“And without faith it is impossible to please him [God]. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6).
“Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).
“…On the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God” (Heb. 7:19).
“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…” (1 Peter 3:18).
“…In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself… So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:19, 20).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Eph. 1:3).
[I am using the RSV today].
Not too long ago, at a weekly supper meeting with some Christian friends, one of those present (not a regular member of the discussion group) told about a church he had visited with a friend. He said there was a lot of talk about God, but it seemed no one had anything to say about Jesus. Why was that? Isn’t Christianity supposed to be all about Jesus? One could get the impression from what this person said that God is only secondary to Christianity, if not in fact irrelevant. Jesus is our Savior, and he is the God we should worship – or so most ‘Christians’ seem to think!
Now if that had been the teaching of Jesus and his followers, the Jewish people would have been quite justified in opposing them. Judaism was (and is) intensely monotheistic, and the Jews have always jealously guarded the honor of the One God. If Jesus had come seeking to turn their attention from God to himself, claiming either that he himself was God, or was God’s equal, they would have rightly accused him of blasphemy. But such was most emphatically not the case, as the above quoted verses show – and they are only a very small example of an overwhelming emphasis on God in the Christian writings. Jesus came to make God known, not to replace Him as the focal point of our attention. Everywhere you look in the Biblical “Gospels” you find Jesus directing his hearers’ attention to his Father. He said that he only spoke the words he heard from his Father, and only did the works his Father showed him. He said: “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28).
While the Jews were very jealous for the honor of their God, Jesus (and the prophet Isaiah) pointed out that this jealousy was vocal only; their hearts were far from God (Matt. 15:8). So Jesus presented himself as God’s human representative, to draw men’s hearts back to their heavenly Father, which would result in actions that were consistent with love for God and our fellow men (God’s children). Everything he said and did had this as its aim. That is why the apostle Paul said: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time” (1 Tim. 2:5 and 6). Jesus, the man, came to mediate between God and his fellow men who were estranged from God in heart, mind, and actions. Jesus was God’s messenger to men to call us back to Himself; and Paul saw himself as now being Christ’s ambassador to continue that message of reconciliation which Jesus brought. Jesus was not the object of Paul’s worship – that was reserved for “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
Christianity should be God centered, not Christ centered. It is one thing to honor Jesus as God’s anointed messenger – even as the greatest messenger of God who has ever yet appeared on earth – but it is another thing to be ‘Christ centered’. Christ is the messenger; God is ‘the message’! “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph. 5:1). We might even paraphrase the famous Islamic statement of faith, and say: “I believe in one God, the Father; and Jesus is His prophet”!
‘Christians’ will sometimes say that belief in God is not sufficient, though, because James says: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder” (James 2:19). They imply from this that belief in God is insufficient; what is necessary is belief in Jesus Christ to be saved. However that is not what James said. He said that belief in God is not sufficient, if it is not accompanied by works that show that faith. He does not say at all that faith in God is insufficient if not accompanied by faith in Jesus, but faith without works is dead, being alone (2:17). The person who believes in God, and shows it by the way he lives, is indeed accepted of God. As Peter came to see after his experience with the Roman centurion Cornelius: “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him” (Acts 10:34 and 35).
So knowing God, and manifesting that knowledge by the things we do, is the objective. If we pay attention to Jesus, believe what he said and do the things he taught, that objective will be accomplished. But the same can be accomplished if we listen to and follow the teachings of Buddha, Krishna, or the Tao. It can also be accomplished if we set aside all arguments about who is the best (or ‘only’) teacher to bring us to God, and seek to find Him and know His ways only through the things He created (as Paul himself taught in Romans 1:19 and 20). Finding God through nature as His only Revelation is the path of Deism, and there are many who follow that path (whether or not they realize they are Deists). All of these paths can accomplish the goal of ‘knowing God’, so all are legitimate. I don’t get upset when someone talks about God, but not Jesus – in fact that’s what Jesus himself did!