Glorying in Knowing God (Studies in the Doctrine of God) (16)

A series of articles penned by Rev. Dale H. Kuiper when he was pastor of Southeast PRC in Grand Rapids, MI. These are available from that church as well as here on the internet.

Glorying in Knowing God (1)

Jeremiah 9:23-24, "Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:  but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord which exerciseth lovingkindness, and righteousness and judgement in the earth:  for in these things I delight, saith the Lord."

 The proper study for the child of God is the Godhead.  the redeemed saint has every reason to search out the Scriptures to discover all that he possibly can about his merciful Father who has saved him by sending the Beloved Son to the cross.  In fact, one's enjoyment of salvation is directly proportional to one's knowledge of God.  Not only ought the individual saints be endlessly fascinated with God's revelation in the Holy Scriptures, spending a goodly portion of his life in the study of them, but the Church of Christ ought to be busy joyfully proclaiming the knowledge of God.  the Church ought not busy herself in politics, social improvement, and the like;  the Church has the mandate and the privilege of being busy with the knowledge of God that God has provided for her in the Bible.  She ought to set forth, according to the Scriptures, the Names, the Virtues, the Counsel, and the Works of God!  With this little pamphlet we wish to introduce the subject of Knowing God in the light of the text quoted above.  In following pamphlets, we hope to develop the various attributes (or virtues) of God's Being.  We do this with the purpose of setting forth the glory of God, and of bringing home to the reader what a great, good, and wonderful God we have as his redeemed people.

There seems to be something in man that wants to glory, to boast.  Man, apart from the grace of God, likes to glory or boast in something that he is, he has, or is connected to in some visible way. Jeremiah tells us that although all boasting is not sin, there are many dangers in this matter of boasting. God does not forbid us to glory, but God is very insistent that glorying be where it ought to be: in Him (I Cor. 1:31) or in this "that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord..."

By the contrast that he presents in the above verses, it is clear that Jeremiah considers this matter of boasting as an either/or proposition. Either a man will boast in his wisdom, might or riches, or he will glory in the Lord.  He cannot do both, and he cannot find a third possibility.  By wisdom we are to do understand the wisdom of this world, the wisdom of the philosopher, the doctor, the scientist, the lawyer, and the professor;  think also of the ability to run a business and to make money.  Might has reference to the dynamic political or military leader, to the skill and endurance of the professional athlete, to the fanaticism of the sports world, to the ability to command vast sums of money to artistic, dramatic, or musical skills. And riches?  It is clear that man likes to boast in his houses and lands, his possessions, his bank accounts, the prestige and ease that the life-style of the rich affords.  These are things that the human race goes after in every age!  So it was in the ancient civilizations, and so it is today!  Learning, power or might, and riches are the goals, the end-all and be-all, of human endeavor and striving.

Clearly the prophet does not forbid the people of God to be wise, or mighty, or to be rich!  There may be learning and education in the church, and there may be riches and influence held by those who worship the Lord Christ in truth.  But the Word of God is:  there may be no boasting in those things!  Do not let those things occupy the heart so that all the inner life of the soul revolves around them!  Do not allow these things so to fill your mind that your conversation is always returning to them, with bragging or with subtle reminders and hints.  Do not arrange your lives so that everything must serve those natural things you glory in, so that whatever stands in the way of that thing must go, and everything that serves glorying must stay and decrease!

Rather, "Thus saith the Lord ... Let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me ..."  All earthly glorying is sin; glorying that is spiritual, that is based upon possessing a spiritual good, that is right glorying!  Glory in the knowledge of God!  The knowledge of God is something so precious, so sublime, so other-worldly, so rust and moth-proof, so enduring, and so satisfying,  that there is nothing that can be compared to it.  Hear the Lord Jesus according to John 17:3, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent."  Glorying in the knowledge of God cannot mean glorying in some vague notion that there is a supreme being of some kind out there, some mysterious kind of deity or higher being.  this knowledge is of Me, saith the Lord, that I am Jehovah!  A very definite knowledge of a very definite God, and that is Jehovah God of Israel!

Secondly, this knowledge that is to be a matter of glorying and joyful boasting cannot be a mere intellectual knowledge about God.  There are all kinds of people, in Jeremiah's day and in our day, who have knowledge about God; but they do not really know God, they do not glory according to that kind of knowledge, and thus they do not speak of Him either.  The prophet has in mind a personal knowledge of God that is comprehended by the mind, but also that has seeped down into our heat so that a relationship results between that man and Jehovah, a relationship of love and friendship!  

Thirdly, this knowledge of God is not to be confused with emotional feelings which are merely subjective, but this precious knowledge has specific doctrinal content.  The prophet makes this clear when he says hat we must glory in this, "that we understand and know God."  Notice that!  We are called to know what kind of a God God is.  We must have a thorough understanding as to what His nature is like, what His perfections and virtues are, what His holy will is, what His law requires, how great His works in creation, history, and salvation are!

This kind of knowledge comes from the Holy Scriptures applied to our hearts by the Holy Spirit of Truth!This deep understanding comes through the faithful, lively preaching of sound doctrine, sound doctrine is precisely what the child of God needs in order to know and enjoy God!  We must know that He is Jehovah, the eternal, independent, sovereign, living God.  As the great I AM He is unchangeable in Himself and in His determination to save His people!  

That the prophet has in mind a doctrinal knowledge is shown further by the words "That I am the Lord that executeth lovingkindness, judgement and righteousness in the earth."  Clearly, the knowledge of God that we glory in is revealed in Jesus Christ!  This is the knowledge of salvation, nothing less! Mentioned here are the great works of God in the cross and resurrection of Jesus, which deliver us worthless, guilty sinners from all our sin.  God provides the sacrifice who satisfies for all our sins, and God justifies the ungodly and quiets their fearful consciences by preaching to them their innocence by faith in the blood of Christ.  In this we are to glory, and in nothing else!  As Paul writes to the Galatians (6:14) "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."  No one in all the world has any right to boast in anything else; not in wisdom, not in riches, not in might.  The only thing worth boasting in, the only boasting God approves, is boasting in the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ by faith.

Is that your glorying and your boasting?  Is it mine?  If so, we show that in our lives by seeking to grow in our knowledge of God.  Is the Word of God precious to you?  Do you attend a church where the Word of God is faithfully explained and applied to you?  Do you faithfully attend the worship service, striving to understand the preached Word so that you may more and more know God?  Further, since knowing God by faith establishes a personal relationship of friendship with God, is this relationship a matter of daily joy for you?  for the child of God, prayer is not a hard task, but a wonderful privilege; walking in God's commandments is not irksome but delightful!  And since a man always talks about the thing he glories in, do you love to speak the knowledge of God that is in you?  A tongue-tied Christian is a contradiction in words.  Both King David and the apostle Paul said, "I believe, therefore have I spoken." the Christian's speech is not in the abstract, either; he speaks of his own personal faith, of what the knowledge of God that he has been given means to him.  He glories in it!! He makes it the center of his life, the object of his seeking, the jewel of great price for which he stands willing to let other things go!

This is a command of God!  This is a requirement of the same God Whom to know is the highest good!  The God of heaven and earth, to Whom all power and authority belong, stands before every man and commands, "Do not glory in yourself or in any earthly thing.  but I, the God of all glory, say unto you: Glory in Me!  Glory in what I have done in My Son!"  And then one more thing.  Let us make sure that we do not parade our knowledge of God before others, make sure that we do not call attention to ourselves with all our doctrinal knowledge.  Make sure that we speak with meekness and fear, giving God the glory also for the understanding and knowledge that He has so graciously given us.  

God requires this of us because, as the prophet explains, God Himself delights in these things. God Himself rejoices in, glories in, finds endless pleasure in, the exercise of mercy, judgement, and righteousness.  Always His good pleasure is in Jesus Christ through Whom He works these things.  What must God think of the proud human boasting that fills this world?  He take no delight in it!  He takes delight in Himself!  And he requires that His redeemed children delight in what He delights in.  Then do we show ourselves to be His sons and daughters. "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."


The Spirituality of God (3)

John 4:24 - "God is a spirit;  and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth."

The truth that Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman is the truth embodied in the Second Commandment, "Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth."  The reason for this prohibition is that God is spiritual and invisible.  This commandment has to do with the right worship of the only true God. We are not to represent God with images, nor worship Him in any way other than He has commanded in His Word.  We are not to use images of God in the churches, for then we would be pretending to be wiser than God Who would have His people taught, not by dumb images, but by the lively preaching of His Word. 

That God is spirit means on the one hand that He is immaterial and invisible, while on the other hand that God is pure being and the ground of the creature's being as well.  We ought to face some questions at this point.  What do you think about when you think of God?  Do you try to visualize God?  Do you form some sort of mental picture of Him?  What about our children and their conception of God? Further, what are we to think of Scripture's telling us that God has a heart, hands, hearing, and smelling? The importance of our subject for all prayer and worship cannot be over emphasized! 

The spirituality of God is not the easiest virtue of God to write about or to comprehend.  We know that God is spirit, but this does not mean that we fully comprehend everything that is implied in this brief statement of Jesus at Jacob's well in Samaria.  First of all, let us rid ourselves of several possible misconceptions.  Our subject does not have to do directly with the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.  The Third Person is called the Spirit because He is the energy or breath that proceeds from Father to Son and from Son to Father within the Trinity.  But here we are to understand that Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the entire Godhead, is spirit!  Nor is God spirit in the sense that angels are spiritual beings, but angels are creatures brought forth by the Word of God in the beginning.  Angels are invisible but they can be made to appear, and they have their ground of existence in God.  they are spiritual creatures while God is uncreated, spiritual being.  This implies that the properties of matter are not true of God.  All matter has weight, occupies space, can be touched, weighed and measured, and undergoes change.  Not so with God! Moses told the children of Israel, "And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire;  ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude;  only ye heard a voice." (Deut. 4:12)  And Jesus said, "Ye have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape," for God has no form or shape.  What are we to think, then, of those passages of the Bible which speak of God in terms of hands, eyes, ears, mouth, and son on?  In the light of the above, we must certainly understand such revelation of God to us as figures of speech (anthropomorphisms) in which God speaks of Himself in terms of human description in order that we might better conceive of Him.  But this does not mean that we may form images of God!  Who could ever sculpt a Hand that touches everything or paint an Eye that sees all things constantly, even the hearts of men?  In God, heart, hand, eye, etc., are present in the ultimate sense, and what man possesses is but a creaturely reflection of what is perfectly present in God.  But none of the properties of matter pertain to God;  He is immaterial or noncopereal.  God is spirit! 

