“The Father and I are one.”” (John 10:30 HCSB)
Well, we’re going to have to do it. We’re going to have to dip our toes into a little theology. Jesus says something super important here which clarifies his relationship to God the Father [indeed, it was so clear that his opponents immediately picked up stones with which to stone him]. First, we must understand some theological heresies.
Sabellianism – This position, set forth unsurprisingly by a guy named Sabellius, teaches that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are not three distinct persons in the Godhead, but three modes of one God. You can read more here.
Arianism – This position, set forth unsurprisingly by a guy named Arius, taught that God the Son was not equal with God the Father, but subordinate to him. Arius believed that, unlike God the Father, God the Son did not have eternal existence. His position is sometimes summed up in the statement: “There was a time when God the Son did not exist.” Read more here.
Why am I giving you a crash course on two types of heresies about the Trinity? I’m glad you
didn’t asked. When Jesus tells his Jewish opponents “I and the Father are one.” He speaks one of the most important things that he will ever say in his earthly life and destroys the two heresies of Sabellianism and Arianism all at once [in 6 words in the Greek if you’re a numbers guy].
Plummer in his commentary on John points out that Augustine was right “in stating that ἐσμέν [are] refutes Sabellius, who denied the distinction, while ἕν [one] refutes Arius, who denied the equality, between the Father and the Son.”
In other words, when Jesus says “I and the Father are…” he destroys Sabellianism or modalism because there is a distinction between he and God the Father. He is not just another “mode” or “aspect” of God, he is distinct from God the Father. When Jesus says “I and the Father are one,” he destroys Arianism because he asserts his equality with God the Father when he says that they are one.
To top it all off, whatever we want to argue from a distance of 2000 years about what Jesus meant when he said, “I and the Father are one,” all we must do is see the reaction of his opponents to discover what meaning his words were intended to convey: ““We aren’t stoning You for a good work,” the Jews answered, “but for blasphemy, because You—being a man—make Yourself God.”” (John 10:33 HCSB)
They knew exactly what Jesus meant to say here. They were going to stone him because of it.