Understanding God Through Christ

The Bible is full of often-overlooked keys that can resolve many of our misunderstandings about God and His Word. In reading the Scriptures, one may vaguely sense these things but somehow never clearly see them because of misleading misconceptions about Scripture.

". . . He who has seen Me has seen the Father . . ." (John 14:9).

The Bible is full of often-overlooked keys that can resolve many of our misunderstandings about God and His Word. In reading the Scriptures one may vaguely sense these things but somehow never clearly see them because of misleading misconceptions about Scripture.

Jesus Christ came to reveal God the Father (Matthew 11:27). Yet mainstream Christianity continually deemphasizes the role of the Father and focuses almost exclusively on Christ. Such thinking never originated with Jesus Himself. He told us to pray in this manner: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:9-10). Jesus always endeavored to acquaint people with the Father and point them toward Him.

Not truly comprehending the four Gospel accounts, the world suffers from a grievous misunderstanding of God the Father. The biblical reality is often the opposite of the way many, even those in the mainstream religious establishment, usually picture Him.

The Father is intimately concerned with the whole creation. Even the falling of a sparrow gains His attention. Yet Christ said that human beings are of more value than sparrows, and the Father is deeply concerned with His master plan for humanity.

He sends rain on the just and the unjust. He is kind to unthankful and evil human beings. He is merciful (Luke 6:35-36), putting up with much from a wayward mankind. He is patient towards us all, always hoping for full repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

God the Father is especially concerned with the "firstfruits"—those called to eternal life now in this age—and particularly those vulnerable "little ones" who are in the first stages of conversion (Matthew 18:6-14). Christians who are more mature are firmly advised to be cautious and not to offend "one of these little ones" (verse 10).

The Son, Jesus Christ, while human demonstrated the way the Father thinks and lives. Truly He came to reveal the Father. It is through Christ Himself—through His life and work, through His sterling example—that we more completely comprehend the Father's nature and character. Many often overlook this crucial biblical principle.

Christ reflects the Father

The New Testament sheds much light on how we are to understand the Old Testament, especially matters about the Father and the Son.

Again, Hebrews 1:2-3 tells us: "[God] has in these last days spoken unto us by His [or 'a'] Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who [is] the brightness of His [the Father's] glory, and the express image of His Person . . ." Christ was exactly like the Father.

In this particular verse image is translated from the Greek word charakter. This term means "'a tool for [en]graving' . . . [or] 'a stamp' or 'impress,' as on a coin or seal, in which case the seal or die which makes an impression bears the 'image' produced by it, and, vice versa, all the features of the 'image' correspond respectively with those of the instrument producing it" (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, "Image," p. 319).

No wonder Christ told Philip, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Christ is the express image of God the Father. We can gain much understanding from Jesus' conversation with His apostles. He had said to Thomas, "No one comes to the Father except through Me" (verse 6). Jesus came to reveal the Father. Christ continued, "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him" (verse 7).

It is easy to speedily read right over these words and not grasp their significance. The Bible is not a book for speed-reading or careless skimming. Understanding its depth of meaning requires calm meditation and deep thought. We should make it a habit to pause to reflect on the meaning of what we read.

The disciples were not yet converted—not yet begotten of the Holy Spirit—and therefore did not comprehend the incredible meaning of what Jesus was saying. Christ had told Peter in another place, ". . . When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren" (Luke 22:32, KJV). During the first foot-washing ceremony, at the time of the Passover, He had said to Peter, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand" (John 13:7, NRSV).

After Christ's resurrection, God would send His Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and then the disciples would begin to understand (John 14:16-17; 16:12-13). But let's return to Christ's discourse with the disciples.

Philip joined the conversation. He said to Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us" (John 14:8). Plainly Philip had not understood what Christ had just said to Thomas in verse 7.

"Jesus said to him, 'Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?" (verse 9).

Jesus gently rebuked Philip for his lack of understanding. Yet the other disciples were in the same boat. Even today most people don't fully realize the spiritual impact of Christ's words. Though They were two separate individuals, Jesus was the express image of the Father. Jesus Christ was exactly like God the Father—yet the Bible clearly shows that They were and are two separate Beings.

We understand God the Father through Christ. We comprehend the Father's nature and character through the Son—not through ancient philosophies or the incomplete, often-misleading knowledge of fallible human beings.

Comprehending the nature of spirit

Through the actual experience of Christ, the four Gospel accounts throw much light on how we are to comprehend the nature of spirit when comparing it with flesh in the person of Christ.

Consider the spirit world and ask yourself: Do spirit beings have form? Do they have discernible spirit bodies? Do they possess personality? Do they have faces? Do they have voices?

Can human eyes see God? Under certain protective conditions, yes, as God testified of Moses: "He sees the form of the LORD" (Numbers 12:8). Putting all the pertinent scriptures together, we see that this divine Being was the preexistent Word of John 1:1 rather than God the Father.

Unique in all Scripture, under protective measures Moses was even allowed to see the back parts of God in His glorified form (Exodus 33:18-23). However, he was not permitted to view God's face in full glory because, since it shines as the sun in full strength, Moses would have perished on the spot (verse 20).

On another important occasion, after the giving of the Ten Commandments, Moses, Aaron, Aaron's two sons and 70 elders of Israel "saw the God of Israel. Under His feet there was . . . a pavement of sapphire, clear blue as the very heavens" (Exodus 24:9-10, REB). Presumably in this situation, too, the preexistent Word shielded them from the full intensity of His glory.

The face of God

Such questions become even more intriguing if we apply them to God the Father, "Lord of heaven and earth" (Matthew 11:25), Great Ruler over the entire universe. Christ gives us much insight as we explore the answers—not only by His own testimony, but by His appearances to the disciples after His resurrection to eternal spirit life.

Obviously the angels in heaven can see the Father. The plain biblical evidence is found in Matthew 18:10. Jesus said, "Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven."

In his book The Human Face, Daniel McNeill asks: "Does the Christian God have a face? The Bible says he made people in his own image, which suggests he does" (1998, p. 140). That would be the normal conclusion of almost anyone not previously indoctrinated by erroneous philosophies that date back to ancient times.

The apostle John recorded much of what Jesus said about the Father. John 1:18 is a case in point: "No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." Again, Christ came to reveal the Father. God can be seen, but Jesus is the only human being who has ever seen Him face to face in His full, glorified form.

A little later in John's Gospel account, Christ said to a Samaritan woman, ". . . The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:21-24). God the Father is not physical; He is spirit—yet that does not mean He is without form and shape.

Christ stated: "And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form" (John 5:37). Yet it is plainly implied from these passages in the book of John that the Father can be both seen and heard, but not by human eyes. He has been seen only by the Son (John 6:45-46) and the angelic host—plus a few human beings, including the Hebrew prophet Daniel and the apostle John, through visions.

Because Jesus said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9), the resemblance between the Father and the Son must be strong in more ways than we could humanly imagine. Still, They are two distinctly separate Beings who continually plan and confer with each other.

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