Defending the Deity of Christ

September 30, 2018 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: John

Topic: English Passage: John 10:31-42

The most basic and yet most far-reaching questions anyone could ever ask is: Who is Jesus? Who is Jesus? That’s the question at the center of Christianity. The term “Christian” means someone who belongs to Christ. The important part is, though, that we understand which Christ we’re talking about.

It sad enough that the majority of people in this world who don’t know or don’t care who Jesus really is, but I think even more tragic and frustrating are those who call themselves Christians and don’t really care who He is. They like to use the term, for whatever reason, but they either don’t care about or believe in the real Christ—that is, the Jesus Christ of the Scriptures.

There are obviously many different ways that question about Jesus’ identity could be answered but the primary focus of John’s gospel is that He is God. Jesus is God.

We’re going to be finishing John chapter 10 today, and more than likely, we won’t be returning to the gospel until 2019.

That’s because, next week, since we’re taking the Lord’s Supper in the morning service, I am going to be teaching about it—something we haven’t done in a while. And then, after that  we’re going to jump back to our study in Proverbs. We’ll look specifically at chapters 7 through 9, and then begin looking at the various topics in the book.

All that to say, this is the last week we’ll be in John for a while. So I want to remind you again what John explicitly says about why he wrote the gospel. John 20:31—The signs in the book are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

This is the conclusion that John, writing by the authority and Spirit of Christ, wants us to come to. Jesus is the Christ. Jesus is the Son of God.

But again, that needs to be unpacked. That’ needs to be understood correctly. God the Father forgives and reconciles and adopts sinners to Himself. He makes them His children. But that is not the same sense in which we say that Jesus is the Son of God.

God didn’t forgive Jesus. He didn’t adopt Him. Jesus is a unique Son. He’s a one-of-a-kind Son. For the Jews, to say that someone was the “son of” something meant that it shared the same quality, the same characteristic. They are the same essence.

This is the message Jesus continues to give to the people throughout John’s gospel. Jesus has no beginning. Jesus is eternal in the same way that the Father is eternal.  The opening verses of the book say: In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

And then we’re told in verse 3 Jesus created all things. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

So, Jesus is God. He is the uncreated, eternal creator of all. He’s not the same person as the Father, but He possess all the same attributes and authority. That’s why Jesus would later tell Philip: “Whoever has seen Me, has seen the Father.”

Like the Father, Jesus possesses perfect knowledge, demonstrates perfect compassion, and exhibits perfect holiness. Jesus is God.

That’s why, repeatedly, Jesus says to the people: “I have come from Heaven. The Father has sent Me.” And back in chapter 5, verse 18, we’re told that the Jews were seeking to kill Jesus because he referred to God as His Father, which was to make Himself equal to God. They understood His claim.

And then Jesus goes on to press that point even more. He says: “I do whatever the Father does. I raise the dead. I give eternal life. And I judge mankind. If you honor the Father, you will honor Me. If you refuse to honor Me, then you cannot honor the Father.”

That’s really the heart of Christianity. This is what it means to be a genuine Christian—that you worship Jesus as God. He is the Christ. He is the Son of God.

It’s not enough to say you believed He claimed to be the Son of God. It’s not even enough to say that you believe He is the Son of God. You must, in the words of John 1:12, receive Him. You must respond properly to Jesus for who He is. you must bow before Him in submission and in repentant faith.

Listen, Satan and the demons believe in the deity of Jesus. They know who He is. But that doesn’t mean they’re saved. Because they rebel against Him.

That’s why John 3:36 says – Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

If you’re somewhat new to church, or to Christianity in general, this is what you need to understand. Jesus is God. And anybody who refuses to believe that and live in accordance with that is not a Christian. It doesn’t matter what they’ve done. It doesn’t matter what they call themselves. They are not a true Christian if they reject Jesus as eternal, uncreated God, the Creator of all.

This is the starting point for the passage we’re going to be looking at today. Just to remind you, earlier in chapters 9 and 10, Jesus healed a man born blind, and then a discussion started among the religious Jewish leadership regarding what this meant about Jesus. Who was He? And how did this miracle fit into it all?

And Jesus responded by affirming that He was the true Shepherd of Israel .He was God’s perfect representative to lead and save His people. The Pharisees, the religious leaders were false shepherd. They were thieves and crooks. They were like hired hands—only in it for what they could gain.

Jesus, on the other hand, would give His life for the sheep. And he would secure them eternally. This is what it says in John 10:28-30.

