|Jesus Christ - the great I AM|
KNOWING CHRIST - KNOWING GOD
Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2003
STUDY EIGHT: JESUS CHRIST - THE GREAT 'I AM'
[This Study relates to Knowing Christ - Knowing God Worksheet 8 designed for use in group study situations. Some of the suggestions in blue are specific for group study leaders; these can be adapted for personal study.]
INTRODUCTION: TWO SIGNIFICANT TEXTS
There are two texts that express two powerful complementary truths:
These two truths, which are the foundation on which all other Biblical truth rests, and the climax of revelation which all of the Scripture anticipates, are:
They teach us about the identity and nature of God, and the identity and nature of the one valid human relationship with God.
A. JEHOVAH - GOD'S UNIQUE SELF-IDENTIFYING NAME
In Exodus 3 when Moses was commissioned by God to go back to Egypt to rescue the Israelites Moses asked by what name he was to identify the God who had sent him. God said:
'I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: "I AM has sent me to you." ... Say to the Israelites "The LORD, the God of your fathers - the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob - has sent me to you." This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.'
[Whenever the KJV and NIV have 'LORD' (all upper case) this translates 'Jehovah' the name of God derived from the verb to be 'I AM'.]
This name 'I AM' ['Yahweh' = 'Jehovah'] was held in great awe by the Hebrews. The New Bible Dictionary states: 'The original Hebrew text was not vocalized; in time the 'tetragrammaton' YHWH was considered too sacred to pronounce: so 'adonay' (my Lord) was substituted in reading, and the vowels of this word were combined with the consonants YHWH to give 'Jehovah' ... '
A.1 Some comments about this name [highlights added]:
Barnes: ' "I am what I am." The words express absolute, and therefore unchanging and eternal Being. The name, which Moses was thus commissioned to use, was at once new and old; old in its connection with previous revelations; new in its full interpretation, and in its bearing upon the covenant of which Moses was the destined mediator.'
Clarke: 'I am that I am - These words have been variously understood. The Vulgate translates Ego Sum Qui Sum, I am who am. The Septuagint, Εγω ειμι 'ο wn, I am he who exists ... The Arabic paraphrases them, The Eternal, who passes not away ... As the original words literally signify, I will be what I will be, they seem intended to point out the eternity and self-existence of God.'
Wesley: 'I am that I am - This explains his name Jehovah, and signifies,  That he is self-existent; he has his being of himself, and has no dependence upon any other. And being self-existent he cannot but be self-sufficient, and therefore all-sufficient, and the inexhaustible fountain of being and bliss.  That he is eternal and unchangeable, always the same, yesterday to-day, and for ever: he will be what he will be, and what he is.  That he is faithful and true to all his promises, unchangeable in his word as well as in his nature, and not a man that he should lie. Let Israel know this, I am hath sent me unto you. A name that speaks what he is to his people.'
Kiel&Delitzsch: 'The question, "What is His name?" presupposed that the name expressed the nature and operations of God, and that God would manifest in deeds the nature expressed in His name. God therefore told him His name, or, to speak more correctly, He explained the name ... by which He had made Himself known to Abraham at the making of the covenant (Gen 15:7), in this way ... "I am that I am," and designated Himself by this name as the absolute God of the fathers, acting with unfettered liberty and self-dependence. This name precluded any comparison between the God of the Israelites and the deities of the Egyptians and other nations, and furnished Moses and his people with strong consolation in their affliction, and a powerful support to their confidence in the realization of His purposes of salvation as made known to the fathers. To establish them in this confidence, God added still further: "This is My name for ever, and My memorial unto all generations;" that is to say, God would even manifest Himself in the nature expressed by the name Jehovah, and by this He would have all generations both know and revere Him. The name, expresses the objective manifestation of the divine nature ... '
B. OLD TESTAMENT REVELATIONS OF THE SIGNIFICANCE OF 'I AM ... '
Task #1: Relates to the table below, and requires the group to fill out the meaning of the composite names of God formed with 'Jehovah' (I AM), and to note truths you know about the Lord Jesus Christ that display the quality contained in these names of God. [Not all of the names in this table are in the Student Guide.]
Through out the Old Testament God reveals himself through many composite forms of this personal, self-identifying name. Among these are:
From this one name of God alone we can see that all that God is Jesus Christ is. He is the great I AM - Jehovah, the self-existent, absolute, eternal One, who is able to meet our real needs at any given point of time, at any place.
C. THE I AM CLAIMS OF JESUS CHRIST
Task #2: Here the group is asked to write the key significance of all the I AM statements of Jesus Christ. This can be done before or after the following teaching points.
We have been looking at these claims right through these studies. The seven well known I AM's are:
There are three other I AM's of Jesus in John's Gospel that are not so commonly recognized:
 ' ... if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins' [John 8:24 NIV].
