God is Jesus. That’s the tagline of this web site.
It didn’t take long for me to get a note asking why I chose this particular phrase, instead of the more frequently heard “Jesus is God.”
That question gets to the heart of part of what will be discussed on this website.
Is there something wrong with saying “Jesus is God?” No. But for most Christians this means that Jesus is the same as the God they already know and believe in. The incarnate Jesus becomes a presentation of the God they’ve always heard preached about, sung about, testified about, taught about and described. The God of past covenant history has now spoken to us in Jesus, as Hebrews 1:1-4 tells us.
This also, unfortunately, means that much of what is believed about Jesus is at risk for being conformed to wrong thoughts about God. Jesus becomes the official endorser of ideas about God that are wrong, distorted and even hurtful.
But this also raises a tension that has always existed in Christianity: Does anything change when God speaks to us through his son Jesus Christ?
Heretics sometimes made the extreme error of saying that Jesus revealed a different God, and Christians were right to judge this as a crucial and harmful mistake.
But there is something significant that happens in the process of revelation when Jesus comes to earth, and we should hear exactly how unbashful the Bible is in saying so.
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God,* who is at the Father’s side,* he has made him known.
What’s striking about this passage is the bringing of Moses into the discussion as the previous “revelator.” Moses had “seen God.” He had conversed with God and received so much of God’s glory that he literally glowed.
But the “Father” is revealed by Jesus in way that John can say “No one has seen God” before Jesus revealed him. Yahweh is the “Father” of Israel, but Jesus fills the role of Father with expanses of new meaning. He has made known God in a way that can only be described as “greater” by the author of Hebrews.
The revelation of God’s moral character, creator claims and covenant ownership came through Moses. But there is more; more only hinted at in the previous revelation (though most definitely there.) There is grace and glory that comes to us only in the Son.
This is a greater revelation of the same God; a more glorious, more gracious revelation (not a more glorious or gracious God.) It is a focused and, as we shall see, final and complete communication.
Another example of this is in the teaching of Jesus himself. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that Israel had heard the meaning of the law on one level “You shall not murder,”) but “I say to you….”
Following his resurrection, Jesus opens the minds of his disciples to understand the scriptures. The clear message of Luke 24 is that all of scripture was about Jesus, and now that his earthly mission is complete, the scriptures are understandable in different, fuller way.
Again, this isn’t a different God, but a greater focus and a more complete understanding of God only made possible because of the incarnation.
When I am teaching Genesis 1-3, it is very common for Christian students (especially adults) to say that the Trinity is there in the Old Testament. They will cite various nuances of language or instances of theophany as “proof” that the Trinity was there all the time.
While I disagree with their interpretation of most of their cited texts, I don’t disagree with their basic point. The Trinitarian God was there all the time. It was the Trinitarian God doing everything that Yahweh is doing in the older testament.
But we don’t know that until Jesus comes and reveals the Trinitarian God. Then Yahweh has a voice, a face, a personality, a body of teaching, a work on behalf of the world he is reconciling and so on.
Yahweh is the Trinitarian God, but we only know the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ when he is revealed through Jesus Christ. We, as Christians, know who Yahweh was, but we worship God in and through Jesus Christ.
That is why the God who is capable of speaking audibly to human beings says “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” (Mark 9:7)
Let’s get to the bottom line here. What does “God is Jesus” mean as I will use that phrase?
It means that God isn’t just Yahweh, but is the God who revealed himself in Jesus. It means that God isn’t best revealed in the pages of a book, but in the person who is the message and meaning of that book. It means that God is not best revealed in a church, its traditions or its leaders, but in the one mediator between God and man, Jesus of Nazareth. (I Timothy 2:5)
It means that all religion of every kind is a “shadow” of the good thing that was to come- Jesus. (Col 2:17) It means that the “face” of God is revealed NO WHERE ELSE with “exactness” but in Jesus of Nazareth. (2 Cor 4:4,6) It means that those who are in union with Jesus Christ are “complete in him,” because there is nothing else to add to our knowledge of God beyond what he has said to us in Jesus. (Col 2:9-10)
I have to credit N.T. Wright with saying, for the first time in my own study of Jesus, that the God whom Christians worship is known in the person of Jesus. This overturned a lot of furniture in my mind and heart. I was still trying to stretch various parts of the Bible to fit Jesus. I now realize that all of scripture comes to a clear focus in Jesus. You can know all the laws and commandments, and obey them, and still not be in the Kingdom. But to belong to Jesus the King is to be in the Kingdom of God, no matter what else you know or have done.
In Job 19, Job said he knew that one day his suffering would be vindicated by a Redeemer, That Redeemer would stand on the earth and Job would see him with his own eyes. (Job 19:25) In Job 42:5, Job’s Redeemer comes to earth and vindicates him. Job acknowledges this God, but then there is a significant statement.
Job sits back, covering his mouth, having no more to say, because he realizes all he does not know about God. After God has spoken for in those final chapters, Job “sees” and “hears,” but he does not “know” God.
Now contrast this with I John 1:1-4.
1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our* joy may be complete.
The joy is in knowing God in and through the one who came to be heard, touched, manifested. This is the God who walked dusty roads, embraced the hurting, told jokes, wept for the dying, saw injustice, fed the hungry, invested years in his weak disciples and interacted with every kind of person.
We have the joy that Job looked forward to, and while there is much that we do not know, what we do not of God we know in an exact, final, clear, authoritative, unassailable, joy-filled, grace-overflowing way in Jesus.
The story of Philippians 2 is now our story. The one who was “equal to” God in every way has become the servant of those needing salvation. He has become the word of revelation and healing to the broken world and its broken people.
Praise him; worship him; follow him; rejoice that you can know God is Jesus and God in Jesus.