The apostle John uses the Greek verb exerchomai (to come out from) six times in his gospel. It appears in several forms depending on the grammatical tense, person, and mood of the verb.
|Jesus proceeded forth from God (ek tou thenou ex?lthon)
Jesus had come forth from God (apo theou ex?lthen)
Jesus came out from God (ego para tou theou ex?lthon)
Jesus came forth from the Father (ex?lthon ek tou patros)
that you came forth from God Iapo theou ex?lthes)
Jesus came out from the Father (para sou ex?lthon)
This word exerchomai has the following Strong’s Concordance definition:
to issue (literally or figuratively): - come-(forth, out), depart (out of), escape, get out, go (abroad, away, forth, out, thence), proceed (forth), spread abroad.”
It is composed of two Greek roots: ex- (out, as in "exit") and erhome (come). So it literally means "come out."
Do these texts apply in any way to the flow of life from the Fountain? And since Christ is speaking in each of these texts, is he explaining why he is called the Son of God?
It is true that exerchomai does not mean physical birth in a human sense. But there are scriptural and inspirational indication that it means more than simply moving from one location to another. If we exclude the texts involving Christ and his Father listed above, the remaining 20 occurrences of this word in the New Testament can be divided into two equal groups.
Exerchomai usage – to leave something (10 occurrences)
2 Cor 2:13
3 John 1:7
|10 virgins went out (from ?) to meet the bridegroom
Jesus came out (from ?) to preach
Jesus’ friends went out (from ?) to seize him
Pharisees came out (from ?) to question him
Disciples went out (from ?) to prepare the Passover
People went out (from ?) to see Jesus
People went out (from ?) to meet him
Disciples went out (from ?) to go fishing
Paul went out (from ?) into Macedonia
They went out (from ?)
These examples are ambiguous in that the object from which the subject “went out” is not indicated. In some of these, however, it is possible that they came out from inside of some enclosure. And that is the essential meaning of exerchomai as clearly shown by the second group of texts:
Exerchomai usage – to go out of something (10 occurrences)
2 John 1:7
|evil spirit came out of his house (ex?lthon)
unclean spirit went out of the man (ex?lthon apo)
The disciples went out from the upper room (ex?lthon eis)
Disciples went out of the upper room (ex?lthon eis)
people went out of the city (ex?lthon ek)
Paul departed from Macedonia (ex?lthon apo)
Deceivers have gone out from the church (ex?lthon eis)
Locusts came forth out of the smoke (ek ex?lthon)
7 angels came out of the temple (ex?lthon ek)
God's people come out of Babylon (exelthate ex)
In each of these verses, the subject was initially inside of something, and then came out of it-- inside a house, inside a man, inside a room, inside a city, inside a country, inside the church, within the smoke, within the temple. John demonstrates his characteristic style of adding an additional preposition ek or ex for emphasis that the action is "out".
We are thus left to decide how we should understand exerchomai in the texts concerning the Father and Son.
We can ignore the essential meaning of the word if we are compelled to do so because of our pre-established beliefs into simply a departure from the immediate presence of the Father, or leaving the vicinity of God. Or we can point out that the preposition para (which can mean beside or near in addition to from) is used in at least two of the texts in question. But 14 of 16 occurrences in John's gospel are translated "from" when used with verbs meaning "sent, receive, begotten, heard."
Notice, however, that these six texts are not ambiguous by leaving unidentified the object from which the subject comes out. “God” and “the Father” is plainly stated.
Jesus further clarified this by declaring several times that he was in the Father and the Father was in him (John 10:38; 14:10,11,20; 17:21,23). Jesus said that when we eat his flesh and drink his blood, he dwells in us (John 6:56). This is not physical but by a direct spiritual communion of mind with mind. “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus” Phil 2:5, "by his Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith" Eph 3:17. The mind of the Father was in Christ; that same mind is to be in us.
It is of interest to observe how Ellen White uses these texts.
"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." [John 17:3.] "I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me." [John 17:8.] Here is the work laid before us, to be representatives of Christ, as he in our world was the representative of the Father.” Christian Education 1893 p. 157
She selectively chose just two verses from chapter 17 featuring the sending of Jesus Christ by the only true God to be the representative of the Father, because Christ “came out from” the Father. This intimate connection of the begotten Son coming out of his Father is what qualifies him to be the Father’s representative.
“By every teacher in our schools the only true God is to be uplifted. The prayer of Christ for His disciples was: "I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was. I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me; and they have kept Thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever Thou hast given Me are of Thee. For I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from Thee, and they have believed that Thou didst send Me." John 17:4-8.” July 20, 1899, Counsels to Parents and Teachers, and Students 1913 p. 459
The focus again is on the only true God, the Father, who gave all things to His Son, who came out from the Father to manifest His name, His character.
“For those who believe in Christ, Jesus prayed: "Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth: . . . that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me. And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one" (John 17:17-22). "O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee: but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me. And I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them" (verses 25, 26).
