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Sun, Sep 02, 2018

What the Bible Says About God

Duration:23 mins 53 secs

 The  Bible obviously has a LOT to say about God.  But in the suggested sermon topics that the congregation turned in, two had to do with some aspect of God's nature.

I.

The first, concerned the triune nature of God.  That is, how is it that one God can be three persons; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?  And I have to tell you right up front that if I could fully explain it, I would be in great demand as a preacher!  However, I am not in great demand as a preacher. So what does that tell you about my ability to fully explain the trinity?  Many scholars of many nations--men much smarter than I--have wrestled with that very question for generations.

I can tell you that the Bible clearly states that there is but ONE God.

  • Deut. 6:4-5 = "4Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength."  You may recall that Jesus quoted those verses in Mk. 12:30 when He was asked what He considered the most important commandment.
  • Isa. 44:6 = "This is what the Lord says--Israel's King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God."
  • Isa. 45:5-6 is similar and even more emphatic; "5I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.  I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, 6so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me.  I am the Lord, and there is no other."
  • In the New Testament, Eph. 4:4-6 = "4There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called--5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
  • Paul wrote Timothy; "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus..." (1 Tim. 2:5).
  • And James says, "You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that--and shudder." (Js. 2:19).

But at the same time, the Bible also indicates that Jesus is God (just in human form).

  • John's gospel begins, "1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (Jn. 1:1-3).  (I read that and I get confused.  So, which is it, John? He "was" and "is" God, or He simply was and is "with" God?)  Then, a few verses later, John makes it clear that "the Word" he is talking about is the one we know as Jesus.  He says, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (Jn. 1:14).  Two more verses later, John refers to Jesus as God again; "No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side [i.e. Jesus], has made him known." (Jn. 1:18).  John seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth at once!  Jesus is God, and yet He came from God.  How is that possible?
  • John also refers to Jesus as God in his first epistle.     1 Jn. 5:20 = "We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true.  And we are in him who is true--even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life."
  • John isn't the only one to call Jesus God.  When the resurrected Christ appeared to Thomas showing the scars in His hands and side, Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus accepted that statement and commended all who would share in Thomas's belief that He is Lord and God.
  • Paul also said that "God" bought the church "with his own blood" thus equating God with Jesus. (Ac. 20:28).  In Ro. 9:5 he even says "...Christ, who is God" is to be forever praised.
  • Immediately after telling the Corinthian Christians "there is no God but one," Paul equates God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ by their common act of creation.  "4...We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 5For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth... 6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live." (1 Cor. 8:4-6).  You see?  All things come from God the Father, yet all things also come from (or through) Jesus Christ.  they must therefore be equal to each other.
  • Jesus Himself indicated something similar when He said, "I and the Father are one." (Jn. 10:30).  Or again, when He said, "...Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." (Jn. 14:9).

The complexity of this is illustrated well in the exact wording of the sermon suggestion card that was filled out.  The questioner asks, "Is God and Jesus the same person?  They talk in the Bible like they are two people.  [So] When Jesus prays to God, is he praying to himself?"  Well, yes and no.

Many years ago when I first entered ministry, I was asked if, when I get to heaven, I expected to see one divine being or two?  My answer, based on Revelation chapter 5, where the "Lamb looking as if it had been slain"  takes a scroll sealed with seven seals "from the right hand of him who sat on the throne" (Rev. 5:1-7), is that I expect to see two separate beings.  

Even so, I recognize that Jesus Christ and God the Father are of one mind, totally united in purpose, method, and thought.  In Jn. 17:22-23 Jesus prayed; "I have given them [the disciples] the glory that you gave me that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me."

I further suggest that the title "Son of God" as applied to Jesus is a tool to help our finite minds understand that Jesus is a divine being; co-eternal and co-equal with God!

To complicate matters even further (but without quoting all the pertinent passages), the Holy Spirit is also presented as having the divine attributes of God.  He is eternal (Heb. 9:14), all-knowing (Jn. 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:10-11), and all-powerful (Job 33:4; Ps. 104:30).  He is grouped with the Father and Son in the performance of divine activities (1 Cor. 12:4-6; 1 Pe. 1:2; Mt. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 13:14; Mt. 28:19; Isa. 48:16), including creation (Gen. 1:2).  

