At various times in the history of the church, people have struggled to reconcile apparent discontinuity of the God of the Old Testament with Christ. Deep down, many of us may wonder whether God really loves us.
British theologian T F Torrance served as a chaplain in World War 2. Once, in Italy, after an engagement he went out looking for casualties. He writes,
“When daylight filtered through I came across a young soldier (private Phillips) scarcely twenty years old lying mortally wounded on the ground, who clearly had not long to live. As I knelt down and bent over him, he said, ‘Padre, is God really like Jesus?’” I assured him that he was …as I prayed and commended him to the Lord Jesus he passed away.”
As a result of this encounter, Torrance spent much of the rest of his life saying, “There is no God behind the back of Jesus.”
Is Jesus the good cop and God the Father the bad cop? Is God like the LEGO movie character? Two faced? No. God’s disposition toward us is the same as Jesus’. Paul refers to Jesus as “the image of God, the invisible one.” Or, as my son Nathan explained the Trinity to his sister the other day in the car, “there’s an invisible one, a visible one, and a ghost.”
No one has ever seen God. In the Old Testament seeing God would undo humanity and so it was necessary to hide in the cleft of the rock or to avert one’s eyes or to have God hidden behind a screen or a curtain.
In Christ, however, we have seen God and we no longer need to wonder about God’s character. When the apostle John writes, “For God so loved the world…” he does so because God does, in fact, love the world and desire that it be redeemed and reconciled to Him through the death of His Son Jesus.