It is striking that it is easier to say what God's spirituality is not than to say what God's spirituality is!!  God is pure essence.  He is pure life and energy.  God is the Father of spirits, and the Father Creator of all things visible as well.  All that is material or substance is composed;  it is made up of smaller entities or parts.  Being pure spirit, God is simple and uncomposed.  God is indivisible.  For one thing, this implies that God does not only have virtues or attributes, but He is His virtues or attributes.  God is spirit.  God is love.

Because God is spirit, God is invisible.  God is not seen, cannot be seen, and will never be seen. We want Scriptural proof for these assertations, don't we?  In John chapter one, the beloved apostle states, "No man hath seen God at any time."  Perhaps we think that Adam or Moses or Abraham saw God at some point.  But John instructs us to the contrary.  The apostle wants us to understand that we do not some to know and enjoy God because we see Him, but only because, "the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared Him."  the Son has come forth from the very bosom of God (this speaks of the intimate knowledge and understanding the Son has of the deep things of God) to reveal God to His people!  When the apostle Paul writes the young pastor Timothy, he exclaims, "Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see ..."  Paul goes further than John.  He agrees with John that no man has ever seen God in the past;  he goes on to assert that no man shall ever see God in the future.  It's impossible!  The creature can never see that which  is pure spirit.  Just as our eyes cannot look directly at the sun on a clear day without damage, so man cannot look at the glorious being of God and live.  We ought to recall the words of Jesus, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father."  Let that suffice us.  All the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Christ.  Wonder of wonders, God has made Himself visible, fully and richly, in the incarnate Son!  For this reason Jesus can say, "No one cometh unto the Father but by me", and "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." (John 14:6, 7)  Perhaps you have one of the beatitudes of Matthew five running through your mind:  "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."  We can understand the first part, for without holiness no one shall ever see the thrice holy God:  but what can the last part mean?  the saints, who are the pure in heart, shall never look upon the being or essence of God for that is impossible for the creature;  and in heaven we shall still be creatures.  But we shall see God as He is fully revealed in the exalted Head of the Church, Jesus Christ!  And seeing God in Christ, we shall be satisfied!

 All this means that our worship of God must be a careful, spiritual worship.  The worship of God is the main point of Jesus conversation with the Samaritan woman.  Man must worship, but will man decide of himself how to worship the God whom he has never seen?  This often times is done, with results that are nauseating to God and perilous to man. (See for example Isaiah 1:12-15 and Romans 1:21-23)  Nowadays people twist the words of Jesus in John 4:21 to make them say that they don't have to go to church to worship God; they can do that at home or at the beach or in the mountains.  Just so you're sincere!  Or there is all manner of experimentation in the worship services:  movies, plays, liturgical dances.  This is the direction men take if they presume to decide the matter of the right worship of God, and we would blunder just as badly if we should take this matter into our hands. 

God must be worshipped as He has commanded us in His word, and here the Word says, " . . . in spirit and in truth."  When Jesus says that the "Father seeketh such to worship Him', Jesus is not saying that God weakly or vainly looks for these worshippers, but He confidently asserts that the Father seeks, finds, and equips worshippers of Himself.  true worship is the fruit of the work of God in the hearts of His people, it is the God-worked response to the Holy Gospel, and thus it is found pleasing to God!  

Secondly, worshipping God "in spirit" does not mean in or by the Holy Spirit.  We do not deny, of course, that the Holy Spirit must be present in a man before he can even desire to worship God, much more perform such worship.  But here the word "spirit" stands opposed to all that is fleshy, carnal, and outward. Not by outward observance, not by wearing of sackcloth and ashes, not by the mere appearance of a man in church, will God be worshipped.  But from within, from the heart, with a lowly and contrite spirit that understands the sinfulness of one's sins.  The posture of the body is not the key thing;  the posture of the soul is!  God is properly worshipped only when He is worshipped in truth, that is, according as He truly is and according as we truly are!  Thus, worship requires faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Mediator of  God and men. 

Thirdly, the true worship of God must rest upon God's Word.  There He tells us Who He is and who we are, and there He reveals how he will be revered by the saints.  Briefly this includes that we worship Him with our offerings, with prayer, with singing, in the peace of the communion of saints, and most importantly of all, with a quiet, reverent attention to the preaching of the Gospel.  the preaching is the heart of the worship service;  may it ever remain so in the church of Jesus Christ.  preaching of the full counsel of God, preaching that is authoritative, preaching that is lively, preaching that expounds and applies, preaching of the doctrines of grace so that God is magnified and every human resource debased!  

And finally, in "spirit and in truth" certainly means that we worship the great God of our salvation actively and sincerely.  Whenever the word "spirit" is used, it connotes the idea of energy and activity!  Is that the way we worship God?  Do we sing out, from the heart?  Do we pray along with the minister, really making his thoughts and petitions our own?  Do we follow closely the unfolding of the sermon, comparing it with the Word of God and asking ourselves what this means for our lives of gratitude to God?  Are we present in God's house because we love that God Whom we have never seen, and fervently desire that all things glorify Him for such a great salvation?  

"May the words of our mouth, and the meditations of our heats, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer."


The Knowability of God (2)

John 17:3, "And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent."

In our previous pamphlet we developed some of the important ideas contained in Jeremiah 9:23-24 where we learned that although all boasting is not forbidden by the Lord, He is very insistent that boasting be in one thing alone.  A man may not boast or glory in his wisdom, his might, or his riches;  this kind of boasting is actually in self and in what self has done.  It is pride and therefore sin.  Jeremiah goes on to say that anyone who glories must glory in this, "that he understandeth and knoweth God, that He is the Lord which exerciseth lovingkindess, judgment, and righteousness in the earth:  for in these thins I delight, saith the Lord."  this is not head knowledge, but hear knowledge.  This is not emotional feeling, but is emphatically doctrinal in content.  this is not knowledge derived from creation, but very clearly derived from the Holy Scripture and its preaching. 

But can we really know God?  Is it possible to understand and know God as He really is in Himself?  The atheist says there is no God, and therefore it is pointless to speak of knowing Him.  the agnostic says we can not know whether there is a God or not; and since we can't know whether there is a God we cannot know anything about Him either.  The Jew, the one who holds to Judaism or the religion of the synagogue, holds that the only place to learn about God is the Old Testament.  We'll see that such a response is hopelessly wrong too.  What do we say?  Can we really know God?  the child of God with faith in the Holy Scripture says, "Yes!  God is knowable!"  That's the subject we want to look into with you briefly.  The text quoted above will show us the way. In John 17 Jesus is speaking, in fact, Jesus is praying to the Triune God and Father the night in which He was betrayed.  In verse 2 He speaks of giving eternal life to as many as God has given unto Him.  And in verse 3 he defines that life very beautifully:  "And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent."  How can a man attain unto such a blessed knowledge? Is it possible for man with his wisdom, learning, and intellect to reach up and find God, ascend up to God, and know Him?  Will the scientific method of the laboratory show who and what God is?  Never.  For when Jesus asks His disciples who they say He is, after hearing all kinds of answers the people have been giving, Peter responds for all the disciples, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!!"  Then Jesus speaks this instructive word:  "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven." this means that the only possibility of a man ever really knowing God is through divine revelation.  Man does not reach up to find God and decide who God is, but God reached down to man's level, God condescends to us, and speaking very simply and clearly, tells us Who and What He is.  Unless God so speaks, man cannot know God.  

We ought to recognize that God makes Himself known in two ways, the first of which is His marvelous creation.  God shows forth of Himself through every creature He has formed and through His preservation  and governance of the universe.  Psalm 19 makes clear that this is a speech of God: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork.  Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.  There is no speech or language where there voice is not heard."  All men everywhere see and hear this speech!  But when we face the question, What does man gain from this revelation of God, we learn from Romans 1 that this divine speech in creation carries a very limited message.  Romans 1:20 states, "For the invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead:  so that they are without excuse."  The apostle Paul is saying there that all a man can learn from creation itself is that there is a God, a God of power, a God Who must be served and thanked.  No more than that!  Paul also makes plain that God's purpose with revealing Himself through creation to everyone everywhere is that this revelation is sufficient to leave them without an excuse.  When men persist in unbelief and sin, God can justly condemn them forever on the basis of the knowledge they gained of Him through the things that are made.  Man's reaction to this speech of God is to refuse to glorify or thank Him, and to take the glory of God revealed so wondrously in creation, and change it into the image of man, and beasts, and creeping things.  So this first method of divine revelation is limited as to what it says about God, is not unto salvation but unto condemnation, and is not the kind of revelation we have in mind here as we speak of the knowledge of God which is eternal life.  

There is also a speech of God in Jesus Christ, and this revelation of God is full and, when accompanied by the work of the Holy Spirit, is saving!  Does not Jesus say that eternal  life is this, "that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Who Thou hast sent"?  The knowledge of God which is unto salvation through Christ Jesus!  He is the only possibility of ever truly knowing God.  We read in John 1 that the Word which was made flesh and dwelt among us was full of grace, truth, and glory, even the glory of the Father.  We read in verse 18 of this chapter that the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father hath declared Him Whom no man hath seen at any time.  And we are to understand that this revelation of God in Christ Jesus is a full revelation of Himself.  In John 14 Philip says to Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father and it sufficeth us."  Jesus can hardly believe His ear;  He says, "Have I been so long with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?  He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and howsayest thou then, Shew us the Father?" 

