Beyond Comprehension

“Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me”

John 14:11

The way we speak of the Trinity may sometimes give cause for others to think that we believe in three gods. The Bible is clear that there is but one God who created all that exists apart from Himself. He has revealed Himself as three Persons who are One but how do we understand that and can we explain it to others?

In the Bible God does use several aspects of creation to help us understand Him. John records seven of Jesus “I AM’s” that do that: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35), “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), “I am the door” (John 10:7), “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) and “I am the true vine” (John 15:1). However, God does not give us anything in creation that helps us grasp the concept of the tri-unity of God. Many have attempted to use various physical things to explain this aspect of God but all fall short or may even be misleading.

In the passage John 14:7-11 Jesus does give us some important revelation concerning His relationship with the Father. Bear in mind that we can only know what God has revealed. We cannot discover truth that He chooses to keep from us. Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father (v 8) and Jesus’ response reveals that Jesus and the Father are inseparably one. We cannot have the Son and not the Father or the Father and not the Son. This also includes the Holy Spirit (v 16). Nor can we love One and not the other (15:23).

Jesus says that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him (vs 10-11) and He told Philip that seeing Him is seeing the Father (v 9). Jesus speaks in these terms again when He says “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home in him” (v 23). The unity of the Godhead is not just one of kind or agreement of purpose and philosophy. We cannot receive Jesus without receiving the Father and the Holy Spirit as some seem to believe. We cannot give favour or focus to one member of the trinity to the exclusion of the others without distorting our view of God. There is but one God and through the new birth He has made a way for us to share in the oneness (John 17:20-23).

Sharing Life Experiences

“That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” 1 John 1:3

John wrote this several decades after Pentecost and we notice that he writes that his fellowship with Jesus and the Father is still current. His desire is that all believers grow in appreciation the abiding presence of both the Father and Jesus Christ. In his Gospel John records Jesus’ words, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). We know that on trusting the Lord Jesus the Holy Spirit dwells in every believer but we may be less aware that the Father and the Son also want, not only to indwell, but also to make their home with us. That means living together as one sharing life’s experiences.

The nature of pride will attempt to divert us from personal intimacy with Jesus in a way that may appear spiritual but is not. It is possible that we may hide behind Bible knowledge, theological correctness or even ministry enthusiasm so that we appear spiritual but in fact have little if any intimacy with Jesus Christ. Bible knowledge, theological correctness and passion in ministry are very important but they are not an end in themselves.

When a young man is attracted to a young woman or a young woman attracted to a young man they would never be satisfied with just gaining knowledge about the other person. Knowing their likes and dislikes and other personal details may be helpful in the relationship but they are only a means to knowing the other person intimately, not the goal. An intimate relationship will require sharing time and experiences together and this will be the desire of their hearts.

I have known several Christians who are genuinely born of God and have a love for Jesus but when the conversation comes around to intimacy with Jesus they revert to Bible knowledge, doctrinal accuracy or ministry enthusiasm in an attempt to express their spirituality. These are the people to whom John has written this letter. No marriage would be at all satisfactory if the two parties never spent time together and shared life experiences. Neither will Christians be satisfied unless they are walking with Jesus, spending time and sharing life experiences with Him.

This is what Paul meant when he wrote, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10). This is only possible by spending time together and sharing experiences. We must resist the temptation to hide behind Bible knowledge, theological correctness or passionate ministry when we claim spirituality. They are not the measure. Abiding in (sharing our lives with) Christ is the measure (John 15:5).

“And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4).

Eternal Life

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3

Our concept of what is eternal life may actually fall short by a considerable margin. It is possible that we mention eternal life as a substitute word for salvation. In 1 John 5:11 we read, “God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” Our concept is that having received Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour we have also inherited eternal life. It is helpful for us to give considerable time and meditation as we read the Bible as to what that actually means. It is not synonymous with salvation or a change in our way of life but it is an integral part of salvation.

In the verse at the head of this article and reading it in the context of Jesus’ prayer to the Father for Himself, His disciples and all those who will believe in Him, we have a more clear expression of what eternal life is. It is not just about going to heaven and it is not just about being saved from sin and its consequences. It is what Paul refers to as being made alive to God (Ephesians 2:1) which means that we are now able to having a living relationship and fellowship with God.

In this prayer Jesus is not praying for our salvation. The subjects of this prayer are already forgiven and saved. He is praying that they would have the same intimate relationship with the Father as He does and with Himself also. As we read the Gospel accounts we may be inclined to be a little jealous of the disciples who saw and spoke with Jesus every day. They saw the miracles and they heard His teaching first hand. However, though He is not physically present with us, as He was with them, He is none-the-less present with us every moment of every day.

