Why Do We Believe That? Week 3 The Existence and Attributes of God Part 1

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The Existence and Attributes of God - Part 1

I invite you to take out your LG’s and get ready to grow.
Would you agree with this statement… life is full of challenges, frustrations, and pain?
So, where can you go for solutions, joy, and comfort?
As Christians we’re guaranteed that we can confidently turn to Almighty, Sovereign God, not just because He exists, but because of who He is and what He’s like.
In this series I’ve stated several times that what separates God from all the false gods is that He speaks.
As born-again believers we celebrate that…
God has graciously revealed himself through the Word made flesh - Jesus Christ, and the written Word – the Bible
That the reveled Word is true (inerrant), trustworthy (infallible), sufficient and necessary.
It does not and cannot lead us astray
It’s our final and absolute authority
It’s the final arbiter in all matters of faith and practice - not the church, or reason, or our subjective impressions or experiences
As we begin this third message, there are two questions that lie at the foundation of not only religious knowledge, but of every possible form of knowledge…
1. Is there a God? (Related to this question is, how can we really know for sure?)
2. What is God like? (What are His attributes, traits, qualities?)
These are the two questions that I hope to answer during our time together today.

1. God’s Existence

Job 11:7 NIrV
“Do you know how deep the mysteries of God are? Can you discover the limits of the Mighty One’s knowledge?
Job 26:14 NIrV
Those are only on the edges of what he does. They are only the soft whispers that we hear from him. So who can understand how very powerful he is?”
Job 30:26 NIrV
I hoped good things would happen, but something evil came. I looked for light, but all I saw was darkness.
Isaiah 40:18 NIrV
So who will you compare God to? Is there any other god like him?
I want us to begin with the thought of the existence of God.
In response to our first question, “Is there a God?” we have to begin with the fact that the Bible doesn’t spend time arguing for the existence of God… it simply presumes that He does.
It’s a biblical given, in the same way the pre-existence of matter is a given for the materialist.
The Bible treats God’s existence like gravity.
You can deny it, ignore it, or pretend it doesn't exist, but many have discovered the hard way that gravity in fact does exist.
As I mentioned last week… every worldview begins somewhere.
The Christian worldview begins with these two premises - God is Real (existence) And He’s Not Silent (speaks).
Question - If someone were to ask you how you know God exists, what would you say?
As Christians, we can say that we believe God is “real” because He’s revealed himself:
Generally to all men by creation and providence
Propositionally in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments
Personally in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ and
Savingly through the work of His Word and Spirit. (repeat)
Scripture testifies to this…
John 17:3 NIrV
“And what is eternal life? It is knowing you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
1 John 5:20 NIrV
We also know that the Son of God has come. He has given us understanding. Now we can know the One who is true. And we belong to the One who is true. We also belong to his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the true God. He is eternal life.
In the first chapter of Romans, the apostle Paul tells us that God has made the fact of His existence plain to all humanity…
Romans 1:19–20 NIrV
The truth about God is plain to them. God has made it plain. Ever since the world was created it has been possible to see the qualities of God that are not seen. I’m talking about his eternal power and about the fact that he is God. Those things can be seen in what he has made. So people have no excuse for what they do.
All creation cries out that there is a creator!
· Who is it that governs the rain and sun?
· Who is it that blankets the earth in darkness, and then unleashes the morning sun?
· Who is it that separates the land from the sea?
From the order of the seasons to the innumerable stars in the heavens - we see God’s hand as the intelligent Creator.
Then despite of this revelation in creation, Paul goes on to say that man willfully suppresses the truth and exchanges it for a lie.
And so, fallen man worships the natural world instead of the One who created it.
But there’s not just creation… there’s also conscience.
Because we’re made in God’s image… a trace of His moral character remains in us.
Though our flawed consciences aren’t perfect guides, our natural concerns for morality, justice, knowledge, and truth – all point us back to our creator.
While creation and conscience ought to be reason enough to convince us that God exists, the fact that we suppress the truth in our fallen state has led Christians to formulate “theistic proofs” or “theistic arguments” for the existence of God.
These “proofs” are simply our attempts to demonstrate that it’s rational to believe in God’s existence.
These proofs don’t lead us to the sovereign, personal God of Scripture... but they can however help show how it’s not irrational to believe in God
But the problem is… none of these proofs tell you much about what God is like… none of them get you to the God of Scripture and saving faith in Christ.