You may remember that in the beginning God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness..." (Ge. 1:26).  And again at Babel, He said, "Come, let us go down and confuse their language..." (Ge. 11:7).  Who was He talking to?  Possibly one or more members of the trinity!

And there are many other Scriptural indications that we serve one God in three persons.  This doctrine is summed up in the terms "Godhead" and "Trinity." Some have tried to illustrate the concept of "three in one" as an egg that has a shell, a yolk, and white part; yet together constitute a singularity.  I prefer a comparison to the chemical designation H2O which in its liquid state is water, but as a solid is ice, and as a gas is water vapor or cloud.  No matter the form, the chemical composition remains the same. Likewise, whether we're talking about God the Father, God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit; there is no essential difference.

When God created humankind, He stated His intention that a man be "united to his wife" so that "they will become one flesh." (Gen. 2:24).  Jesus affirmed that same goal, adding, "So they are no longer two, but one flesh." (Mt. 19:6; Mk. 10:8).  If two mortal persons (man and wife) can become one, then how much more can the eternal, infinite God be tri-personal and yet be one God?

In his book What the Bible Says About Basic Theology, Jeffery Donley says, "One cannot dissect and analyze the teaching of the Godhead.  It is a basic Biblical fact to be believed." (Donley, p. 56).  Or as one of my Bible College professors used to say, "If God says it, I believe it, and that settles it."

There is an old story that Augustine was walking by the sea musing about the mystery of how the Godhead could be Three-in-One and vice versa.  As he walked along he saw a little boy digging a hole in the sand. "What are you going to do with the hole?" asked the great theologian.  "I am going to put the ocean in it," came the little boy's reply.  According to the story, Augustine walked away determined to never again concern himself with trying to fit an Infinite God completely within the confines of his finite mind.

 

II.

The second "God-related" question I was asked to address was about "fear" and particularly the "fear of God."  I found that the NIV Bible uses the word "fear" a total of 336 times.  At least 77 of those uses reference the fear of God.  While most fears are not desirable or helpful, fear of God is always presented as a good or positive quality; an asset.

For example:

  • Ps. 111:10 = "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom..."  Prov. 1:7; 9:10; and Job 28:28 all say the same thing (or something very similar).
  • Ps 96:4 and 1 Chron. 16:25 both say, "...great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods."

Does that mean we should be "afraid" of God; terrified that He might strike us at any moment?  Only if we are not in a right relationship with Him.  Heb. 10:26-27 warns; "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God," and Heb. 10:31; "It is a dreadful [or fearful] thing to fall into the hands of the living God."  

John Phillips writes, "'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.' When we get to know him better we love Him, but a healthy fear of the Lord is where it often begins.  That is why the very first work of the Holy Spirit in a human heart is the work of conviction.  ... The heathen fear their false gods. They grovel in abject terror before most of them, and well they might, for grim and gory they are.  The Lord does not want that; He does not want us to grovel. He wants respect born of a conscious knowledge of His wisdom, love, and power." (John Phillips, Exploring the Psalms, Vol. 2, p. 72).

If one is in a right relationship with God (which, by the way, comes through faith in Christ Jesus and obedience to Him), then not only is there no longer any reason to fear God Himself, but neither is there any longer a reason to fear anything else.

The early church "...grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord" (Ac. 9:31), and yet in spite of persecution, they spoke the word of God "courageously and fearlessly" (Phil. 1:14).  That is why the apostle John writes in his first epistle; "There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (1 Jn. 4:18).  Some clever person put it this way; "No God Know Fear; Know God, No Fear"  That is, if you have "No God," you will "Know" what it is to have "Fear;" but if you "Know God" personally through Jesus, then you will have "No Fear" of anything else.

  In the Revelation of John (chapter 2:10) Jesus told the church in Smyrna, "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer."  And why not, we might ask.  He answers, because if we are faithful to the point of death, He will give us "the crown of life."

