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Before Abraham Was, I AM

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
June 2, 2023 12:01 am

Before Abraham Was, I AM

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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June 2, 2023 12:01 am

Thousands of years before the incarnation of Christ, God promised Abraham that one of his descendants would redeem the world. Today, R.C. Sproul depicts the dramatic moment when Jesus announced His fulfillment of this promise.

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Before Abraham was, I Am. This is one of the purest, unvarnished declarations of deity that Jesus ever makes during His ministry, and it was not missed by His audience because they took up stones to throw at Him. But Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through their very midst, and so passed by. Some have dared to say that Jesus never claimed to be divine, that they may believe in the historical Jesus, but He certainly wasn't God.

Well, to state that is to reveal that they have never read or at least never understood the words of Jesus Himself. Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and thank you for joining us today for Renewing Your Mind. As we conclude this week's I Am sayings, we come to an essential self-declaration of Jesus, that He is God Himself, a truth that we must never waver on or compromise. If you have ever wondered how Christians defend the deity of Jesus from the Bible, R.C. Sproul answers that in today's message.

Here's Dr. Sproul. We come now to our last session in our series of studies of the I Am's of Jesus. In fact, this represents the eighth of the I Am's, and that may trigger something in your minds if you've read the commentaries and heard other presentations of the I Am's of Jesus, because normally in the church when we talk of the I Am's of Jesus, they are listed as including seven of these pronouncements, which seven we have already counted and included. But today represents the eighth one that many commentators add to the list, even though the manner in which Jesus makes this pronouncement differs structurally from the other I Am's. All the other I Am's begin with the words, ego, emi, I am the vine, I am the good shepherd, I am the door, and so on. But in this case, in the eighth of the series, the pronouncement ends with these words. And it has to do with Jesus' declaration to the Pharisees wherein He said, before Abraham was, I Am.

Now, I believe that this should be included with the list of the I Am's, and in fact, I personally think this is the most dramatic of all of them. And to get the force of this declaration that Jesus makes, we'll turn our attention now to John's gospel to the eighth chapter. And this utterance occurs in the fifty-eighth verse where Jesus said to them, that is to the Jews, most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am.

But to catch the flavor of this pronouncement, we have to begin much earlier in the chapter, turning our attention now to verse thirty-one to see what precipitated and provoked this discussion about Christ's relationship to Abraham. In verse thirty-one, Jesus makes this comment. Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, if you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. This is one of the most important statements that Jesus ever uttered, not that He ever uttered unimportant statements, but this one, you know, if you continue in my word, then are you my disciple.

A true disciple is not one who just simply in a casual manner now and then gives attention to the words of Christ, but a true disciple of Christ abides, he stays, he maintains his posture of learning at the feet of Jesus. And so Jesus said, if, that's the important necessary condition, if you continue in my word, then are you my disciples, and then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. And so He's speaking of the liberation that God brings to the human person once they ingest, as it were, the truth that He reveals. And so that promise is given to those, we are told here in the text, who believe Jesus. And Jesus said, continue in this, and you'll know the truth, and that truth will be liberating.

It'll set you free. Now, for those who did not believe in Jesus, these words were incendiary. They became enraged, and here's why.

Listen. They answered Him, we are Abraham's descendants. We've never been in bondage to anyone. So how can You say, You shall be made free? You're acting as if we're some kind of slaves here, and You're telling us that You offer liberation. Well, to be liberated, you have to first be enslaved or imprisoned, and we've been in bondage to no men.

Why? We're the children of Abraham. We're the people of God. So here's how the whole mention of Abraham gets into this discussion in the first place. They appeal to Abraham and to their relationship to Abraham to deny that they have any need of liberation. Again, there were many people in Jesus' day and in the Old Testament who believed that just because they were born Jews that they had it made. They were included in the kingdom of God. That's why Paul had to labor the point that he who is a Jew is a Jew who is one inwardly, who has the circumcision of the heart.

Not everyone who had their biological descendancy from Abraham received the promises that God gave to Abraham, because in Isaac would his seed be called. And you have the same problem in the church today. You say, are you a Christian? And I say, of course I'm a Christian. I was born a Christian. Born in a Christian family, went to church, you know, joined. No, nobody's born a Christian. Nobody's automatically in the kingdom of God because their parents are Christian or because they're members of churches or anything like that.

You have to be in Christ to be a Christian. And so that same error was made by the opponents of Jesus when they said, they're Abraham's descendants, and how can you say you'll be made free? Now Jesus answers them, most assuredly, that is truly I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin, and a slave does not abide in the house forever, but the Son abides forever. Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

Now Jesus makes another reference to slavery. I was interviewed yesterday for a series of programs that were being presented about Reformed theology, and the person who was running this program asked me what the basic issue was between Augustinian theology or Reformed theology and historic semi-Pelagianism. I said, I think it comes down to a different understanding of freedom and of free will. I think the principal problem that people have with divine sovereignty, with divine election is immediately they say, well, we believe that man has free will. Well, I don't know any Augustinian in all of church history who didn't strongly affirm that we have free will. We are volitional creatures. God has given us minds and hearts, and He's given us wills, and we exercise that will all the time. We make choices every minute of the day, and we choose what we want.

