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Knowing Christ, Seeing the Father

As our Lord seeks to encourage his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion, he focuses them on faith over fear. One encouragement that he gives his disciples is that, though he is going away to the Father, they know the way. But John tells us that Thomas objects, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5 ESV). To his credit, Thomas does appear to appreciate, perhaps more so than Peter, the uniqueness of Christ’s departure to a place (presently) inaccessible to any of them. Thus, he presents his concern to our Lord that neither he nor any of the other disciples know where Jesus is going.

In response, Jesus offers another good reason to let faith rise up over fear: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6-7 ESV). In his response, we come to know that faith in him is the way to our final destination, the presence of the Father. He is the roadmap, as it were, who reveals both the way and the destination.

But, in light of Jesus’ response to Thomas, we may still have some lingering questions. How much do I need to know of Christ in order to know and have seen the Father? Do I know enough now? Can I ever know enough? These kinds of questions become especially pressing for believers today who, unlike Thomas or Philip, do not have Jesus physically standing in front of them.

We do, however, have the promised Holy Spirit, and we have God’s complete revelation of his plan of redemption in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. From that perspective, we’re in a better position than either Thomas or Philip because we have more resources at our disposal to know Christ and see the Father, albeit by faith only and not also by sight as they did. Nevertheless, we may still be troubled by lingering questions. Even with the embarrassment of riches that the Christian church has today, how much do I need to know of Christ in order to know and have seen the Father? Do I know enough now? Can I ever know enough?

Particularly with that last question, the Westminster Confession of Faith is helpful in its exposition of the doctrine of Scripture. First, the Confession declares, “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture” (1.6). This statement establishes the sufficiency of Scripture. You can know enough because the Scriptures provide enough.

Moreover, what the Scriptures say are not inaccessible to you. Again, the Confession says, “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them” (1.7). That is to say, the Scriptures are clear enough for anyone who wants to know Christ and see the Father. So, yes, you can know enough.

But do you know enough? With this question, we must remember that there is no theological entrance exam into heaven. While the knowledge of God is deep enough for an elephant to swim, it is also safe enough for a child to wade into. Paul only wanted to preach Christ and him crucified. Perhaps the only creedal formula of the church was “Jesus is Lord.” While these things have great depth to them, they are also simple. The gospel itself is quite deep while also being straightforward. Repent and believe, for the kingdom of God is at hand. Like the thief who defended Christ on his cross, who put his full faith and trust in a dying savior, so we will know enough if we do the same.

At the same time, this reflection is not meant to be a license for putting your Christian life in cruise control. We are called to render to the Lord what is the Lord’s, and what the Lord owns of you is your whole life. So, my hope is that you are encouraged in the knowledge that the gospel is simple and straightforward, but also challenged to continue mining the depths of the riches and wisdom of what God has revealed to us so that you might know Christ and see the Father.

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