This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.
All commentary notes adapted from the ESV Study Bible.
1. John 6:35
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Read More
ESV Study Bible Notes
Jesus’ claim, “I am the bread of life,” constitutes the first of seven “I am” sayings recorded in this Gospel. Apart from these sayings there are also several absolute statements where Jesus refers to himself as “I am” (e.g., John 6:20; John 8:24, John 8:28, John 8:58; John 18:5), in keeping with the reference to God as “I AM” in Ex. 3:14 and the book of Isaiah (e.g., Isa. 41:4; Isa. 43:10, Isa. 43:25). Jesus is the “bread of life” in the sense that he nourishes people spiritually and satisfies the deep spiritual longings of their souls. In that sense, those who trust in him shall not hunger; that is, their spiritual longing to know God will be satisfied (cf. John 4:14 for a similar discussion of satisfying people’s spiritual thirst).
2. John 14:6–11
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.” Read More
ESV Study Bible Notes
Jesus as the one way to the Father fulfills the OT symbols and teachings that show the exclusiveness of God’s claim, such as the curtain (Ex. 26:33) barring access to God’s presence from all except the Levitical high priest (Leviticus 16), the rejection of human inventions as means to approach God (Lev. 10:2), and the choice of Aaron alone to represent Israel before God in his sanctuary (Num. 17:5). Jesus is the only “way” to God (Acts 4:12), and he alone can provide access to God. Jesus as the truth fulfills the teaching of the OT (John 1:17) and reveals the true God (cf. John 1:14, John 1:17; John 5:33; John 18:37; also John 8:40, John 8:45–46; John 8:14:9). Jesus alone is the life who fulfills the OT promises of “life” given by God (John 11:25–26), having life in himself (John 1:4; John 5:26), and he is thus able to confer eternal life to all those who believe in him (e.g., John 3:16). This is another “I am” saying that makes a claim to deity.
Philip apparently asks for some sort of appearance by God. In the OT, Moses asked for and was given a limited vision of God’s glory (Ex. 33:18; cf. Ex. 24:10). Isaiah, too, received a vision of God (Isa. 6:1). Jesus is the greater fulfillment of these limited OT events (see also Ezek. 1:26–28). In keeping with OT teaching, Jesus denied the possibility of a direct vision of God (John 5:37; John 6:46; cf. John 1:18), yet he makes the stunning assertion that those who have seen him have seen the Father—a clear claim to deity. Philip’s request shows that he has not yet understood the point of Jesus’ coming, namely, to reveal the Father (John 1:14, John 1:18).
3. John 8:56–59
“Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. Read More
ESV Study Bible Notes
Abraham rejoiced that he would see the day of Christ; he saw it and was glad. Jesus is possibly referring to a whole pattern of joyful and confident faith in Abraham’s life, rather than one specific event. If the reference is to one event, some possibilities are Gen. 12:1–3; or Gen. 17:17, Gen. 17:20; or Gen. 22:8, Gen 22:13–18; cf. Rom. 4:13–21.
If there had been any uncertainty about Jesus’ identity in other passages where he said, “I am” (e.g., John 8:6:35; John 9:5; John 11:25), there was no confusion here because Jesus is claiming to be the one who was alive before Abraham was, that is, more than 2,000 years earlier. Jesus does not simply say, “Before Abraham was, I was,” which would simply mean that he is more than 2,000 years old. Rather, he uses the present tense “I am” in speaking of existence more than 2,000 years earlier, thus claiming a kind of transcendence over time that could only be true of God. The words “I am” in Greek use the same expression (Egō eimi) found in the Septuagint in the first half of God’s self-identification in Ex. 3:14, “I AM WHO I AM.” Jesus is thus claiming not only to be eternal but also to be the God who appeared to Moses at the burning bush. His Jewish opponents understood his meaning immediately and they “picked up stones” to stone him to death for blasphemy (see John 8:59).
Stoning was the prescribed punishment for blasphemy (Lev. 24:16; cf. Deut. 13:6–11; John 10:31–33; John 11:8). However, this punishment was supposed to be the result of righteous judgment, not mob violence (Deut. 17:2–7).
