What is the true nature of God and Christ? Who was YHWH that spoke to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and others—and was seen by them? Who was "I AM?" It's a fascinating truth you need to understand.
[Steve Myers] Question for you as we begin this afternoon, is Jesus the God of the Old Testament? What does the United Church of God teach regarding this? More importantly, what does the Bible teach? Today, we're going to take some time to examine a basic belief in teaching of Scripture that compromises the doctrinal understanding. Well, not compromises, but comprises the doctrinal understanding of the United Church of God.
To ask this a little bit differently, who and what was Jesus before His human birth? As we begin this afternoon, let's consider our fundamental belief. This will be point number one. Point number one, our fundamental belief. When the United Church of God began 22 years ago, the elders approved our fundamental beliefs as a part of our constitution and bylaws. You can find them in our booklet, "The Fundamental Beliefs of the United Church of God" or you can search the website ucg.org and you can find the fundamental beliefs.
Here's what it states. "Fundamental belief number one: God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit." It states, "We believe in one God, the Father, eternally existing, who is a Spirit, a personal being of supreme intelligence, knowledge, love, justice, power, and authority. He, through Jesus Christ, is the Creator of the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. He is the Source of life and the one for whom human life exists. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who is the Word and who has existed eternally.”
“We believe that He is the Messiah, the Christ, the divine Son of the living God, conceived of the Holy Spirit, born in human flesh of the virgin Mary. We believe that it is by Him that God created all things, and that without Him was not anything made that was made. We believe in the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of God and of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the power of God and the Spirit of life eternal."
Then it mentions these passages, “2 Timothy 1:7; Ephesians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 8:6; John 1:1-4, and Colossians 1:16.” Now in the booklet, there's a little explanation that follows. And I'll quote just a small part. In the booklet, it says, "The Old Testament focuses on the God of Israel, who identifies Himself as 'I AM' and ‘the Lord God… of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.’” That's quoting Exodus 3:14-15. In the parentheses, it says “The word LORD” which is all caps, L-O-R-D, “here is used in place of the Hebrew word spelled Y-H-W-H,” tetragrammaton, “which, like ‘I AM,’ apparently denotes eternal and self-inherit existence.”
The book then goes on, “In John 8:58, Christ refers to Himself as ‘I Am.’ Thus, the one the Israelites knew as God, who delivered them from Egypt and accompanied them in the wilderness, was later known in the New Testament as Jesus Christ.” And it quotes, “1 Corinthians 10:4. The existence of the one whom Christ referred to as ‘the Father’ was not well understood by many before Christ's coming— though He is sometimes specifically referred to in the Old Testament.”
Now, what we find here in point number one, our fundamental belief, is the biblical teaching. It is what the United Church of God believes and teaches. Now, there are some few who have contrary ideas to these thoughts. There are some few that have different concepts. And there are some of those ideas that are going around. But yet, the United Church of God has many resources to help understand this subject.
We have an in-depth doctrinal study paper that's called The Nature of God and Christ. So if you're taking notes, the doctrinal study paper is called The Nature of God and Christ. You can find that at ucg.org. If you go to the member's page, that's members.ucg.org, and from the drop-down menu that says "Member Resources," you'll find study papers and under that tab, you will find this particular paper that's called "The Nature of God and Christ."
And this particular paper was approved by the Council of Elders in 2005, and it encapsulates the teaching of the Bible and what we believe in the United Church of God. Of course, we have many booklets that also supplement these teachings. The booklet, Who is God? The booklet, Is God a Trinity? And the booklet, Jesus Christ: The Real Story. Those booklets go into quite a bit of details about this subject. And each one of these, you'll find, is consistent with our fundamental beliefs booklet and say the same thing.
Now, when one says, "Jesus is the God of the Old Testament," we have to step back for just a moment because technically speaking, it's not the best wording. It's not the best way to state it. Because technically, it's not correct. Why? Well, because God, the Father, was always God from eternity, including the time during the Old Testament. So that leads us to recognize the fact that we have to be careful in what we mean when we say the word "God."
So to be more precise, when we think Jesus is the God of the Old Testament, more precisely, what we mean is the being who came in the flesh as Jesus was the God who interacted with human beings in the Old Testament. You see how much more precise that is? The being who came in the flesh as Jesus was the God who interacted with human beings in the Old Testament. Because the One who became the Father was always around. He eternally existed. And we don't want to shortchange the One who became the Father. But the being who came in the flesh, who interacted with human beings in the Old Testament, was the One who became Jesus.
So let's build on why we believe what we do about who and what Jesus was before His human birth. And to do this, let's methodically consider what the Bible actually says. Let's begin by going to the earliest account in the Bible. So where would we find the earliest account in God's word? Well, it would be over in John 1:1. Not Genesis 1, but John 1:1. Let's go there and read what the apostle John was inspired to record for us. John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
Now you notice John uses an interesting phrase. Those first three words, "In the beginning…” Now here, John is using a special teaching method in these very first three words. He's giving us a clue, he’s giving us a little bit of insight, he’s giving us a hint into something that was written before in the Bible. What do you think he's referring to when he uses these three words? Something that those of us who read it will automatically begin to know and recognize? He's referring back to Genesis 1:1 because Genesis 1:1 uses the same exact three words. Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and earth." In the beginning. So John says, "In the beginning…” so what is he telling those of us who read John's words? What's his point? What is he getting at?
