Question & Answer Forum: God Giving, Circumcision of Christ

Can you explain John 5:26? In what sense did God “give” to the Son to have life in Himself?

The context of the chapter, and of the whole gospel, is helpful in discerning the sense of this passage. John 1 declares the eternal being and deity of “the Word” and oneness with God, in contrast to all of creation which has come into being through Him.

“In Him was life” (1:4) describes the self-existent eternal life in the Son, as confirmed in 1 John 1:1-3 in the expressions, “the Word of life,” and “that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” Therefore, I do not believe that the phrase, “so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself,” implies origin or imparting of life from the Father to the Son in eternity; but rather relates to His granting to the Son, in His manifestation on earth as Son of God incarnate, the authority and glory of representing Him in the fulness of His being, attributes, and works (John 1:14, 18).

Jesus had just healed a man on the Sabbath, and these words are part of the ensuing heated debate with the Jews concerning Who He is and the source of His authority and power. Jesus spoke and acted as one with absolute and divine authority, in marked contrast to the prophets, and His apostles who always acknowledged His name as authority for their power to heal (Luke 10:17; Acts 3:6, 12-16).

While Jesus never invoked the name of God as other messengers did, He repeatedly affirmed that He had been sent by the Father, and that He was not speaking or acting from Himself (John 5:19, 23, 30, 36, 43).

In these verses, He is declaring both His equality with the Father in life and power, and His submission to the Father’s will and pleasure: that He bring God’s gift of eternal life to mankind (v25), and establish the supreme authority of God over every person (v27), living or dead. Even those in the graves will hear His voice, and will come forth to their eternal destiny, either to life or to judgment (vv8-29).

There is an intriguing parallel expression and development of the truth of having “life in Himself” in chapter 6. There He reveals that He is the “bread of life,” and that only by partaking of Him can we possess eternal life: “ye have no life in you” means “ye have no life in yourselves,” and, “As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me” (John 6:53, 57). The life believers have in Him is eternal, incorruptible, and will never be defiled by sin; fitting us for eternal “fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ” (1John 1:3).

Bruce Rodgers

What is the “circumcision of Christ” spoken of in Colossians 2:11?

Circumcision was the physical sign of covenant relationship between God and His people, which had been entered into by faith first of all. It was a separating sign. It was first instituted by God with Abraham, as “a token of the covenant between Me and you and your seed after you” (Gen 17:10-14), and “a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had being yet uncircumcised” (Rom 4:11). It was later enshrined in the covenant of Mt. Sinai with the whole nation. It separated them from all the nations around them. In some of the prophets, and also by the Lord and His apostles, its moral significance is alluded to when calling them “uncircumcised in heart and ears.”

By contrast, our “circumcision” is in Him. This points us back to the moment of conversion, when we were first united with Christ. Immediately, we entered into the full value of His work on our behalf. “Ye were circumcised” (past tense) again directs us to the moment of conversion, when we were cut off; not just a little piece of flesh, but in a much greater and complete sense. It is spiritual rather than material; no human intervention or authority is involved.

Bruce Rodgers