Amazing words!  Jesus is actually saying that He is the full, accurate, complete revelation of God to us!  Everything that is true of God you may find revealed in Christ! How is this possible?  First, remember that Jesus is God, He is the only begotten, eternal, natural Son of God, and He is that in union with our flesh.  Thus, the "fulness of the Godhead dwells in Christ bodily," and in Christ shines forth "the brightness of God's glory, the express image of His person."  Today, when we look at Christ as He is set forth in the Scriptures, and when we look by faith, then we see the invisible God as He really is, and that is eternal life!!

We must say one more thing.  If God does not speak through Christ to a man, if God does not speak through the gospel to a man, there is no knowledge of Him and thus no salvation either.  If a man does not believe in the Christ of the Scriptures, he cannot be saved.  Speaking to Thomas, according to John 14, the Lord said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life:  no man cometh unto the Father but by me."  Coming to the Father means knowing the Father, believing in the Father, trusting in the Father, and having salvation of the Father. No one can come to the Triune God and Father except through Christ!  What clear implications those words have!  First, this means that there is no salvation unless the Gospel of Christ is preached.  You don't come to God through nature, you don't come to God through philosophical speculation, you must come through Christ as set forth fully in the Word of God.  Secondly these words of Jesus mean that the religion called Judaism is a totally false religion.  The Jews reject the Christ as Messiah, and therefore as long as they hold to their false beliefs, they cannot be saved.  Their only hope, and the only hope of any man, is to repent of their sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!  

How clearly the Scriptures prove that God is knowable.  And yet the knowledge of God that the believer has is very strictly limited.  It's important for our worship of God to understand that!  Theologians say that God is knowable, but He is not comprehensible.  God is in fact incomprehensible.  You cannot define God.  You cannot fully know and understand Him.  You cannot write a book about God and say, "There, that's all there is to know about Him!"  It is even the case that God cannot fully disclose Himself to us!  He is always greater than our thoughts and conceptions.  He is unfathomable, without limit in being and virtues.  Even as God reveals Himself to us in His Word, one of the things He is telling us is that there is more, oh so much more!  Job asks, "Canst thou by searching find out God?  Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection?"  Isaiah exclaims, "Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?  There is no searching of his understanding."  And Paul is at a loss for words at one point in his argumentation to the Romans;  he can only say, "O, the depths!  the depths of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.  How unsearchable are His judgements and His ways past finding out!"  The most brilliant theologian, the hardest working pastor, the keenest student of the Bible, has only scratched the surface of the knowledge of God. 

It is necessary for salvation that God is knowable;  it is necessary that God is incomprehensible, or He would not be God.  If we could define God, search Him out to exhaustive perfection, say everything about Him that could be said, God would not be God.  God would be no greater than we are, and we would be equal to Him.  But God must be, and is, infinitely greater than the creature.  That's a very humbling truth, is it not?  God is great, God is so overwhelmingly great that our puny minds are not able to comprehendHim in His majesty and glory!  That leads to worship, don't you see?  Live before that kind of a God in humility and fear.  What a privilege and what a blessing just to know Him as we do!

 For that is salvation!  The highest and best thing for a man is that He might know God and enjoy Him forever!  There is nothing better or finer than that!  We live in an age that does not know God and does not care to know God.  But the truth rings down through the ages, "This is life eternal, and that a man might know God through Jesus Christ!"  And knowing God, to glory in God!  We can test ourselves in a moment. Do we really desire to go to heaven, when heaven is seeing, and knowing, and being with the great and holy God, as he is revealed in the face of Jesus Christ? and then glorying in God, world without end?  Will that fascinate you and joyfully occupy you forever and ever?  The man that counts the knowledge of God precious is the man who strives to grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.  May that be true of His saints until we see Him in the glory of His coming.


The Absolute Sovereignty of God (4)

Psalm 115:3 - "But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased."

The Reformed faith, which is the true faith of the Scriptures, stressed the absolute sovereignty of God. A truly Reformed church and the truly Reformed believer hold to the truth of the divine sovereignty not by way of lip service or by way of mentioning it once in a while, but by preaching it, believing it, confessing it, and rejoicing in it! For the sovereignty of God is literally revealed on every page of Holy Writ.  Every page of the bible is God's Word and makes the claim that God is to be recognized, heard, believed on, obeyed, and thanked.  Perhaps it can be said that no where is the deep truth of God's sovereignty set forth more simply than in the text quoted above, as well as in the parallel passage of Psalm 135:6.  Clearly, the Psalmist wants us to understand that the kingship of the high and lofty One is involved, and that nothing in the entire universe escapes His sovereignty, and that the good pleasure or will of God is basic to the understanding of this subject.

 In Psalm 115 a great contrast is set forth, as is indicated by the opening word of verse 3. The unbeliever, the vain idol worshipper, throws a dart at the child of God: "Where is now your God?"  These unbelievers have their gods, but they cannot speak, or see, or hear, or handle, or walk!  to this mockery the child of God responds, "But our God is in the heavens; He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased!"  Today, in many churches, people have a god that is not the work of their hands, but is surely the work of their minds or imaginations, and it differs little from the idols of the heathen.  And they protest against the presentation of a God who is sovereign, who always does His will, and who does not say please to the creature.  Protest as they may, they will have to answer to the Scriptures.  What does Scripture say?  Not what man pleased, not what God and man decide together, but always and only what God has pleased, that does He "in heaven, and in earth, in the seas and all the deep places!"

We tread on holy ground when we take up the tremendous truth of divine sovereignty, and we ought to be reminded that there are aspects to this truth that we cannot understand.  Nevertheless, Scripture clearly and carefully sets this truth forth!  The sovereignty of God is the exercise of His supremacy.  God is the high and lofty One; no one is greater than He, equal to him, or any where near to Him.  And when this great God acts, when He goes about His divine business, then he does so in perfect freedom!  Sovereignty implies authority, and authority is the right to rule.  It is the right to do what one wishes, to decide what is good and evil, to impose one's will on others and demand conformance;  authority is the right to reward obedience and to punish disobedience!  In close connection with this, soveriegnty is the freedom to do what one pleases without being answerable to anyone.  No one may question God as to what He is doing!  The Scripture drives this lesson home hard in such passages as Daniel 4:35, "And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doest according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay His hand, or say to Him, What doest Thou?";  Job 9:12, "Behold, He taketh away, who can hinder Him?  Who will say unto Him, What doest Thou?';  Romans 9:20, "Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God?  shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus?". (See also the parable of our Lord in Matt. 20:1-16)

 Only one can be sovereign.  You can never have two sovereign beings.  How could that ever be? Two that had all power and authority?  Two that were the highest?  Two that are perfectly free to do as they pleased?  Impossible.  there is One that is eternal, independent, sovereignly free, and that is GOD!  Nor can any limits be placed upon God's sovereignty.  There are many who would make restrictions or exceptions to divine sovereignty.  They are willing to admit to sovereignty in respect to weather and climate, sickness and health, wars and other disasters.  But they want to draw the line when it comes to man!  They try to exclude human thoughts, words, deeds, and destinies from the sovereignty of God!  But this would destroy God's sovereignty.  We will show that there cannot be a single exception of any kind!

 Following the lead of the many scriptures which speak to this point, we would define God's sovereignty as that attribute of God according to which he has the right and the freedom to do
whatsoever He pleases, whenever He pleases, however He pleases, in respect to whomever He pleases! And lest anyone begin to think that this view of God might present Him as capricious or erratic, we will add whatsoever God pleases to do is always in harmony with His entire Being, with His holiness, wisdom, justice, and truth!

 The one great objection that has been raised against the truth of the sovereignty of God, historically but also today, is that this does away with the responsibility of man, making a man a mere piece of wood who is moved about as a pawn on the chessboard.  We want to answer this objection, which is the objection of everyone who believes in the free will of man, by quoting from the Scriptures.  When a man wanted to kill a certain Shimei who was cursing David, the king said, "So let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David.  Who then shall say, Wherefore hast thou done so?'. (II Samuel 16:10) Secondly, there are God's dealings with Pharaoh;  God raised up Pharaoh for the one purpose of revealing His glory through him, and accordingly hardened Pharaoh's heart repeatedly. (See Exodus 7:3ff and Romans 9:17).  Thirdly, there is the comment of Jesus in Luke 22:22, "And truly the Son of man goeth as it was determined:  but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed."  And finally consider Acts 2:33 "Him, being delivered by the determinate foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain."  In every one of these examples two things stand out:  first and foremost, God sovereignly determined that a certain man would commit a particular sin;  and secondly, the same God holds that man accountable for that very sin!

 When God wills that a man sins, and when He so rules that a man commits that sin in his life, God does this without becoming the author of the sin in any sense.  God hates all sin;  God detests those sins which He sovereignly wills that man commits.  In fact, one reason for his willing them is that He might reveal His utter detestation of them!  Further, where a man commits a sin (be that Shimei, Pharaoh, Judas Iscariot, the unbelieving Jews, you, or I) he does not do that against his own will.  He doesn't do something that he does not want to do, or that he is forced into doing.  Pharaoh wanted to keep the Israelites as slaves. Judas wanted that silver.  With our sins, we also want something that we think is desirable.  The key point in all this is that when God exercises His sovereignty in respect to man and his deeds, He does not interfere between the will of man and the act of man.  If God would interject Himself between the will and the act of man, man would indeed be a stock and a block.  But God works with the will of man.  God works behind the scenes, as it were, so that man always wills and wants what God has determined for him.  Thus we must conclude that man's will is not free because of the fall of Adam and the resulting depravity of the entire human race; the will of man is bound in the service of sin.  but more than that, the will of man even before the fall was not absolutely free either.  Only God is perfectly free.  The sovereignty of God always surrounds man, touches him at every point, and determined what he is and does.  So far is divine sovereignty from being a truth that denies the responsibility of man, it is the truth which is the basis of, and establishes, human responsibility!

