To see Christ is to see God. To know the Son is to know the Father. To believe in Jesus Christ is to believe in God. N. T. Wright makes this point. “It is because of Jesus that Christians claim they know who the creator God of the world is…It is all because of Jesus that we speak of God the way we do.”1
The apostle Paul wrote that the beloved Son of God through whom we have been redeemed and forgiven “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth” (Colossians 1:15-16). In 2 Corinthians 4:4 the apostle writes, “Christ, who is the image of God.” The Hebrew writer also claims the Son, Jesus Christ, is the image of God and the one through whom God speaks to us. “But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature [nrsv “of God’s very being]” (Hebrews 1:2-3).
This is the claim Jesus made concerning himself. “And Jesus cried out and said, ‘Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.” (John 12:44-45). “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9b).
God as I know him in Jesus, as I wrote in the last post, is all powerful, able to do what he promises; and God is faithful and trustworthy. In this post I share with you that God as I know him in Jesus is more than I could ever imagine him being.
One of the scribes asked Jesus, “‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”’” (Mark 12:28-30). Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4-5. It is important to note Deuteronomy 6:4. “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” The Deuteronomy text is speaking of YHWH, thus “Lord” in our English translations. It is YHWH to whom Jesus is meaning to make reference with this quote. There are not multiple gods. There is only one true God, YHWH, the God of Abraham, the God of the Old Testament. God, YHWH, is one God. God is one! Yet…
During one of many Sabbath confrontations Jesus answered his opponents. “‘My Father is working until now, and I am working.’ This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:17-18). Jesus did not correct this belief. It also possible John is not simply giving us the understanding of the Jews but also his own when he wrote his gospel. Jesus is equal with God.
At a confrontation in Jerusalem Jesus was asked, “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” He responded, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:24, 30). One, Jesus means more than agreement and working together. He and the Father are one, though two. They are one God. The confrontation continued. “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’” (John 10:31-33). Jesus does not correct them.
Remember Jesus’ quote of Deuteronomy 6:4-5 as the first and great commandment? “Hear, O Israel”: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God” (Mark 12:29-30). Deuteronomy is speaking of YHWH, Creator, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God of Moses and of Israel. Yet when Thomas sees the resurrected Jesus, he confessed to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Thomas, whether he fully understood or not, was equating Jesus with YHWH. Jesus does not respond with rebuke or correction. Rather Jesus accepts the confession of Thomas concerning Jesus. Jesus then goes on to bless all who will believe in him as Lord and God. “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
Jesus, my Lord and my God, is a key foundation stone on which John builds his gospel. He lays this foundation stone in chapter one. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Clearly John is speaking of Jesus, “the Word became flesh.” John’s familiar words in John 1:1-3 are bold. “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.” The Word became flesh and lived among us. That Word is Jesus. That Word was in the beginning, was with God, was God, and created all that was created. Jesus, my Lord and my God!
In the midst of a discussion concerning idolatry we perhaps hear Paul reflecting on Deuteronomy 6:4. “We know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one.’ For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’–yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:4-6). What Moses wrote of YHWH, Lord and God, Paul applies to the Father, one God, and Jesus, one Lord. One not many.
One with God, was God, equal with God, “my Lord and my God,” all applied to Jesus. There is one God, yet he is more than I could ever imagine him being–Father and Son, and even more. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, identified by one name. God is one, yet God is three, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; three yet one God. How do you explain what is the mystery of God, the more of God, of his very being? The mystery of God, Father, Son, and Spirit, is more than I can imagine. My faith in Scripture and in Jesus Christ I accept the clear and unexplained statements of both. Father, Son, and Spirit, three yet one!
Illustrations fall short in seeking to help us clearly understand the oneness of Father, Son, and Spirit, the one God who is one. Yet one which helps me is the explanation given by C. S. Lewis. “You know that in space you can move in three ways–to left or right, backwards or forwards, up or down. Every direction is either one of these three or a compromise between them. They are called the three Dimensions. Now notice this. If you are using only one dimension, you could draw only a straight line. If you are using two, you could draw a figure: say, a square. And a square is made up of four lines. Now a step further. If you have three dimensions, you can then build what we call a solid body, say, a cube–a thing like a dice or a lump of sugar. And a cube is made up of six squares.”
“Do you see the point? A world of one dimension would be a straight line. In a two-dimensional world, you still get straight lines, but many lines make one figure. In a three-dimensional world, you still get figures but many figures make one solid body. In other words, as you advance to more real and more complicated levels, you do not leave behind you the things you found on the simpler levels: yuou still have them, but combined in new ways–in ways you could not imagine if you knew only the simpler levels.”
“Now the Christian account of God involves just the same principle. The human level is a simple and rather empty level. On the human level one person is one being, and any two persons are two separate beings–just as, in two dimensions (say on a flat sheet of paper) one square is one figure, and any two squares are two separate figures. On the Divine level you still find personalities; but up there you find them combined in new ways which we, who do not live on that level, cannot imagine. In God’s dimension, so to speak, you find a being who is three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube. Of course we cannot fully conceive a Being like that: just as, if we were so made that we perceived only two dimensions in space we could never properly imagine a cube. But we can get a sort of faint notion of it.”2
As human knowledge grows concerning creation we learn of a complex creation to the smallest part. If the God of Scripture is true, and I believe he is, if the God Jesus reveals is true, and I believe he is, he is complex. As we learn of the complex of creation the complexity of God is not surprising. What earthly good, though, is discussing this which we cannot imagine?
The God Jesus came to reveal, the God I know in Jesus, is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is not the God of Islam or God as he is understood by Judaism. This is not God as he is understood by Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. The importance of discussing God as Father, Son, and Spirit, is knowing the true God proclaimed in Scripture and revealed in Jesus Christ.
God as I know him in Jesus Christ as Father, Son, and Spirit, helps me to understand more completely, more deeply, God’s grace and love toward us. Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love” (John 15:9). The love we receive from God and from Jesus is the love they have first for one another! Paul writes of “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” abiding with us (2 Corinthians 13:14). Read Ephesians 3:14-21. Paul prays to the Father to strengthen Christians within “with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” The Father, the Son, the Spirit are all involved in our relationship with God and our growth in faith and love. In Romans 8 we see Father, Son, and Spirit involved in salvation, transformation of hearts and lives, hope, strengthening, and prayer.
I cannot fully imagine or understand, but in Jesus Christ this is God as I know him, Father, Son, and Spirit. As Father, and through his Son and Spirit, God loves us, saves us, guides us, enables us, sustains us, and gives us hope. Through all three we have fellowship with God and with each other. Notice the following texts.
“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
“And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).
“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:6)
“For through (Christ) we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18).
“Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:18-21).
“But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
“To those who are elect exiles…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood” (1 Peter 1:1-2).
“By this we know that we abide in (God) and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:13-14).
“But you beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (Jude 20-21).
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit love me with a love beyond by full understanding, a love originating within and between them. My salvation, my redemption, my justification, my forgiveness, my strength to live new life in Christ, my hope, and more, come from God and are accomplished by God, the Father, through the Son and the Holy Spirit. God as I know him in Jesus Christ is more than I could ever imagine him being.
1N. T. Wright, Simply Christian (New York: HarperOne, 2006), 140.
2C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, 1996), 142-143.