General and Special Revelation

All knowledge of God rests on revelation.
Though, in this life, we can never know God in the full richness of His being, He is known to all people through His revelation in creation, the theater of His glory.
The world never has been and never will be godless… in the end there are no atheists; there is only arguments about the nature of God.
This distinction between what is generally known about God to everyone, and what’s only known about Him specially is often referred to as the “general” versus “special” revelation.
General Revelation – is the unveiling of God, the knowledge of God’s being and will which is given to all people everywhere, at all times, through the ordinary experience of being alive in God’s world. [Ps. 19:1, 2; Rom. 1:19, 20; 2:14, 15]
Special Revelation – is how God has made himself known by particular acts and words, especially the Lord of the Word (Jesus Christ) and the Word of the Lord (The Bible).

What Does General Revelation Teach Us?

As I read these scriptures, pay close attention to what they say general revelation teaches everyone who lives?
Romans 1:18–32 NIrV
God shows his anger from heaven. It is against all the godless and evil things people do. They are so evil that they say no to the truth. The truth about God is plain to them. God has made it plain. Ever since the world was created it has been possible to see the qualities of God that are not seen. I’m talking about his eternal power and about the fact that he is God. Those things can be seen in what he has made. So people have no excuse for what they do. They knew God. But they didn’t honor him as God. They didn’t thank him. Their thinking became worthless. Their foolish hearts became dark. They claimed to be wise. But they made fools of themselves. They would rather have statues of gods than the glorious God who lives forever. Their statues of gods are made to look like people, birds, animals and reptiles. So God let them go. He allowed them to do what their sinful hearts wanted to. He let them commit sexual sins. They polluted one another’s bodies by what they did. They chose a lie instead of God’s truth. They worshiped and served created things. They didn’t worship the Creator. But he must be praised forever. Amen. So God let them go. They were filled with shameful longings. Their women committed sexual acts that were not natural. In the same way, the men turned away from their natural love for women. They burned with sexual longing for each other. Men did shameful things with other men. They suffered in their bodies for all the twisted things they did. They didn’t think it was important to know God. So God let them go. He allowed them to have dirty minds. They did things they shouldn’t do. They are full of every kind of sin, evil and ungodliness. They want more than they need. They commit murder. They want what belongs to other people. They fight and cheat. They hate others. They say mean things about other people. They tell lies about them. They hate God. They are rude and proud. They brag. They think of new ways to do evil. They don’t obey their parents. They are foolish. They can’t be trusted. They are not loving and kind. They know that God’s commands are right. They know that those who do evil things should die. But they continue to do those very things. They also approve of others who do them.
Acts 17:22–31 NIrV
Then Paul stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus. He said, “Men of Athens! I see that you are very religious in every way. As I walked around, I looked carefully at the things you worship. I even found an altar with To an Unknown God written on it. Now I am going to tell you about this ‘unknown god’ that you worship. “He is the God who made the world. He also made everything in it. He is the Lord of heaven and earth. He doesn’t live in temples built by hands. He is not served by human hands. He doesn’t need anything. He himself gives life and breath to all people. He also gives them everything else they have. From one man he made all the people of the world. Now they live all over the earth. He decided exactly when they should live. And he decided exactly where they should live. God did this so that people would seek him. Then perhaps they would reach out for him and find him. They would find him even though he is not far from any of us. ‘In him we live and move and exist.’ As some of your own poets have also said, ‘We are his children.’ “Yes, we are God’s children. So we shouldn’t think that God is made out of gold or silver or stone. He isn’t a statue planned and made by clever people. In the past, God didn’t judge people for what they didn’t know. But now he commands all people everywhere to turn away from their sins. He has set a day when he will judge the world fairly. He has appointed a man to be its judge. God has proved this to all people by raising that man from the dead.”
What do these texts reveal to all mankind generally?
God is one (Acts 17.26; Rom 1.20)
God is the creator (Ps 19; Acts 17.25)
God is eternal and independent (Rom 1.20; Acts 17.25)
God is invisible and powerful (Rom 1.20)
God, though distinct from the universe, is active in it (Acts 17.24; 26-27)
God sustains all things (Acts 17.24-28; 14:15-16)
God is moral, the ultimate source of our values (Rom 1.32)
The Bible says we ought to know all these things naturally, simply by the fact that we’re all made in God’s image and alive in His created world.
Some would argue, as Thomas Aquinas and many others in the Roman Catholic and Enlightenment tradition, that with the aid of reason and general revelation we can come to know who God is, and what he’s like.
So Natural Theology is the attempt to attain understanding of God and his relationship with the universe by means of natural reflection, without appealing to special revelation.
And yet Paul stresses in Romans chapters 1 and 2 that one of the effects of the fall is that we’ve rejected this knowledge of God and exchanged it for a lie.
Therefore, the Reformers – men like Martin Luther stressed the destructive and deadly effects of sin.
As a result of the fall our minds are too warped to get to God merely through reason applied to general revelation.
Though conscience and nature point to God, in our fallenness, because we’re born dead in our trespasses and sins, we need the spectacles of Scripture and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in order to see what’s truly there.
One clear implication of this is that general revelation renders all human’s guilty and we cannot escape the wrath of Almighty God.
Outside of us the created order screams at us like the lead singer of a heavy metal band… “Do you not see? Do you not understand? There is a God who created you, and you’re accountable to him.”
People who are dead in their trespasses and sins can close their eyes and plug up their ears, but that doesn’t change reality.
Inside their heads their consciences don’t give them any rest.
To varying degrees, we all reject the knowledge God has generally provided, and this alone is enough to condemn us.
So, in this sense general revelation is fully authoritative, sufficient, and clear, but general revelation alone cannot save us.

