Misunderstanding about the reality of the station of Christ has caused great difficulties among Christians for over nineteen centuries. It has even caused grave separation among His followers. Christ’s station has been described as everything from that of a human reformer and teacher to that of the physical Son of God, even as that of God Himself.
The very symbol used by the early Christians called attention to Christ’s exalted station. When the sign of the fish was secretly used to identify Christian believers to each other (approximately AD 180), it was chosen, we are told, “because the Greek word for it [fish], I-CH-TH-U-S, formed the initials of the phrase Iesous Christus theou uios soter—‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour’.” (1)
Christians now find it exceedingly difficult to believe in or to accept any new Messenger of God, because of their misunderstanding of the station of Christ. Although Jesus Himself clearly promised that One would come after him, and referred to His own return in over 250 separate New Testament passages, Christians still insist:
“Other Messengers or Prophets are of much less importance than Christ. They are mere teachers, but Jesus is the Son of God. No other station can rank as high as that.”
This attitude is reminiscent of what the people said at the time of Christ. They took this very same position in relation to Moses. When they were told about a new Messenger of God called Jesus of Nazareth, they answered:
“He is but a poor, unlearned teacher. Moses was the Interlocutor, the Mouthpiece of God. He actually talked with God and heard His voice in the Holy Mountain. No other station can rank as high as this.”
Once again we find the outward symbol blinding the people to the inward truth.
Christ wished to show the close relationship which existed between the Messenger or Prophet and God. Therefore, He used the clear symbol of the son; the only son, who is granted special privileges in speaking for the father. In this light His explanations were readily understandable.
The Apostles and later followers believed that the parable of the Vineyard demonstrated the validity of the Mission of Christ, the Son, in representing God. Christ’s symbolical explanation of the relationship between Messenger and God was taken literally. This led to the belief among some that Christ was the actual, physical son of God, His only son. “Jesus” they said, “must be believed in, and accepted, not because of the great teachings which He brought, but because He was the only begotten Son of God.” They ignored the fact that this concept was in direct contradiction to Christ’s own words.
Jesus became supreme for these followers, not for the reason He Himself gave, namely His teachings and the spirit of love and brotherhood which He brought as a Messenger of God, but because His followers believed that He, Christ; was the actual Son of God.
Bahá’u’lláh assures us that it was the Holy Spirit reflected in Christ which was the means of His honour and greatness. It was not the person of Jesus that was important, but the Holy Spirit of Christ which shone within Him. The same principle was true of Moses. It is true of every Messenger of God. They are all Mirrors that reflect the light of the Sun of God’s truth. If the light does not shine within Them, they are merely frames and glass, nothing more.
The writings of the Bahá’í Faith state:
“That which causes honour and greatness, is the splendour and bounty of the divine perfections. …
“The splendour and honour of the holy souls and the Divine Manifestations [Messengers] come from their heavenly perfections, bounties, and glory, and from nothing else.” (2)
This is true of all the Founders of the great religions: Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, the Báb, and Bahá’u’lláh. However, for the sake of simplicity, and because this book [The Wine of Astonishment] is directed to the Christian world, we shall speak in these pages mostly of Moses, Christ, and Bahá’u’lláh.
Bahá’u’lláh points out that with the coming of each Messenger of God, His followers mistake the outward form for the inward reality. Hence they elevate His person to a station which was never intended by the Founder Himself.
Christ expressed this theme of the sun (God) and the mirror (Messenger) with great clarity to His own disciples. He said:
“If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also … he that hath seen me hath seen the Father …” (3)
Unfortunately, these and other similar words were taken literally, and gradually the church doctrine of the Son of God was built upon them.
