Before Abraham Was – I Am
John 8:54-59 MKJV Jesus answered, If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say that He is your God. (55) Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I should say I do not know Him, I would be a liar like you. But I know Him and I keep His Word. (56) Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and He saw and was glad. (57) Then the Jews said to Him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham? (58) Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham came into being, I AM! (59) Then they took up stones to throw at Him. But Jesus hid Himself and went forth out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and passed on by.
“Jesus answered, If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say that He is your God. “ Jesus now directly equates “the father” with God, with YHWH. He also says the father is NOT truly the God of the Jewish religionists. They thought they were worshipping the true God but in fact they were ‘liars”(v. 55). They had not a clue about who God the Father was like and what He really wanted from them – which was repentance, humility, mercy and justice.
Many people are sure they are serving God, when in fact they are wicked. This includes terrorists, suicide bombers, the IRA, lynch mobs, and those who kill abortion clinic doctors. Many bible-believing people run cults such as the Branch Davidians. They are SURE that they serve God the father, but they are in fact serving the Devil. In fact, as we saw two days ago they are literally “sons of the Devil”.
How can we be sure that we are not among them? How can we be sure that we are not like a sincere Pharisee in Jesus’ day? The small epistle of 1 John uses the words “of God” / “not of God” some 30 times and “of the Devil” / “of the evil one” at least three times. It is a manual for spiritual discernment and helping us to know what is “of God” and what isn’t and tells us to “test the spirits to see whether they are of God. (1 John 4:1-3)
There are four main tests: (1) Practical Love (2) A Lifestyle Of Consistent Ethical Righteousness
(3) Correct Basic Doctrine and (4) The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Basic doctrine includes the Incarnation, Jesus being the Son of God and the Blood (the Cross & Resurrection). There are also strong warnings against worldliness and numerous exhortations to a simple New Testament lifestyle. Most cults go wrong on at least one, and often two or more of these four points.
We need to stop and check to see if we are in the faith. Are we loving or are we filled with resentments? Are we righteous or do we disobey some of God’s commandments without blinking? Are we in agreement with correct basic doctrine such as the Nicene Creed? Are we conscious of the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit? Having one or two is not enough – for instance we cannot say “ I believe the Bible, I just hate everything that moves!” and be a true Christian and worshipper of God the Father.
Jesus then confronts the Jews by contrasting His walk with God, with their own. “Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I should say I do not know Him, I would be a liar like you. But I know Him and I keep His Word.” Jesus is utterly committed to telling the Truth – even when that Truth is so “in your face” and insulting. Jesus knew God and was going to say so, even if they didn’t like it, because it was true. By contrast the Jews were “liars” because they said they knew God – but they did not.
Jesus saw these kinds of liars – that is people falsely claiming to know God, as a real problem and taught against them often. One passage in Matthew stands out:
Matthew 7:15-23 MKJV Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. (16) You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? (17) Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. (18) A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruits, nor can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. (19) Every tree that does not bring forth good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (20) Therefore by their fruits you shall know them. (21) Not everyone who says to Me, Lord! Lord! shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven. (22) Many will say to Me in that day, Lord! Lord! Did we not prophesy in Your name, and through Your name throw out demons, and through Your name do many wonderful works? (23) And then I will say to them I never knew you! Depart from Me, those working lawlessness!
People can claim to do miracles and cast out demons and prophesy and still not know God. The sign of really knowing God is love and good fruits. People who really know God are simple, meek, humble, holy folk who are full of love, joy, peace and patience.
1 John 4:7-8 MKJV Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves has been born of God, and knows God. (8) The one who does not love has not known God. For God is love.
1 John 2:3-6 MKJV And by this we know that we have known Him, if we keep His commandments. (4) He who says, I have known Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (5) But whoever keeps His Word, truly in this one the love of God is perfected. By this we know that we are in Him. (6) He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk even as He walked.
Jesus then moves to make yet another amazing claim that he knew would only further infuriate His opponents: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and He saw and was glad.” This is saying that Abraham was in favor of Jesus and by implication not in favor of the Pharisees! John frequently portrays Jesus as the One who was truly carrying on the true Abrahamic faith. Abraham rejoiced to see Jesus because Jesus and Abraham were in true spiritual agreement.
“Then the Jews said to Him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” This passage gives us some clue to Jesus’ age “not yet fifty”. In fact he was probably “around 33” in which case it is puzzling why they said “not yet 40” – the age of Jewish eldership. Some manuscripts in fact do read forty. Fifty was the age of seniority and of priestly retirement. According to Gill, a Methurgeman, or an interpreter in a congregation, was not chosen under fifty years of age.
Jesus then adds fuel to the fire with: “Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham came into being, I AM!” Jesus is claiming His eternal pre-existence, as the eternal Son of God, and the One who co-existed with the Ancient of Days. The use of I AM – the equivalent of the name YHWH is part of this claim. He knows the father because He has always been with him, since before the Creation of the world. (John 1:1-3, Colossians 1: 15-20, etc).
“Then they took up stones to throw at Him. But Jesus hid Himself and went forth out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and passed on by.” As they go to find some stones Jesus slips away. No further dialogue was possible; they would not listen.
1 John 4:6 MKJV We are of God. He who knows God hears us. The one who is not of God does not hear us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.