Bible Answer

Who is the ‘We’ in John 9:4?

In the John Study on the VBVMI website, you said that the “we” in John 9:4 referred to the combined effort of both Jesus and the Holy Spirit. If you believe "we" means both the Holy Spirit and Jesus, then how do you explain Jesus' mention of a time “when no one can work?” Will Jesus and the Holy Spirit be unable to work at some point?

In John 9 we read:

John 9:3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
John 9:4 “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.
John 9:5 “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”

To interpret Jesus’ words properly, we must remain constrained by the text. In v.3 Jesus introduces the idea of works in relationship to the blind man’s condition. Specifically, Jesus says this man was born blind (i.e., made to be blind by God) so that his healing could become a means of glorifying Christ. 

Notice in v.3 Jesus says the “word of God” will be displayed in this man’s healing. This statement means that the “works” mentioned in this passage are the works that God alone can do. More specifically, Jesus is referring to the works that God does through men. In this case, God made a man blind so He could heal him by means of a Man (i.e., Jesus).

The next thing Jesus says is “We must work the works of Him who sent Me.” The question then becomes who did Jesus mean when He said “we?” The widely held view is that Jesus meant men+Jesus. In this case, Jesus was saying that He and His disciples must do the works of God (the Father). 

The other possible answer is Jesus meant Jesus+Spirit (as Pastor Armstrong taught). In this case, Jesus was saying He and the Spirit are working to heal blind men (and other miracles) to serve a purpose the Father ordained in the Messiah’s arrival. As long as the Messiah is in the world, He must accomplish these miracles (in partnership with the Holy Spirit), for this is how the Messiah is to be known and glorified. For this reason, the blind man was born blind. 

How do we know which answer is correct? Jesus gives us the answer in what He says next.

Jesus said that the work (of “we”) can continue only until “night.” In the darkness, no one can work. Then Jesus defines Himself as the Light (i.e., the day). In other words, Jesus says that His presence in the world makes this work possible, but when He departs these works must stop. Notice Jesus doesn’t indicate they will begin again. Once the Messiah is gone from the earth, this work will stop. 

Therefore, we must conclude that the “we” refers to the unique and temporary works that the Messiah and the Spirit accomplished during His earthly life. These works served a special purpose and were limited to the Messiah himself. While others were permitted to perform miracles as well (e.g., the apostles), nevertheless those opportunities were never equal to the work Jesus and the Spirit accomplished during his three years of earthly ministry. 

Obviously, this statement doesn’t preclude the body of Christ performing many other “works” and even miracles to a limited degree, but Jesus wasn’t addressing these works. He was speaking specifically of the unique works that He and the Spirit would accomplish together invalidating His claims. He made this comment in response to the disciples’ questioning of this man’s condition, and Jesus was explaining that this man’s condition was a necessity for the demonstration of the Messiah in His day.