 We must be very brief as to the question, How does God exercise his sovereignty?  Doing all things after the counsel of His own will, God freely created.  God did not have to create anything, but it  pleased Him to do so.  God sovereignly decided how He would create, namely, in six days and by speaking His Word of power.  God freely decided what He would call forth into being: the heavens, the earth, and all they contain.  And finally God also determined why He would create, and that is to reveal His power, greatness, and glory.  And remember, all things were created by Christ and for Christ!

 God exercises his sovereignty, secondly, in providence, which is the everywhere present power of God whereby He doth, as by His hand, uphold and govern all things.  "The kings heart is in the Lord's hand as the rivers of water, He turneth it whithersoever He will." (Prov. 21:1)  Matters of peace and war, matters such as nations having or not having oil, iron, and other raw material; matters such as promotion, the setting up of one and the putting down of another; matters such as your and my position and station in life . . . these things come to pass not by chance but by the hand of the heavenly Father of the church!

 But nowhere does the sovereignty of God stand forth so clearly and so beautifully as when He makes righteous discrimination between men according to His eternal decree of predestination, both election and reprobation!  God did not have to save a single soul, but He wills to do so!  And He willed to save freely of grace, in the way of the gift of faith in Jesus Christ which He graciously bestows upon His elect, and which He sovereignly withholds from the reprobate.  Study the ninth chapter of Romans!  Do so reverently, as a child, bowing before the revelation of God.  There you catch a glimpse of the awesome sovereignty of our God!  God chose His saints without regard to their merits or demerits, without regard to their faith or lack of faith, without regard to riches, talents, or personalities!  He chose according to the good pleasure of His will!  That makes the salvation of the Church of Jesus Christ certain, and that insures that God will have all glory in the Church, now and forever!

 Would you have it any other way?  The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth! He doeth whatsoever He pleases.


The Eternity of God (5)

"Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.  Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.  Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.  For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night."  Psalm 90:1-4

The above passage instructs us in another of the divine virtues or adorable attributes called God's eternity.  This is an attribute of God which is true of Him alone.  The God of our salvation does not share this quality with us in any sense.  God alone is eternal; we are not, nor do we become, eternal.  We ought, therefore, to be more careful when we speak of heavenly glory in Christ.  In the risen Savior we have endless or everlasting life, but we do not actually have eternal life.  Even in heaven we are creatures who do not become eternal.  God's eternity belongs to those attributes which are designated by the word infinity or immensity.  Infinity applied to space is omnipresence;  God is omnipresent in that He is exalted above the limitations of space.  Infinity applied to time is eternal;  God is eternal in that He is exalted above the limitations of time.  the eternity of God is closely related to several other attributes of God.  Only the eternal God can be independent and free.  Only God eternal can be sovereign over all things.  Only the eternal God can be immutable to without any change whatever.  The close relationship between these attributes is clearly demonstrated by the fact that the great name Jehovah (I am that I am) clearly reveals that God is independent, sovereign, and for ever the same.  

The fact that the Scripture quoted above is found in the Psalms means that the eternity of God is something about which the Church of Jesus Christ sings and is joyful!  The church loves to sing of her eternal, Savior God even when this means that the contrast is equally true; we are as the grass, we spend our years as a tale that is told, we are soon cut off and we fly away.  Several conclusions follow from the truths of God's eternity and our temporality.  God must be feared even for His anger's sake.  We ought to count our days, and apply our hearts unto wisdom.  And if any of our life's labors are to endure, the eternal God must establish it; hence we are taught to pray. "Establish thou the work of our hands."

The early church father Augustine, bishop of Hippo, North Africa, once wrote. "If no one asks me what time it is, I know;  If I wish to explain to him who asks, I do not know."  What is time?  What is eternity?  You will have to allow me, in the following, to speak of eternity in terms of time.  Even though time and eternity are not the same, the Word of God speaks to us creatures about eternity using the terms of time, at the same time making clear that they are not the same.  When we think of God having no beginning and no ending, we immediately begin to think of that awesome eternity as time extended endlessly backwards and forwards.  We think endless time in the past plus endless time in the future equals eternity! This is not correct.  Eternity differs from time not merely quantitatively (as to amount), but qualitatively ( as to essence).  

We agree with Augustine that time is difficult to comprehend and define, but all agree that time includes several ideas:  succession of moments, beginning and ending and especially change.  Time is a creature of God, made "in the beginning", regulated by the sun and moon which God placed in the heavens for time and for seasons.  And time involves change.  Good grammar demands that we speak of the present, the future, and the past.  But with man the future is always becoming the present, and the present becomes the past.  We can never truly say, "I Am", for the moment we say it we have already changed.  The split second we call the present has already become the past!  

God has no beginning and no ending!  God is not controlled by time, does not think in terms of time, does not reckon with time, but is exalted above time.  The Ancient of Days is not a creature that time should have any effect or control upon Him. One beautiful implication of the name Jehovah is that God never says, "I was" for that would imply change for better or worse, nor does He say "I shall be" which would also imply some kind of change;  eternally God says I AM.  Never does the perfect One pass through the process of becoming.

God lives in the eternal present!  And the life He lives in the eternal present is not an empty, static life, but the life of the Godhead is a full, rich life in which all things are constantly present with Him.  That God is eternal and uncahnging does not imply idleness or repetition or imperfection but rather fulness of life, perfection of beauty and blessed activity!  Some content is given to this life of God in Psalm 90, verse one, "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations."  We'll return to this rich idea a bit later, but here we ought to see that the eternal God is the God of the covenant, living within Himself a full, rich covenant life of friendship!  From everlasting to everlasting, He is that kind of God!  

What a contrast between the eternal, unchanging God and the creature man.  In verse three we learn that man soon returns to the dust, by the powerful Word of God, "Return, ye children of men."  In verse four we learn that a "thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night."  We think a day is short, and we think a thousand years is ever so long!  Not even Methusaleh lived to be a thousand years:  not a man, not a kingdom, not a nation.  But a day and a millennium are both alike to God!  God doesn't consider one to be more or less than the other, for God does not even think in these terms. 

But what really brings out the contrast between the eternal God and we sons of men is the psalmist's reference to grass (verses 5, 6).  This comparison of man with grass is found throughout the Scriptures.  We are not compared to an oak or a cedar, but to grass!  In the morning the grass flourisheth, in the evening it is cut down and withers.  As the sickle mows down the grass, so the scythe comes to remove us from the earth.  The purpose of this comparison is to humble the child of God.  We are as the grass.  The greatest glory and honor that we can attain in this life is as the flower of the grass.  And the God before Whom we live is so great and so glorious that He is above all the time and the dictates, tyranny, and ravages of time.  The further purpose  of our being compared to grass is to bring us to worship this great God!  Our days are three score and ten, or if God gives strength, four score years.  The wonder is that the eternal God is even mindful of us, much less loves us and cares for us!  The author of this Psalm Moses believed that in respect to the timeless God, and so ought we (See verses 14-17). 

The great blessedness of God's eternity for His people is given in the first verse, "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations."  Far from being an abstract truth, the eternity of God is filled with rich implication for the believer.  Elsewhere in Scripture we read that God dwells in us; here, we read that in every generation, the children of God dwell in Him!  Scripture uses the word dwell to denote the living together of God with His people, to denote a life of friendship with God and security in God.  In every generation, the saints have found their abode not in temple or churches, but in the great God set forth in temple and churches.  When Abraham came out of Ur and lived in a tent in Canaan, when Israel was captive in Egypt, when she journeyed through the wilderness, settled in the promised land, was taken captive and then returned, as well as in the New Dispensation ... the eternal God is the dwelling place of the saints!  With Him there is always comfort, safety, refreshment, and nourishment!  With Him there is fulness of joy!

Would you make your dwelling place elsewhere?  Would you place your trust in armies, your friendship with the world, your dependency upon some government or other human agency in time of need? One word will show the foolishness of that: grass!  Time causes kings to die, places to crumble, nations to disappear.  Look up!  Look to the everlasting habitation which is Jehovah Himself Whom time cannot touch, Who never changes in Himself or in regard to His dear people.  The God Who is eternal in Himself, is the eternal God of the covenant of grace.  The God Who stands above time as regards Himself, controls and uses time to bring about all the good pleasure of His will.  The God Who does not consider a thousand years as different from a single day will bring His church unto Himself that she may enjoy her God 's world without end in the new creation. 

There are several practical implications that ought to be mentioned in closing.  When the eternal God speaks to us timebound creatures, we can have difficulty sometimes with His speech.  We have reference to His promise to send Christ to us quickly.  What are we to think of the fact that almost 2000 years have passed since the Bible was completed, and Christ has not yet returned?  The devil and false teachers are quick to point out to us this endless delay simply means that God and His Word are not trustworthy.  You can read of this blasphemy in II Peter three.  And sometimes the child of God begins to think that 2,000 years is a long time; he might even begin to waver in his hope for the return of Jesus.  But then the Word of God is quick to point out, "Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, but he defers the coming of Christ lest any of His chosen ones should perish  (v.9).  Always the Word of the eternal God must be believed! 

Secondly, we must learn to number our days and apply our hearts to wisdom.  We might think that life is long, that we have many days yet to live.  Youth might think that there is always time later to be spiritual.  Not so.  Count your days, as I count mine.  Be wise and apply your hearts to wisdom.  What is wisdom?  Wisdom is to know ourselves as grass, to know that Christ comes to judge all men, to pray for that glorious coming, and to believe that all will burn except that which is established by God.  When God comes, He comes as the dwelling place of all generations.  The eternal God is our habitation.


The Immutability of God (6)

Malachi 3:6 -"For I am the Lord (Jehovah), I change not;  therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." 

