Difficult Verses: John 14.28 and John 10.30

Today, I am going to look at a couple of verses which at face value seem to contradict each other.  As we unravel the contradiction we are going to find out one of the most powerful truths about the nature of God, and about how we relate to each other in community and society.

You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. (John 14.28)  


I and the Father are one. (John 10.30)


You can see that at first glance that these verses are contradictory – is Jesus the Word who was God and is God become flesh, fully equal to God, the second person of the Trinity or is He inferior to the Father?  The Jehovah’s Witnesses rely on John 14.28 to defend their belief that Jesus is merely a god, and not God – because, according to them, if the Father is greater than Him He cannot be as great as the Father.

The reason these verses seem initially confusing is because we fail to see that there are two ways of determining the worth of a person.  The first is called ontological and the second is called teleological.  You have ontological worth and teleological worth.  So does everyone and everything.  Ontological worth is the intrinsic worth of a person or item: a gold ring has ontological value because it is made of gold, money has very little ontological worth because it is made of paper.  Ontological worth is based on the skill of the manufacturer and the value of the materials used.  As a human being you are designed by God and He made you by breathing His Spirit inside you.  That means ontologically you have amazing, awesome value.  

Teleological worth is the worth an item or person has based on what they could do.  Money has very little ontological value, but has a high teleological value because it can be used to buy a whole host of things.  Depending on the situation, teleological value can change.  On a desert island, money has very little teleological value, but water would have a much higher teleological value.

Now when it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity.  we need to realize that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the three persons of the Godhead are ontologically equal in value.  The Father is worth the same as the Son is worth the same as the Spirit.  That makes sense of the Scriptures that say that Jesus is God, that the Father and Son are one.  That is why we worship the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  They are all equal in value – the value of the perfect, holy God.  

However, when it comes to teleological value, the Son made a free choice to become human and dwell among us.  By becoming human, He made the decision to submit His will to the will of the Father.  That’s why Jesus said “I can only do what I see the Father doing”.  Jesus took the teleological role of the submitted human to ensure the mission of the Trinity could be completed and humanity redeemed.

So on an ontological, intrinsic level Jesus is worth the same as the Father – they are equal in holiness, glory, weight and awesomeness.  They are one.  But on a teleological, functional level they are different: the Father is greater than the Son.

Not only is that helping you understand the differing Scriptures, it helps you form healthy relationships.  For example, I set my son’s bedtime, he doesn’t set mine.  But on an ontological level, he is as precious as I am.  Functionally however, I pay the bills, I am the dad, and I am the boss.  On that level, I am greater than him.  But as I function as the father, I must never forget that that does not make me intrinsically more valuable.

Whenever you are in a position of authority over someone – employer, dad, husband, pastor, policeman – realize that your authority is only teleological.  You are not better than that person, you are in a position of authority to love and to serve and to lead someone who is of equal worth to you.  

Whenever someone is in a position of authority over you, realize that they are not better than you, they are of the same ontological worth as you.  When you realize that and are secure in that it’s easy to say “My Father is greater than I”.  It’s easy to submit to your husband, it’s easy to honour and obey your parents, it’s easy to obey and submit to your pastors.  People who find saying someone is greater than them teleologically generally don’t know what they are worth – they can claim to know they are righteous but their inability to humble themselves proves they don’t.  When, like Jesus, you know you are the son of God and have intrinsic worth, you don’t need to prove it by jumping off a temple, insisting your whole church goes the way you want, and that your mum and dad start valuing you around here by letting you do x, y and z.



The Breastplate of Righteousness

Now, in terms of identity – and this is the year of identity – the bottom line is this: you must identify yourself as a righteous person.  If you are born again, you are righteous and you have to see yourself as righteous.  If you believe in Christ and His complete work, then right now you are approved by God, you are right with God, you are accepted by God.  You have free access to God’s favour, God treats you as if you are perfect, He answers your prayers like you have never messed up, He loves you like you never strayed, and He favours you like you always get it right.  There is no waiting for righteousness, there is no working for righteousness – you are right now righteous! 

Romans 3.21 says that a righteousness without the law has now been revealed – this is the great thing that Christ did on the cross – He made you righteous without you having to behave righteous.  You didn’t get it right, but you are right.  That’s good news!  But for some reason Christians struggle to accept this.  We often struggle in the same way as the Galatian church.

Read Galatians 3.1-5.  In Galatians, Paul is telling the church in Galatia that he painted a picture of Christ crucified for them.  He showed them that Christ died on the cross for their sins and all they had to do was believe and receive salvation.  But religion got in the way, and religion tried to add to the simple truth of believing in what Christ has done and added all sorts of works to it.

