Start: Introduction to A Zero Fluff Bible Study on the Deity of Christ

Lesson 3

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Lesson 3: Exodus based verse set that demonstrates the deity of Christ

Welcome to Lesson 3 of A Zero Fluff Bible Study on the deity of Christ. In case you missed them, links to the Introduction and Lessons 1 and 2 are above.

Lessons 1 and 2 explored the category of singular verses in the Bible that demonstrate the deity of Christ. Simply reading these verses alone (in context of course) shows that Jesus is in fact God. The truth about Jesus is right there in each verse. These are known as primary texts for they speak clearly and directly to the doctrine at hand.

Verse Sets that demonstrate the deity of Christ
This study continues by shifting focus to a second category of verses. Category Two consists of a special collection of verse sets that give evidence to the deity of Christ. I remember when I first discovered that the Bible contained these special sets. What joy they brought! I pray that you find them to be just as edifying as I did, and that they lead to praise and worship to the glory of God.

The verse sets that we will be looking at will usually consist of at least one Old Testament verse and one New Testament verse. We will examine the verses side by side. When the verses are read in light of each other, they give powerful testimony to the deity of Christ.

There are four lessons in this category.
Lesson 3: Exodus based verse set that demonstrates the deity of Christ
Lesson 4: Isaiah based verse sets that demonstrate the deity of Christ
Lesson 5: Psalms and Zechariah based verse sets that demonstrate the deity of Christ
Lesson 6: Verse sets of The ONLYs (You’ll just have to wait and see what these are!)

Please take a moment to pray and get your Bible. As you work through the lesson below, remember to take your time and read the verses in context, especially if you are unfamiliar with them. Let’s begin!

First verse set that demonstrates the deity of Christ (Exodus based)

Old Testament verses: Read Exodus 3:13-15
New Testament verses: Read John 8:58-59, John 18:4-6 (John 8:24 & 28, John 13:19)
Subject: Jesus refers to Himself as “I am” (“I am” is a divine designation of God in the Old Testament)

The first set that we are going to look at is so special, it is getting its own lesson! This first set contains a verse from one of the earliest books of the Old Testament: Exodus. It’s awesome that biblical evidence related to the deity of Christ appears so early! These ancient gems of truth about God become even more precious centuries later when they speak to the nature of Jesus. This first set of verses not only reaches far back in time, it also touches on a profound topic. This set is about a personal and unique way that God revealed Himself to humanity. I am referring to the great “I am”.  We will see that it is used both for God in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament.

God is “I AM”

God refers to Himself as “I am” in Exodus 3:13-15. It is during that heart stopping scene when God speaks to Moses from a bush blazing with fire! What a moment in time! During their conversation, Moses asked for God’s name so he would have something with which to answer the Israelites if they asked.

(13) “Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?”
(14) God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM“; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”
(15) God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘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, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.”
Exodus 3:13-15 (emphasis mine)

In this holy encounter with God, Moses learned that God is “I am”.  This is a clear identifier of God. He is “I am”.

Moses also learned another identifier of God in this exchange. In Exodus 3:15, God gives His name! You may not have noticed that He gave His name because it is represented in the English by the word Lord in all caps: “LORD.  LORD and sometimes GOD is how the New American Standard Bible and other English versions like the King James Bible and the English Standard Version represent the over six-thousand occurrences of God’s name in the Old Testament.

In the Hebrew, God’s name, often rendered Yahweh in English, consists of four Hebrew consonants: YHWH. These four letters are referred to as the tetragrammaton. The matter of God’s name is no small thing, and we will come to it again later in this study when we **spoiler alert** see this name applied to Jesus! That is why I want to highlight it here for a moment, but I am not going to veer off in that direction just yet.

Since we have the great identifier “I am” for God, if Jesus is God, we would not be surprised to see Him referred to in the same way. It would not have to happen in order for it to still be true that Jesus is God; but if it did happen (and it does), that would be strong evidence for the deity of Christ! For indeed, if someone used “I am” for themselves and they were not God, that would be blasphemy!

Jesus is “I AM”

John 8:58-59

There are a number of times in the New Testament where Jesus refers to Himself as “I am”. They are all in the book of John. We will begin by looking at John 8:58. In John 8 we find Jesus teaching in the treasury in the temple. (John 8:20) He had a rather intense conversation with Jews there. Please read the chapter to take in the scene. There is a lot to marvel at! Amongst other things, there was talk of Jesus’ possible suicide (John 8:22), questions about Jesus’ identity (John 8:25, 53), talk of the devil and demon possession (vs. 41, 44, 48-49, 52), conversation about the truth and lies (vs. 32, 44-46, 55), and quite a bit about Abraham (vs. 33, 37, 39, 40, 52-53).

On that last topic, near the end of their exchange, Jesus says to the Jews: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56) This comment was puzzling to them. How could Jesus know this about Abraham? Had He seen him? They ask Him as much in the next verse: “So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” (John 8:57) Jesus’ answer is the declaration to which we have been building. He declared that He not only existed before Abraham (and therefore could have seen him), but that He existed in a unique way. His answer harkened back to that ancient, holy encounter at the burning bush between God and Moses. Jesus referred to Himself in the same way that God revealed Himself to Moses!

“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.’” (John 8:58) (emphasis mine)

Jesus’ use of “I am” was not missed by the Jews. Their reaction is telling. They took up stones!!

“Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” (John 8:59)

Why did they want to throw stones at Jesus? Because they were responding to His declaration of preexistence and the use of “I am” for Himself. They of course knew that “I am” was a designation for the God of the Jews; therefore, to their understanding, Jesus was saying that He was God (Yahweh)! To them, this was blasphemy! They took up stones to kill Jesus. How dare He claim to be God! They heard what He said and understood Him correctly, but they did not have ears to hear.

John 18:4-6

Let’s look at another place that Jesus refers to Himself as “I am”.  It took place during His arrest before His crucifixion. The passage is in John 18. It is the familiar scene in the garden of Gethsemane in which Judas leads soldiers and officers to Jesus. When they arrive, Jesus speaks to them:

“So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and *said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’ They answered Him, ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’ He *said to them, ‘I am He.’ And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. So when He said to them, ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” (John 18:4-6) (underline emphasis mine)

When those who came to arrest Jesus heard Him say “I am He” they reacted in a highly peculiar way. His answer caused the men to fall to the ground! To properly discuss their reaction, I need to explain something first.

The word “He” in Jesus’ answer “I am He” is not present in the Greek. The “He” was added by translators. We can tell that “He” was added because it appears italicized. Various Bible versions utilize this method or similar methods to indicate words that are not in the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, but were added to help the transition from Hebrew or Greek to English. But in this case and in others, instead of making the meaning clear, the added word masks the real meaning of the passage.

John MacArthur addresses this issue in his Bible commentary during another occurrence of an added “He” at John 8:24:

I am He. ‘He’ is not part of the original statement. Jesus’ words were not constructed normally but were influenced by OT Hebrew usage. It is an absolute usage meaning ‘I AM’ which has immense theological significance. The reference may be to both Exodus 3:14 where the Lord declared His name as ‘I AM’ and to Isaiah 40-55 where the phrase ‘I am’ occurs repeatedly (especially 43:10, 13, 25; 46:4; 48:12). In this, Jesus referred to Himself as the God (Yahweh -the LORD) of the OT, and directly claimed full deity for Himself, prompting the Jews’ question of verse 25.” [1]

If you look back, you can see that “He” was added and italicized in all three of the occurrences of “I am He” in the account of Jesus’ arrest. (The third time is in John 18:8) Since “He” is not in the original wording, we should see these occurrences as “I am.” This gives us an extremely different phrase.

Now back to scene of Jesus’ arrest and the reaction of the men who “drew back and fell to the ground“. It is not normal for officers and military types to hit the deck when an unarmed man simply lets them know that He is the one they are looking for. Men like this are trained to stay off the ground! Something unusual was happening here. If you back up to John 18:3 you will see that Judas came with a “cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees”; and they came with “lanterns and torches and weapons“. This was not a couple of men with sticks! Cohort is a term used to describe a part of the Roman army. It contained approximately 480 soldiers. [2] The MacArthur Bible Commentary mentions that the number in a cohort could be 600 – 200 men. [3] So what caused these men to draw back and fall to the ground?

The answer is in who Jesus is and what He said. All He said was “I am”, but that was enough! Why? Because this is a divine designation for God. When used by God and only God, it is rightly filled with power and authority. Look at the reaction it got! And it created this reaction in men serving in a Roman cohort who probably didn’t even have prior knowledge of the significance of “I am”!

If anyone else had said “I am”, these men would not have reacted that way. But Jesus is not just anyone. He is God. We have already seen this in John 8:58 when these same words “I am” and a claim of preexistence were taken as blasphemy. We can see His deity in other places in John too. Remember John 1:1 from an earlier lesson in this study? There is also John 5:18, John 17:5, and more.

That night, Jesus made something very clear, He was “I am”. In that reality, His words knocked down officers and a detachment of armed soldiers! That’s awesome and frankly, quite terrifying. The men were only able to proceed with the arrest, after a third utterance of “I am”, because Jesus allowed it. Though He stood physically unarmed, He had the scene under control. He kept His apostles safe. (John 18:8-9) The power of the living God and the power in His words are beyond all human understanding.

A truth filled warning from Jesus

There are eternal consequences connected with what you believe about Jesus as “I am” (God). Consider this powerful, truth filled warning from Him:

“And He was saying to them, ‘You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.'” (John 8:23-24) (underlined emphasis mine)

Did you catch it? Again, as seen above in Mr. MacArthur’s commentary on John 8:24 and just like the other verses we discussed, the “He” is italicized; and therefore it is not in the Greek. So let’s read the last part of verse 24 without the “He”.  Jesus said:

…unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins. (John 8:24b)

Believing in Jesus as “I am” (God) is necessary for salvation. If you do not know Him as such, please pray that you would be given eyes to see. Turn to Him today; for without this proper belief about Him, you will die in your sins. (See also: John 3:16, John 11:25, John 14:6, Acts 4:12)

For more occurrences of “I am” applied to Jesus, see John 8:28 and John 13:19.

Next up

Next week we will be moving on to verse sets involving the book of Isaiah. There is some more exciting theology coming up. Be sure not to miss it! Please subscribe to be notified of new posts by email or follow Chapter 3 Ministries on Facebook or Twitter to see new posts there.

 

Update: Lesson 4 is up!  Zero Fluff Bible Study on the Deity of Christ: Lesson 4

 

Footnotes
[1] MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Commentary. Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2005, p. 1384-1385.
[2] Organization of the Roman Imperial Legion | UNRV.Com
[3]  MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Commentary. Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2005, p. 1415.