Convinced that the proper study for the Christian is the godhead, that the only thing we may boast in is that "we know and understand God, that He exerciseth lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth," we continue in our study of the Godhead by setting forth the great doctrine of the immutability or unchangeableness of God.  There are especially two names of God that reveal to us that He is unchangeable. The well-known name Jehovah implies, as we have seen, that God is independent and free, eternal, and sovereign; but revealed by this name is also the truth of divine immutability.  There is no variableness or shadow caused by turning with this great Father of lights (see James 1:17).  Always He is I AM.  Another precious name that God has given to Himself is "the Rock."  The creature is always changing, all of life is in flux, things change so fast in life that we can hardly keep up with them.  But there is One that life and the circumstances of life cannot change, and that is God.  "He is the rock, His work is perfect..." (Deut. 32:4) 

If you will read Malachi 3:6 in its context, you will see that it stands closely related to the previous verses in two ways.  With the first and second comings of Christ in mind, the prophet teaches that Christ will purify the church so that she will be restored to the true worship of God; but that two-fold coming of Christ will also bring swift judgment for the wicked (vss. 3-5).  The reason for both works of Christ is: FOR I am Jehovah, I change not."  God will not turn from His determination to destroy His enemies, nor will He fail to save His Church, here called the sons of Jacob.  

That God is immutable does not only mean that God does not change, it most emphatically means that he cannot change.  What an amazing thing for creatures to contemplate!  We change physically, mentally, and even spiritually. Styles change.  Governments and their leaders change.  Nations come and go.  Creation underwent significant changes at the time of the fall and of the flood, and continues to undergo certain changes.  Over against all this stands God!  How wonderful, how beautiful, how perfect is He!  God does not increase or decrease.  God is not subject to a process of development or aging.  Let's ask the question, reverently, "Why should God change?"  He cannot become more perfect, wiser, or better.  If God changed, even in some small way, He would not be and could not be God.  Such a change would mean that He is not what He said He was eternally, and that is God!  Those who speak of a change in God end up with no God at all; and there can be no true religion with a God who changes. 

Immutability or unchangeableness does not mean inactivity, immobility, or idleness on the part of God.  God created the heaven and the earth and then stopped creating.  He comes and He goes.  He reveals Himself and hides Himself.  He becomes angry and turns form the fierceness of His anger.  He rejects the nation of Israel and receives to Himself the Gentiles.  At one time God causes His people to experience the burden of sin, and at another time the sweet peace of gracious forgiveness.  Yet, with all this activity in all these relationships, Scripture testifies that God remains forever the same.  Immutability and activity are in perfect harmony in God! 

God is immutable in His essence, so that there is no possibility of any change within the Godhead. Since God is His attributes, there is no possibility of change in respect to any of his adorable virtues.  We must see one further point:  God is unchangeable also in His counsel or will.  There are many who speak of God's unchangeableness in respect to being and attributes, but who reject the immutability of His will. They deny that God wills eternally and unchangeably.  The Arminians and the Pelagian, with their emphasis upon the free will of man, have a will of God that depends upon the actions and choices of men.  God's will is a labyrinth of alternative possibilities;  God will do this or that, depending upon what man does in a certain instance.  But then God's will or decrees are not determined, fixed, or irrevocable; rather they are construed as pliable, changeable, alterable.  This is not a minor error, but this is bad business of the first magnitude!  To hold to a will of God that is changeable goes against the clear revelation of God concerning Himself to us, and it robs the child of God of a wonderful, and much needed, source of comfort.  Scripture informs us that "the counsel of God standeth forever," that God's "counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure," that God wills to show to the heirs of promise "the immutability of His counsel, confirming it with an oath."  (Psalm 33:11, Isaiah 46:10, Hebrews 6:17) 

We read of God's repentance in five different Old Testament passages.  We might wonder how the unchangeable, faithful God of the covenant can repent!  We also read, of course, that God is not a man that He should repent.  Let's notice the example of Genesis 6:6, "And it repented the Lord that He has made man on earth, and it grieved Him at His heart.  And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth."  the question is, when God looked down from heaven at the time of Noah, and saw that the wickedness of man was great, did He then for the first time decide to destroy man from the face of the earth, or is He revealing that this was his pre-determined counsel all along?  If this were a new idea in the divine mind, then God is changeable and His counsel is not fixed.  We reject this notion altogether.  We have to understand these several passages as figures of speech (anthropomorphisms) in which God reveals what He had eternally determined to do in human language and under human forms.  It seems to us that He repents or changes His mind;  but when God thus speaks at these great turning points in history, He is revealing that He knows the end from the beginning and He is doing what He was always of a mind to do! 

The truth of God's immutability is a truth dear to the Christian's heart for it is full of covenant implications.  The text quoted at the beginning says that because Jehovah changes not, the sons of Jacob are not consumed.  In the light of the context of Malachi, we understand the sons of Jacob to be, not every child born to the patriarch Jacob and his descendants, but the spiritual sons of Jacob, those born in his generations by the power of the promise.  These sons are the elect, believing children of God of every age, who belong to the great Seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, namely, Jesus Christ!  Of that spiritual seed it is said that they shall never be consumed.  Now, they died of course; they died in battle, they died of illness, they died of old age, as we say.  But the word "consumed" refers not to physical dying but to spiritual destruction. True Israel is not consumed in Egypt, nor in the wilderness journeying, not in Canaan, nor during the captivity, nor during the sad days of Malachi, nor to the end of the world!  The heavens and the earth shall shake, the sun shall be darkened and the moon as blood, fire shall be everywhere, but destruction shall not touch a single child of God.  Only with our eyes shall we behold and see the rewards of the wicked!  And the only reason for this is that our God is Jehovah Who changes not, Who does not cast away His people, Whose gifts and calling are without repentance.  That's the only thing that can explain the eternal security of the people of God! 

Not unto us, O God of heaven, but unto Thee be glory given!  Our safety is a divine wonder.  A wonder, first, because it is unique.  Everything around us perishes or comes to an end:  the grass, the years, men and the kingdoms of men.  The only thing that escapes the ravages of time, change, and death is the Church of Jesus Christ!  A wonder in the second place because so many things would seem to guarantee the destruction of the sons of Jacob.  The spiritual enemy of the Church is superior in number, power, and riches;  it is filled with unreasonable enmity and hatred.  Never is there any armistice or truce.  But the little remnant of the people of God endure to the end.  A wonder, finally, when  we look at those children of Jacob themselves, as they are in themselves.  No better, by nature, than the children of Esau who are consumed.  They possess no goodness, no righteousness, no strength in themselves.  Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but by Jehovah, and His Christ, and what they have done in strong love and unchanging mercy! 

What comfort for the child of God!  Do you see why we must boast in the knowledge and understanding of what God is, and in nothing else?  Man cannot be trusted or relied upon.  David discovered that even his old familiar friend, with whom he took counsel and went up to the house of God, even he turned against him.  I am sure that we have all learned a similar lesson.  We cannot put our trust in any man.  But God is our Rock!  His purpose is fixed, His Word is sure, His promises are yea and amen! Having begun His good work in us, He will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Finally, what encouragement for prayer is this truth of God's immutability.  What if God changed from time to time, as to what pleased Him, as to what He required of us in a life of thankfulness, as to how we were to worship Him ... who would pray?  Who would even dare to pray?  Will He grant me an audience today, but not tomorrow?  Will He be merciful in forgiving my sins one time, but not another? Such doubts and discouragements are forever banished when we understand that God is forever the same! He has promised to hear everyone who turns to Him in faith, praying in the name of Jesus and according to His will.  And if someone should say, "Why pray at all, if God's will is so unalterably fixed?"  then we must answer, we do not pray to change the will of God in some respect, but we pray in obedience to God's command, in the knowledge and confidence that "God gives His grace and Holy Spirit to those only who with sincere desire continually ask them of Him, and are thankful for them."  

Of course, for the wicked it is a terrible thing that God does not change.  It means that they have an appointment with God that they cannot escape;  He will be a swift witness against those who do not fear Him.  But for the righteous, the believing, true sons of Jacob?  the fire of the Lord's judgment will not singe their clothes, neither shall the smell of smoke be in their garments.  "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed;  but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee." (Isaiah 54:10)


The Independence or Self-Existence of God (7)

John 5:26 - "For as the Father has life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son  to have life in Himself."

Convinced that there is nothing so precious or blessed as a true knowledge of the living God, and equally convinced that much of the church today knows not God, we continue setting forth the various attributes or virtues of God.  Of God's many virtues, there are some which are reflected in the child of God who has Christ living in him;  love, grace, and mercy would be examples of these.  There are others which are true of God alone and never become true of the saint at any time.  An example of this category of attributes is set forth in the text quoted above.  John 5:26 describes very powerfully the virtue of God called His independence or His self-existence.  God is independent; the creature is dependent, and that upon God! As we see what these words of Jesus mean we ought to be humbled and filled with reverence, awe, and a
spirit of worship.  

In the fifth chapter of John, Jesus is engaged in controversy with the fault-finding Jews who refuse to believe on Him.  If you would take the time to read this chapter you will discover that the controversy centers about the relationship between "Father" and "Son."  These two words also appear in the text quoted above; we ought to have a clear understanding of whom these words are truly speaking.  Since the truth of the Trinity is not at all under discussion here, it is plain that "Father" refers to the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) while the word "Son" stands for Jesus, the Son of God in the flesh, as He walked and talked on the earth.  This is the only interpretation that fits those verses where Jesus speaks of God and Himself (see verses 17 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 27), and therefore this must also be the meaning in verse 36.  Let us keep this in mind:  the Triune God in heaven and the man Christ Jesus on earth!

Basic to the Being of God, and one of the fundamentals truths about God that Scripture reveals to us, is that God is completely independent and has no need of anything outside of Himself.  Jesus says, "God has life in Himself!"  As far as this important matter of life is concerned, we must understand that God has life of and in and through Himself.  God does not depend upon any one or any thing outside of Himself for life.   Not only does He have life in Himself, but God is life; He is the immortal, living God Who is the Lord of life!  Theologians use a term here that means "from-Himnself-ness."  IN all His Being and perfections, God demonstrates "from-Himself-ness."  God is independent as to mind (Romans 11:34), as to will (Ephesians 1:11), as to love (Hosea 14), and as to power (Psalm 115:3).  

