John 10:30 And The Trinity

Introduction

Many God-fearing Trinitarians use this passage to support the doctrine of the Trinity. This study will seek to understand the meaning of these important words. What did Jesus communicate here, within the context of the surrounding verses? More clearly, Jesus and the Father are one, in what sense?

Because Jesus didn’t clarify in this verse how He is one with the Father, the context should be allowed to speak. So, the meaning of the words of Jesus should be decided after a consideration of the entire account (John 10:23-39). 

The exegetical driven form of biblical interpretation seeks to draw out the meaning from the text without any personal influence on the process. The text decides what it means by a neutral, objective examination. This discipline seeks the author’s intended meaning and how the original audience would have understood it. It considers the cultural setting of the author and of the intended recipients. 

The opposite form of interpretation is eisegesis. This method of interpretation involves reading theology into the text that the author did not intend to communicate. This subjective form of interpretation ignores the context and allows the interpreter to read in their interpretation.

The Context Speaks: How is Jesus One with the Father?

Verses 23-24 describe Jesus inside the temple surrounded by a crowd of Jews. In verse 24, an important question is posed to Jesus, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.

In the Old Testament, many prophecies had predicted the coming of the Messiah. Prophecies included details to help identify the Messiah.

The crowds wanted a “yes” or “no” answer from Jesus. The request for clarity (“tell us plainly”) was likely because Jesus often spoke in parables and used figures of speech that most with hardened hearts could not understand.

In verse 25, Jesus states, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me.” Jesus had previously answered this question. But most Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah.

Jesus testified, “the works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me.” The works that Jesus performed undeniably evidenced His Messiahship. 

In verse 26, Jesus continues, “but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.” Their unbelief disqualified them from being His sheep. 

In verse 27, Jesus used three verbs to identify real believers. Real sheep “hear my voice.” This means that when Jesus spoke, real believers in the crowd listened intently because they believed the words spoken by their Messiah. Consequently, real believers today listen when God speaks from His Word. 

Secondly, Jesus knew these believers in the present (“I know them”). In the same manner, 2000 years later, real believers are known by Jesus in the present tense as well.

The third verb is “follow” (“they follow me”). True believers “follow” Jesus where He leads. 

To summarize, verse 27 identifies genuine believers by three present tense verbs: “hear,” “know,” and “follow.”

In verse 28, Jesus states one of the most quoted passages on conditional security. Religious leaders often twisted the words of Jesus 2000 years ago. Many today ignore the conditional elements of verse 27, when they quote verse 28: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

The promise of Jesus (“eternal life”) is only applicable to “them” who actively persevere (verse 27). He says, “I give them eternal life.” The verb “give” is also in the present tense. Jesus only gives “eternal life” in the present to those persevering in the present. Further, the sheep who are persevering “will never perish.” This promise is for you if you follow Jesus Christ!

Within the contextual backdrop, Jesus has a role in protecting the sheep: “no one will snatch them out of my hand” (v. 28). The Father also has a role: “no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (v. 29). 

In verse 29, Jesus also says, “my Father…is greater than all.” While the context is concerning the Father’s role in protecting His sheep, nevertheless, this statement expressing the superiority of the Father. For similar teaching, please see John 14:28, and I Corinthians 3:23, 11:3.

Because Jesus and the Father are united in the preservation of the saints, Jesus states in the next verse, “I and the Father are one” (v. 30). Believers in Christ 2000 years ago and today have (or can have) confidence in their salvation because both Jesus and His Father are jointly involved and committed to their security!

Before we continue, it’s worth noting that there is nothing leading up to our passage (“I and the Father are one“) about the Trinity. Of further consideration, the doctrine of the Trinity did not exist until hundreds of years later [1]. So, going back and reading the Trinity into this verse is like taking a quote from former President George Washington and claiming he was describing the internet. 

[1] From the passing of the apostles to the First Council of Nicaea (100-325) there exists thousands of pages of non-canonized Christian writings. This group of authors are known as the Anti-Nicene Fathers. Not one of these authors believed in the doctrine of the Trinity based on their writings. The doctrine of the Trinity was started by the Roman Catholic Church at the First Council of Nicaea in 325.The views from this council and the creed it produced were further refined by future councils of the Roman Catholic Church into today’s doctrine of the Trinity.

So why did the Jews then pick up stones in verse 31? Before providing some reasons, some additional historical background can help us, 2000 years later. 

Jesus Christ, a humble man, made magnificent claims. The educated religious leaders of the day were revered by the majority and likely wore religious robes to elevate their status. Jesus likely dressed humbly as a servant.

Jesus didn’t travel with an entourage of dignitaries to insure He spoke at prominent places and was honored as their upcoming Messiah. Jesus was surrounded by ordinary disciples (most uneducated: Acts 4:13) whom many in society deemed as unimportant.

Based on a prophecy in Isaiah 53, Jesus was not a person that most would consider handsome or pleasing: “… he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:2b-3).

Jesus (a lowly servant in their presence) claimed to be the door of the sheep (vs. 1-9), “the good shepherd” (v. 11), to have an intimate relationship with the Father (v. 15), to have authority to give them eternal life (v. 28), to have a role with the Father in the preservation of the sheep (vs. 28-29). 

