Isn't the following a contradiction? "... I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved" (Genesis 32:30). "No man hath seen God at any time..." (John 1:18).

No one can fully see God, since he is too pure/holy. Like spit on a griddle, in the holiness of his presence we would be evaporated. Not because he is mean, but because of the difference between his holiness and ours. (If you don’t like the analogy, let it go: There are plenty of others. (He is like the sun; when we try to look directly at him, it is very painful, even though we rely on sunlight for everything else, from warmth to reading light to photosynthesis.)

Jacob said he saw God. That was what he experienced. Obviously he did not see God directly. To illustrate, a few years ago I “saw” the Pope. I was in Rome, and saw him across the enormous square in front of the Vatican. I would not even have noticed him but for his brilliant white robes. Yet if I told you, “I went to Italy to see the Pope,” you might conclude that we had discussed things. And that would be wrong. It’s a matter of degree.

The point of John 1:18, interestingly, like John 14:8-9, is that we can “see” God, in Jesus Christ. This is what theologians call the incarnation: God becoming flesh – one of us.