A Series of Answers to Common Questions
According to John 5:37, Jesus said that no one had ever seen God at anytime or ever heard his voice. And yet people did see Jesus, which proves that Jesus cannot be God.
As it is often the case in polemical arguments, the paraphrase of the passage misrepresents Jesus words in several ways. Jesus did not make a general statement ("no one ever") but addressed a particular group of people ("you"). Moreover, he spoke about the Father, not about God in general. Since Jesus is the Son, not the Father, the above conclusion is invalid. Here is what that passage actually says:
"And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent." John 5:37-38
The questioner is assuming that Jesus meant that no one at any time has seen God or heard his voice, when in actuality his comments were addressed to a specific group, not to everyone. Jesus was saying that those specific Jews whom he was directly addressing hadn't seen or heard God. But even here Jesus clearly says that the Father has testified concerning him, implying that God had indeed spoken and revealed himself in some way to people in order to testify on behalf of his Son.
The following Scriptures explicitly state that many have both seen and heard from God:
"Micaiah continued, 'Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the LORD said, "Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?" One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, "I will entice him." "By what means?" the LORD asked. "I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets," he said. "You will succeed in enticing him," said the LORD. "Go and do it." So now the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you.'" 1 Kings 22:19-23
"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: 'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.' At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 'Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.' Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, 'See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.' Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'" Isaiah 6:1-8
"As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened." Daniel 7:9-10
"As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" Matthew 3:16-17
"Then John gave this testimony: 'I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water TOLD ME, "The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit." I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.'" John 1:32-34
"While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!'" Matthew 17:5
"We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.' We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain." 2 Peter 1:16-18
"Father, glorify your name!' Then a voice came from heaven, 'I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.' The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, 'This voice was for your benefit, not mine.'" John 12:28-30
In light of the foregoing, we can now take a closer look at the passage to see what the Lord Jesus actually meant:
"And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness to me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen; and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe him whom he has sent." RSV
Jesus was telling these Jews that their rejection of him demonstrated that God hadn't enabled them to realize that he was speaking and revealing himself to them, since if he did they would have believed in the One whom he had sent.
The Scriptures clearly teach that it is only through God illuminating and drawing a person can he/she believe the revelation that God is giving in Scripture and/or Christ:
"‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day’ ... And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.’" John 6:44, 65"Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you CANNOT bear to hear my word ... Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God." John 8:43, 47
As the Lord Jesus told Peter, after the latter confessed that Christ was God's Son:
"He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.’" Matthew 16:15-17
Peter's confession demonstrated that he had both heard and received revelation from God regarding who Christ truly was. The unbelieving Jews, on the other hand, had shown by their unbelief that God hadn't testified to their conscience about who Jesus is.
Ironically, in their stubbornness and obtuse refusal to believe in Jesus, they failed to see that the very One standing before them was the visible manifestation and revelation of the invisible God:
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth... No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." John 1:14, 18
"Then Jesus cried out, 'When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.'" John 12:44-45
"'If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.' Philip said, 'Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.' Jesus answered: 'Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father"? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.'" John 14:7-11
Thus, they failed to realize that seeing Jesus was to see the very human form of God! If they had believed they would have then realized that they were seeing God manifesting himself and speaking to them through and in Christ, a point which Jesus himself makes:
"They said to him therefore, ‘Where is your Father?’ Jesus answered, ‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’" John 8:19
To summarize, the passage is not denying that people have seen or heard from God. It is simply stating that those particular Jews, whom the Lord Jesus was addressing, showed through their unbelief that God hadn't enabled them to accept and realize the fact that the Person standing before them was God's self-revelation to them. In other words, it wasn't that God hadn't made himself known to them, since he definitely had in the Scriptures and through the Person and work of Christ. But that, despite the revelation they were receiving, God hadn't set them free from their spiritual blindness in order to be able to discern the fact that he was clearly speaking to them in his Son.
A similar objection is often raised based on John 1:18 which is the topic of discussion in Part 2.
A Series of Answers to Common Questions
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