In his im­age

The Covington News - - Religion -

Last week I re­ceived two let­ters in­tent on cor­rect­ing me re­gard­ing my be­lief that Je­sus is the sec­ond per­son of the Trin­ity — the son of God. Both let­ters quoted only a por­tion of John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God.” And, then, based on that phrase con­cluded that Je­sus could not there­fore be God in the flesh.

Let’s look at this. First of all, John 1:18 is not that one sim­ple phrase. I learned a long time ago that any text without its con­text is noth­ing but pre­text, and that is what those who iso­late this phrase seem to be miss­ing. The whole verse reads, “No one has ever seen God. The only son, who is truly God and is clos­est to the Fa­ther, has shown us what God is like” (John 1:18, CEV). That puts a whole dif­fer­ent spin on things doesn’t it?

What John is record­ing for us is the fact that no mor­tal man in this life had seen the fa­ther. Even Moses was pro­hib­ited from looking on the fa­ther’s face (Ex­o­dus 33:23). But hav­ing said that, we see Abra­ham meet­ing with the Lord (and the Old Tes­ta­ment word used here is Yah­weh-or as the 15th Cen­tury monks fi­nally ren­dered it: Je­ho­vah) “ap­peared to Abra­ham” (Gen­e­sis 18:1). How could this be? God him­self ap­pear­ing to this Old Tes­ta­ment pa­tri­arch (and we can in­clude Ja­cobs en­counter in this dis­cus­sion just as eas­ily — Gen­e­sis 32:30), yet here is John declar­ing, “No one has seen God.” Is there a mis­take here?

I do not be­lieve so. Be­liev­ing in the trin­ity of God, we be­lieve th­ese Old Tes­ta­ment ap­pear­ances (and I have just men­tioned two of nu­mer­ous ap­pear­ances) to be in fact ap­pear­ances of the sec­ond per­son of the Trin­ity; pre-in­car­nate ap­pear­ances of the eter­nal (not cre­ated) son.

Now just an aside here, the ar­gu­ment that we Chris­tians be­lieve in three God’s is ab­so­lutely lu­di­crous. One ma­jor cult dis­misses the idea of the Trin­ity be­cause it de­fies logic. Sadly, they make their own log­i­cal mis­take in declar­ing they alone be­lieve in one God, while call­ing Je­sus “a god.” Now wait a minute: if you teach that Je­sus is a god (and that is what their trans­la­tion de­clares, not “like a god” but “a god” you in re­al­ity have your­self be­come poly­the­is­tic.

Get­ting back to my ini­tial thought, the pas­sage in John 1:18 far from re­mov­ing any pos­si­bil­ity of Je­sus be­ing God in the flesh, ac­tu­ally claims just that. “No one has ever seen God. The only son, who is truly God and is clos­est to the Fa­ther, has shown us what God is like” (John 1:18, CEV). No mor­tal may have ever gazed upon God the fa­ther, but the son

who is God of very God, re­vealed him to us in the in­car­na­tion and ap­peared as God prior to the in­car­na­tion as we have seen in the case of Abra­ham and Ja­cob. We could add Ha­gar, Gideon and oth­ers to that list.

Dr. R. C. Sproul re­minds us, “Faith in the de­ity of Christ is nec­es­sary to be­ing a Chris­tian. It is an es­sen­tial part of the New Tes­ta­ment gospel of Christ. Yet in ev­ery cen­tury the church has been forced to deal with peo­ple who claim to be Chris­tians while deny­ing or dis­tort­ing the de­ity of Christ. In Church his­tory there have been four cen­turies in which con­fes­sion of the de­ity of Christ has been a cru­cial and stormy is­sue in­side the church. Those cen­turies have been the fourth, fifth, nine­teenth and twen­ti­eth. Since we are liv­ing in one of the cen­turies where heresy as­saults the church, it is ur­gent that we safe­guard the church’s con­fes­sion of Christ’s de­ity” (Sproul, R.C., “Es­sen­tial Truths of the Chris­tian Faith,” Tyn­dale House Pub­lish­ers, Wheaton, IL, 1992, ISBN: 0-8423-5936 p.77).

Dr. John Pearrell is pas­tor of Gate­way Com­mu­nity Church. Write him in care of the church at 11677 Brown Bridge Road Cov­ing­ton, GA 30016. Or email him at john.pearrell@gate- way­commu­nity.org. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit the Gate­way Web site at www.gate­way­commu­nity.org

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