There are many reasons why Christians have been tempted to draw a distinction between the tone of the Old Testament (God the Father) and the New Testament (God the Son). For some it is a contrast between law and grace. For others they find they have a negative view of the authority of God versus the relationalness of Jesus. These contrasts between the two Testaments or members of the Trinity are false, but often appealing.
In this post I would like to eliminate one false distinction that can arise – that being that Jesus is more concerned about our life than God the Father, because He lived it. Oddly, I would like to remove this distinction by considering the Sabbath. The false logic might say God the Father was a stickler for the Sabbath, going so far as to put it in His Top 10; while Jesus was more understanding, only emphasizing the heart behind the principle.
This would miss the significance of the Sabbath “in the beginning.” God created a world of space and time for us (as finite beings) to live in. However, neither space nor time were, have been, or ever will be an impingement on God. Yet the first thing God did after creating the world was to step into the constraints He created for our example.
In the same way that Jesus took on human flesh and breathed sin-stained air, God the Father stepped into time and, like a parent lying beside a young child in the early afternoon, rested to show us the healthy way to live. When Jesus put on His earth-suit and submitted to the constraints of food, water, and shelter, He was only continuing in the character of God the Father.
Even more, the progressive nature of revelation (the fact that the Bible was recorded over centuries) is evidence of the incarnational heart of God the Father. God’s knowledge is complete and absence of a history to makes things clear is no difficulty for God. Yet stepping into the world of our finiteness God began building one truth upon another, generation after generation, building symbol after symbol until we could grasp the full meaning of the Gospel.
This should prevent us from playing good-cop-bad-cop with Jesus and God the Father or the New Testament and Old Testament.
More than this, it should give us a wonderful picture of what it means to do ministry for one another. Ministry is incarnational. We enter the world of another person, learning their current knowledge of truth, life struggles, abilities, and approach to life. For a period of time we live there; learning what life would be like if their reality was The Reality (compassion and understanding). Once they know we know their world (trust in relationship), we point them to the life God intended and tell them how that life is possible through Christ (truth filled with grace).
As you reflect on these things I would offer one passage of Scripture for you to mull over from three different perspectives.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15
- How should I understand this verse as it is evidenced in the whole Trinity, not just Jesus?
- How should I take greater rest in the character of God in light of this verse?
- How should I be challenged to be more incarnational in my life, church, and evangelism? How can I slowly build one truth upon another, as God did for us, as I get to know the “world” of those around me?