We are on to part two of our Series Christianity 101, God. This material in based on the book...
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A.W. Tozer: “What we believe about God is the most important thing about us.”
Our belief or lack of it inevitably translates itself into our actions, our attitudes, and our view of the world.
Imagine what the Old Testament (OT) character Joseph thought about God to react to his traitorous brothers the way he did in Gen. 45.
Consider Moses leaving a King’s palace to live in poverty in Exodus 2.
Hebrews 11 outlines the faith hall of fame of OT believers. They were not noted because of what they said they believed but what they did because they believed. Faith in God produces action.
The word “God” is one of the most widely used terms in our language yet it is nebulous and has little meaning.
“If we are interested in reality we will want to know what God is really like.”
We must know what God is really like so that we can judge what is true and false of the images of God we see today in our culture.
In this chapter we will be focusing on God. Now that we understand what we believe about the Bible (from last week) we can use it to discover God!
Gods Natural Attributes
God is transcendent (excels above all):
- Separate from his creation, above and beyond it
- Self existing source of all life
- Authored our natural law yet is outside it. (Miracles)
- The world’s creator, sovereign (all mighty Lord and ruler) and judge.
- Transcendent (supreme ultimate) yet involved.
God is immanent (near):
- He does not stand apart from his creation as a mere spectator. He is involved.
- God is near but not like a pantheist that thinks that God is in all and all is God.
God is omnipotent (all powerful):
- Read Roman 1:19
- Think of the Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, Alaska. God created this splendor and is in charge of it.
- Luke 1:37 “nothing is impossible with God.”
- Although nothing is impossible for God, he is restrained by his character traits. Therefore, “it is impossible for God to lie” Heb 6:18.
- Therefore, omnipotence only applies to inherent possibilities not impossibilities.
God is omnipresent (in all places all the time):
- All of Him (all of his characteristics) is everywhere. He is not just spread very thin.
God is omniscient (knows everything):
- God knows our actions, thoughts and attitudes. We can not fool God. (See quotes on page 28)
God is eternal (timeless):
- God had no beginning and will never end.
- He is the “One who lives forever” (Isa. 57:15).
- “The eternal God is your refuge” (Deut. 33:27).
No one or nothing created God. He has been forever.
God is infinite (unlimited):
- The universe he created does not limit God.
- God is outside of space and time.
- God has chosen to put limits on himself at times. (When he appears as a man or angel in the OT or in the incarnation of Jesus.)
God is unchangeable (does not vary):
- God is unchangeable against sin, injustice, cruelty or deceit.
- When he seems to be different it might be because we have changed.
- With Nineveh, God did not change his mind, the people repented.
God is Personal (p 29)
- This natural attribute of God is of greatest importance.
- God is spirit yet he has all elements of personality: Intelligence, Feelings and Will.
- He acts according to his own purpose and will.
- We know this of God because he created man in his own image and after his likeness.(Gen. 1:26)
- Since we are persons, God cannot possibly be anything less. The created can not be more than the creator.
- All of the other natural attributes are inseparable from his personhood.
- Because God is personal, we know his will can not be blind fate like that of Islam’s Allah.
- Because God is a Person and we are persons, communication between Him and us is possible.
- Since God is a spirit, it is our spirits that communicate with Him.
God’s Moral Attributes (p30)
Now to know God exists is a very important beginning, but we need to know what kind of God is he. If he were like Adolph Hitler in character, we would be in for a horrendous existence.
Holiness is the sum total of the perfection of God:
- It is a term of the moral excellence of God and His freedom from all limitations to His moral perfection. God is morally perfect. Think about that for a moment and contrast that with yourself.
• “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil” (Hab. 1:13)
• Only God is holy in this sense. He is the standard of ethical purity.
• Holiness has been called “the attribute of attributes” - that which lends unity to all the attributes of God.
• We can clearly see God’s absolute perfection and His abhorrence of evil through His persistent reaching out to rescue His people and through them rescuing all who will come to Him.
God is loving. His love is divine, a perfect love:
- God’s love is displayed in his work from the beginning of the OT
- Love from creation to Christ’s dying on the cross. His love takes concrete action.