The Greek reads: 'unless you believe that I am [ego emi] you will die in your sins'. Here Jesus clearly makes forgiveness and eternal life dependent on a person's believing that he is indeed I AM - the God of the Old Testament, Jehovah, the LORD. The context of these words is:
 'I tell you the truth ... before Abraham was born, I am!' [John 8:58]
At this statement the Jews 'picked up stones to stone him' [8:59]. They knew precisely the significance of this claim, but rejected his right to apply this I AM name to himself. They believed that he was just a man; no man had the right to that divine name, that most holy of all names. To use it in this way was the height of blasphemy. Unless of course the one who used it was indeed God. Here Jesus lays claim to being the Eternal One, the ever-present, ever-living One.
 ' "I am he", Jesus replied. ... When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground.' [John 18:5,6].
These words are in John's report of the arrest of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. The Greek reads: 'ego emi'. This I AM is recorded three times in this passage, the two times above, then again in verse 8. Jesus is not simply saying the equivalent of 'that's me'. The reaction of the arresting party reveals that these words had a powerful impact on them: they drew back and fell to the ground. This is the historic response of people overcome with awe in the presence of God, a messenger from God, or a vision of God:
All of the I AM claims and statements of Jesus point directly to his identification with the I AM of Exodus 3. Jesus Christ is YHWH - YAHWEH - JEHOVAH. All that is credited to the LORD in the Old Testament is assumed by Jesus to belong to him. He is all that God is:
This God is Jesus Christ: Jesus Christ is this God. And it is this God who is also our Saviour.
D. JESUS CHRIST, THE GREAT 'I AM' IS THE ONE WHO IS OUR SAVIOUR
D.1 The Old Testament identifies God as the Saviour, and as 'salvation'.
Task #3: This task aims to get the group to realize that God has always been the one and only Saviour and the one and only source of salvation; as the great I AM Jesus Christ is all that God is: the Saviour, and salvation.
It is clear from these verses that God, the LORD, is the one and only Saviour. Yet the New Testament teaches that Jesus Christ is the Saviour. There is no dichotomy here: for, as we have seen in the section on the I AM claims of Jesus, he is indeed the LORD, Jehovah. The New Testament in fact refers to both God and Jesus Christ as 'Saviour'.
Not only is Jesus Christ God our Saviour, he is also 'our salvation' in the same way that God is 'my salvation' in some of the texts above. God is both our 'Saviour' and our 'salvation'. Jesus Christ is both our 'Saviour' and our 'salvation'. This truth has undergirded all of the studies so far.
In this study we learn from this truth that our salvation is complete. In Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour, we have a salvation that cannot be equalled, that has no lack, that leaves nothing for us to complete for ourselves. We can learn of its completeness by understanding the composite Jehovah + names of listed above, and way that these names are also true descriptions of Jesus Christ. The completeness of the salvation we have in Jesus Christ is essentially connected to his full deity, as Colossians 2:10 has pointed out.
D.2 The New Testament identifies Jesus Christ as our salvation and our Saviour:
In the New Testament Jesus Christ is identified as our salvation, our Saviour and the source of our salvation:
In addition to these - righteousness, sanctification, and peace - with which Christ is identified, we also learn from the New Testament that every aspect of our salvation is in Christ, through Christ, or in union with Christ: The table below lists some of the many references to most of these many aspects of the complete salvation which the Christian possesses in and through Jesus Christ.
Task #4: Requires the group to discuss aspects of salvation and identify Scripture references where these can be found. You may have to help them with some of the references from the Table above. This task is aimed at bringing the group to an awareness of how complete and all-embracing our salvation in Christ is, so that they can rejoice in the joy, peace and assurance that God intends us to have in Christ and his salvation.
This list is not exhaustive. Even so it depicts a salvation that is comprehensive. Here in this salvation, Jesus Christ is indeed the great I AM, a Saviour mediating a salvation that reflects his essential nature.
This Christ and this salvation are sufficient to meet our every need. Yet if our concept of Christ and our concept of salvation are less, then we will enjoy and experience neither. The failure of many Christians to understand these two critical issues has undermined and disempowered their faith.
Jesus Christ is the I AM: the one true God. Any lesser view of Christ is not Christian faith.
The salvation he mediates is complete because it is completely dependent on him alone. Any lesser view of salvation is not Christian faith.
These are the two pillars on which Christianity stands, and apart from which any concept of 'Christianity' is essentially no different from any other religion: that Jesus Christ is God, and that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Let everyone ask themselves: Am I still spiritually unsatisfied? Am I still groping in spiritual darkness? Do I still wonder if there are other gods? Do I still fear rejection by God? Do I still live under the threat of condemnation?
If the answer to any of these is 'Yes' then the strong probability is that there is a fundamental failure of understanding and/or belief at one or both of these indispensable foundational truths.
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