John 1:18 As Jesus becomes the face of God to the world, we become the face of Christ to our community
John 1:18 As Jesus becomes the face of God to the world, we become the face of Christ to our community
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. John 1:18
By virtue of God’s infinite glory it is not possible for man to see God and live. Because of love, God has devised a way through which humanity can see Him as He is: It is through Jesus, the only begotten God that man can fully know the Father. Jesus originates from the Father and possesses His divine essence. In so doing, Jesus becomes the face of God to the world. In the same way, we as His followers become the face of Christ to our community.
No one has seen God at any time…
The author puts forth an explicit proposition that no one has engaged God directly or seen Him as He is. “At any time” further substantiates the proposition that no one, not even Adam had seen God. However, how does this proposition square with the many accounts of people who actually interacted with God. Hebrews 2:2 gives a clue,
For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty. Hebrews 2:2
Right until the advent of Jesus, God has been speaking to man through the angels (word spoken through angels). Adam and Eve, Moses and the 70 elders have all interacted with God but God had never appeared and spoken in person. Hebrews 1:1-2 says,
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son. Hebrews 1:1-2
“Many ways” or many modes implies God speaking through a vessel or channel but never directly in person. Why does God need to speak through a proxy? Upon Moses’s request to see Him, God responded, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” Exodus 33:20. The divine glory is so intense, any created thing that comes near will be incinerated. Human beings are incapable of seeing and appropriating the infinite reality of God. We could not as much survive such an encounter as we could survive a direct encounter with the sun. However, God veils and accommodates His infinite being to our finite frame so that we can experience a semblance of His likeness. No one in the right frame of mind will look at the sun directly but through a dark filter. The image of the sun seen through the filter is not the true image of the sun, but a veiled image of it. In this sense, it is possible to “see God’s face” and live. But it is in fact the veiled face of God, adapted to our limited mentality and perception. In so doing, we can catch a glimpse of God without being destroyed by the intensity of His glory.
One of the ways God veils and dims the divine manifestation adequately so that we can encounter Him is to fill an angel with the divine consciousness thus, speaking through them.
…the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
Because of love, God has devised a way through which humanity can see Him as He is: It is through the “only begotten God” that humanity can finally know and see the Father. The “only begotten” (monogene in Greek) means the only one of His kind, namely: God, which effectively differentiates His birth from that of Adam. Now, God is said to be in the bosom of the Father; which depicts a place of unrivalled honour and intimacy. In coming from the Father’s bosom, He originates from the Father and possesses His divine essence. Thus, He is only One who can truly represent the Father in all His divine attributes (He has explained Him). “The Father” infers the divine nature as an origin, “the Son” infers the divine human nature that came from that origin. And “the Holy Spirit” infers the divine influence that radiates out from the Son (see John 7:38-39).
That said, is it important for the Divine to be made conceivable, perceivable and tangible to humanity in the first place? Can God remain transcendent while continuing to make veiled appearances to man? Is God’s word alone sufficient in itself to create faith for regeneration and salvation? God’s reconciliation with humanity necessitates the full revelation of God without which man’s faith becomes nebulous, fragile and ineffective against the onslaught of darkness. If God is to remain transcendent, humanity can never be saved. We know that in order for humanity to be saved, he must know God and be conformed to His image and righteousness. And if man is to know God and be conformed to His image, then, man has to be able to see Him, touch Him, and interact Him in person. For this purpose, God has made Himself accessible, perceptible and tangible to human senses. The apostle John said,
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us. 1 John 1:1-2
Indeed, God’s word must necessarily lead us to encounter Him by seeing Him with our eyes and touching with our hands. To know God is to see Him, to acknowledge Him and to become like Him.
The more we purify and humble themselves, the clearer we see Him and the deeper we know Him.
Part of knowing God is to encounter His presence through our human senses, to know His mind, to resonate with His passion and to share in His authority. Without actually engaging God with our human senses, without knowing His mind and passion, and without sharing His resources, we cannot say to have progressed in our relationship with Him. Very much like a couple in a dating relationship. They begin by interacting at a superficial level and gradually, they grow closer while building trust and commitment. The point is: as the couple’s faith in each other grows, they reveal more of themselves and share their resources.
Likewise, God reveals more of Himself to those who love Him and obey His commandments. Jesus said to His disciples, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” (John 14:21). One of the disciples asked, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?” (John 14:22). In reply, Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:23). It is important to note that Jesus discloses Himself not to the world, but to those who love God and obey His commandments. The desire to see the one you love and to share is both divine and human. No one can love and yet not yearn to know, to see, touch and to share.
