the-deity-of-Christ

Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers think through what the deity of Christ and it’s importance to the Christian faith.

King In His Glory

There are four important implications of Jesus’ claim to be one with God. The first is that we have the knowledge of God in him, since Jesus is God. He would later say in John 14:9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Alexander Maclaren explains:

His revelation is no mere revelation by words. Plenty of men have talked about god, and said noble and true and blessed things about Him… It is one thing to speak about god in words, maxims, precepts; it is another thin to show us God in act and life.. the one is the work of man, the other is the exclusive prerogative of god manifested in the flesh.[i]

This being the case, if we want to know God, we can see him revealed in the person and work of Jesus as recorded in the bible.

Second, since Jesus is God, believers can be sure that our sins are forgiven through His death on the cross. Some people object to the Christian doctrine of the atonement by arguing that no man can die for another man’s sins. This is true, except that Jesus was not a mere man, but the eternal Son of God, whose shed blood is of infinite value in paying the penalty for our sins.

Third, since Jesus is God, then we can completely rely on His promises. Since he is one with the Father, then he has fulfilled all that he has pledged to do. Indeed, only God could make the kinds of promises Jesus does. John 10:28, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Realizing these things will change the way we approach life and especially, death. D.L. Moody tells of a young woman many years ago who was being overcome by an infection. Those were days when medical care was poor, so her condition was rapidly deteriorating. She had gone blind and seemed to be in a coma. The doctor stood beside her and lamented to her parents, “Poor thing, I’m afraid she has seen her best days.” But the girl was not asleep. At these words, she spoke: “You are wrong, doctor. My best days are not behind me but before me. I will see the King in His glory!”[ii]  How could this young Christian, her days cut short in the flower of life, speak with such confidence? Because she knew God in the face of Christ, because she knew that the blood of Christ had won complete forgiveness of all her sins, and because, knowing Jesus to be God, she could wholly rely on His promises of eternal life.

A fourth implication of Jesus’ teaching deserves special attention. Jesus’ claim to be one with God establishes His authority. His words have authority as the very Word of God. His teaching has authority to govern our lives. Jesus has the right to demand our faith and obedience and His sovereign will cannot be thwarted. This is why the Jews did not stone him, just as they had not been able to arrest him before and could not take him at the end of this encounter. “I and the Father are one,” Jesus says. This means that he rightly commands our obedience, and we refuse him at the peril of our souls.

Refuting the charge

It was because of this claim to deity that the unbelieving Jews had gathered up stones to cast at Jesus. Jesus challenged their verdict, asking in John 10:32, “Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?”

This establishes a sound principle. We should not judge a person’s claims until we see what he or she can do. Someone may claim to be a great artist, athlete, or leader. We should not reject the claim until we examine his achievements. Jesus had made a great claim. Was there evidence? Were his words backed up by works? John’s Gospel has already answered this. Jesus healed the sick, cast our demons, cured lepers, fed the hungry, and gave sight to the blind. We’ll even see Jesus raising the dead to life.

When Jesus spoke of his “good works,” we might take this to be the whole pattern of his life. His life was defined by doing good. But he probably refers specifically to his miracles. What do the miracles say about Jesus? Do Jesus’ mighty works lead us to conclude that he was blaspheming when he identified himself with God? Or do they rather lead us to the opposite conclusion: that the One who performed such divine works must be from God and must act in the power of God? What Jesus had done was simply beyond the power of men. Should they therefore stone him or carefully consider his claim to divinity?

This makes an important point regarding unbelief. There is never enough evidence for one who is determined to withhold his faith. Jesus was not threatening the well-being of people, but only the self-centered agenda of the unbelievers. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38) and led a life of love. His character confirmed his identity to such an extent that he could challenge those who knew him to convict him of even a single sin (John 8:46). Moreover, Jesus performed wonderful miracles that no mere man could do. But his opponents still did not accept him because they were determined not to surrender their wills.

Jesus’ opponents could not refute his good works. But, they insists, they were stoning him not because of what he did but because of what he said, “You, being a man, make yourself God” (John 10:33). Here we have an instance of the Apostle John’s irony, because his believing readers know that exactly the opposite is really true: Jesus, being God, had made himself man.

Jesus refuted the charge of blasphemy in a way that is hard for us to follow today. He knew that his accusers wanted a legal pretext for murdering him, and following the standard rabbinic approach to debating, Jesus took this pretext away. John 10:34-36, “Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?”

The Jews were basing their accusation on the Scriptures, so Jesus exposed their inability to handle the Scriptures rightly. He quotes Psalm 82:6, a psalm of rebuke to the unjust judges of Israel. The full verse reads, “I said, ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.’” Some people, such as the Mormons use Jesus’ quotation of this verse to argue that all believers will ultimately become gods. But this is wrong. The Psalm acknowledges that the judges of ancient Israel ruled with God’s authority. They were as gods among the people, fulfilling a holy task on God’s behalf. The point of the psalm is not to exalt these human rulers, but to threaten them for their unjust ways. Psalm 82:6-7, “I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”

What did Jesus accomplish by quoting this verse? His point was not to prove his own deity—he used his works for that—but rather to show that his accusers lacked a biblical basis for their charge of blasphemy. The Bible itself uses the word god for certain mortal men, although only in a highly qualified sense. Therefore, it was not obviously blasphemous for Jesus’ to do the same with reference to himself. In fact, if sinful judges of the past could be called “gods,” how much more ought Jesus “of whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world” (John 10:36), be considered worthy of such a title? Moreover, I think it is likely that Jesus had a double purpose in quoting Psalm 82. The psalm condemns unjust rulers who set themselves up as gods, which is precisely what Jesus’ opponents had done.

