Knowing the One God

In the Old Covenant, belief in the One God was relational rather than merely rational. It wasn’t just a theoretical acknowledgment that there is only One Supreme Being. The daily repeated Shema says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deut 6:4 NRSV). To know the One God is to love him totally and to serve only him.

As a devout Jew, Saul of Tarsus loved and served only the God of Israel as the one who is in a class of his own. However, after the risen Jesus encountered Saul, (now known as Paul), he explicitly and continually spoke of his relationship with the risen Lord Jesus in the same exclusive way. And he urged other believers to turn from idolatry to love and serve the risen Jesus as the only true Lord.

We also come to know Jesus as the one true God as he encounters us bringing us into a relationship with him. That means grasping who Jesus is does not depend on our own ability to grasp the message concerning him. It rather depends on our being grasped by Jesus as he encounters us personally by the Spirit. And so, we do not come to know the One God as a mere object of intellectual knowledge, but only in Jesus as he moves towards us personally, dynamically, and relationally.

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For me to live is Christ

For Saul of Tarsus, Israel’s God was in a class of his own. All other gods were actually no gods at all. This belief was expressed through whole hearted devotion to his God. He aimed to be faithful to the Lord offering total loyalty to him alone. However, Jesus encountered Saul personally turning his life around. And from that moment on he offered this same total devotion to Jesus.

How did this happen? Did he come across evidence showing that Jesus is God? Did he spend many hours working things out? No! He spoke about God revealing his Son in/to him. The Father unveiled Jesus, as divine Lord by the Spirit and that turned Saul’s life around. All his religious achievements were now counted as nothing compared to knowing the Lord Jesus. He now summed up his whole life as “for me to live is Christ.”

Saul (now known as Paul) was a learned Jew who was dedicated to persecuting those who contaminated the Jewish faith with “mistaken” ideas about Jesus. But God changed him by breaking into his life to reveal who Jesus is. That encounter was a surprise and a shock, resulting in a complete change in direction. No one would have predicted this. Nor could anyone explain it. This dramatic change can only be explained by divine revelation.

We also believe that Jesus is Lord. We do so, only because God has revealed Jesus to us through his Spirit. And as the Spirit continues making Jesus a living reality to us and in us we too may say, “For me to live is Christ.”

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God Making Himself Known

God the Father wants to draw near and be known. And through his Son, he actually came among us making himself known. “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart who has made him known” (John 1:18 NRSV). Through Jesus, we see God as Father and Son relating to each other.  We only know the Son as Son relating to his Father.  We only know the Father as Father relating to his Son. We know God this way because the Son has revealed it all to us.

Jesus knows who the Father is from within the very life of God. That means the Son knows the Father more intimately and deeply than anyone can ever know the Father. However, Jesus comes to us personally by the Spirit opening to us the Triune communal life. He opens up God’s shared life in such a way that we are taken inside the inner relations. We don’t stand at a distance looking at the son’s relationship with the Father in the Spirit; we actually participate in his relationship with the Father in the same Spirit. The Spirit engrafts us into union with the Son so that all that is his becomes ours, including his relationship with the Father in union with him.

Yes, the Triune God has so opened his inner life to us that we can actually share in his own circle of knowing. In union with his Son and by his Spirit, he brings us into his own knowing of himself within the circle of love that he is.

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Jesus is God revealing HIMSELF through himself

As Jesus was praising his Father in the joy of the Spirit he said, “No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him (Luke 10: 22).” So, within the life of the Triune God, Father and Son know one another in a way no-one else can share. This is a deep relational knowing within God’s own triune life. However, the Father’s Son makes his Father known as a human amongst humans. He once said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14: 9). The Son does not reveal the Father to us as one who has some truth about God to make known.  He is the Father’s unique Son who is one with his Father.  He is, therefore, the very unveiling of God in person. 

That same Jesus comes to us personally by his Spirit to reveal both himself and his Father. He alone knows who the Father is because he is in the Father and the Father is in him. And so, Jesus is God revealing HIMSELF through himself and not merely the revealing of something about God.

Furthermore, Jesus reveals his Father to us in such a personal way that we get to share in the knowing of God as Father and Son in the Spirit. For we now share in the Son’s knowing of his Father and the Father’s knowing of his Son. And we gaze into an utterly new vision of God that we could never tell ourselves.

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God with us and for us

In the Jesus story, we see the Father loving his Son and the Son loving his Father. We see them no other way. And the way we see them in the story is the way they always are within the eternal circle of love. They are never other than this. Not in time or eternity.

In the Jesus story, we also see God loving us by giving his Son to be God with us and for us as one of us. And through Jesus, the Father himself is with us as the One who is for us. We say this simply because we can never separate Father and Son. The two always move indivisibly as One in the Spirit. As Jesus is with us and for us in the Spirit so is his Father. And so, Jesus expresses the freedom of the Father’s love reaching out to bring us home to himself as Father.

This means we no longer know about God as a nameless and faceless being behind the back of Jesus. We know God himself as our Father who shows his face through Jesus by his own Spirit. And in the same Spirit, we gain access to the Father, through the Son, so that we are brought inside the life and love of the Triune God himself. We may still not be able to solve the doctrinal puzzle of three in one and one in three. Nevertheless, within this access, we come to know the Triune God with us and for us within the circle of love and in no other way.