Yet Jesus Himself, in the verse which follows the one just quoted, makes it quite clear that it is the light in the mirror, the Spirit within, that is the all-important thing. He told them:
“… I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” (4)
It is the sun shining within the mirror that is responsible for the light. It is not the mirror itself. Had the followers of Christ understood this inner truth, they would have “watched” for His return in the last days as He had commanded them. In this same chapter, Christ speaks several times of His own return, and twice mentions the Comforter whom God would send. Christ also mentions the “unsealing” of His own words by this Comforter:
“… he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (5)
The sun that shines in the mirror on Saturday is the same sun that shines in the mirror on Sunday and Monday. Thus the light of God that was reflected in each of the Prophets was one and the same. From the day of Abraham to that of Christ, the same sunlight of God shone in each of His Mirrors or Messengers. Unable to understand this, the people stoned Christ:
“Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
“Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple …” (6)
Christ was speaking of the light of the sun (God), not the light in the mirror (Messenger). The light of God’s Sun of Truth shining in the mirror of Christ did indeed exist and shine from the beginning of time in the mirror of other Messengers. Hence, Jesus might well say, with unquestionable truth when speaking of that light: “Before Abraham was, I am.”
An almost identical story is told of Krishna,, long before the days of Jesus, the Christ. In the Song of God, the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna speaks to his disciple, Arjuna:
“I taught this yoga first to Vivaswat …”
“Vivaswat was born long before you. How am I to believe that you were the first to teach this yoga?”
“I am the birthless, the deathless.
In every age I come back
To deliver the holy,
To destroy the sin of the sinner,
To establish righteousness.”
Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, in their translation of the Bhagavad-Gita, say: “Hinduism accepts the belief in many divine incarnations, including Krishna, Buddha and Jesus and foresees that there will be many more” (7)
Krishna spoke of the difficulty of making the people of His day understand the inward truth behind the outward symbols. He said:
“Those who lack discrimination may quote the letter of the scriptures, but they are really denying its inner truth. They are full of worldly desires, and hungry for the rewards of heaven … they teach elaborate rituals which are supposed to obtain pleasures and power for those who perform them.”
Krishna spoke almost the same words as Christ in trying to get His followers to seek the inward truth. He said:
“I am … the Word that is God … I am the path …”
Yet the people could not see that He was speaking of the light within, and not of His physical person. This was the inward meaning of the outward symbol of these words spoken by both Krishna and Christ.
Surely the people should have understood that Christ was delivering the Message given to Him by God when He said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” This same “I am”, or Holy Spirit, was the one that spoke to Moses saying:
“I am that I am. Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you … This is my name forever, unto all generations.”
This was confirmed again when the Voice (Ahura Mazda) spoke to Zoroaster:
“My name is I Am … I am the Keeper, the Creator, and Maintainer; I am the Discerner, I am the Most Beneficent Spirit.”
The teachings of the Bahá’í Faith tell us that Christ was speaking of the Holy Spirit within Him, the “I Am”, the light of the sun shining in the mirror; the eternal sun which had existed from the beginning. Christ was not referring to His physical body. This is why He said: “Before Abraham was, I am,”
The difference between His inner Spirit and His outer self, Christ made clear in the words:
“… Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God …” (8)
Bahá’u’lláh also spoke of this spiritual sunlight which is reflected in God’s perfect Mirrors, the Messengers of God. He testifies to its power, saying:
“Know verily that whenever this Youth turneth His eyes toward His own self, He findeth it the most insignificant of all creation. When He contemplates, however, the bright effulgences He hath been empowered to manifest, lo, that self is transfigured before Him into a sovereign Potency permeating the essence of all things visible and invisible.” (9)
Thus in every age, Bahá’u’lláh tells us, each Messenger Who appears is both the “first” and the “last”. He is the Alpha and the Omega, for He is referring to the Holy Spirit which dwells within—the sunlight in the mirror—and it is the same in every age.
Bahá’u’lláh, in his Book of Certitude, repeatedly refers to such symbols, pointing out that man has ignored the greatness of the Spirit while exalting that of the Flesh:
“If one will ponder but for a while … one will surely discover all mysteries hidden in the terms ‘grave’, ‘tomb’, … ‘paradise’, and ‘hell’. But oh! how strange and pitiful! Behold, all the people are imprisoned within the tomb of self; and lie buried beneath the nethermost depths of worldly desire! Wert thou to attain to but a dewdrop of the crystal waters of divine knowledge, thou wouldst readily realize that true life is not the life of the flesh but the life of the spirit. For the life of the flesh is common to both men and animals, whereas the life of the spirit is possessed only by the pure in heart who have quaffed from the ocean of faith and partaken of the fruit of certitude. This life knoweth no death, and this existence is crowned by immortality. … If by ‘life’ be meant this earthly life, it is evident that death must needs overtake it.” (10)
We have dealt generally with the title Son of God. We have shown that it is a title which is symbolic of one who represents the Father. Let us now be more specific. Let us examine the Old and the New Testament in an effort to determine the true meaning of the term itself; “Son of God”.
