Christianity has a lot of truths. We have a lot of Scriptures. Sometimes the truths and the Scriptures seem to run contrary to each other. How can we make sense of it all?
Is God angry or loving? Kind and gentle or violent and vindictive? Is he somehow both simultaneously since he’s “sovereign”?
Well, we know that God is love (the thesis statement of Christianity; the very definition of God). With this as the foundational truth, we then approach the difficult passages of the Bible asking, “in what way must a God who is love do or say such things?”
But beyond that, we need a clearer conception of what love is! Maybe love is sometimes uncontrollably angry, who knows? If God is “sovereign,” he can make up rules about what love is and isn’t, right? Hmm…
Well, thankfully, we do have a picture of love in the Bible, and it is as clear as crystal. God does not merely settle with giving us a definition of love, and saying “just take my word for it.” He actually came to earth, himself, to demonstrate, not merely define, what love is. The person of Jesus is the clearest expression of love in the history of existence.
The self-sacrificing teachings, life, attitudes, actions, and even death of Jesus show us beyond a shadow of a doubt what God is like.
Jesus is…the pinnacle of truth.
Jesus is the standard by which we must measure all of our conscious and subconscious thoughts and feelings about God, our theological constructs, and even our Bible verses.
The supreme Truth of Christianity…is a person. Not a doctrine, not theological system, not even the Bible itself. Jesus said, “I am the…truth” (John 14:6).
In fact, since I am the Truth, the only value of the Bible is that it testifies of me! “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40).
To the extent that the Bible is used in any other way than to point to the character of God as revealed in Jesus, the Bible is being misused. If misread and misconstrued, the Bible can lead to death, rather than life. If one’s use of the Bible accomplishes anything other than drawing us closer to an understanding of and a relationship with God as revealed in Jesus, then it is not bringing us life. If we walk away from sermons and Bible studies with anything less than a deeper trust in a God of self-sacrificing love, then we have misunderstood the Bible, and it has brought us no good at all.
Since Jesus is the pinnacle of truth, the clearest communication of God to man, no statement of a prophet in the Old or New Testament can contradict the character of God as seen in the person of Jesus. The writer of Hebrews captures this (Heb 1:1-3) when he says that in many and various ways God has tried to communicate to us through prophets, but now he’s done it through his Son! The communication through prophets just does not compare to the Son of God coming, himself, to communicate to us about God. Then the writer says that Jesus is the “exact representation” of the “glory” (i.e. character) of God.
The exact representation. Thus, the pinnacle of truth.
If you want to know what God is like, what love looks like (for God is love)…look at Jesus. Begin there. Admire his compassion for the needy, his concern for little children, his weeping over those who rejected him. And then stand in awe as the God of the universe washes the feet of his betrayer and forgives those who are crucifying him.
That is love. That is what God is like. This picture of God should begin to purge from our minds any subconscious feelings or conscious beliefs we have about God’s character that just don’t measure up to this pinnacle of truth as seen in Jesus.
Yes, it is a difficult task to take the Truth about this self-sacrificing God as our lens to make some sense of difficult passages of scripture. But it is one of the most worthy tasks. Because if we do not measure those difficult passages by the pinnacle of truth and understand them in light of the most bright and clear light we have (Jesus), then we will retain misconceptions about God’s character that will prevent us from truly trusting him.
God is not mixed in character. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). The Father is no different from the Son in character, for the Son is the “exact representation” of God’s character (Hebrews 1:3).
Begin with Jesus. The pinnacle of truth. The Truth about God personified. Remain with Jesus for a time. Fall in love with him. Develop a trust relationship with him. Then after that, tackle the rest of the Bible in light of the pinnacle of truth, and see the “many and various ways” God has dealt with the sin emergency on this planet and tried to reach his rebellious children.
Jesus is the standard by which we must measure every thought about God. And we should “take captive every thought” which “sets itself up against a knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:5), the knowledge of God as revealed in the pinnacle of truth, the Truth—Jesus.