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.

 

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March Memories: The Third Genealogy.

[As we continue in our March Memories post reprints, I’ve become impressed with the necessity of emphasizing the unique person of the Lord Jesus.  Islam is resurging, and it views Jesus as just another prophet, important though He may be in their view of things, but nevertheless much inferior to their own prophet.  Certainly not God, nor did He die on the Cross.  And much of professing Christendom denies His deity and His redemption.]

Most people know of the genealogies of Matthew and Luke.  Matthew’s genealogy is condensed and intended to connect Jesus with the great covenants of the Old Testament:  the Abrahamic and the Davidic.  Matthew’s is the genealogy of Joseph.  His is the genealogy of Christ’s royalty, though both genealogies trace Jesus back to King David.  Luke’s genealogy is longer, some 75 generations, and goes through a different son of David all the way back to Adam.  This is Mary’s genealogy.

That’s two.  Where’s the third one?  I really hadn’t thought about it quite like this until recently, like this morning.  Perhaps in the strictest sense, it isn’t a genealogy, and yet it is.  It’s contained in two verses, though a few other verses add some explanation.  Here it is – you’ll recognize it immediately”

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, … And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, John 1:1, 14.

This is the genealogy, if you will, of Christ’s deity.  In a few words, simple words in the Greek original, words so simple that beginning Greek students translate them in their first attempts at translation, – in a few words, John expresses truths that 2000 years of Church history haven’t begun to understand.

“Now, wait a minute!”  Someone who might knock at your door will say, “That’s not what John meant at all.  There’s no “the” in front of God in the Greek, so John was saying that Jesus was ‘a’ God.”  They also teach that the “beginning” John wrote about was when God created the Word, or Jesus.  He was the beginning, and then He created all the rest.  They might take you over to Proverbs, where the writer personifies wisdom and describes its role in creation.  “That,” they will say, “is Jesus.”  They might even tell you that He is really Michael, the archangel, brother of Lucifer.

Is that all John meant in these verses?  That Jesus was the first thing created by God, and He created everything else?  That He isn’t “God” at all, just “a god”?

It’s true that John didn’t write, “the Word was the God.”   There’s no article – no “the” – in front of God.  In the Greek language, there is no indefinite article – “a”, “an” – either.  As Martin Luther pointed out centuries ago, and someone probably pointed it out centuries before he did, John couldn’t have written, “The Word was the God,” because then he would have been saying that the Word and the Father were the same, and the Oneness folks, who deny the Trinity, would be right.  If John says one thing, it’s that the Word and the Father are distinct from each other.  They aren’t just different “manifestations” of the One God.

There’s another difficulty with the idea that Jesus is only “a” god.  What kind of “god” is He?  How many “gods” are there, or is He the only one?

They answer that by saying that Jesus was an angel, and in the OT, angels are called sons of God, Job 1:6.  He is, therefore, rightly called son of God.  It’s true that angels are called “sons of God.”  Does this, then, put them and Jesus in the same class?

The writer to the Hebrews anticipated this idea.  In 1:5 (NKJV), he wrote, …to which of the angels did He ever say, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You?’  The expected answer is, “There are no angels to whom that was said.”  Not as a Jehovah’s Witness once told me, “Jesus is that angel,” and then quoted this verse to me.  He completely missed the point of the verse.  That is not what the writer was saying.  The Father was not speaking to ANY angel in that verse!

In fact, after discussing what the Father did not say to the Son, Hebrews goes on in v. 8 with what He did say, But to the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.”  The New World Translation (NWT), the JW Bible, has it, “God is your throne forever and ever.”

I’m sorry, but that doesn’t even make sense.  Not to be irreverent or anything, but do they believe that Jesus is sitting on God’s lap?  The Greek text reads, “The throne of You, the God, into the ages of the ages.”  Note the presence of the article with God in this verse:  “the God”.  The contrast between Jesus and angels couldn’t be clearer.  In fact, in v. 6, Hebrews says, Let all the angels of God worship Him.  Even older versions of the NWT say that – I have a copy.  Granted, in newer editions, it’s changed to “Let all the angels of God do obeisance to Him,” but even then, it translates the Gk. word as “worship” when it doesn’t refer to Jesus.

How can two beings both be “God,” in view of all the Scriptures which tell us there is only “one God”?  There are a lot of illustrations of the Trinity, which is what this is really all about.  A cube is the best one I know.

A cube has length, width and height, all at the same time, but it’s not three cubes.  It’s just one cube.  The length isn’t the width or the height, the width isn’t the length or the height, and the height isn’t the length or the width.  And the cube doesn’t “manifest” itself as height one day, width another day, and length yet another day, as some try to teach that the One God manifests Himself differently at different times.

The cube has three measurements, but they all coexist in the one cube at the same time.  Like His creation, God is, if you will, three-dimensional:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Father isn’t the Son or the Spirit.  The Spirit isn’t the Father or the Son.  The Son isn’t the Father or the Spirit.  Three different Persons, for lack of a better word, all different, but all coexisting together as the One God.

The Word was God.

One final thought on this.  Some folks say that Jesus never claimed to be God.  Funny, but the people who heard Him say in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” understood that was exactly what He was claiming.  That’s why they tried to kill Him.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…, John 1:14.

This is the reason for the other two genealogies.  The story of Jesus doesn’t start, “Once upon a time….”  It’s rooted in and grounded firmly on the history of Israel as revealed in the Old Testament.  I know there are those who deny that He ever existed, but after all the attempts over 2000 years to get rid of Him, and He’s still here – must be something “real” about Him.

Notice John’s comparison.  The Word was God – the Word became flesh.  Nowhere does John or the Bible say that the Word “became,” that is, that it came into existence, or that it became God.  In other words, there has never been a time, if we can refer to eternity like that, when the Word did not exist, or that it was not God. There was a time, however, when the Word became flesh.  Matthew and Luke gives us a glimpse of that time.

The Word became flesh.

Four words.

The Word became flesh.  Four words.  Describing an event which has no parallel in human history.  Psalm 113:5, 6, says, Who is like the LORD our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?

The Lord God “humbles” Himself even to look at this speck of dirt off to one side of His creation.  What must it have been like for the Lord Jesus to live on it?  We think we know so much, with our “Doctors of Theology,” our books, our “mega-churches,” etc. [and I’m not opposed to education or books or church], but I don’t think we understand even as much about our Lord’s “humiliation,” to use the theological term, as a newborn understands about its mother’s agony in bringing it to birth.  How can we?

It’s not for nothing that Paul refers to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in 2 Corinthians 8:9, where he continues, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor….  The Lord didn’t come to this world to be feted in Rome, or to live in a place like the White House or Buckingham Palace, although those places would be mere shacks compared to what He was used to.  He came to live a relatively minor, troublesome, province of Rome.  Except for one incident, He was unknown for nearly thirty years, and in the last three, “fame” was fleeing, and hostility and opposition were lasting and increasing.  Even though He rose from the dead, as far as the world is concerned, He might as well still be dead.  Indeed, much of the world thinks that He still is.  Even if people class Him with the religious leaders of this world, they are more likely to live by their teachings than His.

So, you see, the third genealogy gives us a more complete idea of Who Jesus of Nazareth really was.

And is.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,…  And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us….
_______________

(Originally published March 12, 2013.)  edited.

The Splendor of Christmas

And, no, we’re not writing about all the glitter and glitz of Christmas as it’s celebrated today.  Without doubt, there are some gorgeous displays of lights and ingenuity this time of the year, but, as with our last post on Christmas, we’re thinking of another day, a day which could not have been more opposite to today.

True, there were a couple of bright spots in that day of scandal, as we labeled it.  There was a visit by a few shepherds at the birth itself.  There was a visit perhaps a year or two later by an entourage which had traveled hundreds of miles to bring gifts to and worship the little one.  Their gifts, by the way, probably financed the family’s trip to and stay in Egypt.  This is not to leave out the angelic visits to Mary and Joseph explaining what was going on.

But for the most part, there was more shadow than light in that event.

So what was it that made this day worthy of remembrance?

Why should we care about something that happened 2000 years ago?  Is there anything else that happened back then that anybody cares about today?

Why this day?

It’s not about anything that happened “outside”.  It’s not even about Joseph or Mary, though a large part of professing Christendom has made it about her.  Indeed, it seems, for the most part, that they’ve made everything about her.