In Numbers 21.4-9, the people are being attacked by poisonous snakes because of their constant grumbling and complaining.  People are dying horribly due to snake bites, and they come to Moses and ask him to pray.  When Moses prays, God tells him to make a brass snake and put it on a stick.  Anyone who looked at the serpent on the stick was healed and the poison was neutralized, anyone who looked in a different direction died.  Now if you were in that situation, and you knew friends who looked at the serpent and lived and friends who didn’t and died you would go and look at the serpent Moses made.  It’s a no-brainer!  Now, if someone was obstructing your view of the serpent, knowing it would save your life, you would absolutely get them out of the way.

Read John 3.14.  Jesus is saying that He is the real serpent on the stick.  That what Moses did was just a picture of Jesus.  You see on the cross (the stick) Jesus became sin with our sin (2 Cor. 5.21) and became the serpent on a stick.  All we have to do is look at Jesus and realize that He became sin with our sin and that we are the righteousness of God in Him, and all the poison of sin in our life is neutralized by God as we gaze at Him.  It’s that simple.  Becoming a Christian is that simple, and living the Christian life is that simple.

The problem is that many people try to add to the Christian life.  Like the false teachers in Galatia who tried to tell people that to be filled with the Spirit and move in the gifts of the Spirit you had to meet a certain standard of holiness.  Jesus warns us against people who add to the simple gospel as well in Matthew 7.

Read Matthew 7.13-14.  There is a narrow road and a broad road.  I have heard people say the narrow road is when you are really living for God and really doing the things of God, and the broad road is when you go off and live for yourself – in other words, if you don’t live right all the time, you fall off the path and end up in hell.  That’s not what Jesus is saying: He is saying that there is only one place to look if you want the poison neutralized and that’s Jesus.  Just Jesus is your salvation, your healing, your victory and joy.  Just look to Him!  Now – if you add to just Jesus then you make the path broader because you are adding stuff to it – normally rules about how we dress, how we give, how we love, how we are.

Read Matthew 7.15.  After telling us about the narrow path, Jesus tells us to beware of false prophets.  There are always people who are trying to get you to add things to the work of Christ – add your effort and give you laws to obey.   Just like in Galatia, so it is today.  Jesus calls these people false prophets.  People who tell you that you have to obey certain rules to be right with God or have favour with God are false prophets, no matter if they are on Christian TV or seem lovely!  They come in sheep’s clothing – they go to church and look like you, and praise God like you, then they tell you that we haven’t got the full message and you need to add a bit of this or that – rules that take you away from looking to the complete work of Christ.

Read Matthew 7.16-20.  It’s all about fruit!  All false teaching has the following thing in common: they separate the tree from the fruit.  Let’s explain: an apple tree just produces apples – that’s natural for the apple tree.  Pear trees make pears and cherry trees make cherries.  According to Isaiah 61.3, you are a tree of righteousness.  You naturally produce righteousness as a Christian. 

A tree just produces fruit – you cannot sellotape fruit to a piece of wood and call it an apple tree.  Yet that is what we often do with people forcing them to do certain things to be a Christian.  Just get them planted in the Word and they will eventually produce fruit naturally.  Just keep feeding a Christian their identity in Christ and they will eventually bear fruit.

Most of our problems as Christians, and most of our sin is caused by not knowing who we are: not grasping that Christ has made us righteous once and for all.  All gossip is a lack of understanding righteousness – you run down others because you are not confident in who you are.   But you feed on your righteous identity, you study and meditate on the Scriptures you start to become confident in yourself and don’t need to snuff out someone else’s candle to believe that yours is burning bright.  Christians who don’t know their righteousness will never have healthy relationships because everything becomes a game to see who has kept the law the most.   Get off that path – it doesn’t work, and start to rest in your Christ-righteousness.

Read Matthew 7.21.  Jesus said that you will enter heaven by doing His will.  There are two ways we can do His will.  Either keep the law perfectly (and I think we have established that is not going to work) or believe the gospel!  When you believe the gospel you are made righteous (Romans 5.1) and you are right with God.  Lots of people say Jesus is Lord but they have never believed that He sent His Son to make them righteous.  You have to believe that it’s about Jesus and His work. 

Read Matthew 7.22-23.  Never think you are going to heaven because you have worked a miracle or done a good work.  You are going to heaven because Jesus Christ became sin with your sin so you could be the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5.21).  Not only that you can receive healing, receive prosperity, receive joy, receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit not because of your works but because of the work of Christ on the cross.  That’s good news!