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The One True God - Part 2

Tom Pennington • Selected Scriptures

  • 2017-04-09 PM
  • Anchored Section 2
  • Sermons

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We're in the Anchored series. We're looking at theology proper - this series, this section - and we're looking... that means that God Himself, the only true God. Now as we discovered last week, Scripture never attempts to prove the existence of God. God's already done that. He's proven it through His creation, through providence, through the conscience. We are all aware - all human beings are aware of the existence of God. And when we come to God, that means, we have to come in faith believing. Hebrews 11:6: "...he who comes to God [the one who would come to Him] must believe that He is...", that He simply is. He exists. And we understand and know that. We know that through general revelation and we know that through special revelation, the Word of God.

But of course, that raises the crucial question, and that is, what exactly is the God who is, like? What is He like? And the truth is, as we began tonight, it's important for us to understand that God isn't like anything. You see everything in the universe fits into a category. We've talked about this. For example, if you had never seen a golden retriever, and I told you that it was a dog, you would understand much about the golden retriever simply because it falls into the category of a dog. Or if I told you, I have a Japanese maple tree in my backyard. Even if you'd never seen a Japanese maple tree before, by virtue of the fact that it's a tree, you immediately understand much about it because it falls into that category. That's how we learn. We associate what we don't know with things that we do.

But, when we come to God, it doesn't work that way. It can't work that way because everything else fits into a category with things like it. God doesn't because He is utterly unique. Here's how He puts it in Isaiah 46:5: "To whom would you liken Me / And make Me equal and compare Me, / That we would be alike?" Where do you go to find an illustration of God? Who do you compare Him to?

Now we come face to face with this problem when the writers of Scripture attempt to really give us a description of God. If you want to, and we're not going turn there, but if you want to see this face to face, just go sometime this week to Ezekiel 1 and read Ezekiel's attempt to describe the glory of God as he sees it there. What you find is he is lost in trying to get it across to us. And so, you find a lot of words like this: "like", "something like", "as", "form", "resembling", "appearance" - all those words in Ezekiel 1, because how do you describe God? He doesn't have anything that is like Him.

Now what we're talking about and where we want to begin tonight, is what theologians call God' incomprehensibility, His incomprehensibility. The confessions, both the Westminster and the Baptist Confession, both simply say that God is incomprehensible. What does that mean? Well MacArthur, in His book "Biblical Doctrine" says this, "Although God can be known truly, Scripture also reveals that God is not comprehensively or exhaustively noble to humans in any aspect of His being or actions." Here's how the London Baptist Confession puts it: "The Lord our God is infinite in being and perfection, whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but Himself." Now incomprehensibility means that the reality of God infinitely surpasses what any creature ever can understand of Him. Augustine wrote this. He said, "We're speaking of God. We are speaking of God. Is it any wonder that you do not comprehend? For if you comprehend Him, He cannot be God. Let it be a pious confession of great ignorance rather than a rash profession of knowledge. To have a very slight knowledge of God is a great blessing. To comprehend Him is altogether impossible. This is God."

So, understand then, that when we use the term incomprehensible, we do not mean unable to be understood. Instead, we mean He is unable to be fully, completely, exhaustively understood. Scripture states this in general terms; this idea of God' incomprehensibility. I like Job 26:14. After describing the power of God, this is what we read: "Behold, these are the fringes of His ways..." In other words, these are the outskirts. What I've described to you about the power of God, is simply the outskirts, the edge of God's predictable ways. "And how faint a word we hear of Him! / But His mighty thunder, who can understand?" That's an interesting illustration. We live in North Texas. We understand the issue of thunder. Do you see what the writer there is saying? He's saying that when it comes to the power of God, everything we see of God's power... Think about what we do see. Think about the earthquakes that devastate this planet. Think about the hurricanes, the tornadoes. Think about the power of God to sustain the world in its motion. Think about the power of God. What we're reading here is that when we comprehend all of that, it's like hearing a clap of thunder that's miles and miles away. By the time it gets to you, it's just a faint rumble. That's all we hear of the power of God. If we were closer, if we were in His presence, we couldn't stand a thunder. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, / Nor are your ways My ways," declares the Lord. / "For as the [listen to this] heavens are higher than the earth..." A lot of us fly. We spend a lot of time in airplanes. We haven't reached the top of the atmosphere. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, / So are My ways higher than your ways / And My thoughts than your thoughts." 1 Corinthians 2:10-12 says that only the spirit of God knows the deep things of God. And 1 Timothy 6:16 speaks of God who dwells in unapproachable light. His presence is such a blaze of light that no person can come near. This is God's incomprehensibility in general terms.

