Seeing Christ in Others
Dec 11, 2007
The day is coming when we will all see God face to face--and live to tell about it. But meanwhile, there is another way to see God. It is more subtle, but it is very important in our lives today.
In John 14 Jesus had a discussion with Philip about how to see God. Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father. Jesus said in verse 9, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, 'Show us the Father'?"
Philip, of course, wanted a full look at God in all His glory, but even Moses could not see God directly, but only saw his "afterglow," as Rudy Jones would say. The KJV calls it God's "back parts." The NASB calls it God's "back." The Hebrew word is AWKORE, sometimes translated "after, or hereafter."
Essentially, Moses saw the RESULTS of God's presence, not any part of His Person, for no man has seen God at any time (John 1:18). This is basically how we know that God has shown up. It is by the results of His presence and works, not because we see Him directly.
He also has other ways of manifesting Himself to us. Angels, for instance, are the personified Word of God and, in a way, can be considered as extensions of some particular portion of His character represented by a Word. But the most common way to see God is through other people.
Jesus, of course, was the primary manifestation of God, for He was the perfect representation, the very Image of the Father (Heb. 1:2, 3). For this reason, He told Philip that if they see Him, they see the Father. It was not a DIRECT look at the Father, but an INDIRECT look at Him, as if seeing someone by looking at his image in a mirror.
Christians have little trouble believing this about Jesus Christ, but they run into more problems when seeing God and Christ in lesser human beings who are not yet perfected. As long as Christians have a high opinion of someone's righteousness, they can see Christ in that person. But if the person does not meet up with their righteous expectations, their ability to see Christ in that person becomes blurred or altogether dark. It is difficult to see beyond the distortions of the mirror.
In Mark 9:37 we read,
"Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me."
Here we see the interconnectedness of a "child" with Jesus and the Father Himself. This same principle is seen in Matthew 25:35-45, which ends with the lesson in verse 40:
". . . To the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me."
All of this is based upon the principle of Rom. 12:5, "So we, who are many, are one body in Christ." Being one body identifies us with Christ, and He takes it personally when someone hurts even the smallest part of His body.
Here is where it is important that we discern who is and who is not a part of the body of Christ. So often men abuse those parts of Christ's body that do not believe in precisely the same way as they do. One example that I see all the time is when a mainstream Christian consigns us to hell for believing that God intends to restore all of creation back to Himself. They call it a "false religion" or "false cult." In essence, they are rewriting Eph. 2:8, which, in their opinionated version, would read: "For by grace you have been saved through faith AND belief in eternal torment."
One of the biggest problems in the Church for centuries has been to add other conditions to one's salvation that go beyond simple faith in Christ. The Roman Church added membership to the list of requirements, then baptism and a host of other doctrines. The Protestant Reformation took it back to the issue of simple justification by faith alone, but over the centuries since that time, faith has again become encrusted with the same kind of requirements. Now I hear that if people don't believe in hell, they will certainly go to hell. I guess that salvation now depends upon one's faith in hell, rather than in Christ's death and resurrection on behalf of sin.
That seems cultish to me. But more to the point, I think Jesus takes it personally when we beat and wound other parts of His body. If there is a sore on the body of Christ, we should seek to heal it, rather than to kick it.
Christians in the Pentecostal Age live in a leavened state, for that is the nature of Pentecost (Lev. 23:17). We should not expect perfection out of our fellow believers. Personally, I expect to see spiritual growth, for that is evidence of LIFE, but growth means that the person is not yet mature--therefore, imperfect.
Beyond this, if one strives to be an overcomer, one should follow the example of Jacob, who is the classic overcomer type in the Old Testament. When he became an overcomer, his name was changed to Israel. The name was based upon his character, not upon his race or genealogy. When Jacob's name was changed to Israel, he was wrestling with God over a spiritual issue. His brother, Esau, was coming with 400 men to kill him. God, of course, changed his heart with a few companies of warrior angels who told Esau that Jacob was their master. (See the Book of Jasher for that interesting story.) By the time Esau met Jacob, Esau had a whole new appreciation for his brother!
Even Jacob's perspective had changed, for Jacob told his brother in Gen. 33:10, "I see your face as one sees the face of God." He had just wrestled with Peniel, "the face of God," a few hours earlier. Now he has the ability to see the face of God in his most bitter enemy--Esau. This is one of the characteristics of an overcomer--the ability to see God in EVERYONE and in absolutely EVERY SITUATION.
This is only possible when one understands the sovereignty of God and has some idea of the bigger plan that God has for His creation. Christians today often focus their whole lives fighting Esau, instead of recognizing the divine plan which includes Esau. Of course, we do not have to believe that Esau is a vessel of honor, but we ought to recognize his place in the divine plan and be at peace with it. Seeing God in Esau and being at peace with him in this manner is one of the major marks of an overcomer.
This principle is an extension of the basic principle that Jesus set forth in his discussion with Philip in John 14. As Passover Christians, we can see the Father in Christ. As Pentecostal Christians, we can see the Father in our fellow believers. As Tabernacles Christians, we can see the face of God in our enemies.
This is the first part of a series titled "Seeing Christ in Others." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones