Seeing God through Jesus Christ

“He is the image of the invisible God.”
– Colossians 1:15 –

This word “image” carries many subtle differences in meaning. The word used here is translated “portrait” in the gospels of the NIV when Jesus refers to the image of Caesar on a coin (Matthew 22:20). There it refers simply to an image that bears a likeness to the one the image is to represent. But Paul carries the word even farther. The believers at Colosse had been seduced by false teaching that made Jesus above all creation but still not equal with God. Paul wanted the Colossians believers to understand the truth about Jesus Christ, namely that he was the visible representation of the God who is invisible. It is not just that Jesus represents God to us, but that He reveals God to us. This revelation leaves no room for seeing Jesus as a righteous teacher who became divine, or for seeing him as some lesser deity, or even for believing him to be an inferior member of the Godhead. Only one who shared in the essence of deity could reveal the nature of that deity.

Thus Jesus is God manifest in human flesh. Jesus Christ was not God in disguise, as in the ancient myths and tales, he was God come to reveal himself, not to hide himself. God chose to humble himself so that sinful humankind would have an opportunity to behold the glory of God and relate to him. For the Jews of Jesus’ day, the humanity of Jesus Christ spoke against his deity. “God would never become man,” they would have said and they would have been offended at the very notion. To the Gentile teachers of Paul’s day, the humanity of Jesus Christ would have diminished his deity. Thus they espoused views that made Jesus Christ important, even more important than angels and other divine beings, but he could not be divine.

This view of Jesus as both divine and human seems to go against the grain of our understanding and expectations. Most people today would hold to a variation of one of these two ancient views. We either think it demeans God to become man, or we sure would like to believe that there is a possibility for man to become God (or at least God-like) and so make Jesus a man who became God. We are too quick to embrace some middle position that fails to account for both extremes revealed in Scripture.

To the child of God, however, Christ’s humanity makes his divinity that much sweeter. That God would become human testifies to God’s faithful love for his own. That God would deign to take our flesh and dwell among us to reveal his glory is almost unfathomable. How could the Creator of the universe submit to such humiliation as to look like me, walk and talk like me, place himself under the same limitations as me? Of course he had no sin, that was the only difference (and a major difference it was), but what else would one expect from God become human?

There is only one God: the God of the Bible and he has chosen to reveal himself through Jesus Christ, his only-begotten, the God-man. So if you refuse to worship Jesus Christ as the God-man, then you cannot worship God since God has chosen to reveal himself through Jesus Christ. Your love for God is in direct proportion to your love for Jesus Christ, the one who made the invisible God visible for sinful humankind.

Delight in, revel in, this God-become-man. God did not write of his love for you in the heavens, he did not take the chance that you might misunderstand him, instead he sent his only begotten Son, the God-man, to tell you first-hand who he is and what he has done for you.

About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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