No, no, the day is special because of the Baby Himself.

But why this baby?  There may have been several other babies born in Israel that day. Certainly, world-wide, there were probably hundreds of babies born that day.

So. why this One?

John 1:14 says that He became flesh.  Philippians 2:7 says He took the form of a servant. 

What?

“Became”?

“Took”?

Who does that?  Nobody has any choice in the matter.  We don’t ask to be born.  Our kids will sometimes remind us of that.

This One did ask.

All the arrangements for what happened at Bethlehem, both leading up to and after, were made before God said, “Let there be light,” Genesis 1:3.  See 1 Peter 1:20.

You see, John 1:1 says that this One Who became flesh was God.  Oh, I know there are some who knock on your door who will say that He was only “a” god.  But if that were true, and it isn’t, then there is no salvation.  If only a creature, as JWs insist, then Jesus would have had all He could do to make it back to heaven Himself, let alone bring anyone else with Him.

Philippians 1:6 says that this One Who took the form of a servant, before then was in the form of God .  He didn’t think that exalted position was something to be selfishly clung to, but made Himself of no reputation.

“The form of God” means that He was truly God, just as “form of a servant” means that He was truly human.

“Made Himself of no reputation.”

Reputed illegitimate Son of a reputed adulteress.

Scandal.

No reputation.

Indeed.

There is an old hymn which says, The Son of God goes forth to war.”

Yes, He did.

As a baby.

That is the splendor of Christmas.

The Third Genealogy

Most people are familiar with the genealogies found in Matthew and Luke. Or, at least, they know they are there.  Matthew’s genealogy is condensed and intended to connect Jesus with the great covenants of the Old Testament:  Abrahamic and Davidic.  His is the genealogy of Christ’s royalty.  Matthew’s is the genealogy of Joseph.  Luke’s genealogy is longer and goes through a different son of David, goes all the way back to Adam, some 75 or so generations. His is the genealogy of Christ’s humanity.  It’s the genealogy of Mary.  I’ll do a post one of these days on Matthew’s genealogy.  There’s a lot of good stuff in there.

Well, that’s two of them.  Where’s the third one?  I hadn’t really thought about it quite like this until recently, like earlier today.  I suppose in the strictest sense it isn’t a genealogy at all, and yet in a real sense it is.  It’s contained in two verses, though a few other verses add some explanation.  Here it is – you’ll recognize it immediately:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,  ….And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…,” John 1:1, 14.

This is the genealogy, if you will, of Christ’s deity.  In a few words, simple words in the Greek original, John expresses truths that 2000 years haven’t completely plumbed.

“Now, wait a minute!”  I can hear someone say.  “That’s not what John meant at all.  There’s no article before ‘God,’ so Jesus was only ‘a god’.”  People will knock on your door and tell you that.  They also say that the “beginning” John wrote about was the beginning when God created Jesus, that He was “the beginning,” and then Jesus created all the rest. They might take you over to Proverbs, where the writer personifies wisdom and describes its role in creation.  “That,” they say, “is Jesus.”  They might even tell you that He is really Michael, the archangel, brother of Lucifer.

Is that all John meant in these verses?  That Jesus was simply the first thing created by God, and then He created everything else?  That He isn’t “God” at all, just “a god?”

It’s true that John didn’t write, “the Word was the God.”  There is no article, no “the”, in front of God.  There’s no indefinite article – “a”, “an” – in the Greek language, either.  However, Martin Luther pointed out centuries ago, and someone probably pointed it out centuries before he did, that John couldn’t have written “the God,” because then he would have been saying that the Word and the Father are the same, and the Oneness folks would be right.  If John says one thing, it’s that the Father and the Word are distinct from each other.  The One is not just manifesting Himself differently.

There’s another difficulty with the idea that Jesus is only “a god.”  What kind of god is He?  How many of these “gods” are there, or is He the only one?  “Well, in the Old Testament, angels are called ‘sons of God,’ cf. Job 1:6.  As an angel, Jesus is rightly called ‘son of God’.”  So we might be told.  And it’s true that angels are called “sons of God.”  Does this then put them and Jesus in the same class?