“Who can comprehend the nature of that righteousness which makes the believing sinner whole, presenting him to God without spot or wrinkle or any such thing? We have the pledged word of God that Christ is made unto us righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. God grant that we may rely upon His word with implicit trust, and enjoy His richest blessing. "For the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me, and have believed that I came out from God" (John 16:27).” ST July 4, 1892
In this selected quotation she focuses on the Father and Son being one, being in each other, enabling the Son to know the Father; this is the basis of our oneness with God, that God’s love may be in us, and Christ in us, because we know Him the only true God and His Son. But instead of ending with verse 8, this time she uses John 16:27: The Father therefore loves us because we love His Son and believe that he came out from God. This is an intentionally selected verse that says the same thing as verse 8, showing that she has not just included verse 8 as an incidental matter in her other treatments of John 17.
“He [Jesus] says, "At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God" (John 16:26, 27). He virtually says, Make use of My name, and it will be your passport to the heart of My Father, and to all the riches of His grace.” In Heavenly Places p. 79.
Jesus came from the heart of the Father, and he can take us back to that heart of infinite love: for the Father Himself loves you!
“I saw the lovely Jesus and beheld an expression of sympathy and sorrow upon His countenance. Soon I saw Him approach the exceeding bright light which enshrouded the Father. Said my accompanying angel, He is in close converse with His Father. The anxiety of the angels seemed to be intense while Jesus was communing with His Father. Three times He was shut in by the glorious light about the Father, and the third time He came out from the Father, His person could be seen.” The Story of Redemption, p. 42; Lift Him Up 1988 p. 22
This passage does not quote John 16 or 17. The description is of the Son entering into the enshrouding, enveloping glory of the Father and then coming out from the Father would imply that he came out from the Father’s glory, from the Father’s presence, from the Father’s side, from the Father’s bosom.
“In that wonderful prayer of Christ's recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John, he said, [John 17:1-9;3:34-36 quoted] Here is the whole question settled. All who are eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of God, are abiding in Christ, and Christ in them. "The flesh profiteth nothing," Christ said, "the words that I speak unto you they are spirit and they are life." If there is an appreciation of the word, then the word will be obeyed.”
Then she comments,
"Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy," were the words spoken by Christ to his disciples. He besought them to take heed, and not receive the doctrines which were not from God.” The Home Missionary, July 1, 1897
“Of these the Saviour says, "The Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God." "O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." “Christ came to reveal to the world the knowledge of the character of God, of which the world was destitute.” RH, November 1, 1892 par. 11
Here the context is Christ coming to the world with the knowledge of God’s character.
“It is the privilege of his followers to reveal Christ and the Father to the world. The work of Christ in the world was to reveal the Father; and when praying for his disciples, he said: "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” [John 17:4-7 also quoted] “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me."
"This is the knowledge that every true witness will have. Upon this rock will he stand. His faith in Christ as the Son of the infinite God, the mighty Counselor, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, will give him assurance. And resting his faith in Christ, he will become one with the Father. He will have an experimental knowledge of what Christ is to the believer.” RH, August 16, 1898
This example also ends with verse 8 so that just after saying that he came out from the Father, Ellen White comments: This is the knowledge, the rock, the faith that embraces Christ as the Son. “The mighty Counselor” instead of “Counselor, the mighty God.”
“Christ impresses upon the mind of believers the fact that they are to have the glory which the Father has given him, in order that all who love and serve him may be one with God. "For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. . . .” [ellipsis in original]
Then after finishing quoting John 17:22-24 she continues,
“Oh, what a request!...Where is our faith? Oh, let it be strengthened in contemplation of the thought of the possibility of God loving finite men, even as he loved his only-begotten Son!” Sabbath School Worker Feb 1, 1896
“Jesus has given us his name, above every name. "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name," says Christ, "that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it. If ye love me, keep my commandments." "I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you." "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name; ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." "At that day ye shall ask in my name; and I say not unto you that I will pray the Father for you; for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God." We have a string of precious pearls in the promises, if we will but comply with the conditions. But to pray in the name of Jesus is something more than a mere mention of that name at the beginning and ending of a prayer. It is to pray in the mind and Spirit of Jesus, while we work his works, believe his promises, and rely on his matchless grace.” ST, August 21, 1884 par. 13
The string of precious pearls ends with John 17:8. What are the conditions? Ask, love him, keep his commandments, bring forth fruit, believe that he came out from God, that he is the literal Son of God. Belief in this is what Philip required of the Ethiopian before he would grant him baptism (Acts 8:37).
“The seventeenth chapter of John is an unfolding of the love that we are to cherish for one another. In this prayer Christ said, "I have glorified Thee on the earth; I have finished the work that Thou gavest Me to do." Christ came to represent the Father by revealing a love that is without a parallel.” [John 17 portions quoted]
“This prayer touches my heart, and thrills my whole being. Shall we not strive to make our lives, which cost the Son of God so much, such that He can be glorified in us?” ST Dec 9, 1903
Indeed, Ellen White was especially fond of John 17.
“The seventeenth chapter of John speaks plainly regarding the personality of God and of Christ, and of their relation to each other.” “Here is personality, and individuality.” MS 124, 1903 in 5BC p. 1145.
‘The prayer of Christ to His Father, contained in the seventeenth chapter of John, is to be our church creed.” Manuscript 12, 1899 in 3SM p. 21