BY: JOHN R. GAVAZZONI
THE FATHER/SON RELATIONSHIP
These are dynamic days in which we are living. Many believers are turning a corner in their spiritual perspectives, and there is definitely a move abroad toward, at least in some measure, a more kingdom orientation in the understanding of the gospel and the church’s mandate. That, undoubtedly being so, as one might expect, there are those, like the judaizers of old, who refuse to budge from their officially-sanctioned religious paradigm, and on the other end of the spectrum, are those who are, as it were, floating off into New Age/Gnostic space while all the while thinking that they are the ones who represent the cutting-edge of what God is saying in the earth in this day.
Though I ought not to have to say it, nevertheless I will; this is all about Christ. Better still, it’s Him in action making Himself known, at different levels, but the net effect is that we are in the early stages of a spiritual renewal, reconstitution, restructuring, and reformation that eventually will go beyond that of even the day of Pentecost. And, hear me, dear brethren, what is happening is not, and will not be contained within our little fellowship cliques, or fully expressed in our provincially-minded conferences. It’s just too, too, big.
Appropriately, as has always been true, and certainly was true in the earliest days of the emergence of the new covenant community in the earth, an apostolic defining of Christ is an absolute necessity as integral to a saving and glorifying knowledge of our heavenly Father in union with His Son, our Lord.
While most essentially, such knowledge is that of beholding the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, so that we cannot deny that quality of spiritual experience which is deeply inward, subjective, even mystical, still, an objective defining of Christ must accompany, finally, and give form, finally, to the vitality of experiencing Christ corporately and personally. In a word, when the process of revelation proceeding to understanding breaks down, and we end up, not with godly understanding, but fluff that passes for weightiness, something’s askew.
Allow me to go to an extreme to make my point. Suppose someone claiming brotherhood in the faith of Christ, is found going about teaching that he has experienced a Christophany by which he met the Lord face-to-face, and must, accordingly give the honest report that He is short, with green skin, a very large head, large slanted eyes and long, thin limbs. Though that person might speak in very glowing terms of loving Christ and communing with Him in the secret place of their spirit, we would have to say that something doesn’t quite add up as to their objective description of their Lord.
I know that many people have come into a saving knowledge of Christ with little, if any, solid foundation of defining His Person, yet given time and exposure to the testimony of scripture and that of larger community of faith, that person will come to the place of being able to confess Him with some degree of intelligent definition.
I once baptized the ex-wife of a Hollywood celebrity who had met Christ while meeting with us in our little house church, and who, obvious to all in our fellowship, was salvifically responsive to the Spirit of Christ. She knew the Lord. Of that there was no doubt. There was about her, His sweet aroma, yet, when I called for her confession of faith while in the baptismal waters, all that she could honestly confess to knowing was that He was love.
The rest of what we would deem to be even an elementary creedal testimony, she did not yet understand. The Spirit whispered to me in words to the effect, “Go ahead, baptize her, the rest will follow in good order.”
So, while breathing a prayer that the Spirit will keep me from becoming a steely-eyed, doctrine-obsessed definer of orthodoxy (shudder), I will proceed to present what I believe belongs to that objective, definitive outline of Christ that is unique to our apostolic faith. Who and what is Christ?
What is the relationship of the One called Jesus to the Christ? Does Christ in some way transcend Jesus of Nazareth? Is the earthen persona of Jesus intrinsically and utterly consistent with Christ? Does the Man of Galilee enjoy a first and all-inclusive, indissoluble union with Deity from eternity and in time? What is the nature of the oneness of Jesus and the Father? What, in fact, is the nature of oneness, per se, from a truly Christian perspective? The above, are representative questions that the following treatise will, I trust, at least touch upon.
First, a most fundamental fact: “Christ” is a title; “Jesus” is a name. The word, “Christ,” means anointed, or anointed one. It does not; I repeat, it does not mean anointing. One is anointed, or an anointed one, because he or she has been anointed. The confession of Peter – clear, forceful, confident, enthusiastically commended by Jesus, gives expression to the cornerstone of the Jesus church. Responding to Jesus’ question as to who men thought He was, and who His disciples thought He was – Peter exclaims, “Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus commends Peter as blessed and traces the big fisherman’s testimony to revelation from the Father. Peter, clearly, is addressing Jesus of Nazareth when He says, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
So the right conclusion ought to come easily to us unless we are subject to some strong delusion. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. He is very singularly the Christ, and very singularly the Son of God. Jesus is the Christ. Jesus is the Son of God; the Son of God is Jesus. Jesus is the Christ; the Christ is Jesus.
