To Whom Will You Compare Me? Apologetics and the Beauty of Christ

“To whom will you compare me?” God once asked his people several centuries ago through the mouth of his prophet (Is 40:25, ESV). Later in that same book, God asked his people again, “To whom will you liken me and make me, and compare me, that we may be alike” (Is 46:5, ESV)? The Israelites had fallen into idolatry and started to worship other gods. The folly of their choice to follow after other gods was that these idols could not hold a candle to the God of Israel. No man-made object of worship could contend with the power, splendor, holiness, wisdom, and steadfast love of the Lord.

God’s Own Apologetic
I find in this question posed to Israel years ago one of the most compelling apologetics available to Christians.  Indeed, it is a divinely sanctioned apologetic.  “Do you want to know if I am real?” God asks his idolatrous people.  “Set me alongside other gods and the truth will be obvious.”  No one–no one–compares to the LORD, whether it is the hand-carved idols to which the Israelites were bowing, or the more recent inventions–Allah, the all-too-human god of the Mormons, or the solitary “Jehovah” of the so-called “Witnesses.”

Amazingly, despite the riches of God’s revelation in the Old Testament, these pictures were but a shadow of what God would reveal in the blazing glory of his Son, Jesus Christ. In Scripture, we are given a vision of beauty in Jesus Christ that is unparalleled in any character in any other literature.

The Beauty of Jesus Christ
In the Bible we find what Jonathan Edwards called, “The Admirable Conjunction of Diverse Excellencies in Jesus Christ.”  As we walk through the pages of Scripture, we see that Christ is the omnipotent, eternal Creator (Col 1:15), and the lowly servant (Mark 10:42-45). He is the kingly lion (Rev. 5:5), and the gentle lamb (John 1:29). He is unswervingly faithful to his promises (2 Tim 2:13) and unrivaled in his wisdom (John 7:46; Col 2:3). He shows no partiality, and he is unmoved in the face of flattery (Luke 20:21; John 3:1-8). He always does what is right, even when it is most difficult (Matt 26:36-46). He is kind, generous, and seeks the interests of others above his own interests (Phil 2:1-11; Rom 15:3). He requires ultimate loyalty (Luke 9:23), yet is gentle to the struggling disciple (Matt 12:20). He is tough with the hard-hearted (Matt 23:1-36), yet tender with children (Mark 10:13-16). He upholds God’s justice, yet weeps over those who reject the truth (Matt 23:37-39). He is bold, yet never quarrelsome (Matt 12:19). Worthy of all worship, yet humble in heart (Matt 11:29). He is the one who died on an ugly cross to bear God’s justice on behalf of sinners (John 19:17-30), yet rose again to reign on a glorious throne (Heb 1:1-3). In the Bible we see the incomparable glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ (see 2 Cor 4:4-6). Indeed, the whole Bible is about Jesus, from beginning to end (see Luke 24:25-27; 44).  (For a moving discussion of the beauty of Jesus Christ, see Jonathan Edwards, “The Excellency of Christ,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1995), 680-689.)

More Than One Way to Argue
While our attempts to portray the spiritual beauty and unsurpassed glory of Jesus Christ from the Bible will not answer every question concerning the nature of Scripture or the historical reality of the Christian faith, they will, in my judgement, lay a foundation for a compelling (might I say, on the basis of God’s own words in Isaiah 40:25, irrefutable?) apologetic.  Logical and historical arguments are important and even implied in this approach, and we can thank God that he has given us sound epistemological grounding for our faith.  But let’s not neglect to use explicitly the apologetic suggested to us in God’s own question to Israel: to whom will you compare me?  The object and goal of all our apologetic endeavors is the enjoyment of an all-satisfying God who is beautiful beyond compare; there is more than one way to confound our opponents.

The Content of our Conversations
It may sound obvious at this point, but the practical implication of what I have just said is this: our conversations with unbelievers should center predominately on the person of Jesus Christ as he is revealed to us in Scripture.  We don’t need to ignore hard questions or neglect our obligation to study to find answers to those questions. Nor should we fail to point out, as we tear down walls of unbelief (2 Corinthians 10:1-6), the inconsistency of a worldview that does not begin with God’s revelation in Scripture. But let’s take people through the whole Bible; let’s show them God in Jesus Christ while challenging them to answer the question: who compares to the Lord?  No, really. Who compares to the Lord?

Such an approach also implies that we are not required to abide by the common notion that because unbelievers do not accept the authority of Scripture, we must lay apologetic ground work–with external evidences and philosophical argument–before we talk about Christ.  No, the Bible is inherently authoritative, and we are free to show people Jesus in the pages of the Bible and to let the Spirit not only confront them with the question, “Who compares to me?” but with the inescapable answer, “no one.”

Photo: Savio Sebastian

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