“Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’”
Before we look at John 14:9, note the obvious fact: Nowhere in the NT, did Jesus Christ ever state that He was the same person as the Father, nor did anyone in the NT ever call him Father, rather He is “the Son of the Father”– a distinct person (Dan. 7:9-14; Matt. 28:19; Luke 10:21-22; John 1:1b, 18; 5:17-18; 6:38; 10:17, 30; 17:5; 2 Cor. 13:14; Gal. 1:3; Phil. 2:6-11; Heb. 1:3, 6, 8-12; 1 John 1:3; 2 John 1:3; Rev. 5:13 et al.).
The Oneness people routinely quote this passage, usually in the same breath with John 10:30, as though it was part of the passage. Only by removing this passage from the document and immediate context can Oneness advocates posit a modalistic understanding. At the outset, as with John 10:30, Jesus never states in this passage, “I am the Father,” only that “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Oneness advocates confuse Jesus’ representation of the Father (John 1:18; 14:6; Heb. 1:3) with their unitarian assumption that that Jesus is the Father.
There are five exegetical features, which provide a cogent refutation to the Oneness handling of this passage.
- Context: In verse 6 Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” In verse 7, He explains to His disciples that if they “had known” Him they would “have known” the Father also. Jesus then says to His disciples, “From now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Thus, by knowing Him they “have known” and “have seen” the Father (note the parallel: “have known” – “have seen”).
Still not understanding (i.e., by knowing Jesus they know and see the Father), Philip says to Jesus, “Show us the Father” (v. 8). Jesus then reiterates (as a corrective) that by seeing Him they can see, that is, they can “know” or recognize the invisible Father (v. 9). The context is obvious: by knowing and seeing Jesus (as the only way to the Father; cf. v. 6), they could really see (i.e., know/recognize, cf. John 9:39) the invisible Father (cf. John 1:18; Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 6:16). The OT and NT present that the Son is and has been eternally subsisting as the perfect and “exact representation” (charaktēr) of the very nature (hupostaseōs) of Him (autou, “of Him,” not “as Him”; Heb. 1:3).
Therefore, when they see Jesus, they “see” the only way to, and an exact representation of, the invisible unseen Father, for Jesus makes Him known, He explains or exegetes Him (John 1:18). Thus, “He [Jesus] has made known or brought news of [the invisible God]” (BDAG, 349). One cannot have the Father except through the Son, Jesus Christ: “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23; see also John 17:3). Note also that in 14:10, Jesus clearly differentiates Himself from the Father when He declares: “The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” To repeat, not one time in the NT does Jesus (or any other person) state that He Himself is the Father.
- The Father is spirit: When Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father,” the only thing His disciples literally saw was Jesus’ physical body. Both Oneness believers and Trinitarians agree that the Father is invisible and does not have a physical body. Hence, Jesus could not have meant that by “seeing” Him they were literally seeing the Father.
- First and third person personal pronouns and verb references: Throughout John 14 and 16, Jesus clearly differentiates Himself from the Father. He does so by using first person personal pronouns (“I,” “Me,” “Mine”) and verb references to refer to Himself and third person personal pronouns (“He,” “Him,” “His”) and verb references to refer to His Father.
Notice John 14:16: “I will ask [kagō erōtēsō, first person] the Father, and He will give [dōsei, third person] you another Helper, that He may be with you forever” (also cf. 14:7, 10, 16; etc.). In the same way, Jesus also differentiates Himself from God the Holy Spirit.
- Different prepositions: Throughout John chapters 14-16, Jesus distinguishes Himself from His Father by using different prepositions. Beisner points out that the use of different prepositions “shows a relationship between them [i.e., the Father and Son]” and clearly denotes essential distinction. Jesus says in John 14:6 and verse 12: “No one comes to [pros] the Father but through [dia] Me . . . he who believes in [eis] Me . . . I am going to [pros] the Father” (cf. also John 15:26; 16:28).
Further, Paul frequently uses different prepositions to differentiate the Father from Jesus. In Ephesians 2:18, Paul teaches that by the agency of the Son, Christians have access to the Father by means of the Spirit: “For through Him [di’ autou, i.e., the Son] we both have our access in [en] one Spirit to the Father [pros ton patera].” Only by circumventing these significant details can one establish Modalism from John 14:9.
- The first person plurals in John 14:23: “We will come,” “We will make.” In verse 23 of the same chapter, Jesus declares, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and [lit.] ‘to him We will come’ [pros auton eleusometha] and ‘at home/abode with him, We will make’ [monēn par’ autō poiēsometha].” Against the Oneness notion, Jesus specifically used two first person plural indicative verbs (eleusometha, “We will come” and poiēsometha, “We will make”). Oneness advocates typically cherry-pick passages (esp. with v. 9) and then pretext into them a modalistic unitarian understanding.
Again, in the NT, Jesus is identified as the Son, never as the Father; no one ever addressed Him as the Father or the Holy Spirit. Nor did Jesus ever refer to Himself as the Father or the Holy Spirit. If fact, Jesus primarily referred to Himself as the “Son of Man” (80 times). Son of Man was His most used title of Himself. (cf. Dan. 7:13).
As the context clearly shows, Jesus in John 14:9 Jesus expresses to His disciples that as the only way to (v. 6) and thus, representation of the Father, they could “see,” that is, know the Father. Jesus is presented as God-man, the very image and perfect representation of His Father (cf. John 1:18; Heb. 1:3). In His preexistence (cf. John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17), He had loving intercourse and glory with the Father (cf. John 1:1; 17:5). The Son is clearly presented as the divine Priest (cf. Heb. 7:1ff.) who revealed His Father to mankind (cf. John 1:18). The Son is the one and only Mediator between the Father and humans (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5).
The Oneness pretexting of John 14:9 is based on a unipersonal assumption of God, which nullifies Jesus’ own authentication: “If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. There is another [allos: other than the one speaking] who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true” (John 5:31-32; cf. 8:17-18).
 Calvin Beisner, Jesus Only Churches, 34.