Today’s text is one that is somewhat difficult to deal with, for at least a couple of reasons. One, is we are coming into what is really the tail end of an ongoing dialogue that Jesus was having with the religious leaders of Jerusalem concerning His deity. And we are picking it up near the end of that discussion. So that provides some difficulty, in bringing you up to speed without repeating all of last Sunday’s message. And the other main difficulty is that Jesus makes reference to a somewhat obscure portion of scripture as validation of His argument, which potentially opens up a lot of questions. But I hope to answer those questions for you today, as well as affirming the deity of Christ, and in the process, offer some principles from this passage that I believe are essential to living out our faith effectively. So I hope you will bear with me as we go through this somewhat difficult passage, in the firm conviction that all scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, if we will give proper place to it.
As you might recall if you were here last week, Jesus was walking in the temple under the portico known as Solomon’s porch during the Feast of Dedication, which we know as Hanukkah. So it is winter time, about three months before Jesus will eventually be crucified. And the Pharisees and priests have sort of cornered Him there, and they ask Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” They claim to want to know if He is the Messiah. But the fact is, they don’t really want to know. They have already decided to kill Jesus, but they need a good excuse. And so the excuse they are trying to give themselves is to get Jesus to commit what they consider to be blasphemy; to say that He is the Son of God.
So, of course, Jesus knows their trickery, and so He answers them by saying, “I have already told you, and yet you did not believe Me. And then if I may paraphrase the rest a bit, He basically says, not only did I tell you, but I also did works of God which gave testimony to my authority, but you didn’t accept them either. So they did not believe His words, and they didn’t accept His works, both of which confirmed that He was the Messiah.
But then Jesus makes the most startling, dramatic statement possible, which obviously answered their question, but to an extent that perhaps they were not expecting. Jesus says in vs.30; “I and the Father are one.” This is probably the most direct statement that Jesus ever made in His ministry regarding His deity. He is claiming equality with God. Oneness with God. It is to say that He was one essence with God. There is one other statement that Jesus made to Philip and the disciples, which is just as clear, but it had a limited audience. Jesus said on that occasion, “if you have seen Me you have seen the Father.” But this statement is made to the Jewish leaders, and is the most forthright declaration of His deity that He made.
To claim to be absolutely one with God is to claim to be equal with God. And so we read then, “The Jews took up stones again to stone him.” They feel justified, because they know that He is claiming to be no less than God. John records them as giving the reason that they wanted to stone Him in vs.33, because, they said, “You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”
Jesus could have answered the question of being the Messiah and not taken it that far. The Biblical definition of Messiah was that He was deity, but their conception of the Messiah was limited to that of a political figure, someone from the line of David who would restore the throne to Israel and overthrow their enemies. And so Jesus could have played along with their expectations and not given them much reason to condemn Him, but He deliberately ups the ante by stating not only His Messiahship, but declaring that He is One essence with God.
So they took up stones to kill Him. And Jesus stops them with a word. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”
Jesus then answers that charge with a most interesting argument and one that I think has great theological implications for us. Jesus quotes a relatively obscure scripture from Psalms 82. Jesus said, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I SAID, YOU ARE GODS’? If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
Now this quotation Jesus gives is found in Psalm 82 and verse 6 and there we find the words, “I have said, you are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” This is a Psalm in which reference is made to unjust judges. And the Lord goes on to say, “But you shall die like men and fall like one of the princes.” So he is talking about unjust judges, but nevertheless the Psalmist speaks of them as if they were gods, with a little “g”. So the Lord Jesus refers to this rather obscure text in the Old Testament, certainly not one of the more well known texts of the Bible, yet he refers to it as a basis for this most important doctrine of His deity.
Now there are several points that we can make from this statement. First, we should point out that judges in Israel did have a limited relationship of union with God because they were divinely delegated representatives. In Israel a judge was one who was supposed to judge under God, and was supposed to judge with the judgment of God. The Psalmist says they had been given the word of God, and therefore should have judged with the judgment of God.