But the Scripture also speaks of God's incomprehensibility in specific categories. For example, His being and nature is incomprehensible. Job 11:7-9: "[Listen to this] Can you discover the depths of God? / Can you discover the limits of the Almighty? / They are high as the heavens, what can you do? / Deeper than Sheol, what can you know? / Its measure is longer than the earth / And broader than the sea." That's the being and nature of God.

Psalm 145:3: "Great is the Lord [Yahweh], and highly to be praised [and listen to this], / And His greatness [the greatness of God] is unsearchable." Folks, that's not hyperbole; that's not like he's getting carried away with language - that's true! The greatness of God can't be searched. That's an interesting Hebrew word. It's a word that's used elsewhere of miners searching down the very depths of the earth, in the caverns of earth, for the ore they're looking for. What the writer is saying, "Look, you can go on as deep and long and wide a search as you want, and you will not find the limits of the greatness of God." It impossible! His works and His actions.

Job 37:5 says, "God thunders with His voice wondrously, / [Listen to this] Doing great things which we cannot comprehend." Listen, you can't understand the work of God in all that He's doing, even in your life much less in the universe. His understanding is incomprehensible. Psalm 147:5: "Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; / His understanding [His wisdom and insight into all things] is infinite." It's an interesting Hebrew word there as well. It means it's beyond counting. It's beyond number. God's knowledge is like this, His knowledge of everything.

Deuteronomy 29:29 says, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever..." In other words, there's a lot God knows that He hasn't told us. His knowledge is beyond us.

Psalm 139:6 says, "Such [God's knowledge] knowledge is too wonderful for me; / It is too high, I cannot attain to it." Listen, you will never begin to comprehend what God knows. His counsels, His plans, His decisions are incomprehensible.

Turn to Romans 11. This is one of those classic passages on the greatness of God. As Paul brings His description of the entire plan of God and redemption to conclusion, begins to apply it in chapter 12, this is how he finishes chapter 11. Verse 33: "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments..."? God's judgments here... This doesn't mean His rendering verdicts of guilty in carrying out sentences of death or whatever. That's not His judgments here. These are God's decisions, God's purposes, God's plans, God's decrees about what He's going to do. They are unsearchable. You can't get into, you can't fully grasp, you can't fully search out what God is doing in the world. And His ways, that is, His normal paths, the methods He uses to carry out those plans, are unfathomable. A nautical word - you just can't, you can't go down deep enough to comprehend the means God uses, the methods He uses to accomplish His ways. "For who has known the mind of the Lord [The answer is, nobody] or who became His counselor?" Who told God what He needed to do? "Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again?" The answer is no one. God gives all things to all men. "For from Him [that is God is the source of all things] and through Him [that is God is the sustainer of all things] and to Him [that is God is the end of all things] are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." God is incomprehensible, unfathomable, unsearchable.

Practically, God's incomprehensibility means that we can never fully understand God. It also means we can never fully understand a single thing about God. Not that we can't understand something about what's true of God, we can never fully understand a single thing about God. And we will never know even all of His attributes because God is an infinite being. He must possess attributes of which we know nothing. But there's good news. Lloyd Jones writes, "God in His eternal and absolute being is incomprehensible. Yet we see that though God is finally incomprehensible, He is nevertheless knowable. He cannot be comprehended, but thank God, He can be known. He can be known." It also means that we will never stop learning about God in this life. I don't care how many years you've been in Christ, how many years you've been a student of Scripture, you will never learn all there is to know about God, even that you can learn in this life. It also means that we will spend eternity learning more about our God and we will never fully arrive. Because God is an infinite being and we are finite creatures, we will never learn everything there is to know about God. This will be our joy through eternity.

But God's incomprehensibility raises an important question: can we know God at all? And the answer is, yes. I mean Jesus Christ Himself said in John 17:3: "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." Yes, we can know God. You can know God - this incomprehensible being that is God. 1 John 5:20 says, "And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life." Jesus Christ came to give us understanding, to give you understanding so that you could know the true God.

So, how do we creatures, how do we finite beings know anything about such an incomprehensible being as God? There's only one way and that's because God has chosen to reveal Himself to us in His Word and in His Son. Now, just briefly, a few things to note about God's self-revelation. First of all, it's necessary. By that I mean, for us to know God or anything about God, He must first reveal Himself to us.