Well, you see, John is saying… “You remember?” John, “Remember what he says here in Genesis 1:1? “Remember Genesis? It says, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and earth.’" John, in a sense, is saying, "Guess what? I'm going to tell you about that God because I met that God. I touched Him, I held Him, I handled Him, I listened to Him, I know Him. He was my Rabbi, He was my Teacher. Let me tell you the rest of the story about that God who created the heavens and the earth." That's the hint that John is getting at when he starts with those words. In fact, if we look down to verse 14 of John 1, he says, "The Word” this Word who was with God and was God, “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
You see, John is saying, "I'm going to tell you the rest of the story about this God, this God who came to the earth to live among men." And that's what John does. His gospel is about the story of that being, the being who created the world, who later became a human being, who lived in that world and gave Himself as a sacrifice for all the sins of the people in that world. And what is that being called? The Word, the Word. What was He? Well, John tells us “He was both with God and was God… He was with God and was God.”
Now, that can be a little bit of a challenge to understand. How do we understand that? How do we deal with that difficulty? Well, it comes down to defining God. Defining that word "God." Now, if you define God as one being, you're in trouble. You're in trouble. Because when you misunderstand what Scripture actually says about God the Father and the Son, you're going to find yourself playing a theological game of twister and that's what led those that came up with the idea of the Trinity far astray from what the Bible really says. You see, when you understand that God is a kind of being, that changes everything and this is critical. This is critical. The Bible defines God as a kind of being. The Bible defines God as a kind of being.
If you look back at Genesis 1, the word used for God and used dozens of times throughout the Bible is Elohim. Elohim. That's E-L-O-H-I-M, Elohim. And it's a plural word so that it includes more than one. Genesis 1:1 or in Genesis 1, it does that. It includes more than one. And so, with that in mind, you don't have a problem and Scripture then, is consistent. And when we put all of the passages together, we find that God is a family. And that family currently consists of the Father and the Son and we see that consistently throughout the Gospels.
To quote from our doctrinal study paper, The Nature of God and Christ, on page 15, it says, "One analogy that helps explain the nature of the Godhead is the idea of a family." This is a quotation. “God can be defined as a family— one God family, although currently consisting of two beings.” So our paper is very distinct. So when we go back to John 1, we find, "In the beginning was the Word…” the Logos, the Word translated from the Greek for “Word” is the Greek Logos. And it's an unusual word and it's hard to have a direct equivalent in English. The word Logos, it can mean a speech, it could mean a report, or the meaning here, “revelatory agent, someone who reveals.”
So you see, that's why sometimes we refer to the Logos as the spokesman, the revelatory agent. The Word is the being who comes to reveal God. He is the one that comes to reveal the Father. And as we know, Jesus Christ came to reveal the Father. The apostle John is going to talk about that a little bit later in this chapter. He also talks about it in chapter 5 verse 37. Matthew 11:27 also refers to this. And so the Logos, the Word, the revelatory agent, the spokesman has come to reveal the Father.
And when we look to verse 2 here in John 1, he was in the beginning with God. This Logos, this Word, this personal being was with God. Of course, referring to God the Father. The Logos was in God's presence. But yet He was distinct from God and at the same time in fellowship with God. You put all that together, what do you have? It was a relationship between God and the Word, the one who would become Jesus Christ and the Father. And it's interesting that with God, John uses the Greek word pros, P-R-O-S is the word with and it's a preposition. It can mean toward, it can mean to, it can mean with, and here it seems to carry the context of coming alongside and it's used with the noun for God. And I think John used it for a very specific reason.
If you were to read A.T. Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament, A.T. Robertson is a Greek scholar, in his commentary on John 1:1, he says this, "Pros with the accusative presents a plane of equality and intimacy, face to face with each other." Now imagine that the Word is with God, A.T. Robertson would say, "On a plane of equality, there was an intimacy, there was a sense of face to face at the same level." And so here, John has gone to great lengths using this inspired word, I believe, of pros to make it clear that while the word was in the presence of God, the word was also separate from God the Father and at the same time, not inferior to God the Father.
And it gets kind of technical here because some have a tendency to get hung up on the use of a definite article, especially as they look at the literal translations of the Greek. It gets kind of technical here. If you were to look online, there's a website called newtestamentgreek.org. These are also things that are found in the appendix of the doctrinal study paper as well, in appendix A.
