge of him, therefore, which no mere mortal could possess.

What things soever - In the works of creation and of providence, and in the government of the worlds. The word is without limit - all that the Father does the Son likewise does. This is as high an assertion as possible of his being "equal" with God. If one does "all" that another does or can do, then there must be equality. If the Son does all that the Father does, then, like him, he must be almighty, omniscient, omnipresent, and infinite in every perfection; or, in other words, he must be God. If he had "this" power, then he had authority, also, to do on the Sabbath day what God did.

19, 20. the Son can do nothing of himself—that is, apart from and in rivalry of the Father, as they supposed. The meaning is, "The Son can have no separate interest or action from the Father."

for what things, &c.—On the contrary, "whatever the Father doeth that same doeth the Son,"

likewise—"in the like manner." What claim to absolute equality with the Father could exceed this: not only to do "the same things," but to do them as the Father does them?

Consider Christ as God, so he can do nothing but what the Father doth, that is, nothing that respected created beings: for it is a known rule, That the works of the Trinity out of itself are not divided; whatsoever one person doth, the others do; though, to denote the order of the Trinity’s working, some works are most ordinarily ascribed to the Father, such are the works of creation and providence; some to the Son, as redemption; some to the Holy Spirit, as sanctification; yet they are not so ascribed to any Person, but that other Scriptures justify the cooperation of all three Persons. Consider the Son as the Messias; so also it is true, that

the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do. Nor is this any diminution to the glory of Christ, nor doth it speak any impotency in him, from whence the Arians and Socinians would conclude his inferiority to his Father; but rather his perfection, that he did only what pleased the Father: so that phrase, what he seeth the Father do, is to be interpreted; and that term, can do nothing, signifies no more than, he doth or will do nothing. See such a usage of the phrase, Genesis 19:22 Luke 16:2 John 12:39. From this he leaveth them easily to conclude, that what he had done, in curing this impotent man upon the sabbath day, was the Father’s work, though by him; for whatsoever the Father doth, or willeth, the same doth the Son likewise. From hence will appear an easy solution to the difficulty arising upon the first view of the words, viz. How these words can prove Christ equal with the Father, when they rather prove the contrary, because he can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do? Some seek a solution in the words

can do nothing; he that cannot do those things which God cannot do, is equal with God. Some seek it in the word seeth; which they say signifieth here an identity of nature and will. Some seek the solution in the word do, which they say signifieth to will and consent to. The best solution is to be taken from those words, of himself; the Son hath done many things which he did not see the Father do, but he did them not of himself. Our Saviour’s meaning is plainly this: The Son neither willeth nor can do any thing, but what the Father willeth and doth in him; therefore he is one in essence with the Father, and equal to him.

For what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise: the Son doth those things which the Father doth; and, as the Messias, he doth those things which the Father willeth to be done. Then answered Jesus, and said unto them,.... They charged him with blasphemy for calling God his Father, and making himself equal to him: and his answer is so far from denying the thing, or observing any mistake, or misrepresentation of his words, that he allows the whole, and vindicates himself in so saying:

verily verily, I say unto you; nothing is more certain; it may be depended on as truth; I who am truth itself, the "Amen", and faithful witness, aver it with the greatest assurance:

the Son can do nothing of himself; or he does do nothing of himself, nor will he do anything of himself; that is, he neither does, nor will, nor can do anything alone or separate from his Father, or in which he is not concerned; not anything without his knowledge and consent, or contrary to his will: he does everything in conjunction with him; with the same power, having the same will, being of the same nature, and equal to each other: for these words do not design any weakness in the Son, or want of power in him to do anything of himself; that is, by his own power: for he has by his word of power spoke all things out of nothing, and by the same upholds all things; he has himself bore the sins of his people, and by himself purged them away, and has raised himself from the dead; but they express his perfection; that he does nothing, and can do nothing of himself, in opposition to his Father, and in contradiction to his will: as Satan speaks of his own, and evil men alienated from God, act of themselves, and do that which is contrary to the nature and will of God; but the Son cannot do so, being of the same nature with God, and therefore never acts separate from him, or contrary to him, but always co-operates and acts with him, and therefore never to be blamed for what he does. The Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions render it, "the Son cannot do anything of his own will"; so Nonnus; as separate from, or contrary to his Father's will, but always in agreement with it, they being one in nature, and so in will and work. He does nothing therefore

but what he seeth the Father do; not that he sees the Father actually do a work, and then he does one after him, as the creation of the world, the assumption of human nature, and redemption of man, or any particular miracle, as if upon observing one done, he did the like; but that he being brought up with him, and lying in his bosom, was privy to the whole plan of his works, and saw in his nature and infinite mind, and in his vast counsels, purposes, and designs, all that he was doing, or would do, and so did the same, or acted agreeably to them; and which still shows and proves their unity of nature, and perfect equality, since there was nothing in the Father's mind but was known to the Son, seen, and observed, and acted up to by him: so Philo the Jew (e) says of the