God's self-revelation is also truthful, that is, what God reveals about Himself is true. While we can't fully know anything about God, what God has told us about Himself is believable; it's true. Alan Cairns writes, "When men come to know Christ who is the truth, they received an objective knowledge, a grasp of truth, which though far short of God's understanding both in quality and quantity, is real because it is a genuine reflection of God's knowledge." What we learn in the Scripture, what we learn from Christ about God isn't fabricated. It is true. It's not all that can be known because our minds can't grasp that, but it is true.

God's self-revelation, though, is also limited. In other words, what God has revealed to us, His self-revelation in the Scriptures and in general revelation but especially in Scriptures, His self-revelation is limited. By that we mean what God has revealed to us about Himself, is infinitesimal compared to what could be known about God.

You know, this is where it becomes almost impossible for me to illustrate this. But think about it this way. Some of you are math people. My family is not a math family. But I think you can get this. Picture a plane. You understand, not like an airplane - a mathematical plane, a plane that is infinite in all directions. And imagine if I took a pen and on that infinite plane, I made a tiny little dot in the middle of that infinite plane. That dot would represent our knowledge of God in the vastness of all that could be known about God. Another way to say it is this: our knowledge of God is like a single drop of water in the vast ocean that is the person of God. Or our knowledge of God compared to the totality of His person is like this planet that we live on compared to the vastness of the universe. We know so very little of the infinite being that is God. That's what we mean by God's incomprehensibility and that's why God must reveal Himself. But even that self-revelation is limited.

Now to help us understand some of what's true about God, the writers of Scripture use a couple of tools - two tools to help us in light of His incomprehensibility. One of those tools is called anthropomorphism. Don't be scared by that word. You can see there are two Greek words there: anthropos which is man, and morphea, which is form. Literally, it means man's form, man's form. This is a figure of speech in which the writers of Scripture attribute human characteristics to God to enable us to understand an otherwise abstract truth. For example, Scripture speaks of God's eyes. God doesn't have eyes. He's a spirit. Doesn't have a body like we have. So, His eye speaks of His knowledge. That's an anthropomorphism. The same thing is true when you read about God's hand. Again, God doesn't have hands. He's a spirit. What are we talking about? We're talking about God's actions. When you read about God's heart, we're speaking of God's love. When you read about God's face, you're speaking of His presence. These are anthropomorphisms. These are figures of speech to enable us to understand something of this great being who is God. The problem, of course, is that these things that are clearly anthropomorphic, some heretics or cults like the Mormons, seriously err by interpreting them literally and, like the Mormons, assigning a body to God. That's not what the Scriptures are teaching, and we'll see that in just a few minutes.

Another tool that the writers of Scripture use is anthropopathism. Again, you recognize the two words: anthropos, man and pathos, emotion. Literally, man's passions. This is a figure of speech in which the writers of Scripture attribute human feelings, emotions, and passions to God in order to enable us to better understand something about Him. It's a divine condescension to help us understand something about God. This is what you see. This is anthropopathism when you read "and God regretted that He made man". Did God regret that in the same sense that you and I do? No! We regret because we didn't foresee what would happen. Did God not foresee what would happen? Well, of course, He did. So, He's not experiencing it in the same way we do but that's to help us understand something about what was happening in the mind of God.

Now, when we talk about... You say, "Well, you mean God doesn't have human emotions? No! Theologians describe this as the impassibility of God, that is, He's without emotion. Now, don't misunderstand this. It doesn't mean God's great heart doesn't feel or He doesn't experience emotion. This is true only in two senses. Number one: God has none of the passions associated with the human body. This is what we mean by: He doesn't have passions. That's what the creeds say. "Without body parts or passions" - what does that mean? Well, first of all, it means that He has none of the passions associated with the body. Robert Raymond, in his systematic theology, says this, "That God is without passions, as the confession says, is understood to mean the God has no bodily passions such as hunger or the human drive for sexual fulfillment. The other thing that is true is God's emotions are not like our emotions in this sense: they are not reactive. Our emotions are reactive. God doesn't react because He knows what's coming. Okay? He planned what's coming. So, He doesn't react like we react. So, again, MacArthur in Biblical Doctrine says this: "God is impassible, not in the sense that He is devoid of true feeling or has no affections, but in the sense that His emotions are active and deliberate expressions of His holy dispositions, not as is often the case with human emotions, involuntary passions by which He is driven." Robert Raymond puts it this way: "The creature cannot inflict suffering [that's us]... the creature cannot inflict suffering, pain, or any sort of distress upon Him, God, against His will." In other words, and this actually makes the emotions of God more amazing because we don't inflict anything on God. He chooses to be affected by our circumstances. He chooses to hurt when we hurt. It is a deliberate and active choice of His will. That's what we mean by the impassibility of God.