I and the Father are united in purpose, united in will, united in power. We are one. That was Jesus’ declaration. I and the Father are one.

Well, the Jewish leaders immediately understand what He’s saying. And John tells us how they responded. John 10:31.

You might notice there the word “again,” telling us that this isn’t the first time this has happened. Jesus preached directly to them, and they understood the message. But they hated it. They rejected His claims. Jesus’ sermons were not something you could just listen to and appreciate. They demanded a personal response. You had to do something. And the Pharisees had a response.

In the Old Testament system, death by stoning was the punishment for blasphemy. Have the members of the community take giant stones and hurl them at the person until they died. And in their eyes, Jesus was committing blasphemy. He was equating Himself with God. This was the ultimate irreverence. So, with no formal trial, they’re ready to kill Jesus.

Well, how does He respond? How does He defend Himself? He does it by pointing them, one more time, to the work of God and the word of God. Verse 30 is the declaration: I and the Father are One. And now, starting in verse 32, we have the defense. And first up, we have the defense by His works. John 10:32.

Now, Jesus knows everything. And so He knows what they’re going to answer in verse 33. The reason they’ll give isn’t any of His works; it’s His words, His claims.

But Jesus asks them this question anyway. And I think it’s a way of pointing them, one more time, to consider what He has done. “I have shown you many good works.”

That word “good” is the same word as for the Good Shepherd. It means beautiful, excellent. Jesus did so many beautiful things. And, He adds, they were from the Father. He authorized them. He told Me to do them. These are perfectly aligned with the Father’s heart and purpose. So, which of these good works is the one you’re going to kill me over?

It’s an amazingly provocative question. It supposed to cause them to pause for a moment. What has Jesus DONE that is wrong?

That response might help you a bit in the way that you respond to enemies? Christianity has enemies in the media and in Hollywood, but we’ve also got personal enemies. You might have family members or coworkers who resent you for your faith. Today, it’s seen as hateful when we uphold the biblical view of sexuality and marriage. That’s the hot button right now.

This world will hate us. Jesus said that. He told His disciples “You will be hated by all because of Me. You will be hated by all nations. John 7:7 says “The world hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.”

But before we rush into some kind of debate with them about religion or morality, as Christians, we should be able to point out the practical difference in our life. We should be able to have works that stand out. There should be evidence of humility, gentleness, submission, patience, and love. Those are Christian good works.

Jesus said “Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your heavenly Father.” 

First Peter 2:12 says “Keep your behavior excellent/honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God.

And one of the pictures we get of this comes to us in Acts chapter 5. This is right after Ananias and Sapphira die for their sin. It says: “Great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things… None of the rest dared join them, BUT the people held them in high esteem.”

God used that testimony of righteousness to draw people to Himself. Good works are a vital part of God’s strategy and design for your Christian life. And people should be able to see the difference.

Well, in this case, Jesus points them to His good works, but, they don’t want to stop and think. They just want Jesus dead. So, here’s their quick response. John 10:33.

This is just another example of the irony in John’s gospel. These men don’t have a clue who Jesus is. They set themselves up as the religious experts, as the authority on God and His revelation, but they are absolutely ignorant.

“You’re just a man,” they say. “How dare you make yourself out as God!” The irony is that the exact opposite is what has actually happened. Jesus is God, and He made Himself a man. The Word became flesh. God sent forth His son, born of a woman. 

That’s the real miracle of what Jesus has done. The infinite God of the universe emptied Himself, took the form of a slave, and partook of flesh and blood. God became a man! A King became a slave… Don’t ever lose sight of that! Jesus is God in human flesh.

Sometimes, if someone is being especially arrogant, someone might say: “They think they’re God’s gift to mankind.” Well, in Jesus’ case, that exactly true. The Father sent Him. And He came willingly. Jesus was God’s gift to mankind. He is eternal God!

And yet, none of the Pharisees understand or accept it. So, Jesus responds again. He continues His defense. And this time, rather than continue pointing to God’s works, He points them to the God’s word. John 10:34-36.

What in the world is Jesus talking about? For starters, he points them to a Bible verse. And actually, it’s not even a whole verse. It’s just one phrase. And in order to get some background here, I want you to turn there. Go back to Psalm 82. Psalm 82. This is the passage Jesus is quoting from.

What is this Psalm about? Psalm 82:1

Verse 1 says portrays God as the Supreme Judge over all the rest. Skip down for a second and look at verse 8. Psalm 82:8.

The theme of this Psalm is God’s judgment. He is the Judge and the psalm is calling for Him to act. But what’s interesting about this psalm is who God is standing with and who He is speaking to in the verses that follow.