There is something else to remember here:  God is so independent and without need of any thing outside of Himself that nothing can ever add any thing to God.  Creation does not add anything to God. Creation reveals the wonderful glory of God, but it does not add to it.  He is independent in glory;  in Himself He is all-glorious.  The salvation of the Church as a whole, and each member of the Church in particular, does not add to God's great glory!  Oh, salvation reveals the wonders of His grace and glory, but salvation cannot increase it!  From eternity to eternity God has all glory!  Still more, the Lord Jesus Christ in His incarnation, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension, did not add any thing to God either!  All the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ bodily!  That Christ revealed the glory of God to us is wonderfully and forever true!  But in so doing He did not add anything to God.  How could He?  God is unchangeable. Before creation He is the God of all glory, as well as after creation, and He is that to all eternity, of Himself! God is the God of life Who sustains all, but Who is Himself independent of all.  He gives to all, but He is enriched by none.  We suggest you read Isaiah 40:12-17 carefully at this point.  In the light of these exclamations of the prophet, do you think that the sacrifices of bullocks, sheep, and goats by the Israelites in the temple added any thing to God?  Did God need those things, was He enriched by them?  And what of our service of God on the Sabbath Day in His house, as well as from day to day?  Does God need us to be happy, to be complete. to be glorious in perfections and praises?  Not at all!  God could have gone from eternity to eternity, supremely blessed and glorious in Himself, without decreeing Christ, the Church, creation or any thing.  Because, you see, God lives a perfect life within Himself as the Triune, covenant God;  He lives, speaks, loves, delights, within Himself as the all sufficient, independent, Triune God! 

There are certain names of God which reveal His independence most vividly, names which only God has and which the creature could never, never bear.  We have in mind "the Almighty One", "the Highest One", "the Lord of Hosts."  Each of these names reveals that God is above all else, and is not dependent in any way upon any thing outside His Being.  But undoubtedly the name of God that reveals the greatness, glory, and independence of God  most clearly of all is the name JEHOVAH (I AM or I AM THAT I AM).  When God says of Himself, in fact names Himself, I AM, He  very truthfully and confidently asserts that He rests for Being upon no one but Himself, exists before all things, and all things exist through Him.  When God says, "I AM", He confidently asserts that He has need of nothing, but by and through and of Himself, IS!  It is true, the name JEHOVAH has tremendous significance for our election, redemption, preservation, trust in God's promises, for all the life of the covenant of grace.  But we must understand that God reveals himself as He does in all our salvation exactly as He is in Himself, so that first He is JEHOVAH in Himself and then He is JEHOVAH in all our salvation! 

We ought to be struck, now, by the fact that we creatures differ radically from God on this matter of being.  God is independent; we are always dependent, and our dependence is upon Him.  Oh, we can be so proud!  We can live sometimes as if we had no need of God, as if we were the captains of our futures and the masters of our own destinies, as if we have things pretty much in control.  We can behave ourselves sometimes as that rich and foolish man in the parable of Luke 12 who said, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many year;  take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry."  In our self-sufficiency we think that we can take care of ourselves.  We make our plans sometimes without a thought of God, and without saying, "If the Lord wills and we live."

We do not only depend upon God for air to breathe, for food to eat, for strength to labor, for jobs to perform, for safety in the midst of dangers, but there is something more basic that we are missing!  We depend upon God for our very being and existence.  God has the ground of His Being in Himself;  we don't. The ground of our existence is in God.  Paul writes in Acts 17:28 that "we live and move and have our being in God."  Such is our dependence upon God that if He were to remove His upholding hand, we would not merely die but we would cease to exist and disappear! 

In John 5:26 Jesus goes on to say that just as the Father has life in Himself "so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself."  this is astounding!  this is amazing!  We must think into this as deeply as we possibly can.  God has given to the Son, that is, to the man Jesus Christ, to the Holy Child born of the virgin Mary, the gift of life in such a way that Jesus has life in Himself;  the only Man of whom it is ever possible to say that!  God gave life to Jesus as the Head of the Church and as the Mediator of the Covenant in order that Jesus might fully and beautifully reveal the Father!  Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!  Due to this bestowal of God, Jesus has become a life source, a life center in Himself;  thus, also, He has life to give!  Of this Paul writes to Timothy, saying that Christ "hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."  The immortal God, the King eternal, is invisible.  But He reveals also this aspect of Himself by giving Christ to have life in Himself! 

Do you see Jesus as the Lord of Life?  Do you hear Jesus speak through the preaching of the gospel each week?  In verse 25 of John 5, Jesus says, "Verily, verily I say unto you, the hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live."  The voice of Jesus, because He has life in Himself, is able to raise the spiritually dead unto life!  these words of Jesus anticipate His death and resurrection, when he laid down His life that He might take it again.  See also John 11 where we read of Jesus calling Lazarus from the dead, John 10:28 where Jesus says literally that His sheep shall never perish because "I keep on giving them eternal life," and Galatians 2:20 where Paul exclaims that he lives because Christ lives in him. 

That God has life in Himself as the independent God, that He has given life to Christ that He might be the life source of His people, has several humbling implications of the believer.  First, what a great, good, and wonderful God our God is!  He had need of nothing, nothing can ever be added unto Him, He lives a perfect life within Himself ... how glorious God is!  And the other side of it is, how small, insignificant, dependent we are!  God doesn't need us, but we need Him!  God gives and never receives;  we receive and never really give. 

Secondly, it becomes us, then to confess this dependence upon God, to live consciously out of Him.  You can give yourself over, body and soul, to such a God without any reason to fear.  Blessed is the man who looks away from himself, from governments and all human institutions, and looks to God the fount of every blessing.  

And finally, that God is independent and self-existent is the foundation of all worship of God!  Let us never think that God is altogether such an one as we, but rather let us always acknowledge Him as the high and lofty One Who is excellent in praises and Marvelous in Being.  Having life in Himself, He is the source of our life in Christ!  Let us worship at his footstool!


The Omnipotence of God (8)

Ephesians 1:19-21 - "That ye may know ... what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." 

The truth we set forth in this writing is the power or omnipotence of God.  The power of God is inseparable from His sovereignty, His knowledge, His unchangeableness, His grace and mercy and love, as well as all other virtues that are in Him.  Even the truth that God has a will or good pleasure is meaningless unless He has the power to execute that will.  Some time ago we considered Psalm 115:3, But our God is in the heavens, He has done whatsoever He hath pleased.  We saw that this verse reveals the sovereignty or
freedom of God;  whatever pleases God, He does, and no one can stay His hand or say, What doest thou! Included in that simple yet profound verse is the truth of divine power.  God hath done, and continues to do, whatever is pleasing to Him.  The truth of God's omnipotence is of the highest importance to our understanding of God, yields great comfort to the child of God, and makes alive the truth that God has an eternal, unchangeable counsel. 

One of the ways God reveals to us that He is almighty, that His power is unlimited and irresistible, is by giving Himself many names.  He is the Lord of lords and King of kings, the Lord God omnipotent, Jehovah, the only Potentate, Lord of Hosts, the Almighty;  and in Mark 14:62 we find the name Power. Jesus says, and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of Power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.  the right hand of Power is the right hand of God.  And that verse from mark 14 ties in very nicely with the passage from Ephesians 1 quoted above, for in the resurrection  and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ we have the greatest possible manifestation of the power of God. 

Three of the terms that Scripture uses for the idea of God's power are found in Ephesians 1:19-21. The first term (translated power) is the Greek word from  which we get dynamo.  Scripture uses this word to express the wonder of the miracle.  Paul calls our attention, then, to God's miracle power!  The second term (translated working) really means vigor.  God demonstrates great vigor as He goes about His work.  He waxes strong, vigorous and healthy!  And the third term (translated mighty power) contains the idea of authority or right.  As God exercises His power, this is not some power that He has usurped illegally or taken unrighteously, but it is a power that is inherent in Him which He exercises in a just and holy way.  He has sovereign right and authority to do whatsoever He does. 

It is of the utmost importance both for the glory of God and the comfort of believers, that the word all be placed in front of the word power or might.  We must think of God in terms of being the Almighty One, of having all power in Himself.  It is necessary to stress this, first of all, over against Arminianism or free-willism which severely limits the power of God in salvation so that God must wait upon the power of the Creature's will, to see who will be saved.  We must stress this secondly because of the rather common error of dualism.  dualism holds that there are two, distinct, separate power sources in the universe.  the one source of power is God, and the other source of power is the devil.  Dualism stresses that these sources of power are opposite and unrelated.  The dualist does not deny that God has greater power than the devil, he does not deny that God's power will ultimately overcome the devil;  but he denies that the power which the devil exercises is a power that is given him from God, to be used only under the close control of God.  that this is a serious error is clear from the fact that the child of God must know how to explain the evil that is in the world, and especially the evil that comes to him in his life. 

We ask that you turn to Job 1 in your Bible, paying careful attention to the verse eight and twelve. How clear that the devil does not have an ounce of power in himself, but that power belongeth to God!  the power of the devil, the power of any creature, the powers that be in the universe, these are not original powers;  they are derived from God, limited and directed by God, and withdrawn at proper moments by God.

It will not do simply to define God's power as His ability to do anything.  That is too brief, and loses out of sight the other attributes of God.  Clearly there are some things which God cannot do, exactly because He is God!  God cannot be tempted with evil, neither can he tempt any man.  God cannot lie.  God cannot become greater than He is, or change in any way.  God cannot deny Himself or do anything contrary to any of His virtues.  And God cannot, as the all glorious One, share His glory with another.  thus by the omnipotence of God we are to understand God's ability to accomplish whatsoever He pleases, in harmony with His will and all His perfections.  

