Q&A: Is it possible to be in God’s presence without being perfect?
One of our readers wonders - if Jesus was God, how could the disciples be in his presence if they weren't perfect?
Here at Fervr, we welcome all sorts of questions from our readers, and love taking the time to reply to them. A recent question we were sent was this intriguing one.
In the Old Testament (and still now i suppose), people couldn't be in God's presence (or see or touch him) without being harmed or killed because God is so holy and perfect ... so how, if Jesus is all God and henceforth just as righteous, could imperfect people and the disciples be in his presence and touch and be with him?
(Answer thanks to Fervr contributor, Mike Dicker.)
There's 2 things to note here:
The first is that imperfect people actually could be in God's presence in the Old Testament.
Moses, for example stood in God's presence at the burning bush (Exodus 3) and even knew God "face to face" (Deut 34:10). In fact, the whole Israelite sacrificial system was set up so that people could be in the presence of God without suffering harm or being killed by his holiness.
Think of Isaiah's vision in Isaiah 6, where he comes into God's holy presence and says "woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I love among people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the Lord Almighty."
How was it possible for Isaiah to be in God's pressnce? Well, God takes away Isaiah's sin, his unholiness, so that he can stand in his holy presence. So that's the first point - people could be in God's holy presence in the Old Testament, if God took away their sin.
The second thing is that Jesus is both man and God.
Your question highlights one of the reasons why it's important to hold these two things together - Jesus is both fully man, and fully God.
If you take away his humanity and he is just fully divine, then Jesus is simply God appearing to people as he done in the past! But God is doing something new here, for the first time in history a part of the Godhead (Trinity), a part of the Creator now becomes part of the creation! It's extraordinary!
He is fully human so that he is like us in every way says Hebrews 2 (particularly v.17), and in that way he relates to us as a human being who can fully identify with us - he bleeds, he weeps, he laughs, he dies.
This doesn't mean he loses any of his "God-ness", because Jesus is also fully divine. Paul explains it in Philippians 2 as Jesus being very much God but yet taking the form of a servant, a humble human being. This is why the biblical concept of the trinity is also important. God is one, but he is three persons. The 3 persons are distinct but not separate from each other, ie. God the Father is not the Son, God the Son is not the Spirit etc. Yet they are completely one. This is how all the fullness of God can dwell in human flesh (Colossians 1:19).
So, the answer to your question, and the good news for all of us is, just like in the Old Testament, people can continue to be in God's presence. How is it possible? It's possible because Jesus himself takes away our sin. His atoning sacrifice allows us, imperfect people, to be in God's presence.