Although Christ made His own relationship to Almighty God crystal clear, still it has been misunderstood, misrepresented, and misinterpreted for centuries. Those to whom Christ first spoke of this relationship thought He referred to Himself as a person and not to the Spirit within Him. These people objected violently. They became outraged and stoned Christ. They said He claimed to be God.
“I and my Father are one.” (11)
The Sun and the Mirror are one with regard to the light: this was His meaning. Yet he was misunderstood, for the Gospel records:
“Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. “Jesus answered them … for which of those [good works] do ye stone me?
“The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” (12)
Then Christ exposed their lack of understanding of His words. He said:
“Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
“If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken:
“Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? …
“Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand …” (13)
He, Christ, was the mirror; God was the sun that shone in that mirror. They were thus one as to the light, but not as to essence. The mirror was not, and never could be, the sun itself. This was the lesson Christ taught.
Jesus tried in every way to make sure that this truth would not be misunderstood. The people sought “to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” Christ tried to show them their error and that He was but an instrument of God: that He did not in any way consider Himself the equal of God; nor had He any power that was not God-given. He insisted:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” (14)
He again assured the people:
“For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.” (15)
It was not sufficient for them. Christ was a blasphemer and in no way what they expected. Bahá’u’lláh has written that the people in every age deny the Messenger of God because He does not appear in the manner they expect. He says:
“Were these [people] to ask the Light of Truth [Messengers] concerning those images which their idle fancy hath carved, and were they to find His answer inconsistent with their own conceptions and understanding of the Book, they would assuredly denounce Him Who is the Mine and Wellhead of all Knowledge as the very negation of understanding. Such things have happened in every age.” (16)
When they “denounced” Christ for blasphemy and for breaking the Sabbath, Jesus pointed out that they did not understand their own Scripture. Christ accused them of interpreting it as they wished, and from an outward, not an inward, point of view. He told them:
“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
“And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life …
“I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not …” (17)
Bahá’u’lláh spoke of those same misguided ones who, in every age, insist that God’s Messenger conform to their own limited standard. Bahá’u’lláh pointed out that despite the fact that He had “unsealed” the Books so that all might understand the Truth, the people in this day were still acting as they had acted in the day of Christ. He warned:
“… it behoveth no man to interpret the holy words according to his own imperfect understanding, nor, having found them to be contrary to his inclination and desires, to reject and repudiate their truth. For such, today, is the manner of the divines [religious leaders] and doctors of the age, who occupy the seats of knowledge and learning, and who have named ignorance knowledge, and called oppression justice.” (18)
Christ’s words show clearly that they had done the same thing to Him:
“Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.
“For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.
“But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (19)
Bahá’u’lláh has called attention to the tragedy which, unhappily, takes place with the appearance of each new Prophet. The people remember the former Mirror, but forget the Light that shone in that Mirror. They are misled because the name, and the outer physical characteristics, of the new Messenger are different. They fail utterly to see that the inner Spirit is exactly the same. They remember the Messenger, but they have forgotten the Message which He brought.
Thus the Christians, like the people before them, exalted Christ, the Messenger of their Faith, while neglecting His Message. They began to worship the Mirror of Jesus instead of the Light of Christ within. The station with which they invested Christ as the actual Son of God, because of their love for Him, now became an obstacle to their own spiritual progress.
Consider: If Christ’s greatness were to lie in the fact that He was born of a mother only, having no father, then Adam must be considered greater than Christ; for Adam had neither father nor mother. Whether Adam came into existence slowly or immediately, he was without parents.
