False prophets posed a great danger to ancient Israel because they led people away from God, the source of salvation. Thus, Deuteronomy 13:1–5 calls for the execution of false prophets. Although the Deuteronomy text does not call explicitly for execution by stoning, ancient Jews could use that method to carry out the death sentence.
Nothing could better identify someone as a false prophet than for him to claim that he was God. So, it is evident that the Jews believed Jesus was claiming to be deity when He said, “I and the Father are one,” because they took up stones and charged Him with blasphemy (John 10:30–36). Modern cults try to argue that Jesus never claimed to be God, but the response of the Jewish authorities shows that they recognized exactly what He was teaching about Himself.
If Jesus were an ordinary mortal, His claims of deity would be blasphemous. But His works prove that He was sent by the Father and attest to the veracity of His words that He is the incarnate Son of God (vv. 37–39). Moreover, Jesus’ claim of unity with the Father was unique. While believers can say that they are in God and God is in them (3:21; Rom. 8:9), this mutual indwelling is not the same as that of the Son and the Father. Augustine of Hippo comments: “The Son says not, ‘the Father is in me, and I in Him,’ as men can say it. For if we think well, we are in God; and if we live well, God is in us: believers, by participating in His grace, and being illuminated by Himself, are in Him, and He in us. But not so is it with the only-begotten Son: He is in the Father, and the Father in Him; as one who is equal is in him whose equal he is. . . . Recognize the prerogative of the Lord, and the privilege of the servant. The prerogative of the Lord is equality with the Father: the privilege of the servant is fellowship with the Savior.”
Jesus also makes the point in today’s passage that the Jewish leaders should not think it blasphemous for Him to call Himself God given how Scripture refers to Israel’s judges. Quoting from Psalm 82, Jesus points out that God’s Word refers to some mere men as “gods” (John 10:34–36). The reference in the psalm is to earthly judges who, because they can sentence people to death, perform a function that is in a sense divine, since God has power over life and death. Jesus’ argument is from the lesser to the greater. If Scripture can call men gods who are in reality not divine, how much more is it right to refer to the One who is God as the Lord and Creator of all?