Literally in the Greek, John 1:2 says, "He was in beginning with God." It sounds kind of funny, doesn't it? That's why we don't say the literal Greek there. “He was in beginning with God.” We sound like a two-year-old, don't we, when we say that? Well, no wonder then, literally, in the Greek, there's no definite article there. There's no definitive article “in the beginning.” The the isn't there, but we know, when we translate, it needs to be there so that in English it's clear, and it makes sense then in English. And so He was “in the beginning” with God. That makes sense.
Now, if you were to look up John 1:1 in the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry website, it shows a literal Greek translation of John 1:1 would read like this. John 1:1 literally, "In beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and God was the Word." If we literally take those words from the Greek, we have a little bit of a problem in English. Did you catch that? First, there's that issue of "In beginning was the Word," okay, we don't talk like that, but it also says, "The Word was with the God." Now some people try to make a big deal about "the God" as if that has some kind of special connotation.
Here's the challenge if we take this literally. Who is "the God" then? Well, if we literally take the Greek, "The Word was with the God and God was the Word." But we know the Father isn't the Word, right? So to make too much over this definite article, you would have to say that the God is the Word. Did you catch that? But that's not what it's saying. It's saying, "In beginning was the Word." A very simple statement that the word was right there from eternity. "And the Word was with the God."
In other words, the Word was with God the Father. "And God was the Word." English? This same Word was God. Not the Father, but also God. And so we have to be very careful in making too much out of a definite article, out of the word "the." You can check some of these things out in the Greek New Testament Insert by Benjamin Chapman, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains by J.P. Louw. Some interesting study in those works as well.
There's another quotation that uses this a little later on that we're probably all familiar with, that we get into trouble if you literally use those definite articles. We probably all remember the story of doubting Thomas. He wasn't going to believe that Jesus was resurrected unless he saw his hands, the holes, the wounds. What happens in John 20 when Thomas sees it for himself? Well, in John 20:28, you don't need to turn there because you know this, Thomas answers Jesus Christ and he says to Him, "My Lord and my God." My Lord and my God.
Now, do you know what the Greek literally says? Literally, in the Greek, Thomas says to Jesus, "The Lord of me and the God of me." Well, is he saying that Jesus is the Father? No, he's not. He's not… That would be silly. If "the" was referring to the Father, shouldn't have Jesus corrected Thomas? Should he say, "Thomas, don't talk like that." He should have said, "Thomas, I'm not the God." But Jesus didn't correct him because that would be silly. Because the meaning was, “the Lord of me” and the “My Lord and my God.” That's what Thomas meant and Jesus understood that very thing. And so when we put this together with John 1:1, we find, “The Word was with God” the One who became the Father, and “The Word Himself was God.” The Word was not the God who became the Father, but yet, He was still God and hopefully, that becomes a little bit clearer.
Let's move to point number three. Point number three leads us to the fact of the Creator. Point number three is the Creator. If you're still here in John 1:3 points to the Creator. John 1:3, it says, "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." So John points out everything that God created came into existence through the One who became Jesus Christ.
He wasn't just talking about the physical universe, but also the spirit or the angelic realm, the angelic world. He made everything that exists except for the Father and for Himself. Those are the only things He didn't make because the two of them existed eternally. They are uncreated beings. They existed before time began. They existed outside of time. They existed before the physical universe.
And so as we consider what John says, let's confirm the fact of who is this being. And as we do this, we'll certainly recognize it was Jesus Christ who was and is Creator. In fact, there's a little mnemonic device that helps us to remember these things. John 1 says, "All things were made through Him, nothing was made that was made except through Jesus Christ." John 1:1… no John 1:3 says that. Colossians 1 also says that. You could write down Colossians 1:16, you don't need to turn there. Context is clearly talking about Jesus Christ.
It says, "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth,” so the apostle Paul was inspired to write much the same thought that John wrote. He created the heaven, the universe, the planets, the stars, the galaxy. In fact, not just the physical planet earth, in Colossians, he goes on to say even more. In Colossians, he says, He created the “visible and the invisible." It says, "whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers."
You see, Jesus Christ created not just the physical universe, not just the earth, and the sky, and the planets, and the galaxies, but He also created, we might call it the invisible universe as well. And what would that be? Well, we call it the spirit world. Paul uses the phrase “dominions or principalities or powers.” And he uses that in a number of different places in his writings to talk about the angelic world. And so you could check those things out in Colossians 2:10 or Ephesians 1:21. He's talking about archangels, he's talking about the cherubim, the seraphim, and other kinds of spirit beings.
And Colossians 1:16 very specifically says, "All things were created through Him and for Him." And so we see Jesus Christ is the one who created all of this. He created all things in the physical universe and in the angelic or the spirit realm as well. In fact, Colossians says, "He is before all things, and in Him all things consist." Or in other words, He existed before all these things began.
Does that sound vaguely familiar? Well, it sounds like John 1:1, “In the beginning…” "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." And since He created all of these things, He obviously had to exist before these things were created. And, of course, Colossians goes on to tell us that “He's the head of the Body, the Church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,” you see, He can only be talking about Christ, “that in all things He may have the preeminence.” So here we see it's plainly talking about Jesus Christ. And so we see that in John 1. We see that in Colossians 1.
