THE ESSENCE OF GOD: A Biblical Rationale for Knowing God and Solving Our Problems (Rom. 1:19-20)
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Jesus Himself tells us about the importance of studying His word in John 8:31-32:
31 "... If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;
32 and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. " NAS
In John 15:7, Jesus tells us this:
7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. NAS
And in John 4:24, Jesus says that:
24 "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." NAS
Let’s take a moment to quietly confess our sins to God, so that we "abide" in fellowship with Him and so are led by the Holy Spirit when we study God’s word. 1 John 1:9 promises us, that if we name our known sins to God, He always forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness, even from the unknown sins we forgot or didn’t even realize we committed.
With this forgiveness, we are able to worship God "in spirit" by walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, and "in truth" by studying His word. Let’s pray.
Thank you, Father, for always restoring your children when we admit our sins to you. May your Holy Spirit teach us your word as we study it now. We ask these things in Jesus Name. Amen
I’m sure that at some time, most of you have had an experience similar to the one I’d like to share today.
I went to a picnic one summer with some unsaved friends, and at some point in the conversation, one of them asked,
"Frank, you’re religious" (Ooh, I just grimace when someone calls me that!).
"Let me ask you a question. Nobody I’ve asked this question to, knows how to answer it." ("Well," I thought smugly, "then you’ve certainly come to the right place!")
She continued, "If God can do anything, can He make a rock so big that He Himself can’t lift it?"
Many of you have probably heard this question before. A lot of unbelievers seem to think that this is some kind of clever, complicated question to ask, with no real or easy answer. It’s usually asked by unbelievers to "trip us up" as Christians.
I simply replied without hesitation, "No, God can not make a rock so big that He Himself can’t lift it. Any rock God can make, He can also lift."
She then gave me the usual response, "But I thought God can do anything!"
"No," I replied. "He’s all-powerful, but that doesn’t mean that he can do anything."
Surprised by my answer, she then asked, "What do you mean? Can’t God do everything?"
"Of course not," I said to her. "For instance, He can’t lie, die, or cry!"
"What do you mean by that?," she asked further.
"Well, because God is perfect truth, He can’t lie. Since He’s eternal, He can’t die. Because He knows everything and can’t be caught "off guard" by some event, He can’t cry. By the very fact that He IS God, there are lots of things that He can’t do, even things that we as human beings can. He can’t use one of His attributes in a way that would violate any of the other attributes that make Him God. That’s why, even though He can make any sized rock, because He is all-powerful, He would then be able to lift it."
I continued, "That’s also why, even though God is love, He can’t simply ignore sin and let everyone into heaven as many unbelievers like to think. He is also perfect justice. A loving God MUST demand a punishment for sin, because He is also a perfectly just God. The good news is that His perfect love sent Jesus to die for all sins, so that His perfect justice is satisfied."
My friend really didn’t seem to understand my response and explanations to her question, and in a way that’s not surprising. 1 Cor. 2:14 tells us that the natural or unsaved person can’t understand the things of God, because they are spiritually discerned. An unsaved person is still spiritually dead. Only a born-again believer can comprehend these things.
Assuming that you are all born-again, I’d like to talk about the Essence Of God today. I want to teach concerning those divine characteristics that make God who He is, how those aspects of his character all work together. I also want to show how we can use our understanding of God’s nature as a rationale, as a spiritual logic to respond to our life problems and challenges in a Biblical way.
Romans 1, verses 19-20, tell us some interesting things concerning God’s attributes:
19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. NAS
We are told in the verses I just read, that:
- the knowledge of God isn’t just something that we can discover if we look real hard, but rather it is "evident" within each of us and in nature, it is "clearly seen";
- God’s "attributes", His "power" and "nature", can be "understood" from the things we see around us, from "what has been made" by God;
- "God made it evident" ("clearly seen"). He WANTS us to know Him;
- If we don’t know God, it is our own fault, and God says that we are "without excuse".
Today, I want to look at what the Bible tells us about the essence of God, about His divine nature or attributes. I’m also going to show how you can use your knowledge of God’s essence as a problem-solving device.
