by Mike Ratliff
14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” (Exodus 3:14 NASB)
In our look at the Bible as the living Word of God and His communication to His people, we understand that it is not just a collection of writings or simply a history. No, the Holy Spirit not only indwells Christians he also indwells Sacred Scripture. When believers read and study the Word of God, The Holy Spirit works through it to accomplish spiritual, eternal work within them. God communicates with His people primarily through His Word. One of the main goals in this is His revelation of Himself to those who love Him.
Jesus Christ is the interpretive key to Sacred Scripture. Any other hermeneutic will lead people into various forms of heresy or unbelief. However, if we view all of scripture from this key, it enables us to see clearly the utter depravity of fallen man because it imparts this to us via God’s Word by the Holy Spirit working in our consciences and minds. We see that the Gospel is not what most of us have conceived of as we have listened to some preacher’s water-down version of it. No, we see that Christ is the center and purpose of all creation and that the Word of God clearly shows us God’s plan of redemption of those chosen before the foundation of the World.
Jesus made 7 metaphorical statements, recorded in the Gospel of John, which, if taken in context of the right interpretive key, reveal that He definitely proclaimed His deity and that the Messiah that Israel expected was God the Son Himself. Let us start in the Old Testament book of Exodus. The descendants of Jacob have been in Egypt since the days of Joseph. They now number in the millions. However, a new king has come to power in the land who knew not Joseph. He feared the Israelites so they were enslaved. He also made a decree that all Israelite male babies were to be killed in order to control the Israelite numbers. One family of the tribe of Levi had a baby boy during this period, but they could not bring themselves to let harm come to him. They hid him until it became impossible to keep his presence secret.
The mother made a basket of reeds in which to place the baby. She took the basket to the river and let it go. The baby’s older sister stayed and watched to see what would happen. By God’s providence, the king’s daughter saw the basket and rescued the baby. She knew immediately that the baby was an Israelite and why he had been placed in the river. She had compassion on him. The baby’s sister came to her and offered to find the baby a nurse. Of course the nurse she found was his own mother. However, when he was weaned and became old enough he was taken to live as a prince of Egypt. He was called Moses.
When he grew into an adult he saw an Egyptian mistreating an Israelite slave. He killed the Egyptian and hid the body. However, later he saw two Israelites fighting and he rebuked them. They made it clear that they knew about the murder so he fled Egypt for his life. He was 40 years old at this time. He fled to Midian where he became a shepherd for the next 40 years. However, one day he saw something extraordinary.
1 Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. 3 So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” 4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. 7 The LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. 8 “So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. 9 “Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 “Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 And He said, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.” 13 Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” (Exodus 3:1-14 NASB)
God intervened into Moses’ life in a most dramatic way. When Moses asked what His name was, God told him, “I AM WHO I AM.” What does that mean? The phrase “I Am” in Hebrew appears to be closely related to God’s personal name of YHWH or Yahweh. This name occurs more than 6,000 times in the Old Testament. The abbreviated form of Yahweh is “Yah.” It occurs as God’s name only in Psalm 68:4. However, it is also used as a divine title. (Exodus 15:2; Psalm 89:8; Psalm 94:7; Psalm 115:17, 18; Psalm 118:17) Yah is also found in the word “hallelujah.” Therefore, the meaning of YHWH is not completely clear to biblical scholars, though it seems to suggest the timelessness of God, who is the very foundation of all existence.
When God used this name for Himself he was pointing to His self-existence and eternality. He was saying, “I am the One who is/will be.” When we compare this with God’s statement to Moses in v6 that He is “the God of your fathers” it opens up our understanding that God is the same God throughout the ages. He is the God which is, and which was, and which is to come. Now, if we continue to be honest with our hermeneutic of Jesus Christ being the interpretive key to Sacred Scripture, we can go forward in time to the 1st Century A.D. In the book of Hebrews we find the following verse.
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8 NASB)
Liberal theology attempts to paint scripture as totally unreliable. It also attempts to portray Jesus as not deity. It’s proponents claim that Jesus was just an illiterate peasant who lived a good life and was a great teacher. This is the end result of attempting to analyze the Bible using secular scholarly techniques called “higher criticism.” Those who employ this are operating outside of faith. We know that the faith that saves and knows God is the result of God touching the heart of believers with His grace. (Romans 4) This faith is supernatural and the Holy Spirit works within the regenerate heart and the Word of God to give us the truth. However, when professing Christians attempt to study the Bible outside of that context they only see words on a page.
The Bible shows us that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5 NASB)
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NASB)
John tells us here that it was the Word who made all things in the beginning. He then tells us that his Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This is Jesus Christ. These are the words of one of Jesus’ Apostles. As we stated earlier Jesus made statements about His deity Himself. Here are the 7 metaphorical I Am statements that Jesus made that we find in the Gospel of John.