4. Philippians 2:5–7
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Read More
ESV Study Bible Notes
Prior to the incarnation, Christ was in the form of God (Gk. morphē theou). Despite the assertions of some scholars to the contrary, this most naturally refers to the “preexistence” of Christ—he, the eternal Son, was there with the Father (John 1:1; John 17:5, John 17:24) before he was born in Bethlehem. “Form” here means the true and exact nature of something, possessing all the characteristics and qualities of something. Therefore having the “form of God” is roughly equivalent to having equality with God (Gk. isa theō), and it is directly contrasted with having the “form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7). The Son of God is and always has been God. “Form” could also be a reference to Christ being the ultimate image of God, “the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). It might also refer to the fact that he is the visible expression of God’s invisible glory (Col. 1:15). Remarkably, Christ did not imagine that having “equality with God” (which he already possessed) should lead him to hold onto his privileges at all costs. It was not something to be grasped, to be kept and exploited for his own benefit or advantage. Instead, he had a mind-set of service. “Christ did not please himself” (Rom. 15:3). In humility, he counted the interests of others as more significant than his own (Phil. 2:3–4).
Emptied himself has occasioned much controversy. Greek kenoō can mean “empty, pour out” or also (metaphorically) “give up status and privilege.” Does this mean that Christ temporarily relinquished his divine attributes during his earthly ministry? This theory of Christ’s kenosis or “self-emptying” is not in accord with the context of Philippians or with early Christian theology. Paul is not saying that Christ became less than God or “gave up” some divine attributes; he is not even commenting directly on the question of whether Jesus was fully omnipotent or omniscient during his time on earth. Nor is he saying that Christ ever gave up being “in the form of God.” Rather, Paul is stressing that Christ, who had all the privileges that were rightly his as king of the universe, gave them up to become an ordinary Jewish baby bound for the cross. Christ “emptied himself” by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (roughly equivalent phrases). While he had every right to stay comfortably where he was, in a position of power, his love drove him to a position of weakness for the sake of sinful mankind (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9, “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich”). The “emptying” consisted of his becoming human, not of his giving up any part of his true deity.
5. Colossians 1:15–20
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Read More
ESV Study Bible Notes
the image of the invisible God. Paul depicts Christ in terms similar to the presentation of “wisdom” in Proverbs 8 (“When he established the heavens, I [wisdom] was there . . . I was beside him, like a master workman” [Prov. 8:27, 30]). In later Jewish wisdom literature, personified divine wisdom is described as the image of God. firstborn of all creation. It would be wrong to think in physical terms here, as if Paul were asserting that the Son had a physical origin or was somehow created (the classic Arian heresy) rather than existing eternally as the Son, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in the Godhead. What Paul had in mind was the rights and privileges of a firstborn son, especially the son of a monarch who would inherit ruling sovereignty. This is how the expression is used of David: “I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Ps. 89:27).
by him all things were created. Jesus did not come into existence when he was born of the virgin Mary. He was the agent of creation through whom God made heaven and earth (John 1:3). Jesus cannot be the first thing created (as the ancient Arian heresy claimed) since “all things” without exception were created by him. thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. Paul is using the current Jewish terms for various rankings of angels (although he doesn’t explain their relative ranks). His emphasis here may be on the evil angels, since they play a significant part in this letter (Col. 2:8, Col. 2:10, Col. 2:15, Col. 2:20). This would not mean, however, that Jesus created evil angels; all spiritual powers were created by Jesus, but some later chose to rebel against God and so to become evil. Jesus is not only the agent of creation but is also the goal of creation, for everything was created by him and for him, that is, for his honor and praise. Since Jesus is in this sense the goal of creation, he must be fully God (see notes on John 1:1; John 8:58).
in him all things hold together. Christ continually sustains his creation, preventing it from falling into chaos or disintegrating (cf. Heb. 1:3).
6. John 1:1–3
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. Read More
ESV Study Bible Notes
In the beginning was the Word echoes the opening phrase of the book of Genesis, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” John will soon identify this Word as Jesus (John. 1:14), but here he locates Jesus’ existence in eternity past with God. The term “the Word” (Gk. Logos) conveys the notion of divine self-expression or speech and has a rich OT background. God’s Word is effective: God speaks, and things come into being (Gen. 1:3, 9; Ps. 33:6; 107:20; Isa. 55:10–11), and by speech he relates personally to his people (e.g., Gen. 15:1). John also shows how this concept of “the Word” is superior to a Greek philosophical concept of “Word” (logos) as an impersonal principle of Reason that gave order to the universe. And the Word was with God indicates interpersonal relationship “with” God, but then and the Word was God affirms that this Word was also the same God who created the universe “in the beginning.” Here are the building blocks that go into the doctrine of the Trinity: the one true God consists of more than one person, they relate to each other, and they have always existed. From the Patristic period (Arius, c. A.D. 256–336) until the present day (Jehovah’s Witnesses), some have claimed that “the Word was God” merely identifies Jesus as a god rather than identifying Jesus as God, because the Greek word for God, Theos, is not preceded by a definite article. However, in Greek grammar, Colwell’s Rule indicates that the translation “a god” is not required, for lack of an article does not necessarily indicate indefiniteness (“a god”) but rather specifies that a given term (“God”) is the predicate nominative of a definite subject (“the Word”). This means that the context must determine the meaning of Theos here, and the context clearly indicates that this “God” that John is talking about (“the Word”) is the one true God who created all things (see also John 1:6, John 1:12, John 1:13, John 1:18 for other examples of Theos without a definite article but clearly meaning “God”).
