How the Father is made known to us.
To know Jesus is to know God himself.
The opening chapter of St. John’s Gospel is among the most sublime texts in all of Scripture. The manner in which he situates his record of Christ’s life, purpose, and ministry immediately brings to the fore a bevy of crucial tenets of the Christian faith. And nestled within this magnificent chapter is, perhaps, one of the most profound phrases in the entire Gospel, and it has to do with the Son’s Incarnation. In the eighteenth verse, John writes that, “No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). That last phrase is brimming with meaning and majesty, hope and truth. Likewise, we might say that this verse — and that last sentiment specifically — constitutes the thesis around which John’s Gospel is formed. Tradition holds that the Gospel of John was written to show forth the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. He everywhere aimed to show that the infamous Teacher from Nazareth wasn’t merely eloquent and profound, he was divine. He was God in the flesh. He was Jehovah “dwelling among us” (John 1:14). But there’s more.
According to John, the God the Son “hath declared” God the Father. “Declared” is a Greek word, meaning “to unfold,” or “to rehearse,” or “to consider out loud.” It is the same word from which we get our word “exegesis.” Therefore, we could rightly, practically, and theologically say that God the Son is the “exegesis” of God the Father. He is the unfolding of who the Heavenly Father is at the deepest and truest level. Jesus Christ interprets God for us. He makes the Father known to us. If you’ve ever wondered what God is like, you don’t have to wonder any longer: just look at Jesus. Orthodox priest Stephen Freeman recently discussed this same concept on his blog, writing:
Christ is how we “read” God. We cannot get behind Christ to speak about God as though we knew anything of God apart from Christ. We do not know God “prior” to Christ. When Christ declares that He is the “Way, the Truth, and the Life” and that “no one comes to the Father except by Me,” He is not merely describing the path of salvation, He is making it clear that it is through Him alone that we know God . . .
This revelation is definitive and must be always borne in mind when we consider who God is and what kind of God He is. He is the kind of God who empties Himself for our sake, unites Himself to our shame and suffering, and endures all things that He might reconcile us to Himself and lead us into the fullness of life in Him.
If this is true (and it most assuredly is), then those who attempt to drive a wedge between the “God of the Old Testament” and the “Jesus of New Testament” are engaging in the height of futility. There has never been, nor will there ever be, a single ounce of discrepancy between God the Father and God the Son. They are one even as they are distinct. The Son makes plain all that the Father is. He puts a face to all that God has made known about himself through the prophets of old. He is the embodiment of the “grace that should come unto you” (1 Pet. 1:10). “Jesus Christ in His Manhood,” writes Alexander Maclaren similarly, “declares God to us.”1 He is the apocalyptic revelation of the Godhead, exposing the depths of the Godhead’s grace and the extent of the Godhead’s mercy. “By everything that He does and everything that He endures, He speaks to us of God,” Maclaren continues. “Jesus Christ brings God to man by the declaration of His nature incarnate in humanity.”2 Indeed, there is no fuller or more complete revelation of who God is and what he’s like than what Jesus himself reveals. “He that seeth me seeth him that sent me,” Jesus says (John 12:45; 14:9). To know Jesus is to know God himself.
Grace and peace.
Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Vols. 1–17 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1944), 15:2.264.
Maclaren, Expositions, 15:2.264.