Answering Atheism’s Questions Part 5: The Deity of Christ

John 8:58 “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

American Christians who don’t study their bibles are easily duped by nonbelievers with a simple challenge: “Jesus never claimed to be God.” Yet Jesus Himself constantly claimed to be God. In this week’s verse, He makes a very direct claim to being God. Let’s walk through this example so you can be certain.

In the 8th chapter of the New Testament gospel of John, Jesus is being pressed by the Jewish religious leaders tell them plainly who He claims to be: “’Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he shall never see death.’ Then the Jews said to Him, ‘Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets, and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” (John 8:51-53). Obviously, Jesus is telling them that anyone who obeys Him will have eternal life.

Jesus absolutely shocks them with His response in verses 56-59: “’Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.’ Then the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet 50 years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’ Then they took up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” Let’s take a minute to examine the words Jesus used.

 rejoiced = Gr. “agalliaō” = it means to jump for joy, to be overwhelmingly excited

 see = Gr. “eidō” = it means to see literally, to behold and fully comprehend

 day = Gr. “hemera” = it means to make a literal appearance in the time space between dawn and dark

In verse 56, Jesus is clearly telling these Jewish leaders that Abraham literally saw Him and met with Him personally, and Abraham was overwhelmed with joy when he got to meet with Jesus Christ.

 I AM = Gr. “ejgwV eijmi” = the literal translation of Jesus’ statement in John 8:58 is: “Before Abraham came into existence I, the “I AM,” eternally was, am now, and shall be.”

In verse 57, the Jews understood exactly what Jesus meant in verse 56: “You are not yet 50 years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Now, in verse 58, Jesus Christ makes a direct claim to deity. Jesus gives Himself the same name as YHWH in Exodus 3:13-15, when Moses asked God what was His name:

“Moses said to God, ‘Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you”, and they say to me, “What is His name?”, what shall I say to them?’

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”. You shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you. The Lord 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 My memorial to all generations.’” YHWH calls Himself by the same name as Jesus. This is because Jesus Christ and YHWH are the same Person. Jesus is God.

The Jews understood that Jesus called Himself God. They want to stone him. Leviticus 24:16 commands the stoning of anyone who blasphemes God’s name. In John 10:33, they charge Jesus with blasphemy.

“Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall be put to death.” (Leviticus 24:16). “The Jews answered Him, saying, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.’” (John 10:33).

CS Lewis in ‘Mere Christianity’: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ A man who said the things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
“The Evidence of Faith’s Substance” _ Article #542

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