What did the Lord Jesus believe — and teach — about GOD? That has got to be one of the hardest questions one could ask of the theology of Jesus. Why? Because He was and is God “manifest in the flesh.” The Son has “exegeted” the Father (Jn. 1:18). He has made visible what is invisible.
We are trying a bit of an experiment in these posts. We are asking about the theology of the Lord Jesus. What did He believe? And what did He teach about the areas of doctrine such as sin, salvation, the church, etc.?
We are attempting to put into logical categories His teachings, not because we don’t believe and accept the rest of the New Testament canon, but just as an experiment.
We’ve seen that in terms of introductory matters (prolegomena), the Lord Jesus put the highest possible value on belief. In our last post we looked at the theological area called bibliology and saw Jesus’ affirming both general and special revelation as well as predicting the completion of the Scriptures in the New Testament.
But what did the Lord Jesus teach about GOD? This area of theology proper deals with such matters as God’s existence, His attributes, and His works. By “attributes” theologians (at least good ones) don’t mean that we attribute qualities to God that we would like Him to have. Rather they are referring to characteristics that God possesses that He reveals to us. Discovery, not creation, of these attributes is a primary concern of theology proper.
Where to begin? Does one begin with the sermons of the Lord Jesus? They teach us some very specific things about God. Does one plumb the parables of Christ to learn about God? Would there be profit in studying the controversies that the Lord Jesus had with the religious leaders of His day? How often were their arguments about the nature of God? What about Jesus’ “interrogatory method” (by this we mean the 250 or so questions the Lord Jesus asks. This was a paper prepared for the Evangelical Theological Society and will be sent to you if you ask for it)? How do the questions of the Lord Jesus reveal the character of God? Jesus Himself made specific claims of deity. So we could say, “Want to know what God is like? Look at Jesus!” But this post isn’t about the Son of God, but rather God “in general.” That is, which attributes of God does the Lord Jesus emphasize in His teaching?
Let’s think about one passage in each of these categories: His sermons, His parables, His controversies, and His questions. First of all, His sermons. We have, of course, the “Sermon on the Mount” (Mt. 5-7) and His “Upper Room Discourse” (Jn. 14-16).
There is so much about the Person and nature of God in these sermons. Let’s focus for a few moments on Matthew 6:25-34. There Jesus says that we are not to worry about our life, what we eat or drink, or about our body, what we are to wear, because life is more than food and the body is more than clothing. He then directs our attention to the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. The birds don’t sow or reap or store away in barns and the flowers don’t labor or spin. Jesus says we are much more valuable than they. “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” (v. 30). We should not worry about such things for “your heavenly Father knows that you need them (v. 32). In fact, worrying about food and clothing makes us look like pagans who “run after all these things” (v. 32). Rather, we are to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to us (v. 33).
I draw several conclusions from this section of Jesus’ sermon:
(1) God knows what we need before we ask Him. And His knowledge of us and our needs shows His personal care and omniscience.
(2) Trusting Him — instead of worrying about such things — distinguishes us from the pagan world which denies His existence and love.
(3) The rulership of God and His righteous character are to be pursued by the believer. And such a pursuit is the antidote to worry.
Of the 46 parables which Jesus told, the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18 says much about the Lord. Jesus told this parable to encourage us to pray and not give up. This widow who needed justice had to appeal to a judge who “neither feared God nor cared what people thought.” The judge actually admitted that he neither feared God nor cared what people thought, but he finally gave the widow justice because the widow kept “bothering” him and he was concerned that she would eventually come and attack him if he didn’t!
Jesus drives the parable home when He says, “will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (vv. 7-8).
We are to persist in prayer because our God cares about us, His chosen ones. He is a just God who will see that we get justice — and quickly! The question is — do we have faith in that kind of God?
“Meek and mild Jesus” was always getting into arguments, wasn’t He? He never backed away from a fight, especially when the religious authorities were twisting God’s Word. Jerry Bridges says “The essential problem lay in their different understanding of the nature of God.” [See his “Jesus Challenges the Pharisees”]. Here is a list of some of the absurd rules the Pharisees developed to keep others from breaking God’s rules!
My favorite controversy between Jesus and the Pharisees has got to be the story of the man born blind (John 9). [I’ve done a number of posts on this chapter-long healing which you might want to look up. Just enter “Insight” in the search box at the top of the webpage].
Rather than praising God and thanking Jesus for the giving of sight to this man who was born blind, the Pharisees dismiss Jesus because He spat on the ground and made mud, a violation of the Sabbath (in their view). [By the way, one of their rules was that it was fine to spit on a rock on the Sabbath, but you could not spit on the ground, because that made mud and mud was mortar, and that was work!].
There are many points of conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees in John 9, but the issue of SIN jumps out at me. They were convinced that Jesus was a sinner (because He broke their view of the Sabbath), that the blind man was a sinner (because he was born blind), and that God just doesn’t listen to sinners. But they can’t explain away this man’s miracle and their only recourse is to toss him out of the synagogue with the words “You dare lecture us! You were steeped in sin at birth!” The theology proper point in this controversy is God’s attitude toward “sinners” (which we all are). He wants to rescue them (Remember: Jesus sought this man out!); the Pharisees want to remove them.
Sometimes the best way to teach is to ask questions. Jesus asked over two hundred questions in the four gospels — and some of them go to the heart of what one ought to believe about God.
Jesus asks a series of questions in Matthew 7, appealing to a father’s heart (to give his son bread, instead of a stone, or to give him a fish, instead of a snake). He then draws the logical conclusion: If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!. Please don’t miss these basic truths about God from these questions of the Lord Jesus:
(1) He is our “Father in heaven”;
(2) He is not evil, but good;
(3) He knows how and what to give His children; and,
(4) He still wants us to ask Him for things.
The sermons, the parables, the controversies, and the questions of the Lord Jesus tell us much about the character and works of God.
You now get to pick a sermon, parable, controversy, or question of the Lord Jesus — and ask what He was teaching about the nature of God. Feel free to post your comment below. (to be continued)