If you'd like to turn to Hebrews 1, Hebrews 1:1 says much the same thing. Notice what Hebrews 1:1 says. Hebrews 1:1, it says, "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,” verse 2, "has in these last days spoken to us by His Son,” You see that's important because who has spoken? The Son has spoken. Jesus, the Word, the Spokesman. He has spoken to us by His Son. And it says, "whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds."
So we're plainly told that the worlds, the universe, not just world, not just physical but the worlds, plural, both the physical and the spirit realm were made by the Father through the Son, Jesus Christ. And so when we put all of these things together, it becomes very clear. Jesus Christ existed from eternity, in the beginning with God the Father, and as A.T. Robertson said, “In equality, in intimacy, face to face with each other.”
But it seems at that time they weren't in a Father-Son relationship. So John refers to them as God and the Word. Both were God. The Father and son relationship wouldn't begin until the Word became flesh as the Son of God. And so these three sections, John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1, they all tell us. John 1 says, "All things were made through Him." Colossians 1 says "By Him, all things were created." Hebrews 1 says, "Through Him,” also God, the Father, “made the worlds." And so, yes, the Father is the Creator, but Jesus Christ is also the Creator, the one through whom the actual work of creating was accomplished.
Now, if we go back to John 1, we see something else that's quite remarkable. Go back to John 1 for a moment. And in fact, we'll see something that's crucial. It's crucial. And this is point number four. Point number four, going back to John 1:18. Point number four, no one has seen God. No one has seen God. That's exactly what John 1:18 says. It says, "No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him."
So what is John telling us? Well, he clearly says no one has seen God at any time. And John just got done explaining, he was a personal eyewitness of Jesus Christ. So can he be talking about Jesus? Okay, that wouldn't make sense. He can't be talking about Jesus or the Word. Well, who is the God whom no one has ever seen at any time? Well, he can only be referring to the Father. He can only be referring to the Father.
Because John is plainly telling us, "No one has ever seen God the Father at any time." And then he also says that “Jesus Christ declared the Father.” Some of the other translations like the N.R.S.V. or the N.I.V. translates this as saying, "Jesus Christ has made Him known." Or other translations say, "Have revealed Him." "Jesus Christ revealed Him."
Now, if God the Father was the God known during the Old Testament period if God the Father was the one with Israel, why would Jesus need to make Him known? Why would Jesus need to declare Him if the people back then already knew the one who would be the Father all along? Well, that wouldn't make sense. That would not make sense. There's no need to reveal the Father if the Father was already commonly known back over 2,000 years before this, going back to Abraham, or even before that, back to Noah, or back to Adam.
You see, one thing that's so critical is that we've got to keep in mind who's writing this and when is it being written. Well, this is written by the apostle John. He's writing this gospel, and he's writing his epistles almost 20 years or so after the rest of the books of the Bible have already been written. He's writing about 20 years after the rest of the books of the Bible have already been written.
So John is probably, most likely the last remaining apostle, or at least very close to it, and John gives us these deep, theological explanations in his writings that we don't see in the other writings of the Bible. The other writers don't deal with these things. And so what does John plainly tell us? He plainly tells us, "No one has seen God the Father at any time." At any time.
In fact, this isn't the only time that John says this. You could write down 1 John 4:12. 1 John 4:12, he makes the exact, same statement, "No one has seen God at any time." Clearly talking about the Father. And so we have two explicit statements from the last surviving apostle, also the last of the biblical writers, telling us that no one has seen the Father. Now was John the only one to teach this? No. Anybody else talked about this? Yes.
Jesus Christ Himself taught the same thing. Look over to John 5:37. John 5:37, we see a crucial comment that's made here in John 5:37. Of course, if you've got a Red Letter Bible, you'll see whose words these are. These are the words of Jesus Christ Himself. And John 5:37 says, this is Christ speaking, "And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me." Jesus says, "You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form." Could Christ be any clearer than that? "You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form."
Now some people try to get around this by saying, "Well, Jesus was only talking to the people of that time." Okay, you could try to fudge a little bit and try to make that argument, but this doesn't change all the other points in the Bible that say the exact same thing, that explicitly state that no one has ever seen the Father at any time. If you turn a page or so over to John 6:46, look at John 6:46. Here's Jesus, once again, says, "No one has seen the Father, except the one who is from God; only He has seen the Father."
So if you were to ask Christ, "Who's seen the Father?" What would the answer be? "No one except Me." "No one except the one that is from God." Christ was referring to himself. He is the only one who has seen the Father. No human being has ever seen the Father. So the very clear, plain teaching of Jesus Christ Himself is that no one has directly seen the Father or heard His voice. That's Jesus's plain teaching.
What was John's plain teaching? John said exactly the same thing. "No man has seen God the Father at any time." So it becomes very plain, very clear, which brings us to point number five. Point number five, which God interacted with human beings in the Old Testament? Which God interacted with human beings in the Old Testament? Because we read John 1 and it said, "In the beginning was the Word and God." The One who would become Jesus Christ and One known as the Father.
