Meditations in Hebrews 1: 7. ‘Jesus is God’ Questions
Heb 1:3 the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being
The previous meditation, I believe, said right things but left me feeling incomplete. The subject of the Incarnation, God coming in human form is an enormous challenge. It is not something that can be categorically proved but has to be accepted by faith in the tremendous mountain of evidence that there is that points to this conclusion.
And yet people of his day struggled with Jesus and even more got very hostile whenever he approached the subject, inferring that he was God’s unique son. Today similarly people either shy away from thinking about Jesus or try to explain him away as just a good teacher or a good miracle worker who lived and died two thousand years ago. Challenges to the belief in the resurrection come from various quarters.
Questions are asked, difficult questions. For example, how can God who fills the Universe fill just one body? I don’t know, but He did. Or, was Jesus always God or did he start at some point? Yes, that is easier, for John records him speaking of coming down from heaven where he had always existed. Or there is, did Jesus know everything like God knows everything? I believe the answer to that is that he knew everything the Father released into that human mind by His Spirit which was therefore not the sum of all knowledge but the sum of knowledge that surrounded that one being. Or there is, how can God be limited in time and space? He, as God isn’t, it is just that as Jesus was one body, the Spirit allowed God to express Himself in this one body while still being God who inhabits the entire universe. Or there is, how could Jesus be free from sin? The answer has to be because he was ‘conceived’ by the Holy Spirit.
Let’s look again at the ‘Son’ parts of that Athanasian Creed we quoted previously: the Son uncreated… the Son infinite…., the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal…. So the Father is God, the Son God, and the Holy Spirit God; and yet not three Gods but one God…. The Son is of the Father alone, not made nor created but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and the Son, not made nor created nor begotten ….our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man. He is God of the substance of the Father begotten before the worlds, and He is man of the substance of His mother born in the world; perfect God, perfect man subsisting of a reasoning soul and human flesh; equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood.
Some may struggle with that word inferior in respect of his manhood. An interesting and, I believe, helpful analogy I have heard, uses the Meal Offering in Lev 2 which comprised fine flour, representing the perfect humanity of our Lord, which was mixed with olive oil which stands for the Holy Spirit and therefore divinity. In this offering the two were mixed and there was one cake and yet within that cake there are two distinct materials even though we cannot see them except as the one mix. So the divine nature that is Christ comes from heaven and joins himself to a human body being formed by the work of the Spirit within Mary. Divine and human that cannot be observed separately when you view the man. Jesus himself gave us a clue about this when he said, “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (Jn 5:19)
But all of these questions hide a fundamental truth: in Jesus Christ the glory of God is hidden from those who are perishing but seen by those who are hungry for God. For example, Jesus spoke about ‘signs’ and the Jews asked for signs and yet these signs had already been provided by Jesus, miracle after miracle. If you have a mind closed against miracles, you will see it but not believe it; you will rationalize it and explain it away, as real as it was. Jesus came revealing the love and goodness of God and the Jews focused on trivia. For instance, the story in John 5 of the man at the Pool of Bethesda who Jesus healed. When the Jewish thought police, the Jews who were probably Pharisees, saw him they complained that it was the Sabbath. Again and again they missed the shear wonder of the miracle because their man-made interpretations of the Law clashed with what happened so they missed the glory.
In heaven, his glory had been, and now is, clearly seen but for his period on the earth in this human form, the glory was hidden except to those with hearts wide open, and even then, it was limited. Perhaps we should note more fully the Hebrews’ writer’s words – “the radiance of God’s glory”. Perhaps this is more like the reflected glory that Moses had when he came out of the presence of God. Every time Jesus spoke or performed a miracle he was revealing the glory of God; it was God expressing Himself in the material world but that glory would only be seen with the help of the Holy Spirit in hearts that are wide open to Him.
Note also “exact representation of his being”. We will not see the fullness of God until we get to heaven but Jesus exactly or perfectly represented Him. No, he wasn’t the fullness of God. Let’s use another analogy. Imagine electricity coming out of a powerful generator. Then see it being scaled down through transformers so it can be used to light a light bulb. It is still electricity and if you touch the bare wires you will know it, but it is nothing like the enormous power that comes from the generator that will light an entire city – but it still is electricity.
This is God in the flesh we are talking about and that statement alone marks out Christianity from any other world religion.