Is Belief in Christ’s Deity Required for Eternal Life in John’s Gospel? -- By: Kenneth M. Wilson
CTSJ 12:2 (Fall 2006) p. 58
Is Belief in Christ’s Deity
Required for Eternal Life in John’s Gospel?
Kenneth M. Wilson, M.D., is a board certified orthopedic surgeon and practices hand surgery in Salem, Oregon. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Faith Evangelical Lutheran Seminary and a Master of Theology degree from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. A major portion of this article was written to fulfill requirements for a Christology course at GGBTS. Ken lives with his wife, Lynn, and four children on their farm in Oregon. He may be reached at [email protected] canby.com.
The term “Son of God” in the Gospel of John has been understood by many persons as referring only to the messianic role of Jesus. Accordingly, they do not derive the divinity (deity) of Jesus from this title, but only his humanity. This poses an intriguing question because in John 20:30–31, one must believe in the Christ, the “Son of God,” to receive eternal life. So, what must one believe about Jesus Christ to receive the gift of life? Must a person believe that Jesus is God in order to have eternal life? The answer has obvious implications for one’s eternal destiny.
None of the other Gospels clearly presents Jesus Christ as preincarnate God—deity who existed prior to becoming human. Along with many others, Erickson claims that all of the Gospels were written with the same purpose as the Gospel of John,1 yet he acknowledges, “John is the only evangelist to clearly identify Jesus as divine.”2
John’s Gospel is the only one with the stated purpose of using signs as an apologetic for belief in Jesus Christ unto eternal life.3 None of the Synoptic Gospels claims this purpose. The book of Luke-Acts appears to be written to a believer, Theophilus, who needed an accurate chronological account of the facts of Jesus’ life; thus, he may have already believed that Christ was God incarnate (Luke 1:3–4; Acts 1:1).4 In contrast, John’s purpose for writing his Gospel appears in 20:31: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ [Messiah], the Son of God, and believing you may have life
CTSJ 12:2 (Fall 2006) p. 59