So which God interacted with human beings in the Old Testament? Is there some dilemma then in the Old Testament? Because certainly, throughout the Old Testament, we see a number of people who say they saw God. They saw God. So who did they see? What God, or should we say which God did they see when they saw God throughout these Old Testament passages? Well, let's look at a few of them.
What about the God that appeared to Abraham? What about the God that appeared to Abraham? Well, let's go to Genesis 12:7. Genesis 12:7. Here, we have God appearing to Abraham. Notice what it says in Genesis 12:7. It says, "Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said..." Now, of course, the LORD here, most likely in your Bible, in your translation is the LORD with all capital letters. That's the tetragrammaton. That's the Y-H-W-H, Yahweh. "The LORD appeared to Abram and said..." So who is this God? Who is this Yahweh? Who is this Y-H-W-H? Well, this Lord says, “'To your descendants I will give this land.’ And there he built an altar to the LORD,” all caps, “who had appeared to him.” Okay, so we have the LORD appearing to Abraham.
A couple of pages later, Genesis 15:1, it says, all right, this is a vision. The LORD came to Abraham in a vision or… Abram in a vision. What does he see? It says, "After these things the Word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, 'Do not be afraid, Abram. I AM your shield, and your exceedingly great reward.'" They go on to have a conversation in this vision and it explicitly says it's a vision.
Now that's important. Because in the other passages where the LORD, the Y-H-W-H, appears to Abram or to Abraham, it's not in a vision. This time, it is in a vision. But it doesn't say that in the other occurrences. So what's the implication then? The other occurrences aren't in a vision. The LORD, the capital L-O-R-D was literally standing there, sitting there, sometimes eating there with Abraham. Genesis 18:1, here God, the LORD, appears again to Abraham. Notice what it says, Genesis 18, at the very beginning of the chapter, Genesis 18:1, once again, “The LORD,” the Y-H-W-H, “appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day.”
Then this passage goes on to describe something significant. Well, what does it describe? It describes a meal that they had together. Verse 2, it says, "He lifted his eyes… three men were standing by him." And what does Abraham say? Verse 5, he says, "I'll bring a morsel of bread, you may refresh your hearts." And so verse 6, “Abraham hurried to the tent to Sarah and said,” "We're going to be the first McDonald's on the block. We need some fast food. Whip this together quickly." And so he hurried. So we have the first account of fast food in the Bible. Was this a vision? This was a real encounter. This was a real, physical encounter with the LORD, with the Y-H-W-H. There's no way you can eat lunch with a vision. Only with a real person, a real being. And so, that being, that Yahweh had lunch with Abraham. And we see that very clearly.
Now, from Abraham, let's move to Isaac. Because God also appeared to Isaac. Fast forward a little bit to Genesis 26:2. Genesis 26:2, here we have the capital L-O-R-D, the Y-H-W-H, “Appeared to Isaac and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land which I shall give you.’" A little bit farther down, look at verse 24 in Genesis 26. “The LORD,” the Y-H-W-H, “appeared to him the same night and said, ‘I AM the God of your father, Abraham; do not fear, for I AM with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham's sake.’" Same being. Yes, same one. "I'm the one." He says it very clearly.
So we have Abraham and Isaac appearing with Yahweh, with the Y-H-W-H. But what about Jacob? Because we had Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We'll go to chapter 28, Genesis 28. We have God appearing to Jacob. Verse 13, Genesis 28:13. "Behold, the LORD stood above it and said: 'I AM the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land which you lie I will give to you and your descendants.'" And then it continues on this vision of the ladder or this stairway. You're probably familiar with that account.
So who is this Y-H-W-H, this capital L-O-R-D? Well, it's the same one that appeared to Abraham, the same one that appeared to Isaac. And in fact, chapter 32 verse 30, we have the famous account of Jacob wrestling with God. Wrestling with God. Well, do you wrestle with a vision? No, you wrestle with a being. You wrestle with the being. So in Genesis 32:30, after the account, “Jacob calls the name of the place Peniel.” Peniel. "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved."
You see, that was the LORD that appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. He saw Him face to face, not in a vision, face to face. In fact, a couple chapters later, in chapter 35 verse 9 is where God appears again and changes Jacob's name to Israel, changes his name to Israel. You see, we're talking about a literal being here. And in fact, it wasn't just to Abraham, not just to Isaac, not just to Jacob. We could fast forward to Moses. Go to the book of Exodus. Exodus 3, look at verse 6.
Exodus 3:6, we have Moses seeing God. Well, we have to ask, which God is this? Which God is this? When Moses saw God, Exodus 3:6, that God speaks. “Moreover He said, ‘I AM the God of your father." Well, what God is that? Well, He says, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ Moses hid face for he was afraid to look upon God.” We'll see very specifically, he identifies himself as the same being, the same God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The same God that interacted with them.
