The Christ-Likeness of God
1 Timothy 4:10
For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men…

In several texts God is called our Saviour. God, then, is to us what Christ is. God Himself, then, is essentially Christlike. He must have in Himself some Christ-likeness, for He is, as Christ, our Saviour. Let the energy of these two truths once enter into a man's heart — the truth that in everything we have to do with the living God, and the truth that our God is the Christlike One, and they are enough to revolutionize a man's life.

I. OUR HOPE IS SET ON THE LIVING GOD. This is a familiar Biblical phrase. This word, the living God, had not become an echo of a vanishing faith to the Psalmist, longing for the communion of the temple, who uttered Israel's national consciousness in this prayer: "My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God." It was a word intense with faith. A professor of chemistry, with whom sometime since I was talking about nature, and what it really is, said to me, thoughtfully: "The order of nature is God's personal conduct of His universe." It is not with a dead nature, or an impersonal order of laws, but with the living God in His personal and most Christian conduct of the universe, that we living souls have to do here and hereafter.

I. OUR HOPE IS SET ON THE LIVING GOD, OUR SAVIOUR. It is a principle of far-reaching sweep and reconstructive power in theology, to think of our God above all as most Christlike in His inmost being and nature. I once saw in the city of Nurnberg, I think it was, a religious picture, in which God the Father was represented in heaven as shooting down arrows upon the ungodly, and midway between heaven and earth Christ, the Mediator, was depicted as reaching forth and catching those arrows, and breaking them as they fell. The painting was true to methods of conceiving Christ's work of atonement into which faith had fallen from the simplicity of the Bible; but it should not be called a Christian picture. "God, our Saviour," said apostles who had seen God revealed in Christ; and Jesus Himself once said: "He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father." It is one thing to obtain from the Scriptures some adequate doctrine of the divinity of Christ. But it is another thing to have God through Christ brought as a living and inspiring presence into direct contact with all our plans and work and happiness in life. In sincere acceptance of Jesus' word that He knew the Father, and came from God, let us read the gospels for the purpose of learning what God Himself is towards us in our daily lives; how our world appears in the pure eye of God; how He thinks of us, and is interested in what we may be doing, suffering, or achieving. And He who opens His mouth, and teaches the multitude, utters God's heart to us upon that mountain-side. This is God's own blessedness showing itself to the world. Such is God, blessing with His own blessedness the virtue which is like His own goodness. Yes, but as Jesus, in His own speech and person, realizes God before us, how can we help becoming conscious of our distance of soul from perfection so Divine? He speaks for God. So God is towards man; this word is from the bosom of the Father; there is on earth Divine forgiveness of sin. But the fear of death is here in this world of sepulchres. We might love to love were it not for death. The worst thing about our life here is, that the more we fit our hearts for the highest happiness of friendships, the more we fit ourselves, also, for sorrow: love is itself the short prelude so often to a long mourning. What does God think of this? What can God in heaven think of us in our bitter mortality? Follow again this Jesus who says He knows — what will He show God's heart to be towards human suffering and death? Lord, show us in this respect the Father, and it sufficeth us. There, coming slowly out of the gate of the city, is a procession of much people. We do not need to be told their errand; often we have followed with those who go to the grave. The Christ who says He knows what God our Father is and thinks, meets them who are carrying to his burial the only son of a widow. It is all there, the whole story of man and woman's grief. The Christ sees it all; and more than all which disciples see; — He looks on through the years, and beholds death's broad harvests, and the generations of men passing each from earth in pain and tears; the whole history of death through the ages He bears upon the knowledge of His heart. What will God do with death? "And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And He came nigh and touched the bier: and the bearers stood still. And He said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise." It was not a miracle, but only an illustration beforehand of the larger law of life. While the widow wept, while the sisters of His friend Lazarus could not be comforted, Jesus knew that life is the rule in God's great universe, and death the exception. Yes, this is a glad gospel from the bosom of the Eternal. This earth is full of human cruelty and oppressions. Let us go, then, once more with this Jesus into the city, and see what He will do with the Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites. In the world from which He says He came, and into which He declares He is going soon — for a little while to be unseen by His own friends — in that world will He suffer these men to be? "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; — How shall ye escape the judgment of Gehenna?" It is the same Christ who is speaking — He whom we heard saying, Blessed, and in words which seemed to be a song from the heart of His own life — He who went weeping with the sisters at Bethany — who once sent that procession of mourners back in triumph and joy to the city. It is He who now stands before those extortioners and hypocrites, and says in God's name: "Woe unto you!" It is enough. The face of God is set against them that do evil. No lie shall enter the gates of that city of the many homes. Yes — but again our human thoughts turn this bright hope into anxiety. These men may not have known. We would go into the city and save all. We would let none go until we had done all that love could do; we would not suffer any man to be lost if love could ever find him? How, then, does Jesus show us what God is towards these lost ones? Listen; He sees a shepherd going forth in the storm over the bleak mountain-side, seeking for the one lost sheep; and this Wonder of divinity with man — He who came from God and knows — says, Such is God; "Even so it is not the will of your Father in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish." This is the picture of the heart of God drawn by Christ's own hand — the shepherd seeking the one lost sheep. Two consequences of these truths remain to be urged. God Himself is to be seen through Christ, and Christ is to be studied through all that is best and worthiest in the disciples' lives. Therefore through human hearts also which reflect in any wise Christ's spirit, we may seek to realize what God is. God is what they would be, only infinitely better; His perfection is like man's, only infinitely transcending it. Let us be very bold in this living way of access to God.

(Newman Smyth, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.

WEB: For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we have set our trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.

Sustaining Motive
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