“I Am The Way, the Truth and the Life.”

Our last post began a series on the “I Am”s of Jesus.  We started with His statement in John 8:58, where He said that He was the I AM of Exodus 3:14. We showed in that post that the New Testament over and over asserts the deity of our Lord.  Though He was truly human, He was at the same time truly divine.

He is God.

Our post today is about what we consider perhaps the second-most important of His “I Am”s.”  Although, with these two exceptions, I don’t really know that you can rank them in some kind of order.  They are all the Word of God.  And by that I don’t mean that they are just in the Bible.  I mean that they were spoken by that One Who said, “I AM.”  They are the Word of God –

Himself.

The first “I AM” we noted asserts His deity, without which what He said and did otherwise has little meaning.  This saying lays down once and for all how one may approach God.

We live in an age of great pluralism and “diversity”.  It seems everything must be “tolerated,” everything, it seems to me, except for the truth.  It’s considered “bigotry” for Christians to insist their religion is true and others are not. Especially in matters of religion, we’re to be “tolerant” and accepting of beliefs other than our own.

As a Christian, I agree with this last statement – to a point.  As Peter put it, there are some things in the Christian faith which are hard to understand, 2 Peter 3:16.  Not every true believer sees eye-to-eye about them with every other true believer.

There are some things, however, which are non-negotiable.  The deity of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of them.  Any religion that denies that cardinal truth is false, no matter what else it might have, no matter how much other “truth” it might have.  This includes a lot of “Christianity.”

Another non-negotiable truth is the subject we’re studying in this post, namely, how does one approach God?  Or to put it another way, how does one get to heaven?  How is one saved?

Or is everyone already on their way to “a better place,” as widely believed?  Do “all roads lead to heaven”?

John 14 continues a conversation that began in John 13:31.  The Passover meal the Lord and His disciples had eaten was pretty much over.  The Lord had instituted His Supper, or communion.  Judas had left to betray the Lord, and the Lord began to say some things which the disciples couldn’t understand.

Without our getting too much into it, the Lord began to say that He was leaving – going away.  He was going to prepare a place for them.  Peter wanted to know where He was going, John 13:36.  Jesus replied that Peter would have to wait to follow Him, that he couldn’t do so right now.  Peter wanted to know why not?  He was willing to die for the Lord.  This is when Jesus uttered His famous prophecy about Peter’s denials of Him, v. 38.

The chapter break is unfortunate.  I believe 14:1-4 were addressed to Peter as a result of the Lord’s prophecy and continues what was said at the end of ch. 13.  The Lord wasn’t “down-playing” what Peter would do, but rather showing him that what he did wouldn’t mess up what the Lord was doing.  He was leaving – Peter’s denial was part of that, – but He was leaving in order to prepare a place for all of them, John 14:1-4.

He said the time was coming when they would all be with Him.  They knew where He was going and they knew how to get there, v. 4.  At this, Thomas piped up and said, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?”

In the original language, Jesus said, “I, I am the way….”  It’s emphatic.  There’s only one way to get where He was going.  He’s it.

For those who believe that “all roads lead to heaven,” – with the exception of this one “road,” – they do all lead to one place.  But that place isn’t heaven.

Jesus made three claims about Himself in John 14:6.

1.  I am the way….

We hear a lot about the “plan of salvation.”  I understand what’s being said, but salvation isn’t found in “a plan.”  It’s not about some method or ceremony or ritual.  Salvation is found in a person.  There’s not a three-step or a twelve-step or a twenty-two step way to be saved.  There is only a “one-step” way to be saved:  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…,” Acts 16:31.

Salvation is to be had only through the Lord Jesus Christ.  He alone is “the Way.”  Salvation isn’t about “getting religion,” or joining the church.  It isn’t about observing “the sacraments,” or about arguing about how many of them there are.  That is important, but it isn’t “the way.”  It isn’t about some preacher or Christian personality.  

Jesus continued His statement by saying, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

“Through Me.”

Oh, that raises the hackles!  I’ve heard the Lord Jesus Himself referred to as a bigot because He said that.  If He’s not Who He said He was – if He’s not God, then He’s worse than a bigot.  He’s a false prophet, just like all the rest of those who claim to be someone special or to have something special or to know some special way to get to God or to know some other god beside the God of the Bible.

