When God Is Seen, Who Is It?


At the beginning of John’s unique gospel account, he makes the monumental statement, “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18). Later, in the first epistle by the same writer, he repeats verbatim, “No one has seen God at any time” (1 John 4:12).

John also states clearly in his gospel record that Jesus is God (John 1:1; 5:18; 20:20). When the Son of God came into the world, He became a man—Jesus—taking on a body of flesh and blood (John 1:14; Romans 8:3; Philippians 2:7; Hebrews 2:14; 10:5) and was seen daily by people. He did not cease to be God, but was “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Thus, it is obvious that John’s statement in John 1:18 and 1 John 4:12 was not about the Lord Jesus.

The Scriptures reveal that the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4). Though He is described as a spirit, which has no physical form, Luke, speaking about Jesus’ baptism says “…the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him…” (Luke 3:22). That being the case, the statement that no one has seen God at any time cannot be about the Holy Spirit either.

Since the statement of John 1:18 is not about the Son nor the Holy Spirit, we must conclude that it is the Father who is referred to. Jesus confirms this to be the case, stating, “…not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father…” (John 6:46).

If no one has seen the Father except the Son, then when God is seen throughout the Old Testament, we can conclude that it is not the Father, but the Son. Over the course of this series we will look at a number of instances in the Old Testament where God appeared to and interacted with man. It is my affirmation that it is the pre-incarnate Christ who shows Himself time and again to those who saw God in the Old Testament.

“…and I have been working…”

The Pharisees and scribes sought to kill Jesus after He healed a man on the Sabbath. They were offended at His work. Thus, He explained, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5:17). This statement angered the Jews further, for they perceived that in calling God His Father, He made Himself equal with God. They were right. In a subsequent discussion, Jesus would bluntly declare, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30).

Do not let the significance of Jesus’ words in John 5:17 slip by. He was not speaking about His earthly ministry. The duration of the Son’s work is equal to the duration of the Father’s work. In the beginning of John’s gospel, we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him, nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1-3).

Jesus’ work, as is recorded for us in the Scriptures began with creation. He and the Father worked in unison to create all things (Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2). Throughout the Genesis account of creation, we find the words “God said” (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29). It does not tell us whether this was the Father or the Son in the context, but as we consider this in light of what texts such as John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16, and Hebrews 1:2 say, we begin to understand that creation was a joint effort, involving both the Father and the Son. It is interesting that as John introduced Jesus, he called Him “the Word.” And then immediately turned his attention to the work of creation which Jesus was involved in. we have in the one place, “God said,” and in the other, Jesus identified as “the Word.” [NOTE—the Spirit is also identified in the creation process, as He is described as “hovering over the face of the waters,” Genesis 1:2]

To remove all doubt about Jesus’ involvement in the creation process, we are given a glimpse into the mutual work of the Father and Son in Genesis 1:26. There we read, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Jesus was there in the beginning, involved in creation. We will see in the weeks to come that He was working throughout the Old Testament.


When God appears to someone, it cannot be the Father – no one has seen the Father.

Jesus has been working from the beginning – throughout the Old Testament.

He was not known by the name Jesus, but rather as God, Jehovah, the Angel of the LORD, etc. in the Old Testament.

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