The Image of the Invisible God
Written by W.M. Mitchell
The Gospel Messenger—January 1881
Written by W.M. Mitchell
The Gospel Messenger—January 1881
There are many Scriptural expressions which appear contradictory and paradoxical. The believer in Christ is himself a paradox. That which he would not do, is that which he does, and the good that he would do, is that which he does not. He is sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; troubled on every side, yet not distressed; cast down but not destroyed. He endures as “seeing him who is invisible.” Heb. i i: 27. How can that be? That which is invisible is that which cannot be seen. Yet Moses endured as seeing him who is invisible. Heb. 2:27.
Natural men and women, as creatures of God, endowed with reason, may see and know much of God as their great Creator from the light of nature: They do see his handiwork in the visible heavens and earth. “The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and God-head.” Rom. 1:20.
But the light of nature does not, nor can it make known to sinful men the invisible God in his character as “God manifest in the flesh.” It cannot make known the riches of that “hidden wisdom” which God ordained before the world unto the final and eternal glory of his chosen people.
That which is presented in the gospel of our salvation is entirely hidden, and invisible to the natural mind. No light of nature, of reason, science or philosophy, can see or search out that heavenly wisdom which is “hid from all living.” “It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof” Job, 28: 15, 21. It is unsearchable riches. In order to salvation, or of having any assurance of our interest therein, it is important that we know God, in some other and higher sense, than it is possible for us to attain unto by the light of nature, science, human reason or works. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” John 17: 3. To know Jesus Christ in his true character in all his relations to God and to his people is a divine revelation above the brightness of all created things. It is a special revelation by the spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead. He that seeth the Son of God seeth the Father also. One of the Apostles once said to Jesus, “Lord show us the Father and it sufficeth us;” to which Christ replied, “Have I been so long with you Philip, yet hast thou not known me? He that seeth me seeth the Father also.” “He is the image of the invisible God.” Not merely as to his human form, or as to his physical frame and fashion as a man; but he is the image of the in visible God in character. All the divine perfections of the God-head center in him. He is before all things and by him all things consist.
Could we but see the character of Jesus as embodying in himself all the fullness of the God-head as to its eternity, immensity, immutability, unlimited power, infinite wisdom, everlasting love, perfect righteousness, holiness, justice and truth, we could then see him as the image or likeness of the invisible God. Invisible to our natural senses, it is true, but made known by revelation to faith. By faith we look at and see that which is invisible to our natural understanding. “No man hath seen God at any time.” He dwells in the light which no man hath seen nor can see. He must be seen in his own light. “In thy light we see light.” And that light is not the light of man nor any created light. The Lord is thy light and thy salvation. This light is what Saul of Tarsus saw when he was converted to God. “A light above the brightness of the sun.” The sun is the greatest of all created lights from which all other bodies receive their light. To be illuminated, therefore, by a light above the brightness of the greatest of all created lights is to have the “Lord God for thy sun and shield.”
It has become very common of late days to have images or pictures of the human form of Christ incorporated in our Bibles as though human artist could give the image or likeness of the invisible God. It is nothing short of a desecration of most holy sacred things for any man to attempt to palm off such pictures and paintings as the picture or likeness of Christ Jesus—who is the “brightness of his Father’s glory and the express image of his person" Heb. 1:3. But what is it that the love of money will not induce man to do? Doubtless it was the inordinate love of money, more than hatred to Jesus that induced Judas to betray him for thirty pieces of silver. And doubtless it is the same love of earthly gain rather than a desire to circulate the Bible for truth’s sake that has induced so many to engage in making merchandise of the Sacred Book. Under color and pretence of circulating the Scriptures it is turned into a grand speculation in various ways. Pictures of Christ and his prophets, apostles and martyrs, and many other things, according to the fancy and imagination of the artist, are presented to us in most of the Bibles. These cuts, drawings, painting pictures and images, strike the natural sight and senses and are more adapted to the views the carnal mind has of God, than what is presented in the letter of the word. They are therefore highly commended by the publisher, the merchant, the religious speculator and Bible colporteur.
Instead of presenting the Scriptures of truth on their own merits, they use the sacred name and character of the Bible to put off wares of their own. And they even have the heaven-daring effrontery to give these pictures and gilded bindings as the chief inducement and highest reason why their Bibles should be purchased. They will tell you, “They are so are as an ornament.”
I have been a little astonished to find so many people, especially Primitive Baptists, caught with these gilded baits and fictitious pictures. They are induced to purchase a Bible for the sake of these gaud looking things at a big price, when they would not purchase one alone for the sake of its truth as revealed from heaven, even though it could be bought for a very moderate price. Costly Bibles with rich paintings and or bindings are seldom bought with any other than carnal motives, to gratify the pride and vanity of the sinful heart. Bibles thus purchased are seldom read. In fact, they tend greatly to keep children and many grown people also from reading, by taking up their time in looking at the images and pictures.
Where is the artist who can give us the image or outlines of the features of him whom “no man hath seen nor can see, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto?” 1 Tim. 6: 16 . Who can give us the likeness of his immutability and eternity as he exists the same “yesterday, today and for ever?” Who can take the picture of him who sits upon a great white throne, from whose face the “earth and the heaven fled away and there was no place for them?” Rev. 20:11
The truth is these pretended pictures of the Virgin Mary, of Jesus Christ and others, are all a cheat; they are false drawings and pictures, bearing those noted names only to make them sell the more readily with unsuspecting and thoughtless purchasers. “No man knoweth the Son but the Father, and no man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.” Mat. 11: 27 . He cannot be revealed to natural men and women by pictures drawn by any human artist. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the Sons of God, therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” John 3:1.
How then can the world take his likeness or picture? “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” These remarks are submitted for the candid consideration of any who may read them.
W. M. MITCHELL.