This same station of superior greatness must also be awarded to Melchizedek, for he also was without parents, and he was also called the Son of God, and a king of righteousness and a king of peace:
“Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God:” (20)
We can find other examples where this station, the Son of God, was attributed symbolically to others beside Christ. When we trace the lineage of Jesus, we find this same station bestowed upon Adam:
"Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.” (21)
The privilege of becoming sons of God was given even to the followers of Christ, under certain conditions:
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (22)
In the Old Testament, it is pointed out that the sincere and faithful believers are gods and the sons of God:
“God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.” (23)
Or in yet another way, the verse which Christ himself quoted:
“I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” (24)
In the New Testament it is written of the faithful believers:
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God:” (25)
And in the closing Book of the Bible, Revelation, it is established once and for all that this term “Son of God” is a symbolic term. It is a station which is reached by belief in God and in drawing close to His Teachings and His Works:
“He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” (26)
The teachings of the Bahá’í Faith make it quite clear that there is a vast difference between the station of the followers of Christ, and that of Christ Himself. It is not the intention of the examples given above to imply that these followers are in any respect His equal. The respect, love and reverence which the members of the Bahá’í Faith have for Christ is unequalled, and in most cases even unapproached, in the Christian congregations of the present day.
God is the Sun, Christ and the other Messengers of God are the Rays of the Sun, and their followers are the earth. The Sun through its Rays brings life and light to the earth. The Messengers of God are in this way the source of all of man’s spiritual life. Hence, Christ said, “I am the Way, and the Light, and no one cometh unto the Father except through Me.” Christ was the rays of the sun in that day. There was no other source of life or light except in the warmth, heat, and brightness of His, Christ’s, Teachings.
The intent of such examples is to show that these terms are outward symbols of inward truths. These examples prove that becoming a Son of God is a spiritual, not a physical thing. These verses make it obvious that the true being of a disciple is created by a spiritual reality, and not by a physical power.
Verse twelve of the first chapter of John confers the station:
“As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God. …”
Verse thirteen shows that this station is solely a spiritual one:
“… Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
The disciples were born of human parents, but their true being (that of the spirit) was born of their belief in God through the acceptance of Christ and His Message. This is one inward meaning of the phrase “son of God”.
As it applied to Jesus, it had even a richer significance. As all men are children of one God, and members of one human family, the eldest son commands special honour and respect. This place of honour was the station of Christ. This is another inward truth. There are even greater meanings. The Writings of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh state:
“But as Christ found existence through the Spirit of God, He called Himself the Son of God.” (27)
This is a glimpse of the inner truth behind the outer symbol “Son of God”. These are just a few leaves taken from the tree of Bahá’u’lláh’s explanations. Bahá’u’lláh Himself says of the great variety of examples which He gives in His Book of Certitude:
“All these things which We have repeatedly mentioned, and the details which we have cited from divers sources, have no other purpose but to enable thee to grasp the meaning of the allusions in the utterances of the chosen Ones of God, lest certain of these utterances cause thy feet to falter and thy heart to be dismayed.” (28)
1. Caesar and Christ, p. 601
2. Some Answered Questions, pp. 89 and 90.
3. John, 14:7–9
4. ibid, 14 10
5. ibid, 14:26
6. ibid, 8:57–59
7. The Song of God: Bhagavad-Gita, Translated by Swami Prabhavannda and Christopher Isherwood, p.133
8. Matthew, 19:17
9. Gleanings, p. 102
10. The Kitáb-i-Íqán, pp. 120–121
11. John, 10:30
12. ibid, 10:31–33
13. ibid, 10:34–39
14. ibid, 5:19
15. ibid, 12:49
16. The Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 182
17. John, 5:39, 40, 43
18. The Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 182
19. John, 5:45–47
20. Hebrews, 7:3
21. Luke, 3:38
22. John, 1:12
23. Psalms, 82:1, 6
24. ibid, 82:6
25. I John, 3:1
26. Revelation, 21:7
27. Some Answered Questions, p. 63.
28. The Kitáb-i-Íqán, p.134
- William Sears (‘The Wine of Astonishment’)