The culmination of the account within the context is the bold statement, “I and the Father are one.” This statement of unity with the Father, when harmonized with the context, doesn’t declare equality with God. Jesus had just stated that the Father “is greater than all” (v. 29). 

However, the statement of Jesus, “I and the Father are one,” while in relation to the unity He shared with the Father in the perseverance of the saints, nevertheless, it may include language of divinity. 

Many wrongly interject the Trinity which is foreign to the context. Jesus, a humble Jew from Galilee had just claimed authority to “give eternal life” (v. 28) and possessed other attributes already discussed (vv. 26-29), that only a divine person could possess.

In verse 31, the narrative continues, “31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.

Before we continue this narrative, an import consideration is that Jesus never sinned and therefore not one word or action He took was contrary to the Mosaic law or the Father’s will. So, the intended application of capital punishment was absolutely unjustified.

Sincere Trinitarians may believe the Jews intended to impose capital punishment because Jesus claimed to be equal to God the Father. But the context and the verses to follow don’t articulate this belief.

32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 

Because the works were miraculous and undeniable, they had no legitimate reasons to stone Him. The works Jesus did were “from the Father” (not of Himself).

The Jews answered him, “33 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.” 

Trinitarians believe that He was making Himself the same God as His Father, or a separate divine equal to His Father (“make yourself God”). But there is a third option. Jesus was a separate god, subordinate to His Father [2].

[2] The excellent book, Divine Truth or Human Tradition, says, “In terms of grammar, the verse may be legitimately rendered ‘God or ‘a god.’ However, Jesus responded by citing an OT text where others were called ‘gods,’ suggesting on what level the charge was being made. If the Jews accused Jesus of making himself out to be God himself, and he really was ‘God-in-the-flesh,’ why did he quote from a text where others are called ‘gods’ as an answer to their accusation?” (607).

In verse 34, Jesus responded to their false charge of blasphemy. Jesus never claimed to be God (the Father). In His defense, Jesus appeals to the Old Testament that teaches the existence of other gods (vs. 34-36).  

Because Trinitarian church tradition is strong, and many Trinitarians have been conditioned to think the Bible only contains three divine beings (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), Trinitarians may feel uncomfortable when confronted with the biblical evidence of the plurality of divine beings (gods). Yet, the Biblical evidence is indisputable.

An Old Testament word for god is “elohim.” It has a broad range of meaning and can refer to the one true God (Psalm 114:7, etc.), false gods (2 Kings 17:31, etc.), foreign gods (Daniel 11:39), good angels (Psalm 8:5), Judges (Exodus 18:19; 1 Samuel 2:25; Psalm 82:1), Moses speaks as a god (Exodus 4:16), David or Solomon as god (Psalm 45:6-7), a ghost (1 Samuel 28:13), etc.

A New Testament word for God is “theos.” It also is elastic with a broad range of meaning. God and His Son are called this title. But so are other gods (John 10:34). Satan is called “god” (2 Corinthians 4:4), to include false prophets (2 Thessalonians 2:4), etc. 

34 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’?

In further defense of the false charge of blasphemy, Jesus quotes Psalm 82:6, “I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.” Most Trinitarians overlook the context. In defense of His divine identity, Jesus invokes the existence of other gods.

The late theologian Charles Ryrie, writes, “Christ’s point is that if the O.T. uses the word ‘God’ (Elohim) of men who were representative of God, then the Jews should not oppose Him for calling Himself the Son of God” (The Ryrie Study Bible, New American Standard Version New Testament, 1983).

In a similar manner, the scholarly, The Interpreter’s Bible states, “He quoted Ps. 82: 6, where God says to the judges of Israel, ‘I said Ye are gods, and all of you sons of the Most High.’ If an inspired scripture allowed that title to mere men to whom God entrusted a message, how much more can he, whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, claim to say I am the Son of God (vs. 36), without incurring the reproach of blasphemy?” (634).

While Jesus is a divine person, He never claimed to be God (in the absolute sense), but “the Son of God” (v. 36). The title, “God the Son” is unbiblical and removes the inspired distinction between Yahweh and His Son.

The book Divine Truth or Human Tradition states it well, “When Trinitarian apologists argue, in essence, that Jesus cannot be called “God” without him being “of-the-same substance-as-the-Father,” or “a god” without jeopardizing the truth of biblical “monotheism,” they are, in effect, ‘setting aside’ the very Scriptures that already establish that this is not the case” (294).

Jesus continued, “37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me

Please observe that Jesus is not doing works as if He is God Himself (the Father) in the flesh (Trinitarian view), but a divine person in subordination: “I am not doing the works of my Father.

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.

The works that Jesus performed could not be legitimately explained away by the unbelieving Jews. Jesus affirms the special unity He had with His Father (“Father is in me and I am in the Father”). Jesus said in the same Gospel that believers can also “be one even as we are one” (John 17:11, 22). 

39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.” The crowd’s attempt to arrest Jesus was not based on claiming equality with the Father, but on His rightful claim of divinity as God’s Son (v. 36).

May God richly bless you as you follow His Son, Jesus Christ, to the Father’s house. 

Keep the faith!

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