The Bible tells us that God is ONE in essence and THREE in personality (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). There is only one God, but that God has three distinct persons.
Deu 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one [echad (ekh-awd’), Hebrew word meaning united, one].(NIV)
2 Cor 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (NIV)
Gen 1:1 In the beginning GOD [elohiym (el-oh-heem’), a plural Hebrew word] created the heavens and the earth. (NIV)
Gen 1:26 Then God said, "Let US make man in OUR image, in OUR likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." (NIV)
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all one God, and all share those divine attributes equally. However, they reveal themselves to mankind and interact with us in different ways.
For instance, consider God’s DIVINE PLAN for mankind.
- God the Father is the AUTHOR of the divine plan;
- The Lord Jesus Christ came to earth to IMPLEMENT that plan by dying on the cross for our sins;
- The Holy Spirit REVEALS the "good news" of that plan to the whole world.
The Father didn’t die on the cross, nor the Holy Spirit. We don’t place our faith in God the Father or the Holy Spirit for salvation, but in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Another example of how they interact differently with us is PRAYER.
- We ADDRESS ALL PRAYER to God the Father, not to Jesus or to the Holy Spirit (Matt. 6:9). In fact, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit pray to the Father on our behalf (Heb. 7:25, Rom. 8:26-27).
- We pray IN JESUS’ NAME, that is, according to the will or plan of the Father (John 14:13-14, 15:16).
- We pray while FILLED WITH (controlled by) THE HOLY SPIRIT, or else our prayers are not heard by God (Eph. 6:18; Jude 1:20, Psa. 66:18; 1 John 1:9).
So while there is only one God, there are three distince persons in that God. All three persons share the same divine attributes or essences, but each person interacts and reveals Himself differently to the human race.
The essences of God tell us who and what God is, what His divine nature or character is like. Let’s look at each of God’s ten essences to see what the Bible has to say about it.
TEN ESSENCES OF GOD
1. SOVEREIGNTY (Isa 45:9-19; Rom 8:18-39).
God is the supreme authority in all of creation. There is no one higher. He created the universe, the angels, and man in that order. He has ultimate control over all things, including the laws of the universe and of human history. God has a spiritual plan for redeeming the entire human race, and the ultimate authority over all things to guarantee the certainty of that plan.
2. RIGHTEOUSNESS (+R) (Gen 18:25; Deut 32:4; Rom 1:16-17; 2:6-16; 3:24-26)
God is perfect goodness. Man’s righteousness is relative (-R), that is, we determine it by comparing ourselves to others. For instance, many people would say they are "good" persons because they don’t kill people, rob banks, and try not to hurt others. They may also think they are "good" because they go to church, give to the poor, and help the environment.
Some unbelievers think they can go to heaven by keeping the Ten Commandments. But Jesus Himself tells us in the Bible that if you even look upon a woman with lust in your heart, you’ve committed adultery. He also says that if you hate someone, you’re guilty of murder. Considering God’s standard of righteousness, who hasn’t broken those two commandments? And if you just answered that you haven’t, then you’ve just violated a third commandment by lying. Since God is omniscient, you can lie to others, even yourself, but He knows what you have and haven’t done.
But what does the Bible say about man’s "goodness"? The Scriptures tell us in Isaiah that God views our righteousness as "filthy rags", which in the original Hebrew, has the meaning of "used menstrual cloths". In Romans, the Bible says that "there are none righteous, no not one."
God’s righteousness is perfect and absolute (+R).
It stands on its own, apart from comparisons to other beings. It is by God’s perfect righteousness that unbelievers will be judged at the Great White Throne. Without the righteousness of Jesus Christ which is freely given to believers at salvation, all unbelievers will be sent for eternity to the lake of fire. They will be condemned NOT FOR THEIR SINS, which were paid on the cross by Jesus Christ (except for the unpardonable sin of rejecting Jesus Christ). Unbelievers are condemned on the basis of their works (their "filthy rags"), because their human good is evil and must be burned. No one has divine good apart from being a member of the body of Christ.