Yet, why are so many supposedly mature believers unable to experience God beyond the realm of their minds? Their relationship with God feels one-sided so much so they give up on the notion of seeing God. For they have come to dismiss it as both unnecessary and unhelpful to spiritual growth. There are various reasons for God’s aloofness, one of which pertains to the posture of the heart and its readiness for change. When the heart is intransigent, prideful or falsified by erroneous teachings, God tarries until it is purified by the word and by trials of life. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8. One classic example is Job whom God purified with great tribulations. And at the end of his self-righteous quest for justice and vindication, Job humbled himself and said,
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You.” Job 42:5
Nevertheless, we should not stop desiring to see God clearer and to know Him at a deeper level. However, while many desire to be close to Jesus, they are disqualified by virtue of His radical demands. Jesus said to those who came to Him,
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:26.
By meditating on the truth in earnest self-reflection, we become more sensitive and familiar with Christ’s presence, thoughts and passions.
As Jesus becomes the face of God to the world, we become the face of Christ to our community.
Jesus originates from the Father and has in His possession the full attributes of God. Thus, by observing Jesus’s way of life, we know who the Father is, and what His attributes are. And there is absolutely no other way to know the Father except by knowing the Son. The Father’s forgiving nature is expressed through the Son’s capacity to forgive those who tortured Him without cause. And subsequently, no blame was assigned to another. Regrettably, by citing Jesus’s plea to the Father to forgive His tormentors (see Luke 23:34), the church portrays the Father as the unsympathetic Judge who assigns credit or blame, and the Son as the merciful Mediator. However, God is One, not divided; and the seat of love and forgiveness resides in the Father who desires all men to be saved and none to perish in hell. The Son’s capacity to forgive without assigning blame to another or even Himself reflects the Father’s forgiving nature.
Nevertheless, the idea of justice arises from the earthly law which God is not bound to. The earthly law of justice is administered by human vessels, it traps and punishes transgressions. Hence, it is required for transgressors to be swiftly punished (in “an eye for an eye” fashion) so that order may be preserved in the society. However, the heavenly law is not bound by earthly laws and is administered by the all-knowing righteous God. For God is merciful and wise and have full knowledge of each person. Thus, He disciplines not for the purpose of fulfilling the consequences as stated in law, but to save. Hence, the righteousness of God transcends the earthly law. Paul taught,
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets. Romans 3:21
The earthly law demands swift punishment of transgressors, but the righteousness of God demands no such thing but only that man turn from their wicked ways. The psalmist said,
Bless the Lord… who pardons all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. Psalm 103:3,10
Jesus came not to take the punishment of sin on man’s behalf but rather to take away the power of sin that resides in us. Therefore, God’s forgiveness takes away the immediate consequences of the law (eternal punishment) so that man may have opportunity to turn to God. That said, God’s forgiveness does not absolve man from the day where Christ Himself will judge the hearts of man. Jesus spoke about a sin that cannot before forgiven: sin against the Holy Spirit or the sin of impenitence. Jesus said,
“Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” Matthew 12:32
For impenitent sinners, there is reserved for them the final judgment of eternal condemnation. Therefore, in the process of being made righteous, believers must do all to study Jesus’s manner of life and to be like Him. Paul admonished the believers,
“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12
That said, if Christ is the only way through which humanity can know the Father. It follows that believers become the only way through which the people around us may know Christ. That being so, let us pay careful attention to our manner of life for we are predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son (see Romans 8:29). As Christ drew humanity towards the Father by way of His forgiveness and divine attributes (love, wisdom and power), likewise believers should draw people to Christ through our godly and gracious ways. Regrettably, many are drawn into the church not by the godly conduct of believers but by the prospect of quick gain and cheap grace. Such came in search of blessings and solutions to their problems with little desire for God or for the truth.
This is no wonder because a majority of Christendom are preoccupied with worldly pursuits. And because they do not acknowledge God as Lord, they cannot enter into God’s kingdom. Heaven, a place where love and wisdom is cherished, will never bode well with those who are accustomed to a life of fleshly pleasures, pride and self rule. To such, the kingdom of heaven will be a much dreaded place. And they will instead prefer an existence self-centred lust, and falsehood weaved with torture where they come alive with a sparkle in their eyes in a place they considered as heavenly.
Seek God through fasting and meditating on the word. In so doing, you become pliable as you allow the Spirit to regenerate and rebuild the spiritual foundations and structures within you. Many who claim to be mature are obstinate in their ways so much so God cannot mould them towards a more intimate fellowship with Him. Humble yourself and pay closer attention to the words spoken by your leaders. And you will find yourself breaking through in your walk with God.
Re-examine the way you preach the gospel. Inspire others to draw near to God by your life of love, wisdom and power. Do not focus on the prospect of escaping hell by merely acknowledging Christ as the Saviour. But demonstrate the way of salvation by your life of love, and wisdom. Demonstrate the power of God by engaging the spiritual forces and destroying them in Jesus’s name. In so doing, we evangelise the world by demonstrating God’s power and virtues, not by persuasion alone.
Dear Lord, I am filled with peace, joy and pleasure when your presence comes near me. My anxieties turn into peace and my confusion melt away. Fellowship with you gives me joy above all other pleasures. As Jesus becomes the face of God to the world, help me be the face of Christ to my family and the organisation I work for. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.