John 8:28, "I do nothing of my own initiative."

"Jesus therefore said, 'When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me,'" (John 8:28).

Why would Jesus say in John 8:28, "I do nothing of myself?" If he is God, can't he anything he wants?

Basic Christian theology teaches that Jesus is both divine and human at the same time. In other words, Jesus has two natures: God and man. We find support for this in the verses that say that "the Word was God and was with God," (John 1:1) and that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us," (John 1:14). Also, Col. 2:9 says that in Jesus "dwells all the fullness of the Godhead and bodily form." Therefore, Jesus is both divine and human in one person.

We also see from the Scriptures that even though Jesus was in the form of God, he emptied himself (Phil. 2:5-8), and in so doing was made for little while lower than the angels (Heb. 2:9), and was also under the law (Gal. 4:4). That is why we would see him grow in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52) -- because he was a man as well as divine, but the divine nature, so to speak, was cooperating with the limitations of humanity in order to fulfill the Law, and ultimately die for our sins. We, therefore, can draw conclusions from the above biblical references.

  1. Jesus was subject to the Father (John 5:30).
  2. Jesus did not come to do his own will, but the will of the Father (Luke 22:42).
  3. Jesus was not sent of his own initiative but of the initiative of the Father (John 8:28).
  4. Under the law, if Jesus was obligated to fulfill that law, which included worshiping God (John 17).

Having laid this foundation, we can then see why Jesus would say that he could do nothing of his own initiative. It was not that he did not have a will or a desire to do things. The issue is that Jesus had come to do the will of the father and he was completely in subjection to the father. Therefore, in that complete subjection, he could do nothing on his own initiative.

This does not mean that Jesus is not divine. It means that Jesus, having two natures, and one of them being human, subjected himself voluntarily to the law, as a man, and operated completely under the requirements of a man. A proper and godly man would do nothing of his own initiative but would do anything and only everything that God would have him do.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.