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CHAPTER 2

 

God

 

 

We believe in one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect and eternally existing in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Do we need to prove the existence of God?  Peter Marshall a pastor from the 1930’s and 40’s had a favorite thought.  It was that “spiritual reality is a matter of perception, not of proof.”  He went on to say that in the same way “There are some things that can never be proved.  Can you prove that something is lovely?  Could you prove that a sunset is beautiful?  Of course we cannot.

God has revealed His existence in many ways, look for a moment at the following poem, also a popular hymn.  See also Psalm 19:1–6

 

This is my Father’s world

And to my listening ears,

All nature sings and round me rings

The music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world,

I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas,

His hand, the wonders wrought.

 

This is my Father’s world,

The birds, their carols raise,

The morning light, the lily white

Declare their makers’ praise.

This is my Father’s world,

He shines in all that’s fair.

In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,

He speaks to me everywhere.

 

This is my Father’s world,

Oh let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong,

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world,

The battle is not done.

Jesus, who died, shall be satisfied

And earth and heaven be one.

 

(Maltbie D. Babcock  1858–1901)

 

 

On January 7, 1855 C. H. Spurgeon included the following thoughts in his sermon at New Park Street Chapel. “There is something exceedingly improving of the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity.  It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity.  Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought ‘Behold I am wise’.  But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with solemn exclamation ‘I am but of yesterday, and know nothing’.  No subject of contemplation will more humble the mind than thoughts of God . . .”

The understanding of God lies at the upper limits of our human abilities and extends upwards from that point.  God is fundamentally different than us, which makes it difficult to describe and understand Him in the language of our everyday experience.  He reminds us of many things—beauty, love, wonder, and others, but He is more than these.

At the same time we have inside us something of God, for we are told in Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him”.  This tells us that God is in some way infinite and at the same time a person.

The usual conception of reality is primarily physical, that is composed of matter.  This is what we are used to measuring, controlling, and understanding.  Biblical theism, on the other hand presents the Person of God as the primary reality.  All else, even man, is an expression of divine achievement.  The first four words of the Bible tell us “In the beginning God”.  This gives God the primary position in the universe.[1]  It also will call for us to unlearn some of the thoughts and attitudes we may have.

Five basic truths about God which Christians have are listed below.  They will serve as a road-map on our lifelong journey to not just learn more about God, but to know God.

1) God has spoken to man, and the Bible is His Word, given to us to make us wise unto salvation.

2) God is Lord and King over His world; He rules all things for His own glory, displaying His perfections in all that He does, in order that men and angels may worship and adore Him.

3) God is Savior, active in sovereign love through the Lord Jesus Christ to rescue believers from guilt and the power of sin, to adopt them as His sons, and to bless them accordingly.

4) God is Triune; there are within the Godhead three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (Spirit); and the work of salvation is one in which all three act together, the Father purposing redemption, the Son securing it, and the Spirit applying it.

5) Godliness means responding to God’s revelation in trust and obedience, faith and worship, prayer and praise, submission and service.  Life must be seen and lived in the light of God’s Word.  This and nothing else is true religion.[2]

The best place to look when seeking knowledge about Him is in His Word the Bible.  The Bible was custom designed by God for us.  It is His revelation of Himself and of His plans regarding Himslef and us.

 

God’s Attributes

 

The terms that we use to describe God are called His attributes, they include love, holiness, sovereignty, etc.  No list of attributes will completely describe an infinite God but they will teach us much about Him.

First, God is transcendent and omnipotent, this means that God is independent and above His creation.  God is not subject to the limitations of the physical world He has made.  God has infinite power and can make something exist by the force of His will. (Genesis 1)  However God will not contradict Himself, all of His attributes exist in concert.  When we are asked if God can make something so heavy that He cannot lift it, we should remind them as C. S. Lewis said that nonsense is nonsense even if we are talking about God.

God may however choose to put limits upon himself for a time or a purpose.  Two examples are Genesis 18 where God appeared as a man, or Genesis 32:22–30.  Of course God in the person of Jesus took all of our physical limitations upon Himself by being born as a baby and being obedient to death on the cross.

Second, God is omnipresent or imminent.  This means that God’s power and presence pervade all of creation.  God has not separated Himself from the world but exists in all parts of it.  This does not mean that God is nature, or is contained by nature.  We do not worship the “Mother Nature” of the margarine ad but a Holy and heavenly Father who reigns over all of nature.

In Matthew 6:9 The Father is shown to be in heaven.  Ephesians 4:6 shows God “. . . over all and through all and in all . . .”  All other being known to man including angels, are restricted to a given place at a given time.

God is Holy.  The Holiness of God encompasses all of His attributes and is active.  God is holy, therefore He is righteous in His ways.  This is made clear in the Scriptures, another word for God is the Holy One of Israel.  (2 Kings 19:22, Psalm 71:22, Isaiah 1:4) The angles around His throne proclaim His holiness, not His wisdom, love, or strength.  (Isaiah 6:2, Revelation 4:8)  Though infinitely holy, He nevertheless maintains a relationship with His fallen creatures, a vital nearness.  See Exodus 3:5, Leviticus 19:2, Psalm 99:3,5,9, Isaiah 6:3, 1 John 1:5, Revelation 15:4 for more information on the holiness of God.