ESV/CSB/NIV/NET says, in verse 1, he is among the “gods” (lowercase G). NASB translates it as “rulers.” Why does it say that?

Some of you get uncomfortable if a study gets too technical, but this is important, so please hang with me for a second.

The Hebrew term used there is “elohim.” Elohim is actually a plural word, but about 90% of the time it’s connected to a singular verb and the context makes clear that it’s talking about the God of Israel. So, in those cases, we translate it as the singular “God” with a capital G.

Elohim is a word that points to power and might, so it’s like saying “The Mighty One.” And again, about 90% of the time, that’s a reference to God, capital G. He is “The Mighty One.”

But on some occasions, the word “elohim” is either attached to a plural verb, or it’s clear from the context that it’s not talking about Yahweh the one, true God. So, it’s talking about some other group of “mighty ones”—plural.

In many of those instances, translations will put “gods,” plural, with a lowercase G. And that’s exactly what we see in the ESV or the CSB, or the NIV. It’s also what the Greek version of the Old Testament did too.

Well, again, even if we translate it as “gods,” we still have to think about whom it is referring to. Who is God addressing here?

Well, in Psalm 82, one view is that it’s referring to demons. And that’s because the word “elohim” is used in another Psalm as a reference to angelic beings. And if Psalm 82 is talking about sinful angels, then it’s addressed to demons.

A second view is that Psalm 82 is addressed to the false, pagan gods of Israel’s enemies. This isn’t much different than saying it’s addressed to demons because we have a psalm that connects false gods with demons, and the Apostle Paul says the same thing. But that’s a second view.

I think the best view, though, is to take this as a reference to people. And Jesus’s words in John 10, I think, are the best argument for that. If we accept this as a reference to people, then the “gods” of Psalm 82, the mighty ones, are some kind of human rulers, human authorities, or human judges. And God is rebukes them for failing in their task. They are wicked… Let’s see what God has to say to them. Psalm 82:2-4

So this group is being called to do things the right way, God’s way. And as a description of these wicked, corrupt people, verse 5 says: Psalm 82:5

This is not what God wants. And so, God’s closing words concerning this group are: Psalm 82:6-7.

Verse 6, I hope you recognized, is the verse that Jesus quoted to the Pharisees. God Almighty refers to this group as “gods,” lowercase G. Why would he do that? Why would people be referred to as gods?

Well, it’s because these rulers, or judges, had a god-like function. They ruled on behalf of God, they judged on behalf of God. And one instance we have of that is found in Exodus chapter 7, when God Almighty says to Moses: “I am making you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.” That meant that Moses, as Israel’s deliverer, would be acting on behalf of God.

Well, that’s what Israel’s kings and rulers were supposed to be. They were given authority and might. They were exalted. But, even though they were elevated in the eyes of the people, they will be cast down for their failure. That’s God’s message to this group. And that’s what the psalmist is hoping for. Psalm 82 is calling God to judge the wicked judges of the earth.

Now, with that as a background, go back with me to John chapter 10. We need to see then what exactly Jesus is saying here to the Pharisees. Remember, the Pharisees are upset because Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of God, which is a claim to equality with God. They have the same nature.

Look again at John 10, verses 34. John 10:34-36

The word Law could refer to the first five books of the Old Testament, that’s the Torah, but by extension it referred to all of the Scriptures. Jesus is pointing them back to the Word of God. “This is your own law. This is what you claim.” And then He cites the phrase from Psalm 82.

Now, I can’t be dogmatic here, because Jesus doesn’t say it explicitly, but I think the reference to Psalm 82 is a subtle way of saying to the crowd there that the religious leaders, the Pharisees, these human judges would one day be judged by God. It’s a subtle, indirect rebuke because they have become the unjust leaders of Israel.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, but they are the thieves and robbers. They are the greedy hired hands who don’t care about the sheep. And as exalted as they think they are, they will be cast down.

Understanding the original context of this Psalm also helps us answer those preachers on TV who use this verse to argue that we are all little gods. And just like God's word had the power to create, so do ours. That's called the Word of Faith movement, and it's a popular perversion of Christianity. But those preachers will use Jesus' words here in John and then say: "You see, we are all little gods. We have power. We have authority." But the original context of Psalm 82 says the exact opposite. Those "gods" will be cast down. They will be judged. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to apply Psalm 82 to myself.

