The third chapter of Exodus describes the encounter between Moses and God about the Lord’s name: “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you”’” (Exodus 3:13–14, NASB).
The phrase I am who I am in the Hebrew is YHWH, often translated as “LORD,” “Yahweh,” or “Jehovah,” and is referred to in theology as the tetragrammaton (“a word having four letters”). The literal translation of the term is “I be that I be,” a statement that makes reference to God’s self-existence—He is not dependent upon anything else for His existence.
One of the foundational Christian doctrines is that Jesus is God. He is the Jehovah/YHWH/Yahweh described in Exodus 3. This teaching can be difficult to grasp because the Bible also says there is only one God: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4).
The Bible’s claim that only a single God exists is called monotheism. The doctrine of Jesus being God does not mean that more than one God exists (polytheism) or that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity equates to there being three gods (tritheism) or that there is one God who represents Himself as one person in three different ways or modes (modalism).
Instead, Christianity teaches that there is one God who exists in triune fashion as three Persons within one God, i.e., one “what” but three “who’s”; a plurality of Persons who are one in essence. Referencing the depth of this doctrine, A. W. Tozer writes, “Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption. We cover our deep ignorance with words, but we are ashamed to wonder, we are afraid to whisper ‘mystery’” (The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 18).
The Bible affirms the Son of God’s place in the Godhead in both the Old and New Testaments. One passage affirming the Son’s deity in the Old Testament is Psalm 2: “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!’ . . . Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” (Psalm 2:1–3, 12, NASB).
In the New Testament, Jesus affirms His deity in many places. In His general teachings, He refers to Himself in the same way God is described in the Old Testament and does the same in twenty of His parables. Examples include the following:
God in the Old Testament
I AM (Exodus 3:14–15; Isaiah 48:12)
The Shepherd (Psalm 23:1)
The Light (Psalm 27:1)
The Rock (Psalm 18:2)
Ruler of all (Isaiah 9:6)
Judge of all nations (Joel 3:12)
The Bridegroom (Isaiah 62:5; Hosea 2:16)
God’s Word never passes away (Isaiah 40:8)
The Sower (Jeremiah 31:27; Ezra 34:9)
First and the Last (Isaiah 48:12)
Jesus’ Reference to Himself
I AM (John 8:58)
The Shepherd (John 10:11)
The Light (John 8:12)
The Rock (Matthew 7:24)
Ruler of all (Matthew 28:18)
Judge of all (John 5:22)
The Bridegroom (Matthew 25:1)
Jesus’ words never pass away (Mark 13:31)
The Sower (Matthew 13:3–9)
First and the Last (Revelation 1:17–18)
Jesus said many things that equated Himself with Yahweh: “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9) and “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). He asked God, “Glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:5). He said, “My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17).
In addition, Jesus accepted worship nine times in the gospels, forgave sins, and commanded His disciples to pray in His name. Jesus never said—as other prophets did—“Thus says the Lord”; rather, Jesus said, “I say,” and commanded His disciples to baptize in His name.
The New Testament writers also refer to Jesus as God many times (e.g., Matthew 3:16–17; John 1:1–3,14; John 20:28; Romans 9:5; Philippians 2:5–8, 9–11; Colossians 1:16–19; 2:9–10; 1 Timothy 6:15; 2 Peter 1:1; Hebrews 1:8; 13:8; Revelation 1:8, 17; 2:8; 17:14; 19:16; 21:6; 22:13).
In conclusion, the teaching of Scripture is that Jesus is indeed Yahweh, the I AM, the God of the Old Testament.