God is Just.  This is a legal term and refers to Gods governing of His creation.  Divine justice is exhibited in the fact that righteous laws are given to men, that these laws are sustained by proper sanctions, and that these laws are given an impartial execution.  No favoritism is ever indulged, though infinite favor is extended to those who come under righteous provisions for salvation through Christ’s sacrifice for sin.  Read 2 Chronicles 19:7, Acts 17:31, Revelation 15:3, and 1 John 1:9

 God is Love.  Three terms are used in scripture as comprehensive terms for God.  They are Spirit (John 4:24), light (1 John 1:5), and love (1 John 4:8).  God has not attained love, nor does He by effort maintain love; it is the structure of His being.  Without the attribute of love God would not be what He is.  As no other attribute, love is the primary motive of God, and to satisfy His love all creation has been formed.  Read the following verses for a clearer understanding of the Love of God.  John 3:16, Romans 5:8, and 1 John 3:16.

God is Goodness.  The infinite goodness of God is a perfection of His being which tells us about His nature.  God’s goodness is the source in the universe of all that is truly good.  God’s goodness encompasses mercy, grace, and love.  God is benevolent to all of His creation, we can think of this as a sort of generic goodness to everything.  It extends to the sustenance of all His creatures.  God is merciful, specifically towards those who put their trust in Him.  See 2 Corinthians 1:3, Hebrews 4:16, and Romans 9:15, 18.

God is truth.  God is called the God of truth.  The truth of God is what gives us certainty in our lives and in our salvation.  God is declared to be a “covenant keeping” God (Numbers 23:19) and reliable (Hebrews 10:23).  Because God is a God of truth He is also described as immutable.  This means that God does not change in Himself nor does He alter His promises to us, or expectations from us.

Lastly God is infinite.  He is without beginning and end.  This is true of dimension, time, and the quality of the aforementioned attributes.  We cannot truly imagine infinity, we can’t even imagine an infinite quantity of something as mundane as potatoes.  We can however recognize not only the existence but the desirability of an infinite God.  Thankfully God is not limited by our understanding of Him anymore than an airplane is limited in flight by our lack of understanding of aerodynamics.

Just when you thought you were finished with the tough stuff one more basic fact remains to be explored about the nature of the Godhead.  This is His existence as a Trinity.  The doctrine is that “God is one in His essential being, but that 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.”[3]

The first clue about the Trinity is in Genesis 1:1–3.  Here we see that God and Spirit are active in creation.  Other indications of the Trinity in the old Testament are Genesis 1:26, 3:36, 48:15–16; Exodus 31:3; Numbers 11:25; and Isaiah 11:2, 42:1, 61:1.

The concept of the Trinity is not of modern or post Christ advent as some would have you believe.  When Jesus was Baptized by John the Baptist, the Spirit descended in the form of a dove and a voice was heard from heaven (Mark 1:10–11).  The Bible’s emphasis throughout however, is on the fact that God is one. (Deuteronomy 6:4)  We must not allow the scriptural truth of the Trinity to deprive us of the equally important teaching that there is only one God.[4]

Jesus spoke of the Father and the Spirit as being distinct persons from Himself. (Read John chapters 14–16)  But we must be careful when discussing the Trinity with words like ‘person’ and ‘substance’ because they are only words to help us understand and do not fully explain the reality.

My words fail to express fully even my own incomplete understanding of the Trinity, but I feel comfortable that it is described in the Bible and consistent with Gods revelation in the Scripture to us.  M. Coquerel states, “God is the only intelligent being for whom no mystery exists.  To be surprised, to be indignant at encountering mysteries, is to be surprised, is to be indignant at not being God”

Rather than try to explain God more fully in my own words I suggest that you read the verses mentioned above and allow God to speak to you directly through His Word and illuminate it to you trough the Spirit.  In closing I offer this poem by Christopher Wordsworth (1807–1885)

 

O day of rest and gladness, O day of joy and light,

O balm of care and sadness, most beautiful, most bright!

On thee the high and lowly, before the eternal throne

Sing ‘Holy, holy, holy!’ to the great Three in One.

 

On thee, at the creation, the light first had its birth;

On thee, for our salvation, Christ rose from depths of earth;

On thee our Lord victorious, the Spirit sent from heaven:

And thus on thee most glorious, a triple light was given.

 

Thou art a cooling fountain in life’s dry dreary sand;

From thee, likes Pisgas’s mountain, we view our promised land.

A day of sweet reflection, a day of holy love,

A day of resurrection from earth, to things above.

 

To-day on weary nations, the heavenly manna falls;

To holy convocations the silver trumpet calls,

Where gospel light is glowing, with pure and radiant beams,

And living water flowing with soul refreshing streams.

 

New graces ever gaining from this our day of rest,

We reach the rest remaining to spirits of the blest.

To Holy Ghost be praises, to Father and the Son;

The Church her voice uprises to thee, blest Three in One.


Discussion Questions

 

 

1) List some of the ways God reveals Himself to us.  (Clues:  Psalm 19:1–4; Romans 1:19–20; Isaiah 45:1–3;  John 1:14, 18, Hebrews 1:1–2; 1 Corinthians 2:9–10;  2 Corinthians 3:2–3).

 

 

 

2) What was/is/will be the responsibility of each Person of the Trinity in:

 

               Creation?

               Incarnation?

               Salvation?

               Daily Living?

               Future Judgment?

 

 

 

3) Share a way in which your understanding of God has changed in the last year,  week.

 

 

 

4) Do you want to know God better?  What do you think you can do about knowing God better.

 

 

 

6) What first made you aware of God?

 

 

 

 



[1] L. S. Chafer, D.D., Litt.D.  Systematic Theology  c 1947  published by Dallas Seminary Press

[2] J. I. Packer in Knowing God  c 1973  published by Intervarsity Press                                     

[3] R. A. Finlayson, “Trinity” New Bible Dictionary  c 1962  W. B. Eerdmans publishing

[4] Paul E. Little  Know What You Believe  c 1970, 1985, 1987 by SP Publications inc.  Victor Books