Bill Johnson once succinctly stated that Jesus Christ is perfect theology. That maxim has informed my understanding of the nature of God for many years. It’s been a reoccurring theme on this blog. The implications are profound and transformational, but often ignored or not understood.
But understanding this is so critically important because when we read the Bible indiscriminately, as if Jesus never happened, we end up with all kinds of notions about God that are inconsistent, even ugly.
Here’s the point: only Jesus can accurately describe God to us.
18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:18 NASB *)
27 All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. (Matt.11:27 NASB *)
Think about what Jesus is telling us in Matthew. No one knows God except Jesus. What’s astounding about His statement is that this list would have to include Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets…no one knew God except Jesus. Now, they did have a relationship with God, but it was one of separation and distance.
Why Jesus can say this is because He came from the very “bosom of the Father,” which means that He proceeded from the very essence of God Himself. In other words, only Jesus was in the Trinitarian circle of God. And, therefore, only Jesus can explain or reveal what God is actually like to us.
So, we can rightfully say that whatever is like Jesus, is like God. Whatever isn’t like Jesus isn’t like God….no matter who else said it.
This Christocentric view should inform us about what God is like, how He thinks about us, how He interacts with sinners. God thinks about and treats all people exactly the same way Jesus thought about and treated people. No exceptions.
So we have to be careful we don’t create a cognitive dissonance when trying to describe God’s nature, especially when describing His justice, wrath, or anger in some vindictive way, and then try to say it’s because He loves us.
Seeing God through the lens of Jesus Christ looks like loving your enemies, even loving them exactly the same way Jesus loves us, which is exactly how the Father loves Jesus. Justice, through the Jesus lens, doesn’t look like God wanting His pound of flesh, it looks like a loving Father restoring both the perpetrator and the victim to Himself because He wants His alienated and abused kids back.
Yes, Jesus got angry…at religious people.
So, when we talk about any attribute of God—His holiness, His justice, His judgment—we have to be careful we don’t describe them in a way that veers outside of the boundary of His other-centered, self-giving love demonstrated in Jesus Christ.
To bring this point home, I’ve included a video with Dr. Gary Deddo, a scholar on the theology of Karl Barth, who was arguably the greatest Christian theologian of the twentieth century. In this video, Dr. Deddo discusses the importance and contributions of Karl Barth to modern Christian Theology. He says this about Barth at the beginning of the video:
“For Barth, the center of the importance of the gospel is to realize that when God showed Himself in person in Jesus Christ, He was revealing to all humanity the rock-bottom total truth of who He is, that was true to Himself in His own being, not just toward us. In His own being, God had figured out a way for human beings to truly know who He is, and that way was through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Spirit, and now according to Scripture…that’s who He is.
You think it would be simple, but it takes a lot of concentration, discipline, and even repentance to recall again, and again, that there is no other God except God revealed in Jesus Christ….what you see in Jesus Christ is what you get….
Another way to say it is, in Jesus Christ, you get the Son of God, we find the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, all God, in the character of God, the attitudes of God, the purposes of God. Therefore any theology has to be founded, centered, directed, disciplined, and oriented to the only place where there is this self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ. We can’t go looking around Christ or to other sources as a norm and status for that. God is who He is, in Himself and toward us, who He is in Jesus Christ. Any knowledge of God and any faith in God has to be controlled, ordered, arranged, and filled out in terms of Jesus–as He is, God with us.”
Dr. Deddo makes the point that it’s difficult to keep Christ at the center of our theology because, over time, we’re tempted to develop knowledge of God on other foundations, with other sources (including reading the Bible indiscriminately), and these ideas end up competing with what we find out about God in Jesus Christ. To quote Paul…
11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor.3:11 NKJV)
We must repent from making God in our own image and submit ourselves to the revelation of Jesus Christ, putting our minds and hearts on the potter’s wheel, letting Him reshape and re-form us into His image and likeness.
This Christocentric view has profound implications on how we see the atonement, sin, our identity, and the eternal purposes of God. It has profound implications how we conduct ourselves and represent Christ in this world.
The whole video is very good. I invite you to listen and consider what he’s saying.