Chapter 4 of God Is...
The Bible teaches that God is one. There are not two Gods, or three, or a thousand. Christianity is a monotheistic religion. That is why the coming of Jesus Christ aroused such strong controversy in the communities of his day.
“A stumbling block to Jews...”
God revealed himself to humanity through his Son, Jesus Christ, who is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus called God his Father (Matthew 10:32-33; Luke 23:34; John 10:15) and said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). He boldly claimed, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). After Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas addressed him as “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Jesus Christ was God.
Judaism could not accept this. “The Lord our God, the Lord is one,” said the Shema’ (Deuteronomy 6:4), which had long undergirded the Jewish faith. Yet here was a man with profound scriptural insight and miracle-working power who claimed to be the unique Son of God. Some Jewish leaders acknowledged that Jesus was a teacher come from God (John 3:2). But God’s Son? How could God be one, and yet Jesus Christ also be God?
“For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him,” says John 5:18. “Not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father.”
The Jews eventually condemned Christ to death because they thought he had, by his claims, blasphemed:
The high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as worthy of death. (Mark 14:61-64)
“...Foolishness to Gentiles”
On the other hand, the Gentiles could not accept Jesus for who he said he was, either. The Greek philosophers thought that nothing could cross the gap from what was eternal and unchanging to what was temporal and material.
So the Greeks scoffed at John’s statement: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14).
For the unbelievers, this unbelievable story didn’t end there. Not only did God become a human being and die, but he was raised from the dead and returned to his former glory (John 17:5). Paul wrote to the Ephesians that God had raised Christ “from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:20).
Elsewhere, Paul addressed the consternation with which the Jews and Greeks greeted the astounding story of Jesus Christ:
Since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. (1 Corinthians 1:21-23)
Not everyone could understand and rejoice at the wonderful news of the gospel. Paul went on: “But to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (verses 24-25). And in Romans 1:16 Paul exclaimed, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”
“I am the gate”
During his life on earth, Jesus, God in the flesh, smashed a lot of long-held and cherished – but false – beliefs about what God is, how God lives and what God wants. He illuminated truths that were only hints in Old Testament. He said that no one could be saved except through him: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10:9).
“I am the way and the truth and the life,” Jesus announced. “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned” (John 15:5-6).
Jesus is God
Jesus did not do away with the monotheistic command in Deuteronomy 6:4. Rather, Jesus expanded beyond what anyone had imagined what it means for God to be one. The Gospel of John says that, while God is one and only one, the eternal Word existed with God and was God (John 1:1-2).
When the Word came in the flesh, though he was fully divine, he voluntarily set aside the prerogatives of divinity.
[Jesus], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8)
Jesus was fully human and fully divine. He held all the power and authority of God, but he voluntarily, for our sakes, subjected himself to the limitations of human existence. During this period of incarnation, he, the Son, remained one with his Father in heaven.
“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father,” said Jesus (John 14:9). “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me,” he said (John 5:30). And, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me” (John 8:28).
Just before his crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples: “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father” (John 16:28). Jesus came to earth to die for our sins. He came to found his church. He came to start the preaching of the gospel in all the world. Jesus also came to reveal God to humanity. In particular, he opened human understanding to the Father-Son relationship that exists within the Godhead.
The Gospel of John, for example, largely devotes itself to recording Jesus’ work of revealing God the Father to humanity. Jesus’ Passover discourse (John 13-17) is of special interest in this regard. What a startling truth about the nature of God! Even more startling is Jesus’ further revelation about how God intends for humans to relate to him.
Humans share in the divine nature!
Jesus told his apostles: “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” (John 14:21). God wants to unite humans to him in a profound relationship of love – the love that the Father and Son share. God is revealed to those in whom that love works.
Jesus went on to explain: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me” (verses 23-24).
God lives in those who come to him through faith in Jesus Christ, committing themselves to live in allegiance to him. Peter preached: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The Holy Spirit also is God, as we shall see in the next chapter. The Holy Spirit lives in the believers.
Paul knew that God lived in him: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Because Christ lives in us and the Holy Spirit lives in us, God lives in us. But there is only one God.
God revealed himself fully in Jesus Christ. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). What can this revelation mean to us? By partaking of Christ, through faith in him, we can be partakers of God’s own divine nature! Peter summed it up by saying,
Divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
Christ – the perfect revelation of God
How did Jesus Christ reveal God?
- Jesus revealed God’s character in all he did and taught.
- Jesus died and was raised from death so that humans may be saved and reconciled to God, and that they may receive eternal life. Romans 5:10-11 says: “If, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
- Jesus revealed God’s plan to form a new spiritual community — the church — transcending racial and national barriers (Ephesians 2:14-22).
- Jesus revealed God as the Father of all who are reborn in Christ.
- Jesus revealed the glorious destiny God has promised to his people. The indwelling presence of the Spirit of God gives us a foretaste of that future glory here and now. The Spirit is “a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:14).
- Jesus also witnessed to the existence of the Father and the Son as one God. Our understanding of God’s unity must allow for Father and Son, must allow for more than one Person within the Godhead. New Testament writers frequently applied the Old Testament names for God to Christ. By doing so, they showed not only what Christ is like, but what God is like, for Jesus is the revelation of the Father, and he and the Father are one. We learn about God as we study what Jesus Christ is like.