Has Anyone Ever Seen God?

Posted by Steve on January 17th, 2009 — Posted in Uncategorized

I was asked this question recently and thought it was worth a reasoned response.

Question:
John says no one has ever seen God but Jesus has made him known, Exodus says they saw God. I looked up Greek and Hebrew and it’s the same for both ’saw’ and ‘God’. Do you think this means John was ignorant of the OT or that what anyone had ever seen has always been actually Jesus not the Father?

Answer:
Do you think this means John was ignorant of the OT?

No. In fact, John’s gospel mentions Moses twelve times. He also mentions and explains aspects of Jewish history and religion for his Gentile audience.

or that what anyone had ever seen has always been actually Jesus not the Father?

This, I think, is true. The Greek word rendered “made him known” in the NIV is rendered “explained him” in the NASB. Robertson says that the word is exēgēsato. It’s the same word from which we get “exegesis.” Jesus is the explainer of God. To put it technical terms, you could say that Jesus is the interface between God and man (cf. 1Ti 2:5).

John also tells us that God is spirit (Jn 4:24). You can’t see a spirit with your eyes; a spirit must be perceived in some other way. That is, a spirit (and all things spiritual) must either be perceived through some manifestation in the physical realm or by spiritual senses (cf. 1Co 2:14).

We can perceive God through the ways in which He manifests Himself. Clearly, Jesus is a manifestation of God (Jn 14:9). The Old Testament theophanies were manifestations of God. Ezekiel saw “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD” (Ez 1:28). He didn’t see God directly, nor God’s glory, nor the likeness of God’s glory. Rather, he experienced God through four degrees of remove. That’s as close as he was allowed to get.

Did Ezekiel “see” God? Yes and no. He certainly perceived God in a vision. But he just as certainly did not gaze upon God with his physical eyes. This brings us to the issue of what it means to “see.” In common usage, we use the word “see” to mean many things beyond merely seeing with the eyes. We use it to convey a sense of perceiving or understanding. “Oh, I see.” Or, “I can’t see how that’s relevant.” This, I think, is the sense in which the word is used in John 1:18. It’s the same in John 3:3: “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” To the unregenerate, the Kingdom of God is not real; it cannot be perceived or understood. To one who is born again, the Kingdom is perceived through spiritual senses and in a renewed mind.

Speaking of Jesus being the “interface” between God and man, we have this from the book of Job:

“He is not a man like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot. (Job 9:32-35)

Job saw clearly that there was a problem in his relationship to God. He understood that he needed someone to stand between him and God as an arbitrator. Without saying it in so many words, he is longing for the ministry of Christ as the “mediator between God and man” (1Ti 2:5). It’s a benefit that new covenant believers enjoy that Job perceived as missing in his life. It’s something we should not take for granted.

1 Comment »

Comment by Brent

Good answer. I was thinking about this question since it was asked, I came to an answer similar but of course you do a much better job of explaining it…

Posted on January 17, 2009 at 11:45 am

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