Sacred Winds Ministries

Christian outreach through music and education.

Jesus Is God

by Dr. James D. Castlen

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:58

John’s Purpose

Each of the four Gospels in the New Testament presents the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Matthew portrays Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Mark’s purpose is to reveal Him as God’s servant, while Luke emphasizes Christ’s humanity. In John’s Gospel, however, Jesus is revealed as the all-glorious Son of God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. From beginning to end, John’s grand thesis is that Jesus is God. John’s opening lines declare: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He [God’s Son] was in the beginning with God” (1:1-2). Toward the end of his Gospel, John states his purpose explicitly: “Now Jesus did many other signs…which are not written in this book: but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in His name” (19:30-31). We know that John is speaking of Jesus of Nazareth, who came to earth as God Incarnate in the form of the Babe of Bethlehem, because he says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (1:14). 

Jesus’ Indirect Claims

Because of his purpose in setting Jesus forth as fully God, John’s Gospel is replete with both direct and indirect claims to deity made by Christ Himself.  John’s frequent mention of these revealed that his conception of the Lord Jesus Christ was the highest that could be imagined. Some of Jesus’ indirect assertions are stated as metaphors by which He describes Himself as the source of everything good and the answer to every basic need of mankind. Thus, Jesus self-identified as…the bread of life (6:35); the light of the world (8:12; 9:5); the door (10:7, 9); the good shepherd (10:11, 14); the resurrection and the life (11:25); the way, the truth, and the life (14:6); and the (true) vine (15:1, 5). Only God could make such claims as these.

Other indirect affirmations of deity that Jesus made include statements implying that both He and the Father are givers of the gift of eternal life (4:10, 14); that the Father and the Son are deserving of equal honor (5:23); that knowledge of the Father is equated with knowledge of the Son, and conversely, that lack of knowledge of the Son is the same as not knowing the Father (8:19); that His works testify that the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father (10:38); that both the Father and the Son are equally glorified in the raising of Lazarus (11:4); that to know Jesus is to know the Father, and to have seen Jesus is to have seen the Father (14:7). Some of these assertions aroused the anger of the religious leaders to the point that they were actively plotting to kill Him.

Jesus’ Direct Claims

As John writes under the inspiration of the Spirit, he also includes seven other explicit statements which Jesus made using the assertive “I AM,” which exacerbated the enmity and the ever-widening division between Himself and the Jewish authorities. Interested Bible students can follow up on these references in context: 4:26; 6:20; 8:24; 8:28; 8:58; 13:19; and 18:5. These were considered blasphemous by the Jewish leaders and were punishable by stoning. I will mention only one, however, which was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

In the eighth chapter, during a lengthy back-and-forth in which the leaders had been challenging everything He said, Jesus declared that Abraham had rejoiced to see His day. The Jews retorted that there was no way that, as young as Jesus was, He could have seen Abraham (vss. 56-57). And then, in verse 58, Jesus asserted, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” This so enraged the leaders that they immediately took up stones to stone Him. Why their extreme reaction?

It is evident that here Jesus was affirming that He existed before Abraham was born—that is, He was claiming an eternal pre-existence. That in itself, however, was not grounds for stoning. Their violent reaction came when Jesus referred to Himself by using the name “I AM,” the name by which God had revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3:13-14). They rightly understood Him to be saying that He Himself was “I AM WHO I AM…JEHOVAH…THE LORD.” That same Jesus is the One whose name is above every name and to whom every knee will bow, confessing that He is Lord (Isa. 45:23; Phil. 2:10-11), and who is deserving of universal worship, because He is God.        

Soli Deo Gloria.

James Castlen (DMA, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Pastor to Senior Adults at First Baptist Church in Mt. Washington, KY.

Testimonials

“I am impressed that the group is not satisfied with merely playing the standard repertoire.”

Thomas W. Bolton, Ph.D.
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary