“For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” (John 5:21, ESV)
Jesus is pretty clear in John 5.21, the Father “gives [the dead] life” and “the Son gives life.” But what does he mean? They both can create life? They are both responsible for when a baby is born or a fawn is birthed to its mother? The difficulty is that, if we’re bound to the English language only, we really don’t know. For instance, if I search the ESV for the word “life,” [in the New Testament] I get 205 results in 186 verses. Including: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27, ESV) Is this the kind of life that Jesus is talking about in John 5.21? Answer: No. It is a different Greek word.
We used to solve this problem using Strong’s numbering system, which allowed us to search for where the underlying Greek word is used elsewhere in the Bible. Now we can do the same search faster using what we call a reverse-interlinear. Using Logos Bible Software (Accordance Bible Software and Olive Tree Bible Software can also do this search) and the ESV reverse interlinear all we have to do is right click on life in John 5.21 and tell the software to search for the underlying Greek word. Here is the result of the search:
What do I find by this search? The specific Greek word used here (ζῳοποιέω – for Greek studs) is used 11 times in 10 verses. A couple of examples:
- “who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6, ESV)
- “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22, ESV)
- “Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.” (Galatians 3:21, ESV)
What can we conclude from all this. The word translated “gives life” in John 5.21 is used only in reference to spiritual life or salvation in the New Testament. So Jesus is not talking about giving biological life in John 5.21; he is talking about giving spiritual life.
A couple of other conclusions. The law could not give spiritual life (Gal. 3.21), and the Spirit can give life (2 Cor. 3.6).
Can you say, “hint of the Trinity?” I think you can.