But Jesus is God.  His word therefore carries divine authority and we ignore it at our peril.

Peter put it like this in Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

“No other name under heaven.”

As I was reading this verse just now, I was struck by the context.  Peter and John had been arrested in the Temple for preaching in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. We have to remember that the Crucifixion wasn’t just some ancient memory, far removed from their time, as it is from ours.  It had only been a few weeks since Jesus had died and risen again.  Many of those in the audience, and many of those who arrested Peter and John, had been witnesses of them or had been active in seeking the Lord’s death.  So it was still a pretty raw memory.

And here were Peter and John rubbing salt in the wound.

Furthermore, Peter had healed a man who had never walked, and he was there with them.  In the Temple, he had been with them, as well – walking, leaping and praising God.  I’m sure that went over well with the straight-laced authorities.  Think about it.  This man had never even crawled, Acts 3:2, but there he was, walking and leaping!  He didn’t have to “learn how.”  He was healed and he knew how! His healing was what had given Peter the occasion to preach. Anyway, the Sadducees and others wanted to know by what name the man had been healed, v. 7.  They were probably trying to get Peter to say something that they could use to accuse him of using magical arts, or sorcery, which were against the law.

Peter replied, …by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. … Nor is there any salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” vs. 10, 12.

Notice that Peter said, “By Him this man stands here….”  It isn’t just saying “the name” that saves us.  “Jesus” isn’t some kind of magical formula, some “abracadabra,” that will open some door for us.  No, no, it’s Jesus Himself Who is the Savior.  His name may be that name above every name, Philippians 2:9, but it’s before HIM that we must bow, and it’s before HIM that every knee will eventually bow.

2.  I am the truth….

This seems a strange statement.  How can a person be an abstract thing like “truth?”

I think the Lord meant that everything about Him – everything He was, everything He did, everything He taught and said, was true.  He was truth incarnate.  He could even say to Philip that having seen Himself, one had “seen” the Father.  Now, this doesn’t mean, as some believe, that Jesus IS the Father, but rather that what one saw in Jesus was what one would see in the Father, if the Father came to earth as a human.  Jesus was God incarnate – God in the flesh.

That is the truth.

But He had said He was leaving.  What then?

In John 14:16, Jesus said, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth….”

“The Spirit of truth.”

Jesus refers to Him by this title here and in John 16:13:  …when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth….”

“He will guide you into all truth.”  Not away from it, but into it.  Not to ignore it, or to downplay it, but to embrace it.

He’s not the “Spirit of experience,” or “the Spirit of emotion,” but of truth.  That’s not to say there isn’t “experience” or “emotion,” but they’re not themselves to be the focus.

Jesus further said of the Spirit, “He will glorify Me,…”  Literally, He said, “Me He will glorify.”  It’s emphatic.  The Spirit isn’t here to glorify Himself.  He’s not here to emphasize His gifts, nor to exalt believers.  He’s here to glorify the Lord Jesus.

There are groups which emphasize and exalt the Holy Spirit, or “Holy Ghost,” but their focus is misplaced, because the Spirit’s mission is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, and focus people on Him, not on Himself.

There is something else.

For some time, we have seen increasing efforts to bring all religions together into one big, happy family.  There are even some now who are trying to bring about a hybrid Christianity-Islam.  They call it “Chrislam.”

There might be a unity of organization or even of religious belief, but this isn’t the unity of the Spirit Paul talks about in Ephesians 4:3.  You can’t have that without the unity of the faith he talks about in 4:13.  That means unity in the truth of the Word.  Anything which which denies the Word is a unity in error, not in truth.

That is why John warned us in 1 John 4:1, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  “Test” = “examine, try.”  In other words, don’t be gullible.  As Isaiah 8:20 puts it in another connection, To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, and His mission is to glorify the Lord Jesus.  And He does so through the written Word.  That’s why it’s so important to study the Word and to know as much of it as possible.  How can we know “error” if we don’t know “truth.”

There’s so much, much more we could say on the subject of the Spirit, but we must go on.