In fact, a couple of verses down, verse 13, “Moses says 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's His name?' What shall I say to them?" Moses is being very precise here. Verse 14, "And God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM.' And He says, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”’"
So who is this God, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God that appeared to Moses and tells Moses His name is "I AM WHO I AM" or just simply "I AM?” Who is this God? Well, it's the same God, a little bit later in Exodus 33 that Moses sees again. And in fact, God puts him in the cleft of a rock and passes by. And so Moses looks upon His back, the Lord's back, Yahweh, the capital L-O-R-D's back. But he clearly saw Him. And it's also interesting that this L-O-R-D spoke directly to Moses.
In fact, if you look at Exodus 33:11, Exodus 33:11, it says clearly, The Y-H-W-H, the capital L-O-R-D “spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend." So Moses and God spoke directly to one another, face to face. This God, who would ultimately become Jesus Christ, spoke to one another face to face. We'll see that come even clearly. In fact, right now, we've got a pattern going. We see, well, he appeared to Abraham, He appeared to Isaac, he appeared to Jacob. It seems to be kind of one at a time kind of thing. But is that the only examples there are? That just one person at a time God appeared to?
Well, there's a fascinating event that we're just coming up on in chapter 24. Exodus 24:9. Exodus 24:9, this happens after the Ten Commandments, after their going to confirm the covenant. We find an interesting occurrence. Notice what happens here. This is just after the Ten Commandments. The Covenant is going to be confirmed. Exodus 24:9. It says, "Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel,” so you had a whole group of people here. What did they see?
Well, look at verse 10, "and they saw the God of Israel. And there was, under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity. But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank.” So here, we just don't have Abraham. Here, we don't just have Moses. We don't just have Aaron. We have the 70 elders of Israel. And they not only saw God, but they ate and they drank with Him. So Moses records this amazing event. And of course, oftentimes, when a covenant was made, there was a feast that was followed when the covenant was made.
And so what we find here is this was a real thing. This wasn't an imagined event. This wasn't just a vision. It wasn't some kind of a mass hallucination. This was reality and over and over again, we find this in Scripture. And not only during the time of the Exodus, we could turn to Joshua and the LORD, the Y-H-W-H appears to Joshua. Joshua 6:2, I won't turn there. We could also turn to Gideon. Gideon sees the capital L-O-R-D, Judges 6:14 as well. And as we consider all of these meetings, yes, two of them are visions, one with Jacob, one with Abraham, but there is no doubt, these were face to face encounters with God. Abraham had a meal with the LORD. The 70 elders ate and drank with the Y-H-W-H. Jacob wrestled with God face to face.
Okay. What about John 1:18 that we read? What about John 6:46? What about 1 John 4:12? They all say, "No one has seen God at any time." Could that Y-H-W-H have been the Father? There is no way that could be the Father. It's impossible! It cannot be God the Father. So what God was that? It's not the Father. It can only be the One who became Jesus Christ. It was the Word of God, who was God, and later was born as Jesus of Nazareth.
If you read about this in our doctrinal study paper, The Nature of God and Christ, page 68 says this, "If John could state in the first century that no one had seen God at any time, then with whom was Abraham speaking, walking, and eating in Genesis 18? The Scripture clearly state that Abraham was doing all of these things with Y-H-W-H. If there is but one being identified as God and no one has seen Him at any time, there's a dilemma." But it goes on, "The dilemma is cleared up when one comes to understand that the Y-H-W-H who appeared to Abraham was the One who became Jesus Christ and He came to reveal the Father."
Our doctrinal paper on page 12 also says, “…there are numerous references in the Old Testament to a being identified as Y-H-W-H or El who cannot be God the Father." Scripture is clear, our doctrinal paper is clear that Y-H-W-H that appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Moses, to the 70, Nadab, and Abihu, that was the One who became Jesus Christ.
Now, it also brings us to another interesting aspect, to point number six. Point number six. Let's talk about for a moment the Angel of the LORD. The Angel of the LORD. There are also times in the Old Testament when a being appears and speaks with people and that being is identified as the Angel of the LORD. The Angel of the Y-H-W-H, the capital L-O-R-D. That's interesting in most cases, a few verses later, the Angel of the LORD, the L-O-R-D is actually called the LORD, the Y-H-W-H.
Of course, you have to remember, in Hebrew, the word translated angel is melek. M-E-L-E-K, melek. You know what the literal translation for melek is? Messenger. Messenger. It can be a human messenger or it can be a spirit messenger, a Messenger of God. You see, in these cases, both the Angel of the LORD or the Messenger of God is also God, is also Y-H-W-H.
And so, what does the apostle John called the being who was born human as Jesus Christ? John 1:1 calls Him the Word, the Spokesman, the Messenger. The Messenger, that obvious link between the Messenger of God, the Angel of God, and the Word, and the Spokesman, it's undeniable. It is undeniable. In fact, Stephen, the deacon, Stephen who later was martyred, makes this very connection. In Acts 7, you can just write this down, he connects the Angel who spoke to Moses with the one who spoke the Ten Commandments.