Eternal life is the experience of living with Jesus and the Father day by day. In 14:23 John records Jesus saying, “If anyone loves Me he will keep My word; and My Father will love him and make Our home with him.” This is the closest personal relationship that we can experience in this earthly life.

In the later years of his life after all the other apostles have been killed and long gone, John writes, “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).

Eternal life is a Gift in Christ, not apart from Christ, but it is not just a ticket to heaven that we keep in our pocket ready for future inspection. Eternal life is living in fellowship with Jesus Christ and the Father by the Holy Spirit here and now and forever. The potential has been ours from the moment we first believed. We now have the opportunity of nourishing it to maturity in readiness for that great day when we see Jesus face to face.

Faithful Counsel

“They did not ask counsel of the Lord” Joshua 9:14

As we read the book of Joshua and come to this episode in his life and that of the other leaders we may think that they were a little slow in learning as they had the same problem not long before when they were going against the city of Ai. But before we cast the first stone we best take a careful look at ourselves. How often do we go ahead presuming on the grace of God and Christ’s presence based on our own knowledge, wisdom or previous experience?

Joshua and his leaders were taken in by a well planned deception. On the surface everything had the appearance of being genuine and straight forward. This is the kind of deception that works best. If things don’t appear genuine the deception doesn’t usually work.

If we reflect on our own lives we may be able to identify occasions when we have proceeded on the basis that everything looked genuine and have not sought counsel from the Lord with the result that we have been deceived. We may also discover occasions when we have made some attempt at asking counsel from the Lord but not taken the time to wait for a response.

The historical accounts of episodes in Joshua’s life are recorded so that we might learn both the ways of fallen man and the ways of God. God has not changed and neither has the nature of fallen mankind. The devil is called the deceiver for good reason. He has not changed either.

The notion that we only bother God with big, important or first time decisions makes us vulnerable to the devil’s deceptions. It allows us to live apart from intimacy with Jesus Christ. It allows us to live in pride thinking we have done some service for Christ when He wants us to serve with Him. We pat ourselves on the back but we have acted independently of Christ.

What looked straightforward to Joshua and the other leaders turned out to be a nightmare for the whole nation. Joshua and the other leaders rightly bore the brunt of the people’s complaining and accusation (v 18).

Israel later enjoyed success in overcoming the cities in the land “because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel” (10:42). The Lord fought for Israel not just because they knew the will of the Lord and were acting in obedience to that will; He fought for them because they went forward with the Lord leading and not for the Lord in His absence. Israel learned the hard way that going ahead of Him led to disaster.

Jesus reminded His disciples that they could succeed in nothing for the kingdom of God without Him being with them and at the head (John 15:4-8).

Living Together

“We know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20)

On a few occasions I have seen cars with the following sign in their rear window;

“No Jesus, no life

Know Jesus, know life”

This statement matches the several that John makes regarding an intimate personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In chapter two of the same letter, verses three and four, John declares that a person who is in such a relationship with Jesus Christ will be keeping His commandments. This should not be interpreted as slavishly obeying a set of rules externally as we do with our nation’s laws. This kind of obedience comes from a desire within to bring pleasure to the one we love.

John also makes several other references to “knowing” Him in his Gospel. There is one important negative statement in Matthew’s Gospel in this matter. Speaking of people who outwardly appeared to know Him because they preached and did miracles in His name, Jesus says that they had not entered into this intimate relationship of “knowing” Him and in spite of their activities they are rejected. They had not received and entered into a relationship with Jesus who is eternal life (Matthew 7:21-23).

The fact that the Lord Jesus Christ defines the gap between heaven and hell in terms of an intimate relationship with Himself ought to be sufficient evidence for anyone since all judgment has been given to Him (John 5:22).

If we want to know about someone, we read their biography but if we want to know them intimately we will have to live with them. This is true of all relationships. It is through sharing lives that intimacy grows. This equally applies in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Many people know about Jesus, perhaps quite a bit, because they have read and studied the Bible. They may even have developed a strong attachment to the image of Jesus that is formed in their mind from this knowledge and believe they are Christians. But Jesus has made it clear that this is insufficient for salvation and entrance into His everlasting presence. Intellectual knowledge only may lead to a moral but legalistic life.

Philip and the other disciples of Jesus had been with Him for some time when Philip asked Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and it is sufficient for us.” Jesus’ response is helpful with our present subject, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:8, 9). It is the time that the disciples had been with Jesus and the activities that they had shared with Him that brought about revelation and intimacy. It will be the same for us. We will grow in intimacy when we spend time with Jesus and we share lives with Him.