To most Jews, including many Messianics, the nature of God is defined in the Shema:
DEUTERONOMY 6:4 " Hear [shema'], O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one [echad]! (NKJV)
Messianics apply this understanding of the oneness of God to a confusing statement by Yeshua recorded in the tenth chapter of John's Gospel. In response to the Jews' request to confirm that he was the prophesied Messiah (John 10:24), Yeshua stated:
JOHN 10:30 "I and the Father are one [hen]." (NASU)
What did he mean by this declaration? Was Yeshua here applying the Shema to himself and stating that he and God the Father were the same being? Was he proclaiming that he was co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, as Trinitarianism teaches? Was Yeshua saying that he and the Father were of the same essence or substance? Just what exactly was he trying to convey?
We will closely examine the Hebrew word for "one" (echad) a little later in this study. First, let's look at the Greek word hen.
In Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, the late Professor Vincent states that hen, the Greek word translated "one" in John 10:30, is "the neuter, not the masculine είς, one person" (p. 197, vol. II).
Regarding this statement by Yeshua, the Abingdon Bible Commentary says: " V. 30 does not affirm a metaphysical unity, but a moral, and we must not read the later creeds into the words" (p. 1079).
In A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical, Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown write of this verse:
Our language admits not of the precision of the original in this great saying, 'We (two Persons) are One (Thing).' Perhaps 'one interest' expresses nearly, though not quite, the purport of the saying. (p. 414, vol. III, part I)
The use of hen in John 10:30 clearly indicates that Yeshua was not claiming that he and the Father were the same being. An examination of how the same Greek word hen ("one") is used in other Scriptures will help us see what Christ did intend to convey by his statement.
Let's look at Yeshua's prayer to the Father on the night before his crucifixion. In this supplication, he speaks several times of the state of being "one":
JOHN 17:11 "I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be ONE [hen] even as We are. (NASU)
Here Yeshua prays that God the Father would keep his disciples in His name (Heb. YHVH, the very same name which the Father had given to Yeshua), that they could be one just as Yeshua and God were one. The key question that we must answer about this statement is this:
How was it possible for Yeshua's disciples to be ONE in the same way that Yeshua and the Father were ONE?
A little later, Yeshua reiterates his request to God regarding the "oneness" of all believers:
JOHN 17:20 "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word; 21 that they all may be ONE [hen], as You, Father, are in me, and I in You; that they also may be ONE [hen] in us, that the world may believe that You sent me. 22 And the glory which You gave me I have given them, that they may be ONE [hen] just as we are ONE [hen]: 23 I in them, and You in me; that they may be made perfect in one [eis], and that the world may know that You have sent me, and have loved them as You have loved me." (NKJV)
Here Yeshua further defines the "oneness" shared by him and his Father. He says that the Father was IN him, and that he was IN the Father. Before we can go any further, we must first identify HOW God the Father was in Christ, and HOW Christ was in the Father.
To see how the Father was in Yeshua, we need to go back to the time of his baptism:
LUKE 3:21 When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while he prayed, the heaven was opened. 22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven which said, "You are My beloved Son; in you I am well pleased." 4:1 Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, (NKJV)
As the symbolic form of the dove indicated, the Father came to dwell within His Son through the Holy Spirit at the time Yeshua's ministry began. Of course this does not mean that Christ was void of the Holy Spirit before this time. However, at his baptism Yeshua was given an unlimited measure of the Holy Spirit (John 3:34) to fulfill his earthly mission.
To fully understand how the indwelling of God the Father in Yeshua was through His Spirit, we must grasp the true nature of the Holy Spirit. Most Christians believe that the Spirit is the third person in the divine Trinity. However, this teaching is not scriptural. Paul defines God's Spirit for us in his first letter to the Corinthians:
I CORINTHIANS 2:9 But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." (NKJV)
In the Bible, the heart corresponds to the mind as the place where thought and understanding take place. As many Scriptures show (cf. Gen. 6:5; Isa. 65:17; Jer. 3:16; 23:20; Mark 7:21), the heart and mind are synonymous. In fact, the Authorized Version even translates the Hebrew ruach ("spirit") as "mind" in several places (Gen. 26:35; Pro. 29:11; Eze. 11:5; 20:32; Hab. 1:11). So in I Corinthians 2:9, Paul is saying that it hasn't entered into the mind "of man" (Gr. anthropou, lit. "of mankind") what God has prepared for humanity.
I CORINTHIANS 2:10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (NKJV)
Here Paul qualifies his earlier statement. There are some people who do know what God has prepared for mankind, because He has revealed it to the minds of those who have His Holy Spirit.v
I CORINTHIANS 2:11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so [houtos kai] no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. (NKJV)
In verse 11, Paul draws an analogy between the spirit (i.e., "heart" or "mind") of man and the Spirit of God. In his own peculiar style, Paul tells us that God's Holy Spirit is really His Mind. To demonstrate this, he draws a comparison between the human spirit and God's Spirit. He tells us that only the spirit ("mind") within a man knows the thoughts of that man. Paul then goes on to say that only the Spirit ("Mind") of God knows the thoughts of God. The connecting phrase "even so," a translation of the Greek houtos kai, shows that Paul is comparing the human spirit or mind in the first part of this verse with God's Spirit or Mind in the final part. He explains this concept more fully in the next few verses.
I CORINTHIANS 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For "who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ. (NKJV)
How do we have the mind of God in us that was also in the Messiah? Through God's Holy Spirit.
PHILIPPIANS 2:5 For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (DRA)
God's Spirit, when it combines with our human spirit, allows us to understand the things of God from His perspective. When God gives us His Spirit, we can begin to comprehend what He is doing and why He is doing it.
