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IMPORTANT BIBLE TOPICS

  • Photograph by Myriam Zilles from unsplash

What did Jesus mean? I and My Father are One

The Feast of Dedication

The Jewish Feast of Dedication celebrates the re-dedication of the temple in the days o f the Maccabees, the Jewish freedom fighters of the time. This feast lasts for eight days and is also called Hanukah or the Festival of Lights. It commemorates the time when the Maccabees won back the Jewish temple in Jerusalem from the Greeks in 165 BC. The Greek Empire included the land of Palestine (now Israel) within its borders. The Greek occupiers had defiled the temple by forcing Jews to worship idols and desecrated the altar by sacrificing pigs on it, animals designated unclean under the Law of Moses. On winning the temple back, the Jews only had a day's supply of oil for the Menorah (the seven-branched candlestick) which was always to be kept burning in the temple. The feast in part celebrates the tradition that God miraculously provided oil for the remaining seven days. Whether that is true or not is not important but it sets the scene for this statement of Jesus.

Jesus confronted by the Jews

Jesus was in the temple when he spoke these words and we are told his precise location – Solomon's Porch. This was an area on the eastern side of the temple and became a gathering place for the apostles after the death and ascension of Jesus. The religious leaders of the Jews asked Jesus to clearly state whether he was the Messiah (anointed one). Their purpose was not to understand his mission but to try and undermine his popularity with the common people. Jesus simply replied that his miracles testified to who he was. But the Jews would neither listen nor try to understand. Their envy and fear of removal from power prevented them from accepting Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus pointed out that there were those among the people who were his sheep, who followed him and heard his voice but this was impossible for the Jewish leaders because they would not listen.

Reconstruction of Herod’s temple showing ‘Solomon’s Porch’ on the east side of the temple enclosure.

I and my Father are one

Jesus also said that he would give eternal life to his sheep, those who listened to him and they would never perish. They would never be plucked out of his hand because the Father who gave them to him is greater than all. Then he completed his discourse by saying: I and my Father are one

  • John 10.30

This statement so offended the leaders of the Jews that they picked up stones to throw at him in their fury. This was the mode of execution for those considered guilty of blasphemy under the Law of Moses.

Equal to God?

Clearly, this statement of Jesus touched a raw nerve with the Jewish leaders. The nation had been taken into captivity about 500 years before Christ's birth. God caused this to happen because they had turned to idolatry and worshipped all manner of pagan gods. They learned the lesson during 70 years of captivity in Babylon and on their return to Jerusalem they also returned to the worship of the one true God. The Jews of Christ's day vented their anger on him for saying I and my Father are one. Jesus asked the people why they were going to stone him after he had performed so many good works. The Jews replied that they weren't stoning him for his good works but for making himself God (John 10.33). This had happened on a previous occasion: Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

  • John 5.18

Jesus' words can easily be misunderstood, especially if we already hold the belief that Jesus and his Father are equal as taught by the doctrine of the Trinity. But if we look at the references carefully they do not say that Jesus was or claimed to be equal to God at all. His listeners interpreted his words in the same way that many people do today.

The Council of Nicea AD 325 – fresco in the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican.
Note how far the Church had now departed from the simplicity of original Christianity

The Son of God

Before the birth of Jesus, Mary was told by the angel Gabriel that Jesus was to be the Son of God: 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that holy one who is to be born will be called the Son of God''

  • Luke 1.35

The phrase "the Son of God'' cannot be misinterpreted to mean God the Son.

A prayer of Jesus

In the gospel of John chapter 17, Jesus poured out his soul in prayer just prior to enduring dreadful suffering and a humiliating and agonising death in obedience to his Father. In his prayer he referred to the fact that he was one with God his Father: ...that they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them, that they may be one just as we are one: I in them, and you in me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them as you have loved me.

  • John 17.21-23

If we believe Jesus said he and his Father are one Godhead, then this prayer requires all the followers of Jesus to join him in that role: that they also may be one in us. Clearly it is not the intention of Jesus in John chapter 17 to promote the

idea that he and God are part of a Trinity. So how can we take this to be the meaning of the saying of Jesus I and my Father are one in John chapter 10?

Jesus never claimed equality with God

The idea that Jesus is in all respects equal to his Father is on several occasions denied by Jesus himself. The references are unmistakeable: ...for my Father is greater than I.

  • John 14.28

Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do.

  • John 5.19

I can of myself do nothing.

  • John 5.30

He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “O my Father, if this cup cannot pass away from me unless I drink it, your will be done

  • Matthew 26.42

Jesus the King

Speaking of the time when Jesus shall reign as king over the whole earth, the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians that the time will come when his kingdom will be surrendered to God himself:

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet… For he "has put everything under his feet". Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

  • 1 Corinthians 15, 24,25,27,28 NIV

Again it is strongly emphasized that when God becomes "all in all" after Christ's kingship is surrendered to Him, Christ himself will be subject to Him. There is no suggestion of equality here.

Interesting references

Believers in the doctrine of the Trinity, which declares Christ to be equal in all respects with God, turn to a variety of Scripture passages to support their position. For example, Jesus said to Philip He who has seen me has seen the Father…

  • John 14.9

This does give the impression that Jesus and God are the same person but Jesus was not saying this at all. Jesus reflected perfectly the character of God Himself. He was a manifestation of God's character. All that he said and did was in complete harmony with God. This is the sense in which God and Christ are one and the sense in which we see the Father in Jesus. Jesus exhibited and made known the character of God to mankind, which is why we are told to follow him.

Immanuel

These are the words of the angel to Joseph: ‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which is translated, “God with us”’ (Matthew 1.23). Again we could be misled into thinking that this son was a part of the Godhead as Jesus was ‘God with us’. The sense in which God is with us in Jesus, refers to God sending him to be a sacrifice for sin, to be an example of godliness and to provide the king to rule the world on divine principles. What more could God do for mankind? God is very patient as the Apostle Peter wrote, He is: long-suffering towards us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

  • 2 Peter 3.9

God manifestation

In order to have a correct understanding of many of these references that seem to support the idea of the Trinity, we need to understand "God manifestation". This is a principle that appears throughout Scripture. It is best explained by considering the angel whose duty it was to guide and lead the new nation of Israel after its exodus from Egypt and during the wanderings in the wilderness. Of him it is said : Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him and obey his voice; do not provoke him, for he will not pardon your transgressions; for my name is in him.

  • Exodus 23.20,21

The angel acted in God's place. He kept Israel "in the way". He gave them commandments. They had to be obeyed. He was able to forgive their transgressions for God's name was in him. We find that the angel is on many occasions called "the LORD" which in the English Bible is a translation of God’s memorial name "Yahweh". The angel was actually given the name of God and was to be respected as if he were God. We have already seen that Jesus also was in the place of God, in that he showed to all men the perfect character of God and provided a template for godliness.

Throughout their journey through the wilderness of Sinai, Israel were lead by an angel called by God's name and bearing God's authority.

Origins of the doctrine of the Trinity

It may come as a surprise that the concept of the Godhead being three persons in one (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit) described as the doctrine of the "Trinity"’ is not found anywhere in the Bible. The idea was not formally put into words until AD 325 at the Council of Nicaea just under 300 years after the ministry of Jesus. This Council of Christian bishops was convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine with the aim of trying to obtain a consensus of beliefs in the Church at that time. Its main accomplishments, if they can be called that, were the settlement of issues relating to the nature of Jesus Christ and his relationship to God the Father.

One of the outcomes of the Council was the creation of a new creed which attempted to define the main tenets of the Christian faith. Jesus Christ is described as "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God". Such a concept of God is never taught in either the Old or New Testaments. All that can be found, as we have tried to show, are inferences which can only be seen to support the doctrine if it is already believed. This doctrine is vigorously upheld by the orthodox churches today in direct contradiction to the words of God Himself through the prophet Isaiah: I am the LORD, and there is no other; there is no God besides me. I will gird you, though you have not known me, that they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other.

  • Isaiah 45.5,6

This emphatic statement there is none besides me is repeated five more times by the prophet.

Jesus and his Father

An understanding of the true relationship between Jesus and his Father is very important. Jesus was the Son of God and he lived a perfect life of obedience to his Father which no other human being has been or will ever be able to do. This points to the very close relationship between Jesus and his Father. He was totally committed to his Father's purpose in saving mankind from the deadly effects of sin. He had a very close connection with God being constantly in prayer to Him, sometimes all night long.

He also had a complete understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures and we can see this in his answers to his enemies and indeed to himself during the temptation in the wilderness. It was only by these means that Jesus received the strength to live a sinless life and so provide the perfect sacrifice for the remission of the sins of all mankind.

It is also important to realise that if we believe that Jesus is God, we undermine the reality of the tremendous work he performed. His objective was to overcome sin in mortal flesh. He is the only person who has been able to do that. Because of this he stands far above all humankind in his achievement and at the same time makes it possible for us to obtain forgiveness. It is a privilege to understand the full meaning of the following well known but profound words of Jesus: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

  • John 3. 16

This hope of everlasting life is only possible by the Father and His Son working closely together in that special sense of being one in purpose, described in the phrase we have considered: I and my Father are one. If we unite ourselves to Christ through baptism then our objectives will be the same as his. This means that we will do our best to follow his example and pray for his second coming when his "sheep" will receive the reward of everlasting life and the earth will be filled with the glory of God.

Author John Morse
Country West Midlands, UK
Source Light on a New World reprint from Volume 27.2

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