So there is a sense in which Jesus was arguing from the lessor to the greater. If the Psalmist under inspiration of God called the unrighteous judges gods, then how much more appropriate can He be called God if He was the righteous judge, if He spoke the words of God, and did the works of God?
But I think there is justification in expanding that verse to include an even greater audience. And though this may be shocking for some of you to consider, I think that this statement can be applied to us as well. That to a limited extent, we are gods. Or at least, we were designed to be as gods. Now I hope you will hear me out before you charge me with blasphemy as well and stone me here this morning.
As justification for my claim, note that the Psalmist makes a correlation between “you are gods” and “all of you are sons of the Most High.” Now we would all agree that we that are saved are sons and daughters of the Most High. But at the same time, we recognize that there is a difference between Jesus being the Son of God and we being sons of God. Jesus used the designation of God as His Father, and we pray to God our Father, yet we realize that there is a difference.
But notice that the Psalmist equates “god’s” with “sons of the Most High.” It’s a parallel statement. If one is true, then the other is true. And so I feel justified in saying that this is true for us. That we are to a limited extent, gods, even as we are sons of the Most High.
Now why do I feel it’s important to make this claim? I make this claim because I think that this speaks to the relationship of man to God as He was deigned to have in creation. It refers to the kind of relationship we had with God before the fall. And so part of the purpose of redemption, the purpose of atonement, is to restore man to that fellowship with God that we had before the fall.
Look at Genesis 1:26 for a minute. Hopefully a very familiar passage. It says, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Notice that in Psalm 82, in vs.1, the same word translated as rulers there is the same word translated as gods in vs.6. So here in Genesis 1, man was called to rule over every living thing in the earth.
Now that statement alone is justification for calling men gods. As they were in the beginning, as God designed them to be, they were to rule over every living thing that moves on the earth. Not only that, but we were made in the image of God, in the likeness of God. And in the Garden of Eden, prior to the fall, there was a special relationship that man had with God where he was in full fellowship, full communion. That was the design of God.
So man was designed to be as gods in this world. We were designed to be much greater than the ungodly, human judges of Israel who the Psalmist calls gods. We were to rule over creation. Every living creature on earth we are to subdue and to rule over, according to God’s command.
You know, I was thinking about this the other day when I was messing around with my dog. I have a crazy dog named Maggie. She is part pit and part black lab and full on crazy. But little by little I am trying to teach her some things. And as I was working with her the other day, mainly not to try to yank the leash out of my hands and walk beside me, I realized that to Maggie, I must seem like a god. I do all these things that are completely beyond her comprehension. She cannot comprehend how I can drive her somewhere in the car. She can sniff at the car, bark at it, ride in it. But she doesn’t know how to drive it. She doesn’t understand how it works. She knows that I give her food and water. But she can’t understand how I do that, how to go to the supermarket and buy her food. To a great extent, she realizes that I am the source of everything that she needs. And consequently, she loves me. She has no greater joy it would seem, than to lay at my feet and look up at me with those big brown eyes. If I move, she moves. She follows me everywhere I go in the house. She loves me. I’m still trying to get her to obey me, but she is learning that as well.
I wish I could say the same for most Christians and their relationship with God. I wish I could say that they trusted Him to provide for them even when they cannot comprehend what God is doing. I wish I could say that we love God, that we love to follow Him, that we have no greater joy than to obey Him, and do what He tells us to do.
So to say that we are gods illustrates perhaps in a small way our relationship to God, that we are little gods over His creation, even as He is the Supreme God over man and the earth. But I think there is even more to that analogy. I think it relates to our relationship to God as the bride of Christ. Remember in Gen.2:18 when God said that it was not good that man should be alone? It’s interesting to see what God did next. He didn’t immediately make woman. Instead, God brought every living creature to parade before Adam. And Adam gave them all names. That illustrated the rule that God authorized Adam to have over the creation. But it also illustrated Adam’s lack of a suitable companion. When he was finished naming them all, it says, “but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.”