"Father's most ancient Son, whom he otherwise calls the firstborn; that being begotten, he imitates the Father, and seeing, or looking to his exemplars and archetypes, forms species;''

that is, being conversant with the original and eternal ideas of things in the divine mind, acts according to them, which he could not do if he was not of the same nature with, and equal to his Father. Moreover, the Son sees what the Father does by co-operating with him, and so does no other than what he sees the Father do, in conjunction with him: to which may be added, that the phrase shows, that the Son does nothing but in wisdom, and with knowledge; and that as the Father, so he does all things after the counsel of his will:

for whatsoever things he doth, these also doth the Son likewise; the Son does the selfsame works as the Father does, such as the works of creation and providence, the government both of the church, and of the world; and he does these things in like manner, with the same power, and by the same authority, his Father does, and which proves him to be equal with him; the very thing the Jews understood him to have asserted, and which they charged him with: and this he strongly maintained. The Syriac version reads, "for the things which the Father does, the same also does the Son"; and the Persic version, "whatsoever God has done, the Son also does like unto it".

(e) De Confus. Ling. p. 329.

Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing {d} of himself, but what he {e} seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son {f} likewise.

(d) Not only without his Father's authority, but also without his mighty working and power.

(e) This must be understood of the person of Christ, which consists of two natures, and not simply of his Godhead: so then he says that his Father moves and governs him in all things, but yet nonetheless, when he says he works with his Father, he confirms his Godhead.

(f) In like sort, jointly and together. Not because the Father does some things, and then the Son works after him and does the same, but because the might and power of the Father and the Son work equally and jointly together.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 5:19 ff. Jesus does not deny what the Jews attributed to Him as the capital offence of blasphemous presumption, namely, that He made Himself equal with God; but He puts the whole matter in its true light, and this from a consideration of His whole present and future work, onward to John 5:30; whereupon, onwards to John 5:47, He gives vent to an earnest denunciation of the unbelief of the Jews in the divine witness to Himself.

John 5:19. Οὐ δύναται] denies the possibility, on account of an inner necessity, involved in the relationship of the Son to the Father, by virtue of which it would be impossible for Him to act with an individual self-assertion independent of the Father, which He could then only do if He were not the Son. Comp. Bengel, in loc., and Fritzsche, nova opusc. p. 297 f. In ἀφʼ ἑαυτοῦ,, as the subject of the reflexive is the Son in His relation to the Father, there does not lie any opposition between the human and divine wills (Beyschlag), nor an indistinct and onesided reference to the human element in Christ (de Wette); but it is the whole subject, the God-man, the incarnate Logos, in whom the Aseietas agendi, the self-determination of action independently of the Father, cannot find place; because otherwise He must either be divine only, and therefore without the subordination involved in the economy of redemption (which is the case also with the πνεῦμα, John 16:13), or else simply human; therefore there is no contradiction between what is here said and the prologue (Reuss; comp. on the other side, Godet).

ἐὰν μή τι, κ.τ.λ.] refers simply to ποιεῖν οὐδέν, and not also to ἀφʼ ἑαυτοῦ. See on Matthew 12:4; Galatians 2:16.

βλέπῃ τ. πατ. ποιοῦντα] a familiar description, borrowed from the attention which children give to the conduct of their father—of the inner and immediate intuition which the Son perpetually has of the Father’s work, in the perfect consciousness of fellowship of life with Him. This relation, which is not only religious and moral, but founded on a transcendental basis, is the necessary and immediate standard of the Son’s working. See on John 5:20.

ἃ γὰρ ἂν ἐκεῖνος, κ.τ.λ.] Proof of the negative assertion by means of the positive relationship subsisting.

ὁμοίως] equally, proportionately, qualifying ποιεῖ, indicating again the reciprocity or sameness of action already expressed by ταῦτα, and thus more strongly confirming the perfect equality of the relationship. It is, logically speaking, the pariter (Mark 4:16; John 21:13; 1 Peter 3:1) of the category mentioned.John 5:19. The fundamental proposition is οὐ δύναται ὁ υἱὸς ποιεῖν ἀφʼ ἑαυτοῦ οὐδέν. “The Son can do nothing of Himself.” This is not, as sometimes has been supposed, a general statement true of all sons, but is spoken directly of Jesus. δύναται is moral not physical ability—though here the one implies the other; but cf. John 5:26. So perfect is the Son’s sympathy with the Father that He can only do what He sees the Father doing. He does nothing at His own instance. That is to say, in healing the impotent man He felt sure He was doing what the Father wished done and gave Him power to do.—ἃ γὰρποιεῖ, as Holtzmann observes, the force of the repetition lies in ὁμοίως, pariter, “in like manner”.19. can do nothing of himself] It is impossible for Him to act with individual self-assertion independent of God, because He is the Son: Their Will and working are one. The Jews accuse Him of blasphemy; and blasphemy implies opposition to God: but He and the Father are most intimately united.

but what he seeth, &c.] Better, unless He seeth the Father doing it.