But these tools, anthropomorphism and anthropopathism, are very important as you read the Scripture. Those are ways to help us understand God. Even with God's self-revelation, He is still incomprehensible. We can know Him, but we cannot know him fully and this should humble us. In fact, John Calvin begins His discussion of God in The Institutes of the Christian Religion, in these words: "Men are never duly touched and impressed with the conviction of their insignificance until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God. "Men (let me read that again) are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God." And yet that is exactly what most men refuse to do. Instead, most men reshape the awesome, transcendent, majestic reality of the true God of Scripture, into a manageable, humanly shaped deity. Voltaire, the French agnostic said, "God created man in His own image and man returned the favor." That's exactly true. Throughout Scripture, this is a major concern of God's: that people are always trying to make Him something that He's not.

Turn to Isaiah 40. I just want to show you a couple of examples of this. Isaiah 40 and notice verse 18: "To whom then will you liken God? / Or what likeness will you compare with Him?" And immediately he says how stupid it is to make an idol, to try to capture the greatness and grandeur and majesty of the transcendent God in a block of wood, in a piece of metal. Go over to verse 25: "'To whom then will you liken Me / That I would be his equal?' says the Holy One." You see God's concern for this.

But let me take you to one other passage. Turn to Isaiah 45. I had several of my notes, but we'll just go to one more. Isaiah 45 and look at verse 20. God says, "Gather yourselves and come; / Draw near together, you fugitives of the nations..." I love that. God invites the fugitives of the nations, the refugees of the nations, spiritually speaking. And here's their condition: "They have no knowledge, / Who [they] carry about their wooden idol / And pray to a god who cannot save. / Declare and set forth your case; / Indeed, let them consult together. / Who has announced this from of old? / Who has long since declared it?" In other words, God says, "Listen, can any of your idols tell you what's going to happen long before it happens? No! Only me!" "Is it not I, the Lord [Yahweh]? / And there is no other God besides Me, / A righteous God and a Savior; / There is none except Me. / Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; / For I am God, and there is no other."

Continually, God contrasts Himself with idols. Why does He do that? Well, clearly to keep His people from embracing idols, but I think also to keep our perception of Him from being shaped by the idols around us. Because listen to this: thinking wrongly about God, thinking wrongly about God, is idolatry. Thinking wrong about God is idolatry. I love this quote by A.W. Tozer. He says, "Among the sins to which the human heart is prone hardly any other is more hateful to God than idolatry. For idolatry is, at bottom, a liable on His character. The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is, in itself a monstrous sin, and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness. Let us beware lest we in our pride except the erroneous notion that idolatry consists only in kneeling before visible objects of adoration, and that civilized peoples are therefore free from it. The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him." The essence of idolatry...

And that's why it's important that we know who God really is. And so, in the rest of our time, I want us to look at the nature of God, the nature of God. Now as we begin this, first of all, we need to remind ourselves of what God is not. This isn't a comprehensive list. This is just some of the more common paths people take instead of the true knowledge of God.

First of all, the Scriptures clearly speak against what we could call anti-theism or, as we often call it, atheism - the alpha privative. A meaning no, theo - no God. Anti-theism or atheism - there is no God. I mentioned to you last week that title of John Blanchard's book "Does God Believe in Atheists?" And the answer is no; God doesn't. God does not believe that there is one true atheist. Rather, God knows that everyone who claims to be an atheist is suppressing what he or she actually knows about God from creation, providence, and conscience. But when we talk about atheists, there are two kinds of atheists or people who deny the existence of God.

First of all, there are practical atheists. These are godless people who live as if there is no God while perhaps not denying His existence. Psalm 14 talks about the fool has said in his heart there is no God. In context, often that's the practical living as if God didn't exist rather than the theoretical denial of His existence.

