how does God speak to us through Jesus?

I’ve been pondering this question since I read the majestic opening of the Epistle to the Hebrews today*:

“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”

It’s not so much the contrast between how God spoke by the prophets and how he speaks through a Son that’s been occupying me. Although, that is important.

Rather, it’s the question of how it is even possible for a human being to be one through whom God speaks definitively.

I’m not just talking about how he might give us a broad hint about the nature of ultimate reality — e.g., that, at its heart, reality is about relationships of love and giving. Or how he can communicate some propositional truths about what God is like (as necessary as these are).

I’m talking about how it’s possible for Jesus to make God known with a depth, reality and clarity never before attained (and not since transcended). How it’s possible for him to draw us into a certain kind of relationship with this God.

However these questions must finally be answered, I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that Jesus is the singular and representative human being — and so God’s image-bearer par excellence: the heir-appointee of the universe (of whom Psalm 8 spoke) and “the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being”.

At the same time, it must also have something to do with his inclusion in the divine identity. For, according to this letter, Jesus somehow shares in God’s distinctive activities of creating and sustaining or ‘bearing’ — ie. upholding and governing — all things.

And all of this is tangled up with what Jesus has done — both making purification for sin as the ultimate priest and sitting at God’s right hand as the ever-living risen and ascended king…

(The reason I’m reading Hebrews and thinking about how God speaks has a lot to do with the fact that Dan just launched a series on this. But it also has something to do with the fact that my preparation for teaching the Sermon on the Mount keeps bringing me up against how significant Jesus seems to find the story God narrates in the Old Testament.)


  1. I’m thinking that there is a distinct lack of the mention of the Holy Spirit in your post here…and your post hints at a Spiritless Christology.

    Christ himself depended on the Holy Spirit within his ministry and relationship with the Father. Therefore its through the Holy Spirit that Christ makes himself known to us and is the basis in how we engage in the divine relationship.

    1. Wow! That’s a pretty strong accusation to make on the basis of a single post, Craig.

      I’m sure you’re right — the Spirit is indeed intimately involved both in the ministry of Christ and in making God known to us. But Hebrews 1.1-4 doesn’t explicitly mention the Spirit (of course, the Epistle goes on to do so — making the very strong statement that it was through the eternal Spirit that the Son offered himself as a perfect atoning sacrifice to the Father).

      But I’m assuming you wouldn’t level this kind of charge against the writer of the letter after hearing on a fraction of what he (or she) had to say?

  2. Hi Chris… I wasn’t saying that you were guilty of a spiritless Christology..only that your post hinted at it, as your commenting about Christ and how he reveals God to us, mentions nothing about the working of the Spirit.

  3. I think you’re onto something:
    it’s got something to do with the hypostatic union, but described as act rather than substance.

    He unites the eternal person of the Son with human nature. The Word becomes flesh. (through the Spirit, don’t want to be accused of a spiritless christology…)

    He unites his person to human nature which is itself by virtue of it being human prepared/sanctified/created for this particular union and thus capable of the communicative act of God. (not intrinsically capable, sanctifiably capable).

    In so doing, the person of Jesus Christ is enabled to be fully, personally human precisely through this perfect union between the divine Son and the human nature. He is enabled in this personal union to be the active Revealer of the Father (“No one knows the Father except the Son, and those to whom he chooses to reveal him” Matt 11:27) and the place in which the Father is revealed (“If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” John 14:9-10).

    He is the exegete of the Father (John 1:18) and the Father’s true image (Col 1:15)

    1. Interesting thought, Dan, about the human nature being sanctified for this union by virtue of being human.

      That’s probably where I’d want to start explicitly invoking the Spirit — as the one who both draws God’s future into the present and (as a result) perfects nature. In this case, it’s Christ’s human nature the the Spirit enables to ‘become more fully itself’, being what it is supposed to be and doing what it is supposed to do in perfect union and harmony with the Word (a drama we see played out in the Spirit-anointed and -empowered ‘career’ of the Messiah culminating in the cross and resurrection).

  4. Nice. How do you reach the conclusion that the Spirit “draws God’s future into the present and perfects nature”. I know Basil said something like that: that the Spirit is the “perfective cause of creation”. And Gunton repeats it. But how do you get there? Sorry, might be a big question.

    1. Hi Al. Yep — it is a very Basil- and Gunton-esque way of putting it.

      How did I get there? Good question. Not directly from Hebrews 1, that’s for sure.

      I get to the Spirit ‘drawing God’s future into the present’ from classic texts on the Spirit like Joel 2 and Acts 2: there the outpouring of the Spirit is part of the great bundle of end-times events the prophets pointed to and that has now arrived because Jesus is risen and ruling.

      And the hints I follow to get to the ‘perfecting nature’ bit include things like the mention of the Spirit ‘hovering over the face of the deep’ in Genesis 1 (signalling some kind of involvement with creation), his gifting of Israelite craftsmen with ‘natural’ talents and skills that they used in constructing the tabernacle in Exodus, etc.

      All told, I’ve found David Hohne’s reading of the Spirit’s role with respect to Jesus in Luke-Acts really helpful in putting some of these pieces together — and justifying them from Scripture.

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