Posted On June 22, 2015

Responding to the Claims of Deity by Jesus

by | Jun 22, 2015 | Deity of Christ, Featured

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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.

John 10:36, “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’?”

John chapter ten concludes with a dramatic scene. A man stands in the temple courts, surrounded by an angry mob. Each hand is poised with a stone ready to be thrown. It is a scene out of the Old Testament, which ordered stoning as the penalty for certain heinous crimes. It is not surprising that this crowd by held by religious leaders. But what is surprising is the identity of the man who is about to be put to death. We would expect a troublemaker to be in such a situation, but this man is famous for his wonderful good works.

We might imagine a person in this situation panicking, cowering back, or trying to run away. But this man does none of these things. Apparently unfazed by the thread, he speaks calm words of challenge and rebuke 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?”

Thus concludes John’s long accounts of Jesus’ conflict with the Jewish leaders. He had performed marvelous works of mercy and love in their midst, but they hated him for the truth He revealed. This has continued throughout history. Whether it is the Roman emperor Nero’s sadistic torture of the early Christians, the ruthless persecution of Christians by the Communist regimes of the 20th century, or today’s postmodern intolerance of the Christian witness, Jesus stands and ask 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?”

The Unique God and Man

The accusers had an answer to Jesus’ question. They did not object to his good works, they said, although the record shows that they often did. But here it was Jesus’ words that enraged them. John 10:33, “The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” This refers to Jesus’ statement in verse 30, “I and the Father are one.” This is as plain and direct a claim to deity as Jesus could have made. His hearers were outraged. It was obvious that Jesus was a man, yet He made himself out to be God. It was blasphemy, pure and simple.

What did Jesus mean by saying, “I and the Father am one” (John 10:30)? First, Jesus declared a unity of will between himself and God the Father. In the preceding verses, Jesus had declared the security of those who believe on him. John 10:28, “ I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Then, to further seal this security, he added in John 10:29, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” It is with this in mind that he said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Jesus’ will is united with the will of the Father to secure His sheep.

There is a second away in which we should take Jesus’ statement of unity with the Father. They are not only united in will, but also united in works. Jesus does the work of God. He was “consecrated and sent into the world” (John 10:36) to do “The works of my Father” (10:37). In John 5:36, Jesus spoke of “the works that the Father has given me to accomplish,” and in John 14:10 he said, “The Father who dwells in me does his works.” So Jesus is one with God in his will and in his works. Therefore, whenever we see Jesus doing something, we can be sure that God the Father is acting in and through Him. This was especially true of his primary work of dying on the cross for our sins.

Jesus also asserts a unity of essence with the Father. “I and the Father are one,” he insists (John 10:30). He elaborates, “The Father is in me and I am in the Father” (10:38). Jesus is not referring merely to the way in which God indwells a believer’s life through the Holy Spirit. Rather, he means that he and the Father are one divine being. James Montgomery Boice explains, “In theological terms, this is the same as saying that the son is one in substance with the Father and that they are equal in power and glory.”[i]

This enters us into the mystery of the doctrine of the Trinity, which states there is one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. By “one God” we mean that there are not three different Gods, but one God. Yet there are three divine persons who share this one divine being. In this respect, it is notable that Jesus did not use the masculine gender when he said that he and the Father are “one.” Had he done so, that would have indicated that he and the Father were one person. This is obviously not true, since Jesus prays to the Father and does his will. They are distinct persons. Instead, Jesus used the neuter gender for “one,” referring not to his person but to his substance. Jesus and the Father are one being.

This is clearly how Jesus’ hearers understood him. Had Jesus meant only that his will was aligned with God’s or that his work was the work of God, the Jews might have disagreed, but they would not have tried to stone him for blasphemy. Their understanding is clearly stated in John 10:33, “You, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus did not correct this impression, even though doing so would have removed the threat of his life. Those who say that Jesus never claimed personal divinity have to reckon with this encounter, in which Jesus defends himself from the charge of blasphemy not by denying His deity but by asserting it.

In our next post we’ll look at Four Important Implications of Jesus’ Claim to Be One with God.

 

[i] James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of John, 5 volumes. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 3:790.).

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