The second group are theoretical atheists, that is, those who based their denial of God on a rational argument. And there are three kinds of theoretical atheists. There's the dogmatic atheist who flatly denies the existence of God. That's what we usually mean when we speak of atheists. There's the skeptical atheist who simply does not believe it's possible for us to determine if there is a God. We normally call these agnostics but for practical reasons they really are atheists. And then there's the critical atheist, that is, the one who argues that he's not yet seen valid proof for the existence of God. All of them are theoretical atheists and that is contrary to what the Scripture reveals about reality. There is a God.

Secondly, there's pantheism. The word pan means all, theos means God. This form of religion comes in several different forms, for example, native African and American religions, transcendentalism (new age religion). But at its core, pantheism denies the transcendence of God, the personality of God, and the distinctness of God from His creation. In a very simplistic sense (and this is over-simplistic) we could say pantheism teaches God is all and all is God. That's not really, truly accurate, however. More specifically, pantheism teaches that reality is an amorphous, that is without form, fusion of all matter and spirit. Pantheism teaches that all personal being is swallowed up in one predominant oversoul. And if you don't understand that, don't worry; neither do they. Animism, by the way, is different in that it teaches all things have a spirit. But practically, it can look very similar to pantheism. The Bible teaches that God is distinct from His creation, as we'll see in a moment. Pantheism is not what God is.

Polytheism is another flawed view of the nature of God. Polytheism - the word poly, of course, means many, theos means God. And so, polytheism is the belief in a plurality of gods. There are many gods. Again, some of the forms, many of the ancient religions - the ancient religions of the biblical lands... You remember the Canaanites, and the Egyptians, and many other of the ancient peoples, the Greeks and the Romans believed in a plurality of gods. In more modern terms, Hinduism believes in millions of gods. And Mormonism also believes... is polytheistic. Maybe you didn't know that. They try to present themselves as something resembling Christianity. But they actually believe that what God is you may become, and what you are God once was. Everybody can eventually attain that status of God. So, they're really polytheists and nothing to do with legitimate Christianity. Polytheism. Polytheism is often tied closely to the worship of nature and it's a popular counterpart of pantheism. And again, what is the Scripture say? It condemns all of those religions that believe in many gods and says Yahweh our God is what? One. He is one God. So, God is not many gods. God is not the god of other monotheistic faiths, for example, Islam (Allah) or Zoroastrianism.

So, who are those gods that are connected with all the other faiths? Look at 1 Corinthians. Turn to 1 Corinthians 10, 1 Corinthians 10 and verse 19. Paul was dealing with all of the many gods that were part of the Greek pantheon, the Roman pantheon there in Corinth. And he says in verse 19: "What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?" What about those other gods? Do they really exist? Verse 20: "No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God..." In other words, the gods of the nations, the others that purport to be God whether his name is Allah or whether his name is connected to some other religion, to Hinduism or whatever else it might be, the gods of the nations are empowered by or driven by demons. Allah is a demon. That's what the Scripture is saying. And they're worshiping demons masquerading as gods. So, God must not be thought of in any of those ways. That's not God.

So, let's look then at what God is. The shorter catechism, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, asks the question: what is God? And this is the answer. Charles Hodge calls this the best, non-biblical definition ever penned by man. Here it is. He doesn't mean unbiblical; he means not stated in Scripture. Here it is. What is God? God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. It is remarkable, a great summation of God but let's take it apart. Several categories grow out of that remarkable definition, and these are found throughout Scripture. Let's look at them together.

First of all, God is a being. He is a being. Both confessions, the Baptist and the Westminster Confession, speak of God in His being. His, meaning that He is distinct from His creation, and He is a being. We say that God is a being to distinguish between God and His creation. That's what you have in the very beginning of the Scripture. Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." He exists as a being separate from His creation. God is not identical to the created universe. Unlike pantheism, in which God is identical with every point in space, Feinberg writes, "Omnipresence demands that God be somehow present at every point in space, but He is not present as each point in space", which is what pantheism teaches. Scripture teaches that God is a being. He is a being, separate from His creation.