In passing, we should note the high claim that Jesus makes about the Scriptures. He refers to the Old Testament as “the word of God” and asserts that “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35)—that is, it cannot be refuted or set aside. He bases his whole defense on one word in a single psalm. This affirms the authority of every single word in the Bible as being inspired from God Himself.

Notice, too, the severity with which Jesus treats these false accusers. While Jesus treated simple, errant sinners with mercy and kindness, he was severe in condemning false teachers. James 3:1 says that those “who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” Following His example, we should be gentle with those who are led astray, but must sharply confront the false teachers who are leading them astray.

Jesus concludes by urging that if they really understand the Scriptures, this accusers would believe in Him. John 10:37-38, “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

In other words, since Jesus performed works that could be ascribed only to God, the Jews should think seriously about his claims. Who else could turn water into wine, raise the sick and lame by His mere word, feed a vast multitude with just a few fish and loaves of bread, and give sight to a man born blind?” These are the miracles recorded by the Gospel of John. The Gospels proclaim Jesus as the true Son of God and the world’s only Savior. Should you not give some thought to this if you are not saved? Jesus says that by this kind of honest investigation, you will gain understanding. Indeed, by the power of His Word, Jesus offers to open blind eyes to see Him as the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

Jesus’ works were not yet finished. In the next chapter of John Jesus performs his greatest miracle, the raising of Lazarus from the dead—an event attested to by numerous eyewitnesses. Think about what kind of person could do this. But Jesus’ greatest work was performed on the cross, where he died to apply the penalty of all the sins of those who believe in Him. Matthew’s Gospel records that when Jesus died, the earth shook, the rocks split, and a great darkness fell on the earth. A centurion standing by thought about these things and was lead to say, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54).

Three Callings for followers of Christ

This passage contains important applications for believers. The first is a calling to truth. The problem with the Pharisees and other religious leaders was that they really did not know the Bible. They talked about the Bible and they made a show of their supposed loyalty to Scripture. But they really did not know what the Bible taught. They had been using it to support their own preconceived notions. Therefore, even though the greatest message of the Bible is the coming of God’s son as Savior and Lord, they justified their unbelief by appealing to the Scriptures.

Many professing Christians today do not know their Bible’s. They own Bible’s and carry them, but they do not earnestly study the Bible. They do not know the biblical reasons for what they believe, and many of them believe things that are false. The fact is that many church attenders today will not tolerate sound Bible teaching. Some value the Bible only for the practical help they seek, without real interest in the truths of God, man, and salvation. The Bible is not made relevant by its usefulness to our worldly lifestyles; rather, the Bible is relevant in and of itself, being the very Word of God. Unless Christians are people of truth, we will not stand against the current of the world, and our errors will contribute to the loss of many souls, including perhaps our very own.

A second application is that Christians are called to a life of holiness and love. We see this in the relationship between Jesus’ words and his works. It is fair for people to judge the truth we profess by the life we lead. Jesus challenged his accusers to do this; could you? Does your life show evidence of the Spirit of Christ in you? If our answer as Christians is no—if there is little of Jesus to be seen in us—then our words are not likely to have much effect on the world.

Third, Christians are called to give a verbal witness to Christ and his gospel. Christians are to know the truth, live the truth, and then tell the truth. We see the last of these in the final verses of this chapter. John 10:40-42, “He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.”

This is very encouraging, because what came before it was so disheartening? We wonder, “Will anyone believe the gospel? If Jesus showed himself at the temple with such powerful works and words and still was rejected, what hope is there for the gospel in such a world?” Jesus was rejected at the temple because the people there were proud and hard-hearted. So he went into the country, back to the place where John the Baptist had preached, “and many believed in him there.” This should greatly encourage our witness.

John the Baptist was not able to do miracles. All he could do was to lead a holy life and tell people about Jesus. This is what we are called to do. It is not necessary for pastors or Christian workers to perform wonders; we do not have to walk on water or turn water into wine. We just tell people about Jesus and, as John did, warn them of God’s judgment on their sin. It is significant that this was a place where people had been brought under conviction of sin, so Jesus went there with his gospel. All John did was to show people their need and direct them to Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Having heard about Jesus, the people went to see him for themselves. And when they met him, they said, in John 10:41, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.”

This is why we must tell the world about Jesus and commend our witness with our lives: so that people will seek him and experience him for themselves. And when their hearts have been prepared by the awareness of their own need for the forgiveness he offers, many will believe. John had come and gone, but knowing the truth, living the truth, and telling the truth, his life was still making a difference. The same will be true today if people can say of us, “I remember what they said about Jesus, and when I met him I found that all of it was true.”

 

[i] Alexander Maclaren, Sermons for All Seasons Grand Rapids: World Publishing, 1995), 250-251

[ii] Quoted in Boice, John, 5:1568