In my teens and early twenties, I began having deep and intense experiences with God. As I fell I love with God and became hungry to know more about His pursuing love during this time, I remember that many people felt the need to approach me with some urgent truths about God the Father and His Son. I have recently received similar urgent videos and messages claiming that the Father is the one true God and Jesus His literal Son. Such alarmists gasp at how the devil has deceived Christians into accepting him through doctrines like the Trinity, which they clearly portray in their messages as an idolatrous doctrine of worshipping three gods (tritheism). In this post, I do not attempt to explain the possible misunderstandings of the Trinity but leverage my experience to address the important question of whether the Father and Son are divine equals or two gods and to discuss why this matters.
I recognize that understanding Jesus’ identity is challenging because His life is somewhat mysterious to us and our human perceptions are limited. I think the Bible presents a quandary that gets to the heart of this mystery. The same God who claims to fill heaven and earth also says that He desires a place for His name to dwell. How can God fill heaven and earth and yet also fill a specific place with His glory? How can we reconcile the idea of a transcendent and wholly other God with the idea of an imminent and present God? How can God—who made every human being in His image—be somehow uniquely related to and incarnated in just one? I think our minds stumble when trying to make sense of these things unless we listen carefully to the story.
I have come to realize that those who create and send the urgent videos I receive are committed to a completely transcendent God who cannot enter human history, making incarnation impossible for them to grasp. They tell me that the Spirit and other mediated forms of deity—like the angel of the Lord, Wisdom, and the Son—are all generated by the Father. Thus, Jesus is not God but a lesser being sent by the Father, which means that God has never been truly present with us. If we cannot affirm that God sent Himself in the person of Jesus—who is without origin—the direct being of God remains unknowable. Someone other than God came and did some wonderful things, but this did not provide answers to our questions about God Himself(1) I think these messengers sending me videos are trading a broad and fuller understanding of God for a much lesser one.
God manifests divinity through the Son, who mediates the inner life of the Godhead into the world. Jesus assumes this position not because He is a lower deity but because this is how God comes. The Son lived and revealed the Father, but He does not replace Him. We see in Jesus a depiction of what God is and has always been (John 16:27). Like Jesus, God is loving, forgiving, merciful, gracious, and compassionate. In this view, the Father is transcendent and the source of all things, the Son is the agent through whom the Father’s work is revealed, and the two are one. Hebrews 1:1-3 communicates this well: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power…” (NKJV).
Biblical words like Son, glory, and image have extremely deep meanings. You can’t just read over these words like you would those in a newspaper. I have learned that if you want to read the Bible literately, you can’t take it literally. At the very least, these words should be given more consideration in order to understand its rich imagery and appreciate its subtleties of meaning. The videos shared with me claim to read the Bible literally—noting that Jesus is the literal Son of God—but they fail to glean the Bible’s intended meaning because they do not read it literately. It’s not in the normal procreative sense of “begetting” sons but in a uniquely intimate way that the Father and His Son Jesus are connected.
Jesus is the Son of God in a far deeper sense than being a literal son. This relationship has nothing to do with literal origins. We might understand it like this: Jesus is the exact likeness of God. In the beginning, Adam was called God’s son, as he was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Just as God imparted His image to Adam, so Seth was begotten in his father’s likeness and image (Genesis 5:3). When a certain group of Jews claimed Abraham as their father, Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.” (John 8:39-47, NKJV). Accordingly, the term “begotten” implies having the full nature of and being exactly like the father. The problem is that human image bearers have failed to represent God’s character and likeness. Because God does not want His image borne falsely in the world, He promised that like Isaac—who was the only begotten son of Abraham (i.e., uniquely loved by and shared the likeness of his father)—He would enter the human sphere to become the one and only true Son and image bearer (Genesis 22:1-2; Matthew 15:5; John 3:16; Hebrews 11:17). Jesus was the complete image and the exact representation of the Father; within His body dwelt the fullness of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15; 2:9).
The Son embodies the complete radiance of the Father and is the exact image of His being (Hebrews 1:3). The word image is used to indicate that God is present—just as when the king of Babylon set up a golden image to represent Nebuchadnezzar’s presence and power in the land. Jesus bears God’s full image, name, and power in the world. He is the complete reflection of God’s glory and the full manifestation of His person.
God’s glory was revealed when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (1 John 1:14). When we look at Jesus, we see what this glory is like, and identifying the different levels of holiness in its manifestations of glory can help us understand the mystery. Some have been able to see God’s glory from the cloud, but its full manifestations have sometimes prevented people from experiencing it (Exodus 25:40). We find Moses begging God to reveal more of Himself to him—in the fullness of glory (Exodus 33:18). God grants this request—but only to a degree—lest Moses die. Moses can’t withstand the face of God and must be protected from the blinding light of God’s presence (Exodus 33:20). Jesus alone embodies the full radiance of God’s inner glory and the fullness of God’s nature. He is the one true and faithful Son who fully reveals the Father (Matthew 3:17).
My point is that if God did not come in the person of Jesus, if salvation is not God’s own work, then we have not received information about what He is really like. I believe Jesus told the truth about the Father—that Jesus is a co-equal manifestation of God’s love. If the Father is just like the Son—that is, if Jesus revealed what God is like—this is the most amazingly good news there could be.
Craig Ashton Jr.
(1) God is not male or or female, but my use of male pronouns is a stand-in for either.