In John’s words, He is the only begotten, or uniquely begotten Son. John, in His first epistle makes it clear that the anointing that we all have from the Father, we have, because we have the Son. “He that hath the Son, hath life.” The anointing belongs singularly to the life of the Son, making Him singularly, The Anointed; and by having Him, we have His anointing.
No one other person is the Christ, only Jesus. But, together, as members of His body, we are the enlargement of Christ; we are the greater Christ of the economy of God, but only in that God has multiplied His Son, Jesus, in many as one body. The life of the corporate Christ is the life of Jesus, the Christ, multiplied and enlarged in many.
I have actually had someone insist that they (individually) could scripturally say that they are Christ, based upon the fact that they had an anointing from the Father. To back that up, they had to invent the idea that Christ means anointING, instead of anointED, and since they possessed anointing, they could say, “I am Christ.” Such stubborn, unyielding independence of mentality will finally cause a breakdown of intelligence. Losing touch with reality ends up in irrationality.
My question to that person is, “Am I complete in you?” Is it you that indwells me? Was it you who died and rose from the dead as the reconciliation and salvation of all men? Are you the Head of the body? Are you the One in whom all things shall finally be gathered together? Such ignorance parading about as super-revelation. There is such a need for clear teaching on the relationship of Christ, singular, and Christ, multiplied as the many who are one body.
What we, each of us, have, we have in Christ. He is greater than any one of us, for He is the summation of Deity and the totality of Humanity. Our Father, by His Seed, has given nothing less than the fullness of Himself to His Son. That is the anointing; the fullness of Deity in the Son, shared freely with us all. It belongs first to the Son, through whom we receive that same anointing. The nature of God is in His Seed, and that constitutes the anointing of Christ. “Jesus said, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” That Spirit, though portrayed as a dove outwardly, came from within Him. Biblical principle: All that comes upon – comes from within.
That is what makes the Son the Anointed One. The nature of His Father, arising out of the depths of what the Father has made the Son to be, comes upon the Son out of the depths of His God-nature, by the Holy Spirit. The anointing is God-ness itself clothing the Son from within. Certainly we all, as sons of God have an anointing from the Father, but only in that we have been given the Son in whom all fullness dwells.
We are sons in the Son. It is the Son in the sons that makes the sons – sons. Only One individual Person can rightfully claim to be Christ, the Son of the living God. That is Jesus of Nazareth, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, dead, buried, risen and glorified. We owe our sonship to the extension of the Seed of God through Him. We might even dare to speak of the corporate Son, but, to repeat, only as the unfolding of the totality of sonship as it is found in the glorified Jesus of Nazareth.
The biblical procession of personhood out from Being proceeds as the One Seed of God reproduces Deity as the Son. Having a Son made God a Father. Have you considered that? Deity begins as Being, and proceeds to familial Personhood. God didn’t begin as Father; He became the Father by begetting His Son. They are equally eternal, for this is not on a time-line; it is timeless.
God, the Ground of all Being, became a Father and a Son by divine, eternal impregnation, conception and birth. The One Seed of God in the Son is multiplied into many seeds, and the Son as the heavenly bridegroom, with His bride, the church, begets many.
That’s why the Son speaks to God about “Thou and the children Thou hast given me.” As Levi was in the loins of Abraham, though many generations removed; so we were in the loins of our Father from eternity, but in His loins within the One Seed that became many seeds. I declare to you a mystery. From the family potential of Deity, God became a family, the family of God. All proceeded, not on a time-line, but eternally, out from the intrinsically relational Being of God. God is Relational in a family way. God is Perfect Relational Being, who unfolds in Family-defined Personhood.
Grand, majestic, thrilling, consistent, repeated, and bearing much fruit has been the truth heralded over the centuries: Possessing Christ, we possess all things in Him. Our Father does not have merely someTHING called the anointing to give us. He has given us His Son, and in giving us His Son, He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness.