The infinite power that God possesses is revealed to us in Scripture in five tremendous areas.  And as we briefly mention these areas of divine power, keep in mind that God never reveals Himself except through Christ.  Christ as the Head and Saviour of the Church must be in our minds as we look into these five great areas!  There is the work of God in Christ called creation!  God spoke and it was done;  He commanded and it stood fast.  By speaking His word of power God gave separate existence to all those creatures which were eternally in His mind.  By speaking His creative Word, God placed each creature in its proper relationship to the whole creation, framing the various worlds together, knitting the creatures into one cosmos, so that all things work together unto God's appointed end.  He called the things that are not as though they were!  What a revelation of power!  Who can understand it, or appreciate it enough? 

God reveals His power, day by day, in providence.  The Heidelberg Catechism defines providence as the almighty and everywhere present power of God.  God and the creature differ radically on the matter of being.  God has being in Himself, while we live and move and have our being in God.  thus, having created all things by His Word of power, God continues to uphold or preserve His creatures by the Word of His power. 

Thirdly, God reveals His omnipotence through His government of this world.  Nothing comes to pass by fate or chance, but all things by the hand of God.  God works all things after the counsel of His own will!  Nothing lies outside the scope of His mighty rule.  God doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth:  and none can stay his hand, or say unto Him, What doest thou?"  Thus we may be sure that whatever comes to pass anywhere, comes to pass by the hand of God and according to His holy will. 

God's power and authority is mightily revealed in His judgments.  Think of the power that was unleashed when God destroyed the wicked world at the time of Noah, opening the windows of heaven and breaking up the fountains of the deep!  The powerful judgment of God upon Sodom and Gomorrah when God rained fire and brimstone upon these cities of unmentionable sins;  remember, too, Lot's wife.  And of our present world situation Paul writes in Romans 9:23,  What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath, fitted to destruction?"  In other words, another judgment of God is in store. this present world will be destroyed with fire.  What power then!  See II Peter, chapter three. 

But we have really only begun to scratch the surface of the power of God.  What of God's power to usward who believe?  The text quoted at the beginning of this pamphlet makes the bold statement that the greatest revelation of divine power is the salvation of the Church in Jesus Christ!  When God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day, God accomplished a powerful miracle!  But notice!  When God raised Jesus from the dead, He raised up to newness of life every believer who ever died and who ever will die.  In the resurrection of Jesus there was the resurrection of uncounted thousands from death and hell to everlasting life and glory .  What power when God set Jesus at His own right hand, when God subjected all things to Him, and gave Him a name above every name!  But notice!  When God put Jesus at the pinnacle of power and glory, God took to heaven and exalted untold thousands of weak, poor, beggarly sinner, and set them in heavenly places to rule with Christ!  That is exceeding great power, don't you agree?  Whatever it takes to deliver the elect church from the bondage of sin and death, and bring her into the freedom of the children of God in heaven, there to enjoy God's world without end ... that is power! 

All men live before the face of this almighty God, and have to do with Him in this life and in the life to come.  All unbelievers ought to tremble before such a God!  Rather than meet God in the day of His vengeance without being covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, the unconverted man of the world ought to hear the Church proclaim, Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little.  Psalm 2:12.  Kissing the son means that a man repents of his sins, believes on the Christ, and thus is saved.  

The implications of knowing, and believing upon, the omnipotent God are very rich for the saints. Such a God is to be adored, loved, feared, and obeyed!  God uses His unlimited power to bring His saints to Himself in glory.  Who is like unto Him, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, ding wonders! 

Secondly, this God of power is to be trusted without reservation and without holding back. Nothing is too hard for God.  What is impossible for man is possible with God. Witness the birth of Isaac when Abraham is a hundred years old.  Witness the birth of Jesus from a lowly virgin.  Witness the salvation of the rich.  Witness the salvation of you and me.  No prayer is too hard for Him to answer, no sin is too vile for Him to forgive, no misery too deep for Him to relieve. 

Finally, we must know that this wonderful strength of God is made perfect in our weakness.  The name of the child of God is really weakness.  God makes perfect, or makes fully known His strength in our weakness.  and when we know ourselves to be weak, incapable, unworthy, then are we strong in the Lord. then we can do all things in Christ Who strengthens us.  And then God has the glory forever.  Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Jesus Christ, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.


The Omnipresence of God (9)

Jeremiah 23:23-24 -"Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord." 

The attribute of God called omnipresence is the second attribute which is included in His infinity or measurelessness.  In a previous pamphlet we considered God's eternity, which is also an aspect of His infinity.  When infinity is applied to time, you have eternity.  God is eternal, that is, he is exalted above the limitations of time.  When infinity is applied to space, you have omnipresence.  God is omnipresent in that He is exalted above every limitation of space.  The limitations of space are distance, size and form, and the fact that a body can be in only one place at a given time.  None of the limitations apply to our great God! 

The prophet Jeremiah instructs us that we are not to glory in our wisdom, in our might, or in our riches, but we are to glory in this, "that we understand and know God, that He exercises lovingkindness, judgement, and righteousness in the earth."  Is that really our glorying and our boast, that we have been given to know God?  And is all the knowledge, are the abilities and possessions that we have subservient to this great spiritual knowledge?  Do we have a personal knowledge of God, also that He is omnipresent? What an amazing truth divine omnipresence is!  God is everywhere!  God is not only everywhere with His power, upholding and governing every creature in the universe, but He is everywhere with all of His Being! And because His Being is everywhere p[resent, He is everywhere with all His adorable virtues.  "Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord He is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath:  there is none else!" Deuteronomy 4:39 

When the child of God hears that His Redeemer-God is everywhere present, he is certainly filled with awe and amazement.  This doctrine aids us in understanding the great difference between God and us, and thus we are filled with reverence and the spirit of worship!  When Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem to the true worship of God, this king would have the people of Israel know what kind of  a God they were to worship there.  According to I Kings 8 he said, "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven, and heaven of heavens, cannot contain Thee:  how much less this house that I have builded."  

Space is a creature, just as time is.  And we need space just as we need time.  God does not need space, is not affected by space, and does not think in terms of space.  God's omnipresence is that virtue according to which He is present in every point in space with the whole of His Being.  Now we are apt to think that God fills the entire universe which He created, and then goes a little bit further than the edges of the universe.  But God cannot be contained by space.  You cannot measure the distance between God and some point in the world.  Secondly, we are not to think that God is everywhere present as a gas fills a room. If I remove the cap from a bottle of perfume in one room of my house, soon the molecules of perfume have traveled throughout the house, filling every room.  I can smell the perfume everywhere.  But God is not equally diffused throughout space.  It is true that God is in  my study as I type this, and God is in the room as you read this.  But the key point to remember is that God, being everywhere, fills every point of space with His entire Being.  When the saints worship in their churches, some saints do not have a part or aspect of God, while other saints possess a different part or aspect.  Rather, we all have all of God!  And that's amazing!  Paul sums that up very nicely when he says to the Athenians on Mars Hill, "God be not far from every one of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:27)  

God is in all things, but God is not all things.  That's Pantheism.  This old error regarding the presence of God identifies the Being of God with the substance of the creature.  It denies the separate existence of God.  God is all things and all things are God.  Another old error has God present in the universe, but absent as to His Being.  This is Deism.  They say that having created all things, and having infused certain powers and laws in the universe, God absents Himself from creation and observes from a distance the unfolding of history.  But God is not far off!  With all that He is, God is present in heaven, on earth, and in hell;  He is present in the wicked and in the righteous.

However, this does not mean that God is present in the same sense in every creature.  God dwells in every creature, but not equally or in the same sense.  Perhaps an example from human relations will make that clear.  Two persons may be physically near to each other, but they are far apart in faith and spirit.  A believing husband and an unbelieving wife live right next to each other but they are far apart in respect to everything that is lasting and important.  So we must notice that God is not present in the same sense in every one of His creatures.  God does not dwell on earth as He does in heaven.  He doesn't dwell in the animals as He does in man.  And He does not dwell in the wicked as He does in the righteous.  The difference between God's presence in the wicked and righteous is of the utmost significance.  God is present in the wicked, unbelieving, carnal proud men of the world.  He is near to them and He sees them.  But this is a presence or nearness that must be described in terms of anger, wrath, indignation, and curse.  God is totally against the wicked. 

On the other hand, the presence of God in His children is not only that He is in them, but He is also with them and for them!  God is actually far from the wicked, He knoweth them afar off, but as to His chosen people He is present with His love, grace, and mercy, powerfully working all things to their everlasting advantage.  

The truth that God is omnipresent is a truth that always produces fear:  either a godly fear or a mortal fear, but fear nevertheless.  It is very striking that several of the passages that speak of the omnipresence of God also speak of hiding from God!  See the text quoted at the beginning as well as Rev. 6:16 and Psalm 139.  Man, because his conscience accuses him of sin, is afraid of the holy God.  This was true of Adam and Eve already immediately after the fall (see Genesis 3:8, 10)  But you cannot hide from God, nor ought we to try.

Please turn to Psalm 139 and read the first twelve verses.  In the opening verse David sets forth the truth of the omniscience of God, that God is all knowing.  Finally he says, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me:  it is high, I cannot attain unto it."  Next, he considers the possibility of fleeing from God. Have you ever thought of doing that very thing?  He asks, "Where shall I go from Thy spirit, or where shall I flee from Thy presence?"  And then David exhausts every possibility.  Heaven?  The grave?  Somewhere far across the seas?  But God is in all those places.  Well, what about the night?  "Surely the darkness shall cover me."  Men still think that today.  Most crimes are committed under the cover of darkness.  But David says, "Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day:  the darkness and the light are both alike to thee." 

