I have noticed recently that there has been some confusion regarding the relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son among us. It seems that Jesus has been equated to God the Father and some are referring to Jesus as the Father, but I want you to understand why this is problematic and more importantly, how the language of the Bible shows an intimate and close connection between the Father and the Son while upholding these two entities as performing distinct functions. I’m going to address this over a few posts, so we will start with…
What Causes the Confusion?
I think there are a few factors that make it more appealing to see Jesus as the one in control of everything, AKA the Father, and I want us to ponder these things and how they form a negative portrayal of God.
First, I think the image of Father itself has fallen on hard times. You see, the image of God the Father is such because of God’s protection, provision, and authority. This can be seen clearly in the Exodus narrative in which God comes to His people’s rescue and delivers them out of the land of Egypt. God uses authority to defeat the god’s of Egypt, God protects the people by making distinctions between what happens to the Egyptians and what happens to the Hebrews, and God provides a way through the wilderness along with food, water, shade, and light as they journey. God gives a law to organize the people and establishes a relationship with them. God is seen as a loving and merciful Father, one that disciplines and is present with the people.
In a time when many have experienced the absence of a father, have been left exposed to the “figure things out” on their own, and buy into the anti-authority movement…The image of Father is very different in our world than it was in the world of the Bible. Moreover, given our current situation, if we are to speak of someone who loves us unconditionally, someone who works hard to provide for our families, and someone who practices self-sacrifice to make our lives good; we are most likely not referring to father, but to mother. Furthermore, it seems that Jesus fits the mold of our contemporary mothers given his self-sacrifice, provision of salvation, and unconditional love…and so it is easy to just see Jesus in a parental role, since he is a man we call him “father,” because Jesus best fits our experience of being parented.
However, Jesus always claims that his miraculous power, didactic authority, and divine compassion comes from God the Father, who has loved Him and provided for Him. Listen to the words of Jesus as he talks about the Father…
“My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Needless to say, Jesus the Son has a special relationship with God the Father, which brings us to our nest item for thought.
Second, some of us in the church have been taught that the God of the Old Testament is extremely different from the God of the New Testament and that Jesus seemed to serve as a divine correction to bad behavior in the Old Testament. While I would agree that Jesus is a correction for bad behavior in the Old Testament, it is not God Jesus is correcting, but us! The story of God’s people doesn’t end in Exodus, or in the Promised Land, but the Old Testament ends with the people being scattered by means of exile. The Bible’s claim is not that God wasn’t authoritative, couldn’t protect, or provide; but that the people rebelled against God and served other gods, treated others with injustice and oppression, and were essentially a bad representation of God to the other nations.
So what about the picture of God destroying and warring and wiping out folks in the Old Testament? That doesn’t seem to happen in the New Testament! Hm, well, I’m not too sure I agree with this popularized misrepresentation of the Bible, used to discredit the writings of Scripture and the confession of the Christian faith. All the gods went to war, all the nations went to war…the question was not whether or not there was war but whether or not a people was victorious! God’s victories don’t prove God angry or malicious, it proves God powerful and capable, especially in a world full of gods and people who worship those other gods so that they will be blessed by them. When we turn to the New Testament, Jesus is portrayed as a divine warrior that, in the same sort of way, goes after the enemies of sin, death, and the kingdom of evil. Revelation is key to understanding that the war is still raging and those who believe in the wrong gods will suffer the same consequences of their divine leaders.
Both the Son and the Father get angry at evil. They cannot stand injustice and will not tolerate oppression, especially of the orphan or widow or the less fortunate. Jesus’ mission was to make a way to open a relationship with God up to humanity in a way that had never been done before through the well-intended but broken covenants of the Old Testament (Noah, Abraham, Moses, David)…and as the fulfillment of these covenants, Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection stand as the ushering point of a new era in which the Holy Spirit is poured out and the relationship with God is reconciled. Our rebellion is forgiven and our access to the Father restored. Why the Father? This brings us to the next item for thought…
Third, When Jesus claims that He and the Father are one, what is he actually saying? In the gospel of John, Jesus says this in defense of his claims and his disciples…
30 The Father and I are one.”
31 Once again the people picked up stones to kill him. 32 Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?”
33 They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.”
34 Jesus replied, “It is written in your own Scriptures that God said to certain leaders of the people, ‘I say, you are gods!’ 35 And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people who received God’s message were called ‘gods,’ 36 why do you call it blasphemy when I say, ‘I am the Son of God?’ After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world. 37 Don’t believe me unless I carry out my Father’s work. 38 But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.”
Is Jesus claiming equality with God the Father or is Jesus claiming intimacy with God the Father in this passage? It seems to me that Jesus is proclaiming his own intimacy with God here, and not making a statement of equality with God. Of course, Philippians 2 claims that Jesus’ attitude was that, “Equality with God was not something to be grasped or expected.” Earlier in John, Jesus defends himself from the Jewish leaders in this way:
18 So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God.
19 So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. 21 For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. 22 In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, 23 so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him.
Again, Jesus speaks as if the Son is in “training” to do as the Father wants and while the charge from the leaders is “making himself equal to God,” Jesus seems to defend himself by asserting that he is working in tandem with God the Father (as opposed to those who misrepresent God to the world). The authority Jesus has been given is done so by the Father and to honor the Son is to honor the Father. Which means that the leaders Jesus is talking to in this passage are not honoring God because they are not honoring Jesus.
So, this is a good start in our conversation regarding a theocentric view of God the Father and next time I want to discuss how the Bible portrays Jesus, the Son, in proximity to God and never the other way around!