His anointing – given without measure to His corporate body, is enjoyed, in a measure by each member of that body. Yet, many of us act as if the whole of the anointing rests on us individually, and that it is not possible that we might, in some measure, be mistaking what is really our insecure need for revelation one-upmanship for the anointing.
“Father told me this or that,” so it’s settled. No need to check out the accuracy of one’s understanding of the anointing. Look at the experience of Peter who, in spite of His great revelation, needed much adjustment and correction before his revelation flowered into true apostolic understanding.
We get some notion that strikes us as super-understanding, and off we go creating a doctrinal house of cards that will crumble at the first touch of investigation. We mistake vain imagination for the renewing of our minds, thinking that we are immune from that syndrome.
THE FATHER/SON RELATIONSHIP
Rushing to conclusions is a sign of both natural and spiritual immaturity. It is often true, as the saying goes, that “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Concerning the relationship of God, our Father, and His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, some folks, fixating on little more than one word in one verse of scripture, make that verse say something that it really does not. So it is with the statement of Jesus: “I and the Father are one.” Be careful about fixating on the word, “one” in that verse. I do not mean to sound caustic, dear ones, but in order to make my point emphatically, I will borrow from contemporary rhetoric, and ask this simple question of those who are forming maddeningly illogical conclusions regarding relationship within Deity, “Just what part of ‘and’ don’t you understand?” May I be so bold as to encourage you, at least in regard to the following, that you follow my example when it comes to forming opinions on the basis of a direction of thought that might be initiated when one is contemplating how to interpret a passage of scripture.
Of course, it is elementary, that we with all humility, submit our brain to the mind of Christ which we have by the indwelling of the Spirit of Truth. But, also, there is the practical dimension of an approach to the Bible. We ought to take it slow and easy from the very outset when our mind is drawn in a certain direction of conclusion based upon what seems to us at the moment to be what a certain passage is saying.
This has been my practice for years. I almost immediately pause and read the passage several times in its immediate and larger context (not forgetting to consider its cultural context), checking several translations, chewing the Word, digesting it, letting the thought of the writer, and most importantly the thought of the Spirit sink in, and in so doing I often discover that though I thought I knew what the passage said, I really, after all, did not, or that I missed something which upon more careful examination became quite clear.
The next step involves a process of comparing that verse with others, also in their context, that at least first appear to be addressing the same subject, also setting, in my mind, the verse I’m considering against the great backdrop of the essential thrust of the whole of scripture. One does, after many years, get a “feel” for the essential message of scripture which threads its way from Genesis to Revelation, so we ought to be instantly suspicious if we’re being led in a direction which, at that point at least, seems contradictory to that divine thread.
Of course, there are those who do not need to take such care in their handling of the written words of God, for they have such an absolutely undisturbed, direct, mystical and immediate access to the mind of God, that they have no need for such pedestrian labors. They are beyond trying the spirits. They are so spiritual that they need not consider the apostolic warning that there are many spirits that have gone forth into the world. (If you did not pick up on the sarcasm in the last sentence, please do so now).
Then there is the matter of recalling the input of others in our lives through their personal fellowship and teaching, and through their writings. The Spirit of Truth is God’s deposit to the whole church and needs to be experienced in relationship with one another. Be willing to be adjusted in your thinking by the thinking of others. This is not necessarily contradictory to being taught of God.
The anointing that we have that teaches us all things is first a corporate anointing from which we individually draw. I want to acknowledge that there are genuine, spiritually-healthy believers who are not given to great scrutiny of scripture, but those brethren are careful not to set themselves up as teachers to the church. I love the simplicity of the faith of such ones, and have been enriched by their spirit.
Well, I could go on and on in this vein, but I think what I’ve shared thus far is enough to make the point. So back to the relationship within Deity. Central to this subject, of course, is the relationship of the Father to the Son. Clearly Jesus affirmed a relationship with the Father that was a matter of both distinction and similarity. “I AND the Father are ONE.” Minds undisciplined by the Lord often want to consider either only the “one” factor, or the “and” factor. But we are faced with two dimensions of relationship; “and” and “one.”
