There’s truth in the old adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” While a picture cannot replace the real thing, it does reveal beauty that words cannot fully express. However, while I can describe a sunset with words like, “the sky was ablaze with the fire of the setting sun,” or take a picture that awes onlookers, neither of these is quite the same as seeing it for ourselves.
We know the tension. How many of us have taken a picture of a sunset or the fall colors with a camera only to be disappointed? It looks very little like what we saw! It captures only a two dimensional image of the vividly layered, color filled view we saw. We long to see the image again but without being able to experience it for ourselves we’re at a loss.
The challenge of describing the indescribable isn’t limited to taking pictures of sunsets and fall foliage; it is a problem we encounter in trying to describe and understand God too. Often we find the biblical authors trying to describe the indescribable with images, and yet, it isn’t quite the same as seeing it for ourselves. That is where another adage is helpful, “Seeing is believing.”
But, some will wonder, “If God is spirit, how can we see him?” Paul provides us with an answer saying that God has made himself visible to us through creation, “They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” (Romans 1:19–20)
John further declares that while no human has seen God, he is revealed through His Son, “No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side—he has revealed him.” (John 1:18) John tells us that Jesus came to reveal God to us. Rather than needing someone tell us about who God is, the triune God revealed himself to us in the Son, Jesus Christ.
Paul also proclaims that when we see Jesus we see God, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation.” (Colossians 1:15) This tells us two things. First, Jesus is co-eternal with the Father; He is not separate from God the Father. Second, everything that can be known about God is seen in Jesus Christ.
Finally, Hebrews 1 says, “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.” (1:3) This tells us both who Jesus is and what he has done for us. It is because God’s glory and character are seen in Christ, that we can have full assurance of his ability to provide the forgiveness we need.
These verses provide the framework for what the Nicene Creed (325 AD) declares, “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.”
Jesus is more than a concept; He’s the “only-begotten Son of God.” He’s more than a son born in the likeness of the Father; He’s the “visible image of the invisible God.” Other translations of Hebrews 1:3 say that Jesus is the exact “representation of his being, imprint of his nature, expression of His substance.” Or as the Nicene Creed states, “very God of very God.”
Why does this matter? If we want to “see God” the Bible tells us that we don’t need to look any further than to Christ. A church will be helpful in aiding us to know and see God only if they reveal to us the biblical Christ. They need not recite the Nicene Creed, but they must declare the historic truths of the faith that are revealed in Scripture. If we want to see God, we cannot be content with partial images that disappoint. If we want to see God, we must look to the vividly layered, color filled picture we have of Him in Christ.