If we were to ask any adherent to Islam or even new age philosophies if they loved God, they would say yes. Of course their understanding of God is completely different to the Christian, but this question still yields the same answer. Were we to ask them “Do you love Jesus Christ?” the answer would be completely different – and negative. However in asking this question of ourselves, we are often faced with the complete inadequacy of our own love for Jesus.
This week we start a new series of studies on the person and pre-eminence of Jesus Christ. The goal of this series is to grow in our love and reverence of Jesus Christ so that we may be a people who seek to exalt Christ above all and who love Christ above everything else. The end result of this should be that we are completely set aside for Jesus, and not just “god lovers” (note the little “g”).
This first study is an examination of the pre-existence of Jesus Christ – that is we will examine Jesus Christ before he was born at Bethlehem.
The issue of the pre-existence of Christ is important as if Jesus was not pre-existent then:
- He is not God
- There is no trinity
- Jesus is a liar
- Salvation through Christ is a fallacy
However, as we will see, Jesus did exist before Bethlehem, he was active in the Old Testament and that Jesus is completely reliable in what he said.
Firstly, we should take a few moments to examine what the New Testament says about Jesus and what Jesus said about himself.
In John 1:1 John starts his gospel by saying “in the beginning was the word”. The Greek construction in this verse clarifies this to help us understand that in the beginning of all things the word was continually existing. Who was “the word” that John refers to? We see in John 1:14 that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth”. When the Word became flesh “John bore witness about him and cried out ‘This was he of whom I said, He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me'” (John 1:15). Jesus is the Word and the one of whom John the Baptist was proclaiming before he came, and of whom he said “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).
Paul also affirmed the pre-existence of Christ in Col 1:17 when he said “he is before all things”. The Greek grammar suggests that Paul didn’t only mean in terms of priority (he’s already made that point in Col 1:15), but also in terms of time. In the previous verse Paul has already said that Jesus made all things (Col 1:14) and because he existed before all things he also sustains all things.
Jesus himself made the claim that he was God. The Pharisees made a point on challenging him numerous times, in one of those occasions they asked him “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?” (John 8:53). Jesus answered indirectly and said “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad” (John 8:56), obviously the Pharisees were puzzled and said “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” (John 8:57). Obviously Abraham lived hundreds of years before Jesus, so for him to say he had seen Abraham is the same as him saying he existed before he was born. To answer their question, Jesus said “before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). This statement was a reference to Moses talking to God in the burning bush in Ex 3:14 where God called himself “I AM”. Jesus was calling himself “I AM” and making himself equal with God. This name “I AM” is obviously more than just a name, it also is a statement that God had no beginning, he always exists and that He has life in Himself.
Jesus was making the same claims about Himself, and this exactly how the Pharisees who were listening understood him. The following verse records the Pharisees picking up rocks to stone him – why? Because he had committed blasphemy by making himself equal with God.
So we can see clearly that those who were with Jesus believed him to be God and pre-existent, we also see that Paul proclaimed that Jesus was God and was pre-existent, and we see that Jesus Himself said that he was God and was pre-existent.