We choose freely. Nobody's coercing us, putting a gun to our head, and we're not robots. Robots don't have minds. Robots don't have wills.

Robots don't have hearts. We're human beings. We make choices. That's why we're in trouble with God, because the choices that we make in our fallen condition are sinful choices. We choose according to our desires, which are only wicked continuously, the Bible tells us, and that we are, as it were, dead in sin and trespasses, even though biologically we're very much alive, and we're walking according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air. Fulfilling the lusts of the flesh is what the Bible tells us, and so the Bible makes it very clear that we are actively involved in making choices for which we are responsible and which expose us to the judgment of God. And yet at the same time, the Bible teaches us that we're enslaved.

We're free from coercion, but we don't have what Augustine called royal liberty. We're not free from ourselves. We're not free from our own sinful inclinations and our sinful appetites and our sinful desires. We're slaves to our sinful impulses. And that's what the Bible teaches us again and again and again. The humanist doctrine of free will, the pagan view of free will, says that man is free not only from coercion, but man is free in the sense that his will is indifferent.

Man has no predisposition or inclination, bias or bent towards sin because the pagan and the humanist deny the radical character of the fall. But the Bible teaches us that we are fallen creatures who still choose and make decisions, but we make them in the context of our prison of sin. And the only way we can get out of that prison is if God sets us free.

And this is what the Jewish leaders didn't want to hear. Don't talk to us about being slaves. We're not slaves. We're not slaves to anybody. They said, you sin, and everyone who sins is a slave. You're not a slave necessarily to the Romans. You're not a slave necessarily to the Babylonians, but you're a slave to sin, and sin reigns in you. Sin rules in your mortal body, and therein is your slavery. A slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore, if the son makes you free, you will be free.

I know that you're Abram's descendants, but you seek to kill me, Jesus said, because My Word has no place in you. I speak what I've seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father. And to hear this contrast, Jesus is saying, I follow My Father. I listen to My Father. I've seen My Father, and I do the will of My Father, and you follow your Father.

You do the will of your Father. And they answered and said to Him, Abraham is our father. And Jesus says, no, no, no. If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill me, a man who told you the truth that I heard from God.

Abraham never did this. You do the deeds of your father. And they said, we were not born of fornication. We have one father, God.

You see what they're doing? First they're claiming Abraham as their father. Now they're claiming God as their father.

And Jesus said, if God were their father, you would love Me. For I proceeded forth and came from God. Nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech?

Because you're not able to listen to My Word. You are of your father, the devil. The New Testament tells us that by nature we are children of wrath. By nature we are children of disobedience. By nature we are children of the enemy, of the evil one. Never are we by nature the children of God.

The only time we can become the children of God is by adoption because God only has one child, the monogenes, the only begotten who is Christ. And so here is the only Son of God entering into dispute with His opponents who claim a special relationship to Abraham, who claim a special relationship to God. Now, in our culture, again, we have this idea of pluralism and an inclusionary view of faith. All religions are the same, and all religions claim God as their father. And our culture says if you believe in God the Father, it doesn't matter whether you believe in Jesus. But what Jesus says is you can't believe in the Father and not believe in the Son. If you reject the Son, you are rejecting the Father who sent Him, who declared Him, and who vindicated Him to be His Son. And so this business that you can have the Father and not the Son is in sharp dispute here by Jesus with the Jewish leaders of His day. If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. Now, notice what Jesus is doing here.

This is important. There's a motif throughout Scripture that sonship is measured not simply by biology, but according to Jesus' teaching of sonship, sonship is measured by obedience. You are the children of those whom you obey. If you obey Satan, then you're children of Satan. So Jesus said to them in verse 42, If God were your father, now they claim to have God as their father, if God were their father, you would love Me, for I proceedeth forth and came from Him, nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Don't you understand my speech? Don't you understand that? If you really were following the Father, you would listen to Me.

You wouldn't seek to kill Me. But you are not able to listen to My Word. Remember Jesus says later, those who are of the truth hear My voice. Before someone listens to Christ, God has to enable them to listen to Him. Now, every time I read the Scriptures in church on Sunday morning, when I complete reading the Scripture, I say, He who has ears to hear, let him hear, because I know that not everybody has ears to hear. That part of the judgment that God gives to sin and to sinful people is to plug their ears and to put scales over their eyes so that hearing they may not hear and seeing that they may not see.