But what kind of being is God like? What kind of being is He? Well, He is, first of all, a living being. Again, the confessions (both of them) say there is but one only living and true God, a living God. This is what the Scriptures say. Jeremiah 10:10: "But the Lord [Yahweh] is the true God; / He is the living God and the everlasting King..." 1 Thessalonians 1:9, going to the New Testament, "...you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God..." Many passages compare the reality of a living God with the deadness of all of the world's idols. In fact, turn with me to one of them. Go back to Isaiah again. I love this. Isaiah 46, Isaiah 46:3. I want you to watch the contrast. There is a deliberate contrast in these verses. Gods says, "Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, / And all the remnant of the house of Israel, / You who have been borne [carried] by Me from birth / And have been carried from the womb; / Even to your old age I will be the same, / And even to your graying years I will bear you! / I have done it, and I will carry you; / And I will bear you and I will deliver you." You see how God punctuates that again? Now watch the contrast in verse 5: "To whom would you liken Me / And make Me equal and compare Me, / That we would be alike? Those who lavish gold from the purse / And weigh silver on the scale / Hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; / They bow down, indeed they worship it." Now watch how the false gods are. They, that is the worshippers, "They lift it upon the shoulder and carry it; / They set it in its place and it stands there. / It does not move from its place. / Though one may cry to it, it cannot answer, / It cannot deliver him from his distress."

Do you see the comparison? The contrast is this: the true God carries His people. All the false gods have to be carried by their worshippers. The true God can carry His people because He lives. He lives. He truly lives. Do you think about that? God is living in the same sense that you live. In fact, Paul says in Acts 17 that God is the one who gives life to all of us. Because God is living, He has given life to us and we live. Your life is a reflection of the living nature of God. God lives more truly and more certainly than you live. And because He lives, you live. He is a living God.

He is also infinite. The London Baptist Confession says, "The Lord our God is infinite in being and infinite in perfection." In other words, infinite simply means without limits, without boundaries. God is unlimited. There are no limits on God except the laws of logic and His attributes. Those are the only things that limit God. Now when we say that God is limited that... I'm sorry, that He is unlimited or infinite in His being, we mean that He transcends all spatial limitations. You can't put God in anything, in a box. This is His omnipresence which we'll deal with later. But when we say God is infinite in His attributes, we're not merely saying that God has an infinite amount of those attributes. We are also saying that God possesses His attributes in a different way than any other being in the universe.

Let me give you a couple examples. Take, for example, when we say God's love is infinite, what do we mean? Well, on the one hand we mean that God has this infinite capacity to love. But that's not all we mean. We also mean that He possesses a quality of love that is without borders, without boundaries, without limits. It's not merely quantity; it is the quality and expression of that love as well. Take another example: omniscience. Omniscience doesn't merely mean that God just has a much bigger mind than yours and therefore He can retain every detail in the universe. That's true, but that's not all we mean. We also mean that God's mind functions differently than ours. God never forgets. God remembers everything constantly, instantaneously, immediately. So, we're talking about a quantity but we're also talking about a quality as well. Let me put it another way. The word infinite means not finite, and finite comes from the Latin word for end. Nothing about God - no quality of God has an end, has a terminus. You can try like a diver to plumb the depths of God's love, for example, but you will never reach the bottom. Both the quantity of His love and the quality of His love can't fully be grasped by us. It's infinite. God is infinite in His being and His attributes.

Fourthly, when we talk about what God is, not only is He a being, not only is He living, not only is He infinite but fourthly, He is spirit. He is spirit. Again, the confessions put it this way: "He is a most pure spirit - invisible, without body, parts, or passions." And, again, by passions here we mean without bodily passions, the passions that go with the human body. So, when we say God is spirit, we really mean two things.

First of all, we mean God is immaterial, non-material. In the universe there are only two kinds of substances. There are things that exist. There's matter or material, and there is non-matter or immaterial. Your body is matter; your soul is non-matter, it's immaterial. In His essential being, God has none of the properties that belong to matter. The confessions say He's without body.

Notice how our Lord puts it. Turn to John 4. Our Lord makes this statement explicitly in John 4 as He talks to the woman at the well, the Samaritan woman. He says to her in John 4:24: "God is spirit...", pneuma. What's interesting about how the Greek expresses this is pneuma is first, for emphasis. So, literally, our Lord said this: "Spirit is the God", spirit is the God. Jesus, here, makes an unequivocal statement about the being of God. God, in His essence, is of the nature of spirit. What did Jesus mean by that? Well, our Lord Himself defined it for us in Luke 24:39. He's talking about Himself not being a spirit and He says this: "See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see [listen to this], for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." So, Jesus defines what He means when He says God is a spirit. When Jesus said God is a spirit, He meant that God doesn't have flesh and bones and cannot be touched. He doesn't have a body. He doesn't have parts. He's not material. He is spirit. He's immaterial.

