Did Jesus Say He Existed from Eternity?
G. Campbell Morgan
Certain things Christ said of Himself, either in formal declaration, or incidentally, reveal His self-existence, as apart from His relationship, either to God or to man. In certain passages He spoke out of an eternal consciousness. Almost all the great declarations of Christ revealing His eternal consciousness, and concerning His relationship to God, are found in the Gospel according to John. Bishop Westcott said of this Gospel, “The Gospel of St. John from first to last is a record of the conflict between men’s thoughts of Christ, and Christ’s revelation of Himself.”
The first of these statements, “I came forth, and am come from God,” is a most remarkable word, not describing a fellowship of nearness with God, but one which is essential. The real suggestion of the declaration, “I came forth from God,” is not that He came from the side of God, from companionship with God, as an angel might; but that He came out of the essential mystery of the Being of God.
The declaration, “Before Abraham was, I am,” was introduced by that formula of which He occasionally made use when desiring to fasten attention upon a subject: “Verily, verily.” This moreover was a direct and intended contrast on His part between the temporal and the eternal. “Abraham was”; that is a term of the temporal; but before that, “I am,” which in that contrast becomes distinctly a term of the eternal.
In the last of these three passages we have a perfect summary of the whole mission of Christ as recorded in the Gospels, “I came out from the Father, and am come into the world; again, I leave the world, and go unto the Father.”
It is impossible, and unnecessary, for us to consider fully the value of these words separately. The fact to be observed is that our Lord referred to Himself in such a way that the implication of His references is that of an eternal existence. It is important that we notice the persistence of the Person, of the “I,” through these passages: “I came forth, and am come from God” ; “Before Abraham was, I am” ; “I came out … am come into . . . I leave . . . and go unto.”
Adapted from The Teaching of Christ, Himself, by G. Campbell Morgan.