Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” Does that mean Jesus is God?

Summary

The leper and JesusThis article discusses three statements made by Jesus that are sometimes used to argue that the Father and the Son are a single divine Being, and therefore that Jesus is God. These statements are:

The Father is in Me, and I in the Father (John 10:38),

I and the Father are one (John 10:30), and

He who has seen Me has seen the Father (John 14:9).

This article concludes that these statements must not be taken literally, but more or less have the same meaning, namely that the Father and Jesus are “perfected in unity” (John 17:23).

The Father is in Me,
and I in the Father. 

This statement is recorded in John 10:38 and 14:11. That they are “in” one another is sometimes understood as proof that Jesus and the Father are a single divine Being. However, in God’s kingdom, everybody is “in” everybody else. Not only is the Father “in” Jesus and Jesus “in” the Father, but:

● Jesus is “in” His disciples (John 15:4, 5; 14:20).
● His disciples are “in” Jesus (John 15:2, 4-7; 14:20). 
● The “Spirit of truth” will be “in” you (John 14:16-17).

Jesus is “in” His disciples.

What does it mean that Jesus is “in” His disciples? Jesus explained this by means of the parable of the true vine (John 15). He said to His disciples:

Abide in Me, and I in you.
As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself
unless it abides in the vine,
so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
I am the vine, you are the branches;
he who abides in Me and I in him,
he bears much fruit,
for apart from Me you can do nothing
(John 15:4, 5).

In other words, for His disciples to abide “in” Jesus, is the same as for Jesus to abide “in” them. And that Jesus abides “in” them is explained as that His “words(John 15:7; cf. 14:23) and His “love(John 15:7, 9-10) will abide in them, and that they will keep His “commandments” (John 15:10).

The Father is “in” Jesus.

What does it mean that the Father is “in” Jesus? As stated, that Jesus is “in” His disciples, means that Jesus’ words, love and commandments remain “in” His disciples. In the same way, that the Father is “in” Jesus means that the Father’s words, love, and commandments remain “in” Jesus. Jesus explained this in John 14:10:

Do you not believe that I am in the Father,
and the Father is in Me?
The words that I say to you
I do not speak on My own initiative,

but the Father abiding in Me does His works.

In Trinitarian thinking, the Father and Son are co-equal. The principle in this verse, that the Son received His “words” from the Father, therefore, might sound strange. But this is exactly what the Bible consistently teaches, for example:

I have kept My Father’s commandments
and abide in His
love” (John 15:10).

My teaching is not Mine,
but His who sent Me
” (John 7:15-16).

Interestingly, even 60 years after His ascension, Jesus received the words of the book of Revelation from “God” (Rev 1:1).

Conclusion

The statement, “I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me” must not be understood literally as if Jesus and His Father are literally one and the same Being or Person. The Father is “in” Jesus and Jesus is “in” His followers because the Father’s words, love, and commandments remain “in” Jesus and, through Jesus, in His followers. In this way, His followers remain “in” Jesus and Jesus remains “in” the Father. 

I and the Father are one.

Father and I are oneThis statement in John 10:30 is also often used to argue that Jesus is God. However, Jesus prayed as follows for His disciples:

Keep them in Your name … that they may be one even as We are” (John 17:11).

The glory which You have given Me
I have given to them,
that they may be one, just as We are one
(John 17:22).

Just as the disciples must be “one,” but not literally one person, the Father and the Son are “one,” but not literally one Person. The Trinitarian response would be that the Father and the Son are one Being or substance, but the point remains that John 10:30 cannot be used to prove literal oneness.

Rather, as indicated by Jesus’ prayer, for beings to be “one” means that they are “in” one another:

That they may all be one;
even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You,
that they also may be in Us
” (John 17:21).

That they may be one, just as We are one;
I in them and You in Me,
that they may be perfected in unity
” (John 17:22-23).

The expressions “one” and “in,” therefore, are synonymous and should not be taken literally. Rather, it means to be “perfected in unity” (John 17:23).

He who has seen Me
has seen the Father.

In John 14:9, Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” This is also sometimes used to argue that Jesus is God. However, the next verse, which we already discussed above, continues:

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?
The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative,
but the Father abiding in Me
does His works
.”
(John 14:10)

The point is that, when we see Jesus, we see the Father because Jesus only says and does what the Father gives Him to say and do. It does not mean that they are literally one. A verse that is very similar to John 14:9 is John 12:45:

He who sees Me
sees the One who sent Me.

This verse maintains the distinction between the Father and the Son because the Father sent the Son.

Conclusion

The statements:

    • The Father is in Me, and I in the Father,
    • I and the Father are one, and
    • He who has seen Me has seen the Father

have the same meaning, namely to be perfected in unity. None of them should be used to support the teaching that Jesus is God.

Available Articles – Christology

Summary Articles

Specific Bible Books

Specific Bible Passages

The origin of the Son

Christ is subordinate to God.

Christ is equal to God.

Jesus is called God.

      • Overview – Overview of the verses that refer to Jesus as theos.
      • Theos – The meaning of theos – the word translated “God.”
      • John 1:18 – The original text of this verse is in dispute.
      • John 20:28 – Did Thomas say that Jesus is God?
      • John’s gospel – Discussion of theos in this gospel.
      • Romans 9:5 – The translation depends on punctuation.
      • Hebrews 1:8 – The next verse says that God is His theos.

The translation of John 1:1

Other

If you are interested in Christology, I recommend Dale Tuggy’s podcasts, even though he understands Christ vastly different from me.

Other Articles Series

Daniel

Revelation

Other Key Articles

For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the Pineknoll website.