Jesus’ Identity: Who Gave the Law?

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Jesus’ Identity

Who Gave the Law?

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Jesus’ Identity: Who Gave the Law?

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Scripture repeatedly tells us that no one has seen God the Father at any time. The apostle John makes this quite clear in John 1:18 John 1:18No man has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.
American King James Version×
: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”

John had just explained in this chapter that he was a personal eyewitness of “the Word” who became flesh as Jesus Christ, so this cannot refer to Him. The “God” whom no one has ever seen at any time thus has to be referring to God the Father.

John repeats this exact same statement in 1 John 4:12 1 John 4:12No man has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwells in us, and his love is perfected in us.
American King James Version×
: “No one has seen God at any time.”

We also see two such explicit statements from Jesus Christ Himself. Notice John 5:37 John 5:37And the Father himself, which has sent me, has borne witness of me. You have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.
American King James Version×
: “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.”

And just to be clear, Jesus again says that no one has ever seen the Father in John 6:46 John 6:46Not that any man has seen the Father, save he which is of God, he has seen the Father.
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: “No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father” (NIV).

Here Jesus plainly says that no one has seen the Father except the One who is from God—this referring to Himself. Of all people, He alone has seen the Father. No human being has ever seen the Father.

Yet in the books of the Old Testament period we’re told that a number of people didsee God. They include Abraham (Genesis 12:7 Genesis 12:7And the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, To your seed will I give this land: and there built he an altar to the LORD, who appeared to him.
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; Genesis 15:1 Genesis 15:1After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward.
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; Genesis 18:1 Genesis 18:1And the LORD appeared to him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
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), Isaac (Genesis 26:2 Genesis 26:2And the LORD appeared to him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell you of:
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; Genesis 26:24 Genesis 26:24And the LORD appeared to him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham your father: fear not, for I am with you, and will bless you, and multiply your seed for my servant Abraham's sake.
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), Jacob (Genesis 28:13 Genesis 28:13And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac: the land where on you lie, to you will I give it, and to your seed;
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; Genesis 32:30 Genesis 32:30And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
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; Genesis 35:9-10 Genesis 35:9-10 [9] And God appeared to Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him. [10] And God said to him, Your name is Jacob: your name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be your name: and he called his name Israel.
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), Moses (Exodus 3:6 Exodus 3:6Moreover he said, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look on God.
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; Exodus 33:11 Exodus 33:11And the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.
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; Exodus 33:21-23 Exodus 33:21-23 [21] And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and you shall stand on a rock: [22] And it shall come to pass, while my glory passes by, that I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and will cover you with my hand while I pass by: [23] And I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.
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), Aaron and the 70 elders of Israel (Exodus 24:9-11 Exodus 24:9-11 [9] Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: [10] And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. [11] And on the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.
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), Joshua (Joshua 6:2 Joshua 6:2And the LORD said to Joshua, See, I have given into your hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor.
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) and Gideon (Judges 6:14 Judges 6:14And the LORD looked on him, and said, Go in this your might, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent you?
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). So whom did these individuals see when they saw God? The only way we can make sense of this is to understand that no man had seen God the Father at any time.

What they saw as recorded in these many passages, and at other times when God appeared to individuals, was the Word who was with God and was God (John 1:1 John 1:1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
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), the One who was born in the flesh as Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:14 John 1:14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
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). With this understanding there is no contradiction. The Bible doesn’t contradict itself, as “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35 John 10:35If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
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).

Jesus was the “I AM” who spoke to Moses

The One who appeared and spoke to people as God during Old Testament times was the One who became Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself clearly said this, and the people who heard Him knew that was exactly what He meant. Notice this in John 8:57-58 John 8:57-58 [57] Then said the Jews 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 was, I am.
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, where Jesus was in a heated debate with some of the Jews who opposed Him, and He said that Abraham rejoiced to see His day.

“Then the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’”

Here Jesus specifically told them of His divine identity—that He existed before Abraham, and then that He was the God who had interacted with people during the Old Testament period. Who did He specifically claim to be?

We find the answer in Exodus 3:13-14 Exodus 3:13-14 [13] And Moses said to God, Behold, when I come to the children of Israel, and shall say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say to them? [14] And God said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.
American King James Version×
, where God appeared to Moses at the burning bush and told Moses that He would deliver the Israelites from their enslavement in Egypt.

“Then 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?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”’”

And 15 centuries later, what did Jesus say about who He was? Going back to what we just read in John 8:58 John 8:58Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I am.
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, “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’”

And notice what happened immediately after Jesus said these words: “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” (John 8:59 John 8:59Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the middle of them, and so passed by.
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).

The Jews who heard Jesus say these words knew exactly what He meant—that He was claiming to be the “I AM” who had interacted with Moses. And how did they react? They immediately took up stones to stone Him to death for claiming to be God!

Jesus, Israel’s Lawgiver, has not changed

In light of these clear passages, who was Israel’s Lawgiver who spoke to Moses, gave him the tablets of the Ten Commandments written with His own finger and ate a covenant meal with the elders of Israel? (See Exodus 24:9-12 Exodus 24:9-12 [9] Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: [10] And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. [11] And on the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink. [12] And the LORD said to Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give you tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that you may teach them.
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; Exodus 31:18 Exodus 31:18And he gave to Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him on mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.
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; Exodus 34:28-35 Exodus 34:28-35 [28] And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote on the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. [29] And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses knew not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. [30] And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come near him. [31] And Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned to him: and Moses talked with them. [32] And afterward all the children of Israel came near: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai. [33] And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. [34] But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out. And he came out, and spoke to the children of Israel that which he was commanded. [35] And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone: and Moses put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
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.) It was none other than the One who became Jesus Christ—He was the same God who gave the law at Mt. Sinai! (To learn more, be sure to read our free study guides Who Is God? and Jesus Christ: The Real Story.)

This is why Jesus would say in Matthew 5:17 Matthew 5:17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
American King James Version×
: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” The Greek word translated “fulfill” here is pleroo, meaning “to make full,” “to fill to the full,” “to make complete in every particular,” “to render perfect” or “to carry through to the end” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 2005). Jesus didn’t come to end the law, but to show us by His perfect example how to live that law to its full spiritual intent!

He plainly tells us what should guide our lives: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
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, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 Deuteronomy 8:3And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.
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). Of course, those words He spoke of were His own!

And Jesus has not changed. As Hebrews 13:8 Hebrews 13:8Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
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tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He did not reveal God’s law to Israel only to come in the flesh 15 centuries later to do away with that same law—such reasoning is nonsensical and unscriptural!

John, the last remaining of the 12 apostles, wrote near the end of his life: “My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

“And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, ‘I know God,’ but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did” (1 John 2:1-6 1 John 2:1-6 [1] My little children, these things write I to you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: [2] And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our's only, but also for the sins of the whole world. [3] And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. [4] He that said, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. [5] But whoever keeps his word, in him truly is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. [6] He that said he stays in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
American King James Version×
, NLT).

Obviously Jesus did not come to do away with the law that He Himself had given in the first place. He did come to pay the death penalty for all of us breaking the law, taking on Himself the penalty we deserved and giving us the opportunity for eternal life in the family of God. In doing so, He upheld the law He had given as a vital part of God’s wonderful gift of grace!

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