3:14, "And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I
AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children
of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you."
I Corinthians 15:10, "But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me
was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was
This morning, very minute things in language, that may be easily passed over without thinking about them,
can make things as different as heaven is to earth. While we understand that the difference between God
and us is vast and immense, notice that the language of the page shows just a slight difference in the
wording. It is this difference (however slight) that makes a world of difference in thought in bringing out
that God is both superior and far greater in all things than we are. Rarely do I hear people outside
the true church speak of the relevance of the Bible down to every jot and every tittle. But, changing one
word above in either God's description of Himself or Paul's description of himself makes them appear equal
and synonymous. As we will see, the translation of Hebrew and Greek to the English was not a "word for
word" scenario (sometimes the original had more words than the English or vice versa), but I believe that
the way it reads on the page is significant and beyond contestation.
In God's description of His eternal essence, we read the glorious sentiment: I AM. This means that He is
self-existent, always been, and is not dependent upon anything or anyone. God can simply say, "I AM!" The
phrase THAT I AM means the same thing as I AM. Both phrases come from the same Hebrew word "hayah." Therefore, when the translators employed the word "THAT" with the "I AM" for the English language, I believe that the significance of the word "that" shows the immense difference between us and God. Notice that God (in His being) does not depend upon anything. God did not say, "I am who they will let me be." He did not speak of Himself as, "I am in addition to what man will do." God simply is! No strings, no
propositions, no negotiations, and no bargaining's. No man has the right or authority to claim such, and
those who might try would find themselves declaring their dependence on air shortly after losing it. We
are needy creatures in many assorted ways, but God simply is without any intrinsic need or dependence.
Moving into Paul's description of himself, Paul says, "I am what I am." The pronoun "what" is the only English word that is different in the phrase from God's description. Again, the "that" in Exodus is part of the phrase from "hayah" but the difference between "that" and "what" in the English language is pointedly significant. The word "that" carries at its heart that the object being amplified by this pronoun is understood or designated. So, when we use the word "that" to amplify an object, we are speaking of an object that is understood (pre-existent) or designated (declared but already in being). The pronoun "what" does not speak of pre-existent things, but rather it amplifies the source of the object not the object itself. When the word "what" is used in a question, the amplification is on the thing that answers the question and not the object in the question. For example, the question, "What are you doing?" does not amplify the "you." If the answer is, "Playing ball" then the emphasis is the answer and not the you.
If the word what is used in a non-interrogatory way, then the emphasis is placed upon the thing that has
either just been spoken or will shortly be spoken to designate the source. As is Paul's case above, there is no question being asked, but the emphasis is not on Paul. The emphasis is on what preceded the "what." What made Paul who he was? The answer is found before in that the grace of God is what makes Paul what he is. Does God need grace from some outside source to be what He is? God forbid we should claim His dependence upon some outside source! God is not what He is, but rather He is THAT He is. I AM THAT I AM, not I AM 'what' I AM! We are what we are (in speaking of goodness) due to the grace of God, but we need that outside source for both eternity and the here and now. Daily grace is needed for our sustenance. Daily mercy is needed for our walk. It is His grace that sustains us.
Now, after such a long lesson in grammer, one might say, "What is the point behind all this? These points
about the difference between God and man are evident and known." The point is that one change in the
language to either verse brings God down to man's level or brings man up to God's level. It is our duty
to diligently and earnestly contend for what has been delivered unto us. These words are important, for
they are the words of God that are pure as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. We understand that He will keep them forever through every generation, but may we be found earnestly contending that their "copies" be kept the same without change or tarnishing. Man seeks at every
opportunity to deify himself. May we seek the ground of God's divinely inspired word that shows forth our
Lord as self-existent and us as completely dependent upon Him, His mercy, and His grace.