But when we say God is spirit, not only do we mean He's immaterial, like the human soul, we also mean that He is invisible. The fact that God is spirit means that He is invisible. Turn to 1 Timothy. 1 Timothy 1:16: "Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life." And having described the grace of God in his own life, he just breaks out in doxology as he so often does. Verse 17: "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible..." He is invisible. John 1:18. John, the Apostle, puts it this way: "No one has seen God at any time..." No one has seen God at any time. "...the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him."

No one has or can see God in His essential nature. Why? Well, no one could see Him and live - Exodus 30, I'm sorry Exodus 33 I should say - Exodus 33:20 and 23. Listen to this: "But He said [to Moses], 'You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!' Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen." In other words, the glory and majesty of God would be too great for anyone to see and survive. We would be incinerated by the blazing glory of His majesty. In addition, there is nothing inherently visible to see. He is spirit. Colossians 1:15 says, "He [Christ] is the image [He is the icon or the exact representation] of the invisible God..." Romans 1:20 speaks of God's deity, His godhead, as an invisible attribute. His divine nature is invisible.

Now there are several potential misunderstandings about this. You say, "Well, what about those passages, Tom, in which God appears to have a physical manifestation. I mean, in the Old Testament, God is... He appears as a man, He appears in a burning bush, He appears as what's called the Angel of the Lord. In the New Testament, the spirit appears as a dove. What about those visible manifestations?" Well, God can and does choose, from time to time, to make His presence known through physical phenomenon so that humans can see Him. But He is still by nature, spirit. And those are not permanent manifestations of His being. What about Christ? Well, Christ took on full humanity. That means our Lord (and this is amazing, isn't it?), our Lord will forever be one of us. He will forever be fully human. Christ's divine nature remains invisible. What we see when we see Christ will be His human body.

You say, "Well, what about those references to God having bodily parts - hands and eyes and ears and a face?" Well, as we talked about before, those are just anthropomorphisms; those are figures of speech to help us understand something that's true about God - His power or His love or His presence.

What about those passages that talk about our eventually seeing God? This morning, the ensemble sang, "I will see the face of God". What about all those passages like Job 19 - "I will see God", Matthew 5 - the pure in heart will see God, 1 John 3 - "We will see Him just as He is ", Hebrews 12 "Without holiness no one will see the Lord (implied with holiness we will see the Lord), Revelation 22 - "We will see the face of the Lamb"? What about those passages? Well, those references must mean one of three things. They mean that we will see the second person of the Trinity who, as the God-man, has a human body that can be seen. Or they mean that God will, just as He did in the Old Testament, choose to reveal Himself in some physical manifestation. Or they mean when it talks about us seeing the face of God, it simply is a way to say that we will see and understand Him so much more fully there that it is like we are seeing His face compared to what we see today. We will comprehend God in a much deeper, more profound way than we're able to do so now. You say, "Which of those is true?" I think all of them are true. I think all of them are true. What they don't mean, what those passages don't mean is that God has some permanent, material form except through the human body of Christ.

Now, what are the implications of God being spirit? Well, He's invisible. We've already talked about that. He is incorruptible. God's being cannot decay or deteriorate. It doesn't wear out. It doesn't need to be replaced because it's not material. It's immaterial. And God is immortal. Immaterial things don't die.

What about the application for us from the fact that God is spirit? Well, you need to remember the fact that God is everywhere, we just don't perceive Him by the senses. When my kids were young, my oldest daughter, particularly, struggled with this trying to sort through as we were teaching her about the fact that God is omnipresent, that God is everywhere present. And one day we're riding in the van and she's sitting in the backseat, sort of contemplating this at a young age, and she pops this question to Sheila and me: "So, Dad, is God in the van?" You know she's back there digesting all that we've talked to her. "Is God in the van?" Well, what's the answer to that question? "Yes, God is in the van." "Well, why don't I see Him?" "Because God is invisible." Now this led to a conundrum for my daughter. We caught her one day at the door of the bathroom in our home. And she's pushing her hands and seems to be pushing something that's invisible out of the bathroom. And we said, "Honey, what are you doing?" She said, "Dad, I'm trying to get God out of the bathroom because I need to go!" She got the reality. She understood God is everywhere, even though He's not perceived. Here's the point - seriously, we live coram deo. We live - that Latin phrase simply means "before the face of God". There's nowhere that we can go, that we are not in His presence.