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Seeing the Relational God through Jesus

Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in him.
That means it is through Jesus, the Father’s unique Son, that we see the Father himself. To see Jesus in action is to see the Father in action. So, when Jesus touched the man with leprosy to heal, the Father was also acting compassionately in and through Jesus. So Jesus can say, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

When we look at Jesus, we actually see the inner life of God unveiled as relational. We constantly see Jesus relating to his Father in love and the Father relating to him in love. Jesus was always talking about his Father as he served his Father. He constantly gave himself to accomplishing the work his Father had given him to do. And the Father was always giving himself to Jesus, the beloved Son, with whom he is well pleased.

Jesus’ baptism is a snapshot of this relating. In that moment, Jesus presented himself to his Father as the willing Servant-Son in love. The Father responded by saying you are my Son whom I love with you I am well pleased. All this relating took place in the joy of the Spirit who came on Jesus at that moment. And Jesus went on to serve his Father in the Spirit always looking to his Father and making it his very life to do the Father’s will.

In view of all this, we aim to be constantly attentive and responsive to the relational God who shows up in Jesus.

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How do we know what God is like?

How do we know what God is like? Do we simply try to think right thoughts about God? No! God has made himself known to us through Jesus. It is only in Jesus that we really come to know God according to the way he has made himself known to us. Only as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus can we truly know God. So we must never try to look at God apart from Jesus for he is God as human.

John speaks about the Word who was with God and was God. Then he tells us that this Word became flesh and lived among us. And so, through him, we see who God is because the knowledge of God himself comes to us through a human just like us. We see God himself with a human face. And so, John goes on to say, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” (John 1:18 NRSV).

Apart from Jesus, we are left staring at a Nameless and Faceless Deity. But the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 4: 6). So, we keep the eyes of our hearts fixed on Jesus to see the glory of God in his face and to be transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3: 18)

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Presence in Absence

Jesus is now in the presence of his Father and he is also present with us where we are. He is present as the absent One. He is absent because he is at the very centre of the heavenly sanctuary representing us before his Father. Nevertheless, he is still deeply involved with us by his Spirit.

Jesus promised his disciples that when he returned to his Father he would ask the Father and he would give another just like his Son, Jesus. The Father would send this one in Jesus name to be Jesus own presence in them. That’s why Paul speaks often about the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit is the one who comes from the Father in Jesus name as Jesus presence.

By the Spirit, Jesus is present to be all that he wants to be with us and for us. Indeed, he said that it is better that he has departed to be with his Father because now he can be with all of us more deeply than when he was with his friends in the flesh. All this shifts our attention from the past to the present. While make much of Jesus’ work for us in the past we also expect him to show up in our lives where we are right now.

Truly, we can now talk about both the presence and absence of Jesus without contradiction and with great meaning. Absent from us as he represents us in his Father’s Presence and present with us as both he and his Father make their home with us in the Spirit.

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A Human in the Father’s Presence

The Father sent his Son to us in our human flesh. The Son went back to his Father still wearing our human flesh. The ascension is not the story of escape from the body, but the entry of a human into heaven. The Son of God himself now has a body – as a permanent presence in the Father’s presence. Human flesh is now with God.
Nick Needham says:
“This is not to say that his risen, ascended humanity hasn’t been glorified. It has. So there are differences between his earthly humanity and his ascended humanity, but that doesn’t alter the fact that he is still human. He has a glorified humanity, not a glorified something else … The ascended Christ is still a human being and he will remain a human being for all eternity – an exalted and glorified human being, yes, but a human being with a recognizable human body.”

How assuring to know that in the Father’s presence a real human continually represents us. To know that we never approach the Father in our own name, but always in Jesus’ name because he is in his Father’s presence in our name.

This glorified human in the Father’s presence also guarantees what we will become in the future with him. And this glorified human also sends the Spirit to us as the presence of the future in our hearts. In this way, we already enjoy resurrection life as we eagerly await our future resurrection into full glory.

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The New Human in God’s Presence For Us

The Father’s Son came to us as human. He came, as human, to rescue and restore us as humans. He came, as the TRUE human, living in complete faithfulness to God on our behalf. In faithfulness, this true human, went down into the very lowest place, death on the cross. And even in the darkness of death and the moment of utter forsakenness, he committed his spirit to the Father whose love he trusted even though he could not feel it.

Therefore, God raised Jesus as the NEW human, the re-start of the human race. Then this new human ascended into the presence of his Father. And he has taken us with him into the Father’s presence because this new human represents us before his Father. He is one with us and we are one with him. Everything that happens to him happens to us. He was raised and we are raised with him; he was seated at God’s right hand and we are seated with him. Our lives are hidden with him in God.

If the one who sits at the right hand of God does not remain fully human, then we will never enter the most holy place. But in union with Jesus, we will live in the Father’s presence forever sharing Jesus’ communion with his Father. And even now, we have full confidence to enter God’s holy presence through Jesus as the new and living way.

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