And only when God in His grace stoops to remove those obstacles to hearing and to take away the scales from our eyes and let us see, then we see, then we hear. And Jesus said, I know why you don't listen to Me. You can't, because you are of your Father the devil, and the desires of your Father you want to do. Jesus is talking about their wills, their free wills. Again, people are saying today that unless your will is utterly indifferent, has no inclination to the left or the right, no bias or bent towards good or to evil, unless it's completely indifferent, you're not really free. Well, if that's the case, then we have to say as Christians, nobody's free, because by nature our wills are not indifferent. Our wills are passionately motivated by a desire to do the will of the evil one. Jesus says this, you want to do the desires of your Father.

Now again, it's not like the devil comes in and forces people to obey him. We can't say on the last day, oh, the devil made me do it. He forced me to sin. No, Jesus says it goes deeper than that.

You want to do His desires. You are a willing accomplice to the stratagems of Satan. He, that is Satan, was a murderer from the beginning, and he does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar, and he's the father of it. But because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me. Now what a challenge he issues to them. Which of you convicts me of sin?

Wow, he's telling them. He said, you sin and you're slaves to sin. You willingly do the desires of Satan. Now, speak up, which of you convicts me of sin? Have you seen me sin?

I would never say that. I would never challenge anybody to point out a sin in my life, but Jesus does. If I tell you the truth, why don't you believe me? He who is of God hears God's words. Therefore, you do not hear because you're not of God. He doesn't say that they don't hear because they're deaf.

He doesn't say they don't hear because they're stupid. He says they don't hear because they're not of God. By now the Jews are exploding in rage, and they answered and said to him, Do we not rightly say that you are a Samaritan and have a demon? Jesus answered, I do not have a demon, but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. I don't seek My own glory, but there is one who seeks and judges, and most assuredly I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he shall never see death.

And then the Jews said, Now we know you have a demon. Abraham is dead and the prophets, and yet 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? Jesus said, If I honor Myself, if I'm just making Myself out to be something, My honor is nothing. It's My Father who honors Me. The one whom you say is your God, but you have not known Him, but I know Him.

And if I said I didn't know Him, I would be a liar just like you, but I do know Him, and I keep His word. Your father Abraham, the one towards whom you are appealing here, rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad. Jesus said, You're not even 50 years old. Have you seen Abraham? And He said, Most assuredly, before Abraham was, I am. Not before Abraham was, I was, but I am the one who was before Abraham. You see, when the Father gave the promise to Abraham that thousands of years, 2,000 years after him, out of his seed would come the one who would redeem the world, would come the Messiah, would come the incarnate one, we don't know the degree to which Abraham understood all of the content of that, but Abraham believed God's promise and was justified. And so Jesus is saying, When God spoke to Abraham that you claim to have as your father, God was speaking to Abraham about Me, and Abraham rejoiced. You can't be children of Abraham and oppose Me, because Abraham rejoiced to see My day. He's not saying that Abraham stayed around long enough to witness it, nor is He even saying that Abraham's looking at it from heaven, which is called Abraham's bosom, but He's saying in the initial revelation that God gave to Abraham, Abraham could see the promise afar off and was delighted. And now that the promise is being fulfilled by the incarnation of the one who was before Abraham, who was before all creation, who is the eternal Logos, who becomes incarnate in Jesus, the one who comes from the bosom of the Father, the only begotten of the Father, here is again another reference to that Logos concept that John introduces in the very first chapter. In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God, the pre-existent eternal God. That's what Jesus is saying. Before Abraham was, ago ami, I am.

They didn't miss the significance. This is one of the purest, unvarnished declarations of deity that Jesus ever makes during His ministry, and it was not missed by His audience, because they took up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple going through their very midst and so passed by. They couldn't take His life, but they wanted to take His life at that very moment because they heard in His claim a claim to deity. The eternal one who comes to this world, He comes as the door. He comes as the resurrection. He comes as the light of the world. He comes as the way and the truth and the life. He comes as the Good Shepherd. He comes as the vine.

He is the one who before Abraham was, is. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind. I'm Nathan W Bingham. Today's message from R.C. Sproul is the final one we're featuring from his Knowing Christ series. You can return to the I AM sayings of Jesus time and time again or study John's Gospel further with the three messages we didn't feature when you make your donation of any amount at You'll receive this eight-part series on DVD as well as get digital access to all of those messages and the study guide.

So give your gift today at or by calling us at 800 435 4343. And as a reminder, today is the final day that we're making Knowing Christ, the I AM sayings of Jesus available to you for your donation of any amount. Some read the Book of Revelation with a newspaper in hand.

Others avoid it altogether. We'll encourage you to join us next week as Ligonier Teaching Fellow W. Robert Godfrey joins us for a study of the Book of Revelation. That's beginning Monday here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-02 03:51:43 / 2023-06-02 04:00:26 / 9

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