Whatever is like Jesus is like God; whatever is not like Jesus is not like God. I’ve said this many times in order to clarify that only Jesus Christ tells us what God is like. And just as important, Jesus interprets the Bible for us.
Why is this important? When we don’t use this Jesus Hermeneutic for reading Scripture, we create inconsistent doctrines and convoluted theology. It’s my conviction that most bad theology comes from reading the Bible indiscriminately, as if Jesus never happened. And when we do this, not only is our view of God convoluted and conflicted, it’s dangerously wrong.
This is critically important because, as A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
Another dangerous error is to treat all Bible text with equal weight of revelation. This is referred to as a “flat” reading of the Bible, which not only creates conflicted understanding of God, we also run the risk of either condoning or actually doing things that are totally contrary to Jesus, yet we think we’re following Him because we can find a verse in the Bible. I talked about this danger in “The problem with following Jesus.”
We don’t define God by collecting everything written about Him in the Bible. We define God by having Jesus explain Him to us. The truth about God is Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Jesus is our theological guide, from Genesis to Revelation. We ignore this truth to our own peril.
How can I make this claim? I can because of the New Testament revelation of God. Here’s what John says about it (New Revised Standard Version – NRSV):
18 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 *)
The Greek word for the phrase “made him known” is ἐξηγέομαι (exēgeomai), which is where we get the word “exegete” (to expound or interpret). What this verse is saying, then, is that Jesus exegetes God.
Here’s the Amplified Bible translation:
18 No man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son, or the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known]. (John 1:18 AMP *)
And the Mirror Bible…
1:18 Until this moment God remained invisible to man; now the authentic begotten son, the blueprint of man’s design who represents the innermost being of God, the son who is in the bosom of the father, brings him into full view! He is the official authority qualified to announce God! He is our guide who accurately declares and interprets the invisible God within us. (John 1:18 MIRROR *)
Finally, the Disciple’s Literal New Testament (DLNT) brings this out even clearer:
18 No one has ever seen God; the only-born God, the One being in the bosom of the Father— that One expounded Him. (John 1:18 DLNT)
There are two qualifying points made here. First, Jesus is the only-born Son. The Greek word is μονογενής (monogenēs). In other words, Jesus is uniquely and genetically God’s own, whereas we’re sons and daughters through adoption (Rom.8:15; Gal.4:5; Eph.1:5). Second, when it says that Jesus is “in the bosom of the Father” (NKJV), it means that He proceeds from the innermost being of the Father; He’s in the most intimate relationship with Him.
The point being, Jesus isn’t just a good teacher or gifted interpreter. He’s also not just a great prophet. He is the Christ, the incarnated God and Eternal Son: και θεος ην ο λογος (“And God was the Logos“ – John 1:1, 14). The “Word of God” is not the Bible; Jesus Christ is the Word of God. And Jesus Christ is not the Bible. The Bible only testifies of Jesus Christ (John 5:39).
I’m not hyping Jesus in order to emphasize a point; I’m clarifying how we know God so we don’t misrepresent Him.
Jesus Christ is uniquely qualified to explain God to us. No other human can say this…not Adam, not Abraham, not Moses, not David, not the prophets…no one. The best they can give us is their perception of God.
When Jesus speaks, God speaks. When Jesus teaches, God teaches. What Jesus thinks about sinners is what God thinks about sinners. And anyone or anything that contradicts Jesus contradicts God, even if it’s found in the bible text.
I hope I’ve made my point clear here. 🙂
You can check these posts out for a more thorough treatment of this subject:
- “Reading the Bible with the Right Glasses“
- “The Jesus Hermeneutic“
- Deconstructing our Christian mythology“