The Attributes of God

Because sin blinds and distorts our perceptions of God, if we’re to know what God is really like, we have to turn to His revelation of Himself in the Bible.
When you think about describing God from Scripture, there are certain words that come to mind… these are the words that make up God’s attributes.
When theologians speak of the attributes of God, they’re referring to those qualities that are essential to the nature of God, who He is, and what He’s like.
Most systematic theologians elect to classify God’s attributes by dividing them into various classes:
· Incommunicable Attributes – (those attributes God alone possess, omnipotence, omniscience, etc.)
· Communicable Attributes – (those attributes we share, although in a fallen and finite way, with God – such as love, justice, etc.).

Incommunicable Attributes

1. The Independence or Self-Existence of God

Exodus 3:14 NIrV
God said to Moses, “I Am Who I Am. Here is what you must say to the Israelites. Tell them, ‘I Am has sent me to you.’ ”
Psalm 33:11 NIrV
But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever. What he wants to do will last for all time.
Revelation 4:11 NIrV
“You are worthy, our Lord and God! You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power. You are worthy because you created all things. They were created and they exist. That is the way you planned it.”
God’s existence and character are determined by Himself alone and not dependent on anyone or anything else.
He owns all things and has no needs outside himself.
God didn’t create us because He was lonely and needed some company, He didn’t need us to somehow complete himself.
In the trinity God is self-existent, self-sufficient, and self-contained, He needs nothing.
We on the other hand need hours and hours of sleep in order to keep going, water to keep us alive, food for energy, shelter for protection, doctors for our health, teachers to teach us all the things we don’t know and then promptly forget.
But again, God needs nothing!
Life, strength, protection, health, knowledge – He’s complete in himself!
Which is exactly why we can always go to him and depend upon him. He’s our king and His word, rules.
But He’s not the kind of king who’s constrained by contested elections, budget deficits, a divided congress, NATO, or the weakness of age.
He’s entirely free of all constraints because He’s not dependent on anything or anyone, therefore He’s always available for His people.
His independence and self-existence should be a huge encouragement to all of us.

2. The Immutability of God

Secondly, God is immutable.
Namely, God in His nature, character, and purposes, doesn’t change.
We have to change our plans all the time, don’t we?
But not God... God has all power and all knowledge.
Nothing ever catches God by surprise… God has no Plan B, or C.
Practically speaking, this means we can always trust him and rely on His word.
He’ll always act in conformity with what He’s already promised, so we have great confidence in him.
And so, with unshakeable confidence we stand firmly upon him.
Some reject this teaching… why I’ll never understand.
They say God can’t possibly know our future decisions in order for those decisions to be fully free.
They say if God knows all things in advance, then they’ll certainly happen, which means our decisions can’t be truly free because then we can only do what God already foreknew, and nothing else.
So, they say God is a great guesser, and since He doesn’t finally know, we can’t say he’s immutable and like us, He’ll have to change his mind on the fly.
Now related to this is the notion of impassibility (which means without emotion) if God cannot be ruled by another and is dependent on no one, is there any way in which God legitimately has feelings and emotions?
How can emotions be appropriate to someone who is utterly independent and self-sufficient?
The bible teaches us that God has emotions, but they’re not exactly like ours.
We’re often surprised, caught off guard, confused, hurt, and in our anger we lash out.
But when God suffers it’s because He chooses to. His passions are real, but He’s not ruled by them.
Anger rules us, but God rules over anger. That’s the fundamental difference.
Scripture is clear…
Numbers 23:19 NIrV
God isn’t a mere man. He can’t lie. He isn’t a human being. He doesn’t change his mind. He speaks, and then he acts. He makes a promise, and then he keeps it.
1 Samuel 15:29 NIrV
The One who is the Glory of Israel does not lie. He doesn’t change his mind. That’s because he isn’t a mere man. If he were, he might change his mind.”
God is perfectly immutable, and thus perfectly dependable.