Our doctrinal paper deals with this on page 17. Here's what it says. "Note carefully that Stephen equates the Angel who spoke to Moses with the one who spoke the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai. Stephen's equating of the Angel (the Messenger) who spoke the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel from Mount Sinai is verified by Moses: ‘And God [Elohim], spoke all these words, saying: “I AM the LORD”’” All caps Y-H-W-H, “your God [Elohim], who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” That's a doctrinal paper quoting Exodus 20.
The paper goes on "These verses clearly reveal that the one who thundered the Ten Commandments is the same Angel, (the same Angelos, the same Messenger) that Stephen refers to in Acts 7:37-39. And that Messenger is none other than the One who became Jesus Christ." Our paper says, "The point of Stephen's discourse is that the prophet who was prophesied to come was none other than Jesus Christ." That's Acts 7:52-53. So what do we make of this? Well, the Angel or the Messenger of God, who also is the God who appeared to Abraham, and to Isaac, and to Jacob, and to Moses, and the others in the Old Testament, is undoubtedly the One who became Christ.
Undoubtedly, Jesus was the Y-H-W-H in these cases. The LORD or the God of the Old Testament period. The one who became Jesus, the one who interacted with Adam and Eve, with Cain, and Abel. The one who interacted with Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses, and the Israelites, and Joshua, and David. It's the same one. Because they neither saw the Father, only the one who would be born as Emmanuel, the Word, God with us. This God, the Word was born as Jesus Christ and came to reveal the Father. John testifies to that, Jesus Christ Himself testifies to that, and the people of Jesus's day testify to that very fact as well, that that's what He taught and this is critical.
Point number seven. Point number seven is I AM. I AM. And it becomes very critical. John 8:57. John 8:57, we find a critical passage. There is a heated debate that's going on here. A heated debate, a problem that's occurring here between Jesus and some of the Jews of the day. Look at verse 57 of John 8. “The Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’" Verse 58, “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’"
Here, Jesus specifically tells them of His divine identity. He first tells them He existed before Abraham. Then He tells them who He really was— that He was the God who interacted with people during the Old Testament period. In fact, He says it in such a powerful way. We miss it in English. He says, "Most assuredly." You know what that word is for most assuredly? Amen. Amen. This is undeniable, this can't be contradicted, this is undoubted. "I tell you I existed before Abraham and I AM… I AM.”
We look back to what the people knew He was referring to, hold your place here, go back to Exodus 3:13. Exodus 3:13 is where God appears to Moses at the burning bush. God appears to Moses at the burning bush. Exodus 3:13, "Moses speaks to God and says, '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?'" Well, remember what He says? "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.'"
So in John 7… or John 8:58, "Most assuredly, I say, before Abraham was, I AM." The people got it. How do we know they got it? They understood that connection because verse 59 tells us they understood exactly what he was saying. It says “They took up stones to throw at Him.” They wanted to stone him to death for blasphemy. But it says “Jesus hid Himself. He went out of the temple.” Their reaction tells the story.
In fact, in our study paper The Nature of God and Christ, page 7, it says, "The Jews knew exactly what He was saying. They knew that Jesus was boldly proclaiming that He is eternal and that He is the Son of God. This is why they took up stones to kill Him. In their minds He was guilty of blasphemy… There is no question that Jesus Christ is also the ‘I AM.’” And this is not the only example of this. This is not the only example. Jesus says "I AM" in another situation with His disciples. And it happens in a situation that we're all familiar with. When Peter walked on water, when Peter walked on water.
It happens at the Sea of Galilee. Remember there was this big storm, the disciples were out rowing the boat at night, this gigantic storm comes up, Jesus comes walking to them on the water. This account is in Matthew 14. The disciples see Him and what do they say? “Ah! It's a ghost. It's a spirit." Right? They cried out for fear. Do you remember what Jesus said to them? This is in John… or Matthew 14:27. Jesus speaks and says, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid."
Well, that's the way the English translate it. But the exact Greek words, "I AM." Jesus is really saying, "Be of good cheer! It's Me, the I AM; don't be afraid. Don't be afraid.” And what does Peter say? "Well, Lord, if it's You, command me to come out of the boat." And He does. We know the rest of the story. And I think it's key then the disciples' reaction to this miracle, because what happens? Christ gets in the boat, the storm calms, it's over, it's done, and what do they understand about Jesus and His divine identity? Once they get into the boat, verse 33 says, “…they worshiped Him, and said, 'Truly, You are the Son of God.'" So they understood that Jesus, the Word, was the I AM.
And in fact, there's a third example. A third example is when Christ is arrested just before the crucifixion at Gethsemane. John 18:4. John 18:4 recounts the story of His arrest. What happens? The soldiers come to arrest Him. Judas is leading the way, it seems. John 18:4 says, "Jesus knowing all things would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, 'Whom are you seeking?' They answered Him, 'Jesus of Nazareth.'" What did Jesus say to them? Well, in English, it says here in John 18:5, it says, “'I am He.’ And then Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with Him.” And then verse 6, “Now when He said to them, ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.