All things includes the whole universe, indicating that (except for God) everything that exists was created and that (except for God) nothing has existed eternally. Made through him follows the consistent pattern of Scripture in saying that God the Father carried out his creative works through the activity of the Son (cf. 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2). This verse disproves any suggestion that the Word (or the Son, John 1:14) was created, for the Father would have had to do this by himself, and John says that nothing was created that way, for without him was not any thing made that was made.
7. Luke 22:66–71 (notes from vv. 67–71)
When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.” Read More
ESV Study Bible Notes
If you are the Christ, tell us. This was the key issue of the trial. Jesus answers with a qualified yes (Luke 22:67–23:3). If I tell you . . . if I ask you. Jesus knows that it would be futile to enter into dialogue with those whose minds are already made up (cf. Luke 20:3–8).
the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand . . . of God. The crucifixion of Jesus is not the end but his “exodus” leading to glory (Luke 24:26; Acts 3:13). Jesus declares that he is not only the human Messiah anticipated by the Jews but also the divine Son of Man (Dan. 7:13–14) who sits at the right hand of God (Ps. 110:1–2) and who will come in power to reign over the earth (cf. note on Matt. 8:20).
Son of God, “the Christ” (the Messiah; Luke 22:67), and “Son of Man” all refer to Jesus, emphasizing different aspects of his person and role. “Son of God” points to Jesus’ unique relationship to God and (when rightly understood) his equality with God the Father in his very being. The term “Christ” indicates that Jesus claimed to be the Son of David, the Messiah. “Son of Man” points to the person identified in Dan. 7:13–14, who will rule the kingdom of God. You say that I am. A Greek expression that deflects responsibility back upon the one asking the question (cf. Matt. 26:25, Matt. 26:64).
What further testimony do we need? The desire to catch Jesus in something he might say (Luke 11:54; 20:20, 26) has been achieved. We have heard . . . from his own lips indicates that the members of the Sanhedrin considered Jesus’ Christological claims (Luke 22:68–70) to be sufficient justification for condemning him.
8. John 5:14–18
And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus. Read More
ESV Study Bible Notes
The Pharisees were the most influential of the three major Jewish sects. (See note on John 1:24) teachers of the law. A synonym for “scribes” (Luke 5:21). From every village indicates Jesus’ great fame.
9. John 10:25–33
Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Read More
ESV Study Bible Notes
Jesus’ claim that I and the Father are one (i.e., one entity—the Gk. is neuter; cf. John 5:17–18; John 10:33–38) echoes the Shema, the basic confession of Judaism, whose first word in Deut. 6:4 is shema‘ (Hb. “hear”). Jesus’ words thus amount to a claim to deity. Hence, the Jews pick up stones to put him to death. Jesus’ unity with the Father is later said to constitute the basis on which Jesus’ followers are to be unified (John 17:22). As in John 1:1, here again the basic building blocks of the doctrine of the Trinity emerge: “I and the Father” implies more than one person in the Godhead, but “are one” implies that God is one being.
10. Colossians 2:9–10
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. Read More
ESV Study Bible Notes
in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily. Christ is the visible expression of God. In his incarnation and now in his glorification, Jesus is God in the flesh (cf. Col. 1:15–20).
you have been filled in him. In this remarkable statement, Paul affirms that believers share in Christ’s power and authority over every rule and authority by virtue of their union with him. Here is the main theme of Colossians. The divine “fullness” is in Christ (Col. 2: 9), and believers are “filled in him.” Hence, they have everything they need in Christ. They do not need any other teaching to become like God. The term head is clearly used here with the sense of “authority over” (see note on 1 Cor. 11:3). This would have been an encouraging and helpful teaching for the Colossians, who clearly continued to live in fear of the demonic realm.
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