We said the omnipresence of God is a truth which produces fear.  But let that not be a fear that causes us to flee in panic and dread, but let that be a fear that humbles us so that we seek the presence of God in the proper way.  consider a person who has made up his mind to commit some sin.  He's ashamed of it, so he does not want anyone to see him or find him out.  He goes home;  he goes into a room all by himself;  he closes the door.  He thinks he is alone.  But "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding good and evil." (Prov. 15:3)  If we are tempted to flee, then by all means flee to Him, and if we are tempted to hide, then by all means hide in Him!  Make God your refuge and hiding place.  That is spiritually safe. For in order to flee to God and take refuge in Him we must put away our sins.  then we can draw nigh to God and experience that He draws nigh to us! 

What confidence and trust the omnipresence of God inspires in His children.  Such a great God has given Himself to us in Christ!  Consider what it would be like if God were not everywhere present with all His Being, did not surround us with all His matchless virtues, dwelling in us by the Holy Spirit.  Well, then He would be like Baal, no God at all, and we would do well to heed the words of Elijah to the Baal prophets on Mt Carmel.  We would have to cry aloud and cry by the hour, for that kind of a god might be sleeping or perhaps far away on a journey.  And that kind of a god cannot attend or give answer.  

But our God is nigh unto those that are of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  He is nigh unto them that call upon Him in truth.  Near with His power to defend and preserve.  Near with His bountiful hand to provide.  Near with His Spirit to comfort.  Near with His wisdom to work all things after the counsel of His own will, working all things together for the good of them that love Him.  Doesn't that inspire you to pray to Him?  Doesn't that truth cause you to trust in Him, casting yourself upon Him with body and soul for time and eternity?  Yes, unto the everywhere present God we may safely yield ourselves in all our lives, saying, "Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way!"  For no matter where our way may take us, "Even there shall His hand lead us, and His right hand shall hold us."


The Manifold Wisdom of God (10)

Ephesians 3:9-12 - "And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been his in God, Who created all things by Jesus Christ:  To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:  In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him."

We ask that you read this passage from Ephesians 3 once again.  Notice the words "to make all men see ... the fellowship of the mystery ... hid in God ... might be known ... the manifold wisdom of God." Clearly, this passage is a difficult one, and when we speak of the wisdom of God we deal with a subject of great depth.  Oh, the depths of the wisdom of God!  His wisdom is unsearchable and past finding out!  That God is the all-wise God means, first of all, that with God wisdom is original.  No one taught God or was His counsellor;  no one instructed Him in true wisdom.  But God is wise eternally and originally.  This implies that God is the only source of wisdom as well.  There is no wisdom anywhere apart from God as He is revealed in Jesus Christ. 

We ought to distinguish wisdom from knowledge, both in God and in man.  Knowledge stands for information, data, facts about one thing and another.  God knows all things;  in fact, knowing all things from the beginning, God brings all those things about powerfully and irresistibly.  But wisdom is that virtue according to which God frames all knowledge together, causing all things to work together in order to serve His purpose which He purposed in Himself.  We read in the above text of the eternal purpose of God which He purposed in Christ.  That purpose was to attain unto the highest possible glory of His Name, through Christ and the Church which Christ is ordained to redeem.  Hence, God's wisdom is that He adapts all things to Himself, and all things to each other, that they work together to attain the one purpose of His glory!

When the apostle speaks of "the manifold wisdom of God," we are not to think that there are different purposes in the Godhead, or that there are different kinds of wisdom in Him;  rather the term, which has the literal meaning of a great variety of colors, emphasizes that the wisdom of God shows itself in a great variety of forms.  As a beautiful picture is composed of many different colors and shades, so the wisdom of God has many aspects, forms, implications, and threads. 

Fourthly, the wisdom of God is high!  His ways are higher than our ways.  We ought to live in daily, humble consciousness of that.  We know that all things work together for good for the people of God. But often times we cannot see how that can be true.  And then we are ready to murmur and complain about our lot in life too.  Here, also, we are to live by faith, not by sight;  faith in the manifold wisdom of God. 

Finally, we read repeatedly in Scripture, especially in Proverbs 8, that Christ is the wisdom of God. Christ is made of God unto us "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption."  (I Cor. 1:21)  In Him is revealed the wisdom of God, by Him is taught the wisdom of God, and through Him is worked the manifold wisdom of God. 

Scripture also has much to say regarding wisdom in man.  We are not only called by God to be holy, but also to be wise.  Strikingly, Scripture contrasts the wisdom of this world or of natural man.  In James 3 we read that the wisdom which is from below is earthly, carnal and devilish, while the wisdom which is from above is "first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy."  See also I Corinthians 1 and 2.  All these passages illustrate that the wisdom of God differs radically from worldly wisdom.  And the child of God is called to be wise according to the wisdom that is from above. 

What then is wisdom for man?  To know reality, and to reckon with reality every day of his life! And reality is what the Word of God teaches in regard to all things.  The Bible teaches that this world will be destroyed and all that is not of Christ will burn with fervent heat.  The foolish unbeliever says this will never happen;  I will eat, drink, and be merry.  The wise believer says, If all these things are going to pass away, what manner of persons ought we to be in all manner of holy conversation?  The Bible teaches that we are to receive God's good gifts with thanksgiving, using them for the support of His kingdom and the relief of the poor.  the foolish unbeliever looks at his goods and instructs his soul to take its ease for he has much goods laid up for many years.  The wise believer does not lay up treasure for himself, but is rich towards God and His kingdom.  The Bible teaches us to "Train up a child in the way he should go," and "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."  The foolish unbeliever responds by saying that he will allow his children to express themselves any way they want, and to choose whatever religion they may wish. the wise believer knows that if his child is ever to have wisdom, first he must fear the Lord!  And the fear of the Lord is manifest by the keeping of His commandments! 

And so we could go on.  True wisdom, the wisdom that Christ has gained for His own on the cross, the wisdom that Christ works in us by His Spirit and Word, is that we live according to all the Word of God, reckoning with all the great realities of life as they are set forth by the Lord God Himself! 

Let us return to the subject of divine wisdom and notice that God reveals His wisdom not only, but also that God reveals His wisdom in definite stages.  The text from Ephesians 3 makes clear that some things God reveals early, and others He keeps hid for a long while.  First of all, God revealed His high wisdom when He created all things in the beginning, and when He created all things for and by Christ.  The wisdom of God was revealed by the perfection of each creature, by the order in which the creatures were made, and by the relationships that he formed between the creatures in the whole of the cosmos.  More, God's wisdom is revealed in creation in that it was all made with a view to the work of redemption and the heavenly creation.  We can look at creation as to its beginning, continuance, and end, and see Christ the Wisdom of God!  (See Psalm 104:24) 

Secondly, the wisdom of God is revealed more clearly and gloriously in the salvation of the Church which He calls to Himself in Christ.  What wisdom is revealed when God concluded all men in unbelief that He might have mercy on all.  What wisdom is revealed when God caused salvation to be humanly impossible, and then gave His dear Son to us through the virgin birth.  What wisdom is revealed in that God caused every aspect of salvation to be gracious, so that no one may boast in His presence. Examine salvation from every point of view and you will discover that it has so been ordained that every aspect satisfies the purpose of God in glorifying Himself! 

The text wants to carry us a couple of steps beyond the wisdom of God shown forth in creation and in salvation.  First there is the mystery which was hid from the beginning of the world and revealed in the fullness of time, namely, "That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel."  (Eph. 3:6)  All through the Old Testament times, God his this purpose of Gentile salvation.  Since Pentecost the Gentiles have the unsearchable riches of  Christ preached unto them, and we belong to those Gentiles!  

Secondly, out text speaks of another mystery (v.10). "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church manifold wisdom of God."  The apostle Paul is referring  to the various orders and levels of angels with those words.  the idea of these difficult words is that through all the ages God kept a certain secret from the angels;  a certain mystery was hid in Himself.  And now, says Paul, God reveals something to the angels.  As the angels observe the redemption of the Church by Jesus Christ, as they see the wisdom of God reflected to them in the salvation of the elect sinners, they also see in the work of salvation something that affects them, something of their own salvation!  Now that is surprising language:  are the angels saved by Christ, did Christ die for angels? The elect angels, those who did not join in Satan's rebellion, did not sin, and Christ did not have to pay for any of their sins.  But Christ's redemptive work does have significance for the realm of holy angels.  In Ephesians 1:10 and Colossians 1:20 we learn that through the blood of the cross Christ has reconciled and gathered in one all things, both which are in heaven and which are on earth.  This has to mean that His death on the cross did something of outstanding significance also for the angels.  Christ made peace in the angel world, peace between angels, peace between the angels and God, because in the fall of Satan and his cohorts unrest and disarray was brought to the angels realm.  the angels lost their head when Satan fell, and Jesus Christ is now become their Head, even as He is the glorious Head of the Church!  Not only does Christ make Jews and Gentiles one, but He also united the elect angels with elect mankind.  that manifold wisdom of God the angels see, and in that wisdom they rejoice with the Church! 

All this God has done "According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (v.10)  That Christ Jesus is our Lord brings this all very close to us;  it brings us into the picture very personally!  Because Christ is ours, "we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him."  (v.12)  the way into the Holy Place mad without hands, the way into the very presence of God Himself, has been opened to us.  With boldness every single child of God may come to the throne of grace and find help in time of need.

How can this be explained?  How can foolish, sinful, insignificant bits of dust come with boldness unto the holy, wise, majestic God?  Notice the words "in whom" (that is Christ), and the words "by the faith of Him" (that is Christ, too).  For Christ is the objective ground for our access to God and for our boldness in coming to Him while faith in Christ is the personal or subjective means for knowing and possessing these rich benefits.

What freedom the child of God has and what a joyful life he may lead having been reconciled to God through the blood of the cross!  Exercise that confident access to God in your prayers;  demonstrate that boldness of faith in all your life!  Do this, not because of what you are or what you have done, but because of who Christ is, and what He has accomplished!  Do you feel sometimes that you lack wisdom? then ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not.  It shall be given to you.  Only, ask in faith, nothing doubting.  Ask in the Lord Jesus Christ!

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