3.  I am the life….

In Colossians 3:4, Paul referred to the Lord Jesus as our life.

How is He “our life”?

There’s a really difficult portion in John 6:51-58, which has some bearing on this.  This is where the Lord talks about eating His body and drinking His blood.  And in His institution of the Lord’s Supper, He says of the bread, “Take, eat, this is My body,” and of the cup, “This is My blood…,”  Matthew 26:26, 28.

From these verses, some have concluded that we actually partake of the Lord’s body and blood in communion, though they do divide it as to who gets which.  However, in John 6:63, the Lord said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”   In other words, the merely physical is of no use.  There must be the working of the Spirit if things are to get done.  And in the institution of the Lord’s Supper, after saying, “This is My body,” etc., the Lord is careful to refer to the fruit of the vine, Matthew 26:29.  The elements hadn’t changed.

It’s clear that, when our Lord said, “This is My body,” that He meant “this represents My body,” and the same of the “fruit of the vine.”  They are representative, not “real.”

So, what do they represent?

The bread represents the life He lived in the body.  That perfect, sinless, righteous life that fully and completely obeyed the Law of God with no slip or shortcoming and satisified its every requirement.  And the fruit of the vine represents the death He died in the body.  

That sacrificial death which forever satisfied the demands of a broken Law.

That life we could never live – even if some claim they do.

That death we would never die – we could never pay for, atone for, even one sin, let alone the countless sins of which we are guilty, to say nothing of atoning for the sins of others.  Besides, that death itself would be sin, because we would be saying that Christ’s death isn’t enough.  Indeed, anything we say we have to do beside, or in addition to, the death of Christ is sin, because we’re saying that the death of Christ isn’t enough.  By faith, we’re to receive that life and death as our only hope before God.  He did for believers what we could never do for ourselves.  We can add nothing to it.  We dare add nothing to it.

Oh, listen, there is a way which seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death, Proverbs 14:12; 16:25.  Only Christianity has a Cross.  Only Christianity has a Resurrection.  Only Christianity has a Savior.  That may be “narrow,” but truth is always “narrow.”

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5:1.

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I AM

On Easter, my wife and I attended our son-in-law’s church.  He was beginning a series on the “I AM” sayings of our Lord.  Because it was Easter, the message was about Jesus’s saying, “I am the resurrection and the life,” John 11:25.

Very appropriate.

His message inspired me to begin a similar series here on the blog.  However, I’m going to start with what I believe is the “I AM” that validates all the others and makes them true.  If it’s not true, then the others don’t matter.

That “I AM” is found in John 8:58.

John 8 records one of the frequent discussions our Lord had with the religious leaders of Israel.  This particular episode wound up with a heated exchange, at least on the part of the leaders, because Jesus seemed to be making light of their descent from Abraham, v.33-59.  This was something that was very precious to them.

We see this in Matthew 3:9, where John the Baptist told those who were coming to his baptism not to count on their descent from Abraham.  He said to them, “…do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”

The climax of the discussion in John 8 is in v. 58, where Jesus exclaimed, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”

There are those who say that Jesus never claimed to be God.  However, those Jews who heard Him on that long ago day recognized what Jesus was saying.  No doubt, the verse we know as Exodus 3:14 came to their minds, where Moses was questioning God about being sent to Egypt to bring out the nation of Israel.  He finally asked God who he was to say had sent him.  God replied, “‘I AM WHO I AM.’  And He said. ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’.”

The Jews recognized that that was precisely, exactly, what Jesus was claiming:  that He was God.

He was I AM.

In John 8:59, that’s why they tried to stone Him – and why they couldn’t.

But that’s not the only time or the first time Jesus and the Jews crossed swords, as it were, over Who He was.

John 5:18 is the first record we have of such a discussion.  One of the things that really irked the Pharisees was that the Lord Jesus would not pay any attention to their views of how the Sabbath was to be observed.  I’m sure that Jesus healed and ministered to people every day of the week, but John seems especially to pick out things Jesus did on the Sabbath.

John 5 is the record of the man healed after 38 years of lying helpless.  Unlike modern “healers,” our Lord made no spectacle of His healing.  He had no advertising, sought no crowds, allowed no fanfare, but did His work and, in this case, was gone.  The man who was healed didn’t even know who Jesus was until Jesus found him later.

