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:
- John 8:58: 'before Abraham was born, I am!'
- Colossians 2:9,10: ' in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ' [NIV]; 'in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him' [KJV].
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:
- Jesus Christ is God
- We are complete in Christ
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:
Jehovah - Hoseenu
The LORD our Maker
Psalm 100:3; Proverbs 22:2; Isaiah 45:11; 51:13; Jeremiah 33:2
Jesus Christ: the Lord our Maker: John 1:1-4; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16,17; Hebrews 1:1-3.
Jehovah - Heleyon
The LORD Most High
Genesis 14:22; 2 Samuel 22:14; Psalm 7:17; 21:7; 83:18; 91:9; 92:1; 97:9.
Jesus Christ: the exulted Lord: Mat 26:64; Eph 1:20-22; Phil 2:9-11; Rev 17:14; 19:16.
Jehovah - Tsebaoth
The LORD of hosts [NIV= 'Lord Almighty'] Very common in prophets.
1Sam 17:45; Ps 24:10; 46:7; 59:5; 89:8; Isaiah 1:24; 3:1; 6:3,5; 51:15; Jer 46:10; 50:25; Amos 4:13.
Jesus Christ: Lord of the armies: Mat 24:30-31; 26:53, 64; Col 2:15; 1Thess 4:16; Rev 19:11-21.
Jehovah - Jireh
The LORD will provide [that is, will see to it].
Jesus Christ: God's abundant provision: John 3:16; Romans 5:20; 8:32; 1Cor 5:7; Eph 1:6-8; 2:7; 1 Peter 1:18,19; Rev 5:6-14.
Jehovah - Shammah
The LORD is there (or here)
Jesus Christ: God with us: Mat 1:23; 28:20; John 1:14; 10:30; 12:44-46; 14:6-9; Rom 9:5; 1Jn 5:20.
Jehovah - Nissi
The LORD is my banner
Deut 20:3,4; 26:8; Psalm 60:4; 98:1; 118:6; 2Chron 29:11; Ezekiel 20:34;
Jesus Christ: our victory: 1 Cor 15:54-57.
Jehovah - Rophe
The LORD that healeth
Ps 23:3; 30:2; 103:3; 107:19-22; 147:3; Jer 17:14;
Jesus Christ, by whose stripes we are healed: Is 53:5; Malachi 4:2; Mat 4:24; Luke 1:78; 1 Peter 2:24
Jehovah - Rohi
The LORD my Shepherd
Psalm 80:1; Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:12
Jesus Christ, the shepherd of our souls: Ezek 34:23; 37:12; Jn 10:11-29; Heb 13:20; 1Pe 2:25; 5:4.
Jehovah - Tsidkenu
The LORD our Righteousness
Psalm 7:17; 71:16; 98:2; Isaiah 45:24; 61:3,10; Jeremiah 33:16
Jesus Christ: our righteousness: Is 53:11; Jer 23:5; Ro 1:16; 5:17; 1Co 1:30; 2Co 5:21;Phil 3:1-11.
Jehovah - M'Kaddesh
The LORD who sanctifies
Exodus 31:13; Lev 20:26; 21:8; Deut 14:2; Jer 1:5; Ezek 20:12;
Jesus Christ: our sanctification: John 13:10; 1Co 1:30; 6:11; Eph 1:4; 5:27; Col 1:22; Heb 10:10; 1 Pet 2:9.
Jehovah - Shalom
The LORD is peace
Num 6:26; Ps 29:11; 85:8; Is 57:19; Haggai 2:9; Rom 15:33; 16:20
Jesus Christ: our Peace: Is 9:6,7; Luke 1:79; 2:14; John 14:27; 16:33; Acts 10:36; Rom 1:7; 5:1; Eph 2:14,15; Col 1:20; 2 Thess 3:16.
Jehovah - Gmolah
The LORD of recompenses
Deut 32:35; Ruth 2:12; Pro 20:22; Isaiah 35:4; 59:18; 66:6; Jer 51:6; Luke 18:7,8;Rom 12:17-21; Heb 10:30; Rev 18:20.
Jesus Christ: the Avenger of the saints: 2 Thess 1:6-10; Rev 6:10; 19:2.
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:
- I am the bread of life - meeting our need for spiritual sustenance.
- I am the light of the world - meeting our need to have our ignorance about God ripped away.
- I am the gate - meeting our need to gain entry to God's presence.
- I am the good shepherd - meeting our need for love, protection and guidance.
- I am the resurrection ant the life -meeting our need for spiritual regeneration and life beyond death.
- I am the way, the truth, the life -meeting our need to reconnect with the one true God
- I am the vine -meeting our need for on-going spiritual life and productivity.
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:
- Jesus told the Pharisees they had no idea where he came from (8:14);
- Jesus referred to God as 'my Father' (8:19), a claim which had earlier provoked murderous antagonism from the Jews because they recognized this as an affirmation of equality with God (5:16-18);
- The potential of being seized on the charge of blasphemy (8:19-20);
- Jesus told the Pharisees that they don't know him or his Father (8:19);
- Jesus said that his origin is  from above,  not of this world (in contrast to the Pharisees being from below and of this world) (8:23);
- The repetition of the 'ego emi' of 8:24 in 8:28: 'when you have lifted up the son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be' [NIV], that is 'then you will know that I am'.
 '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:
- Genesis 17:3: 'Abraham fell face down ... '
- Numbers 22:31: '.. and he (Balaam) saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell face down.'