God’s "Ten Commandments" demonstrate His perfect standard of righteousness, and that no man has ever lived without violating them, except the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s perfect righteousness governs the use of His perfect justice, guaranteeing that God is good in how He rewards the saved, and punishes the unsaved.
As believers in Jesus Christ, the righteousness of God has been imputed (credited, freely given) to us. God declares us to be righteous, not because of anything we have done, but because we have put our faith in the work of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We now have that perfect righteousness as a free gift given to us by grace through faith (Rom 1:16-17; 3:24-26).
3. JUSTICE (Job 34:12; Ps. 19:9, 67:4, 103:6, 119:75, 146:6-9; Isa. 30:18; Zech. 9:9; Rev. 16:7, 19:2)
God is perfectly fair to all people. He is always
impartial and right in His judgments. Because His perfect justice demanded a punishment for our sins, He sent His Son Jesus to pay the penalty on our behalf. For that reason, He can justly forgive our sins when we confess them (1 John 1:9), without compromising His perfect character.
The two angels on the top of the Ark of the Covenant represented God’s perfect righteousness and justice. Those angels faced each other and looked down on the mercy seat (Ex. 37:6-9; Lev. 16:15; Num. 7:89). When the High Priest sprinkled the blood of an innocent animal there, God’s justice and righteousness saw the sacrifice and were satisfied. God’s justice and righteousness combined are what the Bible calls the HOLINESS of God (Ps. 77:13; Isa. 6:1-3).
God administers His perfect justice towards nations (Psa. 67:4) as well as on behalf of the poor and the unjustly treated (Psa. 103:6, 146:6-9).
4. LOVE (Gen. 1:31; Psa. 145:9; Mark 10:18; 1 John 4:8, 16)
God is perfect love. He loves the unsaved impersonally, not based upon their personalities, but based on His own integrity. As a good shepherd cares for all of his sheep, God treats all men in grace, not on the basis of what we’ve earned or deserve. He wills that all men be saved and has freely provided salvation for all people. God loves believers personally, because His son Jesus Christ indwells us, and Jesus’ righteousness has been freely credited to us when we trusted Christ at salvation.
5. ETERNAL LIFE (Deu. 33:27; Isa. 9:6; Rom. 16:26; 1 Tim. 1:17; Heb. 9:14; 2 Pet. 3:8; Rev. 1:8)
God had no beginning and will have no end. All three members of the Godhead are eternal. God always existed and always will exist. Because He is eternal, He always knew and loved us, billions and billions of years ago. He has always known the sins we would commit and the failures we would have, infinitely back in eternity past. Long before He created Adam and Eve and always knew they would sin, God already had a plan of salvation prepared for us, as well as future rewards in eternity for those who grow in grace. He knew you and loved you before He created the universe, the angels, and then this world and people. God gives to us everlasting life when we trust in the saving work of His son, the Lord Jesus Christ, on the cross at Golgotha.
6. OMNISCIENCE (1 Kings 3:9; Job 37:16, 38:39; Psa. 139:1-6, 13-16, 147:5; Isa. 53:1-12; Acts 15:8; Rom 8:18-39, 11:33-36; 1 Cor 15:51-57; 1 Tim. 1:17; 1 John 3:20; Heb. 3:13; James 1:5)
God knows all things, past, present, and future (Job 38:39; Rom 11:33-36). Because God is also everywhere (omnipresent), He knows all things in all places at the same time. He knows all the thoughts and desires of our hearts (Job 37:16; Ps 147:5, and Heb 3:13). He knows our words even before we say them (Ps 139:1-6,13-16). He knows the future, and prophesied events such as the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross (Isa. 53:1-12) as well as the second coming of Christ and His overcoming of death (Rom 8:18-39; 1 Cor 15:51-57).
His perfect omniscience is the basis for His perfect wisdom, meaning that God knows the right thing to do, in the right way, in the right place and time. He is "the only wise God" (1 Tim. 1:17). If man wants wisdom, he must seek it from God (1 Kings 3:9; James 1:5).
