Monday, March 13, 2017

God Is Like Jesus

Christians often want to protect the deity of Christ. They insist that being a Christian entails being Trinitarian and that of course always means affirming that "Jesus is God".

But what does not come across as often as that is the idea that God is like Jesus.

In other words, many Christians still hold fast to the idea that the Father of Jesus, who we see in the Old Testament scriptures, is a wrathful, impatient, angry and quite often bloodthirsty God, in contrast to  Jesus, the Son, who is a decidedly softer and more gentle personality.

On one side, this isn't surprising. There are noticeable differences in God's character between those Old and New Covenant scriptures. So, we have to reconcile those apparent contradictions somehow, and what better way than by appealing to the language of the Trinity where there are 3 distinct "persons" who make up the one substance we call the One True God.

Now, I'm not against the doctrine of the Trinity. I personally affirm the doctrine. But I think my fellow Trinitarians are off-base when they attribute two different personalities to the Father and the Son. Especially when the New Testament scriptures give us no wiggle room in that capacity.

Simply put: The New Testament scriptures only affirm - over and over again - that Jesus IS what the Father looks like, and that means: The Father looks like Jesus.

Here's are a few examples from Jesus Himself:

"I and the Father are one" - John 10:30

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." - Jesus [John 14:9]

"Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me" - John 14:11

And here are a few scriptures from the Apostles about how Jesus and the Father are alike in heart and character:

"The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word." [Hebrews 1:3]

"[Jesus] Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing..." [Phil. 2:6-7]

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." [John 1:1]

He [Jesus] 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.” [Colossians 1:15-20]

‘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.” [Colossians 2:9-10]

So...what's happening here? How is it that we've gotten the [wrong] idea about the Father? Why do we wrestle with the idea that the Father is who Jesus reveals Him to be?

Maybe because we're still reading those Old Testament scriptures through our old filters.

Paul refers to this in 2 Cor. 3:14:

"But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.”

In other words: we have a veil that covers our eyes and clouds our understanding whenever we take those Old Testament reports of the Father at face value. Those are inaccurate pictures of what our Abba is really like.

This is EXACTLY what John intends for us to understand when he writes in the very first chapter of the Gospel of John:

"No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known." [v.18]

Take that in for a moment. 

Notice: "No one has ever seen God."

That means no one - not even those Old Testament Prophets - ever really saw God clearly. 

This, according to the Gospel of John, is one of the main reasons why Jesus "the one and only Son" came to us: To show us who the Father really is.

Consider this: If everyone already had a clear picture of what the Father was like, then why would Jesus need to come and reveal Him to us? 

And wouldn't it make sense that the picture Jesus showed us was/is radically different from the foggy, murky picture we had of God before He showed us the truth?

So, if you want to know what God the Father is like, what He is REALLY like: Just look at Jesus.

If you want to know what the Father's attitude about you is, listen to Jesus tell the parable of the prodigal and the Father who welcomed and forgave with open arms.

If you want to know what the Father's character is really like, watch Jesus forgive those who beat him and tortured and killed him. 

If you want to know what the Father does when we miss His best for us, watch as Jesus weeps over Jerusalem because they refused to know the things that are meant for peace.

In Jesus we see a Father who would rather die than live without us. We see a Father who loves us with an everlasting love. We see a Father who washes our feet, even when we betray Him.

In Jesus, we see a Father who has compassion on the outcast and the broken, and the blind, and the poor, and the prostitute, and even on those who don't worship the right way or those who have bad theology or who enrich themselves at the expense of others. In Jesus we see a Father who loves everyone who bears His image - which is every single one of us. 

The Father says: "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more."

The Father says: "I will never leave you or forsake you."

Jesus says we should call the Father our "Abba" or our "Daddy" when we talk to Him.

In fact, we're told to pray directly to the Father - not to or through Jesus - but directly to our "Abba" Father. That means the Father is approachable. He sits and waits to hear our voice. He has called us His children. 

"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" [1 John 3:1]

So, more and more I'm personally trying to remember that the Father is who Jesus says He is. The Father is not the wrathful, angry, violent, bloodthirsty God we read about in the Old Testament. How do I know? Because those people did not ever see God clearly. Only Jesus reveals the Father to us, and Jesus did not reveal to us an angry, wrathful, petty, violent God. He revealed an "Abba" to us who looks just like Jesus in heart and character.

Yes, Jesus is like God, but God the Father is like Jesus. And that, my friends, is very good news.



Norm M. said...

Beautifully presented, Keith. God makes so much more sense when we attribute the character of Jesus to Him rather than the character the prophets portrayed. Thanks for sharing the distinction.

Maiar said...

I really like this, but it might be made more persuasive by quoting relevant OT passages, like the ones about mercy, God's care for orphans, etc. But good points as always, Keith.