Day 2

Before Abraham Was, I Am

from the I Am: Statements of Our Savior reading plan


John 8:31-59, Exodus 3:1-15, Isaiah 45:22-25, Philippians 2:9-11

BY Guest Writer

My sister and I hopped onto the genetic-testing train last year. For Christmas, we gave our parents test kits and joined over twelve million customers in search of our ancestry. We are a people fascinated by our origins, hungry for the past to shed light on our present.

Family heritage held deep, sacred meaning for ancient Jewish people as well. While the modern identity question is, “Who am I?”, the defining question of ancient Israel was, “Whose am I?” Just read the detailed genealogies in the Old Testament. From Abraham to Ruth to David—origins, birthrights, and family connections formed identity and destiny.

So, it’s no wonder that Jesus’s listeners confidently held out their status as Abraham’s descendants and flashed it as their badge of honor and worth. Yet this over-dependence on heritage was dangerous. It offered a false sense of security, a misguided sense of racial superiority, and spiritual blindness.

One of Jesus’s disciples, John, records how many Jews were in denial of their need for rescue. They would not accept Jesus’s controversial teaching, which told them that even they, God’s chosen people, were spiritually lost and in desperate need of a Savior. When told that the truth would set them free, they bristled and held up their heritage as proof of their right standing with God. They told Jesus, “We are Abraham’s descendants… and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free’?” (John 8:33).

Jesus does more than poke holes in their heritage badges. He blasts the shaky ground they are standing on and reveals the true, firm foundation that provides the only way of salvation. Ancestry does not determine identity and destiny. But there is something—Someone—who does. And so Jesus answers them: “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am” (v.58).

Boom! His Jewish challengers are no doubt shocked by His outrageous claims. How could this man say these things? Jesus is equating Himself with Yahweh, leaving no room for misunderstanding. This man from Nazareth has the audacity to echo the words of God, who spoke to Moses through a burning bush and revealed His own name, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). They know exactly what Jesus is claiming—that He, not a bloodline from Abraham, is the way of salvation and true freedom.

We, too, should be stunned, jolted by Jesus’s words. They are scandalous. But our family tree and our connections don’t define us. What we do, where we come from, who we associate with—none of these things can make us right with God. This is personal, and this is cosmic. We need a rescue from outside of ourselves, what theologian Martin Luther called an “alien righteousness.”

“For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth—
and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9–11).

We do have a sure identity, which means we also have a sure destiny. The risen Christ defines us as beloved children of God, and we are destined to have a place around His table, dwelling with Him forever. He is our firm foundation. He is our righteousness. He sets us free.

Patti Sauls lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband Scott and daughters, Abby and Ellie, where they serve alongside the people of Christ Presbyterian Church. Prior to living in Nashville, the Sauls planted churches in Kansas City and Saint Louis and served at New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church. A trained speech therapist, Patti also enjoys serving behind the scenes, hiking with friends, and reading good books.

Post Comments (64)

64 thoughts on "Before Abraham Was, I Am"

  1. Rebekah Johnson says:

    These passages were awesome for me as an adopted kid- always thinking back on my heritage and history. But rather I’m adopted into His Story…. thankful this morning that I know whose I am.

  2. Jajas says:

    Similar to Shawn, I am struck by the “AM” of Christ. He is never past or future tense but always here and now since the beginning of time. In the same way that Jesus was present for Abraham and for the flock throughout the gospels, he is also present for me today. His presence doesn’t change or falter. He just IS – so fully everywhere at every moment.

  3. Maura says:

    Such good the Word of God. I love that Jesus tells us Who He is throughout the New Testament to leave no doubt that He is I am, the Good Shepherd, the Truth, the Bread of Life, the Word, the Way, the Life, one with the Father. Over and over He reveals who He is and His love for us. May my life be about your glory and revelation Lord even when I fail and fall Lord Jesus I know it is you who picks me up and holds me up. Praise be to your name.

    1. Leisa Larson says:

      Amen! My heart resonates with this so much, Maura. Praise God for another day, full of His grace and mercies, to reflect Him to a hurting world.

  4. Kelly Chataine says:

    Love the Lord Our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds (might).
    Love your neighbor as yourself. (Who is our neighbor? Everyone we encounter)

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we followed those commands? Have you ever wanted to do something for someone but you didn’t know what to do? Well, we all want to please our Heavenly King and He has told us exactly what He wants!

    Let it begin with me!