7. OMNIPOTENCE (Gen. 1:1-3, 17:1, 18:14, 25; Isa. 40:15, 27-31; Heb. 1:3)
God is all-powerful, and He can do anything that does not violate the other essences of His nature (Gen. 17:1, 18:14). He created all things and maintains them by His power (Gen. 1:1-3; Heb. 1:3), and He never grows tired (Isa. 40:27-31). The nations of the earth are "dust" in comparison to Him (Isa. 40:15). God’s only limits are those of His other essences, and those He imposes upon Himself (Gen. 18:25).
8. OMNIPRESENCE (Gen. 18:25; Ps. 139:7-12; Matt. 6:1-18)
God is everywhere, at all times (Gen. 18:25; Psa. 139:7-12). He’s with you as much in your daily life as He is when you are in church. You can’t hide from Him as Adam and Eve tried to do. You can’t escape from Him as Jonah and Paul attempted. He is with you in the church service, in your automobile, in the bar, in the adult bookstore, in your motel room when you are out of town. He can see the thoughts and attitudes of your inner heart (Matt. 6:1-18).
The great thing about His omnipresence is that He is always there when you need Him, even if you’re ignoring Him. If you want to pray, He’s there to listen. If you read His word, He’s there to teach. If you’re in a sinful place, He’s there to take you back. He never loses track of you, watching over you at all times. If the thought of that doesn’t keep you from sinning, then may it remind you that there is no place so far from God your Father, that you can not make a quick and easy return home by simply confessing your sins (1 John 1:9).
9. IMMUTABILITY (Heb. 1:12)
God never changes, and so whatever we know about Him is certain. If He were to change, then He would not be perfect. What He did for other believers in His word, such as Joseph, David, and Paul, He will do for us as well.
Because God can not change, here are examples of other things He can not do:
a. The God in the Old and New Testaments is the same God we have today. He did not change from a God of "vengeance" to a God of "love";
b. He can’t "regret" having saved you, nor does He take away your salvation;
c. He can’t "get fed up" with your committing the same sins, and confessing them over and over again.
d. His other essences can not change. They will remain perfect, and can not be lost or lessened.
10. VERACITY (John 3:33)
God is perfect truth. He can’t lie. His promises to us in His word can not be broken. It is the existence of God and this essence of veracity, that ultimately makes all truth absolute, and not subjective.
For example, when 1 John 1:9 says that God is "faithful" to forgive our sins when we confess them, we know that He does so every time. He can’t break this promise anymore than He can break any others. We know we will one day be with Jesus, in a mansion He has prepared for us.
The apostle John testifies to us about God’s veracity in John 3:33:
John 3:33 "He who has received His witness has set his seal to this, that God is true. NAS
Let me demonstrate how we use this rationale to view and handle our circumstances. For instance, when a crisis occurs, we remind ourselves about what we know of God’s essences.
God is SOVEREIGN, so His will concerning my problem is supreme and can not be overruled. God is perfect RIGHTEOUSNESS, so whatever He does about my problem will be divine good. He is perfect JUSTICE, so his decisions will be fair. He is perfect LOVE, so He cares about me at all times in any way He acts. He is ETERNAL, so He knew about this problem billions of years ago. He’s OMNISCIENT, so He knows all the facts and exactly what needs to occur. He’s OMNIPOTENT, so has all the power He needs to make things happen. He’s OMNIPRESENT, so wherever I am, He will be with me to help. He’s IMMUTABLE, so He never changes. I can rely upon His faithfulness, just like people such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could. He is VERACITY, perfect truth, so He can’t lie to me about His promises and I can rely upon them.
The "Essence of God Rationale" is a problem-solving device. Whenever you have stress or problems in your life, you can use it apply to your circumstances. You can rest in faith upon your knowledge that each of God’s perfect essences work together to provide divine solutions for you in grace.
Copyright (c) 2001, Frank J. Gallagher
Abiding In The Word
All materials are written by me and are copyrighted. These materials may be freely copied and distributed for the purpose of study and teaching, so long as they are made available to others free of charge, and my copyright is included. These materials may not, in any manner, be sold nor used to solicit "donations" from others, nor may they be included in anything you intend to copyright, sell, or offer for a fee. God the Holy Spirit freely provides this knowledge in grace, and so do I. My copyright is exercised to keep these materials freely available to all.