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Before Abraham Was, I AM

by Dale Offutt

This begins a series of lessons by Bro. Offutt on the “I Am” assurances of Jesus.

(Transcribed from Words of Life Radio Program)

“Before Abraham was born, I am.”

This is one of the most powerful statements ever made by Jesus. My friends, when he said that he existed before Abraham was born, he was proclaiming his divinity.  Not only was he saying that he existed before Abraham was born, but he also was taking for himself God’s name, being I am.  The Jewish leaders who heard this powerful statement tried to stone him. They said that he was guilty of blasphemy because he claimed equality with God. Of course, as Christians we know that he is God.

To appreciate the setting for our study, we will do well to read from the gospel of John chapter eight verses 54 through 59. Will you follow along with us as we read?

Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing: it is my Father that glorifieth me; of whom ye say that he is your God; and ye have not known him: but I know him; and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be like unto you, a liar: but I know him, and keep his word.  Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad.”

The Jews therefore said unto him, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?”  Jesus said unto them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was born, I am.” They took up stones therefore to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.

Note the relationship of Jesus to the Father in his entire devotion to him. Now this would include his perfect knowledge. Jesus said, “I know him.” His knowledge of the Father was essential, absolute and most intimate. He did not have merely knowledge that he had gathered from the past. It is true that he had gotten knowledge from the past and that he possessed it in the present, but entire devotion included his faithful confession of him. “I know him.”

Oh, yes, Jesus gladly confessed his Father God before men. He did not hide the knowledge he possessed of the Father. He faithfully declared him.  His entire devotion included a complete and thorough obedience to his Father’s will. Jesus said, “I keep his saying.” Oh, his saying was his will. The Father’s saying was Jesus’ message. This he faithfully kept devotedly. He preached and taught the message God gave him.  He swerved not from his Father’s command because of his enemies and their threats. Jesus very carefully and with enthusiasm carried out the will of his Father.

Note again the relationship of Jesus to his Father, some features of his special honor. The honor of absolute self denial and self forgetfulness, he honored not himself. The apostle declared about Jesus: He made himself of no reputation. The apostle Paul, my friends, realized that this was an outstanding characteristic of Jesus. He made himself of no reputation. Oh, the honor of the most devoted loyalty, the honor derived from the highest source. It was not self-thought, not self-derived, not self-conferred. This kind of honor Jesus said would be worthless.  “If I glorify myself my glory is nothing. It is my Father that glorifieth me of whom ye say that he is your God.”
Yes, Jesus really was honored by his Father and his Father made him what he was because of his essential dignity and relationship and his unquestionable devotion. In Jesus’ relation to the Father we note his entire contrast with his enemies. You see, his enemies were ignorant of him. Of whom they called their God, Jesus declared boldly, “Ye have not known him.” How sad but true. In spite of their advantages, the Jews still did not really know their God.  Jesus knew God. He gave proof of his knowledge. His enemies were, in fact, false. Oh, they were good pretenders. They were liars or false witnesses of Jesus, of God. Jesus was true to all.

My friends, he was and is the faithful and true witness. The Jews made their claim, but their claimed relationship with God was simply an empty boast. Their Spirit, their attitude and actions, their conduct and the kind of life they lived disproved their relationship with God. However, Jesus proved his relationship to God by his divine knowledge, by his public ministry, his divine miracles and by the actions and by the life that he lived.

Note Jesus in relation to Abraham and Abraham to him. The Jews claimed Abraham as their father. Oh, they attempted to cause discord between Jesus and Abraham, but Jesus reveals himself in relation to the patriarch Abraham. Note in relation to the highest interest, the incarnate life, Jesus became flesh. This was revealed to Abraham in a beautiful and exciting way.  Jesus said to the Jews, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day and he saw it and was glad.”
As Bible students, fellow Christians, you will remember from reading in the book of Genesis chapter 12 that God told Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, that through him all the nations would be blessed. Abraham had been able to see this through the eyes of faith. Jesus, as his descendant, blessed all people through his death, resurrection, and his provision of salvation. Yes, the incarnate life of Jesus was revealed to Abraham in the promise which God made to him. Don’t you know, my friends, that Abraham surely was excited when he received such a revelation from God? He surely pondered what he had seen and heard from God about the coming Jesus.

Abraham saw it and was glad. Abraham’s faith accepted the vision of the incarnate life of Jesus which was granted to him. Abraham was known to be one who believed God. God tested Abraham’s faith along the way in his earthly pilgrimage. You will remember the experience on Mount Moriah. God told Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. God honored Abraham’s faith by providing himself a sacrifice.

We believe that on this occasion Abraham also had a vision of the incarnate life of the Son of God. Yes, Jesus declared to the Jews he saw it and was glad. He was delighted.

Someone said that Abraham surely stood on his spiritual tiptoes. He surely made use of the light God gave him to see Jesus incarnate. Of course, this prepared Abraham to receive more light. Yes, Abraham had visions. He had heard the voice of God confirm the promise. In his seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
Now for further study on this exciting relationship of Abraham and God, the person Jesus, may we suggest to diligent Bible students that you review Genesis 12 through 15 and study Genesis 18 through 22?  In the New Testament the apostle Paul made reference to Abraham’s relation to Jesus. In the book of Romans Paul declared that Abraham wavered not through unbelief, but waxed strong through faith, giving glory to God, being fully assured that what he had promised he was able also to perform. Wherefore also it was reckoned unto him for righteousness, Romans four verses 21, 22.

Abraham believed that God could do what mankind could not do. My friends, do we believe that strongly today?  God, increase our faith.

And again note Jesus in relation to Abraham. “Before Abraham was born, I am.”  Now there was a time when Abraham was not, but there was never a time when the Son of God was not.  Please note carefully Jesus did not say, “Before Abraham was, I was.”  No, Jesus has a timeless existence. He is the I am.  The apostle Paul made this point very clear in speaking to the church at Colossae, Colossians one verse 17.  He is the, not was, but he is before all things and in him all things consist.

My friends, when we hear the words regarding the nature of Jesus, I am, we are reminded of his unchangeable character and time.  Even among the changes in this world we are reminded of his eternal personality.   He is one that never changes.  As the Hebrew writer states: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yea, and forever, Hebrews 13 verse eight.

Let us note the relationship of himself to his enemies.  They heard what Jesus was saying with regard to his relationship to Abraham and to God.  But his very presence made them very uncomfortable. His claim before Abraham was born, I am, should have brought meaning and purpose to their lives, but not so.  Their pretense and their false hope were exposed. And, my friends, when they heard Jesus make a true claim, they responded to him by taking up stones to throw at him. Of course, their stone throwing was a sign of weakness. They could not appreciate the claim of Jesus, nor could they control themselves.

We do well to remember that natural relationships cannot outlive the spiritual ones.  Natural relationships are between people. Spiritual ones can be between people, but always are between people and God. One thing for certain, when the spiritual relationships are destroyed, there is nothing left. Not even natural relationships offer any meaning to life.  And by the very powerful statement Jesus made before his enemies he was simply showing connections for one to have salvation, even holding up God the Savior through Jesus, the I am before Abraham.

Jesus, yet today, my friends, has the offer of salvation. Oh, yes, salvation is to all who will respond to the invitation of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

But we ask you a question. My friends, what is your response to Jesus?  Let Jesus become your personal Savior. Repent of sin. Acknowledge Jesus as Savior. Be baptized. Be immersed into Christ for the forgiveness of sins and then you can live with joy and you can know the wonderful expectation of the return of Jesus, the I am.

-Dale Offutt is a  retired minister living in Sellersburg, IN


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Philippians 4:13