Ye Are Gods

by Joe R. Price
via Guardian of Truth XL: 3 p. 6-7, February 1, 1996

In the last year of Jesus' life during the Feast of Dedication (present-day Hanukkah), unbelieving individuals confronted him and demanded of him a plain declaration that he was the Christ (John 10:22-24). Like ravenous wolves the Jewish rulers had encircled him, ready to pounce upon their prey (v. 24).

The Context

Jesus was surrounded by unbelievers. They had seen his miraculous works and their results (i.e., the healing of the man ill for 38 years, John 5:2-18; sight restored to the man born blind, John 9:1-34), but still they did not believe on him. His works and his words had provided ample proof of his claims (John 5:36; 10:25). A further demonstration of his power would no doubt be casting pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). They had made up their minds. They were looking for a reason to put Jesus to death.

His Sheep

Their failure to believe in Christ made it clear that they were not his sheep (John 10:26). They were not his disciples. Jesus made a contrast between his sheep and the unbelieving Jewish leaders in John 10:27-28. By so doing, he specifically stated the blessings of being his sheep. His sheep hear the voice of Christ (consequently, he knows them, John 10:14). They follow the words of Christ (consequently, he gives them eternal life, John 10:10). As a
result, they shall never perish (no one shall snatch them out of the hand of Christ).

Jesus taught that human salvation rests upon the pillars of man's faith and God's grace (John 10:27-29; Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus rejected the Calvinistic doctrines of unconditional election and the perseverance of the saints. If the conditions of verse 27 are not obeyed, the blessings of verses 28-29 will not follow. As one hears and obeys the voice of Christ (the gospel) he receives the security of his soul that the Son and the Father provide. The Jewish rulers did not hear his voice nor did they follow him. Therefore, they did not have any true confidence of salvation. Because of their unbelief, Jesus implied that they would die in their sins (cf. John 8:23-24).

"I and the Father Are One"

Jesus claimed to possess the same power as the Father when he claimed power to give eternal life and to protect his sheep from danger (vv. 28-29). This mutual protective power illustrated his unity with the Father. As Lenski observes, "To snatch them out his hand is the same as snatching them out of the Father's hand." So, what his enemies were pressing him for they now receive. Jesus uttered a clear and decisive statement of his divine nature by affirming, "I and the Father are one." His works proceeded out of the Father and testified of his unity with the Father's purposes and power (John 10:32; cf. 8:42).

To claim the same power as the Father was to claim oneness with the Father (John 10:29-30). The Jews immediately saw such a claim as blasphemous and tried to stone Jesus (John 10:31). They did not misunderstand what Jesus said. They simply did not believe him. They knew Jesus was "making himself God" (John 10:33).

Jesus declared for himself equality (sameness) with God (cf. John 5:17-18). They considered his words to be blasphemous because they had rejected the evidence -- his works -- which proved him to be divine. They thought he was just a man. So, they charged him with blasphemy and considered him worthy of death (John 10:33). Think of it! A man making himself God (v. 33)! Yet, the very works he did showed his declaration to be true (John 10:32; 5:36; 10:25,38). Jesus is more than just a man. He is also God (John 1:1-3,14). Had they believed his works, they would have readily received his words (John 10:37-38).

"Ye Are Gods"

The Jews were completely intolerant of Jesus' claim of Godhood. Jesus continued his defense by exposing their inconsistency through an appeal to the authority of Scripture. "Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came (and the scripture cannot be broken), say ye of him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?" (John 10:34-36).

The Jews accepted the statement from their own law that described God's appointed judges among his people as "gods" (Psalms 82:6). Jesus reminds his opponents of this (it is significant to note that he says the book of Psalms belonged to their "law" (cf. Romans 3:19,10-18). Jesus stated what his Jewish opponents conceded. Namely, that it stood written in the law (i.e., it was firmly established by the binding nature of God's law) that God said of men, "Ye are gods" (John 10:34-35).

Then, Jesus affirmed the authoritative force of Scripture by saying, "The scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). Inspired scripture cannot be deprived of its binding authority by the whims of men. All individuals are obligated to harmonize their beliefs and practices to the authority of God's writings (II Timothy 3:16-17; I Corinthains 14:37; Colossians 3:17).

Not only did the Jews reject the evidence of Jesus' works, in their charge of blasphemy they also failed to respect the authority of Scripture. In Psalms 82:6, the judges of Israel were called "gods" because of their representative position of authority and responsibility among the people. These judges were God's representatives, charged with executing fair and impartial judgments in Israel (Psalms 82:2-4). To go before the judges was to go before God (cf. Exodus 21:6; 22:8-9,28), for they were charged with rendering God's judgments (Deuteronomy 1:16-17). The 82nd Psalm depicts God rebuking these "gods" (the unjust judges) for their corruption of justice. Because they failed to judge righteously, God would now judge them (Psalms 82:1,7-8). Even so, because of their God-given position of power, the psalmist called the unrighteous judges "gods." (Please note, these "gods" are on the earth judging among the poor, fatherless and needy, vv. 2-4. God's judgment would be executed on "the earth," v. 8. The Mormon explanation that this passage proves their doctrine of many gods is without contextual support, cf. I Corinthians 8:4-6.)

The Jews had never considered the statement from Psalms 82:6 as blasphemous, even though it depicts unrighteous men as "gods." Yet they were charging Jesus (whose words and works showed that he was approved by God) with blasphemy because he said, "I am the Son of God" (John 10:36). That which had been written in their law must be accepted by them as authoritative ("the scripture cannot be broken"). Butler observes, "How then could the Jews have the right to accuse Jesus of blasphemy when He says, `I am the Son of God...' especially since all of His miraculous works indicate that He has been sanctified and sent into the world by the Father" (Paul Butler, The Gospel of John, p. 127). The Jews were not being consistent in their reasoning. Since God's law called unrighteous men "gods" because they had been sent by God to execute his judgments in Israel, the righteous Jesus was not blaspheming when he identified himself as one with the Father. Jesus argues from the lesser to the greater here. The Father had set him apart and sent him into the world with a far greater work than the judges of Israel received. Jesus' works proved he was from the Father. He was righteous in every way. Truly, he is the Son of God (John 10:36).

Conclusion

"I and the Father are one" is equivalent to saying "I am the Son of God" (John 10:30,36). This was a clear declaration of deity by Jesus and the Jews took it as such (John 10:33). Only in a representative sense have men ever been called "gods." However, one has lived among us who was more than just man. Jesus was God in the flesh (John 1:14; Colossians 2:9). His works confirm it. His words attest to it. He has power to save and to protect your soul. Do you believe it? Are you his sheep?