As this man was carrying the pallet on which he had lain for so many years, “the Jews,” probably the Pharisees, stopped him because he was “working” on the Sabbath.  They seemed unimpressed and uninterested in the man’s healing, but were focused on what they considered an infraction of the Sabbath.

John 5 seems to occur very early in the Lord’s ministry.  The Pharisees confronted Him about His own “working” on the Sabbath.  In fact, v. 6 says that they wanted to kill Him for doing so.  In v. 17, Jesus responds, in effect, that God, His Father, had been working until now, and now it was His turn.

V. 18 shows the Jews’ response to this:  Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. 

The Jews understood quite well what the Lord was saying.

He was God – and they tried to kill Him for it.

John 10:31-39 records yet another time when the Jews tried to kill Jesus for His claims.  Without going into all the details, our Lord asked the Jews why they were trying to kill Him.  They answered, “…for blasphemy,…because You being a Man make yourself God,”  v. 33.

Unlike His modern detractors, these Jews clearly understood that Jesus claimed to be God.

In fact, that ultimately was why He was crucified.

In John 19:7, which records part of the Jews’ skirmish with Pilate over what to do with Jesus, they said, “We have a law, and according to our law, He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”

That is, the Jews were saying to Pilate that Jesus didn’t just claim to be related to God, as believers might say that they are “the children of God,” but that He was God.

The God Who is the I AM.

As He hung on the Cross, the chief priests, along with the scribes and elders, mocked Jesus:  “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him, because He said, ‘I am the Son of God’,”  Matthew 27:43.

Perhaps you’ve seen that movie in which the Hulk confronts Loki.  Loki is outraged that the Hulk isn’t giving him the homage that he requires.  He shouts at the Hulk, “Enough!!  You cannot treat me like this!  I am god!”  Then he disappears from the screen.  The next thing you see, the Hulk has him by the heels and is slamming him into the roof of the building they’re on.  He does this a few times, then holds him up and looks at him.  Then he slams him a couple of more times, and leaves him crumpled on the roof.  As the Hulk stomps off, he mutters, “Puny god!”

Now I am in no way comparing the imagination and special effects of Hollywood with the reality and horror of the Crucifixion.  But our Lord’s enemies, in effect, were saying this of Jesus:  “Puny God.”

After all, though He had claimed to be God, yet here He was, hanging on a Cross.  To their way of thinking, that wasn’t how God would act!

How little they understood of what was going on!

There were some there, though, who did have an inkling of who the Lord was.

In Mark 15:39, after witnessing all that went on, and probably having seen other crucifixions as well as the crucifixion of the two men with Jesus, the centurion, who was possibly in charge of the crucifixion detail, said of Jesus, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

Then there was the repentant thief who called Him, “Lord,” Luke 23:42.

Luke 23:50-54 records Nicodemus coming to Pilate and asking for the body of Jesus.  We fail to realize the significance of what Nicodemus did.  We just see him asking for a body, but the truth of the matter is far different.  It was Passover time and those who had been ceremonially defiled by touching a dead body were forbidden to take part in the Passover.  To knowingly defile oneself was even worse, Numbers 9:6-14, esp. v. 13.  In effect, because Nicodemus – as well as Joseph of Arimathea – knowingly touched the dead body of Jesus, he forever put himself under a curse if Jesus isn’t who He said He was.  It was all or nothing as far as Nicodemus was concerned.

Then there’s John 1:1, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  Not “a god,” as false cultists and others teach, but God.

The “I AM” of the Old Testament.

Finally, Paul in Philippians 2:5-11, taught that Christ did not think it robbery to be equal with God.  The word translated “robbery” could be translated “selfishly clung to.” This doesn’t mean that Jesus thought equality with God was something to be grabbed, as it were, as cultists teach, as if it weren’t already His, but that it wasn’t something to be held on to.  That is, the Word laid aside His dignity and rights as God to come to this earth to die as Man.

It is clear that the New Testament over and over testifies to the deity of the Lord Jesus as well as to His humanity.

If He wasn’t, and isn’t, God, then nothing else about Him matters.