So then, Christ, the Image of the invisible God must be our starting point if we want to know God. We can’t begin with reason, we can’t begin with religion, we can’t begin with creation. It is simply not the case that these things provide us with a sub-Christian starting point to which can be added Christian revelation.
Now there is Christian reason (eg see this post on faith seeking understanding). There is Christian religion (eg see this post on Jesus’ new wineskins). There is Christian knowledge of God to be had from creation (eg see this post on the sermon of creation). But we can only do any of this on the basis of Jesus – the Word of God.
And that’s something I’m determined to take very seriously. Jesus is THE Word. Whatever other words there are (even if they be written by prophets and apostles!) cannot be allowed to speak over this Word. Rather they must be strictly co-ordinated with THE Word and understood as expressions of that one Image of the otherwise invisible God. If these others words do not point us to the one Word then they cannot be considered true words.
Jesus is THE revelation of God. He is not simply the best revelation of God or the seal of a series of improving revelations. He is THE image of the invisible God. No-one has ever seen God, BUT Jesus – God the One and Only – has made Him known. There is no presentation of God that is not a presentation in and through Jesus. If we try to think about God without thinking about Jesus we are sure to fall into idolatry.
In John 14:6 we see Jesus explaining His exclusivity to His followers:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Imagine if a Christian friend came to us saying they thought there were other valid ‘ways’ of salvation. Or that there were other Christ-ignorant ways that were a beneficial preparation for Jesus – what would we say? Or what if someone claimed there was life outside Jesus (remembering the meaning of “life” in John’s gospel!) or that there were other Christ-ignorant ‘life’s that were helpful stepping-stones to Jesus – how would we react?? Yet I think we are tolerant of claims within the church that there is ‘truth’ that is available to all regardless of whether the person has come to Christ – the Truth.
So the question is – Is Jesus just as much ‘the Truth’ as He is ‘the Way’ and ‘the Life’? One of the main points of this blog is to keep answering Yes to this question and to think through its implications.
I think this is a worthwhile task because so often people talk of ‘the wisdom of the world’ in positive terms – as though Paul had never written 1 Cor 1:17-2:14! Truth is in Jesus (Eph 4:21) it is a property which no human has by nature but is only grasped in Him. To know any truth whatsoever about God we must come to Jesus. To continue to grow in knowledge about God we must enquire of Jesus.
It is significant that, following Jesus’ magnificent proclamation in John 14:6, Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father. Now perhaps we think Philip ought to be commended for such a Christ-centred request – after all he’s not asking Mohammed to show him the Father! Yet Jesus does not consider Philip’s question to be Christ-centred enough, not by half:
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know Me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in Me, who is doing His work.”
Christ does not lead us by the hand to a place where we can see the Father! If we want to see the Father we look at Christ. Jesus will not have His followers avert their gaze from Him for a second. There is nowhere else that Jesus would have us look except to Himself. The Father is not a reality which we can consider outside of Christ – the Father is IN Christ. Therefore to see the Father we focus all our seeing and thinking on Jesus. Whatever is true of Jesus will be foundational for our understanding of God. Whatever is not true of Jesus cannot form our view of God – such ‘truth’ has clearly come from elsewhere.
The challenge for us is this: Is our view of Jesus this big?
Is Jesus the Image of the Invisible God, the Creator and Purpose of the Universe?
Or is He just a tour guide who’s brought us to the Father (the real God)?
Is Jesus the height and breadth and length and depth of the fullness of deity?
Or do you think of Him as somehow smaller or narrower than ‘God’?
Have we made peace in our thinking/praying/worship with a picture of God which is not revealed in Jesus? The answer for all of us is almost certainly “yes.” Therefore we must repent. Continually. And resolve to shape our vision of God, of life, of ourselves, solely in Christ – the Truth.