Now I believe that serves as both a historical fact and an analogy of God’s relationship with His creation. I think that before the creation of the earth, God searched through all of His creation and all the creatures that He had made, through all the vastness and dimensions of the Universe, and there was not found a mate suitable for Him. And so God decided to create a companion like Himself, made in His likeness, with whom He would be able to have a relationship such as Adam had with Eve. That is why the church is called the bride of Christ. That is why in Ephesians 5 when Paul starts talking about the way the husband should love his wife, and the wife should love and respect her husband, Paul says [Eph 5:28-32 NASB] 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
And we see that love relationship borne out in the act of creation. With everything else in creation, God simply spoke them into existence. But with man, God got down on His knees in the dust of the earth and formed man with His hands, and then it says that He breathed into man’s mouth the breath of life, and he became a living soul. God kissed man, breathing His very life into our lips. That speaks of a relationship like no other. It speaks of the love of God for mankind, and His purpose for making us, to be His bride.
Here is the point I want to make this morning. In the second creation, we are born again by the Spirit of God, we are made righteous and holy by the atonement of Jesus Christ, and as this new creation we are designed to be the bride of Christ. We are designed to be like God, to be conformed to His image, to share the throne with Christ as His bride, to rule over not only animals and every living creature on this earth, but even to judge angels, to have dominion over infinite dominions yet to be revealed. We are made to live forever with Christ and to share His glory.
Listen to Jesus’ promise to the church in Rev 2:26-29 “He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS; AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ And then in Rev 3:21-22 “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
I spend so much time on this principle this morning, because I want you to get a glimpse of what God has in store for those that love Him. To understand the scope of our salvation. There is so much more that I don’t have time to get into this morning. But this is the love of God. It is the love of God that pursues us, like Hosea pursued his adulterous wife. It is the love of God that sent Jesus, His Son, to humble Himself to become a man,to lay down His life for us as the ultimate act of love that He might effect our atonement on the cross, by taking our sins upon Himself, in exchange for Christ’s righteousness. It is so that we might complete the plan of God before the world ever began, that we might fulfill the desire of God as His bride, as the object of His desire, and that He would be the object of our desire. That we might come to Him in love, because of love, and not of compulsion. We were not designed to operate simply on instinctual desires like animals, but to choose to love even as God has loved us. This is the plan of God. We do not see it come to fulfillment yet, but we have a deposit made in our souls that one day will be realized in full when we shall see Him as He is, and we shall be like Him, and be with Him, forever.
Now let me just make a couple of more points of application. I think you understand Jesus’ argument. I hope you understand that He was God, and that He had to be God in order to accomplish our redemption. No mere man could atone for even his own life, no matter how righteous he may have been. But for Christ to atone for the sins of the world, then He had to be deity, in order to have an infinite quality of atonement that could cover the sins of the world.
But there is another point that Jesus makes, and that is the statement found in brackets in most translations; “(and the Scripture cannot be broken).” The brackets indicate it as an afterthought, or perhaps a clarification but I can assure you that Jesus doesn’t consider it an afterthought. Jesus had a very high view of scripture. Jesus is taking a very obtuse word in the Psalms, just one little word, and upon one word He hinges such an essential doctrine as His deity. And as He does this, He says the scripture cannot be broken. In other words, every word of scripture is inspired by God. Jesus is saying that every word in the scriptures is important. He is making a case for the inerrancy and sufficiency of scripture for all of life and doctrine.
And I want to give you a couple of more examples of Jesus’ high view of scripture. First is found in Matthew 22:23. The Sadducees are questioning Jesus concerning the resurrection. And Jesus answers them by saying in vs.31-32 “But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
Now in that case, He isn’t talking about a word in the Old Testament as being important. He is referring to a tense. If Abraham and Isaac and Jacob were dead then He should have said, I was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, past tense. But Jesus shows the OT use of a present tense as an argument that they were living, and not dead. Thus He says the proof of the resurrection of the dead was found in the present tense of the verb.
