by Mike Ratliff
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” (Exodus 3:14 ESV)
Sacred Scripture or the Bible, which is the living Word of God, His communication to His people, is not just a collection of writings or a simply a history. 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 God’s 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. If anyone has ever debated a Jehovah Witness apologist or a Morman apologist or an Islamic apologist then you know how difficult it can be to address their complete misunderstanding of who Jesus Christ is and what His role is all things pertaining to our faith and creation. However, if we do 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.
Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” (Exodus 3:1-14 ESV)
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.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8 ESV)
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.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5 ESV)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 ESV)
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.
For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:33-35 ESV)
Jesus made this statement to some of His followers who did so in order to be blessed by Him giving them food, healing them, or whatever. They wanted the blessing. Jesus is telling them who He really is and that they should seek Him instead of the blessings.What does it mean that Jesus is the bread of life and all who come to Him shall never hunger and all who believe in Him shall never thirst? He was referring back to v33. He told them that the bread of God is a person Who comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world. He is telling these people that this is Him. He is this bread who give life to the world. This life is found in no one else or in anything else. Those who come to Him in belief shall never be in want of spiritual nourishment because they will be reborn from spiritual death unto spiritual life. His ‘I Am’ also gives us insight into the ‘I Am Who I Am’ from Exodus 3. God intervenes into the lives of His people. As the bread of life He quickens them from death unto life.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness 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. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two men is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” (John 8:12-18 ESV)
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.
Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (John 8:56-59 ESV)
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.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:1-9 ESV)
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.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV)
Several years ago I had a discussion with a Christian liberal who tried to say that John 14:6 does not mean what it clearly says. He is trying to make me believe 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. No, this 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.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:10-18 ESV)
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.
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:23-26 ESV)
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.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:1-7 ESV)
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.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-5 ESV)
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. (sorry John Hagee) 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!