The Son’s relationship with the Father – which includes our relationship with the Father in Him – is not a matter of either/ or, but of both. On one hand, the Father is the Father, and Christ Jesus is the Son, and on the other hand, they are one. This is elementary theologically. The oneness is a oneness of union, not of simplistic sameness. We find this all through the Bible. God brings forth out of Adam a hitherto hidden dimension of his being, Eve; then the two are joined together and become one flesh. This is based upon God realizing within the oneness of Deity an “Us,” as in, “Let Us make man in Our image… Male AND female created He them.” So man is a “them” and God is an “Us,” and the correlative element is the male/female dynamic.
The Christ expresses Himself as His Body and His Bride, the Father bringing forth out of the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ. Few things are more pregnant in meaning as that last scene in the Book of Revelation where the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, descends out of heaven from God, as a bride adorned for her husband.
That romantic scene is the consummation in a garden/city setting of what began in the garden setting in Genesis. The garden has grown into a garden-city. We see God as the great Husbandman and the great Builder. In both settings there is God’s man and woman, a river, the tree of life and no curse. The thing missing in the end is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, so that the potential for and eventuality of the curse has been removed.
Dear student of scripture, let not the obvious escape us. The Son of God has been eternally birthed by God, a birthing translated into the aion by the Holy Spirit, making the Christ both eternal and aionian. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is with us in the aions from eternity. He is begotten from eternity and from there into space-time. The Holy Spirit is the Person(al) transmission of, and reception of the Seed of Deity.
The Son is not the Father, and the Father is not the Son. The Son is the Son, and the Father is the Father, but the Son is one with the Father in that He is the reproduction of God, as a Son. God became both a Father and a Son in the birth of the Son. Deity knows both the experience of Fatherhood and Sonship within Its own Being. They are absolutely of one substance and nature, for in the Seed of God is the essence of Deity, no less than in the Father.
The Father has One who is just like Him in every way, except that He remains Father to the Son, and the Son remains Son to the Father. The Father is, in that sense, greater than the Son, for the Son received His life from the Father and eternally lives by the life of the Father. See, my dear brethren, there is an OTHERNESS within the ONENESS. If you cannot entertain that duality in unity, then you give evidence of spiritual and intellectual adolescence.
For some reason, some minds in opposition to the above, flit to Paul’s teaching about Christ reigning until He has put every enemy under His feet, upon which He will deliver up the kingdom to the Father, that God may be all in all. HELLO! Is anyone there or am I just talking to empty cranial air? The goal of the administration of God is that God should be all in all. There it is again, duality in unity. It’s not just God as all, it’s God, as all IN all. Two alls.
Once there was only one All— God; then God brought forth another all, admittedly out of Himself, but nevertheless another all, so that He might not longer only be All, but All in all. Let’s see, let’s try it this way: 1 plus 1 equals 2. Well maybe that’s just too simple for the truly profound among us. Does God become all in all, but the Father ceases to be all in the Son, and that relationship, which began in eternity, ends up dissolved?
Please note how scripture uses “one” and “with” in regard to the indwelling of Christ. To be sure, “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit,” but have you forgotten the various versions of Paul’s benediction, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be WITH your spirit.” Aww, come on now; it’s a matter of ONENESS of spirit, but also of WITNESS of spirit.
One of the primary signs of the anti-Christ spirit can be seen in the way that the traditions of men devalue, depreciate and deprecate humanity. The closer to, and the deeper into the heart of the Father one gets, the higher one’s valuation of humanness becomes and only the God-Man, Christ Jesus, can take us into our Father’s heart, for He is the One Mediator between God and man. Beginning with a form that many, if not most, of my readers are familiar with; Christian fundamentalism, in general, tends to quite overtly depreciate being human while seeking to save what it depreciates.
On the other hand—and again I’m speaking generally—old style Christian liberalism, the kind that emerged in the earlier part of the twentieth century, the kind that does not take seriously the inspiration of scripture, the Deity of Christ, the necessity of His shed blood, the reality of Jesus’ miracles, etc. has hidden its suppressed disgust of humanity by a theology that replaces the necessity of the cleansing of the precious shed blood of Christ with a every-day-in-every-way-I’m-getting-better-and-better-goody-two-shoes whitewash. (The early influence of fundamentalism in my Christian life shows in my use of the term liberalism. I probably ought to more precisely speak of modernism in contrast to fundamentalism).
Then we have the undisguised disgust of human flesh that is found in both ancient and contemporary Gnosticism that in some ways contains elements of both those extremes of the Christian spectrum. As to the elements of fundamentalism to be found in concert with Gnosticism, though the fundamentalism of today, in the main, rightly affirms the resurrection of the body, and in so doing does, in that respect, recognize the essential worth of humanness; yet by its tendency to equate human nature with evil, it contradicts itself and sends out a horribly mixed message. Then, of course, its insistence that the vast majority of mankind must end up in eternal torment, reveals a grotesque and hideous deprecating of human worth.
A primary element that Christian modernistic liberalism has in common with Gnosticism is the emphasis on knowledge being all that is needed to fulfill human potential. Gnosticism emphasizes an esoteric knowledge—quite inaccessible to the unwashed masses in their estimation—that enables its initiates to transcend a humanness that they see as sub-spiritual, whereas old-style Christian modernism has insisted that nothing more than education is needed to cure the ills of society. (Two world wars, not to mention all the lesser conflicts, the determined practice of genocide by “civilized” nations, and all other forms of inhumanity have pretty much made that position embarrassingly untenable).
To find the path to the truth concerning our species, we must take up issues that the earliest Christian leaders struggled with, such as, what really constituted the Personhood of Christ. Nearly everyone agreed that He was, in some sense, divine, but things got really messy as to His connection with plain old flesh and blood humanity. One of the elements common to all the forms of Gnosticism was the idea that actual flesh-humanity was not intrinsic to the Personhood of Christ, or of any person for that matter, so that the physical Jesus was thought to be merely a container for the Christ, a merely outward appearance that belonged to the material realm so despised by Gnostics; something to be shed in order to return home to their pure-spirit being and identity.
In contrast to that blatant anti-Christ, anti-humanness, stands the awesome purpose of God, which is: to take the very stuff of flesh-humanness and transform it into God-stuff from whence it originated. It is a most trustworthy saying that when God became a man in Christ Jesus, our Lord, He did not cease to be God, and when He arose from the dead, ascended on high, was exalted, enthroned and glorified, He did not cease to be a Man. Not a disembodied spirit-man, but a Man in complete solidarity with the dust-formed Adamic race.
That which was sown perishable, rose imperishable. That which was sown perishable was not discarded, and replaced. It was multiplied and renewed by glorifying transformation. Get that—RENEWED, NOT DISCARDED. Renewal’s the name of the game, friends. Making the old new is what it’s all about. “Behold I make all things new.” God loses nothing. God discards nothing, God annihilates nothing, God turns His back on nothing. God-stuff just won’t go away, “It” just draws forth out of its depths greater and greater dimensions of glory.
All things, and especially God’s crowning achievement, mankind—yes, I do mean the mankind formed of the dust of the ground, the only kind there is—came out from the midst of God, continues always through the midst of God, and increasingly goes deeper into the midst of God, “For out from the midst of Him, and through the midst of Him, and into the midst of Him are all things.” (that best translation courtesy of Jonathan Mitchell). If God had been satisfied with a totally non-material universe, He could have left things as they were, but He had something better in mind. He took of His very spirit-substance; in particular the spirit-substance of His Son(s) and created all things, making space, time and materiality out of spirit. The non-materialized spirit realm was indeed glorious, but a greater glory lay ahead in the plan of God, when materialized spirit-glory would become a greater glory by passing through death and resurrection. This He did in and by Christ, and repeats, demonstrates and confirms that already accomplished victory in His corporate body which ultimately will include the whole body of humanity.
Essentially, the whole space-time-material creation in its present condition, according to fundamentalism, modernism, or contemporary Gnosticism (New Age) had its origin either as the result of one monumental human mistake, or the creation of a demiurge dark-lord, or the failure of angels and men to maintain a transcendent consciousness. The simple, yet profound truth that what is behind it all is: “Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone,” is just not acceptable to the religious, self-centered mind.
That single grain of wheat with the innumerable grains contained within it, both in its singular and corporate process of death and resurrection, had to take on a “body of death,” to make this process possible. Eternal life, in its aionian purpose and process, needs death to swallow. It needs to take into itself that which is contrary to itself, to bring out the best of itself by transforming not only that which is natural, but that same natural subjected to perversity. The above “it” is really Him, “the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
DEFINING CHRIST, Parts 1-3 [John R. Gavazzoni] July 2005 1