And then one other example of Jesus’ view of scripture. In Matt. 5:17-18 during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” There Jesus is speaking of one of the little dots on a Hebrew letter used to distinguish it from a similar letter. Jesus is saying not even one little stroke of a letter shall pass until all is accomplished. So then in these three examples, we have a word which cannot be broken, we have a verb tense which cannot be broken, and we have a stroke of a letter which cannot be broken. I would say that Jesus had a pretty high view of scripture. And I would hope that we might have the same. The battle against the authority of scripture is undiminished, in fact it has increased 10 fold today compared to what it was a century or two ago. Yet if our Lord had such a high view of scripture that He depended upon it to defend His deity, He depended upon it to defeat all of Satan’s temptations, and as He was the author of scripture, then how much more should we be in the word of God. How much more should we depend upon it for every decision that we make. Notice back in Psalm 82, the judges were called gods because the word of God came to them. We have the word of God made more sure, because it is written and confirmed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Let us treat it no less seriously than did Christ.
One more point, and that is found in the verses 37-38, Jesus said “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” So Jesus invokes one more attempt to show these unbelieving Jewish leaders that He is who He said He was. They had not believed His words, HIs preaching. So Jesus asks them to consider His works. He says, “believe My works.” My works show that I am from the Father, and that the Father is in Me and I in Him.
Nicodemus, who was one of them, had spoken earlier to Christ in secret in John 3:2 saying “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” So Jesus is appealing to just that kind of reasoning. He says, believe Me because of My works. That was the reason Jesus did signs and wonders. It was to confirm by signs that God was with Him. It’s the same reason that the apostles did signs and wonders. It was to confirm that they spoke the words of Christ. Miracles were not given to simply heal people because they were sick. That was a benefit of the sign, but that was not the reason for the sign. The reason was to confirm the word that they were preaching was of God. And that is what Jesus appeals to. Believe My works, that they might believe My words.
But there is an application of that for us, I believe as well. And that is this; that when we give testimony to the grace of God, to our salvation, to our Christianity a lot of times we are met with rejection, with disbelief. Sometimes, we are even met by animosity, as in the case with Christ here in our text. But there is more that we can share beyond our words. And that is our works. We should be able to have the same argument as Jesus Christ. We should be able to say as He did, “If you won’t believe my words, then believe my works. I am doing the works of Christ. You should be able to show your friends and coworkers and family, that Christ is in you, and your works are the evidence of His life in you.
Not everyone is going to accept you, or believe in what you are saying. But as we see in this passage, Jesus left Jerusalem and went to Bethany where John the Baptist had preached during his ministry, and those people saw the signs that Jesus was doing, and it says that many believed in Him there.
Listen, I’m afraid that there is a disconnect today between what the church professes and what it practices. I’m afraid that when the lost look at the lives of professing Christians today they don’t see the truth of the scriptures lived out. And as a result, they have an excuse. I’ve said it before, your life is either an example or an excuse. Your life is an example of a Christ filled person, and as such points men to Christ, or your life is an excuse as to why they don’t need to believe, and as such your life turns men away from Christianity. I hope that it may be an example.
I hope that you will take away from this message today the realization that you were meant to live for so much more than what this life offers. You were meant to be gods, to become the bride of Christ. That is why Christ came to earth and died for us. That we might become righteous through faith in HIs sacrifice. And then I hope that you will walk in this life with a dependency upon the inerrancy and sufficiency of scripture. That we might be totally reliant upon the word of God as our guide for every action and every deed. And thirdly, that we might be a testimony not just by our words, but by our works. As we do the works of God we will show the truth of God in our hearts as a testimony to the world.
I’m reminded of a song written some years ago by the band Switchfoot called Meant to Live. It said something like this;
Fumbling his confidence
And wondering why the world has passed him by
Hoping that he’s bent for more than arguments
And failed attempts to fly,
We were meant to live for so much more
Have we lost ourselves?
Dreaming about Providence
And whether mice or men have second tries
Maybe we’ve been living with our eyes half open
Maybe we’re bent and broken,
We were meant to live for so much more
have we lost ourselves?
We want more than this world’s got to offer
We want more than the wars of our fathers
And everything inside screams for second life,
We were meant to live for so much more
Jesus Christ has made it possible for us to live as God designed us to be. To be all that He has desired us to be. And all that is possible by faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Let us pray.