John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.”
When John says that no one has ever seen God he is very intentionally echoing the exchange between Moses and YHWH in Exodus 33:18ff where God says that no one can see His face and live. However, while John is affirming that no one has ever physically seen God (that is, the Father), his central emphasis does not seem to be on visual perception….rather, his emphasis—as the rest of the verse shows us—is on knowing or understanding God.
John’s contention is not simply that no one has ever seen God with their eyes, but that no one has ever truly, fully, intimately known God before….He has remained at a distance and incompletely exegeted, as it were, even to OT saints. However, with the coming of the “only begotten one who is Himself God,” that all changes. Now Jesus can say, “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), that is, to know the man Jesus is to know the infinite God.
This is the most influential concept in my life….I truly believe that it is the interpretive key to reality itself…..Here’s why: if we would know anything rightly, we must know God rightly, and if we would know God rightly, we must—according to John 1:18 and the unified witness of the NT —know Him definitively as He is revealed in the incarnate Son. And—and here is the unexpected turn that makes this concept profound and beautiful beyond mortal exploration—the climax of the incarnate Son’s Father-revealing, Bride-redeeming work comes when He is lifted up on the cross of Calvary.
God says to us—not man, not philosophy, not theology—God says to us that if we are to truly know Him, we must meet Him in the man whose life and character and message and glory climax when He lays down His life on a Roman cross. The incarnate Son is not merely God’s “rescue plan,” this dying and rising work is not simply one of the things that God does—this is who God is.
May the implications of this concept ignite and engulf our lives from root to branch with the fires of holiness, the fires of cruciform love.