3. God is Infinite

Thirdly, the Bible also teaches God is infinite.
This means that there is no limitation to God’s perfections. His infinity is expressed in a number of ways, such as in space, in power, and in time.

a. Omnipresent or Infinite in Space or Time

This means that God transcends three-dimensional limitations, is without size, and is present at every point of space with his whole being.
When people refer to God as being “a big God”, they’re referring to his greatness rather than a quantitative measurement.
Psalm 139:7–9 NIrV
How can I get away from your Spirit? Where can I go to escape from you? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I lie down in the deepest parts of the earth, you are also there. Suppose I were to rise with the sun in the east and then cross over to the west where it sinks into the ocean.
God’s not made of matter, He has no parts or dimensions.
Though He’s wholly present throughout all things, He’s distinct from all things.
We think of presence in terms of physicality, not so with God.
So, for God to move into my house doesn’t mean I have to move out.
When we read that the Spirit is “indwelling” or “abiding” in a Christian, or we read that God is “in heaven,” it’s not referring so much to location as to relationship.
The Spirit indwells in that He’s is present with us in a saving way.
We can “enter into his presence” not that we’ve become physically closer to God, but that we access through Christ into a new relationship with God where we can bring everything before the throne of His grace.
So, Hell is not the absence of God, but the absence of God in a saving way.
Hell is the presence of God in the fullness of his wrath.
Practically speaking, God’s omnipresence means we can always be certain of God’s undivided attention.
We don’t need to stand in line, or make an appointment, or take a religious pilgrimage.
We’re always in his presence!
But it’s also a warning in that we have no place to hide.
There’s no corner of the universe where God is not… He sees it all.
This means we’re accountable... hide and seek is not a game we can play with God in our sins.
We shouldn’t deceive ourselves… so keep in mind if you’re trying to hide, just come out and confess it.
You’re not fooling God… so, repent and be reconciled to him.
But God’s not just omnipresent, he’s also…

b. Omnipotent or Infinite in Power

God is able to do all that He decides to do.
Jesus tells us in…
Matthew 19:26 NIrV
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man, that is impossible. But with God, all things are possible.”
Jeremiah 32:17 NIrV
“ ‘Lord and King, you have reached out your great and powerful arm. You have made the heavens and the earth. Nothing is too hard for you.
Did you hear that? Nothing is too hard for God.
So, does this mean that God can do everything?
It’s better to say.. “God can do everything that He wills to do and is consistent with his character.”
For example, according to Hebrews, God cannot lie (Heb. 6:18).
In 2 Timothy 2:13, we find that God cannot disown Himself meaning that God cannot cease to be God or act in a way inconsistent with any of His other attributes.
But God is also infinite in time…

c. God is Eternal

Psalm 90:2 NIrV
Before you created the world and the mountains were made, from the beginning to the end you are God.
Revelation 1:8 NIrV
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” says the Lord God. “I am the One who is, and who was, and who will come. I am the Mighty One.”
This mean God transcends the limitations of time.
He has no beginning or end. Some have likened time to a long parade. We’re in the parade, marching alone, experiencing only one section of it. Whereas God stands on top of a mountain, sees it all at once. It’s not passing him by, so to speak.
Practically, this means God is always there for us.
He won’t be that friend who moves away, or worse yet, a loved one who dies on us.
He always has been and forever will be, and thus He’s always there for us.
We can make all our plans around him, trust him, knowing He’ll be there, because He’s eternal.
Aren’t you thankful that God’s not like us… He’s majestic, glorious, perfectly self-sufficient, with perfect plans, perfect power, covering everything, all the time.
Before you leave here today, ask yourself this one question… In light of all this, why would you ever be tempted to place your affections, security, well-being, or eternity in anybody else?
How very rich are God’s wisdom and knowledge! How he judges is more than we can understand!
The way he deals with people is more than we can know! “Who can ever know what the Lord is thinking? Or who can ever give him advice?” (Isaiah 40:13) “Has anyone ever given anything to God, so that God has to pay them back?” (Job 41:11) All things come from him. All things are directed by him. All things are for his praise.
May God be given the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36
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