- Hos 11:4
- Jer 31:3
- 1 John 4:10
- John 3:16
- “God is love” was ultimately expressed in the life of Christ. He reached out to the outcast.
Love and Holiness (p32)
- God’s Love and mercy are not opposed to his righteousness and holiness.
- The promise of a redeemer was motivated by his love and mercy.
- It is a mistake to think the God of the OT is a God of wrath and anger and the God of the NT is a God of love and mercy. We must remember the countless times God had mercy on both Jews and gentiles in the OT.
What are some examples of this?
- Love and justice are connected together.
Our Triune God: the Trinity (p 32)
The truth of the Trinity is central to an understanding of biblical revelation and the Christian gospel.
Most heresies throughout history have resulted because of a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of this attribute of God.
The term Trinity does not appear in the Bible but the concept does and it is not a later addition.
The Trinity is a difficult concept, not fully susceptible to human explanation because it involves categories that finite mental powers cannot easily grasp.
“God is one in His essential being, but the ‘divine essence’ exists in three modes or forms, each constituting a person, yet in such a way that the divine essence is wholly in each Person.”
Person can be understood here in that each person has a differing personality, they interact with each other in a relational way and they each have roles.
- Gen 1 uses Elohim the plural form of God to refer to one God
- (Deut. 6:4) “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one”
This concept of one God was in stark contrast to the polytheistic world that surrounded Israel in Biblical times.
God is Three Persons:
- (Matt. 28:19) Baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
- (Mark 1:10-11) John the Baptist spoke of the coming baptism of the Holy Spirit and then a voice coming down from heaven saying “You are my Son”
- (Luke 1:35) Mary was told her son would be the Son of God and conceived by the Holy Spirit.
- The salvation message: Father sent the Son, Son sent the Spirit.
- (John 14-16) Jesus explicitly spoke of the Father and the Spirit.
- (2 Cor. 13:14) Benediction “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”
A Semantic Problem (p 34)
One reason why this concept is so difficult to understand is because our language is so inadequate to express the divine reality.
- Three persons is not three independent individuals but instead it is “three personal self distinctions with one divine essence.
- One what in terms of essence and Three who’s in terms of relationship.
- God is a unity, His life is not split into three. He is one in essence, in personality and will.
Subordinate Not Inferior
- The Son and the Holy Spirit are subordinate to the Father but they have done that willingly.
Two Major Heresies about the Trinity (p 35)
1) Attempts to get away from any implication that there are three separate and distinct persons in the Godhead.
- Three manifestations of the same God. God goes into a phone booth changes uniform then appears in different modes.
2) Accentuate the trinity so much that you separate the Godhead.
- Those how hold this view claim that the Son and Holy Spirit are lesser subordinate beings. This makes them created beings. Unitarianism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism
This is an important battleground. No true Christian can tolerate a description of Jesus as anything less than fullest deity coequal and coeternal with the Father.
God’s Will and Providence (p 36)
God is not only the creator and Triune God but…
- He is the physical sustainer of his creation. He holds everything into place.
- God is in control of everything.
God’s Eternal Plan
He makes sure that all things are supposed to happen do indeed happen.
- God’s absolute decrees are always accomplished.
- People may disobey God’s purposes for His creatures. Sin
- God’s directive will is what He brings to pass.
- God’s permissive will is what He allows to take place. Allowed choice, sin and evil.
What about free will? (p 38)
If God is in control of everything, how can I have free will?
When we think about God’s will, we must consider these truths.
- A person’s will is always a relatively small part of any given circumstance. We are not in control of our complete environment. Like a baby in a playpen.
- God’s foreknowledge is not in itself the cause of what happens. God is outside time and space and sees everything at once. Just because He knew an event would happen does not mean he caused it.
The sovereignty of God and the free will of man may appear on the surface to be irreconcilable. Nevertheless, both exist.
We may take comfort that a trustworthy, all-loving, all-knowing God exercises divine sovereignty.
As the song goes
“Our God is an awesome God!”
This material in based on the book...