19, 20. Intimacy of the Son with the Father further enforced.John 5:19. Ἀμὴν, ἀμὴν, λέγω ὑμῖν, verily, verily, I say unto you) This affirmation is thrice used in this discourse, John 5:24-25.—ἀφʼ ἑαυτοῦ οὐδέν, nothing of Himself) This is matter of glory, not an imperfection. It cannot happen, that the Son should do anything of Himself, or that He should judge, will, testify, or teach anything separately from the Father, John 5:30, etc.; ch. John 6:38, “For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me;” John 7:16-17; John 7:28, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me. If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself.—I am not come of Myself, but lie that sent Me is true;” John 12:49, “I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak;” John 14:10, “I am in the Father, and the Father in Me: the words that I speak unto you, I speak not of Myself; but the Father, that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works:” or that He should be believed in, and seen separately from the Father;” ch. John 12:44, “He that believeth on Me, believeth not on Me, but on Him that sent Me.” These declarations proceeded from His intimate sense of unity, by nature and by love, with the Father. The Lord defended the work, which He had done on the Sabbath, by the example of His Father, from which He does not depart. So concerning the Holy Spirit, ch. John 16:13, “The Spirit of truth—shall not speak of Himself: but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak:” where also an antithesis follows, most closely resembling this passage. But the devil speaketh of his own, ch. John 8:44 : and it is a characteristic of a false teacher to come in his own name, and to speak or act on the promptings of his own heart: ch. John 5:43, “I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive;” Numbers 16:28, [Moses to Korah, Dathan, etc.] “The Lord hath sent me to do all these works: for I have not done them of my own mind;” Numbers 24:13, [Balaam] “If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the Lord saith, that will I speak.”—ταῦτα) these things all, and these alone: [which are not at all liable to be slandered.—V. g.]—ὁμοίως) likewise, forthwith.Verses 19-29. -

(b) Christ vindicated his equality with the Father. Verse 19, 20a. -

(a) He declares himself to be "the Son Verse 19. - Jesus therefore answered and said to them; i.e. replied to their secret thoughts, and to the sentiments of animosity and hostility which they did not conceal. He spake in language of extraordinary solemnity and august claim. The Verily, verily, with which he prefaced the opening sentence, and which he repeated (cf. vers. 24, 25, as in John 3:3 and elsewhere) on subsequent occasions, denoted the high ground of authoritative revelation on which he took his stand. He proceeded, without a break or interruption, to assert, on the authority of his own consciousness, the true relation subsisting between the Son and the Father - the deep, eternal, sacred link between them; in essence and in affection, in work and function; and gave several illustrations of these matters, the verification of which was not beyond the capacity of his hearers. These he made the basis of the argument of ver. 23, that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father." What did he wish "the Jews" to understand by "the Son"? Did he identify himself with the Son of whom he here speaks? Surely this is unquestionably the case, for the "answer" here given is one addressed to those who were seeking to slay him because he claimed for himself that God was "his own Father." He had said," My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." He justified the true reverence he felt for the Father when using this language, by describing in various ways the functions, privileges, and work of "the Son." Is "the Son," however, here the Eternal Son, the Logos, before and independently of his incarnation? and are the doctrines here announced an appeal to a pre-existing belief in such a sonship on the part of his enemies, so that he is dealing, at least from vers. 19-23, with the internal relations of the Godhead? The references to the recent ἔργον, and the moral effects which are to be produced upon his hearers by further activity, make this view doubtful. Does he here speak simply of "the Son of man" in his purely dependent, servile capacity, and earthly manifestation? (Watkins). We think not; for the deeds and functions of "the Son" are here so lofty and far reaching that this interpretation is inadmissible. Therefore we conclude, with Meyer and others, that by "the Son" he did mean "the whole subject, the God-Man, the incarnate Logos, in whom the self-determination of action independently of the Father cannot find place." This view of "the Son" involves the continuity of the Logos-consciousness, and not its obliteration; nor is this (as Reuss urges, and even Godet appears in part to concede) incompatible with the Logos-doctrine of the prologue. The Son is not able to do anything from himself, in the great work of healing, life giving, and redemption, except that which he seeth the Father doing. The Logos made flesh, the Son who has taken humanity up into his own eternal being, is ever in full contemplation of the Father's activity. He is in intimate and continuous and affectionate relations with the Father, who in this capacity has sent his Son to be the world's Saviour. He sees the Father's healing grace and omnipresent energy and ceaseless activity in regions where "the Jews" fail to discern them. The incarnate Son does not set up a rival throne or authority. He moves, lives, has his being, from the Father and not from himself. Verily, verily

See on John 1:51.

But what He seeth

Referring to can do nothing, not to of himself. Jesus, being one with God, can do nothing apart from Him.

The Father do (τὸν πατέρα ποιοῦντα)

Rev., rightly, doing. The participle brings out more sharply the coincidence of action between the Father and the Son: "the inner and immediate intuition which the Son perpetually has of the Father's work" (Meyer).

Likewise (ὁμοίως)

Better, as Rev., in like manner. Likewise is popularly understood as equivalent to also; but the word indicates identity of action based upon identity of nature.

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