The God Who Gives Life

The ability to give life is a particularly divine characteristic. God has the ability to give life because he has life in himself. God exists a se. Bavinck summarized “He is self-existent. He existed before all things, and all things exist only through him (Ps. 90:2; 1 Cor. 8:6; Rev. 4:11). In an absolute sense he is Lord (אָדוֹן, κυριος, δεσποτης), Lord of all the earth (Exod. 23:17; Deut. 10:17; Josh. 3:13). He is dependent on nothing, but everything depends on him (Rom. 11:36).”[1] The aseity of God provided the starting point for Aquinas’ discussion of God’s attributes in Summa Theoligica. There Aquinas demonstrated that God is the logically and ontologically necessary self-existent Being. 

God raised the dead through prophets in the OT and others in the NT. Jesus’ ability to raise the dead was categorically different than the miracles worked through God’s servants in the rest of Scripture. The difference between God working through his servants and the Son of God himself working was noted in John 5:21, “for just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.”

This unique power of the Son was explained in John 5:26, “For just as the Father has life in Himself, so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself.” John 5:26 should not be interpreted as though the Son lacked aseity or the ability to give life by virtue of his nature. The Son shared true deity as he proceeded from the Father. In this way, the Father “gave to the Son also to have life in Himself.”

This power over life pertained to physical life and to spiritual life as well (Jn 5:28-29). Bavinck highlighted the divine life and subsequent power to give life when he wrote, “being all-sufficient in himself and not receiving anything from outside of himself, he is, by contrast, the only source of all existence and life, of all light and love, the overflowing fountain of all good (Ps. 36:10; Acts 17:25).”[2] Jesus’ life-giving power was directly related to his true deity. Life is given “in his name” (Jn 20:31). 

If Jesus was not true God, then he would not have had the ability to give life through “his name.” The true deity of Christ was on display when he raised the dead.


[1] Herman Bavinck, John Bolt, and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 150.

[2] Herman Bavinck, John Bolt, and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, vol. 2 150.

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