Truth for Life  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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-If you were asked to describe God to someone, where would you begin? Would you begin trying to describe His existence? Would you begin by describing His character? Would you begin by describing His relationship with the universe? Would you begin by following His revelation of Himself through Scripture? We all know something about God, but I don’t know if I had ever really thought about where to begin because God has revealed so much about Himself through Scripture, and that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface about who He really is.
-While the topic of God Himself can be overwhelming, we can know Him and relate to Him and understand true facts about Him that shape what we believe and (hopefully) how we live. If we wanted accurate summaries to whet our appetites of who God is, the creeds and confessions from church history are helpful tools. We have been looking and studying how these creeds and confessions have summarized Scriptural teachings, and we continue to look at the subject of theology proper—God Himself. The Second London Baptist Confession (reflecting much of the Westminster Confession) has this to say:
Confessing the Faith: The 1689 Baptist Confession for the 21st Century (II. God and the Holy Trinity)
The Lord our God is one, the only living and true God. He is self-existent and infinite in being and perfection. His essence cannot be understood by anyone but Him. He is a perfectly pure spirit. He is invisible and has no body, parts, or changeable emotions. He alone has immortality, dwelling in light that no one can approach. He is unchangeable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, in every way infinite, absolutely holy, perfectly wise, wholly free, completely absolute. He works all things according to the counsel of His own unchangeable and completely righteous will for His own glory. He is most loving, gracious, merciful, and patient. He overflows with goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. He rewards those who seek Him diligently. At the same time, He is perfectly just and terrifying in His judgments. He hates all sin and will certainly not clear the guilty.
-Last week I emphasized that there is only One true Creator God. Nothing caused God to exist, not even Himself. His existence is just en inevitable fact. God never had a beginning and He will never have an ending, He just is. The essence of His full existence cannot be understood by anyone other than Himself, but He is gracious enough to reveal Himself to us so we can know Him as best as we finite human beings are able.
-The creed goes on to confess that God is a perfectly pure spirit. If we would want to answer the question about the mode of God’s existence, we would say that He is 100% purely spirit. We might contrast this, then, with the physical. We humans have a spiritual element to us, but we are also physical beings. We were made to be physical beings. Unlike what Gnostics would teach or Neo-Platonists, the physical in and of itself is not bad or evil. The problem is that sin corrupted the physical. But we were made to be physical beings—that’s why our hope is in the resurrection because when we are resurrected we will have the physical bodies that we were meant to have, and we will have them for all of eternity. But those physical bodies will no longer hold the corruption that they have now.
-But God does not have a physical body at all. He does not have the limitations that come with having physical existence. Yes, God took on a human body in the person of Jesus Christ. But God in His pure existence is completely spiritual. The Bible testifies to these grand truths. When Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman:
John 4:24 NET 2nd ed.
24 God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
-This actually gives us some insight into the second commandment—the Israelites were warned not to make any sort of graven image that they would use to represent God. Why? Because God is spirit and there is not physical image that would do Him justice. Any image would actually take away from God’s glory. Moses, in Deuteronomy, repeated the warning of the commandment:
Deuteronomy 4:15–16 NET 2nd ed.
15 Be very careful, then, because you saw no form at the time the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the middle of the fire. 16 I say this so you will not corrupt yourselves by making an image in the form of any kind of figure. This includes the likeness of a human male or female,
-Moses says that when he saw the burning bush, and then later at the mountain the Israelites never saw God take on a form of some sort, so they weren’t to try to make an image representing God. God is spirit and nothing in the physical realm can depict Him. And that is so hard for us to grab hold of because everything about us is so physical. It is difficult for us to grasp the spiritual because the physical prevents us from grasping the spiritual. And the reason it is so difficult is what the creed goes on to describe.
-The creed says that God is invisible. By its very definition a spirit has no visible manifestation (although, we know that God at times did manifest Himself, but these were very limited and never showed His full self). A spirit is not seen in the physical realm. Now, God’s existence is so separate from even His spiritual creatures that even they don’t see Him in His full essence. Even in heaven God’s revelation is somewhat muted. But for us in the physical realm, we do not see the invisible God. Other verses talk about this as one aspect of His existence:
1 Timothy 1:17 NET 2nd ed.
17 Now to the eternal King, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever! Amen.
1 Timothy 6:16 NET 2nd ed.
16 He alone possesses immortality and lives in unapproachable light, whom no human has ever seen or is able to see. To him be honor and eternal power! Amen.
-Physical humanity is not able to SEE the invisible, spiritual God with their physical eyes. Obviously, God found other ways to reach out and relate to humanity. But we can’t see Him like we are able to see one another right now.
-The creed then continues trying to describe God’s existence as spirit by stating that this means God does not have certain aspects. If being a spirit is stated positively in that it means He is invisible, then the confession goes on to say that being spirit means in the negative that He does not have certain attributes. Sometimes in describing God you cannot find the right words to describe what God is, so sometimes you have to describe what God isn’t in order for our small brains to comprehend.
-So, the creed says that God being spirit means that He has no body, parts, or changeable emotions. These describe what theologians often refer to as God’s simplicity. Now, before you start throwing things and call me a heretic, let me explain what is meant by that term. Because, I know what you’re thinking—how can you talk about the simplicity of God…there is nothing simple about God in the least. In fact, I just spent last week and this week describing how God is so complex our human minds can’t even begin to fathom His existence. How in the world can I talk about the simplicity of God?
-The creed actually gives us a good definition of simplicity—it means that God has no body, parts, or changeable emotions. It means that God cannot be divided in any way into components. God’s existence as such is that His essence and character and attributes all are just Him. He is not the sum of different parts—He is one big whole. This is also referred to by theologians as the unity of God. Wayne Grudem defines it this way:

God is not divided into parts, yet we see different attributes of God emphasized at different times.

He states further:

When Scripture speaks about God’s attributes it never singles out one attribute of God as more important than all the rest. There is an assumption that every attribute is completely true of God and is true of all of God’s character. For example, John can say that “God is light” (1 John 1:5) and then a little later say also that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). There is no suggestion that part of God is light and part of God is love, or that God is partly light and partly love. Nor should we think that God is more light than love or more love than light. Rather it is God himself who is light, and it is God himself who is also love.

-So, consider how God revealed Himself to Moses:
Exodus 34:6–7 NET 2nd ed.
6 The Lord passed by before him and proclaimed: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in loyal love and faithfulness, 7 keeping loyal love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. But he by no means leaves the guilty unpunished, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children and children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”
-When you look at that, God is not saying that He is part compassionate, part just, part loyal, etc. God is not 25% love plus 25% justice. God is 100% perfect in everything. God is 100% love and 100% just and 100% merciful and 100% wrath. That might not work for math, but it works for God because God is a united whole.
-So, again, consider the creed. God has no body and no parts. Our body is made up of different parts. Part of me is eyes and part of me is ears and part of me is mouth. But no one part makes up 100% of me. I am not one giant eye or one giant mouth. I am made of components. Or consider a computer—it has a monitor, a keyboard, a CPU, a hard drive—but it is not 100% monitor or 100% CPU. It is made of components. God is not made of components—He is one whole. All that is in God is God.
-Then how do we explain that we as humans seem to see God in different ways at different times. The answer is that it is a limitation on the part of us humans, not on God. We aren’t capable of seeing God in His perfect wholeness both because of our finiteness and because of sin and corruption. And when we see what we would consider different aspects of God, it is not because God has changed in any way, but we are the ones who have moved and changed and observe God from a different perspective.
-This is a very limited illustration, but I have this pulpit in front of me and I see the pulpit this way. If I step to the side, I am looking at the same pulpit but I see it differently. The pulpit didn’t move or change, I did. It’s a very crude illustration, but I think its apt enough for this discussion about God.
-And then this includes that God has no changeable emotions—or, as the older wording said, He has no passions. This is not saying that God has no emotions, but that His emotions do not change or are not affected by forces that are outside of Himself. God doesn’t have sinful emotions or negative emotions. His emotions are not a roller coaster like humans.
-So, this is different from us. Sometimes we’re loving, sometimes we’re not. Sometimes we’re angry and hateful, sometimes we’re not. Sometimes we’re all of those in a matter of a few seconds. Outside forces such as stress influence us and set the course of our emotions, and then our emotions sometimes lead us to sinful reactions. God can never be that way. God is not some emotionless robot, but neither do passions influence Him or change Him.
-These are wonderful, yet overwhelming truths about our God. But what it boils down to is that our God is good. And even though we will never know everything about Him, what we do know ought to lead us to praise and worship and trust and faithfulness. Let’s pray we would always react that way.
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