The writer to the Hebrews anticipated this idea.  In 1:5 (NKJV), he asks the question, “…to which of the angels did He ever say, ‘You are my Son, Today I have begotten you’?”  The expected answer to that question is, “There are no angels to whom that has ever been said.”  Not as a Jehovah’s Witness kindly emailed me once and said, “Jesus is that angel” and then quoted this verse to me.  Sorry, that’s not what the writer meant.  In fact, after discussing what the Father did not say to the Son, Hebrews goes on in v. 8 with what He did say: “But to the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.”  Some translate that verse: “God is your throne forever and ever,”(New World Translation).  This doesn’t make sense.  Not to be irreverent or anything, but is Jesus sitting on God?  The Greek text reads, “The throne of you, the God, into the ages of the ages.”  Notice the presence here of the article before “God”: “the God.”  The contrast between Jesus and angels could not be clearer.  In fact, in v. 6, the writer to the Hebrews says of angels, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”  Even older editions of the NWT say that – I have a copy.  Granted, the newer editions say that angels are to do “obeisance” to Him, but even the NWT translates the Gk. word as “worship” when it doesn’t refer to Jesus.

How can two beings both be “God,” in view of all the Scriptures which tell us there is only one God?  There are a lot of illustrations of the Trinity, which is what this is really all about. The best one I know is a cube.  A cube has length, height and width, all at the same time, but it’s not three cubes, just one.  The length isn’t the height or width, the height isn’t the length or width, and the width isn’t the height or length.  And the measurements of the cube don’t manifest themselves as length one day, then width another day, then height yet another day, as some try to teach that it’s one God manifesting Himself in different ways at different times.  The cube has three measurements, but they all coexist at one time in one cube.  Like His creation, God is three-dimensional: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Father isn’t the Son or the Spirit, the Son isn’t the Father or the Spirit and the Spirit isn’t the Father or the Son.  Three different Persons, for lack of a better word, all different, but all coexisting at the time as one God.  “…the Word was God.”

One final thought on this.  Some say that Jesus never claimed to be God.  Funny, the people who heard Him tried to kill Him because they understood that was exactly what He was claiming in John 8:58, when He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” 

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…, John 1:14.  Here is the reason for the other two genealogies.  The story of Jesus doesn’t start, “Once upon a time”; it’s rooted firmly in and grounded on the history of Israel as revealed in the Old Testament.  I know there are those who deny that such a man as Jesus ever even existed, but after all the attempts over 2000 years to get rid of Him and He’s still here – must be something “real” about Him.

Notice John’s comparison: “the Word was God”the Word became flesh.”  Nowhere does John or the Bible say that the Word “became,” that is, that it came into existence, or that it became God.  In other words, there has never been a time, if we can speak of eternity like that, when the Word did not exist, or that it did not exist as God.  There was a time, however, when “the Word became flesh.”  Matthew and Luke give us some details of that “becoming.”

“The Word became flesh.”  Four words.

“The Word became flesh.”  Four words, describing an event which has no parallel in history.  Psalm 113:5, 6 says, Who is like the LORD our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth?”  The Lord God “humbles” Himself to look at this speck of dirt off to one side of His creation.  What must it have been like for the Lord Jesus, not just to “look” at this planet, but to live on it?  We think we know so much, with our “Doctors of Theology,” our “books,” our “mega-churches,” etc. [and I’m not opposed to education or “books,” or church] it’s just that I don’t think we know even as much about our Lord’s “humiliation” [to use the theological term] as a babe knows about it’s mother’s agony in birthing it.  How can we?  The Word became flesh…. 

It’s not for nothing that Paul refers to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in 2 Corinthians 8:9, where he continues, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor…. The Lord didn’t come down to this world to be feted in Rome, or to live in a place like the White House or Buckingham Palace or to be listed among the elite of this world.  He came to live in a relatively minor province of Rome, a troublesome province, in a village as the son of a carpenter.  He was totally unknown for 18 years of His life, and in the last three three, “fame” was fleeting, and hostility and opposition were lasting and increasing.  Even though He rose from the dead, as far as the world is concerned, He may as well still be dead.  Even if people class Him with the religious figures of this world, they’re more likely to live by their teachings than His.

So, you see, the third genealogy gives us a more complete idea of Who Jesus of Nazareth really was, and is.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,…and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us….