Yeshua, through the power and understanding given by God's Holy Spirit, was able to overcome temptation while here on earth. Even though he was tempted in all things just as we are (Heb. 2:18; 4:15), he was able to overcome and triumph over his human nature and mind by the greater Mind of God.
Thus we have answered our earlier question about HOW the Father was in Christ. God was in Yeshua the same way He dwells in us: through His Holy Spirit.
Conversely, because of the presence of God's Spirit, Christ was able to remain in the Father by overcoming his own desires and being in total obedience to His will. Here are several Scriptures that show this truth:
JOHN 5:30 "I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (NKJV)
JOHN 6:38 "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." (NASU)
JOHN 15:10 "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. (NKJV)
LUKE 22:42 Saying, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not My will, but Yours be done." (NASU)
The Messiah subordinated his own will to that of the Father while he was here on the earth. That is how he remained in the Father.
This pattern shows us how Messiah's disciples could be "one" just as Yeshua and the Father were one. God would be in the disciples through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. By the power of the Spirit the disciples would obey the commands of Christ (which are actually the commands of God the Father-John 14:24) and abide in God's love. As the Mediator between the heavenly Father and His human children (I Tim. 2:5), God's Holy Spirit flows through Christ our High Priest to reside in us (John 15:26; Acts 2:33).
So we can see from the teaching of the New Testament that Yeshua and the Father are said to be "one" because they were united in purpose and goal. God the Father commanded the Son, what he should do and what he should say. The Son obeyed perfectly, never sinning by breaking God's Law (II Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; I Pet. 2:22; I John 3:5).
This understanding of oneness between the Father and Son is in perfect harmony with the Shema. The Father is the only true God, as the Son himself confessed (John 17:3). The Son is subordinate to the Father (Mark 13:32; John 10:29; 14:28; I Cor. 11:3; 15:27-28) and is one (echad) with Him, seeking always to accomplish the divine plan for mankind. The Hebrew word echad has as one of its prominent meanings "unity," as the following verses clearly show:
GENESIS 11:6 And the LORD said, "Indeed the people are one [echad] and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. (NKJV)
Speaking of the descendants of Noah who were building the Tower of Babel after the Flood, YHVH said that they were "one." Plainly echad here means that they were united in their desire to build the tower.
GENESIS 41:25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, "The dreams of Pharaoh are one [echad]; God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do: (NKJV)
Joseph told Pharaoh that the two dreams he had dreamed (seven fat cows eaten by seven skinny cows and seven plump heads of grain consumed by seven thin heads) were "one." That is, they were unified because they both had the same meaning -- the coming of seven years of good harvests and seven years of famine in Egypt.
JUDGES 20:1 So all the children of Israel came out, from Dan to Beersheba, as well as from the land of Gilead, and the congregation gathered together as one [echad] man before the LORD at Mizpah. (NKJV)
Here we see the gathering of all the tribes of Israel together "as one man before YHVH at Mizpah." This Scripture speaks of a physical union of all the children of Israel in one place.
While there are numerous other examples from the Tanakh which show that echad can and frequently does mean "unity," probably the most telling example given is that of the union of a man and woman as "one flesh" in marriage:
GENESIS 2:21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. 23 And Adam said: "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman ['ishah], because she was taken out of Man ['ish]." 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh [vehayu lebasar echad]. (NKJV)
Marriage, where a man and woman become one flesh, is a picture of how God the Father and Yeshua are one. Understood correctly, it also explains how we as believers become one with God and Yeshua (John 17:11, 21-23).
The first thing we must understand is HOW a man and woman become one flesh at marriage. Clearly they do not merge into one literal body and cease to exist as separate biological organisms. So exactly what makes a man and woman "one flesh" in the biblical sense?
Paul gives us the answer to this question, as well as the answer to how we can become one as the Father and Yeshua are one, in his first letter to the Corinthian assembly:
I CORINTHIANS 6:16 Or do you not know that he who is JOINED [kollomenos] to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh." (NKJV)
Paul's comment here shows that it is the physical act of sexual intercourse between a man and a woman that makes these two individuals "one flesh." The example Paul gives is that of an illicit sexual copulation between a male member of the Corinthian congregation and a prostitute. However, by extension we can see that the same type of physical joining within the confines of marriage is what makes a husband and wife "one flesh" also.
Just as Paul condemns becoming "one flesh" with a harlot, the author of Hebrews speaks approvingly of sexual intercourse within the confines of marriage:
HEBREWS 13:4 Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed [koite] undefiled [amiantos]; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. (NKJV)
"Bed" comes from the Greek noun koite. This word, which is the origin of the English "coitus," is used here as a euphemism for sexual intercourse. The Greek word translated "undefiled" (amiantos) literally means "pure." The point of the author is that the joining as "one flesh" of a husband and wife through sexual intercourse is honorable and pure in God's sight. However, sexual activity outside of the divine institution of marriage is a sin and will be punished by God.
Paul's next comment in I Corinthians sheds light on how the physical act of sex by which a man and woman become "one flesh" pictures the spiritual oneness shared by those who have the Holy Spirit.
I CORINTHIANS 6:17 But he who is JOINED [kollomenos] to the Lord is one spirit with Him. (NKJV)
In I Corinthians 6:16-17, Paul uses the exact same Greek verb (kollomenos) to describe the physical joining in sex with a harlot and the spiritual joining of God's spirit with that of a believer. The reason is because the physical is a picture of the spiritual. Just as a man and woman become "one flesh" when they unite in sexual intercourse, God and man become one when the Holy Spirit unites with our human spirit.
It was through this spiritual joining of spirits that Yeshua could rightfully say that he and God the Father were one. As He always does, God has given us a physical representation of a spiritual truth. We can become one with God just as He and Yeshua were one when we receive the gift of His Holy Spirit.
Bryan T. Huie
April 8, 1997