Anyway, more important here in John 10, is the argument Jesus is making. He takes one little phrase out of Psalm 82, and what He’s saying is this: “If God deemed it appropriate to use the word ‘gods’ for human judges, then why would it be invalid for Me—the One whom God has sent to this world—to be called the Son of God? Those men are not qualified for their role. They don’t deserve to be judges. They don’t deserve to be called gods.

“I, on the other hand,” says Jesus, “have been sanctified, set apart, by the Father. He sent Me here for a purpose, which I am perfectly fulfilling. And yet, you’re charging Me with blasphemy!"

Do you follow the argument here? It’s called an argument from the lesser to the greater. If you allow this word to be used in this lesser instance, then surely it can be applied in the greater instance.

This is Jesus turning the Scriptures back on them. He’s got them stumped. He’s not making some long, detailed argument. He’s just taking, from the Greek, four little words, and He’s making His point.

Why would He do that? Is that even allowed? Yes, it is. Because, as verse 35 says, the Scripture cannot be broken. The Greek word there has the idea of undoing, or untying, or destroying, or nullifying. That can’t happen with the Scripture. God’s word is completely reliable. That was Jesus’ view.

Every word is from God, and every word is reliable. It stands unto eternity, and it cannot be undone. There’s even one occasion where Jesus is debating about the resurrection of the dead, and He builds His case on the tense of a verb. That’s how much Jesus trusted the Scripture.

Some writers have used the acronym SCAN to describe this. S-C-A-N, scan. The S stands for sufficiency. The Bible is enough to know God and honor Him. The C is for clarity. The Bible is clear enough for its purposes.

The A stands for authority. It comes with the authority of God. We need to obey. And the N stands for necessity. We need the Bible for salvation and sanctification. We can’t function without it. Sufficiency, Clarity, Authority, and Necessity.

And you could add the word Eternal. The word of the Lord stands forever. It cannot be broken.

“Well,” someone might ask, “what about the Old Testament? Isn’t that done away with? Aren’t we allowed to eat pork now and shrimp?” That’s a good question. And yes, we are free to do that. But it’s not because the Old Testament has been abolished. It’s because the Old Testament Law has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

This is Matthew 5:17. Jesus says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

So, based on that confidence, Jesus points to one obscure reference, to a psalm that most of us may never have even heard of, and He makes His argument.

Again, Christ’s confidence, and our confidence in Him, is rooted in the work of God and the word of God. And so, Jesus says: John 10:37-38.

Jesus is saying: "Take that step of faith toward Me! Lay aside your doubt or your skepticism. And you will know, and you will understand." The idea there is a continued knowledge, an increasing knowledge. Jesus will give you more truth, more light. He came so that the blind would see. And He came so that those who think they see would become blind. And that’s exactly what happens.

All of these men were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication of the Temple. This was, they believed, the rightful place to worship the one true God. And yet, Jesus tells them, you’re missing it. You’re missing it. I am the access point to God. I am united with the Father. And unless you’re willing to believe in Me and worship Me, you cannot worship God.

It’s a powerful message. And they don’t want to hear it. They don’t’ want to believe in the work or in the word of God. So they lash out again. They want Jesus dead. John 10:39.

We’ve seen this many times before. Jesus escapes. It’s not difficult for Him. He’s the One in charge. He lays down His life, when the moment is right, at the time the Father has already ordained.

And as an act of wisdom, and as an act of judgment Jesus leaves Jerusalem. John 10:40.

So, Jesus, in a sense, goes full circle—right back to where His public ministry started. In the outer edges of Israel. Outside Jerusalem, on the other side of the Jordan River to the east.

In the eyes of the Pharisees and the religious leaders, anyone who was serious about worshipping God stayed as close as they could to Jerusalem. Those who lived on the outer edges, in their opinion, was further from God. Not as worthy of His presence. But that’s where Jesus goes. To the fringes. To those whom the world rejects.

And… John 10:41.

They knew about John’s ministry. And even though John didn’t perform any miracles, they still believed in Jesus. They believed the word of God through John the Baptist. They accepted His testimony.

And chapter 10 ends with this. John 10:42.

This is the question that keeps being asked in John's gospel: Which group are you in? Will you reject the word of God and the work of God? Will you foolishly and arrogantly reject the testimony of the Scriptures and the testimony of Christ’s power? Or will you, in humble faith, believe in Jesus Christ? Will you surrender before Him as the eternal, uncreated Son of God, worthy of your allegiance?

More in John

November 24, 2019

Jesus Restores Peter

November 10, 2019

A Miraculous Catch

October 27, 2019

Believe the Signs