  • In another place Jesus encourages, "4I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell.  Yes, I tell you, fear him."  After that "fear of God" does its job of correcting our sinful behavior and bringing us into relationship with God, it evidently then becomes obsolete and unnecessary, for Jesus then tells us not to be afraid of God; "6Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Lk. 12:4-7).

"Where God's love is, there is no fear, because God's perfect love takes away fear." (1 Jn. 4:18 ERV).  The writer of Hebrews tells us that if Jesus is our high priest, and because Jesus is our high priest, we can "...approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Heb. 4:16).

Biblically, "fear of God" is reverential respect.  It is to be in awe of Him because He is awesome in power, glory, wisdom; justice, mercy, and righteousness.

There are many examples of godly people who feared God:

  • Noah, we're told "...when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark..." (Heb. 11:7).
  • Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac at God's command when the angel of the Lord stopped him and said, "Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." (Gen. 22:12).
  • Joseph tested his brothers' honesty when they first came to Egypt seeking grain, by insisting they return with their youngest brother.  He said, "Do this and you will live, for I fear God." (Gen. 42:18).
  • The Egyptian midwives in the days of Moses were told to kill all the male babies who were born.  "The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. ... And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own." (Ex. 1:17,21).
  • Moses himself "trembled with fear" when he stood before God at the burning bush "and did not dare to look." (Ac. 7:32).
  • Job likewise "...was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil." (Job 1:1).
  • Ps. 89:7 even seems to indicate angels or other heavenly beings exercise a healthy fear of God; "In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him."

Consider some of the benefits of a healthy fear of God:

 

  • At the giving of the 10 commandments, Moses told the Israelites that while they did not need to be afraid, nonetheless the fear of God "...will be with you to keep you from sinning." (Ex. 20:20).

 

  • Ps. 25:12-14 = "12Who then is the man that fears the Lord?  He [God] will instruct him in the way chosen for him. 13He will spend his days in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land. 14The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them."
  • Ps. 31:19-20 = "19How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. 20In the shelter of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues."
  • Ps. 34:9 = "Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing."

I counted nine times in Leviticus & Deuteronomy where God's people are commanded to fear Him and keep His commandments. (Lev. 19:14; 25:17,36,43; Deut. 6:13.24; 10:12,20; 31:13).  Here are just three examples:

  • Lev. 19:14 = "Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord."
  • Deut. 6:13 = "Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name."
  • Deut. 10:12-13 = "And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?"

In the New Testament, 1 Pe. 2:17 says, "Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king."

Even when it is said that someone did not fear God, it is strongly implied that they should have.

  • After the first seven plagues, Moses said to Pharoah, "I know that you and your officials still do not fear the Lord God." (Ex. 9:30).  And as a result, three more plagues followed.
  • Ps. 36:1 (which Paul quotes in Ro. 3:18) = "An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked; There is no fear of God before his eyes."

 

Conclusion:

There is a fundamental distinction between God and everything else.  In the beginning God created all that exists. Only God existed until He brought everything else into being.  Thus, God is different from His creation. His essence is beyond, and distinctly different from, the created order.  He alone is immortal. (1 Tim. 6:16).  And He alone is incorruptible. (Ro. 1:23).  God is exalted above everyone and everything!

It therefore should not surprise us that there are aspects of God's nature that we have trouble comprehending.  Knowing an infinite God is beyond the capability of our finite minds. It would be impossible for us to know anything about God if He did not choose to reveal it to us.  And in His mercy He has determined to do just that--to reveal Himself to us.  He has done this through His creation, through His written Word, and through His Incarnate Word (i.e. Jesus Christ).  

What we can know of God from these sources is absolutely and irrefutably true, but it is obviously not all there is to God.  Mankind will likely never completely understand God, not even in heaven.  But it is an exciting privilege that God has made it possible for us to know something of Him.  Today we talked about God's triune nature and what it means to fear Him. But I pray we will continue to study, worship, and experience Him.  Our deepest understanding will only come through a personal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.

 

Sources for this sermon include:

  • Jeffery Donley, What the Bible Says About Basic Theology, College Press, 1988
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