  5. Joanne de Graaf says:

    My heart is filled with thankfulness after reading these verses. ‘They picked up stones to throw at Him’ and still after all the hate, Jesus saved them on the cross. Overwhelming how loving Jesus is and how much mercy he shows to them and to me because I am no better than those jews and He saved me. ‘Every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord” (Philippians 2:11)

  6. Churchmouse says:

    I was informed that I was going to hell. My friend was serious. I had left the “one true church” , had turned my back on the faith in which I had “been born into” and in which I had been “baptized as an infant.” These were her criteria, her proof, of where I belonged. It mattered not that I loved Jesus, that I had a personal relationship with Him, that I studied His Word diligently or that I attended a Bible – believing church. I had walked away from my parents’religion, had chosen to be baptized as an adult, professing my own faith and this was, according to her, why I was destined for eternal damnation. But I knew the Truth and it had set me free. One does not inherit religion by human birth and one does not become a Christian by sitting in a church. I could stand in my garage all day and that would not make me a car. I tried to explain the Reason for my faith, the joy I have in Christ, but she sadly shook her head and walked away, telling me she could no longer be my friend. That was a hard day. A sad day. Perhaps this was how Jesus felt when He spoke with the Jews who held so tightly to their lineage that they were missing the very Messiah for whom their religion searched. Jesus’ statement was a mic drop. It was for my friend and it was for the Jews. My friend walked away. The Jews picked up stones. Their reactions do not negate or minimize the Truth. The Truth remains the Truth and I AM WHO I AM remains sovereign. May I be faithful in keeping all my faith and trust in Him and nothing else.

    1. Janet C says:

      Thank you for sharing your story.

    2. Olivia Watts says:

      Praise God!!!

    3. Riley MacDonald says:

      What an incredible testimony. I can only imagine how hard it was for you to lose a friend that day, but what an incredible eternity you gained. Thank you for sharing!

    4. Laura Theobald says:

      I’m always fascinated by Christians who say other Christians are going to hell because they don’t believe in the ‘right’ denomination. When I read my Bible, I see a God who so loved everyone on the earth that he sent his son so that all of us could be in relationship with him. Jesus came to unite the nations under God, and us sinful humans want to separate ourselves over doctrinal differences. Personally, I think God wants all of us with Him, so he only cares about what is in our hearts and not what building we spent our Sunday’s.

    5. AnneLyn P says:

      Appreciate you sharing your story. God is good.

    6. Chelsea Adkins says:

      Amen! Xxx that you for sharing this story, I have gained so much encouragement from hearing about your faith in God. Thank you!

    7. Angie Guimaray says:

      Wow. Thanks for sharing that.

    8. Kelsey Jones says:

      This is so so good!

    9. Sherry Archer says:

      Praise God!! Old rituals kill faith and the Spirit of our Lord and Savior!!

    10. Marysa Grondin says:

      Amen!

    11. Lina Adjogble says:

      Amen!!

    12. Amy Kane says:

      Way to stand strong! I’m proud to call you a sister in Christ! It’s hard to walk away from a friend, but ultimately Jesus is most important!

    13. Sarah Pond says:

      I’m so sorry that that happened to you. It must’ve been very painful, but take heart you are a strong force in the kingdom!

    14. Lois Cox says:

      Amen!

    15. Christina MarieHempill says:

      You are His and always have been His. Before the beginning of time. There is nothing that can separate you from the love of the father!
      Those words spoken by your friend must have hurt and no doubt stick with you. But those words are lies. Not the truth. Praying God continues to grow deep roots of the truth of Whose you are- His. That that unroots any insecurity or hurt. Praying you have the ability to forgive her because He is the ultimate judge who makes all things right in the end.

    16. Fiona Cockburn says:

      You are an absolute blessing to many people on this site, and your wisdom points us all to Christ. Thank you.

  7. Angie says:

    The I AM WHO I AM account of God in scripture is my favorite.
    HE IS,
    Enough,
    All,
    Everything and more than my human brain can even fathom,
    period.

    This morning God also reminded me, from the Exodus account with the burning bush, that Moses was doing what he did every day, shepherding the flock for his father-in-law. Moses saw the bush burning was not consumed, and thought, “Hmm, I should check this out.” And the ordinary, became holy.

    Lord as I go into this ordinary day, give me eyes to see You aflame, that your fire would be hot, blazing, light, not consuming your creation but drawing me nearer to You. Open my mind and direct me to what You want me to “check out.” May the ground my feet touch be holy unto You. And I pray, Lord I pray, that today all whom I come into contact with, would see You, I AM WHO I AM, and know You are LORD. May I live and love people in You. I pray LORD that those in bondage would be set free. For You are God and there is no other!

    1. Janet C says:

      Amen!

    2. Debbie Mace says:

      Amen

  8. Shawn Parks says:

    I love the “AM” of Christ. He is present in the present! How can I not go confidently into the next minute because when I arrive, He is already there? He is the now and reminds me that I must learn to live fully in Him in the same moment where He is—not push Him into the future when I have prepared myself to be with Him, nor made a convenient place for Him in my schedule, nor wait until I am moved by my fickle emotions to experience Him-but now, in the dark, in my messy morning, still unsettled about where this day will lead-My Lord is here, is love, is personal, is strength, is constant, is truth, is power, is my precious Savior. How humbling to be in the presence of “AM” when I sense Him but especially when I don’t. His peace covers me! Thank you, for Your Word which is present and eternal!

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