Does John 17:3 teach that Jesus is not God?
The "Iglesia Ni Cristo" teaches that Jesus is not God. Often, the INC points to John 17:3 to demonstrate that Jesus is not God. Does John 17:3 really teach that Jesus is not God?
John 17:3 (ESV) - And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
When we examine the verse, what the doctrine of the Trinity actually teaches, and the surrounding context of the verse, we see it does not teach that Jesus is not God. In fact, it teaches that he is God.
The doctrine of the Trinity teaches that the Father is the only true God.
The problem with this attempted proof-text is obvious to anyone who is familiar with the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity teaches that the Father is the only true God.
The INC makes the mistake of assuming (without proof) that God is unipersonal. They assume that the Trinity cannot be true before they even examine what the scriptures teach. If the assumption that God is unipersonal were true, then indeed, if the Father were the only true God, Jesus could not be. However, that assumption has not been substatiated, and therefore the argument holds no weight.
Knowledge of God is sufficient for salvation.
The Bible speaks of the knowledge of God as sufficient for salvation. Of the salvation provided by the Messiah, Isaiah writes:
Isaiah 11:9 (ESV) - 9 They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
So why is it that Jesus said that eternal life was knowing the Father and knowing the Son? It is because knowledge of God implies knowledge of the Son, because the Son is God.
What's more, the INC's position on this would make there be multiple paths of salvation. Jesus states that eternal life is knowing the Father and the Son, but if Jesus did not pre-exist (as the INC teaches he did not), how could the Old Testament followers of God have eternal life? Clearly, Jesus must be God and must have always been God for his statement to be true.
The context claims that Jesus has the glory of the Father.
In the next two verses, we see that the Father shares his divine glory with the Son.
John 17:4 (ESV) - I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
We know from the prophet Isaiah that God does not share his glory with anyone. Therefore, if the Father shares his glory with the Son, that must mean that Jesus is also the only true God.
The context claims that Jesus pre-existed.
Looking at verse 5 again, we see it says that Jesus had that glory with God "before the world existed". The INC denies the pre-existence of Jesus, but this passage they site to deny his deity clearly points to that pre-existence.
The INC claims that Jesus only pre-existed as a plan. That falls apart in several ways here. How could a plan have glory? How could a plan exist with God in a state of glory? When Jesus requests to be glorified in God's presence, he is implying that the glory he shared was in the presence of God. If he was present with God, he must have existed in a very real way, in proximity to the Father.
The INC foolishly uses John 17:3 to refute the Trinity. What John 17:3 says is exactly what Trinitarians believe. Furthermore, the verse as well as its immediate context demonstrates that Jesus pre-existed, and that he is God.