Now in most of our Bibles, the word He is italicized. That's because it's not there in the Greek. They're trying to make the English clear, but in fact, they make the Hebrew, the Aramaic unclear. Because Christ is saying, "I AM… I AM.” How do you know Jesus isn't just saying, "Well, I'm the guy you're looking for?" Because that's what it seems the English is saying there. But we know that's not the case because of what happens. These troops, these hardened military men draw back and fall over. They fall over. Now that doesn't make any sense if Jesus is saying, "Well, I'm the one you're looking for." No, not at all. In fact, this is showing there's divine power in Jesus using that very name. And so what a powerful example that we find in the I AM.
There are so many passages throughout Scripture that prophesy about this very fact. We don't have much time, but we could look at Isaiah 40:3. If you want to turn there, I'll just summarize for a moment. Isaiah 40:3 speaks about the voice of one crying in the wilderness. It's a prophecy. That “Voice crying in the wilderness” says, "Prepare the way of the LORD,” the Y-H-W-H, “make straight in the desert a highway for our God." That's Isaiah 40:3. What is that a prophecy about? Who is that a prophecy of? Who would be the voice crying in the wilderness?
Well, that would be John the baptist. Who was he to prepare the way for? For whom was that way prepared? Well, here it plainly tells us, John was to prepare the way for the LORD, the Y-H-W-H. And how was this prophecy fulfilled? Well, you can connect that to Matthew 3:3. Mathew 3:3 says, "For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD.”'" So here we find in Matthew 3:3, John preparing the way for the coming of the Y-H-W-H. John prepared the way for Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, the Y-H-W-H."
And so over, and over, and over again, we find throughout Scripture, our fundamental belief number one is confirmed, it’s undoubted. In fact, one that says it so plainly is found in 1 Corinthians 10, beginning in verse 1. Let's notice 1 Corinthians 10:1. The Bible itself, Holy Scripture confirms the teachings of the United Church of God. 1 Corinthians 10:1.
Paul was inspired to write, "Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ." Paul clearly tells us that the God who interacted with Israel during the Exodus was the being who became Jesus Christ. In fact, the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 32:3 where it says, "I proclaim the name of the LORD:” Y-H-V-H, “ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock. His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice; A God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He.”
And so as we put all of these things together, what does it mean to us as Christians? What does it mean to us as the Body of Christ? Is Jesus the God of the Old Testament? That's not the best wording. That's not the best way to state it. It's technically not accurate. God the Father was always God from eternity including the Old Testament period.
And so more precisely, the being who became… or the being who came in the flesh as Jesus was the God who interacted with human beings in the Old Testament. And it is a wonderful blessing to understand that. This is what the Bible teaches. It's our fundamental belief. We realize the Bible defines God as a type of being, a kind of being. And God right now is comprised of Jesus Christ (the Word, the Son of God), and the Father. And as our doctrinal study paper says, "God can be defined as a family— one God family, although currently consisting of two beings."
And so when we recognize this fact and we recognize that everything that God created came into existence through the One who became Jesus Christ, we see very clearly then, the Father hasn't been seen. The Father had to be revealed. And so Jesus Christ came and declared the Father and made Him known. And so when we look to see which God interacted with human beings in the Old Testament, the God of our fathers: Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Joshua, David, the Y-H-W-H who appeared was the One who became Jesus Christ.
He was the Angel of the LORD, the Messenger who thundered the Ten Commandments. He is the I AM. No question about that. In fact, on page 14 of the doctrinal paper, it says "It is clear that the name Y-H-W-H can be used to identify both God the Father and the one who later becomes Jesus Christ (the Word). The context determines which one is being referred to as Y-H-W-H. Scripture clearly reveals the preexistence of Christ before His human birth and that He is often called Y-H-W-H in the Old Testament."
Now with that said, none of this takes anything away from God the Father— none of it. God, the Father is also the LORD, is also Y-H-W-H. The Father is the supreme ruler over the entire universe, over all things. The Son Himself, Jesus Christ, the Word, is subject to the Father. And Scripture says, "So that God the Father may be all in all." And none of this detracts from God the Father. God the Father is the undisputed head of the family for all eternity. And so what an amazing blessing to understand the relationship between the Word and God, between Jesus Christ and God the Father.
As our paper states on page 41, "As clearly shown… God and the Son are coeternal with the Son preexisting in eternity as the Word before His incarnation. God and the Son are of the same essence, the Spirit of God. God the Father, the Son and Spirit-filled sons of God are united through that one Spirit. Thus, the Godhead is not a closed Trinity, nor an absolute unity of only one God, but a dynamic family unity that allows for Spirit-born believers to become the very children of God."
Thank God for our wonderful calling, thank God for opening our minds to the phenomenal truth of His word, and thank God for the blessing of the opportunity of understanding who and what Jesus Christ was before His human birth.