- Joshua 5:14: 'Then Joshua fell facedown to ground in reverence ... '
- Judges 13:20: 'Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground'
- Ezekiel 1:28: 'This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I feel facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.' [See also Ezekiel 3:23, 43:3; 44:4.]
- Daniel 8:17: 'As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate.'
- Matthew 17:5,6: ' ... a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.'
- Acts 22:6-7: ' ... suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I feel to the ground ... '
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:
- Eternal, ever-living, ever-present, outside of time and space.
- Self-existent, underived, independent.
- Absolute, unchangeable, non-relative.
- One who acts with unfettered liberty in any and every circumstance.
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.
'The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.'
'He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Saviour.'
2 Sam 22:2,3
'The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation.' [also Ps 18:2]
1 Chron 16:35
'Cry out "Save us, O God our Saviour ... " '
'The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Saviour!'
'He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Saviour.'
'Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour'
'Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Saviour.'
'He alone is my rock and my salvation ... '
'Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.'
'He will call out to me, "You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Saviour." '
'Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.'
'For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour ... '
'I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no Saviour.'
'Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Saviour of Israel.'
' ... there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Saviour; there is none but me.'
'Then all mankind will know that I, the LORD, am your Saviour, you Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.' [also Is 60:16]
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Saviour except me.'
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:
Luke 2:11; John 4:42; Acts 5:31; 13:23; Philippians 3:20; 2 Timothy 1:10; Titus 1:4; 2:13; 3:6; 2 Peter 1:1; 1:11; 2:20; 3:18; 1 John 4:14.
The source and means of salvation
Luke 1:69, 76-77; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Hebrews 2:10; 5:9; 9:28
The 'location' of salvation
Luke 2:30; 3:6; Acts 4:12; 2 Timothy 2:10.
Our righteousness, and the source of our righteousness/justification
Romans 1:16,17; 3:19-26; 5:1,12-21; 8:10; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 2:15-21; Philippians 3:9
holiness/source of our identity as 'saints'
John 17:17-19; Acts 26:18; 1 Corinthians 1:2,30; 3:17; 6:11; Ephesians 1:4; 5:27; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2, 22; 3;12; Hebrews 2:11; 10:10,14; 13:12.
Our peace with God
John 14:27; Acts 10:36; Philippians 4:7; Ephesians 2:14; Colossians 1:20-22;
Eternal life, life
1 John 5:20; Colossians 3:4; [see previous study for more texts]
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.
Acts 5:31; 13:38; 26:18; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; 2:14; Hebrews 10:17,19; 1 John 2:12;
Romans 3:24; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Galatians 3:13,14; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:12;
Romans 5:10-11; 2 Corinthians 5:15-21; Colossians 1:20-22; Titus 3:5;
Galatians 3:26; 4:6; Ephesians 1:5;
Ephesians 2:5,6; Colossians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:3;
Romans 8:1, 31-34; Colossians 1:22;
The indwelling of God's Spirit
Romans 8:9-11, 15; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:13,14;
Every spiritual blessing
Life, eternal life
John 3:16; 5:24; 11:25,26; Romans 5:21; 6:8; Colossians 3:3,4; 1 John 5:11,12;
Access to the presence of God
Ephesians 2:6; 3:12; Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19-22;
Knowledge of God
John 8:12; 12:44-46; 14:6-9;17:3; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18; 4:4-6; Galatians 4:9; Ephesians 1:9; Colossians 2:2-3
Identification as God's people
Galatians 3:29; Ephesians 2:11-19; 3:6; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11;
Liberation from a law based relationship to God
Romans 6:14, 18; 7:4-6; 8:2; Colossians 2:20-23;
Peace with God
Delivered from wrath
Romans 5:11; 1 Peter 1:6;
Romans 5:15, 17; Ephesians 1:6-8; 2:7-9;
Joint heirs with Christ
2 Corinthians 5:16,17;
Rescue from Satan and his kingdom
Galatians 1:4; Colossians 1:12;
Citizenship in Christ's Kingdom
John 13:10; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Colossians 1:22; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 9:15; 10:22; 1 John 1:7-9; Revelation 1:5; 7:14
Destined for glory
Sin's penalty paid in full
Romans 3:24-26; 5:6-10; 6:1-10; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Galatians 2:19-21; 3:13; Colossians 2:12-14,20; 3:3; 1 Peter 2:24
Recipients of God's kindness
Ephesians 2:7; Titus 3:4-6
Guidance by God's Spirit
Transformation by God's Spirit
2 Corinthians 3:18;
Permanent spiritual satisfaction
John 4:13,14; 6:35;
Inherit the promises of God
2 Corinthians 1:18-20; Galatians 3:9,14; 2 Peter 1:4
Ephesians 2:9; Hebrews 12:2; 2 Peter 1:1;
Luke 1:78; Ephesians 2:4; 1 Timothy 1:16; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 4:16; 1 Peter 1:3; 2:10
Romans 4:16; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 1 Peter 1:4-5;
Over-riding of guilty conscience
Romans 8:31-34; Hebrews 9:9-14; 10:2,22
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.
- Christ the great I AM is absolute: this salvation is absolute.
- Christ the great I AM is eternal: this salvation is eternal.
- Christ the great I AM is independent: this salvation is independent.
- Christ the great I AM is free: this salvation is free.
- Christ the great I AM is complete in himself: this salvation is complete in itself.
- Christ the great I AM is unchanging: this salvation is unchanging.
- Christ the great I AM is unique: this salvation is unique.
- Christ the great I AM is trustworthy: this salvation is trustworthy.
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.