No One Has Ever Seen God (So What’s The Point?)
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:12)
This verse is so good. It reminds us of the greatness of God and how we can never really understand God. He’s just too big. No one can really know everything about Him because, well, as the scripture says, “no one has ever seen God.”
It also reminds us of Jesus’ command for us to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to love our neighbor as ourself. (Matthew 22:37-39)
But right now I want to talk about the first part, the part that says, “No one has ever seen God.”
He Spoke As Though He Knew For Certain About Something No One Can Really Know
Sometimes I think Christians behave as though they have a great certainty about God, though they haven’t seen Him. I touched on that in our last post from the book of John. Some Christians are adamant that God decides who will receive Jesus and who won’t. And others are just as adamant that each person has complete free will to decide for themself. The rapture is another example. Some Christians say there is no rapture at all. Some say there’s a rapture and then a period of tribulation. Other’s say there’s a period of tribulation then a rapture. Still others say there’s a rapture in the midst of the tribulation. I’ve sat in different churches and listened to opposing views on this topic from knowledgable pastors who were each equally certain their view was the correct one.
It’s not uncommon to hear Bible teachers and theologians on opposite sides of issues like these insist their interpretation is the right interpretation. And while I can appreciate that certainty and conviction are important aspects of persuasion, I think in areas where we really can’t know, we should say, we really can’t know. Because as the Bible says, “No one has ever seen God…”
Maybe you’re smart enough to recognize when a preacher speaks as though he knows for certain, about what no one can really know. If you are that person, I get it. It’s a big turn off. And it can take us to the place where we hang our hat on the verse at the top of this post: “No one has ever seen God…” And then from there, it seems such a small step to add, “…so what’s the point?” Because maybe for you, when you recognize a pastor is speaking as though he knows for certain, about something no one can really know, that pastor loses credibility. It’s enough to make you crazy. It’s enough to make you throw up your hands and say, “What can we really know about heaven and God anyway? I might as well just stay home on Sunday and watch the game, because, what’s the point? What can anyone really know about God?”
The thing is though, if you’re interested, you can find in the Gospels that Jesus addresses these questions. It might be tempting to stop at “No one has ever seen God…” and leave it at that, especially if it fits with your current world view. But if you look (and you don’t even have to look very hard) you’ll find answers in Jesus’ words.
After reading Jesus’ words on this topic, it becomes clear that John was referring to all of humanity when he wrote the scripture at the top of this post. Because the one who’s more than human said it very plainly during his nighttime conversation with Nicodemus: “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” (John 3:9-13)
And the reason I bring it up at all is because of where we’re at in the series of blog posts from John’s Gospel. Speaking of himself, Jesus said, again, very plainly, that he has seen the Father:
“not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.” (John 6:46)
Then he goes on to speak metaphorically about how he came from heaven. Jesus says,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, [a way Jesus began a statement to emphasize the importance of what he was about to say] whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (see John 6:46-51)
If you’ve been reading the God Running series on John you know this whole discussion started when the people were angling for Jesus to feed them, as he did the five thousand the day before. And in their effort to get Jesus to feed them they brought up how Moses fed the people manna in the desert. Jesus points out that all those who ate that manna eventually died. And then he said that he is the living bread from heaven. And if anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. And then he tells us what he means by living bread, he says, the bread he will give for the life of the world is his own body. He will sacrifice himself, for you, and for me. For the whole world.
Another example occurred when Jesus offended the Pharisees because he healed a lame man on the Sabbath. When they blasted Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, this is what he said, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.” (see John 5:19-24)
Looking For Answers
Thank you for reading and considering what I’ve offered here, but I would really appreciate it if you don’t take my word for it and do your own research. Just read the Gospels looking for the places Jesus speaks about how he has seen (and continues to see) God, and how he came from heaven. The words of Jesus I’ve shared are more interesting and have greater impact when taken in context. And when you read all of Jesus’ words and take them in the aggragate, it’s inescapable.
He’s seen God.
He came from heaven.
He’s more than human.
He’s the Son of God, the Bread of Life, the Living Bread that came down from heaven.
“If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”
If while you’re reading the Gospels, you have questions, I’d love to hear from you. Just email me at email@example.com.
[Image via U.S. Fish and Wildlife – Public Domain]