Secondly, it means we shouldn't make any form to represent God. In Deuteronomy 4:15, Moses says, "Listen, you didn't see any form on Mount Sinai. So, don't make God into any form. He's a spirit."

And, thirdly, it means that we should worship Him in spirit and in truth. That describes the proper manner of worship because God is spirit. "In spirit" is not a reference to the Holy Spirit. When it says we should worship in spirit (Jesus says that in John 4), He's not talking about the Holy Spirit. He's talking about the human spirit because God is spirit. He is not pleased when our bodies show up to worship. He wants our spirits to be engaged in worship and in truth, according to His revealed Word. God is spirit.

God is also, fifthly, personal. He's personal. Einstein admitted that there is a cosmic force in the universe, but he concluded that that force is unknowable. The Bible says no. The true God is not a force. He's not some collection of cosmic energy. He is personal. When we say God is personal, we mean that God is rational. And let me break that down for you. When we mean... When we say He's rational, we mean He is self-conscious. He is self-aware. God is aware of Himself as a distinct being. Something like animals, for example. You step on your dog's tail, he experiences pain, he yelps. But the dog isn't capable of thinking that there is a self that is experiencing that sensation and that he is that self. There is no self-consciousness. This is part of being personal. It's part of the image of God. Scripture teaches us that God is self-aware. Exodus 3:14, He reveals His name to Moses. Isaiah 43:10, He compares Himself with others and there are none that compare with Him. Isaiah 54:7-8, God talks about the emotions that He's experiencing at the moment over His people Israel. God is aware of His current mental state. 2 Timothy 3:16, the entire Bible is God's self-revelation. That only comes from one who is self-aware, who understands who He is.

God is also, when we say He's rational, not only is he self-aware or self-conscious, but He's self-determining. He has the ability to consider alternate choices and to choose as He pleases and the power to do whatever He chooses. Job 42:2 says, "I know that You can do all things, / And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted." This is part of what it means to be personal, to be self-determining. Psalm 115:3: "But our God is in the heavens; / He does whatever He pleases." Ephesians 1:11 speaks of God who works all things after the council of His own will. God is rational, that is, He is self-conscious, self-aware, and He is self-determining.

When we say God is personal, we also mean that God is relational. He is relational. He relates as a rational being, first of all, among the Trinity. Let's talk more about that next week. He relates among the persons of the Trinity. There is relation. You see we're made for relationship because God has eternally experienced relationship within the Trinity. There is love. There is communion. There is fellowship. But He also relates to His world and to His creation, to us. I wish I had time to take you through all of the ways the Bible talks about God relating to us and to His people. He answers prayer. He comforts. He loves. He became a man in order to serve us and to die in our place. God is rational and He is relational. In other words, He is personal. I don't say He is a person because that can be confusing, because there are three persons in the being of God. One being, one God, in three persons. We could say He's a person if we mean it in a different sense. But that's confusing. So, I'm saying instead, He is personal. He is personal. He relates as a person.

What's the greatest proof that God is personal? What's the greatest proof that God is personal? The Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ. John 14:9, Jesus said this: "He who has seen Me has seen the Father..." You want to know what God is like? Look at Jesus. Was He personal? Did He... was He aware? Did He make self-determining decisions? Was He relational? Did He relate to others? Absolutely! John 10:30: "I and the Father are one." Jesus was obviously rational and relational. And just as He is and was personal, the invisible triune God that we worship is personal.

Let that settle into your mind for a moment. Take it out of the branch of theoretical theology and think about what that means. There is an infinite being who can be known, who desires to be known, who desires, Christian, to know you. He is a living being, a spirit who is infinite but who is condescended in a personal way to relate to us, to relate to you. What a God we have. And next time we'll discover one other thing that God is and that is: God is Trinity.

Let's pray together.

Our great God, we worship You for who You are. Lord thank You for what You have revealed to us about Yourself. And just the little that we know of You, we are overwhelmed by Your greatness, by Your love, by Your compassion, by Your mercy, by Your holiness, Your righteousness, by Your character - in every regard, by Your actions. Father we love You and we are so grateful that You love us, that You relate to us because You are personal. Father teach us every day more of what that means. Help us to pursue You, to pursue communion with You, to be in Your Word, to learn more of You, and to spend time in prayer, to share our request and our worship and our praise to You - our personal, great, transcendent, majestic, and awesome God. And Father, through us, may You make Yourself known to others. Father don't let us keep this knowledge of You, our great God, to ourselves but may we expend our lives making You known. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen!

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