33 “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. (John 6:33-35 NASB)
12 Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to Him, “You are testifying about Yourself; Your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 “You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. 16 “But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me. 17 “Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true. 18 “I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me.” (John 8:12-18 NASB)
We can tie this passage back to John 1:4, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” This phrase by our Lord in 8:12 highlights His role as Messiah and Son of God. We learn from Isaiah 60:19-22 that the coming age of the Messiah would be a time when the Lord would be a light for His people as well as for the whole earth. Those who follow Jesus will not walk in darkness. These follows are fully committed. There are no half-hearted followers of Christ in His Kingdom. This ‘I Am’ statement is also a reference to the Jews following the pillar of cloud and fire during the Exodus. Again, Jesus is telling us that He and the ‘I Am’ from Exodus 3 are one and the same.
56 “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” 59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple. (John 8:56-59 NASB)
What was Jesus telling us about Himself here? He is telling us that He is Yahweh. He is the Lord in the Old Testament. He is the eternally pre-existent God who revealed Himself to the Jews. Notice that the Jews understood Jesus statement and were attempting to stone Him for blasphemy. Jesus Christ our Lord is not only God, but also the Mediator between God and Man appointed from eternity.
1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. 2 “But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. 3 “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 “When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 “A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them. 7 So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 “All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:1-9 NASB)
Jesus uses two metaphors here describing Himself. The first metaphor is that He is the shepherd of the sheep. His sheep hear His voice. He calls them by name and leads them out. The sheep follow HIm for they know His voice. However, the people did not understand the metaphor. Then He gave us His third ‘I Am’ statement. He said that He is the door of the sheep. Jesus is saying that He is the only way to the Father. He serves as the sole means to approach the Father. Therefore, do not listen to anyone, even an angel of light, who says there is any other way to the Father than through Jesus Christ the Lord. This is also restated in John 14:6.
6 Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6 NASB)
I had a discussion with a Christian liberal once who tried to say that John 14:6 does not mean what it clearly says. He tried to say that some corruption was introduced that skewed the meaning of what Jesus was actually saying to Thomas here. If that is so then the same corruption was introduced in John 10:1-9. That is utter nonsense. It is only an attempt to muddy the waters, cause doubt and get those who believe what the Bible clearly teaches to believe a lie. But what did Jesus say? He said, “A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This is telling us that the regenerate Christian knows Jesus voice and hears Him and follows Him, but those who preach a false gospel are discerned and shunned.
10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. 11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 12 “He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 “He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. 14 “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. 17 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” (John 10:10-18 NASB)
Those who attempt to destroy the faith of believers are the thieves. They do not care for the sheep. Notice that Jesus also mentions hired hands who are not the shepherd. I fear we have way to many of these “fellows” leading local churches these days. When the thieves come to destroy the faith of their flocks they do nothing to stop them. However, our Lord, the Good Shepherd lays His life down for the sheep. This is the fourth ‘I Am” statement of our Lord. Notice that God cares for those who are His. He cares so much that our Lord took our place in God’s wrath against our sin so that they could be justified before Him. He imputed our unrighteousness to Christ on the cross and imputes His perfect righteousness to all of His sheep. He also prophesied His death and resurrection in this passage. The salvation of God’s people is His work from beginning to end.
23 Jesus *said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha *said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:23-26 NASB)
This is Jesus’ fifth ‘I Am” statement. Our salvation is pointless if there is no resurrection. In this passage our Lord takes Mary from an abstract belief in this resurrection to a personalized trust in Him who alone can raise the dead. There is no resurrection or eternal life outside of the Son of God. Our future life in eternity is totally in His hands because He is God.
1 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 4 “And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas *said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. 7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” (John 14:1-7 NASB)
This is Jesus sixth ‘I Am’ statement. Why is Jesus the only way to God? He is the truth of God and the life of God. Therefore, Jesus is the exclusive way to the Father. There is only one way, not many ways. Jesus Christ is that way. Jesus tells Thomas and us that the way to eternal life is through Him alone.
1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-5 NASB)
This the seventh and last of Jesus metaphorical ‘I Am” statements found in the Gospel of John. This is one of my favorite study passages in the New Testament. Jesus uses an extended metaphor of the vine and the branches here to reveal the basis for Christian living. In this metaphor, Jesus tells us that He is God and the source of the spiritual life that nourishes the branches. Those branches who abide or remain in Him are pruned by the Father so that they will bear much fruit.
Did Jesus claim to be God? Yes indeed! He not only claimed it, He revealed, using these seven metaphors, much about the nature of salvation and His role and the Father’s role in it. He claimed to be the Messiah. He also revealed that He cares for His sheep and calls them by name. The Father loves the Son and has given to Him His sheep. He has provided everything that is required for their salvation, spiritual growth and protection. Therefore, let us worship our God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us serve them with our all. Let us abide in our Lord and thereby prove that we really are one of His sheep.
Soli Deo Gloria!